Dedication of The Australian Jewish War Memorial and commemoration of the centenary of General Sir John Monash’s knighthood

August 13, 2018 by Yvette Goode
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The ACTJC, the Canberra Jewish Centre has held a solemn ceremony in the grounds of the Centre dedicating the Australian Jewish War Memorial to honour Australian Jewish military personnel who have died in wars serving their country.  

The memorial              Picture: Merrilyn Sernack

MC Dr David Rosalky Treasurer of the ACTJC read the welcome message from the President of the ACTJC,  Yael Cass, who is currently overseas.

She spoke on behalf of the ACT Jewish Community and noted that this event also marks the Centenary of General Sir John Monash’s Knighthood – a man of significance and stature who was a key architect of the allied successes in France that led to the end of World War I.  She hoped that all might learn from his contribution to our country.

Additionally, she pointed out the ACTJC was hosting the event in partnership with the Centenary of Anzac Jewish Program, the Federal Association of Jewish Ex-Service Men & Women, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, the Australian Jewish Historical Society and the Sydney Jewish Museum.

Picture: Merrilyn Sernack

Yael Cass hopes that the Australian Jewish War Memorial will stand as a symbol of Jewish contribution to the broader Australian community.

Dr Rosalky welcomed guests, including General Sir Peter Cosgrove, Governor-General of Australia and Lady Cosgrove. After paying respects to the traditional owners of the land, Dr Rosalky warmly welcomed all to the first ceremony, the dedication of the Australian Jewish War Memorial, which had long been a special project of the ACTJC.

A message from the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull,was read by the Julian Leeser MP, who spoke of the honour and privilege he felt to be part of the ceremony. The Prime Minister commended the ACTJC for the initiative involved in making the Jewish War Memorial a reality in Canberra. He noted that Sir John Monash, as one of Australia’s greatest military commanders, personified the Jewish history of service to country, both in wartime and peace.

The dedication address was given by Dr Keith Shilkin, President, Federal Association of Jewish Ex-Service Men and Women who said that Australia has a number of Jewish war memorials located in the various states but there has been no national Jewish war memorial, that is, until the ACT Jewish Community determined that such a memorial to all Jewish Australians who gave their lives while on active service should be built.

He also observed that this auspicious day marked the centenary of Sir John Monash being knighted on the battlefield by the King.

On behalf of the Federal Association of Jewish Ex-Service Men and Women (FAJEX) and all state affiliates, he extended his congratulations to the ACT Jewish Community and to all those who supported the project for bringing it to fruition. The memorial, identifying the names of all of the 341 Jewish service personnel who have given their lives in the nation’s cause, is a wonderful addition to other Jewish memorials throughout Australia.

He noted that the memory of their loyalty, commitment and heroism would be forever recorded on the monument for all to see and for all to reflect on what their sacrifice meant in securing our freedom and in upholding our values and our democratic way of life.

General Sir Peter Cosgrove was invited to officially unveil the Cenotaph after which Rabbi Ralph Genende, Senior Rabbi to the Australian Defence Force, read the dedication prayer.

The prayer’s concluding lines states “May Your spirit vitalise this great land, may it enter the hearts of our government and leaders.  Protect the members of the ADF whether at home or overseas. Implant in our hearts a spirit of love and unity that we may work and live together in harmony and fellowship for the well-being of this society that we are building together.”

This soulful, beautiful prayer was followed by the laying of wreaths, which was accompanied by bagpipes.  Rabbi Shimon Eddi, Rabbi of the ACTJC and Rabbi Genende, jointly recited Kaddish followed by the The Ode for the Fallen recited by Warren Austin, President, WA Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women.

The Last Post was played followed by a minute of silence. The Rouse was played and the flag was raised.

During the dedication, several speakers mentioned the long and distinguished record of service of the Australian Jewish Community, from the Sudan Campaign of 1862 until the present day. Service in World War 1 comprised some 1800 Jewish men and women, with almost 200 paying the ultimate price. The last Jewish soldier to be killed on active service was in the Afghanistan War.

Guests were then invited to move upstairs to the Fanny Reading Auditorium, where General Sir Peter Cosgrove, Patron-in-Chief of the General Sir John Monash Foundation, gave the Sir John Monash Centenary Address.

He thanked members of the ACTJC for his invitation and invited all assembled to carefully look at the photo of Sir John Monash being knighted by the King.


Photo: Australia War Memorial

Sir Peter asked us to examine the faces of the officers behind Monash and it was clear to see the strain on their faces due to the terrible conditions and experiences of the war. At the time of Monash’s knighting, people sensed that the end of the war was near, but no one knew for sure when the carnage would end as the troops edged closer to the German lines.

