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RABBI ISRAEL BRODIE, MELBOURNE RABBI & CHIEF RABBI of the BRITISH COMMONWEALTH

This printed to private order mint 1d green sideface KGV postcard cannot be strictly called postal history, and the front gives no hint as to the contents of its other side (Figure 1).

PALESTINE WELFARE LEAGUE OF VICTORIA

118 Walsh Street,
South Yarra
6/3/30

Dear

Your presence is requested at a Welcome of the above League, to be tendered at 8 p.m. on Monday Evening, MARCH 17th, at the Montefiore Hall, St. Kilda Road, to Dr. Schalit, who will speak on his recent visit to Palestine.

 Mr. Nahum Slutzkin will also give his impressions of the Holy Land.

Yours faithfully,
ISRAEL BRODIE (President)

The above message is printed on the reverse (Figure 2).

I have not been able to identify Nahum Slutzkin, but do have a few clues as to the main speaker, Dr. Schalit. The Fifth Zionist Congress in Basle, Switzerland in December 1901 was chaired by Theodor Herzl. To thunderous applause the vote was announced for the founding of Karen Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF). One of the delegates, Dr. Schalit, explained that the fund would be “the eternal possession of the Jewish People. Its monies would be used solely for the purpose of land purchase.” One can’t be sure whether both Shalits were one and the same man.

Enter Ruby Rich, who was born in Walgett N.S.W. in 1888 and was proclaimed in her youth to be a most accomplished concert pianist in Sydney and London. Ruby played an active role in the Sydney Jewish community, she was a founder of the Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, and the first Federal President of the Women’s International Zionist Organization. Her husband, Dr. Maurice Schalit, who died in 1961, founded the Friends of the Hebrew University in Australia, and Ruby was often known as Ruby Rich-Schalit. These facts add some credence that Dr. Maurice Schalit was the Dr. Schalit identified who spoke at the meeting about his recent visit to Palestine.

There can be no doubt about Rabbi Israel Brodie’s identity. He was born 10 May 1895 at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England the second son of Aaron Brode, drapery traveller and Jane, née Magid, immigrants from Lithuania. The product of a pious home, with scholars and rabbis among his ancestors, he attended Rutherford College of Technology, Newcastle, intent on a rabbinical career. In 1912 he enrolled in both University College and Jews’ College, London and graduated with first-class honours in Hebrew, Aramaic and Syriac. His subsequent studies were interrupted by service as a British Army chaplain in France in 1917-19.

In 1923, Brodie became the rabbi to the Melbourne Hebrew congregation and also head in 1923-37 of the Victorian Beth Din. In 1926 he published the first of several editions of the English Prayers and Readings. His impact extended beyond Melbourne, for he made several interstate visits and pressed for solidarity among the scattered Jewish communities in Australia. Brodie lacked the squeamishness towards the Zionist movement evinced during the between-wars period by many Australian Jews who feared the spectre of ‘dual loyalties’. He believed Zionism was not only just, but also a necessary adjunct to Judaism and in 1927 he became the Foundation President of the Zionist Federation of Australia (Sir John Monash was the honorary President). He served in that capacity until 1937 when he relinquished his pulpit and returned to England.

During World War II Brodie served as an army chaplain in France and was one of the last evacuees from Dunkirk. He subsequently became a chaplain in the Royal Air Force in the Middle East and in 1944 was made senior Jewish chaplain to the British forces. He was appointed principal of Jews' College in 1946, and on 30 June of that year at the Great Synagogue, London, he married a Warsaw-born schoolteacher, Fanny Levine. Energetic and effective as a rabbi, gifted with ability and intellect, he found that his deep-seated Zionism had assumed a particular relevance in the light of the Holocaust. In 1948 he succeeded Dr Joseph Herman Hertz as chief rabbi of the British Commonwealth. Determined to consolidate his authority among the antipodean congregations and to boost their morale, Brodie made several visits to Australia, notably in 1952 and 1962. He retired in 1965 and was knighted in 1969. Short in stature, dark and somewhat rotund, with a neat goatee beard and a mellifluous voice, Sir Israel Brodie was a man of dignity and sincerity whose tenure of office and solid body of published scholarship were distinguished. Survived by his wife without issue, he died on 13 February 1979 at Lambeth, London. He is shown in army uniform in an oil on canvas painting (1946) held at the Balliol College, University of Oxford, from which he graduated B. Litt. in 1921 (Figure 3).


 
        
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