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Avram Zeleznikow, mainstay of Melbourne Jewry, dies

Avram Zeleznikow

Avram Zeleznikow (Monash University)

SYDNEY (JTA) – Avram Zeleznikow, a Vilna Ghetto survivor and partisan fighter whose restaurant in Melbourne became a meeting place for the survivor community, has died.

Zeleznikow, the only member of his family to survive the Holocaust, died on Saturday. He was 89.

Zeleznikow waded through more than 30 miles of sewers to escape the ghetto in 1943 and join the partisans.

After the war, he and his wife to be, Masha, met in a Paris cafe named Scheherazade. Soon after immigrating to Australia, they opened their own Cafe Scheherazade, which became an iconic institution in Jewish Melbourne.

His son, John, said his parents served meals even to those survivors who could not afford to pay.

”He did not want to make a profit, he wanted to help people,” John Zeleznikow told The Age newspaper. ”They would talk, they would eat and they would argue. He provided sustenance for the body and sustenance for the soul.”

Avram Zeleznikow was president of the Australian Jewish Welfare and Relief Society, a member of the executive of the Victorian Jewish Board of Deputies, chairman of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria and a representative of the Jewish community on the Ethnic Communities Council.

He was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 2003 “for service to the Jewish community of Victoria.”

A Bundist, Avram Zeleznikow taught Yiddish at Sunday school.

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