AFTER his wife Olive passed away in 1994, Australian Jewish Anzac Abraham “Rothy” Rothfield’s Military Cross and Bar from the First World War were thought to be lost forever. But in 2016, an anonymous benefactor discovered them in an English memorabilia collection, purchased the medals and donated them toFirst World War late last year.
On April 22, the medals will finally be unveiled in their rightful place next to Rothfield’s portrait during an Anzac Shabbat service at The Great.
“In honouring Rothy, the congregation will also honour all those members of the Jewish faith who have served their countries faithfully in times of conflict,” said Great Synagogue president Justice Stephen Rothman. “Generations of boys used to go to the Rothfields’ home after school to learn for their bar mitzvah or practice for The Great’s youth services. We all knew he was a war hero.”
Rothy, as he was known, served in WWI, was wounded leading British soldiers into battle in Europe and was later honoured for his bravery with a Military Cross and Bar for gallantry and outstanding bravery during action.
The citation on his Bar reads, “During the bombardment, he walked along the top of the trench to reorganise the men. He was badly wounded but continued to direct operations until unable to do so through loss of blood.”
Rothy emigrated to Australia in 1924, where he became a respected and beloved teacher to generations of Jewish children as headmaster of the Board of Jewish Eduction (BJE). He taught at the cheder at The Great, and often assisted the chazans in the Shabbat and festival services. He was also a member of the NSW Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women (NAJEX) until his death in 1968.
“Rothy was an important member of our congregation and a war hero,” said The Great’s Rabbi Dr Benjamin Elton. “It is very meaningful that his medals should be displayed here and I am delighted that his memory will be honoured in this way.”