TEDxSydney 2020, with its virtual platform and giant Wall of Faces was a fresh new approach that brought with it fresh new experiences. There was something quite intimate and comforting that came from having all those great minds and inspirational thinking in your living room, it felt like more of a connection. Aside from the Main Stage, there was a great new space called Discovery Sessions where speakers like TEDx Sydney’s darling of 2019, Eddie Jaku, returned as he celebrated his 100th birthday. He sat in conversation with Fraser Orford, charming, bold and candid with his delivery.
Eddie Jaku was born Abraham Jakubowicz in Germany in 1920. In World War II, Eddie was imprisoned in Buchenwald and Auschwitz concentration camps. In 1945, he was sent on a ‘death march’ but escaped and hid in a forest eating slugs and snails. Finally, he was rescued by Allied soldiers. In 1950 he moved with family to Australia where he has lived since. Eddie volunteers at the Sydney Jewish Museum and has been married to Flore for 74 years. They have two sons, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
“I am a miracle. I should be dead!” says Eddie; in reality he is very much alive and has an inspiring journey of achievements:
- 100 years on the planet
- A survivor of the Holocaust
- 28 years a volunteer at the Sydney Jewish Museum since its inception in 1992
- 74 years of marriage
- First time author at the age of 100
His Discovery Session reflected on his 2020 experience, his perspective on events since last year’s talk gives rich food for thought.
Happiness (and love, not hate) is a choice.
Lovingly named “the happiest man on earth” Eddie’s mindset was born out of contrast and broad, varied personal perspectives. He says when you have been engulfed in what appears to be no other experience but a sad one, you have an element of choice. Looking around at today’s events of racial, political and ideological discontent, it’s hard to see how to be able to choose to be happy. But that’s not what Eddie is saying. His choice came from within, a choice over his state of mind and wellbeing in the face of despair.
“I have lived for a century and I know what it is to stare evil in the face … Happiness is something we can choose. It is up to you… I do not hate anyone, not even Hitler. Hate is a disease which may destroy your enemy but will destroy you in the process. You may not like everyone, but that doesn’t give you the right to be nasty to them. I don’t love everyone but I hate no one.”
The world is beautiful, if you see it to be so.
Eddie’s positivity and optimism has an extra special place in 2020, to be used as a salve on the wounds of quarantine, solitude and isolation. COVID halted his plans to have a 100th birthday party but also facilitated a book that is bound to be a bestseller.
”Life can be beautiful if you make it beautiful… Tomorrow will come, but first enjoy today”
We are love machines.
Love in all senses, romantic and compassionate love is what Eddie says we were put on this planet to do. It is most important and can change the world, he points out that it doesn’t rely on emotion, or on liking someone, to operate in full force.
“Humans are love machines… This is the most important thing I have ever learnt: the greatest gift is to be loved by another person. Love saved me. My family saved me. Small acts of kindness last longer than a lifetime.”
You can watch Eddie’s moving TEDxSydney talk from 2019 here.