Guests were asked to visualise the scene of Monash passing through the line of soldiers, thrilled to see an Australian being so honoured by his King on the battlefield. Monash had known despair during the war but he rebuilt his own morale and that of his men under extreme conditions.

Margaret Hadfield and her painting
 Picture: Merrilyn Sernack

It is still something of a mystery as to how a young Jewish man from country Victoria became our greatest General and went on to have a second wonderful civil career. While Monash had his detractors, Australia is generally an open, free and fair society, not perfect by any means and though he faced intolerance because of his religion, this did not deter him. Bigotry and prejudice did not prevail, partly because of the vibrant character of our nation.

Monash inspired loyalty in his men and in remembering him, we see a man dedicated to service, loyalty and commitment to the greater good of Australian society.

With Lady Cosgrove, Sir Peter then unveiled the finely detailed portrait of Sir John Monash. The portrait was commissioned by the ACT Jewish Community from local artist, Margaret Hadfield, to mark the auspicious occasion of the dedication of the National War Memorial here in Canberra. The portrait will hang permanently in the National Jewish Memorial Centre as part of the Community’s Museum and Art Gallery where it will be the centrepiece of the cultural collection.

The artist’s works have toured the world for Anzac Day Commemorations in locations including The Hague (Netherlands), Cannakkale in Turkey and Villers-Bretonneux in France.

Margaret Hadfield was awarded the inaugural Gallipoli Art Prize in 2006 for her painting ‘Ataturk’s Legacy.’

It was fitting at this stage to read Psalm 121, by both Rabbi Eddi and Rabbi Genende followed by the Prayer for the Queen, read by Rachel Abotbol, Australian Defence Force.

The Anzac Remembrance Address was given by Major General Professor Jeffrey V Rosenfeld AC OBE KStJ, Co-Patron, Centenary of Anzac Jewish Program, Patron, Federal Association of Jewish Ex-Service Men & Women, and Patron, Victorian Association of Jewish Ex & Servicemen & Women Australia.

I the address he said he believes that we live in a peaceful multicultural society much due in part to those who fought for our freedom. Jews understand this well, having had to fight for our freedom throughout history.

Pic Greg Sernack

The 341 names inscribed represent those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, including brothers and cousins. Some bodies of those who fell in battle have never been recovered and their possessions not recovered and returned to their families, which is doubly painful.

The last Jewish soldier who died in war was in Afghanistan and like all the others, he is forever honoured in our nation’s capital. The memorial reminds us that freedom comes at a heavy price.

Rabbi Ralph Genende recited the Anzac Centenary Remembrance Prayer.

Our God & God of our fathers, and mothers – Zachor: Remember.

Remember this day, the souls of our brothers and sisters, who fought for our freedom, for liberty, democracy and justice in the Great Wars and conflicts over the last century. We remember this day their humanity, heroism and their courage.

We remember the Anzacs at Gallipoli, on the Western Front and in Palestine – in the Great War – and shall not forget.

Zachor. Remember the vision, tenacity, leadership and humanity of General Sir John Monash, who, knighted on this day 100 years ago, shall continue to inspire us.

Remember this day the Australian servicemen and women and also those in New Zealand, British, French, South African, Canadian, American and other allied forces, who served their countries, who risked and lost their lives – who were called to stand firm against tyrants and tyranny.

Zachor. Remember those who fought on land – in the trenches, across the deserts and through the jungles. Remember those on the high seas and those below the waves. Remember those who took to the skies; those men and women who served in the medical corps; remember those who served at home.

Remember those who served in the many theatres of war then and since: in Europe and the Middle East, in Africa, South-East Asia, Australia, New Guinea and the Pacific. Those who perished in conflict, those who were captured and suffered in camps, those who fought as partisans. Zachor.

May we and our children be spared the horrors of war. May we live to see a better world of peace and understanding.

Zachor. And let us join together and say, Amen.

To conclude the day Rabbi Shimon Eddi remarked that Judaism is a communal religion. While many countries prevented Jews from practising our religion freely and openly, we are free to do so in Australia. Jews have volunteered when the call came as they were loyal to their country. The Rabbi also observed that there is no such thing as religion in a foxhole, there are only brothers and sisters united against a common enemy in times of war. Jews in Australia are proud of their heritage and proud to be Australian.

Following this there were additional wreaths laid by both organisations and individuals.

Since the opening of the ACTJC building in 1971, it had been the vision of the founders of the ACT Jewish Community to honour the memory of Australia’s fallen Jewish servicemen. This vision has been realised through the efforts of a dedicated team, including Ms Yael Cass, President of the ACT Jewish Community for the last three years, for her steadfast dedication to the community.

