NAJEX HISTORY


Origins

The origins of NAJEX go back to 1919 when The Great Synagogue and the Bondi-Waverly Hebrew Congregation combined to draw in and take care of returned Jewish servicemen for the High Holy Days. Reverend Marcus Einfeld played a leading role in this task, even, it seems, arranging for Jewish soldiers to be released from ships in time for Jewish services.

First Formal Meetings

In August 1920 the inaugural meeting of the Jewish Returned Soldiers Club took place at The Great Synagogue. It was chaired by Reverend F.L. Cohen, AIF Chaplain. A second meeting took place in early September to consider the establishment of an organization and in October 1920 a third meeting was held which decided to proceed. This meeting elected Lieutenant Colonel Arthur W. Hyman OBE as President, Simon Green as Vice-President, Byron Baumberg as Honorary Treasurer and Israel Green as Honorary Secretary.

It was this body that in the early 1920s provided a framework in which Jewish Ex-Servicemen could gather together informally to reminisce and to help each other in times of need and to care for each other’s families. At this time there was precious little government support for returned servicemen, many of whom were physically or mentally scarred by the appalling experiences they had endured.

Formal Constitution in association with Jewish War Memorial

In 1925 NAJEX was more formally constituted as the Returned Soldiers and Sailors Section of the Maccabean Institute. Its foundation President was Mr Simon Joseph (Joe) Guss who served in this role until his death in 1946.

In 1929 in Victoria the Jewish Returned Soldiers’ Circle was established, being an initiative of Rabbi Jacob Danglow and Colonel Harold Cohen, its first President. In 1949 it merged with another Jewish ex-servicemen’s group to form VAJEX.

Meanwhile in 1934 the Returned Soldiers and Sailors Section of the Maccabean Institute was reconstituted as the “Jewish Returned Sailors and Soldiers Association of NSW” and the War Memorial set aside special premises for it, which were named “The Dug Out”. Then in 1935 the organisation changed its name to The Jewish Ex-Servicemen’s Association of NSW.

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Post World War Two Membership Growth

After World War Two membership grew rapidly and by 1948 there were 800 members on the books, making it one of the largest Jewish organizations in Australia in terms of membership.

By 1950 FAJEX claimed to represent some 4,000 Australian ex-servicemen and women and 1,000 Allied ex-service-men and women.

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Incorporation of NAJEX

In 1947 it was decided to incorporate the association and on 2 June 1947 the assets and liabilities of the old organization were transferred to the newly formed company called “N.S.W. Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women” (generally abbreviated to “NAJEX”).

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Establishment of Federal Organisation

NAJEX became a constituent member of the federal body, FAJEX, when that organization was formed in 1948.

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First Female Office-bearer

In the 1960s, Sylvia Singer, formerly of the English WAAF, became the first woman to be elected to the committee of NAJEX. She and her husband, Leslie (formerly in the RAF), had joined NAJEX soon after their arrival from England in 1963. She was elected Vice-president in 1969.

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Reserve Force Members

In May 1973 NAJEX voted to open its membership to members of the CMF and a resolution in this respect was passed at the 14th FAJEX Biennial Conference in Brisbane in 1974.

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Russian Members

After the collapse of communism in 1987 many Jews migrated to Australia and as a response in August 1993, NAJEX established a Sub-branch comprising ex-servicemen who had served in the former USSR forces. Many of these men had fought in numerous bloody battles against the Nazis and they participated with great pride in ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day ceremonies. NAJEX Office bearers also participated in the Russian remembrance day ceremonies.

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Non-Service Members

By 2012 NAJEX had recognized the need to admit to its membership family and friends of Jewish Ex-service personnel and others who wished to perpetuate the ideals for which NAJEX stands. Accordingly in that year a new constitution was adopted to allow the admission of General Members, who did not have to have a service background.

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PROFILE OF NAJEX – A MULTI-FACETTED ORGANISATION

The Unique Role of the Jewish War Veteran

After the sacrifices of both World Wars and the catastrophe for the Jews during the Second World War, the members of the NSW Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen & Women (NAJEX) and their equivalent organizations in other States saw themselves as having a special role. This was to ensure that the memory of what had happened was maintained and that the terrible events through which they had lived should never happen again.

