All posts by mandelbaum

The World’s Happiest Man- Eddie Jaku

On the night of the 11th of April, a very special person joined Mandelbaum House for Formal Dinner. This special person is Eddie Jaku, a man filled with wisdom, with a very important story to tell: Eddie survived the Holocaust, a mass genocide where six million Jews were brutally persecuted and murdered by Nazi Germany during the Second World War. Many of us have learned about this dark period of history in school, yet nothing is as powerful as hearing this story from a person who has lived through the Holocaust as their reality. As a man who had experienced such injustice, torture, and hopelessness, Eddie proclaims to be the happiest man alive.

As a dear friend to Mandelbaum House, Eddie’s story has inspired and touched the hearts of many residents throughout the years. This formal dinner is no exception; in fact, many of our alumni came back to join us for this special dinner to see him once again. The cheerful and happy vibes filled the room throughout dinner, and Eddie continuously engaged with residents over the dinner table through conversations and laughter. Over dinner, he also joyfully informed us, that his birthday was coming up in a few days. On the 14th of April, Eddie Jaku turned 98 years old.

The highlight of our evening has to be Eddie’s speech. Eddie speaks with great eloquence and wisdom as he recalls on the events occurred in his life, including the vivid memories of when it all began. From a young engineer who returned home for a short visit, which developed into a series of events of brutality and separation from loved ones, to long on-foot journeys in the cold winter where a small glimpse of mercy and kindness were found along the way. Perhaps from these experiences, Eddie encompasses profound wisdom in regards to every aspect of what makes us human. Through his story of separation and survival, he elaborates on the importance of friendship and companionship, in which he accounts as what kept him alive. Most importantly, the biggest take-home lesson of Eddie’s story is the irrefutable need to learn from history, so that the mistakes of the past would not be repeated in the present and the future. Towards the end of his speech, Eddie made a short, yet powerful statement: “when you are sad, think of me”.

I am thinking of you Eddie, not because I feel down. It is because this evening is truly one of the most memorable evenings of my life. Thank you, and on behalf of Mandelbaum House, I would genuinely like to wish you a very happy birthday once again. You deserve all the happiness in the world.

In honour of Eddie, an annual prize in his name will be awarded by to a resident who is a “mensch” and demonstrates qualities of integrity and honour. The prize will be presented in November.

By Lucy Lu, Mandelbaum resident

The Chancellor Visits Mandelbaum House

Last week saw the beginning of classes at the University of Sydney and the return of early mornings and all-nighters for about 60,000 students. In the midst of the whirlwind that is the new semester, residents at Mandelbaum House welcomed Chancellor Belinda Hutchinson AM for their first formal dinner of the year.

Belinda Hutchinson is a proud USYD alumnus who had a fruitful and varied career in consulting and became chairperson of several boards of directors before returning to the university as Chancellor in 2013. As someone who had the opportunity to sit across from the Chancellor and chat with her over dinner, I personally hope she stays for many years to come.

But I’m getting a little ahead of myself. The night started with residents meeting the Chancellor and welcoming her to Mandelbaum House, followed by a beautiful and moving musical performance by resident Chelsea Stutchbury.

Then we sat down to dinner and peppered the Chancellor with questions about her experiences and advice for people starting out in their careers. She talked about the importance of showing up and not being afraid of asking questions. Naturally she also had questions for us. We talked about Mandelbaum House and our community, and about Chelsea’s just-released album and why she’s donating the proceeds to the Icon Cancer Foundation and the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

When I asked the Chancellor to name her favourite quality in a USYD student, she said it was the ability to take advantage of their resources to help other people who don’t necessarily have the same resources. She gave the example of Jack Manning Bancroft, an Indigenous USYD student who started a program for university students to tutor local Indigenous high school students. This program expanded into AIME, the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience, which is now an international organisation.

