Holding Carmel Together: Half an hour with Ya’akov Braude
It’s hard to pin down Ya’akov Braude in between his many maintenance jobs on Carmel Primary and High School grounds but, after much encouragement, we finally did so over the recent school holidays.
Ya’akov joined the Carmel team about three years ago, initially as a short-term stand-in, but then as a regular feature, where he continues to respond with his trademark dry sense of humour - alongside John ‘Scriv’ Scrivener - to the many daily maintenance appeals from staff. “Ya’akov, the taps in the Ladies’ are leaking,” says Nadine Shainfeld while fielding reception phone calls. “Morning, Ya’akov. I don’t suppose you could do something about the new water feature in my office, could you?” quips Head of Secondary, Dean Shadgett.
And so it continues, day in, day out, for our hardworking Maintenance team. “I can’t choose between leaky taps and lights, broken chairs and tables” is Ya’akov’s answer to a question about what the most common problems he tends to on campus might be.
Father to two daughters - who are both Dorot Carmel, attending from Prep all the way through the High School - the Braude family’s association with the School stretches back to the early 90s. Ya’akov is also our de facto community liaison officer because if you ever need to know who’s who in the zoo, he’s your man. It’s also far easier to consult Ya’akov regarding Jewish history in Western Australia than search Google or trawl through our libraries for material.
More recently, Ya’akov has been an invaluable source of background stories to accompany the archival material he found while clearing out the mezzanine floor of the Sylvia and Harry Hoffman Library. Much of this material has been featured on our social channels of late, and warmly received by our community. Envelopes of old black and white photos, some from Carmel School’s inception in 1959 and the early days of the 1960s, and copies of typewritten Kesher newsletters predating the computer era, have been regularly deposited on desks in the Marketing and Communications Office of late. “It brings back a lot of memories for me because a lot of my friends that I grew up with at Habonim are in those pictures,” notes Ya’akov of this welcome trip down memory lane.
Born in Estonia in 1952 to an Estonian mother and Polish father, Ya’akov, his older brother and his parents relocated to Lublin, Poland, during his early childhood. “I do remember getting abused in Poland a lot as a kid in school for being Jewish,” recalls Ya’akov, adding that he has thankfully never experienced any antisemitism here in Western Australia.
Collecting languages as he travelled, by the time Ya’akov was 10 he could speak Estonian and Polish and was soon to add a third, namely English, to his linguistic list when the family’s sponsorship papers for Australia, their choice of ‘forever’ home second only to Canada, came through.
Their destination by boat was meant to be Sydney, but the Braude family disembarked at Fremantle Port instead, having had enough of what had, by then, been a long and fairly arduous journey. Ya’akov describes a particularly memorable part of the amazing voyage occurring as the ship crossed the equator and stopped in the Gulf of Aqaba, not far from the Suez Canal. Dressing up, the family took part in the traditional seafarers’ ceremony paying homage to the god of the sea, King Neptune.
Once in Fremantle, Ya’akov’s parents set about readying themselves for work in Perth; his father resitting his local electrician exams to requalify and his mother, a seamstress, eventually reskilling to become a nurse after having passed the required English tests. She practised her new profession at Maurice Zeffert, where she eventually became a matron. “My parents worked 24/7,” remembers Ya’akov of the dedication his parents showed at starting again in yet another country.
Ya’akov and his older brother attended Highgate Primary School before moving on to Mount Lawley High.
In his early 20s, Ya’akov moved to Israel, were he spent the next 10 years. Two years’ basic training followed by eight years’ reserves serving in the Israeli Army followed. Taking out his phone, Ya’akov scrolls to a black and white photo of a troop of fit, young soldiers, clearly brothers in arms, and explains that the photo was taken in his 21st year, during basic training in the first week of October 1973. It was the last time the young men would be together as a troop before being brought back to base, where some remained and others, including Ya’akov, were sent to the frontline as the Yom Kippur War broke out.
Following Ya’akov’s move back to Perth in the 80s, he spent a short time in the hardware business. Thirty years’ general maintenance work in his own business followed. “I’m the type of person, if I’m doing a job, I do it with all my heart. It doesn’t matter where I am,” says Ya’akov of his approach to work generally, before noting that he had previously worked stints over an eight-year period at the Rio Tinto building at Central Park in the City. “I’ve been on that roof many times,” he adds.
Asking Ya’akov to choose his favourite part of the Carmel campus is a bit like asking him to choose his favourite child. “I like them equally,” he laughs, “but if home is where my workshop is, then it has to be the High School.”
What would we do without Ya’akov and Maintenance?
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