The Jewish servicemen and women had gone through the periods when the democracies neglected their defence preparations and hid their heads in the sand when it came to the rise of murderous totalitarian regimes. “The Price of Freedom is Eternal Vigilance” was no empty slogan for NAJEX members and indeed for all the returned service personnel of their day, for they had seen the way in which these regimes would destroy small nations by any means at their disposal.

Many of them had given their lives or their physical or mental health and well-being and so it was not surprising that the association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women should come to play a huge role in the lives of the returnees and also to act as their forum for expressing views on what had to be done to ensure such evils could never occur again. In this sense for many years after World War Two, NAJEX and its sister organizations in the other States and ultimately its federal body, acted as the spokesperson for the Jewish community on many key issues.

A good example was the resolution passed by FAJEX at its 14th Biennial Conference in 1974 following the revulsion felt by the Jewish Community at Prime Minister Gough Whitlam’s announced “even handed” policy following the surprise unprovoked attack on Israel by Arab countries on Yom Kippur 1973. The Conference stated:

“As Australian ex-servicemen we are charged with a special responsibility. We were summoned in the past to defend not only of our country but also of our democratic allies overseas, to resist aggression and dictatorship whenever it threatened the peace and freedom of these countries.

We do not believe that our moral responsibilities ceased at the end of the Second World War. The forces of evil and slavery, dictatorship and genocide are still rampant in our world.

We would betray the sacrifices of our fallen brethren if we were now to remain silent in the face of these forces.”

(A copy of the resolution was sent to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and in the September 1974 edition of Parade a long letter from a spokesman for the Minister was published, explaining the position of the Government.)

NAJEX was appalled at the apathy and irresoluteness of most nations at the new scourge of global terror that emerged in the 1970s and so soon after the horrors of World War Two. So in his 1976 annual report to the annual general meeting, President Joe Loufer said:

“In these days of PLO, the equation of Zionism with racism, the re-emergence of antisemitism in certain quarters and the problems of our brethren in the USSR, the only unencumbered person who is able to take the message outside the Jewish community with some results is the Jewish War Veteran.”

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Mutual Assistance and Support

But there many other facets to NAJEX and one in particular was its support and assistance for returned service persons and their families. In this area NAJEX was a fusion of the Australian value of helping one’s mates and the Jewish imperative of tzedakah (”social justice”).

In this regard the tributes to some of its early presidents tell a moving story, eg In the November 1946 edition of the Hebrew Standard, the obituary of President Joe Guss (1925 – 1946) said:

 

“Yet it is not as a successful businessman that Joseph Guss will be remembered, but rather as one to whom service to mankind was the main motive for life. No ex-soldier in need was ever turned away unsatisfied and for more than twenty years he gave of his energy and substance as President of the Jewish Returned Soldiers Association.”

 

Another example was the tribute paid to Mr Richard Diamond in a 1950 edition of NAJEX’s newsletter, Detail, on his retirement from the presidency (1947 – 1950):

 

“The (NAJEX) Rehabilitation Fund will always be recorded on the perpetual roll of his endeavours. This fund had been a Godsend to hundreds of Jewish Ex-service people, and their heartfelt thanks should be expressed to Dick for his foundation and the continuance of the Fund. Apart from this, his shop in the city has been a Mecca for seekers of advice, the weary and the homeless, ex-soldiers seeking jobs and recommendations and countless other services – none have left him unassisted. They have left him with a better feeling to their fellow man – because of Dick Diamond.”

 

Immediately after the two World Wars when social security and veterans benefits were nothing like those available now, the dominating issue for Jewish Ex-servicemen was mutual assistance and re-settlement.

So shortly after the Second World War NAJEX set up a Rehabilitation Fund and launched a public appeal for it. The Fund was supervised by a Board of Governors comprised of well-known community leaders and made many “sustenance payments” and loans to ex-service personnel enabling them to get a start back in civilian life.

By 1948 thanks to the efforts of NAJEX some 300 Jewish ex-servicemen had been able to find employment.

Doctors, dentists and lawyers also made their services available on an honorary basis to the ex-service personnel.

At times a paid Welfare Officer was employed and honorary Pensions Officers were appointed to advise ex-service personnel on their pension entitlements and even handyman were found among the membership to assist the disabled or elderly with tasks in the home.

