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Sandhurst, Victoria Hebrew Congregation synagogue

A new initiative will digitize and open free digital access to 180 years of Australian Jewish newspapers, including over 200,000 pages from Jewish communities across the continent. The project is a collaboration between the National Library of Australia (NLA), the National Library of Israel (NLI), and the Australian Jewish Historical Society (AJHS).

The new digital collection will be openly accessible and fully searchable from anywhere in the world through Trove, Australia’s free online research portal, and the Historical Jewish Press Project (JPress), the world’s leading digital collection of Jewish newspapers and journals. The new digital collection will offer scholars and the wider community the opportunity to understand centuries of Jewish life in Australia as never before.

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The history of the Jewish press in Australia goes back to 1842, when, despite the very small Jewish population, a local edition of the London-based Voice of Jacob (what would later become The Jewish Chronicle) was published in Sydney. As the local communities grew and established themselves in the twentieth century, the number of publications and their variety grew immensely. Most of the publications were in English, but there were also some in Yiddish and Hebrew.

With permission from the Australian Jewish News and their publisher, Polaris Media, all issues of the Australian Jewish News will be digitized, as will all other Australian Jewish newspapers published up to the copyright date of 1954.

This joint initiative would not have been made possible without financial assistance from philanthropic supporters, including the David Lesnie Foundation, the Embassy of Israel in Australia, the Besen Family Foundation, and Eitan Neishlos and Lee Levi.

Dr. Marie-Louise Ayres, Director-General of the National Library of Australia said in a statement: “The project continues the work being done by the National Library to connect culturally and linguistically diverse communities with their history. This global initiative supports international scholarship and enables those interested in the study of Jewry in Australia to freely access this wealth of information. The National Library’s unparalleled digitization capabilities will once again unlock important sources for researchers and enable generations to connect with the treasured voices, stories, and opinions of the people from their collective past.”

Oren Weinberg, Director of the National Library of Israel: “The National Library of Israel’s commitment to offering access to historic Jewish press from all communities and in all languages via its JPress platform receives a tremendous boost here with the massive digitization of Australian Jewish press. We appreciate the close partnership with the National Library of Australia and the Australian Jewish Historical Society toward this shared mission.”

Peter Philippsohn OAM, President of the Australian Jewish Historical Society: “Jewish people have been in Australia since 1788 and, while prominent members of our community such as Sir John Monash are well known, the history of those who came before him remains largely unknown. From a Jewish community standpoint, these newspapers represent a rich source of contemporary history and to have access to the information for historians, genealogists and interested members of the public is immense. It’s not just about uncovering genealogical information and family history either, but revealing the arcane and the attitudes of society at a particular moment in time—the insights that can be gleaned from the community’s attitudes towards immigration, the Holocaust, and the World Wars.”

David Redman, Chief Executive Officer of Polaris Media: “With a history that extends over 125 years, the Australian Jewish News has been an important part of not only the Jewish community but also the wider Australian community. Polaris Media, as the publisher of The Australian Jewish News, is very excited to be part of this project to preserve this history as well as make this unique record of our past available digitally to future generations.”

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.