After dinner the Chancellor delivered an inspiring speech in which she spoke about the founder of Mandelbaum House, Rachel Lipton, who was one of the university’s pioneering female graduates. After graduating in 1918, Lipton became an English and Latin teacher. She initially donated money to the university in memory of her sister, Rose Mandelbaum, for a music scholarship. In her will, she bequeathed funds to establish a college called Mandelbaum House as a tribute to her parents.

The Chancellor also spoke about her own university experience and encouraged us to spread our wings and get actively involved in university life.

It was amazing to hear about her family foundation, which focuses on helping disadvantaged communities. For the past nine years it has worked with a non-government organisation called The Hunger Project in Malawi to help eradicate hunger in a community of villages. When she and her family visited this community of about 10,000 people last year, its members were celebrating their new-found self-reliance.

For me, it was humbling to see the Chancellor of a large university come to a dinner with just 38 students. This intimate event was a refreshing break from the large classrooms we spent the week getting used to – a time to sit together, listen to one another and enjoy great company, delicious food and inspiring music.

By Gauri Ganjoo, Mandelbaum resident
Photos: Giselle Haber

Talented Tedeschi Shines

Mandelbaum House had the immense pleasure of hosting world renowned concert pianist Simon Tedeschi and Loribelle Spirovski, Archibald Prize finalist (2017) and fiancé of Tedeschi at our second formal dinner of semester two.

Tedeschi took the crowd through his journey into music and how it emerged to be his passion. From being a hand double playing the piano in the Oscar winning movie Shine to performing for dignitaries on a school night, he’s done it all and more. But, he says it was no easy feat. While it may look glamourous on the outside, there were a lot of sacrifices involved like long hours of practices and isolation.

He also commented on the constant, yet changing landscape of classical music in Australia and around the world, stating it’s “no longer sufficient to just play Chopin, but you also have to conduct yourself like Cary Grant and look like George Clooney. Luckily I have two of those covered!”. Whilst the audiences he has played for have tended to comprise of older generations over the years, Tedeschi says it too is changing with his upcoming work for a younger audience at the Sydney Symphony Orchestra’s program ‘Who needs a conductor Anyway?’.

Adaptability is an important quality to have, says Tedeschi. It is important to adapt to changing tastes, technology and being able to reinvent learning. He quotes Charles Rosen, the eminent musicologist, when he said that “The death of classical music is perhaps its oldest continuing tradition.”

The highlight of Mandelbaum formal dinners is not only the fact that we get great food and conversation but we get life lessons, from people who have foraged out into the world and carved successful paths for themselves. From Simon Tedeschi, we learnt that sometimes the “hardest work gets the least recognition” but, its all worth it if it genuinely makes you happy.

The audience got lucky with not only one but two piano performances that evening- one  from  Mandelbaum ’s in-house talent Kartik Kuna and the other, a private classical piano show from Mr. Tedeschi. The two artists then had an impromptu jam session which was one of the most fun things to watch – two sets of hands collaborating to make one piece of beautiful soulful jazz. Our night at Mandelbaum couldn’t have ended better and we hope the wonderful Mr.Tedeschi and Ms. Spirovski had a great time too.

By Kari Luthria, Mandelbaum resident

Photo credit: Lucy Lu, Kyle Fan & Naihan Nith (residents)

My Other Home…

They say home is where the heart is. That special place full of memories, laughs and warmth. Somewhere where we can return and feel comfortable, a place where we belong. I always thought that there can only be one such place; until I moved to Sydney and found my second home. This time last year I was nervously sitting, awaiting my dentistry interview at the University of Sydney. I was so concentrated on getting past this obstacle, that the thought of living in Sydney did not really cross my mind. It was a Friday afternoon when I received my acceptance letter. Tears of joy rolling down my face I realised I was going to leave my family, my friends and my home here in Melbourne in pursuit of my interstate adventure.

Even though Mandelbaum House was founded by the Jewish community of Sydney, it welcomes students from all cultural and religious backgrounds. I am not religious myself, but I am proud of my Jewish heritage and it was important for me to find a place of residence near Sydney University where I would stay connected to my tradition.