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Antisemitism

In the post-war period the special position of returned servicemen in Australian and Jewish society gave NAJEX a special status to speak out against antisemitism. Its work in this regard even included arrangements to quickly remove antisemitic graffiti (often swastikas) and arrangements to guard Jewish infrastructure from further attacks, particularly during the 1960s when there was an outbreak of right wing anti-Semitism and the daubing of Jewish buildings.

In fact its intensive work painting out swastikas led retiring President, Harry Wittenberg, speaking at the 1972 AGM to refer flippantly to the Association as the “washerwoman of the Jewish community”.

For this he was roundly admonished by the Jewish Times in May 1972, which observed that “Belittling references to NAJEX even if in passing or jocular vein, show little insight and even less goodwill for an Australia-wide movement which has done much for the community and which can attain further projects.” There then followed a glowing tribute to NAJEX and the contribution that ex-servicemen and women had made to the community.

In 1964 NAJEX campaigned actively for government action against the neo-Nazi movement which had become active in Australia.

In the late 70s NAJEX was involved in anti-defamation work needed because of the rise of the National Front of Australia, a tiny but extreme right wing group with links to the racist group with a similar name in the UK.

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Military Graves

For all Jewish communities proper burial of the deceased is a vital concern and this was especially the case for NAJEX with its special understanding of the lives of comrade ex-servicemen and how many of these lives had in fact been shortened by arduous war service.

At one stage the largest expense item for NAJEX was the erection of headstones at Rookwood Cemetery for the memory of Jewish ex-servicemen. For this purpose NAJEX undertook specific fund-raising to ensure that Jewish ex-service personnel could receive a proper burial with military honours.

For many years NAJEX has been the custodian of the Military Section of Rookwood Cemetery and has overseen who can be buried in this area and the standard of the headstones.

On 1 February 1981 a special service, with more than 200 people in attendance, was held to consecrate about 20 graves in the Jewish Military Section of Rookwood Cemetery. Only one of these graves was that of an actual member of NAJEX. The service was conducted by Senior Chaplain Rabbi Dr A Fabian and Chaplain Rabbi R Apple. Consul-General for Israel, Mr David Ben-Dov, British Consul-General, Mr A. H. Spiers, NSW RSL President Sir Colin Hines and Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary, Sir Richard Kingsland all participated in the ceremony.

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Jewish Scouts

There has long been a close relationship between NAJEX and Jewish Scout troops. Many of the Jewish scouts enlisted in the Australian armed forces as soon as they came of age and in fact the Jewish scout groups became almost inoperative during World War Two, because so many of their leaders had heeded the call. So one of the projects undertaken by NAJEX after the war was to get the Jewish Scout and Guide groups back on their feet.

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Political Issues

In the 1940s and 50s NAJEX had no hesitation in weighing into political issues where it felt that what its members had fought for was at stake.

For example in the 1950s, President John Einfeld coordinated a major campaign against unscreened and unrestricted migration of Germans to Australia, which was the policy of the Liberal Government and also supported by the RSL and which brought some 50,000 Germans into Australia. NAJEX was at least successful in having screening measures put in place for the purpose of identifying ex-Nazis.

On the other hand NAJEX was a great supporter of immigration because of Australia’s population shortage and it encouraged British Jews, particularly ex-servicemen to migrate to Australia. In 1949 it set up a British Migrants Advisory Committee to assist ex-servicemen and all newcomers from Britain. By 1951 NAJEX had placed more than 400 ex-servicemen immigrants into jobs.

On a totally different political matter, in 2001 FAJEX sent a message to Kofi Annan Secretary-General of the UN, and to the Foreign Minister expressing the concerns of FAJEX about the proposed UN Conference in Durban Conference on Racism.

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Fund Raising

Over the course of its history fund-raising was a major part of the NAJEX. It raised funds for its own causes, in particular its Rehabilitation Fund, but also for many other causes, whether or not they benefited ex-servicemen. For example Legacy, The Royal Blind Society, the Royal Life Saving Society of Australia, Wolper Hospital, and the Jewish Scout troop and the United Israel Appeal all benefited from NAJEX fund-raising efforts.

Much of the fund-raising was done by the NAJEX Ladies Auxiliary. For example in 1972 it raised $3,000, (the equivalent in 2012 dollars of $27,000 according to the RBA’s Inflation Calculator). The Ladies ran a range of fund-raising activities from regular card parties to dinners and dances and also six times a year ran a stall at Bondi.

