Ian Lawrence  z”l

March 12, 2019 by Michael Kuttner
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The funeral this week in Jerusalem of Ian Lawrence, a former Mayor of Wellington, New Zealand, marked the closing chapter in a long and interesting family history.

Ian Lawrence

With roots going back to Spain and the expulsion of its Jews in 1492, Europe, England, Australia and New Zealand it is somehow fitting that Ian should have been laid to rest, joining his dearly beloved wife, Sandra, in the holy soil of Jerusalem.

Born in Sydney, Ian aged 20, together with his parents immigrated to New Zealand in the late 1950’s where he studied law at Victoria University in Wellington. It was not long before he caught the eye of an eligible young lady from a well known local Jewish family and a wedding ensued. Sandra, his life long partner was an active member of many organizations, Jewish and non Jewish, and her insatiable energy soon ensured that Ian would also become involved in a variety of communal activities.

Ian’s legal acumen soon resulted in his partnership with a prominent law firm where his expertise was widely sought after. His modest manner and dedicated work ethics meant that he was in great demand and it was not long before he became involved in various Jewish communal roles.

Meanwhile Ian started to dabble in local politics and it was not long before he was elected to the Wellington City Council where he soon made his mark serving for 12 years and being appointed deputy Mayor from 1974 to 1983. In 1983 Ian won the Mayoralty election and served in that capacity for the next 3 years. Sandra was a natural hostess and an invaluable assistant as Mayoress of the Capital City. The highlight was no doubt a visit by Queen Elizabeth and her husband where Sandra’s social mastery proved a great asset.

Ian Lawrence

Ian’s contributions to the wider community during his tenure were to be lasting and a permanent reminder of his vision to put Wellington on the cultural map. It was however his open identification as a proud Jew that marked him out as a memorable personality. Ian’s wholehearted involvement with the religious, cultural and social life of the Wellington Jewish Community was an important component of his life. Together with Sandra he threw himself into supporting and actively guiding the affairs of the community. For many years he was Chairman of the Jewish Community Centre which together with the Synagogue became the hub of Jewish life. His calm deliberations and keen legal common sense steered and ensured the successful tempo of Jewish life in Wellington.

As recounted by his children during their eulogies at the funeral, Ian always insisted during his years on the City Council that Shabbat took preference and that kosher food was available at public functions. It is a testament to the high esteem he was held in that these request were always honoured.

In Jewish tradition the greatest thing we can bequeath is our good name and deeds. Both Ian and Sandra who predeceased him certainly embodied these virtues.


Ian Lawrence   Born Sydney 1937  Died Jerusalem, March 8, 2019


3 Responses to “Ian Lawrence  z”l”
  1. Adrian Shine says:

    Thank you Michael. I had the honour of living in Ian’s shadow, when took over his home for two semesters.
    I drove his car, sat in his seat at shul, getting called up in his place and looked at his awards and royal photos daily.
    What a privilege and how it made that year so special.

  2. Andrew Blitz says:

    Thank you Michael, so beautifully written. Ian’s dedication to public service was an example to all. His ability to inject common sense and reason into every discussion made such a difference to those who had the pleasure of working with him.

  3. Ian Bersten says:

    He was an old boy of North Sydney Boys High School where I knew him. Very well respected.

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