Lest We Forget? Unlikely!

October 20, 2010 by Henry Benjamin
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The new permanent exhibition at the Sydney Jewish Museum depicting Jewish involvement in the Australian military was opened last night by former Defence Force chief General Peter Cosgrove.

General Peter Cosgrove All photo: Henry Benjamin

Telling the stories of those Australian Jews who fought for Australia since the days of the Boer War up until the present time, the exhibition “Serving Australia: The Jewish Involvement in Australian Military History”, uses photographs, documents and memorabilia to get across its message of Jewish participation.

In his opening remarks, General Cosgrove acknowledged Margo and David Lowy who are major sponsors of the new project. Margo’s late father, Bob Adams is one of the servicemen whose stories are told in the exhibition.

But the most poignant moment came when Felix and Yvonne Sher came face to face with the exhibit featuring their son Greg who was killed in action in Afghanistan as a result of a rocket attack in Oruzgan Province on January 4, last year.

Yvonne and Felix Sher show Frank Lowy (c) the exhibit

Prominent member of the Australian Jewish community, Westfield chief Frank Lowy stopped at the exhibit and shared a private moment with the Shers. Felix Sher told J-Wire: I think the exhibition is fantastic. It’s well done and well presented. It helps us bring back a lot of good memories of Greg…and it fills us with pride. The loss of Greg will always be felt and every day we think of him with enormous love and feelings of absolute heartbreak and sorrow. At least he will be remembered…not just by the family but by everyone who visits this place. We are very pleased that this was done for him.”

The Shers have donated many of Greg’s personal effects, including his beer can holder on which the name he was known to his army buddies is inscribed….”SuperJew”.

Norman Seligman

In his opening remarks, Sydney Jewish Museum CEO Norman Seligman described the exhibition as “an important milestone in the history of our great museum and our great community”. He welcomed many of Australia’s highest ranking military officers.

Immediate past president of the Sydney Jewish Museum, John Roth, said that the initiative had been jointly created by the New South Wales Association of Ex-Servicemen and women, the NSW Jewish War Memorial which stands at the entrance of the exhibition and the museum itself. He added into the successful mix the approach from

John Roth

Margo and David Lowy to find away to honour the memory of  her late father, Bob Adams.  Roth made mention of the role of Jews in the military service of a democratic country which allowed them to freely practice their religion, will be made apparent to “the thousands of schoolchildren” who will visit the exhibition annually. Sir John Monash was quoted by Roth as saying at the opening of the War Memorial in 1923 that “nowhere in the world have we so free and unfettered a life. Let us do loyal service to the country.”

Roth made a special presentation to Margo Lowy of her late father’s service records which the museum had obtained from the National Archives.

Margo Lowy said that following her father’s death, the family wanted to do something special in his memory. As he had beena proud Australian it seemed appropriate to work with NAJEX who had nowhere to show their memorabilia. She said that although the exhibition is in her father’s name it now offers a place for all our “unsung heroes” who now have a place in our permanent memory”.  She added: “The exhibition is a beautiful and fitting testament to my father.”

Former head of the Australian Defence Force General Peter Cosgrove told the guests at the opening “the exhibition celebrates and commemorates the service across the decades of Jewish Australians. He mentioned the efforts of those members of the Jewish community “who kept the home fires burning”.

Sponsors Margo and David Lowy

The general told of a TV program in which he participated on Australia Day to debate and propose the greatest-ever Australian. I chose a South Australian Victoria Cross winner who was killed in action in the last few months of WWII in Borneo. There was some surprise that I did not choose our greatest ever military leader, Sir John Monash. “There has been no greater leader than Monash – depicted on the first story board you will see.”  He said that the exhibition celebrated the memories of Jewish servicemen and women from all walks of life. Eminent Australian Jewish doctors served in the prison camps after the fall of Malaya and Singapore. Men like Peter Isaacson is an icon of our RAAF commitment to the war in Europe. The late General Paul Cullen was a tough man…and a marvellous warrior. He said: “I met Greg Sher in his previous service. He was a strapping young man. Highly admirable…and a great loss.  But he represents all those younger Jewish Aussies from the hardy and selfless men and women from the times past. He had the irreverent admiration of his colleagues who wrote on his beer cooler that he was SuperJew.”

General Peter Cosgrove opened the exhibition following the affixing of a mezzuzah at its entrance by army chaplain Rabbi Yossi Segelman.

J-Wire visited the exhibition last week…read about our visit here.

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Harold & Bertha Milner (cousins) Sylvia Dushansky (grandmother) Yvonne & Felix Sher"

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