At times an annual project was identified, eg the Abe Rothfield Memorial, which provided a scholarship to Moriah College.

In 1973 the annual project was directed at acquiring wheelchairs for wounded IDF soldiers and a substantial amount was raised for this purpose.

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Social Activity

In the post-war years (when there was no television) NAJEX performed a huge role in providing social activities and a meeting place for its members. By 1948 a Sport section of the Association had been established, as well as a Literary, Debating and Dramatic section. Some of these activities obviously started with a burst of enthusiasm and then petered out. But the dramatic efforts were a spectacular success and for twelve years a highlight of NAJEX’s social program was its annual ‘Khaki and Corn’ revue, which was first produced in 1949 by Mr Joe Joseph and played to capacity audiences. This would attract up to 1,000 people over several performances and occasionally VIPs such as the Israeli Consul and the US Vice-Consul attended. It was also a significant fund-raiser for the Association.

At an ex-servicemen’s review it would not be all that surprising if there were occasional lapses of taste and at one stage the Jewish Herald censoriously observed:

“Despite its success it would be desirable to introduce a rather more cultured note into parts of the (NAJEX) revue to turn it from an army show into high-class theatrical entertainment”.

One can only imagine what

might have prompted this little homily.

Other social activities included monthly meetings in The Dug Out, an annual Ball, bowls days, Chanukah parties for children, theatre parties and special events with guest speakers.

In 1981 a sub-committee of NAJEX comprising Lou Rose O.B.E, Maadi Einfeld, Madge Milston and Jack Epstein, arranged an art competition in conjunction with the annual Remembrance Day Service. The theme of the competition was “The Spirit of ANZAC and Remembrance”.

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Jewish Identity

Jewish identity is expressed by people in different ways and not all Jews wish to do this in the traditional way of joining synagogues or other Jewish organizations or sending their children to Jewish schools. For some ex-servicemen NAJEX was the only way in which they connected to the Jewish community. Insofar as it just kept these people in touch with their Jewish identity, NAJEX performed a valuable service to the whole community.

In May 1972 the Sydney Jewish News wrote:

“The very fact that for many, NAJEX or a similar organization in another State has been the one and only link with Judaism for a certain percentage of members is in itself something worthy of at least being recorded”.

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Hospital Visits

For decades NAJEX, together with its Ladies Auxiliary and its Chaplains undertook regular programs of hospital visits.

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Cadets Corps

NAJEX was very supportive of the Cadet Corps of Moriah College and on many occasions Chaplain Rabbi Raymond Apple AO RDF publicly encouraged Jewish boys to join the Cadets Corp of their schools.

On 7 November 1976 the Annual Remembrance Day service included a presentation of colours by NAJEX to the Moriah War Memorial College Cadet Corps which had recently been formed. The presentation was made by the Honorary Colonel of Cadets, Major-General Alan Murchison and the O/C Parade was Major Brian Nebenzahl, Vice President of NAJEX. The Colours were consecrated by Chaplain Rabbi R Apple. This service was regarded as one of the most “historic, colourful and outstanding Remembrance service (NAJEX) has held over several decades”. (17 January 1977 report by President Lou Whitefield to NAJEX Council).

Unfortunately the Moriah College Cadet Corps was disbanded a year or so later because of lack of numbers, but its band became the Moriah College Band and thus was an important part of the school’s strong musical tradition. Sadly subsequent efforts to revive the Cadet Corps were unsuccessful.

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Biennial Conferences

In 1948 NAJEX convened a conference of representatives of interstate Jewish ex-service organizations and as a result the Federation of Australian Jewish Ex-Service Associations (FAJEX) was established, with its members being the State Jewish Ex-service associations and its presidency rotating between Sydney and Melbourne.

Its first President was Richard R. (Dick) Diamond, who had realized how important it would be to have a national organization to address some of the national issues that concerned Jewish ex-servicemen, particularly issues of rehabilitation and also political matters such as the immigration programme. However one of its first acts was to send a cable of congratulations to Their Royal Highnesses, the Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh, on the occasion of the Royal Birth. (An acknowledgement from their Comptroller was duly received.)

By 1950 FAJEX claimed to represent some 4,000 Australian ex-servicemen and women and 1,000 Allied ex-service-men and women.