As soon as I walked into Mandelbaum House I was greeted with a warm hug from Shana, our college CEO and within the first hour of my arrival, some residents were already showing me around and helping me settle in. They took me under their wing and showed me the college, the uni and the local neighbourhood Newtown. I was even shown where to get the best coffee (but it doesn’t quite compete with Melbourne!).

Mandelbaum House is a residential college at the University of Sydney, it is unique in that it is the smallest college on campus where everyone knows each other. When I had the flu, Shana made sure I had chicken soup to eat – it felt like I was home. And the chefs made a special brew of tea to get me back on track. We are lucky to have meals cooked fresh for us every day and every month we all gather together over a formal dinner where we get the opportunity to hear from our guest speaker over a delicious two-course meal. As a dentistry student the flexibility and convenience of having all our meals provided with even a take-away lunch option available.

One of the things I enjoy most about living at Mandelbaum House is the opportunity to meet students from all over the world. I now have friends from England, America, New Zealand, Germany, India, China and Japan, just to name a few. Living away from home is a liberating, but also a challenging experience at times, so I am truly grateful that I now get to call Mandelbaum House, my home.

By Sonia Vorontsov

One word to strive towards, one word to limit

The residents of Mandelbaum House had the privilege of listening to a highly motivational, witty yet genuinely modest speech by “character” Thomas Whalan at the first formal dinner of Semester 2, 2017. Thomas Whalan is renowned by Australia as a four-time Olympic representative in water polo and currently holds the position of director of Water Polo Australia. Since his last Olympic games in London 2012, Thomas has started 2 businesses, Water Polo by the Sea and Rent a Space Self Storage while continuing his devotion as a loving husband and proud father of 4 children. Despite his extensive list of achievements, Thomas believes his career is not what defines him. Instead, it is his character.

The evening opened with a beautiful piano piece written and performed by resident Zeph Yap which was as gentle as rain. The audience applauded the piece which was revealed to be half improvised and soon after, a delightful dinner of perfectly cooked salmon and wholesome salads was served. Thomas delivered his speech to the residents or as he referred to as “the future leaders” with passion and conviction. He recounted his journey through important milestones and at every moment, enlightened the audience of the life lessons he had learnt. Thomas emphasised the significance of a person’s character by explaining it in a sporting context. “Sport is a metaphor for life,” he stated. An athlete can be exceptionally talented but “if his character cannot keep up with his talent,” he will lose himself. It was clear every person in the room was fully engaged in his words of wisdom. Faces of contemplation were evident on students who used that time to measure their character against their talents.

Thomas continued by further explaining the notion of character through leadership which became the key topic of the speech. Leadership was identified as a valuable quality not only in sport, but in all aspects of life and particularly in relationships. Thomas pointed out how one needs to be “deliberate” like a leader in their approach of pursuing goals and people. This point strongly resonated with me because as a university student, I am swimming in a sea of opportunities which I acknowledge but am not taking deliberate action to seize.

As a graduate of The University of Sydney, Thomas also spoke about his university experience. “Be a student, not an attendee,” he preached. This perfectly phrased concept of active participation however could also be removed from the educational context and applied in everyday life. As humans, we only possess a hungry curiosity for our interests. Thomas, further expanded that if there is something in your life you know is not right for you, something you can only be an “attendee” of, it might be time to seek another path. On the other hand, if there is something you know you will be a life student of, pursue it and it can take you to great places.

The grand ideas and the ultimate goals do not occur overnight. The journey is composed of small steps, ephemeral bi-products such as sweat, scribbles on a page and even tears which lead to the final destination. Thomas neatly proposed we all write one word we will strive towards and one we will try to limit to allow us to reach our goals at the end of his inspiring speech. Mine are “initiative” and “doubt,” what are yours?

