Jewish Melbourne: Survivors in Isolation - A different isolation

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Jewish Melbourne: Survivors in Isolation - A different isolation

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In July Elly Brooks - who is a photographer, member of the Board of the Jewish Holocaust Centre, and President of Friends of JHC - worked with the JHC to take photos of Holocaust survivors at their front doors. In line with Melbourne's lockdown procedures, the JHC was closed, and everyone was required to be at home, so these photos show the survivors as they stayed home to isolate.

Elly Brooks reflected: "Holocaust Survivors and other elderly people are perhaps more impacted in this time of covid isolation than younger people as they are confined to their homes under the country’s partial lockdown and many find themselves far from their usual network of support.
What shines through this series of images of Holocaust survivors in Melbourne is a strong spirit to overcome adversity, with an understanding that it is a temporary. Most of the survivors pictured, have been coming to the Jewish Holocaust Centre for many years, presenting their testimony to students and the general public and being connected to a community.
In early March, when the pandemic was becoming an inevitable danger in Melbourne, the survivors were the first to be asked to stay home, away from the JHC. For some, the memories of our survivors are always there just below the surface and this enforced isolation makes our elderly feel vulnerable and threatens their independence.
As a photographer, I wanted to capture the strength and dignity of survivors as they posed on their doorsteps of their homes during this lockdown.As a longtime friend to most of them, I have been missing them so it also gave me good reason to visit them and hear their wise words.
For some the virus brought back memories: “that feeling of dread all the time. You never know if other people on the street are going to give you the virus, or they were going to turn you in to the Gestapo because you were a Jew.”

Each survivor had their photo taken and they each contributed a reflection:
Joe de Hann: I keep occupied by reading and cooking for myself. I have been alone a long time so I am used to being by myself but I miss the Holocaust Centre and the people

Henry Buch: I feel unchallenged and lack motivation. My son visits but my daughter is in isolation. Jewish Care assists me but when you are isolated like this memories and worries come back

Irma Hanner: “It’s not a war! “We are in a lucky country but even so we must be aware of and call out racism. The extremes of politics both right and left sides are bad. “I miss my work at The Jewish Holocaust Centre”

Gisa Frayman: I am lucky that my children come to visit which means that I am not alone. We talk everyday on the phone and as long as they are well, they visit me

John Lamovie: I have a large family and before this isolation they visited often but not now. That is the hardest for me at this time.Life during the pandemic ihas an unsettling resonance, especially the isolation from family members. Some of my family drive by to wave to me. A couple of family deaths were very hard to reconcile at this strange time of isolation. I attended a virtual funeral. Overall I feel lucky and nothing to complain about.

Abe Goldberg: It’s not a war but it is very hard for me because my wife Cesia is in care and I cannot visit her. That is devastating for me not being allowed to visit her. We have been together so many years

Sarah Saaroni: I’m perfectly fine and see my family from a distance. I am fully occupied and well looked after.

Henri Korn: Life during the pandemic is unsettling especially the isolation from my friends and family. “It pains me that I cannot be with my family, with my friends,”

Wolf Deane: We are happy to be living here and have our family close by.

Joe Swarczberg: I miss The JHC, the students, staff and my friends. I used to go often and now I just stay at home. I hope I live long enough to see the new Centre.

David Prince: I miss my work at The Holocaust Centre especially seeing the students. I am used to being independent and have friends and family nearby. It is an unsettling time and I hope we can go back to the way it was and I am around to see the new Centre.

Viv Speigel: I miss going to The Centre but I am lucky to see my family from a distance and I have all that I need.

Maria Lewitt: I am happy to be close to my family and well cared for.

John Chaskiel: I am fine and my family visits from a distance. They come to my driveway but I miss The Holocaust Centre and the students. I hope I will see the new museum
photos and reflections

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This item was submitted on September 8, 2020 by Jordy Silverstein using the form “Share Your Story” on the site “A Journal of the Plague Year”:

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