The Biennial Conferences invariably received formal greetings from the Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition and Jewish Ex-service organizations in other countries, in particular, the US, the UK and Israel.

These conferences would pass resolutions on important issues concerning its members, for example the plight of Soviet Jewry, antisemitism in Australia and behind the Iron Curtain, the prospect of German re-armament, the encouragement of Jewish Youth to join the Citizens Military Forces and concerns about specific migrant groups that had strong histories of strident antisemitism. FAJEX was also involved in pushing for annual ANZAC Day commemoration services to be held in Israel at the JNF Memorial Forrest.

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International

In 1983 Lt Col Brian Nebenzahl led an Australian delegation to the 3rd World Assembly of Jewish War Veterans, where they joined comrades from the US, Canada, Belgium, Great Britain, Denmark, South Africa and France. The Assembly was addressed by Israel’s President Yitzhak Navon, the Prime Minster Menachem Begin, the Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir, leader of the Labour Party, Shimon Peres and Mayor of Jerusalem Teddy Kollek.

In June 1974 150 people visited Sydney from the largest Jewish ex-servicemen’s organization in the world, the Jewish War Veterans of the USA (which at that time had a membership of 114,000). This group was hosted by NAJEX and VAJEX and was the first large scale visit by overseas Jewish ex-servicemen to Australia.

In August 1975 NAJEX was pleased to be involved when the World Assembly of War Veterans took place in Sydney. 40 countries were represented at this international convention, including Jewish representatives from Israel and the United States and a special Shabbat service was held at The Great Synagogue.

NAJEX hosted a special reception for the Council Members of the World War Veterans Association at the NSW Jewish War Memorial. All Council Members, except the two Syrians members, attended together with the National Secretary of the RSL and the Israeli Consul-General, Mr Yehuda Nassie and all were presented with copies of the Australian Jewry’s Book of Honour World War Two by Mr Gerald Pynt (see below). At the conclusion of the Assembly a special service was held at The Great Synagogue, which was attended by the Israeli Consul-General, Mr Y. Nassie and also senior office bearers of the RSL.

In 1976 the first World Assembly of Jewish War Veterans was held in Jerusalem and commemorated the thirtieth anniversary of the victory over Nazism. NAJEX President, Joe Loufer, was appointed Convening Officer for Australia and he and former President, Walter Ginsburg, were the two representatives from NSW with one other delegate from Victoria.

The resolutions passed at by the Assembly give a comprehensive, if sombre, reflection of the issues concerning the Jewish World at that time.

As the representatives of the over 1.5 million Jewish fighters who participated in the struggle against Nazi tyranny, the Assembly passed resolutions on:

  • The need for Jewish ex-servicemen to become active members of their respective communities and to contribute to the strengthening of Jewish heritage and its transmission to the younger generation,
  • The need to stand up against terrorism which had become so prevalent,
  • Antisemitism and the need to educate Jewish communities to fight against it wherever it occurs,
  • The denial of right to Jews in the Soviet Union and the Arab countries,
  • The infamous 1975 resolution of the United Nations, which equated Zionism with racism, and noting that this resolution itself was a manifestation of racism and anti-Semitism and that it made a mockery of the United Nations Charter,
  • Deploring the harassment and inhuman treatment of Jews by the USSR Government,
  • Deploring the desecration of Jewish cemeteries in Poland,
  • Condemning the Polish Government for the removal of the wall of the Warsaw Ghetto which was a monument of Jewish heroism and resistance, and
  • Calling upon the International Red Cross to support the admission of Magen David Adom to membership after its 25 years of seeking to be admitted.

 

In 1979 the Second World Assembly of Jewish War Veterans was held in Jerusalem, attended by some 1,500 delegates representing the 1,500,000 Jewish war veterans. Joe Loufer and

Major-General Paul Cullen attended together with delegates from other States. The assembly was addressed by among others, the President and the Prime Minister of Israel and the Mayor of Jerusalem. At a meeting in the Dug Out on 2 April 1979 in the presence of the Consul-General for Israel, David Ben-Dov, the delegates reported on the Assembly.

