Our Community. Our Responsibility.
Letter from Max ZilbermanMy name is Max Zilberman. I am 86 and I am an Auschwitz and Buchenwald Survivor.
I was born in the Polish city of Lodz in 1926. It’s hard to believe, but back then, Lodz was home to the second largest Jewish community in Europe.
I thought I was lucky. I had my parents, a twin sister, two brothers, numerous uncles, aunties and cousins. But like so many of us who went through the Holocaust, most of them were killed.
Seventy five years later, I still remember selection day with my family in Auschwitz. We comforted one another, never imagining that we would never ever see each other again.
When a number was tattooed on my arm, I took it as a sign of hope because it meant that I was fit for work and that I had a chance to survive.
A group of living skeletons, we were liberated by the American army on 11 April 1945. Many died of starvation within days, but for us – the ‘lucky’ boys who survived Buchenwald – it was the beginning of a new life.
With the aid of the Australian Jewish Welfare and Relief Society, about 60 of us obtained immigration visas to leave the continent which had caused us so much grief and loss.
We boarded the French ship Eridan and two months later, in January 1949, arrived in Australia. We were met in Melbourne by Mina Fink and other representatives of Jewish Welfare.
They drove us to Camberwell House on Burke Road. This was to be our first home where, to our surprise, we found other Buchenwald boys who had arrived in Melbourne before us. What a heartwarming reunion! We hadn’t seen each other since liberation.
Leo Fink and his wife Mina became like parents to us. An orphan herself, she visited us every day, always with a big smile on her kind face. She was deeply involved in our lives, giving advice and organising Sunday trips and dances.
Thanks to Jewish Welfare, we were able to secure our first jobs and find places to live. Without doubt, this care and support gave us a future, and made us feel loved again.
As time went by, we completed our studies, established businesses and started our own families, always inviting our ‘Australian relatives’, Leo and Mina, to share our simchas.
Indeed, Jewish Welfare was instrumental in bringing us here and giving us the life we never thought possible. That’s why we felt it was our responsibility to give back by hosting fundraising appeals at our homes for many years. Mina often attended as a guest speaker, inspiring us to continue the chain of helping people in need.
Many of us have passed away since those days, including our beloved Mina.
I wanted to share my story of how, together with so many others, I was supported – and to ask you to please donate to this important organisation so that it can continue to support people in need.
Max is just one of thousands of people who have received help and support since our predecessor organisation, the Melbourne Jewish Philanthropic Society, was first established in 1848.
Since those times, our organisation has grown and evolved, merged and diversified, molded and remolded to meet the unique and changing needs of our diverse Jewish community.
In Max’s day, we assisted with ship passage, visa permits, child sponsorship, medical assistance and family reunifications. Today, we continue to provide vital services: employment, housing and financial assistance, aged care and a range of support for people living with a disability.
What has remained constant is our commitment to care.
We continue today to stand strong for those in our community who need us most – the young and old, the disadvantaged, homeless, unemployed, helpless and anguished. We must continue to ensure an inclusive community where everyone, regardless of age, background or ability, can contribute and thrive; where our elders are valued and given opportunities to live full and active lives; where families and individuals are supported to be capable, resilient and strong.
But as our sages say, “A community is too heavy to carry alone.”
We need your support.
So please, donate today to the Jewish Care 2013 Annual Appeal by donating online or calling 1800 JEWISH (1800 539 474).
Jewish Care Victoria
This video recounts the story of the Victorian Jewish community’s growth throughout the generations, highlighting the vital role of Jewish Care and its predecessors.
"It's Wonderful" is a heart warming and informative film about the breadth of programs and services provided by Jewish Care.