Submitted by Gary Ciddor
On Sunday 28 June 2015 a commemorative service “Birth of the Anzac Spirit” was held at St Kilda Synagogue. Those in attendance also saw the official launch of the Jewish Museum of Australia’s exhibition “True Jews and Patriots: Australian Jews and World War One”.
On entering the foyer of the St Kilda Synagogue the result of Dr Judy Landau’s enormous research effort was clearly visible – six large banners with photographs and biographical information about Jewish Victorian servicemen who made the ultimate sacrifice in WW1. Judy, VAJEX Australia’s President, had spent two years collecting and analysing the information and designing the banners.
Whilst awaiting the commencement of the service in the magnificent St Kilda Synagogue one could see that the congregation had a direct link to World War 1 - two honour board plaques on the wall, a Memorial Board displaying the names of members of the congregation who served and the names of those died, and a second plaque honouring Rev (Rabbi) Jacob Danglow who served as a Chaplain in the AIF in both World Wars.
The atmosphere in the synagogue became hushed as Julie Leder, Vice President of VAJEX Australia and MC for the service, ascended the magnificent pulpit from where she welcomed those in attendance. As requested by Julie, all stood as the official party entered. Members of the official party are listed separately (see below).
Rabbi Philip Heilbrunn OAM then filled the synagogue with the magnificent sound of the great shofar for our freedom.
Dr Judy Landau, President of VAJEX Australia, welcomed the distinguished guests and all attendees. She thanked those involved in organising the service. A brief history of the life and achievements of Sir John Monash was given. Judy talked about the birth of the ANZAC spirit at Gallipoli and how Jews were highly represented in the AIF. She emphasised the need to remember and to learn the lessons from this experience, and how this particularly applies to the next generations.
Four yahtzeit candles were then lit – three for each of the services and one for all the fallen. The candles were lit by Peter Allan, National Coordinator, Centenary of Anzac Jewish Program, Sara-Leah Ciddor, Rover Scout from Danglow’s Own 3rd St Kilda Scouts, Felix Sher, father of Private Greg Sher OBM, and Jennifer Huppert, President JCCV.
The Ark was then opened by George Erlichster, Vice President of St Kilda Hebrew Congregation, followed by the reading of the prayer for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and leaders of nations by Rabbi Yaakov Glasman, Chief Minister of St Kilda Hebrew Congregation. Private Paul Jurblum then recited the prayer for veterans and ADF serving members. Rabbi Ralph Genende, Senior Chaplain ADF and Chair of the Religious Advisory Council to the Minister of Defence (RACS) then recited the Prayer for Australia.
One could not help noticing magnificence of the Torah scrolls glowing in the light of the open Ark behind the pulpit – a beacon for all. Following these prayers the Ark was closed.
As Lieutenant Asher Klebaner ascended the pulpit in his army uniform those in attendance were impressed by his slouch hat adorned with Emu plumes. Asher read Psalm 23.
Julie then introduced the St Kilda Hebrew Congregation Choir and its conductor, Adrian Bartak, who took the audience back 100 years with a medley of familiar WW1 songs. The nostalgic feelings were enhanced when members of the audience joined in with the singing.
Those in attendance had probably noticed a large object on the bimah that was draped with a large navy blue cloth. This turned out to be a bronze bust of General Sir John Monash kindly donated to VAJEX Australia by the Ryzman Family. Julie introduced Mr Leonard Ryzman, representing Ms Deborah, Dr Marlene and Mr Selwyn Ryzman. Leonard spoke eloquently about the Monash bust. He described Sir John Monash as a brilliant strategist who was inspirational and that not enough was generally known about him. He described his own father’s admiration for Monash and that, even against significant opposition, Monash was honoured. Leonard highlighted the Ryzman families’ commitment to community service and humanitarian causes. MAJGEN Jeffrey Rosenfeld AM OBE KStJ, Patron-in-Chief of VAJEX Australia, together with Dr Judy Landau were then called to the bimah where, after the bust was unveiled, Jeffrey read aloud the plaque on the Monash bust. The Ryzman family then formally handed over the bust to VAJEX Australia as represented by Judy.
Rebecca Forgasz, Director & CEO of the Jewish Museum, then talked about the commemoration of the 1914-1918 war and reflected on its significance. The museum wished to honour the spirit and memories of those who fought and died and has done so by developing an exhibition – “True Jews and Patriots”. She noted that this exhibition has been designed to share an important part of Australian history. It is both scholarly and accessible. Rebecca went on to thank the exhibition curator, Dr Deborah Rechter, and the others who helped put the exhibition together. She explained the educational significance of the exhibition and described how school students will be involved by researching individuals who served and died.
