Life membership for Sophie

April 12, 2016 by J-Wire Staff
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The Australian Jewish Historical Society has presented Sophie Caplan a Certificate for Life Membership, bestowed on her “in appreciation of the service and commitment to the Society over many years.”

Sophie [seated centre] and friends

Sophie [seated centre] and friends

A child Holocaust survivor, her parents fled with her from Germany to France just before the outbreak of World War II, after failing to receive their Australian landing permit. Sophie migrated with her family to Sydney after the war. She married Leslie Caplan, who served as a key leader of Sydney and Australian Jewry.

In addition to dedicating herself to Leslie and her three sons, Gideon, Jonathan and Benjamin, Sophie was a pioneer in the fields of Jewish genealogy and contributed significantly to Australian Jewish history.

Sophie gets her certificate from Suzanne Rutland

Sophie gets her certificate from Suzanne Rutland

After completing her MA (Hons) in Education at the University of Sydney, researching the history of Moriah and Masada Colleges, she introduced the Dr Hans Kimmel Essay prize to Moriah College in 1975.  This essay competition was made a compulsory part of the Year 10 Jewish history course at the College. It has become a keystone for every Moriah student’s study of the Jewish history and heritage.

In 1986, Sophie became the Australian corresponding member of Avotanu, the international Jewish genealogical society’s publication. Five years later she founded the Australian Genealogical Society, and edited their publication, The Kosher Koala for over ten years.

In 1998, she co-authored With One Voice: the history of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies with Professor Emerita Suzanne Rutland.

Throughout this period, Sophie served on the committee of the Australian Jewish Historical Society. In December 2004 she was elected as the Society’s president, succeeding Professor Rutland. She served in that position for seven years, and after that continued as a committee member until the end of last year.

As with many survivors, Sophie’s story is one of triumph over adversity. She stressed at the function that she was motivated to preserve her family’s story, and the memory of her relatives who perished in the Shoah, as well as those who survived.

Professor Rutland chaired the celebratory morning tea and spoke about Sophie’s contributions to the society. Her eldest son, Gideon, spoke on behalf of the family and outlined Sophie’s broader contributions to the community, including her key role in the foundation of Masada.

Her close friend, Diane Shteinman then spoke. She highlighted the fact that Masada was celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and how Sophie had contributed her memories to the school’s Project Heritage activities this year.

Finally, Emeritus Professor Konrad Kwiet, spoke about Sophie’s childhood memories, based on her autobiography of that period that is in process of being published.

As well as family members, stalwarts of the society were present, including Louise Rosenberg, honorary history, who at the age of 102 is still sprightly and very with it!


2 Responses to “Life membership for Sophie”
  1. Hilary Rubinstein says:

    Well-deserved, Sophie. Best wishes.

  2. david singer says:

    An honour well deserved. Kol Hakavod Sophie.

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