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Israel

In the mid to late 1940s the Australian Jewish community was by no means universally Zionist and the struggle for the establishment of the State of Israel in this period provided a real moral challenge for NAJEX. On the one hand no group was more aware of the evils of Nazism and the catastrophe it had visited on the Jewish people and on the other hand, it was this group of Australian Jews whose loyalty to Great Britain could be expected to be the strongest. In those difficult times when desperate Jews were engaged in a life and death struggle with an inhuman British occupation force, it would have been very easy to have flung around charges of disloyalty at Australian Jews who supported the establishment of a Jewish State and the unrestricted and urgent absorption by it of the remnant of European Jewry.

So at its general meeting shortly after the 1947 Partition Resolution passed by the United Nations, NAJEX passed the following resolution:

“Because the UNO decision to establish a Jewish State is the fairest solution of the crucial problem of martyred European Jewry, the N. S. W. Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women records its thankfulness for this decision, and expresses the hope that the traditional Anglo-Jewish friendship will be continued, and that, at the first opportunity, the Jewish State takes action to gain membership of the British Commonwealth of Nations.

The Association also places on record its view, that by reason of the pro-British war record of Palestinian Jewry, the new Jewish State will, with worthy leadership, prove a new pro-British strong-hold in an era of vital importance to Britain.

Finally this Association re-affirms proudly its loyalty to King and Country.”

 

At the beginning of his next Annual Report in 1949 Mr Diamond noted that:

“By far the most important event of the year has been the establishment of the State of Israel”.

 

He referred to the unhappy period leading up to it and adopting the words of Chaplain Rabbi Falk, expressed the rather forlorn hope that Israel might yet find a place within the British Commonwealth of Nations.

Hasbara work with the non-Jewish community started quickly with NAJEX taking advantage of its close connection with the Returned Services League and other ex-military organizations, such as the Air Force Association and the Ex-Naval Association. So in 1949 Rabbi Falk and Mr Silva Steigrad (President of the State Zionist Council) delivered a lecture on the facts of Palestine to those organizations and this was well received.

Conscious of the important role that NAJEX could play in this field, the President, Richard Diamond constantly stressed the need for every Jewish Ex-Serviceman and woman (including the immigrants) to join NAJEX. In 1949 he reported that:

“As one would expect, our Association was the first in the community to organize a function to raise funds for the relief of fighting men and prisoners of war of the Israeli forces”

That year the guest of honour at the annual Remembrance Day Veterans Dinner was the Consul-General for Israel, Mr Gabriel Doron. Earlier that day at the Remembrance Day Service, his wife had laid a wreath on behalf of the State of Israel.

NAJEX always identified with Israel and the military challenges it constantly faced. In the period immediately after the Six Day War NAJEX was involved in the community-wide fund-raising for Israel. At the June 1967 Smoko $5,300 was pledged by members and in October 1973 on 48 hours notice, NAJEX arranged an Emergency Appeal for Israel and in a packed Dug Out raised some $14,000 (nearly $120,000 in 2012 terms).

The Yom Kippur War cast a pall over the lead-up to the annual Remembrance Night dinner in November 1973, which was also to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Jewish War Memorial. At the Remembrance Day Service a special plaque in memory of fallen Israeli soldiers was unveiled by NAJEX President Joe Loufer and was dedicated by Eastern Command Chaplain Rabbi Raymond Apple. Capturing the mood, Rabbi Apple said:

“In ordinary circumstances Remembrance Day is a solemn occasion but the mood today is especially heavy and serious with the situation in Israel. For once again – unexpectedly – we have war dead to mourn and our act of piety arises from new depth of emotion after the unwanted battles of previous weeks.”

At the dinner following this service, the guest of honour, Mr A. W. Keys, the National Secretary of the RSL, launched a blistering attack on the Arab States for adopting “the law of the jungle” and he stated that their leaders stood condemned in the eyes of the world for their savage behaviour.

This dinner was attended by the Israeli Ambassador, Mr Moshe Erell, Acting Consul-General, Shaul Bar-Haim, ECAJ President, Louis Klein, State RSL President Colin Hines, Major-General Paul Cullen and Chaplains Fabian and Apple.

In January 1974 NAJEX embarked on a public relations campaign for Israel in the general community, it having noted the campaign of vilification and de-legitimisation being conducted by the Arab States and the PLO. It used films about the Yom Kippur War produced by Keren Hayesod and by The Technion.

In 1974 ANZAC Day coincided with Yom Ha’atzmaut and the oration at the ANZAC Day Service was delivered by Major General Zvi Tsur, former Israeli Deputy Defence Minister and former Chief of Staff of the Israeli Army.