By Sandy Chen, Mandelbaum House Resident.

Vice Chancellor Visits Mandelbaum

On Wednesday 3rd of May, Mandelbaum House hosted its third formal dinner of Semester One 2017. As  residents slowly ushered into the dining area that evening, a sense of anticipation could be felt in the room as we had a very special guest speaker joining us for dinner- the Vice-Chancellor of University of Sydney: Dr Michael Spence.

Dr Spence is an alumnus of the University of Sydney, where he graduated with first-class honours in English, Italian and Law. Later he obtained his Doctor of Philosophy and post-graduate diploma in Theology at the Oxford University. Today as Vice-Chancellor, Dr Spence plays a major role of leadership of the University’s strategic planning, as well as maintaining networks between the University and external stakeholder groups. Dr Spence is also a father to seven whom he spoke about fondly over our meal at Mandelbaum House.

As Chef Robert and his team served the delicious dinner, our talented residents Stella and Kartik enticed the room with musical item ‘Clair de Lune’, a French Classical piece that musically described the ‘light of the moon’. Throughout dinner, Dr Spence happily conversed with students and with genuine curiosity, he asked students about life at Mandelbaum House as the college holding Jewish values. We discussed topics ranging from politics to international student wellbeing. As we continued to chat, we also found out that Dr Spence had just returned a business trip from India, where he met with the Prime Minister and Education Minister of the country. He is a busy man indeed.

The address topic of the night was on ‘Disagreeing Well’. Dr Spence elaborated on the challenges the University faces in order to respect every individual’s human agency and autonomy and the University’s many differing voices. As the night progressed, he encouraged for us to have a dialogue, where he expressed that he would also like student opinions and inputs in regard to current events concerning the University as discussed in his speech.

Earlier this year, the University partnered with the Sydney Jewish Museum to provide training and workshops in ethical leadership for student leaders from across campus. Mandelbaum residents participated in this workshop which used historic examples of racial discrimination to reveal the danger of prejudiced attitudes and behaviour. This also examined the role unconscious bias plays in leadership and decision making. Dialogue with the university is ongoing and training for the wider student community is being implemented to help build a safer and more inclusive university free from sexual harassment, bullying, racism and discrimination.

Overall, for us as Mandelbaum residents, this formal dinner consisted of great food, and great company during a packed and stressful stage of the semester. This formal dinner also unveiled the establishment of the Mandelbaum House Vice-Chancellor Prize, in honour of the visit of Dr Spence. The prize will be awarded next semester based on merit to an outstanding resident.

By Lucy Lu, Mandelbaum House resident

‘Grandchild of a slave and child of a refugee’

One of the highlights in the Mandelbaum calendar is the monthly Formal Dinner. We were delighted to welcome back A/Professor Lilon Bandler to be our guest speaker for our first 2017 dinner. The evening began with a fantastic musical performance by  residents Chelsea and Kartik. During the introduction, we learnt that Lilon was a GP locum for the Royal Flying Doctor Service and has worked in general practice for many years.  She is also an academic at the University of Sydney and is responsible for curriculum development and implementation in Indigenous health education, ensuring learning and teaching by all medical students.

Lilon identified herself as the ‘grandchild of a slave and child of a refugee’. Even though her mother, Faith Bandler, is well known as the famous Australian civil rights activist who ran the NSW campaign for the 1967 Aboriginal referendum, she shared with us her father’s life course to encourage us to enjoy the process of being educated.

Her father was an Austrian  born Jew raised in Vienna and sent to Dachau and Buchenwald concentration camps. In order to flee and have a new life, her father’s aunt bribed people for his successful release, with a German typewriter and a ring and he took his younger half-brother and sadly needed to leave him in an orphanage in London. He eventually arrived to Australia as a refugee, and settled down in Sydney, as a civil engineer after local skill training.  She emphasized that her father’s experience had a huge influence on her: not only contributing to noticing the fact that culture was embedded in the consciousness so that people comprehend the context of time, history and geography; but also realised the significance of culture, for it explained a person’s identity and motivation.

