Sydney loses a jewel

May 25, 2016 by  
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Sydney has lost one of the stalwarts of its community today with Margaret Gutman passing away at the age of 87.

Margaret Gutman

Margaret Gutman

Her son Sandy Gutman, known throughout  Australia by his alter ego Austen Tayshus writes:

My mother Margaret Gutman (née Nebenzahl) passed away today at 87. A spring chicken by today’s standards.

Margaret was born in Warsaw Poland in 1929.

Her childhood was comfortable, but upon Hitler’s rise to power, her father Zigmund Nevenzahl realised they had to leave the country.

He had a brother Henry who lived  n Melbourne who helped them to get to Australia in late 1938.

They settled in the Sydney suburb of Killara from where Margaret went to Kambala School and her younger brother Brian went to Scots.

Greta, as we called her, was a fast learner and she duxed Kambala in 1947.

Arriving at Sydney University the next year she studied Arts in which she excelled.

After university she received a scholarship to the United Nations in New York where she met and married my Dad, Isaac Gutman and where they gave birth to me.

Sandy and Margaet appear together at the Sydney Institute in 2011

Sandy and Margaet appear together at the Sydney Institute in 2011

They returned to Australia in 1954, settling in Castlecrag where not long after my younger brother Michael was born.

Margaret worked for several publications as a journalist later joining forces with  Sydney identity June Dally-Watkins in several fashion ventures. She also found time to help my Dad in his watch business.

She worked for some time at SBS radio.

Always busy,highly capable and very creative Margaret involved herself heavily in Jewish communal activities.
She was Executive Director of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies and worked tirelessly for the Sydney Jewish Museum almost until her death.

She was awarded an OAM for her communal activities.

She was loved by many and will be sorely missed.

Sandy Gutman

Peter Wertheim, now the Executive Director of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, reflected on his close working relationship with Margaret Gutman between 1996 and 2000 when he was President of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies and Margaret was Executive Director.

“Margaret was the consummate communal professional. She was blessed with an abundance of intelligence, energy, tact and empathy, and she deployed these strengths over many years for the benefit of the Jewish community.   In her youth she worked for a time in New York with the United Nations in its formative years.   During her time as Executive Director of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, Margaret organised countless events and projects, often showcasing Jewish art and culture, which were a source of pride and joy for the Jewish community and won us many friends from all walks of life in the wider community.

“The Board’s Yom Haatzmaut function on Israel’s 50th anniversary in 1998, which she organised, attracted a record 900 people.  That same year Margaret was instrumental in helping to organise an exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney featuring more than 300 Judaica exhibits, rare illuminated Hebrew manuscripts, richly embroidered synagogue textiles and ceremonial silver objects from the Jewish Museum of Prague.  The exhibition opened on the 4th day of Chanukah. A beautiful large candelabra was brought in on loan from the Great Synagogue, and Rabbi Apple officiated at the lighting ceremony. The event highlighted the cultural contributions of the Jewish community in Sydney.

“Margaret was also a trail-blazer in forming friendships with the leaders of other ethnic and religious communities, and was a passionate advocate of social justice for Indigenous Australians.   Her involvement as a founding trustee of the Rona Tranby Trust, which supports the recording and preservation of Indigenous Australian oral history, was but one example of her work in this area.

“Margaret’s involvement with the Sydney Jewish Museum in recent years continued her earlier social justice work.

“Within the Jewish community and beyond, Margaret was widely respected, admired and loved.  Her passing is a sad loss not only for her family but also for the Jewish community and for Australia.”

Norman Seligman, CEO of the Sydney Jewish Museum told J-Wire: “Margaret Gutman was a member of the Sydney Jewish Museum Board for several years and always fulfilled her duties with dedication, enthusiasm, cheerfulness and dignity.

Margaret also played an active role in varying capacities over many years; at one time Margaret chaired the Public Program committee and continued her involvement as a committee member thereafter, assisting in arranging many of the Museum events.

Margaret played an integral role in the staging of the very successful and widely viewed Dressing Sydney Exhibition.

As a regular guide for adult groups in the Museum, Margaret received many accolades for her guiding skills and wealth of knowledge.

Margaret was both a friend and mentor to many of the staff and volunteers.

Her passing will leave a great void in the Museum Family and Margaret will be very sadly missed by the Board, staff and volunteers of the SJM.”

Margaret Gutman is survived by her brother Brian and his, family and  her children Sandy and Michael and daughter-in-law Karen and grandchildren Justin, Ellie, Isabella, Julia, and Tallulah and her partner Ziggy Zieradski

Margaret Gutman: Born Warsaw, April-21, 1929   Died: Sydney May-25, 2016

The funeral will be held at the Chevra Kadisha, Woollahra on Thursday May-26 at 2:00 p.m.



4 Responses to “Sydney loses a jewel”
  1. LIZZIE MOORE says:

    Thank you jwire, for this lovely account of this great lady’s life and work! [Lizzie via Bendigo Vic]

  2. Dalia Ayalon Sinclair OAM says:

    Margaret was a true Eshet Chayil who skilfully juggled through the many roles she held as a dedicated mother to ‘mothering’ and embracing the community whether in her professional or voluntary capacities.
    Margaret’s caring and dedication to family, friends, the Jewish and wider community and her ability and efforts to support the empower individuals and communities impacted many of us.
    We shared a special friendship stemming from Radio 2EA,Nsw Jewish Board of Deputies to founding Jewish Art and Cukture Council where she remained its president till her last day.
    Margaret inspired and empowered me in many aspects of my life especially my artistic endeavours .
    The sad news of Margaret’s passing reached me whilst in Israel where we shared some special times together.
    Margaret was and is still alive within the many people she has touched.
    Wishing the family and the extended communal family ‘long Life’

  3. Lynda Ben-Menashe says:

    An inspiration for every woman in communal life, and for every person generally: charming, astute, generous and energetic beyond the norm in every aspect. The consummate role model. Baruch Dayan Emet.

  4. Otto Waldmann says:

    A most painful loss. The neshama of our lot.

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