At the 1974 FAJEX Biennial Conference a motion was unanimously passed strongly protesting the “even handed” policy of the Prime Minister of Australia in regard to the Yom Kippur War and it was noted that his policy was in direct contradiction of previous Labor Party policy condemning aggression wherever it may occur. Then in 1975 NAJEX, together with the RSL, was involved in a successful lobbying exercise to ensure that a delegation of the PLO were denied visas to come to Australia.

In 1975 NAJEX was thrilled to have as its guest speaker for Remembrance Day former Israeli Chief of Staff, General Haim Laskov, Chairman of the Israeli War Veterans League. During his visit to Australia he was also the guest of the NSW State Governor, Sir Roden Cutler.

The Remembrance Day dinner at which General Laskov was guest speaker was attended by the Israeli Ambassador, Mr Michael Elizur, Israeli Consul-General Yehuda Nassie, Mr Colin Hines OBE, State President of the RSL, Rabbi R. Apple, Rabbi Dr A. Fabian, Rabbi Dr Gottschall, Sir Asher Joel, KBE, MLC and Major-General Paul Cullen, CBE, DSO, ED

In March 1976 the guests at the Dugout Smoko were representatives of Keren Mishpachot Hagiborim, the organization that supports disabled Israeli war veterans. They showed a film about their state of the art rehabilitation centre, Beit Halochem.

In 1 August 1976 NAJEX hosted an Official Welcome to General Moshe Dayan. This function was attended by three Australian ex-servicemen who in 1942 had served with General Dayan in Syria when he lost the sight of one eye.

In October 1976 NAJEX celebrated the 75th anniversary of JNF by showing two JNF films in the Dug Out, with guest speaker Major General Amos Horev, former Chief Scientist of the Israeli Ministry of Defence and President of the Technion.

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The Communal Influence of NAJEX

In the post-war period of the 1940s to the 1960s, the communal influence of NAJEX was very extensive because of the service (in its general meaning) ethic of its office bearers and members. They were involved in so many Jewish and non-Jewish communal bodies that they gave NAJEX extraordinary influence and ability to make known its views on important matters.

Its sheer size gave NAJEX clout within the Jewish community and so in his 1948 Annual Report, President Richard Diamond reported that the association’s growth had resulted in it becoming entitled to “yet another delegate to the Board of Deputies”, taking its representation to 6 deputies and two associate-deputies, with Mr Diamond himself being on the Board’s Executive.

One of its stalwarts, Mr Harry S Goldstein was nicknamed, “Mr Community”. When he passed away in 1979 the tributes to him noted that as well as being president of NAJEX and FAJEX he had been a life member of the Board of Deputies, Councillor of the ECAJ and a member of the Boards of The Great Synagogue, Moriah College and the Chevra Kadisha and Executive Director of the Jewish Welfare Society at the time of his early death. NAJEX donated a History Prize and a geography Prize at Moriah College in memory of Mr Goldstein.

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Commemoration

It was natural for all ex-servicemen to want to remember their lost comrades but for Jews especially, historical memory is not an option but a positive obligation. So it was natural that NAJEX should be at the forefront of organising and conducting an annual Jewish memorial service for ANZAC Day and for Remembrance Day, the primary days on which the sacrifice of service personnel is commemorated in Australia.

In the 1930s the Jewish press reported that:

“At a reunion dinner of Jewish returned men, Rev L. A. Falk said that the dead of ANZAC sent a message from their silent tombs to those who had escaped death because God so willed it. That message was to prevent another catastrophe such as the last war, so that they might lie in peace, knowing that they had not died in vain.”

For many years NAJEX held a formal dinner on Remembrance Day and many fascinating guests of honour have spoken at this dinner.

For example in November 1974 it was attended by fifteen former crew of the HMAS Sydney which sank the German raider Emden off Cocos Islands. This was to mark the Diamond anniversary of that event and the guests included Lieutenant Commander James Glossop, the son of Captain John Glossop, the ship’s CO at the time of that engagement. The youngest of the visitors was 76, ie he was 16 at the time of the battle. Unfortunately the only surviving Jewish member of the crew, Mr George Hofman, was unable to attend this dinner because of hospitalisation.

