After moving to Australia from Israel, Ita became part of a global food movement centred on authentic, vegetarian food and eventually started Genesis, a restaurant and food sanctuary based in the Perth Hills.
My name is Ita Goldberger-Amram. The name Ita is given to me after my grandmother, my father’s mother who perished in Auschwitz. I’m carrying it with me as a name, as a stamp in my DNA. I was born in Israel, both my parents are Holocaust survivors. My father was really exposed to it much more – most of his family perished. He is from Czechoslovakia speaking basically Hungarian and Yiddish (Yiddish is a Jewish German). So my father comes from that background, with Hungarian influence because it was an Austrahungarian influence there. My mother comes from Bulgaria. Her father was from Turkey and her grandmother was from Spain, and that was from the Ottoman Empire. So they were moving between Turkey, Bulgaria, Spain, the Middle East, you know. And carrying with them the food from Turkey and Bulgaria which was a lot of vegetables and spices from the Middle East, basically. And they met in Israel, after the war. They all were immigrants, refugees in Israel. And I was born just a couple of years later, and I grew up there. So, in the house we had food that was from Hungary and from Bulgaria and from Turkey and from Spain and they neighbours were from Romania and from Iran and from Yemen. As children, we used to go to each other’s house and ate food and heard languages and heard languages that we were exposed to – from Arabic to Yemen to Persian to Romainan – all the languages, basically because everyone came to Israel after ‘48.
So that’s how I grew up, in a multilingual, multicultural Middle Eastern country. Parents starting their life from scratch. Point zero. And that’s why the word ‘Genesis’ in my life is just who I am. Because the word Genesis epitomises building from nothing. I mean, in Hebrew the word Genesis is B’reishit and the root to it is ‘creating something from nothing’. It’s so powerful. And so, you create your life with the only thing you’ve got, and this is yourself. A lot of people in Israel, because they were refugees, they were fighting for their own rights. Kind of: it will never happen to me again. But my father’s concept was: it will never happen again. To anyone, not only to Jews, but to Palestinians – not to anyone and growing up with this in our DNA, in a way, was: ‘it’s not going there, I have to save my children, I have to give them a better life’. And after their father passed away, we decided with my sister and myself to move as far as possible from the Middle East.
So Genesis is where we are now. It’s a vegetarian cafe. And this is, in a way, a creation of moving to Australia. I moved to Australia 17 years ago with my family, with my children and my sister and everybody else, carrying with us everything. I mean, we are who we are. So you start Genesis with what you are carrying with you, but from the beginning anyway. So, I opened a music school to start with and this Community Centre that we hoped will be a place where we can invite people in, we can cook the food we know, we can give the abundant love I feel towards people and nature and combine the thing and be creative as well; and support the community. And this place, I think it’s not too bad to what we hoped it to be. But this place is in nature, organic, we take care of what grows up here – we grow also our things, we have our chickens. And we have a vegetarian restaurant because we believe vegetarianism is a say – both a political and an environmental say. And we create, we create every day as it comes. The place has local artists who have their art exposed on the walls and it has been, since we opened nine years ago. Every month we’ve got a new local artist, we’ve got music, we’ve got good food. We embrace the community – we are part of where we are.
I think, at the end of the day, people are people are people are people. And if you are true to yourself and you come with whatever you’ve got to give, people will feel it. I feel when people are not nice to me and I feel when people are nice to me. So people feel it – wherever you are, people know who you are. Every day is a step, every day is a Genesis, every day is looking towards the opportunity – an optimistic way of looking at life. And that’s what we are, that’s the best we can do, I can’t invent myself – that’s who we are.
Years ago, we started a women’s group. A Chrisitan nun, a Muslim woman and myself created a women’s group to discuss our common ground so we can come together. This developed into what was then The Abrahamic Alliance. And The Abrahamic Alliance was more than just women, it was the Abrahamic faith meeting together on a monthly basis, talking about the common ground we all have. And the friendships we built out of all of this. It was kind of that’s how life should be. That’s beyond the separation, it’s beyond. Genesis in its epitome, it’s optimistic being.
My father had some relatives arriving from Europe and a couple of times a year they would come to visit. And my mother had her relatives, or even when we had friends for dinners, we were not wealthy – my father was a very hard-working man, he would take the pot from the thing and come and put it on the table and say, “Please have, please take”. I feel overwhelmed by this; this is what I’ve got – take it because I’ve got nothing much than that. So take my life. That’s life.
My high school for example was about a hundred metres from my house and they knew my mum bakes fantastic things for Friday, for the Sabbath. So every Friday they would say, “Let’s go to your mum.” And so my mum baked certain things for my friends because she knew, Friday in-between classes we would run home and she would bake this. And it was like heaven. She is the best cook and baker – everything. Because her father was, in profession, a baker in Bulgaria.
So, this is what food means to us. At home, at my home with my husband and my kids, food was the centre. And when we went to my husband’s family, oh the colours, the smells, the life, the generosity of sharing. And that comes in food, I mean, what else more can you do? You cook it, in my case now I grow it. Take. Have it. It’s what I’ve got to do. It’s part of what love is. And being creative as well. Nowadays I can cook something that is not Moroccan, it’s not Bulgarian, it’s something that is me, creative, new. It’s just love and sharing and giving. And that’s what food is.