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Book Notes: The Journal of an Australian Rabbi, Israel Porush

Anthony Joseph

<plain_text><page sequence="1">The Journal of an Australian Rabbi, Israel Porush (Australian Jewish Historical Society, 1992). I first met Rabbi Israel Porush in 1963 when I joined the Australian Jewish Historical Society in Sydney. As minister of Sydney Great Synagogue, the Av Beth Din of Sydney, and Australia's leading rabbinical figure of the time he was an impressive man. His love for Judaism and the study of Jewish history led him to active support for the Australian Jewish Historical Society, of which he was President for twenty-seven years. He was also a frequent contributor to its publications. He described his autobiography as 'neither fully biographical nor fully history [but] a composition of both elements and, therefore, perhaps unusual'. In my view it is not the work that is so unusual: it is the author himself. There is an initial chapter on his ancestry and immediate background. He was born in Palestine in 1907, and it was there that he grew up and received his early education. He went to Germany in 1922, graduated there and trained for the rabbinate, but no sooner had he received semicha than Hitler came to power and Rabbi Porush felt that he must move to England. In London he rapidly improved his English and was offered his first professional ministry - at Finchley, where he stayed for six years. He then accepted the offer of the Sydney post which was to be his major life work and to last for the next thirty-five years. He retired to Melbourne where he ended his days. The narrative covers far more than a chronology of life events. Rabbi Porush was a perceptive observer of life, and as Lord Jakobovits says in the foreword, 'Transparent in his writings are the author's wise scholarship and enormous experience'. His range of interests was equally impressive. Jewish education, Zion? ism, Halachah, Jewish history (including many side issues and stories, community work, Jewish-Christian relations and the welfare of Australo-Jewry are among them. Perhaps these are to be expected in the community's foremost spiritual leader, but there is a more universalist philosophy apparent in this work. Rabbi Porush was interested in humanity generally and the Jewish experience is, for him, simply the supreme expression of that interest. The Journal of an Australian Rabbi is interesting at many levels, but for me personally the reminder of his attendance at the First International Seminar for 283</page><page sequence="2">Book Notes Jewish Genealogy, in May 1984, was a highlight. It was, in fact, the last time we met in person. He gave the invocation at the opening session and read a fascinating paper on the history of the Jews in Australia. The talk was scheduled for an hour, but it lasted at least a quarter more than that, and it was with the greatest reluct? ance that Rabbi Porush begged leave to depart, since he was in demand to deliver a funeral eulogy a little later. He was the senior rabbi at that conference and his benign but imposing figure ensured it an auspicious start. This book should be read in conjunction with Yismach Yisrael: Historical Essays to honour Doctor Israel Porush OBE on his 80th Birthday (a special publication of the Australian Jewish Historical Society, Sydney 1988). Anthony Joseph</page></plain_text>