Tasmanian Jewish Anzacs honoured at shul

Posted: 3 November 2016

More than 100 dignitaries, visitors and members of the Tasmanian Jewish community crowded into Hobart Synagogue on Sunday, October 30, for a colourful service marking the centenary of the Anzac campaigns of World War I.

The commemoration paid special tribute to the role of Tasmanian Jewish members of Australia’s armed forces.

It began in spectacular fashion as the official party was led into the shul by a bagpipe player in full Scottish dress, and climaxed with the dedication of the Roll of Honour of the Jewish Community of Tasmania, which is now on permanent display in the synagogue.

The Roll of Honour is a plaque made from Tasmanian blackwood and inscribed with the names of 42 Tasmanian Jews who served in the Boer War and the two World Wars. Among these are two Anzacs killed in action on the Western Front —2nd Lt Herbert Ansell and Gunner Felix Bloch.

Relatives of several of the servicemen named in the Roll of Honour were on hand to view its unveiling, as were descendants of founding members of the congregation in 1845, who came from as far afield as Mauritius.

In other parts of the service, visitors and members of the congregation lit four yahrtzeit candles representing the generations of Australians since Gallipoli, a total of 13 wreaths were laid in front of the Ark, and a bugler played the Last Post.

The service was Tasmania’s contribution to the Centenary of Anzac Jewish Program, whose National Coordinator Peter Allen supervised preparations and was one of the speakers.

RAAF Jewish chaplain Flight Lieutenant Rabbi Yossi Friedman led the religious elements, which included reading Psalm 23 and reciting Kaddish. Rabbi’s Friedman’s busy weekend in Hobart had previously seen him take Orthodox services in the shul both on Friday night and Saturday morning.

But a number of members of the congregation made key contributions to the success of the event, most notably board member Susan Steenbergen and our president Jordana Schmidt.

Susan worked tirelessly behind the scenes over many weeks to ensure that the service unfolded smoothly, while Jordana was its public face as she introduced speakers and linked the various sections.

Official guests included Sen. Eric Abetz, representing the Federal Government, Speaker of the Tasmanian House of Assembly Elise Archer, Labor MHA Madeleine Ogilvie, and the leader of the Tasmanian Greens, Cassy O’Connor, as well as a number of interstate and local armed forces representatives headed by no fewer than three Major Generals.

Ms Archer gave an address in which she recalled the outstanding wartime contribution of Dr Eveline Cohen, one of two women to be listed on the Roll of Honour. Dr Cohen served in a series of military hospitals in England, Malta and Greece during 1915 and 1916.

The public limelight for the congregation didn’t end with the service. Afterwards, many visitors and dignitaries as well as invited members of the shul community enjoyed a reception at Hobart Town Hall hosted by the City Council in honour of the congregation.

Ald. Bill Harvey (deputising for Lord Mayor Sue Hickey, who was unwell) reminded guests of the congregation’s historically significant role in both civic and military affairs in Hobart and Tasmania.

In her response, Jordana presented the council with a framed photo of the newly-dedicated Roll of Honour.

It was a day of remembrance worth remembering in its own right. Kol HaKavod to the organisers and everyone who took part—you may be weary, but you deserve every accolade.