The college residents were asked to think about what would they take with them if they have to leave home immediately. Although there would have been so many potential choices and no absolute correct answer, Lilon shared her point of view that education is crucial, for no one can take it from you. She extended the definition of education, not merely the degree you undertook at school, but the solid skill or habit you learned from your family, your friend, and even your enemies.  Lilon’s father proved this by building their house in Sydney based on his trained skill, and then applied his knowledge in helping construct Sydney’s city water supply system.

‘It does not even matter whether your choice is right or wrong’, said Lilon, ‘as long as you bring your education, you will be able to have a brand new start.’ Just like what her father did, continuously renewing his understanding of education, you can escape from the past and learn something new in the present, and embrace the unknown but convertible future. Lilon herself is the best practitioner for those words, which is admirable because she has been on her unique pathway to know how she takes her place in this society, as a guide for students and a lifelong fighter for people who live a less privileged life.

By Crystal Xu, Mandelbaum resident

Photo credit: Naihan Nith and Kyle Fan

Study Abroad made easy!

Are you coming to Sydney for one semester on a Study Abroad or Exchange programme? Make the most of your experience and live with Aussies and other Internationals with the convenience of a friendly community, and a delicious meal plan. Study Abroad student Ariel Hurwitz shares her recent experience:

Living at Mandelbaum was basically like being adopted into a home for a semester. From the first moment to the final goodbye, the community was warm and supportive. Affectionately referred to as “Mandy” or “the Baum”, the Mandelbaum house offers exchange students the opportunity to meet and live with locals and other exchange/international students. Before signing up however, there are a few things to consider about the Mandelbaum house.

First, the community is small. The people you will meet at Mandy will become your friends and you will see them often. There are people who choose to be less involved in the Mandelbaum community, which is fine, but people will know about you regardless. Drama is an inevitable part of a student living arrangement. The cleaning and kitchen staff will see you after a big night out and will be able to make speculations about you based on a simple analysis of your trash. Luckily, they’re wonderful people.

Second- the Jew thing. Yes, the Mandelbaum house is a Jewish college. Yes you will eat kosher and you will acclimate to it. Yes you will learn about Jewish holidays and about Jewish culture. No, you will not be constantly harangued with Jewish doctrine, Jewish customs, or even Jewish people. The Mandelbaum house is possibly one of the most diverse places I’ve ever lived. The demographic transcends country, racial, ethnic and most other social strata- it’s part of what makes the community so special. So don’t be worried about that.

Third, the location is fabulous.  Situated a block away from Newtown (where you want to be) and right next to campus, you’re never too far from anything exciting. There are a lot of things to do in Sydney and you should take the time to explore as much of it as possible. Luckily the house is a quick walk from a train station and multiple bus stops. Don’t forget that the University is huge, which means taking a couple extra minutes those first few days to find your classes. Unless your classes are in the brand new business building in which case you have about a 3-minute walk to class.

Finally, the kitchen is fabulous. There are always snacks out and the chefs make every possible accommodation for students. Compared to other living arrangements, it is much more convenient to have a meal prepared for you than learning to budget, find the best grocery stores around Sydney (and carry your groceries back home), and cook yourself an enjoyable meal.

If you want to live in a small, loving and fun community, apply to Mandelbaum! Your study abroad experience will be fun no matter what, but as I learned, a comfortable living arrangement can really ease stress when balancing travel, school and whatever else you decide to do with your study abroad trip. Don’t forget to have fun out there.

By Ariel Hurwitz, Mandelbaum Resident

Best Kept Travel Secret

Everyone has their ‘go to’ starting point when searching for travel accommodation. Some keep it simple and shoot an email to their trusted travel agent. Others go on the hunt, which today goes way beyond the conventional hotels, motels and hostels. A search on Google or Airbnb opens up glorious options such as lighthouses, treehouses, yurts, windmills and even wagons – oh my!

