Medals come home for ANZAC Shabbat

April 3, 2017 by J-Wire News Service
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On 22 April an Australian Jewish treasure will come home. The medals of Abraham Rothfield MC, recently discovered in London, will be unveiled at Sydney’s The Great Synagogue as the congregation marks ANZAC Shabbat.

Abe Rothfield wearing his medals [Portrait]

Abraham Rothfield was a very courageous man. During the First World War he led British soldiers into battle in Europe, and was severely wounded received the Military Cross and Bar, a high honour for bravery.

Rothy, as he was universally known, migrated to Australia in the 1920s, where he became a respected and beloved teacher to generations of Jewish children as Headmaster of the BJE. He had a special bond with The Great Synagogue, Sydney, where he taught in the cheder and frequently assisted the chazzanim in the Shabbat and festival services. He was also a proud member of NAJEX, the Jewish ex-service association.

Abe Rothfield’s colourful life and career have been comprehensively described by Rabbi Raymond Apple in his series of essays, and in an article published by the Australian Jewish Historical Society.

Great Synagogue president, Justice Stephen Rothman reminisced, “generations of boys used to go to the Rothfields’ home after school to learn for their bar mitzvah or practice for The Great’s youth services. We all knew he was a war hero. With a bit of encouragement, Rothy could be persuaded to show his medals to the admiring youngsters as Olive – Mrs Rothfield – poured us endless cups of tea.”

After Olive’s passing, the medals found their way overseas and were thought lost forever. When they were found in a memorabilia collection in England a benefactor stepped in to purchase the decorations so that they could be displayed in The Great Synagogue War Memorial Centre.

Now those medals will be unveiled beside Mr Rothfield’s portrait at a ceremony on Anzac Shabbat. The shule hope that anyone with cherished memories of their teacher, will come and be part of the event. “In honouring Rothy the Congregation will also honour all those members of the Jewish faith who have served their countries faithfully in times of conflict,” said Justice Rothman.

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