Page 62 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 42

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54
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
a Yiddish theatre group with good standards and a repertoire.
But what was probably irksome was the overall small population
o f Melbourne, and the relative absence o f Yiddish readers in a
community that was predominantly of Anglo-German origin and
not very receptive to East European immigrants.
PIONEERING ROLE
Goldhar died in 1947, aged 46. He did not live to see the large
influx o f Jewish refugees into Australia who were to enrich the
Jewish community with a plethora of new innovations and insti­
tutions. His role as a creative Yiddish writer is therefore all the
more noteworthy. Goldhar’s were the first creative works in Yid­
dish to be published in Australia ; Goldhar was the first editor o f a
Yiddish newspaper; the first Yiddish writer to be included in
Australian anthologies; the first to translate Australian writers
into Yiddish to acquaint Jewish readers with the native literature
of their adopted country. He is thus to be seen as the pioneer o f
the creative Yiddish word in Australia.
Far more prolific was Herz Bergner, born in 1907 into a family
of artists and writers. He was the brother o f Melech Ravitch and
the uncle o f Yosl Bergner. His mother had herself written a lumi­
nous autographical work o f life in Eastern Europe at the tu rn of
the century.
To the English reader, Bergner is best known for his
Between
Sky and Sea
(1947) and
Light and Shadow
(1963), both translated
from Yiddish. The more interesting and, technically, the more
accomplished and dramatic is
Between Sky and Sea,
a potent story
o f wartime that graphically tells of a shipload o f Jews fleeing
from Poland in the time o f the Hitler terror, only to be denied
refuge in any port, resulting in the death of all the fugitives when
the ship sinks in mid-ocean.
Overall, through his three novels and five collections of stories,
Bergner presents a picture o f Jewish life ranging from the vi­
brant Jewish existence in his native Poland, through the years o f
wartime calamity, to the migrant life of Jews in the young Aus­
tralian society. In his works set in Australia, Bergner, like
Goldhar, is prey to pessimism. In these writings he depicts a spir­
itually impoverished and crippled community; he tells o f the loss
of old values and he demonstrates the playing-out o f hopes and
aspirations, the inevitable clashes and distancing between the