Myer E Rosenblum – Sportsman, lawyer, statesman

From Australia’s Jewish Past:

Myer E Rosenblum

Sportsman, lawyer, statesman

First published in J-Wire February 8, 2022

Myer E Rosenblum was born in South Africa in 1907, his family having emigrated from what is now Belarus but then part of the Russian Empire.

The family moved to Sydney in 1914 and settled in Marrickville. Myer and his sister Sarah both won scholarships to the then non-co-educational Fort Street Boys and Girls Schools and then both studied at Sydney University. He met Lyla Grant, a New Zealander, at a party and they were married for 55 years, with two children – Germaine and Rupert.

He was an all-round sportsman, with a passion for rugby and was part of the momentous Wallabies tour to the Northern Hemisphere in 1927 and in 1928. He played breakaway in four games for the New South Wales Rugby Union Team against the All-Blacks. He set an Australian record for the hammer throw in 1933 breaking the 20-year state record only to have his claims disallowed after the Amateur Athletic Association learned his 16lb hammer fell short of the required legal weight by 3oz.

In 1935, Myer broke both the State and Australian records with a throw of 144ft. 1in. He went on to represent Australia at the ‘’British Empire Games’’ in 1938. In addition, he was an accomplished tennis player and hurdler.

His son, Rupert, followed in his father’s footsteps (the Rosenblums becoming the fifth father/son combination to play Test Rugby for Australia) and, in 1962, had his first taste of representative rugby when selected for New South Wales to play against the Wallabies.

Myer’s other passions were music – playing the bassoon in the Sydney Conservatorium Orchestra – as well as excelling as a pianist and in tennis.

During his law studies, he had on one occasion to see the Dean of the Law Faculty – Professor Sir John Peden. He was a man of intense upright character, but always could be counted on to listen to applications by the students.

Myer wanted to get his permission to be away from law lectures for a period of five weeks to tour with a representative rugby team to New Zealand. The story goes ‘’I came into his study with trepidation and put my case. I stood up till he said, ‘sit down my boy’, then ‘Rosenblum’, he continued, ‘I have looked at your record and note that you have been away on numerous occasions for state and university tours. Nevertheless, I notice that you have always passed your subsequent exams. I now propose to exempt you from attendance at lectures and wish you a successful tour’.

This could not have played out better for Myer. He went on to graduate in law from Sydney University in 1930 and had a fairly uneventful career path as a law clerk – his first salary being £1 a week.

In 1959 he established the law firm – M Rosenblum and Co – employing a 19 year-old articled clerk at the pay of £6 a week, named John Howard – the 25th and second-longest serving Prime Minister of Australia. More than a decade before his ascent to Prime Ministership, Myer – a lifelong supporter of the Australian Labor Party – said Howard “would have made a wonderful Labor leader of the Ben Chifley type – you know, a thoroughly honest man of the people.” Howard described Rosenblum as “one of the great characters that I’ve met in my life… a terrific teacher.”

Myer’s only grandchild, Stephen, Germaine’s son, followed in his grandfather’s footsteps and became a barrister.

In his later life, Myer assisted Moriah College and the Australian Jewish Welfare Society, as well as other sporting and charitable organisations.

He was recognised with the Australian Sports Medal in September 2000 and the Medal of the Order of Australia in January 2001. In December 1985 the Sydney University Sports Union established the Rosenblum Family Award, presented annually to a member of the Union who has contributed towards sport at the university. At the time it was established, Myer had been associated with Sydney University sports for 60 years.

Myer Rosenbaum died on 18 April 2002, at the age of 95.

From Australia's Jewish Past is written by Ruth Lilian OAM for AJHS and published weekly in J-Wire. ​