A Promised Land in the Outback
Melech Ravitch's Attemp at Starting a Jewish State in Australia
"Limmud FSU has gone on an expedition following the one made by Melech Ravitch in 1933, in the hopes of establishing a Jewish state in the Kimberley region of North-West Australia.
Before leaving for Australia we have visited his son, the painter Yosl Bergner, at his studio. He showed us a series of paintings of depressed Aboriginal people based on his father’s Australian odyssey. Because of a shortage of time, this was to be a hurried visit. Not to Kimberley in the footsteps of Ravitch, but just two days around Alice Springs, from where he had set out. On checking before we left for Australia, we have been assured there were no Jews in Alice but in a coffee bar over an avocado salad, we met Elly Polin. She and her husband, Ted Steinberecker, are the only Jews in town.
The Australians wanted to cultivate the wilderness of Kimberley. They hoped that dense settlement in the area would fend off the threat of Japanese invasion from the direction of Darwin. The official government “White Australia” policy would allow potential Jewish settlers to be granted visas. Ravitch wrote to his readers that the land was wonderful, miracles could be achieved there. The tropical weather was easy to bear, and if the water supply could be properly dealt with, agriculture would flourish. In 1934, Ravtich nearing the end of his odyssey, published an article in the Yiddish magazine, Die Frieland, maintaining that the ambition of establishing a Jewish Uganda, a Jewish Angola, a Jewish Australia, was not a fantasy. But the Polish Jewish intellectuals barely read the magazine and the article withered on the vine. Ravitch wrote in 1936 passionately, “All Jews should leave Poland and take the headstones of their dear ones with them.” In 1937 his articles were published in Yiddish in a collection called “The Length and Breadth of Australia.”
But by the time the book was published, Ravtich had abandoned his dream of mass rescue and was more concerned with the individual rescue of his family – he brought them over to Melbourne.
Faced with the Holocaust and the objections of the Australian government, the Kimberley Plan was buried once and for all."
About Yosl Berger
A Painter's Journey to a Jewish State
Yosl Bergner (13 October 1920 – 18 January 2017), also known as Josl, was an Israeli painter. He was born in Vienna, Austria, grew up in Warsaw, Poland, lived in Melbourne, Australia from 1937 until 1948, when he moved to Israel.
Bergner designed scenery and costumes for the Yiddish and Hebrew theatres, particularly for the plays of Nisim Aloni, and has illustrated many books. The acme of Bergner's paintings is his allegorical works; he uses kitchen tools such as squashed pots, oil lamps, wrecks and cracked jugs and he anthropomorphizes them. These old instruments symbolize distorted and poor world of wars, secrets and darkness. one of his student was Nurit Shany, a painter and a multidisciplinary Israeli artist.