Inside AJHS: The Hebrew Ladies Benevolent Society

Meet Zali Harris – AJHS Intern 2022

Zali Harris 2022 AJHS InternMy name is Zali Harris, and I had the privilege of performing a remote internship with the AJHS from August to November of 2022, during my Honours degree in History.

In the 3 months I worked with AJHS, I assisted with the assessing and processing of two archival collections from the AJHS: the organisational papers from the Hebrew Ladies Benevolent Society, colloquiality known as the Melbourne Hebrew Ladies Benevolent Society, or simply The Hebrew Ladies, and the personal papers from Victorian Liberal Party Member Walter Jona.

an etching of the Hebrew Ladies Bazaar 1876The Hebrew Ladies Benevolent Society served a truly foundational function within the Melbourne Jewish Community, providing 161 years of social welfare and community service. The collection I processed did not contain the entire organisational history. Instead, I had access to a small sample of the documents produced by The Hebrew Ladies. These items spanned 1930-2018, though predominately dated from the 1960s through to the late 2000s. Whilst the overall number of entries into the Excel Master List was sixty-two, a large number of these were bound notebooks, so the collection and the information contained therein is quite substantial. Through this collection, I have come to understand the wider societal function, services, and assistance The Hebrew Ladies Benevolent Society provided to women in a period prior to society looking after vulnerable women and children. I also now have a far greater appreciation for the sheer administrative work and unpaid hours involved in managing a not-for-profit charity.

Victorian Parliamentarian Walter Jona
Walter Jona (1926-2007) Liberal Member for Hawthorn 1964-1985

My time with the papers of Walter Jona was more limited, as I had almost completed my internship when they were acquired. Nevertheless, I gained a profound insight into the life of a truly inspirational and selfless public servant, who was integral in building the State of Victoria as I know it today.

I also enjoyed my experience working remotely. I was able to work at my own pace, in my own home, to my own schedule. This was particularly valuable, as I was simultaneously writing my Honours thesis.

I commend Sabrina Elias for her energy and the attention she gave me during my internship with AJHS. Sabrina endeavoured to be available for all my queries. She provided a thorough Induction and a short guide to procedures that I found incredibly useful, referring to if I had questions about procedures.

I also thank Liz James from the Victorian Office for her attention in the handover and return of each collection and her genuine enthusiasm and interest in the process and procedures of archiving.

Overall, I found working with these collections gave me insight into two critical areas. Firstly, it provided a truly holistic understanding of the way archives function, and how they are created by employees in the ‘back of house’. I cannot be more grateful for this experience, considering my career aspirations. I genuinely enjoyed the entire process.

Secondly, as indicated previously I gained invaluable insights into two very different, but integral components of the social history of Victoria. My experience with the AJHS is one I will continue to be touched by, reflect upon, and be grateful for.

Thank You AJHS for the opportunity.

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Societies like AJHS rely on volunteers to be able to function. Whether you have retired or are just starting out on your professional journey, consider volunteering your time and expertise to help preserve our community's heritage and help others discover their own family story. Click the heading to email AJHS for more details.