The driving force behind the whole project was Dr Merrilyn Sernack, Hon Secretary, ACTJC and Centenary of Anzac, for her indefatigable effort and determination over the last three years to bring together all of the resources necessary to build an Australian Jewish Cenotaph in our nation’s capital.

Dr David Rosalky, Honorary Treasurer of the ACTJC organised the building program and contributed to the Cenotaph and Dedication program and the ACT Jewish Community Board of Management gave magnificent support.

Peter Allen, National Coordinator of the Centenary of Anzac Jewish Program, was given special thanks for his contribution to the Australian Jewish War Memorial and the Dedication Service.

The Australian Jewish War Memorial is inscribed with the names of 341 Australian Jews who are known to have Died on Service from 1900 to the present, serving in the Australian or Empire forces.

They came to do their duty from all states and territories. Many were born in foreign countries, seeking a safe haven in Australia.

No Australian Jewish women are known to have died on service.

Most servicemen were killed in action or died of wounds, but many died of illness or accident. The memorial includes the names of some 16 men who died as prisoners of war: also Lawrence Saywell, who escaped prisoner of war camp, only to die in 1945 fighting with the partisans in Czechoslovakia, and Dr Isador Sender and W/O Norman Lesnie, who perished when the Hospital Ship Centaur was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine on 14 May 1943 off the Queensland coast.

Of the 341 names of men inscribed on the memorial, 156 share 48 surnames, thus indicating the dozens of cousins and at least 13 pairs of brothers who never returned to the Australian Jewish community – their families enduring inconsolable grief – including two families that lost one son in WWI and another son in WWII.

Some 9,000 Australian Jewish men and women have served in the Defence Forces from colonial times, in the South African Wars through WWI and WWII, Korea and Vietnam to Afghanistan and Peacekeeping. They continue to serve today – representatives of the rich, multicultural threads woven through the history of the Australian Defence Force.

The Australian Jewish War Memorial marks the culmination of the Centenary of Anzac Jewish Program. The memorial will be supplemented by educational resources that include a touch screen using an Australian Jewish Military Database, that the Australian Jewish Historical Society is shortly launching on its new website.

After being separated for upwards of a century in individual states, there are now inscribed on one Jewish memorial…all these brave men have been brought together with their brethren and honoured for their sacrifice in the Jewish heart of our nation’s capital.

The many supporters, donors, consultants and designers were listed in the magnificent Memorial Booklet provided to guests at the ceremonies.

Those in attendance included various dignities, clergy, members of the Armed Forces, the media and many from the wider ACT Jewish community.

Lest we forget…



4 Responses to “Dedication of The Australian Jewish War Memorial and commemoration of the centenary of General Sir John Monash’s knighthood”
  1. Allan Dale says:

    I only learned today of this wonderful memorial, while listening to ABC’s Australia All Over and an interview with Peter Allen. My only uncle, Les Durlacher, had come to Australia as a 16 year old, and served from 1915 in WW1. His identical twin, my father Gordon Durlacher, served for the British Army in WW1 and later for the Australian Army in WW2. The boys were first cousins to Leonard Keysor VC. Les died in Feb 1919 at the Australian Hospital in Sutton Veny, UK, and is buried in Willesden Jewish Cemetery, London. In May, we visited Sutton Veny, where Les’ suffering came to an end. I am moved and delighted to hear and read of the new memorial, on behalf of one of the ‘young blokes’ whose name is there.
    Allan Dale (previously Durlacher) of Brisbane.

    • Peter Allen says:

      Thanks Allan,
      Yes, your late uncle’s name is inscribed on the AJWM cenotaph, whilst he and your father are appropriately listed in the Honour Rolls of Mark Dapin’s book Jewish Anzacs, published last year as another major project of the Centenary of Anzac Jewish Program (CoAJP).
      The AJHS is about to launch an Australian Jewish Military Database, so if you have any material to add, please contact them – or –
      You can contact me on if you wish,

      Peter Allen
      National Coordinator CoAJP

  2. Ben Hirsh says:

    Thanks to the ACT Jewish Centre, chiefly Dr David Rosalky, Treasurer; Rabbi Shimon Eddi and Staff – for your organisational skills and the warm welcome on Sunday 12th August. To represent VAJEX Australia Inc. was a great honour
    and the guests – some old friends , and some newly acquired – gave me an indication that the ACT Jewish Community is very much a part of Jewish life in Australia. The entire proceedings moved very smoothly; the socialising part was great. Yasher Koach.

    Best wishes to the ACT Jewish Centre and the community.
    Ben Hirsh
    Past President,
    VAJEX Australia Inc.

  3. Peter David Wise says:

    A wonderful description of a major historical event for the ACT Jewish Community and Australian Jewry.

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