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Alzhiemer's Australia Supporting Russian Jewry

Alzhiemer's Australia Supporting Russian Jewry

30 August 2011

Launch of the project between Alzhiemer's Australia, Federal Government and the Russian Jewish Community.

PRESENTATION BY RIMMA SVERDLIN - Representative from Shalom Association & JCCV Executive

5th July 2011


Let me start by thanking the Alzheimer's Association and the Federal Government for the exciting opportunity to be involved in this important project.

I am very proud of our achievement to date and particularly of the contribution made by the Russian Jewish community. When the Shalom Association embarked on this journey we knew we would face many obstacles. The closely knit Russian Jewish community is deeply mistrustful of outsiders, due to many decades of antisemitism in the former USSR and years of government institutionalised oppression of their culture, language and religion. Upon arrival in Australia, these issues reverberated in the community, contributing to elderly people's isolation and suspiciousness of the authorities.

Therefore, it takes more than just speaking their language to gain their trust.

We've just heard from Mr Tsivlin about the decades of Shalom Association's close involvement with this community.  These ties provided us with a solid platform to initiate a dialogue with elderly Russian Jews and allowed us to successfully conduct a focus group to gauge their views about dementia. We were pleasantly surprised both by the great interest and enthusiasm shown by community members towards the project and their willingness to volunteer their views and personal beliefs.

In the same time, the project revealed deeply entrenched misconceptions about dementia, including those equating it with madness and being locked up in an asylum. Through our involvement with the community, we could see how language and cultural barriers restrict the community's access to education and information, otherwise available to the broader Australian community. It was pleasing to see that when this education is delivered in a linguistically  and culturally sensitive manner by a trusted source, both elderly community  members and their carers reported feeling empowered  by learning about dementia, it's causes, treatment, and available supports. This is an excellent example of how a true community partnership can result in a tangible change in people's long-standing views, hopefully leading to attitudinal changes.

Standing here, at today's launch, I'm delighted that the benefits experienced by a small group of the community members can now be extended to the wider Russian Jewish Community. I also look forward to seeing how various service providers can incorporate this project's outcomes into their effort to deliver culturally and linguistically appropriate services to the Russian Jewish Community. Our Shalom organisation remains an eager relay source for gathering feedback from community members and providing culturally specific consultation about Russian Jews for the broader Australian Community.

I would like to finish with a quote from an elderly Jewish Russian-speaking man who said: "All my life I lived with prejudice against my Jewish nationality and now, when I finally found the acceptance of my fellow Jews in Australia, I am likely to lose it because there is a stigma against dementia". Today I'm confident that we're one step closer to making sure this never happens to this man.

Thank you. 


5th July 2011


Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

In  my  short  speech,  I  would  like  to  introduce  you  to  the  Russian  Jewish Community  of  Melbourne  and the  leading community  Organisation,  "Shalom”  Association.   Inc.

“SHALOM”, The Association of Jews from the former - U.S.S.R. is a non- profit organisation that unites people with a common past. Established in 1980, it seeks to provide social and educational activities and programs that will assist in the integration of the Russian Jewish Community not only into the rest of the Jewish Community within Australia, but   as importantly, into Australian society and culture.

Members of the Association are linked by a unique social experience- they have lived in a country that was firstly, very different both socially and economically from anywhere else in the world. Secondly they have experienced living in an environment in which any pleas for freedom or democracy were severely suppressed. Moreover, it was a country in which people were prosecuted, incarcerated and even executed for merely expressing alternative views from those of the governmental regime.

For more than seventy years, the Jewish people were refused the right to learn about their culture and history: Jewish education was denied and practice of Jewish traditions, religious ceremonies and rites of passage was strictly forbidden. New generations of Jewish people did not have access to learning about their cultural heritage and as a result, the memories of the Jewish narrative remained only in the minds of the community elders.

In the late 1970’s, the opportunity arose for Jewish people to emigrate to the West. Thousands left Russia and by 1980, there were approximately seven hundred Jewish refugee families living in Melbourne. They found themselves in unfamiliar surroundings, unable to speak English, and were naturally desperate for companionship and communication in their new country. To assist the newly- arrived  Jewish people assimilate into this foreign environment, a group of enthusiasts, with the support of the Jewish Care (formally Jewish Welfare) and other Jewish organisations, established  “Shalom”- The Association of Jews from the U.S.S.R.

Whilst the majority of emigrants chose Israel as their new home, many Russian Jews expressed their willingness to reunite with their relatives in the West, including Australia. Presently, there are 16 000 to 18 000 Russian Jews who have settled in Melbourne, mainly residing in St. Kilda, Elwood and surrounding areas. They constitute approximately 20-25% of the Jewish population of Victoria.

Today, the work of “Shalom” continues as it was first intended and assists in uniting and assimilating Russian Jews into their new homeland. It aims to help socialise and educate Russian Jews of all ages with a view to increasing their sense of belonging and contribution to the wider community.

I  would  like  to  outline  to  you  the wide  spectrum  of  our  community  and  name  the  organisations  which  exist  inside  the  Russian  Jewish  community  in  victoria.

