Sephardi Community History Day

On Sunday 23 February - the day after White Night - Sarah and Lucy, along with photographer Catherine Forge, met with members from Melbourne's Sephardi Jewish community to photograph and record stories around objects of significance.

'Sefarad' in Hebrew means 'Spain' and 'Sephardi' or 'Sephardim' traditionally refers to Jews who came from the Iberian Peninsula (as compared to 'Ashkenazi', which means 'German' and refers to Jews from Eastern Europe). The Sephardi community these days refers to a much broader geographically diverse group of people from areas including North Africa, Iraq, Syria, Greece, Turkey, Morocco, India and Singapore. 

On Sunday we chatted with people who grew up in Egypt, Singapore, Constantine in Algeria, and Mumbai (Bombay), India. Many had grown up living side by side with Christians and Muslims, speaking Arabic, Hebrew and French. Most had arrived in Australia after being forced to leave their homelands but others had emigrated after hearing about life in this distant country. The objects they brought along often reflected the rushed or desperate circumstances that led to their departure. A Sidurh Farhi (prayer book), written in both Hebrew and Arabic and published in Egypt in 1917, survived the journey, and a silver serving tray from an Egyptian coffee house with five ornate silver forks also made it to Australia. These are just some of the many objects we were shown on the day. The stories behind them were even more fascinating and engaging than the objects themselves.

It was a heartwarming and emotional day for all of us, and a really great way of capturing personal oral histories. We will be creating a website for the Sephardi Association with these stories and images so that they can be easily shared with many more community groups, family members and other interested individuals. So stay tuned!

Lucy Bracey

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All images by Catherine Forge Photography, 2014  (c) 

All images by Catherine Forge Photography, 2014  (c)