It was also at this dinner that life membership of NAJEX was conferred on each of Jack Epstein and Gerald Pynt for their enormous efforts in producing the Jewish Book of Honour World War Two.

In 2002 the ANZAC Day Service was conducted at The Great Synagogue in the presence of the Governor of NSW, Professor Marie Bashir AC OBE. On this occasion the Guest Speaker was the Ambassador of Turkey, His Excellency M. Tansu Okanda. The President of NAJEX, Wes Browne OAM commented that he thought that this was the first time a Turkish Ambassador had given the ANZAC address in Australia and indeed it was an extraordinarily moving address.

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War History – The Jewish Roll of Honour World War Two

In 1952 NAJEX member and war historian, Jack Epstein brought to NAJEX a proposal to record the history of Australian Jews in World War Two. This proposal was accepted as a national project by the 3rd Biennial Conference in 1952. Unfortunately little was done by anyone other than Mr Epstein who worked for over two decades on this project. Finally in 1966 NAJEX member and well-known sports journalist, Gerald Pynt was appointed as Honorary Editor of the publication.

In 1971 a fund raising campaign was undertaken to enable the publication of the book and some $3,000 (nearly $30,000 in 2012 terms) was raised and a contract with a publisher was signed in 1972.

At a reception of the Lord Mayor of Brisbane in 1974 the book was finally launched, under the title Australian Jewry’s Book of Honour – World War Two and sold for $5 a copy, featuring on its front cover 93 old Gallipoli veteran, Lindsay Joseph. The forward was written by Lord Casey, who said:

“This is a book of which every member of the Jewish faith must be proud and every Australian. It is an outstanding and human book, from which it is obvious that the Australian Jews in the Second World War carried on the considerable reputation and example of General Sir John Monash and throughout which the spirit of ANZAC is paramount.”

Life membership of FAJEX was conferred on Gerald Pynt and Jack Epstein for their outstanding contribution in producing the book.

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Chaplains

NAJEX has always had a special relationship with the Jewish chaplains in the armed forces. They also provide leadership at its annual ANZAC and Remembrance Days services.

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Support of Active Jewish Servicemen

In the 1970s NAJEX prepared and sent comfort parcels to Jewish soldiers serving in Vietnam.

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List of NAJEX Presidents

Simon Joseph Guss 1925 — 1946
Rudolph Richard Diamond 1946 — 1950
John I. Einfeld 1950 — 1953
Walter Ginsburg 1953 — 1954
Mark Goldstein 1954 — 1957
Harry Goldstein 1957 — 1960
Hyam M. Owen 1960 — 1963
Harry Wittenberg 1963 — 1966
Abraham Halprin 1966 — 1968
Michael B. Isaacs 1968 — 1970
Harry Wittenberg 1970 — 1972
HMichael Isaacs 1972 — 1973
Joseph H. Loufer 1973 — 1974
Alexander Roby 1974 — 1975
Joseph H. Loufer 1973 — 1976
Lou Whitefield 1976 — 1979
Brian Nebenzahl 1979 — 1982
Joseph H Loufer 1982 — 1984
Kevin L. Collins 1984 — 1988
Victor J. Phillips 1988 — 1991
Wesley Browne OAM 1991 — 2000
Brian Nebenzahl 2000 — 2008
Warwick Abadee 2008 — 2012
Charles Aronson 2012 — 2016

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IMPORTANT STATISTICS

World War One

In World War One 11% of Australian Jewry enlisted in the Australian Services, compared with 9.2% of the general population.

Some 15% of these Jewish servicemen were killed, compared with 14% of the general population.

Australian Jewish soldiers won 1 Victoria Cross, 4 Distinguished Service Orders (DSO), one Military Cross and Bar, 15 Military Crosses, 1 Distinguished Conduct Medal and Bar, 5 Distinguished Conduct Medals, 2 Military Medals and Bars, 39 Military Medals 3 Order of the British Empire (Military Division) and 21 were Mentioned in Dispatches.
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World War Two

(from 1949 issue of Detail)

In World War Two 3,872 Jews enlisted (2,936 in the Army, including Employment companies, 72 in the RAN and 864 in the RAAF) and 134 were killed in action or on service.

39 were awarded decorations and 34 were Mentioned in Dispatches.
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NSW Deaths

284 Jews from NSW killed in the two World Wars.
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