2023 Falk Lecture – Video and transcript

Thank you to those who attended the 20 August 2023 Falk Lecture, “The Australian Jewish Chaplains of the First World War” given by Judge Dr. Jonathan Lewis.

The video of this lecture can be viewed below. In addition, the transcript of the presentation is available as well.

Falk Lecture on Australian Chaplains in WWI



May I thank Rabbi Elton, the Sydney Great Synagogue, NAJEX and the Australian Jewish Historical Society for the honour of inviting me to deliver the annual lecture in memory of Rabbi Lev Aizack Falk. This is an opportunity for me to thank people from all of those organisations and members of Rabbi Falk’s family for their help with my research.

When the date was fixed for this lecture, it did not have regard to our reading Sedra Shofetim yesterday. During forty years in the wilderness the Israelites were attacked by horrible people and had to learn to defend themselves and to form an army under Joshua. As we read yesterday, this included appointing a special Cohen le’Milchamah, who was anointed with the same oil as the Cohen Gadol. He is called a Meshuach Milhamah, he who is anointed for war, and his duties are prescribed. Whether these special Cohanim functioned in the wars of Israelites recorded in Books of Joshua, Kings 1 and Chronicles 2 we will never know. They were the first Jewish military chaplains. So Jewish military chaplaincy derives from the days of the Bible. As we read on Succot in KoheletVe’ayn kol hodosh tahat hashomayim – there is nothing new under the sun.

Francis Lyon Cohen (14 November 1862 – 26 April 1934)

In Britain Jewish Chaplaincy was initiated in 1892 by Reverend Francis Lyon Cohen, including the introduction of an increasingly high-profile annual Chanukah Military Service. In 1904 Reverend Cohen received a call to serve the Jewish community of Sydney. In those days virtually all Jewish ministers in Britain were not Rabbis but were ordained under the Anglican term “Reverend”. To enable him to sit on the Sydney Beth Din Reverend Cohen had to study in London for almost a year for his Rabbinical diploma. On 2 May 1905 he set sail on the S.S. Salamis with his wife and their two sons and a daughter for Australia. On 17 June they reached Sydney, where on 25 June he was inducted into office as Chief Minister of the Great Synagogue. He joined the Australian National Defence League and later helped to found the New South Wales Jewish War Memorial in Darlinghurst. On 30 November 1908 Reverend Jacob Danglow of Melbourne became the first commissioned Jewish chaplain to Commonwealth Military Forces in Australia. Very soon afterwards, on 25 January 1909, Francis Cohen was appointed Jewish Chaplain to the Australian Military Forces, Eastern Command, and held this position until his death in 1934. In Sydney he replicated the annual Chanukah Military Service which he had initiated in London. These services were conducted by Francis Cohen in Sydney and Jacob Danglow in Melbourne, the latter attended in 1914 by the then Colonel John Monash, then commanding the 4th Australian Infantry Brigade.

As a passionate British patriot Francis Cohen strongly supported enlistment into the Australian militias. In the First World War he was the Vice-President of the Universal Service League, campaigned for conscription and preached in support of the war. He wanted to go overseas and volunteered to go as a chaplain to the Dardanelles, but his congregation would not release him and at fifty-two he would probably not have been accepted. Like other ministers he did pastoral work among the families of serving soldiers, especially bereaved families. His two sons served overseas with the Australian Imperial Force. In 1929 he was promoted to the equivalent rank of colonel and awarded the Colonial Auxiliary Forces Officers’ Decoration. He died on 26 April 1934 at the age of 71.  

Anzac Chaplaincy

Conscription was not introduced in Australia in the First World War, so everybody who served did so voluntarily. Over 1,500 Jews from Australia, and some 150 from New Zealand, served.

Rev. I. A. Bernstein was a chaplain to the New Zealand forces. In the summer of 1915 he was released by his congregation in Christchurch and went to Sydney, where he offered his services as a chaplain to the Jewish members of the Expeditionary Force and his offer was accepted. Yet he does not appear to be referred to anywhere else and I have not been able to discover anything more about him, so what happened to him afterwards is obscure.

For most of the First World War there was considerable confusion whether British Principal Chaplains possessed any authority over Australian chaplains; only in October 1918 was it decided that they did not. Whilst serving with the British Expeditionary Force Jewish soldiers from abroad nominally came under the British chaplaincy, so when the Australian Corps arrived on the Western Front Australian Jewish chaplaincy came effectively under British Jewish chaplaincy control. After the events of Passover 1917, which we will discuss, this ended and it was placed under Australian chaplaincy control.

Rev. David Isaac Freedman B. A. (17 April 1874 – 24 June 1939).

Born in Budapest in Hungary in 1874 and taken to London two years later, Rev. (later Rabbi) David Freedman was educated at Jews’ College and University College London and naturalised in 1889. In 1897 he travelled on the S. S. Ophir to Australia to become the minister to the community in Perth. In December of 1897 he married Anne Florence (Mollie) Cohen, who was also from London, and they had two sons. Intensely patriotic, he gave a farewell in 1900 to the first Jewish officer, Samuel Harris, to depart for the Anglo-Boer War. On 1 October 1915 Freedman was appointed Jewish chaplain to the Australian Imperial Force. With the assistance of the Senior Rabbi of the Jewish Community of Australia, Rabbi Dr Abrahams of Melbourne, he obtained permission from the Australian military authorities to exchange a Magen David badge for the conventional chaplaincy Maltese Cross. He later wrote from the Dardanelles that:

The Magen David badges I am wearing on my tunic and cap are answering their purpose splendidly. In many instances I have been stopped by soldiers to whom I was a perfect stranger who were attracted by the badge and who introduced themselves to me as Jews. One of them was good enough to say it was like a ray of sunshine to him.

