NSW Jewry commemorates the ANZAC centenary

May 4, 2015 by Henry Benjamin
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Prime Minister Tony Abbott was guest of honour at a commemorative service to mark the ANZAC centenary held by the NSW Jewish community.


ANZAC - The Geat Synagogue  Photo: Henry Benjamin/J-Wire

ANZAC – The Great Synagogue                   Photo: Henry Benjamin – Courtesy CoAJP

Over 1,100 people packed Sydney’s historic Great Synagogue to capacity to hear addresses by the Prime Minister and NSW Governor David Hurley.

Referring to World War 1, Tony Abbott said  that “from a population of just over 4 million, more than 400,000 Australians volunteered and over 300,000 served overseas. He said that the Jewish population of Australia at the time was 20,000 and that 2,500 volunteered. He told those gathered: “300 never returned”. He spoke of Lieutenant Leonard Keysor who was awarded the Victoria Cross in 1915 for throwing bombs launched by the Turks back to their source at Lone Pine, Gallipoli. He spoke of Harold Collins  who founded the Australian Jewish ex-servicemen and women’s organisation.

The Prime Minister then focused on Sir John Monash who commanded the Australian Army Corps on the Western Front. He said that Monash “broke the stalemate  of barbed wire and machine guns” adding “he remained the only Australian ever to command American troops in combat’

Prime Minister Tony Abbott delivers his address     Photo: Henry Benjamin/J-Wire

Prime Minister Tony Abbott delivers his address Photo: Henry Benjamin – Courtesy CoAJP

Tony Abbott told the service that Australian Jewry had made more than its proportionate contribution to the country’s war effort.

The service started with the official party being escorted into the synagogue by the 3rd Rose Bay Judean Scouts and the stirring pipes and drums played by students from Scots College. Garry Browne, the Chairman of the organising committee welcomed all who had come to this historic event.

Prayers and hymns were sung by the combined Jewish Schools’ Choir together with the Great Synagogue Choir.

The Remembrance Address was made by Senator Michael Ronaldson the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and  the Minister assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of Anzac.

Senator Donaldson       Photo:  Henry Benjamin - Courtesy CoAJP

Senator Michael Ronaldson Photo: Henry Benjamin – Courtesy CoAJP

He spoke of Rabbi Cohen who occupied the pulpit of The Great Synagogue 100 years ago delivering “many impassioned sermons from this very spot” in which he implored the community’s young men to enlist adding that many The Great’s rabbis “had gone on to become ADF chaplains”.

He also spoke of Keysor’s Victoria Cross detailing how Keysor spent 50 hours in the trenches returning or smothering the Turkish bombs even though twice wounded. Addressing the community Senator Ronaldson said “your hearts should swell with pride over his deeds”.

He said that history of the Jewish community’s involvement in Australia’s armed forces “is not well known…but it must be.”

NSW Attorney-General Gabrielle Upton and Prime Minister Tony Abbott lay wreaths      Photo: Henry Benjamin/J-Wire

NSW Attorney-General Gabrielle Upton and Prime Minister Tony Abbott lay wreaths Photo: Henry Benjamin – Courtesy CoAJP

Senator Ronaldson concluded by saying: “If I can play my small part as the responsible minister in ensuring the whole Australian nation understands the contribution of Jewish servicemen and women to our nation then that is a small part I’ll be very proud to play.”

Following  a prayer for HM Queen Elizabeth by Jewish Board of Deputies president Jeremy Spinak and a prayer for veterans and current serving ADF members by Rabbi Jeffrey Kamins, the presentation of the NAJEX Centenary of ANZAC award was made by NSW Governor, David Hurley.

Governor David Hurley      Photo: Henry Benjamin/J-Wire

Governor David Hurley Photo: Henry Benjamin – Courtesy CoAJP

The Governor began by acknowledging the military contribution made to the ADF by Australia’s indigenous people.

He spoke of unveiling a plaque in Beersheba, Israel in 2008 on the opening of a new section of the ANZAC Trail which “followed the route of the Australian Light Horse as it approached Beersheba prior to the famous charge of 1917. The plaque reads “In tribute to the soldiers, past and present whose legacy is the freedom and democracy we enjoy today.”  He said: “For Israel, the legacy of that battle opening the way as it did for the eventual defeat of the Ottoman Empire and occurring two days before the signing of the Balfour Declaration lead to a new nation.”

Governor Hurley spoke of the Australian Jewish community’s “long history of service to our defence force and the campaigns in which our nation has fought from Gallipoli to the current day” adding “This synagogue had become a magnificent sanctuary for Australian Jews who had come from many nations in search of a safe haven and a new home.”

ADF Jewish chaplains Rabbi Yossi Friedman and Rabbi Jeffrey Kamins       Photo: Henry Benjamin/J-Wire

ADF Jewish chaplains Rabbi Yossi Friedman and Rabbi Jeffrey Kamins Photo: Henry Benjamin – Courtesy CoAJP

On Sir John Monash, Governor David Hurley said: “His service in the field was not end of it. He looked after his mates…his soldiers. He spent eight months in London overseeing repatriation of the AIF. He was a leading figure in the Melbourne Jewish community and a strong advocate for returned soldiers He was one of the main organisers of Anzac Day in the very early days of it commemoration which he used to gain support for the construction for Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance.  He knew where his duty lay well after he had hung up his uniform. By the 1920s  he was regarded as the greatest living Australian. He had become integral with the ANZAC legend.”

Lest the forget..   Photo: Henry Benjamin/J-Wire

Lest we forget..
Photo: Henry Benjamin – Courtesy CoAJP

The Governor spoke of the Australian Jewish community’s continuing involvement detailing how Greg Sher had died whilst on active duty in Afghanistan in 2009. He faltered when describing Greg Sher as “a man of purpose and determination” adding “I knew the man”.

He concluded by commending the Jewish community “for your service to our country”.

The names of the 38 Jewish Australians who made the supreme sacrifice at Gallipoli were read out followed by the laying of wreaths,The Last Post and a minute’s silence.

A presentation was made  by the Governor to Wesley Browne, the Patron of the Centenary of Anzac Jewish Program.

Browne recited the ode to the fallen…and a hushed Great Synagogue repeated the ultimate Anzac expression….”Lest We Forget”.

The event was MC’d by Flight Lieutenant Daniel Mendoza-Jones.




2 Responses to “NSW Jewry commemorates the ANZAC centenary”
  1. Rita L. says:

    It was an afternoon of sheer beauty ! And the voices of the singers – “heavenly” comes to mind.

    My only question: why was the Premier of NSW not there?

    • Peter Allen says:

      Dear Rita,

      Thank you for your wonderful reflection of the unique, historic occasion!
      Yes, we were delighted to achieve the intention of combining military, Jewish and Australian elements through the service.

      The Premier of NSW was invited, as were many other dignitaries, who for various reasons were unable to attend.

      The Organising Committee of the Event propose to have a DVD prepared and issued to the public, incorporating a highlights package together with complete footage of the event and the AV Presentation, in the next few weeks.
      Keep a lookout!

      Peter M Allen
      National Coordinator, Centenary of Anzac Jewish Program
      Email: coajp@ajhs.com.au

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