There is, however, also a stealth option that some in-the-know travellers would prefer be kept quiet. It’s available during peak summer holiday periods, centrally located in major cities, affordable, and well connected to public transport, restaurants, and shops. It’s not honeymoon-level luxury but it is ideal for travellers wanting somewhere simple, clean and safe to stay. This untapped resource is the residential colleges of universities across Australia and the world.

In Australia, residential colleges operate at full capacity during the university academic year, which is from mid-February to the end of November. This leaves 12 weeks of vacant rooms in some of the most enviable city areas. For example, the University of Sydney is located at the edge of the Sydney CBD. It neighbours two of the most vibrant suburbs in the city – Newtown and Glebe, which boast the best restaurants, cafes, and nightlife in town. The architecture in these neighbourhoods is charming and they’re full of hidden gems such as small galleries, markets, parks, quirky bookshops and contemporary performance spaces such as Carriageworks. Staying at one of the colleges here puts you in the heart of the heartbeat of Sydney. It’s also an easy walk to the CBD with multiple options for public transport to connect to the harbour or beaches. As prices in Sydney soar for NYE celebrations, the Sydney Festival and other big summer events, the colleges are an amazingly affordable option.

Residential colleges are not just available to students or academics. They attract a range of guests including holidaymakers, summer interns, groups, conference delegates, and backpackers. Travelling on a budget doesn’t have to mean being squeezed into a bunk room with a random foot dangling from the bunk above. Many colleges offer rooms with en-suites and academic apartments which are ideal for families, as well as the standard student rooms with shared bathrooms.

If the idea of this style of accommodation has piqued your interest, the next step is to Google “residential college” and the city name. Some colleges take direct bookings while others are managed by external agents.

It may not be as winsome as a windmill, but it will provide you with a comfortable, central, and cost-effective stay for your next holiday.

By Shana Kerlander. Shana is the CEO of Mandelbaum House, a boutique residential college located at the University of Sydney. She is also a passionate traveller and has worked as a tour guide in Europe and on cruise ships in the South Pacific.

The Final Frontier – Needs You!

The second formal dinner of semester two started off with a beautiful rendition by resident Darron Ho of Adele’s Rolling in the Deep on his Chinese Violin, or Erhu.

As guest speaker for the night we were honoured to welcome Kim Ellis, Final Frontier lawyer and scientist, founder of Earth Space Technology and adjunct faculty member with the International Space University.

Kim has received multiple accolades and awards, including the Endeavour Executive Award for international cooperation at the NASA Kennedy Space Centre. Fortunately for us, she also happens to be the mother of Thomas Ellis, President of the Resident Society at Mandelbaum House. 

In her speech Kim proposed that our main problem as a species is that the ‘critical tipping point’ we’ve reached is a result of our own careless actions. Focusing on the effects of our carelessness on space, she described how the destruction of the Earth’s orbit due to an exponential increase in amounts of space debris and environmental degradation coupled with a throwaway mentality poses potential risks of collision for government and commercial space operations – which is what her PhD thesis centres on. This collision risk has far-reaching social effects as well, affecting change and access in ways that in turn affect national security, weather forecasting, and data positioning. She emphasised the need for young people to take positive action towards ensuring the sustainability of future generations, and suggested that relocating to another planet like Mars – if that’s even possible – isn’t the best idea until we fix the problems we’ve caused in our current home.

Bringing the discussion back to our immediate interests, Kim led us through an interactive goal-setting exercise, used by many members of the space community, which one resident aptly described as a ‘time capsule’ for goals. She addressed the issue that troubles the overworked, dazed and confused university student: their career. She reassured us that not knowing what you want out of your career should not be a cause of concern just yet. We could not have asked for a better motivational speaker than one who experienced her own rocky start to finding a passion worth waiting for.

 By Kari Luthria, Mandelbaum resident