The First Waves | Russian Jewish Migration, 1881 – 1922

Opened: 1 September 2017
Closed: 31 July 2018

The First Waves is a companion to our major temporary exhibition, Amy Winehouse: A Family Portraitwhich celebrates the life of Amy Winehouse, whose family also descended from Russian Jewry. A Family Portrait tells the story of a second-generation Jewish immigrant experience in England while The First Waves explores what life was like for these Russian Jewish migrants in Australia in the early 20th century.

This exhibition follows the first two of five waves of Russian-Jewish immigrants on their path to making Australia their new home. The first large-scale waves of Jewish migration out of Russia saw millions of Jews settle all around the world, including Australia. Between 1881 and 1922 over two million Jews left Russia seeking a better life on distant shores. They were fleeing the turmoil of war, revolution, changing borders, and deadly anti-Semitic violence and persecution. The Yiddish culture they brought with them to their new homes flourished – from the Lower East Side of New York, to the streets of Carlton in Melbourne.

The exhibition is made up of over 50 artefacts from the Jewish Museum of Australia collection which help tell the significant history of these migrants, as well as a focus on particular family stories, enabling this pertinent period in our Jewish community’s history to be brought to life.