As a minister serving in the new Melbourne Synagogue,
which was completed in 1930, the early years were
disappointing, but soon, as a result of very active efforts by the
members of the congregation, a flourishing youth group was
established, enthusiastic ladies auxiliary met regularly and a
large religious school was formed. When Rabbi Israel Brodie,
in April 1937, expressed his intention to return to England,
everyone felt great disappointment.
A Summons of Montefiore Lodge
for 1949 listing Sir Israel Brodie
as the Master
During Chief Rabbi Dr Joseph Hertz’s visit to Australia in
1921 Rabbi Brodie was recommended and finally appointed
to replace Rabbi Dr Joseph Abrahams as chief minister of the
Melbourne Hebrew Congregation. He served the community
from 1923 to 1937. He was the first President of the Zionist
Federation of Australia and New Zealand (ZFANZ) established
in 1927 to co-ordinate the activities of the State Zionist
Councils of Australia under the patronage of Sir John Monash.
His involvement in the movement was the beginning of
several controversies that marked his life. In this instance, in
the light of the Jewish aspirations for a homeland in Palestine,
he found himself increasingly distanced from his peers, as his
objectives came more and more into conflict with British
policy and administration in Palestine encountering, in some
instances, outright hostility. In 1935 he was appointed to the
editorial committee of the influential and revamped Australian
Jewish Herald, which had first seen the light of day in 1879.
In 1933, he was initiated into Freemasonry in the Duke of
Sussex Lodge No. 48 under the Grand Lodge of Victoria and
on 1 July 1926 he joined the Victoria Lodge of Research No.
218, of which he became Master in 1930–1931, and he
delivered seven lectures in the Lodge between 1927 and 1932.
He pursued his Masonic career by being exalted into the
Collingwood Chapter in 1935, in which year he was appointed
Past Grand Chaplain of the Grand Lodge of Victoria.
Back in England, he applied to teach at Jews’ College,
London and in 1939 he found himself once more recruited to
serve as the Jewish Chaplain to the Army and the RAF. In June
1940, with some 330,000 Allied troops, he was evacuated from
Dunkirk by sea to England in Operation Dynamo. He finished
the War as Senior Jewish Chaplain, nicknamed the Forces
Rabbi. He served in the army until he was made Chief Rabbi
of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British
Commonwealth of Nations in 1948. During the whole of this
period 1939–1948, he was active as a Lecturer and Tutor at
Jews’ College, which trains rabbis and teachers and which
was later renamed The London School of Jewish Studies.
The Lodge of Israel in London welcomed him on 25 January
1944 as a visitor and saluted him as a Past Grand Chaplain of
the United Grand Lodge of Victoria. Within two years, on
19 November 1946, the year, incidentally, of his marriage to
Fanny Levine, a native of Warsaw, he joined the Montefiore
Lodge No. 1017, proposed by Bro. Leslie Sober and seconded
by Bro. E. Braham.
His advancement to the chair was speedy. He was elected
Master in November 1948 and installed at the Café Royal in
London in February 1949. He was to visit the Lodge of Israel
on several later occasions: on 9 January, 1958 he was received
as W Bro the V Rev Israel Brody, Chief Rabbi and was
accompanied by RW Bro Max Seligman, Deputy Grand
Master of the Grand Lodge of the State of Israel. He returned
again on 28 April 1960, once more accompanied by Max
Seligman, now the MW Grand Master of Israel.
By now Israel Brodie had been appointed Chief Rabbi
of the United Hebrew Congregation of the British
Commonwealth of Nations, and it is not surprising that the
Montefiore Lodge attendance book for the day, which has
eight pages added, lists 466 guests, including 169 Installed
It reads like a Masonic Who’s Who: the Very Rev. W. Bro.
Canon Lancaster, Grand Chaplain; the Very Rev. VW. Bro.
Bishop of Woolwich; W. Bro. Nat Gordon, RW Master of
Montefiore Lodge No. 753 Glasgow, leading a deputation
from Scotland; W. Bro. Saul Taylor, IPM; W. Bro. B. R.
Gates and W. Bro. S. Barclay, Past Masters and Bro. I. Hyman,
and many other distinguished visitors.
The minutes record Bro Brodie’s active participation in
Lodge affairs. His talks and orations were already popular,
and as Master, his lecture Four Cardinal Values was particularly
well received. At the end of his year as Master, the Lodge
presented him with a leather-bound volume of the Summonses
issued during his year in office.
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