Rose Fekete 1947-2019

October 11, 2019 by Community newsdesk
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Sydney has lost one of its cherished community workers this week with the passing of Rose Fekete.

The Central Synagogue’s Rabbi David Freedman delivered a moving eulogy at her funeral…

Rose Fekete

What words can be found to express our profound shock and deep sorrow at the unexpected passing of one of our community’s most precious daughters?  Rose a”h has been like a jewel in the crown of Sydney Jewry for so many years.  Everyone here will hold some memories of her goodness, her kindness, her friendship, her love, her commitment to our Jewish community, to Wizo and to Eretz Umedinat Yisrael.

To her husband Frank, her daughters, Yvette, Tiffany and Anita and your extended families –we wish you long life, and we also say to you that mere words will never be able to encapsulate how we all feel about Rose, equally I know that it is an impossible task to describe fully the incredible contribution that she has made to our community over an entire lifetime.

In the end, it is the personal memories that will remain with us.  For me personally, the real sadness of what has happened hit me as I went to see the family on Tuesday.  They had all gathered at Tiffany’s home – and as I walked through the door – I couldn’t help but remember a warm sunny afternoon when Frank and Rose stood under the chuppah in the garden there to be married by Rabbi Yehuda (Niasoff) and myself.

The contrast could not have been greater – on that occasion I had walked into the house, full of joy, about to conduct her marriage – and two days ago – with a heavy heart, I arrived to discuss her funeral.

Standing in shul yesterday on Yom Kippur, it was hard not to think of dear Rose.  Yet the prayers forewarn us – we have only one life, and however long it is, it is a mere microcosm in the history of the universe.  Without fear of contradiction, the greatest decision therefore that any of us will make is how to use our time, how to create something of beauty and meaning and love that was not there before.  And when we do this, there is no way of knowing, at the time, the ripple of consequences set in motion by the slightest act of kindness.  It’s true that Rose’s life has been cut short – but she used her time on earth to create so much beauty, so much meaning and without doubt, so much love – and the ripples of kindness set in motion by Rose, will reverberate within her family and in our community for many, many years ahead.

Our beloved Rose was born in Amsterdam on November 28th 1947, the youngest child to Marianne and Dr David Vander Poorten

She arrived here in Sydney in April 1951 aged 3, when her parents, holocaust survivors, decided to create a new life leaving the horrific memories of the war behind.

She had a happy childhood at 143 Bellevue Rd, together with her siblings Alfred and Melika surrounded by lots of Dutch aunts, uncles and friends, many of whom remain in touch today.

She attended Bellevue Hill public school going on to Dover Heights – she would often say with a degree of pride that a behavioural correction required her to change schools and she finished her leaving certificate at St Catherine’s private school and gained entrance to the Sydney Kindergarten Teachers College in Waverley.

She had many fun times at the Jewish youth group, Betar, creating life-long friendships and she was often seen on the soccer sidelines, where she met Robbie at 16 years old and became an even bigger fan.

Her sister died in tragic circumstances, the family absolutely distraught.  Rose always said her dad David died of a broken heart a few years later.

Rose married Robbie in 1969 aged 21.  It was uncanny that her mother in law was also named Rose Fekete, and she couldn’t believe her eyes at the skinny girl’s appetite eating all her Hungarian dishes.  In fact, it could be argued that because Robbie’s mother provided so many meals for the family, Rose never developed an over extensive culinary repertoire of her own.

Their first daughter Yvette was born in 1972, a short 15 months later came Tiffany, followed by number 3, Anita in 1976.  It was a busy, joyful household.

She was a devoted mother and she saw her role at home looking after the girls.  Nonetheless, she still found time for Bellevue Hill P & C, winning a major grant for the school, eventually, returning to full-time work in 1978.

Rose was a passionate, active and dedicated member of WIZO NSW for 50 years and was a recipient of many awards.  Everyone was drawn to her friendly smile and caring nature.  She was a member of the WIZO NSW Executive since 1979 and was Deputy President and organisation chairperson of WIZO Australia from 1998 to 2004.

She devoted herself to her education portfolio and was well known to the younger children in our community, co-ordinating WIZO Awareness through the schools and shuls.  She was held in high esteem with a strong relationship with the local rabbis and school directors, and she was instrumental in organising the visits of many IST children to WIZO projects.

She also attended many seminars including the Poland to Israel Aviv seminar in 1989 which left a marked impression on her.

