SIXTY YEARS ON, A LIVING MEMORIAL REMAINS
It happened in 1955. Summer holiday period. Hume Highway. Car, driver, two passengers. The car swerved off the road and hit a tree. A common event, a tragedy, more frequent then than today. Two young men died. The woman passenger survived. The accident ended the life of Bernard Lustig, a brilliant young barrister, winner of the University of Melbourne’s Supreme Court Prize. He was the older son of Adolf and Kate Lustig, German refugees from Nazism who fled to Australia before the war. As the war ended Adolf helped found the first B'nai B'rith lodge in Melbourne.
Bernard followed in his father’s footsteps as a lawyer, although Adolf’s career in Munich was cut short by the Nuremberg Race Laws. Bernard also became interested in B'nai B'rith in 1951, becoming a founding member of B'nai B'rith Youth Melbourne and one of its earliest presidents. His death generated a thought among the members of the BBY committee. Let’s establish a scholarship in his memory. Too ambitious, said some. But anyone who knew the late Pauline Richter (later Pauline Glass) would testify that this was a young woman who was motivated, capable and persistent. She won the day. With financial contributions from B'nai B'rith Melbourne Lodge and its Women’s Chapter, the youth group set up a fund later that year, and awarded the first scholarships, to assist capable Year 12 students about to embark on a university course in 1956. Six decades have passed, and the scholarship is now the oldest continuing B'nai B'rith project and the longest running scholarship in the Victorian Jewish community. As with any project that survives for so long, it has had to change with the times. The first scholarship was worth ₤50. Today, winners receive $2500. Winners are decided by a long-serving group of trustees comprising senior academics and representatives of the Lustig family. The administration has changed. BBY Melbourne no longer exists: the scholarship is now a B'nai B'rith Victoria project. Instead of treasurers handling a couple of cheques, the scholarship receives some of its funding from an investment fund managed by the B'nai B'rith Charitable Fund (and from numerous individual donors).
Information technology has wrought changes too. Originally, applicants sent hand-written letters in response to an AJN ad. Now there are detailed guidelines and an extensive application form, submitted by email. Nearly all communications among the trustees are handled electronically.
The purpose of the scholarship has also altered since its early days. The scholarship is now offered in two categories: as a research grant to master’s and doctoral thesis candidates, and as a travel grant to outstanding student leaders at university level, to fund overseas travel to participate in leadership development programs.
Some recent winners have travelled to Israel to participate in short courses at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Another worked as a deputy speech-writer for the Israeli Mission at the United Nations in New York. A young medical practitioner was assisted to pursue post-graduate research at Harvard University. One winner was a school counsellor researching for a master’s degree in psychology. In 2019, three scholarships were awarded, to an outstanding law student, to a musician preparing a PhD, and to a philosophy graduate who went to Oxford to write a thesis on ethical issues of artificial intelligence.
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