Among the oft-told tales of diggers and gold remain unspoken stories of Jewish mothers and their families, who toiled, laboured, and struggled as they made a life for themselves and their kin on the Central Victorian Goldfields. For most of these women, their lives will remain in the past, however, important evidence survives for one family. Three white baby dresses, lovingly made and sewed by Rebecca Abraham (nee Crawcour) for her children, give a fascinating glimpse into the world of Jewish mothers and their families. On these dusty fields of gold, faith, families, and motherhood continued to define each another, though in altered ways as Jewish families responded to colonial limits and societal expectations. Following the life of Rebecca and her family, this presentation will explore the connection between infant dress, brit milah (circumcision ceremonies), and the shifting world of the goldfields Jewish family.
Elizabeth Offer is currently completing a PhD in history at La Trobe University. Her research is part of a larger community-based project uncovering the religious diversity of the Central Victorian Goldfields. Elizabeth’s research examines the connection between an emerging British identity and the shifting religious practices of Hebrew congregations which formed in Bendigo and Ballarat between 1851- 1900.