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Australia’s oldest Jew turns 110

Mary Rothstein, Australia's oldest Jew, celebrates her 110th birthday in Melbourne, March 6, 2011. (The Rothstein family)

Mary Rothstein, Australia’s oldest Jew, celebrates her 110th birthday in Melbourne, March 6, 2011. (The Rothstein family)

SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) — Australia’s oldest Jew, Mary Rothstein of Melbourne, turned 110.

Rothstein celebrated the historic milestone Sunday surrounded by her daughter, two grandchildren, three of her six great-grandchildren and other relatives at her Melbourne nursing home run by Jewish Care.

She and her family escaped the pogroms in her native Russia to England soon after Rothstein was born in 1901. She lived in London for half her life working as a milliner and occasionally making hats for the royal family.

Rothstein’s daughter, Ruth Cavallaro, visits her mother twice a day to give her lunch and dinner.

“She’s never eaten in an ordinary restaurant, only a Jewish restaurant,” Cavallaro said. “She’s very, very kosher.”

Rothstein used to walk to synagogue every Saturday until she was moved into an aged-care facility 17 years ago, Cavallaro said.

As for her secret to long life, Rothstein’s daughter said, “The only thing I can honestly say about her is she’s never drunk, never smoked and worked very hard.”

Rothstein is not the oldest Jew in the world, according to Robert Young, a senior researcher at the U.S.-based Gerontology Research Group, which specializes in verifying centenarians and super-centenarians.

“The oldest verified Jewish person is currently Evelyn Kozak of New York City, born Aug. 14, 1899,” he told JTA by e-mail.

Kozak added that Rothstein “would be in second place among those I know about if her age could be verified.”

Rothstein’s birth date is unconfirmed because she doesn’t have a birth certificate. In fact, until this year, her family had celebrated on Feb. 27.

Earlier this year a relative, Dr. Anthony Joseph, the head of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain, looked up the date of Purim in 1901.

Cavallaro told JTA that “When Anthony confirmed that her birthday was actually March 6, I got such a shock.”
 

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