Julie then introduced the keynote speaker, Senator The Hon Michael Ronaldson, Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC, Special Minister of State, Liberal Minister for Victoria.
Senator Ronaldson expressed his honour to be in attendance. He noted that a nation that fails to remember is a nation that fails itself. Following his acknowledgement of those in uniform at the synagogue, he made special mention of Yvonne and Felix Sher, parents of Private Gregory Sher OBM who died in the service of his country in Afghanstan, who were in attendance. He went on to acknowledge those not properly recognised – Jewish servicemen. He said that 1800 men identified themselves as Jewish in WW1. He described how Rabbi Cohen in Sydney told young Jewish men that they must join up and defend what has been given to us. Senator Ronaldson briefly described the service of Captain Keith Levi who, as a doctor, initially served on hospital ships at Gallipoli. On 6 August 1915 he worked throughout the night just behind the lines and was killed on 7 August 1915. This is one of many such stories told in the exhibition. He then went on to praise Sir John Monash, a man knighted on the battlefield. Monash left his mark on the battlefield and, after returning to Australia, left his mark in a wider sense. He said that we must never forget Sir John Monash. To support this he described a new $100-million war museum at the Australian memorial in Villers-Bretonneaux. He was with Prime Minister Tony Abbott when he revealed details of the design of the interpretive centre, to be known as the Sir John Monash Centre, on a visit to the fields of the old Western Front. Senator Ronaldson then went on to recognise Dr Judy Landau’s research on WW1 service records.
Attendees were then shown a video – “Birth of the ANZAC Spirit” after which a wreath was laid by Dr Judy Landau and Ms Rebecca Forgasz.
The Ode was recited by Judy followed by the haunting sounds of the Last Post played by Able Seaman Dorian Broomhall. A minute’s silence ended with Reveille reverberating throughout the synagogue.
A beautiful rendition of Kel Maleh Rachamim was given by Cantor David Brykman, a VAJEX Australia member and backed by the choir. This was followed by Kaddish recited by Adrian Bartak. Adrian then led the choir with an Aussie version of Adon Olam, which was sung with gusto to the tune of Waltzing Matilda.
The service concluded with the singing of the New Zealand National Anthem, in both Maori and English, and Advance Australia Fair. Attendees were invited to cross Charnwood Crescent to the Jewish Museum of Australia for refreshments and a viewing of the exhibition – “True Jews and Patriots”.
The exhibition is full of personal memorabilia of Jews who served in WW1. It includes documents and other personal items that help the viewer to identify with the experiences of those who served 100 years ago. It is obvious that the museum together with its exhibition partner, VAJEX Australia, has done an enormous amount of work to provide such an interesting and educational experience for visitors.
Members of the Official Party:
Dr Judy Landau: President VAJEX Australia
Senator The Hon Michael Ronaldson: Federal Minister for Veterans Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of Anzac
Representing the Victorian Premier The Hon Daniel Andrews: Mr Philip Dalidakis MLC, Member for Southern Metropolitan
The Hon Matthew Guy: Leader of the Victorian Opposition
The Hon Ted & Mrs Robyn Baillieu: Former Premier of Victoria & Chair of the Victorian Anzac Centenary Committee
Mr Stephen Blair: NZ Consul General & Trade Commissioner
Lady Cowen AM
MAJGEN Jeffrey Rosenfeld AM OBE KStJ: Patron-in-Chief VAJEX Australia
Air Vice Marshal Chris Spence (Ret’d): Chair of the Trustees of the Shrine of Remembrance
Mr Lambis Englezos: Finder of the mass burial site of 250 Australian Diggers at Fromelles
Rabbi Ralph Genende: Senior Chaplain ADF & RACS Chair
Dr Deborah Rechter: Curator of the exhibition True Jew
Ms Rebecca Forgasz: Director & CEO of Jewish Museum of Australia & Patriots
Mrs Zelda Rosenbaum OAM: Honorary Life President, Jewish Museum of Australia
Representing the Commander of 4th Brigade Colonel Doug Laidlaw and representing Melbourne University Regiment Commanding Officer LTCOL Tom Nairm and his RSM Warrant
Officer Class 1 Damien Lindsay.