200,000 pages of Australian Jewish press going back 180 years is digitised
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200,000 pages of Australian Jewish press going back 180 years is digitised

'Free and fully searchable access' to nearly two centuries of Australian Jewish history goes live thanks to an international initiative

Stephen is the Jewish News' Foreign Editor

Yiddish Australian newspaper, Australia Leben, is one of the titles set to be digitised (Courtsey: National Library of Australia)
Yiddish Australian newspaper, Australia Leben, is one of the titles set to be digitised (Courtsey: National Library of Australia)

A new initiative is digitising more 200,000 pages of Australian Jewish press going back 180 years, giving access to almost two centuries of Jewish history down under.

The collection will be by far the largest of its kind and offer “free and fully searchable access” that historians say will “revolutionise” research related to Jewish life in Australia.

A collaborative initiative between the National Library of Australia (NLA), the National Library of Israel (NLI) and the Australian Jewish Historical Society (AJHS),

Society (AJHS), the resource will be searchable from anywhere in the world.

Jewish newspapers in stacks at the NLA. (Courtsey: National Library of Australia)

Access to the new digital collection will be through Trove, Australia’s free online research portal, and the Historical Jewish Press Project (JPress), with newspaper cuttings from local Jewish press going back to 1842.

Despite there being only a very small Jewish population in Australia at the time, a local edition of the London-based Voice of Jacob – which would later become The Jewish Chronicle – was published in Sydney that year.

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.

Dr Marie-Louise Ayres of the National Library of Australia, whose digitisation technology is being used, said it would help with wider work to “connect culturally and linguistically diverse communities with their history”.

Oren Weinberg of the National Library of Israel said the bigger aim was “to offer access to historic Jewish press from all communities and in all languages,” adding that the Australian initiative would give that mission “a tremendous boost”.

Yiddish Australian newspaper, Australia Leben, is one of the titles set to be digitised (Courtsey: National Library of Australia)

Peter Philippsohn of the Australian Jewish Historical Society said: “Jews have been in Australia since 1788 and, while prominent figures 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.”

 

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