Snapshot   of the Russian Jewish Community in Melbourne

NAME  OF  THE                                                               ORGANISATION



“SHALOM” Association Inc.


Represents  the  Russian  Jewish  Community  who  migrated  from  the  former   USSR.

Member of JCCV.  Active  participation  in  UIA,  JNF, Jewish  Care,  NCJWA  and  etc.

Members:  around 400 families.

Association  of  the  Victims  of  Nazism

Represents the Victims of Nazism among Russian Jewish Community.  Member of the Restitution Committee.

Main  activities:  Social, consultation  and  help  regarding  different  funds from  Switzerland  and  Germany.

Members:  around 100 people.

Association  of  World  War  2


Represents  War  Veterans,  also  the  people  who  live  through  War  Blockade  in  the  Leningrad  (   currently   St  Petersburg)

Main  activities: Social,  educational,  collection  of  memoirs, celebration  of  the  Victory  Day, Leisure  Evenings,  concerts.

Members:  around 400 people.

Club  “Vigor”

Main activities:    Leisure and sport   activities, excursions.

Participants:  80-100 people once or twice per month.

Club  “Nadezda”  (  Hope)

Main activities:  Social, entertainment, concerts, and leisure evenings.

Participants:  250-300 people once or twice per month.

Discussion  Club  Inc.

Organizing  discussions  about  current  issues  in  Australia, Jewish  issues,

General ethic issues, economic issues, political issues.

Participants:  around 150 people.


By  monthly  Jewish  magazine  in  Russian  language,  published  together  with  the  Shalom  Ass.

Articles  about  Israel,  life  in  Australia, Jewish  Community,  Russian  Jewish  Community,  Jewish  World,  advertising.

“Golden  Age”  Club 

Residents  of  the  Housing  Commission  flats  in  South  Melbourne,  Prahran,  St  Kilda.  (  3  Branches)

Social activities, Jewish issues, Jewish Holidays, educational, Jewish Life, and current affairs.

Participants:  around 150 people.


Organizing    Championships  of  the  famous  Intellectual  Game


Participants: around 200-250 people.


“Bards  Song”  Club

Music  lovers  who  write  their  own  songs  and  performed  them.    

~  50  people


Sunday  School  “LIDER”

Russian Language Schools.  Programs during    Sundays.

Subjects: Jewish culture and Holidays, Russian Language, High Level Mathematic, Drama, Arts, Music.

Participants:  around 60 Children 3-14 years old.


88.3  FM

Weekly one hour program in Russian language.

 Jewish News, Australian News, Inside the Jewish Community, Jewish issues, music, literature.


Channel  31

Current Issues, Jewish Issues,   News from Israel, entertainment, and community news.


Amongst   the   different  goals  of  the  Shalom  Association, the  following task  for  “SHALOM”is the most important:  

  • To re- educate and re- socialise the older members of the Russian Jewish community in order to assist them in assimilating into Australian life whilst maintaining the value of their cultural heritage.
  • To attract  support  and  educate  member  of  our  Community  about  all  available  services,  which  can  help  and  assist  them in  their  life  in  their  new  country-  Australia.
  • To support the integration of the Russian Jewish community into the wider Australian Community.
  • To base all of its activities on the existing community  and with  conjunction  of  the  different  government  institutions  and  organizations , as  an  example  the  Alzheimer’s  Australia,  for  which  we are  extremely  grateful.

 The dementia  problem  is  very  acute  in  Australia,  69000  people  in  Victoria diagnosed with  dementia   it  is  more  than  1%  of  all Victorian  population. There are 56 new cases a day diagnosed with dementia in Australia.  It  is  very  important  to  educate  people  and  provide  all  necessary  information,  where  those  people  can  find  help.  In  the  Age Newspaper  in  the  article by  Deborah  Smith  stated   “Despite  Dementia  being  the  third  leading  cause  of  death  in  Australia,  after  heart  disease  and  strokes,  it  receives  less  than  5  per cent  of  the  total  Australian  research  spending  on all  chronic diseases.”  She  quoted  Baroness   Susan  Greenfield,  a  neuroscientist  at  Oxford  University: ”Without  appropriate  funding  for  dementia  research,  too  many  parents  and  grandparents  will  be  lost  to  a  condition  for  which  more  effective  answers  can  be  found.  We can beat dementia.  Government is just not trying hard enough.”

Shalom  Association  and  the entire  Russian  Jewish  Community  are   extremely  grateful  for  the  assistance  and  help  from  the  Alzheimer  Australia  and  Department  of  Health  for  providing   support, which   is    made possible  to  produce  all  these  resources,  and  hoping  that  this  co-operation  and  close  work   between  our  Community   and   Alzheimer’s  Australia  will  continue   for  the  mutual  benefit.

Thank you.

E-bulletin photo reproduced with permission from Alzheimer’s Australia

 Alzheimer’s Australia Vic CEO-Maree McCabe (left), Finnish Friendly Visiting Service Community Worker Hannele Roberts, Finnish Friendly Visiting Service Coordinator Maarit Moilanen, Shalom Association President Vladimir Tsivlin and Shalom Association Community Worker Rimma Sverdlin (right) at the Community Partners Project launch of the new Finnish and Russian Jewish resources in July.


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