Preserving Our Post WWII Jewish Heritage in Melbourne Australia

Preserving Our Post WWII Jewish Heritage in Melbourne Australia

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Petition to
Hon Richard Wynne Planning Minister and

Why this petition matters

Started by Friends of KHC

Petition against Demolition and REQUEST for the CANCELLATION of the DEMOLITION PERMIT or rescind DEMOLITION PERMIT granted to TO GIANT STEPS (tenant) OR WHOMEVER re: our buildings on our site namely the Norman Smorgon Hall at 53,  Walpole Street and 11 Malmsbury Street Kew 3101.

Background: The Tenant (a school) requested a demolition permit from the local council for the synagogue hall. Also for the attached cottage and heritage school buildings (all belonging to the community who pray in the synagogue). The Trustees (one of them has his son on the Board of the school) gave the school an undertaking (prior to consulting the committee or the membership) that they would support this. The chairman met the Federal Minister/s to try to make out that the owners are supportive of knocking down our hall. The trustees have tried to present themselves as the ultimate owners of this community property that they are meant to hold in trust. Any extra rent will not come to the community, even though, this is all community property, subject to a 1949  Trust deed that stipulates it is for the enjoyment of the Jewish Community of Melbourne in Perpetuity. This is a step that the Committee representing the community rejected in 2019 and tried to reach an agreement a workable solution for both the school and for the community. The Trustees want to give the tenants everything with total disregard for how and where the community will function. All they are happy to do is have a small shared hall a quarter of its current size, and will give the community use of the hall every sabbath and 27 days of the year for festivals. The Trustees are aware that the School has applied for a grant from the Federal Infrastructure fund and have told them that the school will expand into the synagogue with the support of the trustees. As the committee did not agree, and we only found out under a freedom of information request. The Trustees have now got themselves on the committee to say that the committee and Trustees are in agreement. This is a requirement of the trust deed. A conflict of interest as they have written to the community stating they are the ultimate owners. Despite signing an undertaking that they are execute their duties as Trustees in line with the Trust Deed. If allowed to proceed, the School will go into the synagogue and of course there will be no members and no committee which then allows the Trustees to wind up the Trust. (Established by Russian Migrants and started by a bequest by the late Norman Smorgon who arrived in Australia before the start of the 2nd world war) It has been home to The Pratt's the Smorgons, Castans, Richters, Berkovits and Katzenellenbogen etc., the latter two holocaust survivors. There are two members in the late 90s who we hope will Celebrate their 100 years in the synagogue may it be the divine will.

The synagogue has still 100 + members down from 500 which grew previously and has famous stained glass windows designed by the Famous Louis Kahan. The windows can be viewed here and the setting sun creates a splash of rainbow colours inside. When compliment on the beauty he created, Louis said I only put the pieces together the creator's light does the wonders you witness.

 The Hon Mr. Richard Wynne MP Minister for planning, called for a Planning Panel to stop a VCAT(Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal) hearing and bring the matter under his  decision. The Planning Panel report was due at end of August 2021. It was delayed for whatever reason, which afforded him the opportunity to issue the demolition permit on 02.09.2021, surely, knowing that the Planning Panel’s report outcome was in favor of heritage as he also ordered the Planning Panel to order the Council to alter the facts of the important independent Heritage assessment report obtained by Council.   He instructed the Planning Panel to say “the hall has not been in use”.  This in blatant contradiction to the truth. We met there in 2021 January and again on Sunday 5th December 2021. Save a beautiful and functioning hall which now hosts interfaith work and health and children's education. We have danced and sung and celebrated together and had debates drumming, foods of the world etc. 

Do join us in saving this valuable Heritage a House belonging to and English Trader from the 1890's and please share with your friends. Thank you in advance.

I/We undersigned, request and implore Minister Wynne for the immediate cancellation of said demolition permit.

104 have signed. Let’s get to 200!