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Egyptian-Jewish Emigrés in Australia By Racheline Barda

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Egyptian-Jewish Emigrés in Australia

At first, this research project was undertaken for personal reasons—I am also a Jew from Egypt, having arrived in Australia in 1958 and gone through very similar experiences to most of my compatriots. I strongly believed it was important to record the peregrinations of my group because the Egyptian diaspora has truly come to an end, without any sign of a return community to Egypt, even after the signing of the 1979 peace accord between Egypt and Israel.

Together with a friend and compatriot, Lana Woolf née Golliger, I initially undertook this project as a community-minded mission and not as an academic task.1 At that point in time, the purpose was to create a record of the experiences of the Egyptian Jews of Sydney. It was felt that such a record would constitute a testimony to the richness of their past, as well as recognition of their distinctiveness in the context of the broader Australian Jewish community. This record was meant mainly for the benefit of their descendants, as well as prospective researchers. The project was based on the assumption that every personal story was important and contributed to the development of an overall picture of the Jews in Egypt and from Egypt, especially in view of the facts that they were now dispersed all over the world and that the Jewish presence in Egypt has dwindled to an insignificant number.

I gradually came to the conclusion that to do justice to the diversity and vibrancy of this particular diaspora and its exilic experiences I needed the endorsement and the assistance of a university body. In view of the end of a continuous and significant Jewish presence in Egypt for the first time in twenty-five centuries and the realisation that it will probably never be revived, the importance and urgency of the undertaking became paramount. As foreseen, once the project developed into serious academic research, under the auspices of the Department of Hebrew, Biblical and Jewish Studies at the University of Sydney, with the supervision of Associate Professor Suzanne D. Rutland, it gained more recognition within the group of Egyptian Jews, and contacts with prospective respondents, both in Australia and overseas, were greatly facilitated.

The first task was to contextualise the diaspora that Jews built for themselves in Egypt and establish what happened to that diaspora after