Australian PM Tony Abbott speaking at the service. Photo: the Centenary of ANZAC program for the Jewish Community ( CoAJP)

The Jewish community of Sydney commemorates “mateship” as the spirit of the Anzac centenary

Posted on on 04 May 2015
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1,300 people gathered on Sunday, May 3rd 2015, in the Great Synagogue of Sydney, Australia, for The Anzac Centenary Commemorative Service of the NSW Jewish Community. Jillian Davidson attended the event:

Chairman of the Organizing Committee, Gary Browne, said the aim of the service would be to strike a balance between commemorative and religious elements. In his welcome, he acknowledged how unique this service was, the result of a collaboration of so many Jewish organizations, and he expressed the hope that “when you leave this event today, it will be with a sense of pride, privilege and respect for having been involved.”

Gary Browne then introduced Daniel Mendoza-Jones as the Master of Ceremony: “Daniel encapsulates everything we are trying to convey.” A seventh generation Australian, he is a fourth generation military member. His grandfather, Lieutenant Mark Myers, served in the Australian Army in World War Two and more significantly for this service, his great great-uncle, Mark Myers, fought and died in World War One in France.


Mr. Mendoza-Jones explained the significance of the four Anzac centenary yahrzeit (Jewish memorial) candles, which were lit by four women for the three elements of the Australian Defense Force and which also symbolized four generations of Australians.

The same candles are being used at the Anzac Centenary commemorative service of the Jewish community in every state from now until the centenary of the armistice ceremony in Canberra in 2018.

The first candle was kindled by Maadi Einfeld, representing the first generation of Australians since Gallipoli, in memory of all those Australians who died in that campaign, 38 of whom were Jewish.

The second candle was lit for the Royal Australian Navy by Group Captain Professor Lisa Jackson Pulver, representing the second generation of Australians since Gallipoli, in memory of all those Australians who died in the First World War, 240 of whom were Jewish. Her grandfather also lost his life serving in the navy in that war.

The third candle for the Australian army was lit by Major Tanya Haber, representing the third generation since Gallipoli, in memory of all those Australians who died in the Second World War, 134 of whom were Jewish.

The fourth candle for the Royal Australian Air Force was lit by Paige Block, representing the fourth generation of Australians since Gallipoli, in memory of all those Australians who have died in combat since 1945, including the recently fallen Jewish soldier, Private Greg Sher. Paige was a member of the combined Jewish schools’ choir performing at the service. Her great great-uncle, Private Harold Levy, was one of the twelve lost Jewish diggers of Fromelles on the Western Front in 1916.

Rabbi Ralph Genende, Senior Rabbi of the ADF and of one of Melbourne’s largest Orthodox congregations, gave a sermon on Anzac Honor and Mateship. He spoke of the values and principles forged by Anzac fighters, which have shaped the Australian nation: memory, mateship, honor, dignity, passion and compassion.

Prime Minister

Tony Abbott, Prime Minister, then gave the Gallipoli address. He said: “No one group has been more influential in the life of our nation than the Jewish community, in part because Jewish people have always been ready to shoulder all the burdens of citizenship.” At the time of World War One, the Jewish population was just 20,000 and some two and half thousand Jews volunteered, 300 of whom never returned. “Indeed Jewish people made a more than proportionate contribution to Australia’s war effort. “

In particular, Tony Abbott singled out “the incomparable Sir John Monash,” the citizen-soldier, who commanded a brigade at Gallipoli and then commanded the Australian Army Corps on the Western Front. “He perfected the all arms warfare, which broke the stalemate of barbed wire and machine guns.” 

“The creation of the Sir John Monash Centre at Villers-Bretonneaux, in France,” the Prime Minster continued, “will be a fitting tribute to Australia’s finest general in Australia’s most terrible conflict.” It is Abbott’s intention that Monash becomes as well known to future generations as he was to his contemporaries.

Abbott also recalled the Australian Light Horse that spearheaded the British Army in its recapture of Beer Sheba and liberated Jerusalem from 1917 to 1918. Though in far smaller numbers, Australian troops have continued to be active in the Middle East. “We seek no dominion; we seek no changes of borders and no changes of faith. We simply work with all men and women of good will to preserve and advance the universal decencies of mankind.”


Michael Ronaldson, Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and special Minister assisting the Prime Minister for the Anzac Centenary, gave the Remembrance Address, stressing the importance of educating younger generations. “Part of the challenge for us as a nation and for you as a community is not just to reflect back but to look forward. When our children understand the Anzac men’s service and sacrifice, then I am sure that they will make us proud and they will carry the torch of remembrance. This is not just about the past one hundred years, but about the next one hundred years.”

Like others in the service before him, he retold the remarkable story of Leonard Keysor. Keysor was awarded the Victoria Cross for extraordinary bravery, using his cricketing skills to great effect at the Battle of Lone Pine, at Gallipoli in 1915. For fifty hours, he threw back bombs hurled by the Turks.

The Minister added that he felt privileged to be able to help ensure that the Australian nation understands the contribution of Jewish servicemen.


David Hurley, the Governor of NSW, delivered the Anzac Centenary Commemorative Address. In the manner of all previous speakers, he acknowledged the aboriginal service men and women who served Australia for the past 100 years. He mentioned the Aboriginal memorial, right across the street from the Synagogue in Hyde Park. This is the newest war memorial in Sydney, “a long-awaited physical reminder of their service.”

The Governor spoke of unveiling a plaque in Beersheba, Israel in 2008, at 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 continued,: “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 led to a new nation.”

Then Mr. Hurley also recalled the Anzac Day service of last week when he spoke of the Anzac spirit, which he summarized in four words: courage, endurance, mateship and sacrifice. It is the Anzac way not just to do the job well, but also to look after their men afterwards. The Governor emphasized that Sir John Monash embodied this Anzac spirit for Monash did not end his service in the field. He went on to look after his mates, his soldiers. After the war, he spent eight months in London overseeing the repatriation of his soldiers. He then remained a leading figure in Melbourne’s Jewish community and a strong advocate of returned soldiers. He was one of the main organizers of Anzac day and Anzac commemoration.

The spirit of Sir John Monash, of Australia’s other Jewish citizen-warriors and of the Anzac legend in general was tangibly commemorated in the Great Synagogue of Sydney.