In Memorium: Danielle Charak
Melbourne’s ‘Yiddish treasure’ Danielle Charak and child survivor, who has been remembered for her warmth, positivity and wisdom after she passed away at the age of 84 following a long battle with cancer.
Charak was born in Brussels in 1939 and when the war came to Belgium, she was put in the care of a non-Jewish family, who looked after her for a year until 1944. She was reunited with her parents and older sister, the late Floris Kalman, after the war and the family moved to Melbourne in 1949.
Carak taught at Mount Scopus and for many years wrote the Yiddish VCE exam and was an examiner, lectured at Monash University and was recognised internationally as a Yiddish scholar.
She spent four years as executive director of the Australian Institute for Jewish Affairs and the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ), was a member of the National Council of Jewish Women of Australia (NCJWA) and spent a decade in Yiddish radio, broadcasting on 3EA, later renamed SBS Radio.
As well as being a teacher of Yiddish for over fifty years, Danielle found time to be a Yiddish speaker at countless community functions and events. These involved commemorative as well as celebratory evenings with readings, music and songs. Danielle also recorded books in Yiddish for ageing, vision impaired members of the community and acted as a translator of many private letters and articles. She was also instrumental in fundraising for the teaching of Yiddish at Monash University and in 2004 headed the small team that raised funds to secure a Yiddish lectureship.
Danielle married Isi Charak in 1962 and she was the parent of three children and the grandparent of twelve grandchildren.