Dear Andrew and friends, sholem aleikhem aykh,
All those who love and cherish Yiddish, who remember Yiddish Melbourne in its halcyon days, owe you Andrew an enormous debt. You have become a Custodian of that Culture, even though you've never been directly involved in Yiddish life and culture, in Yiddish language. Thank you for the gigantic task you've set yourself. Thank you also to the dedicated helpers whom you've enlisted, Miriam Munz and Margi Taft. We know this is a work in progress and we look forward to all additions. An occasion such as this requires some words in Yiddish. That's what I'm up here for.
I was invited to speak so that you would hear a few words in Yiddish today. That is as it should be when we launch a piece of technology about our Yiddish Melbourne. However, this raises our first question: How do we say "website" in Yiddish? Did our parents, those who produced and promoted Yiddish and Yiddish culture here in Melbourne, and elsewhere, know about computers and websites? What did we know about all that?
They, you, we, ran to lectures in Yiddish, gave lectures, went to Yiddish theatre and were ourselves actors in the theatre, went to Yiddish supplementary schools, and ourselves became Yiddish teachers. They fought for the status of Yiddish in debates at the Jewish Board of Deputies. They participated in heated discussions about politics, world matters, about literary topics and even concerning the fate of our "mother tongue", our mame-loshn. You, we, and they, lived and breathed Yiddish life. Technology was as yet unknown.
But today's young people, the younger generation of Yiddish activists do have a word for website. They call it "vebzaytl".
And today we launch the website about the life of Yiddish Melbourne, full of information, with the names of those who enriched the Yiddish life of the community over a matter of years. If, unintentionally, a person or event has been omitted, it is always possible to add the information to the website. That's the magic of today's technology!
Our parents were so busy living their lives in Yiddish Melbourne, immersed in Yiddish language, that no one thought to keep a comprehensive and ordered archive, to collect every item of documentation of this ebullient, rich, colourful community for the benefit of later generations.
The website that we launch today, a result of much effort and hard work, aims to bring to life that very world and to remind future generations that the Yiddish life established here by an unforgettable generation of colourful, bright, capable, active immigrants, rich in content and spirit, often less wealthy in worldly possessions, must not ever be forgotten.
It may be a model for us of how to maintain Yiddishkeit and a life as Jews in our generation. It can also serve as an example of what stubbornness and dedication CAN achieve!