Sir Isaac Isaacs Annoys Australian Jews by Persistently Slighting Them: Climax Reached by His Refusa
Menu JTA Search

Sir Isaac Isaacs Annoys Australian Jews by Persistently Slighting Them: Climax Reached by His Refusa

Download PDF for this date

The Jews of Australia have for a long time been feeling slighted by the constant snubs which they have had at the hands of the Governor-General, Sir Isaac Isaacs, whose appointment to this high office was hailed by the Jews all over the world as a great honour conferred on one of Jewish birth, and above all, the son of a Jewish immigrant to the country.

It is recalled that the Jews of Australia had to bear at the time of his appointment the brunt of the Opposition directed against him and the constitutional departure involved by it, interpreted in some Nationalist quarters as a slight to the King, who had previously appointed the Governor-Generals of the Dominion, while he was appointed by the Australian Government. The Protestant Association, for instance, held a protest meeting at the time against his appointment, and in general the opposition being centred round the person of a Jew, made it tend to a considerable extent to antisemitism and caused a good deal of disquiet to Australian Jewry.

At that time already, it was commented upon that Sir Isaac made no attempt to respond to the congratulations from Jewish Communities and organisations.

When he was sworn in to his high office, his representatives attended the church services following the usual custom, but he did not attend the synagogue. It was pointed out that he had never associated himself with Jewish communal affairs, and some held that it was wrong to expect him to associate himself with Jewish religious worship when he had been a life-long Socialist and secularist. There was some dissatisfaction expressed, however, when a prominent newspaper – “Smith’s Weekly” – published an interview with Sir Isaac in which it stated that when he was shown an American Jewish newspaper containing an article in which he was represented as being an observing Jew, he merely smiled.

Last Yom Kippur, the matter was again brought to Jewish notice by the fact that Sir Isaac happened to be in Melbourne during the Jewish High Holy Days, and the Melbourne Great Synagogue extended to him an invitation to attend the service, which he declined, although he stayed in Melbourne until the day after Yom Kippur, when he returned to the Dominion capital, Canberra, where he has his official residence. In a written reply to a request made by a Jewish newspaper representative in Melbourne about that time for a New Year message to the Jewish Communities of the world, Sir Isaac wrote: It is not within my province to address any message to Jewish Communities, and it would be grossly improper for me to reflect in any way upon political institutions in foreign countries.

Here agin, many Jews felt that Sir Isaac’s refusal to have any association with Jewish religious observances was his own private affair. That he should, however, attend Church services while refusing to attend special synagogue services, as has now happened, has created general resentment among the Australian Jewish Community, where the feeling is growing that Sir Isaac is deliberately trying to show that he does not consider himself in any way a Jew, and wishes to be regarded as a member of the Christian Community.

Yesterday Sir Isaac, accompanied by his wife and the members of his staff, attended a special service held at St. James Anglican Church, which was broadcast, arranged as a thanksgiving for the part played by Christianity in the national development of Australia.

Jewish resentment is the greater because only about a fortnight ago, he refused an invitation to attend a United Memorial Service in the Melbourne Great Synagogue for the late General Monash, the Jewish Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Forces during the War, who lived and died an observing Jew. Like his other refusals to attend synagogue services this had been kept quiet by the Australian Jews, but now they are be-ginning to feel that it is best to accept the fact that Sir Isaac wishes to be regarded as a member of the Christian Community.

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund