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Remembering Leon Goldman

A short obituary on Leon Goldman the SKIFist. On the 27th of May, Leon Goldman passed away after an 18 month battle with cancer. Leon was the son of Esther and Shaul Goldman. Shaul Goldman who lived in pre-war Bialystok was a member of the Central Committee of the Bund in Poland. Due to an extraordinary set of events Leon survived the Holocaust. Shaul Goldman was executed by Stalin on trumped up charges. However, as a result of his father’s execution, Esther Goldman, Leon Goldman and his aunt were exiled to Siberia by Stalin’s Communists and that is where they remained for the duration of the war. Otherwise, they would have been another statistic of the 6 million that died in the Holocaust. Leon arrived in Australia as a refugee in 1948. Therefore, it was only natural that when the 1st SKIF Camp was held in Anglesea during the summer of 1950-1 that Leon would be one of the participants. This camp of only 17 lageristn became the basis of lifelong friends which included Peretz Kalman, Henry Friede, Danielle Charak, Chana Mrocki, Doris Burstin, Rachel Kalman, Marila Ringelblum and me. Remarkably, half the lageristn became life long friends. Leon was a lagerist for the first 3 camps. The 4th camp was held at Dromana when five of our group including Leon became Yung Helfer and ran kraizn. It is hard to conceive but we had only just finished year 10 at High School. By the time we had matriculated (ie: pre VCE) this helfer group which included Leon was running SKIF camps. Our average age was under 18. We had been thrown into the deep end. Leon and I were appointed as a joint team run camps. This was the real beginning of our very close life long friendship. As joint camp leaders we ran the 6 biggest ever SKIF Camps held outside of Dromana which was then the home site for SKIF Camps. Included are the camps in Sydney, Marysville, Black Stump (outside Lorne), Wilson’s Promontory and Apollo Bay. Humbly, I believe that the Black Stump camp may have been the best ever Camp held in the 70 year’s of SKIF in Melbourne. We pitched tents for over 100 campers and our program included not only the regular Yiddish kraiz activities, but new activities like essay writing, debating and choir competitions, as well as a memorable overnight hike to Erskine Falls. Also, we had an advantage, since we had talent to burn at these camps. Included amongst the lageristn were Arnold Zable, Isaac Apel, Michael Gawenda, Fay Mokotow, Andrew Firestone, Onella Debinski, Henry Rosenbloom, Rachel Gettler, Max and David Grundmann and apologies for the many names that are omitted. After the Black Stump camp, Leon was appointed to the position of Forzitser (Chairman) of SKIF. As well as being responsible for the regular Sunday activities he organised the publication of SKIF’s first Yiddish Song Book in Melbourne. At this point of the obituary it would be remiss for me not to mention that Leon taught every Sunday morning at the Sholem Aleichem Sunday School for over 10 years. At the age of 28 Leon stopped his communal work and left SKIF. He became a generous benefactor of many institutions that were crucial to his upbringing namely: The Jewish Holocaust Museum which will now bear his name and the name of his late wife Judy; the Kadimah, (his support was crucial to In One Voice festival) and the Sholem Aleichem College where one wing bears the name of his parents. Leon will be sorely missed. Koved Zain Ondenk.

David Burstin was one of the small group of the first Melbourne SKIFistn and was a SKIFist and helfer together with his lifelong chaver Leon.

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