Of course, Wizo was in her blood thanks to her mother Marianne (Oma) who was an active leader until her passing at the amazing age of 103.

She was not only a dedicated member of her own group Ayelet, her pride and joy but also supported the other groups as well.  She worked tirelessly to raise funds for WIZO at every opportunity, while ensuring that her mother was deservedly front and centre for any accolades.

An amazing pre-school teacher, she was highly sought after by many centres.  She became a director very early in her career, working at Newtown, Kings Cross, Wentworth Park and Waterloo.

Eventually, she went to Moriah in 1988 and was in charge of 3 kindergartens and soon added a 4th at Randwick – she was so proud to have pioneered a programme that brought together the young and old at Montefiore Randwick – something she continued to foster well after retirement.

She travelled to Regio Emilia in Italy and fell in love with their philosophy.  She was so passionate about this and believed that this could be implemented in the Moriah preschools.  She took it upon herself to educate herself and her staff and implement this in the centres.  To this day the children are still learning through a child-centred learning programme.

She had an amazing way with children and parents, gaining their confidence and trust, remembering not only everyone’s names but their siblings and extended family members.  Everyone was drawn to her friendly smile and caring nature.

Rose, Robbie and their 3 girls shared many special family outings, lunches and holidays over the years, however during that time they also mourned the tragic death of their beloved nephew Peter, husband of Melinda, with whom they shared a very close relationship.  To this day they retain an extremely close bond with Melinda and the boys.  Daniel her godson, also held a special place in her heart, along with godson Sam Springer – son of her special Debbie.

Rose celebrated the weddings of her daughters Yvette, Tiffany and Anita and gained 3 sons, Dave, Saul and Danny and truly loved the extended mishpacha.

Even though Robbie and Rose went their separate ways, there was always a deep sense of connection and friendship.  For Rose this was highly significant as she always placed family first.

And then came the grandchildren – it’s hard to even describe her pride and joy for them, and their utter affection and love for her.  She honoured them with group time, individual attention and celebrated their differences.  Every challenge had a solution, and all of them could be their truest self in her company.  Nothing was missed, and it was never because of duty, but truly out of a desire to be fully immersed in their lives.  When they talked, she listened, her eyes fixed upon them.  No matter what they were saying, it was important and everything was special.

Rose retired, but still didn’t stop; she was still involved with Wizo, Sparks, Camp Sababa, Respite Care for disabled adults, and the RH/YK crèche facilities at Central.

In 2005 Rose went on a blind date and met Frank, there was an instant connection and they married soon after.  It was a new chapter in her life, her world opened up and together they just loved life, socialising, travelling to exotic places and never sitting still for even a moment.  Frank’s family too became an extension of hers’ – she loved those Friday nights with the table overflowing, the noise level at maximum and the crazy at just the right levels.

Frank what can I say to you – we have known each other it seems for a lifetime – but Ruth and I have never seen you happier than when you were with Rose – or even better – talking about her, extolling her virtues – and recounting how lucky you were to have found this wonderful woman to be your wife, your soul mate, your life partner.

In your own words –you were made for each other, you never argued and just loved being together, whether it was here in Sydney or away on holiday.  Everyone wishes you strength going forward without her by your side.

In spite of all this additional joy, life was not entirely easy, her brother Alfred passed away in 2008.  But so typically Rose, she maintained a strong relationship with her sister in law Joy.  As she had for most of her life, Rose was a doting daughter to Oma.  She ensured her mother was included in everything.  She knew she was lucky to have her mother for so long, but Marianne’s death in July 2017 had a major impact – she often said she thought Oma would live forever, but no-one does.  Yet, Rose celebrated her mother’s life by travelling to Holland days after Oma’s death to honour her mother’s legacy and homeland.

And there are so many other memories.  I know what Terrigal meant to her and all of you – going there 2 or 3 times a year.  In convoy, the family would travel to Star of the Sea and nothing was more idyllic to any of you.  Her children and  grandchildren simply thought that she was the greatest; she would spread her love and energy far and wide, visiting those in need, helping out at the Montefiore, attending Thursday brain teacher class, holding court at Michaels in Double Bay where she would meet her countless friends, and always looking forward to the next family simcha, such as the three Bar Mitzvahs which she celebrated with such joy.

Like name, like nature, Rose was loved by everyone for her beautiful characteristics, the queen of the garden, she embodied love, kindness and generosity.


Rose Fekete Born November 28, 1947, Amsterdam   Died: October 4th, 1919,  Sydney

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