COMMUNAL identity Betty Wilkenfeld, who passed away on Sunday aged 87, has been remembered as “a highly respected stalwart of the community”.
Born Bracha Bloch, Wilkenfeld arrived in Australia from Lithuania in 1933. She married Gerhard (Gershon) Wilkenfeld in 1953.
Beginning her career teaching at the NSW Board of Jewish Education and Moriah College, Wilkenfeld soon joined her father and brother in the family’s Bloch footwear business and helped to establish it as a national brand and one of world’s top three ballet shoes and clothing suppliers.
Passionate about the Jewish community and Israel, she had roles at the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (JBOD), the Sydney Jewish Museum and as president of WIZO NSW.
Wilkenfeld’s Community Life Story, En Pointe – written by volunteer author Margi Fain – was launched at Montefiore Randwick this past April.
Children David, Simon and Judy Wilkenfeld told The AJN, “We are all devastated and very sad that our dear Mum, Betty has passed.
“We, David, Simon and Judy and our families are so proud of who our Betty was and what she had achieved in life, much of which was for the benefit of others, including her devotion to her late husband Gershon. Most importantly she was the very proud ‘Bobba’ of eight adoring grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Betty’s incredible legacy lives on through them.”
Executive Council of Australian Jewry president Anton Block and co-CEO Peter Wertheim said her passing “marks a sad loss for the Australian Jewish community”.
“Betty’s energy was extraordinary … with [her] passing we are losing another of the talented and dynamic Jews who arrived in Australia from Europe from the 1930s onwards.
“They revitalised Jewish life in our community and made an extraordinary contribution … Each of them was a unique character, remarkable and unforgettable, and an inspiration to future generations.”
JBOD CEO Vic Alhadeff said from serving as honorary secretary at JBOD to a range of communal positions, Wilkenfeld “unfailingly conducted herself with dignity and charm”.
WIZO NSW president Dianne Symonds said she will be sorely missed. ”Betty came to the presidency with a long history of activity in the Jewish community. With this high profile and her creative approach, Betty brought increased recognition to WIZO and contributed in so many positive ways to WIZO’s success over the years.”
Sydney Jewish Museum CEO Norman Seligman said Wilkenfeld was a long-time member, volunteer and generous sponsor. “Until very recently Betty was an active participant at museum events … Betty’s happy smile and positive presence will be very sadly missed by everyone at the museum,” he said.