It all started with B’nai B’rith and the Hillel Foundation of NSW
In the early 1960s, B’nai B’rith established Hillel Foundations in Sydney and Melbourne to provide support and services to Jewish university students. In 1965, Alan Crown, an academic at the University of Sydney, became the part-time honorary Hillel Director of NSW.
The notion of building a Jewish residential college at the University of NSW was initiated by Jewish student leaders and then further promoted by Hillel and University of NSW academics, Professors Emery Balint and Graham de Vahl Davis.
On 11th April 1968, Balint, de Vahl Davis and Hillel’s Graeme Cohen discussed this proposal with UNSW’s Vice-Chancellor, Sir Philip Baxter who was supportive. Committees were formed, with de Vahl Davis as Chairman of the first Board, plans developed and funds raised – driven by the late Sir Paul Strasser, who gave the bulk of the money for the initial building. For every communal dollar raised to build the college, the federal and state governments together contributed $3.
Shalom College opened in 1973. It was the first Jewish residential college of its kind in the world. It accommodated 80 students and 6 tutors. Its foundation Master was Zeev Amit who hailed from Israel.
In 1981, the Boards of Shalom College and the Hillel Foundation jointly appointed Zac Kaye as both College Master and Hillel Director. Soon after, AUJS established its headquarters at the College.
In January 1989, Dr Hilton Immerman succeeded Kaye. He served for 28 years as CEO (until his retirement in December 2016) of the organisation, which, over the years, was transformed from Shalom College and Hillel into The Shalom Institute.
Young Adults and Young Families
In the early 1990’s, Immerman worked with community leaders and young adult Jewish groups to develop a strategy to address the lack of engagement – the so-called ‘black hole’ phenomenon – of this demographic. Shalom’s young adult department, Network, founded in 1997, was a response.
In 2009, with support from the JCA, Shalom developed a young adult strategic plan. Its recommendations resulted in the growth of young adult programming and a new commitment to serving young Jewish families.
PJ Library and Shalom Baby
In August, 2008 , Immerman presented a proposal to the JCA to bring PJ Library to Sydney under Shalom’s auspices. The support and endorsement of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation in the US (which runs the program) and the JCA was finally agreed and Shalom launched PJ Library in August 2011.
Shalom Baby, initiated by former Network Director, Elyse Chiert, commenced in 2011. Weekly meetings were held to connect parents and their babies from 0 – 18 months. Under its auspices, events for expectant mothers – called Shalom Preggy – were also started.
The Melton Program
In 1993, Shalom brought the two-year Melton Adult Education Program developed at the Hebrew University to Sydney. It commenced its 1st year with a record-breaking 5 classes, comprising a total of 125 adult learners.
After 17 successful years, Shalom passed-on the Melton baton – and since 2010, the Florence Melton Adult Mini-School (FMAMS) has been run by the University of Sydney’s Centre for Continuing Education and the Department of Hebrew, Jewish and Biblical Studies.