Enlisting on 6 October 1915 at the age of 41 for continuous service, Freedman left Melbourne on 27 October 1915 on HMAS Ulysses. Passing through Cairo en route to the Dardanelles, he wrote for advice to Reverend Michael Adler, who had been one of his teachers at Jews’ College in London and who by that stage was serving as the first Jewish chaplain on the Western Front. Adler asked the Australian High Commission in London to authorise Freedman to minister to British as well as Anzac troops, to which the High Commission assented.

Attached to the Second Division headquarters, Freedman landed at Gallipoli on 9 December 1915. He spent several “rippingly rough times” there and lived on sardines and biscuits. He did voluntary sentry duty at night, later writing that he had preferred walking to sleeping. He sought out Jewish soldiers and conducted services, one of which was attended by men of the Zion Mule Corps. The Gallipoli evacuation was commencing, and on 16 December, seven days after he had landed, Freedman was evacuated and transferred to Mudros, the harbour on the island of Lemnos where Allied troops had assembled. There he located Anzac and British Jewish soldiers, met men of the Zion Mule Corps, visited the six hospitals and the military cemetery which had been established and conducted services.

On 8 January 1916 Freedman arrived in Egypt. On 10 February the British War Office appointed him chaplain to all of the men of the Jewish Faith serving in the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force. After reference to the British United Synagogue the Australian High Commission in London empowered him to officiate to British as well as Colonial forces. His work covered three army corps in Egypt and the Canal Zone. Basing himself in Ismailia, for six months he travelled widely between there and Alexandria, Tel-el-Kebir, Moascar and Cairo by many means including horse and truck and, in the desert, by camel and on foot. He wrote: “As I wander daily, on the burning sands, from camp to camp, weighed with haversack & water bottle – for mostly I have to carry with me lunch & dinner – with the steaming perspiration pouring from me, I am forgiving more & more the murmurings of our brave ancestors in the desert, and am beginning to understand better their thirsting for the cool cucumbers of Goshen.” He located Jewish soldiers, conducted services, visited units and the numerous hospitals and the military cemeteries in Alexandria and Cairo, attempted to secure the erection of the Star of David on Jewish graves and visited Jewish enemy prisoners of war. Freedman made it his policy, then and throughout his service, to write to the family of every Jewish soldier whom he met. In Alexandria the Jewish Soldiers’ Recreation Club provided refreshments for the soldiers after each soldiers’ service; each man was given a packet of bonbons and Freedman was given a large parcel of cigarettes, which he distributed to the men as he met them in the field or the trenches. Similar post-service hospitality was provided in Cairo.

On Saturday 11 March 1916 Freedman conducted a service at Tel-el-Kebir attended by about fifty Jews including General Monash. Men sometimes walked long distances to services; on 1 April four men walked ten miles each way with their equipment and rifles to attend a service in the line of one of the British units. The military authorities were always supportive, providing a tent or hut for services, often with a sentry with a fixed bayonet outside, with his audible measured tread up and down, until Freedman told them that this was not necessary.

For Pesach of 1916 Freedman arranged with the military authorities and the Jewish communities for Jewish soldiers to be granted leave and to receive hospitality in Alexandria, Cairo and Port Said, including requesting free railway passes as some of the men would not be able to pay the fares, and made similar arrangements for Jewish soldiers in Salonika. He conducted services on the first days of Pesach in Alexandria and the last days in Cairo. The Jewish communities provided personal and communal hospitality and accommodation throughout the festival. In Alexandria, where Freedman witnessed the arrangements, “I was glad to notice that the only disappointed ones were the representatives of families who were left with no soldier to take home.”

In Egypt Freedman took the opportunity, not available to him in Britain or Australia, to obtain Rabbinic ordination – Semicha – from Rabbi Kleizer of Cairo. In Cairo the Jewish community were so impressed by this friendly little Rabbi in the uniform of a British officer that they gave him a superb miniature Sefer Torah in an eastern style flat bottomed wooden case “to take into battle”. Freedman used it for the first time on the following Shabbat Mincha – afternoon – service in a spot in the desert not far from where the Children of Israel had encamped after crossing the Red Sea; for the boys to be “called up” to read it and to recite the blessings gave them immense pleasure. Later he used it in England.

Freedman left Egypt on 21 June 1916 on the Caledonia with the last infantry units to go to Britain and thence to France. There, with the consent of the Australian military authorities, he placed himself under the directions of Michael Adler as the Senior British Jewish Chaplain. As a future Senior Rabbi to the Australian Defence Force, Rabbi Raymond Apple, told me when I met with him in Jerusalem, this was virtually automatic at a time when Australia viewed itself as very much a colony of the mother country. In his diary Michael Adler recorded and numbered the arrival of each new chaplain. On Wednesday 5 July 1916 he recorded the arrival of Rev. D. I Freedman, CF, Anzac Corps, from Egypt, as the fourth Jewish chaplain, after himself and Reverends Vivian Simmons and Arthur Barnett; when Reverend Louis Morris arrived in September 1916, Adler numbered him as the fifth chaplain. From his diary Adler plainly regarded Freedman as under his authority in the same way as the British Jewish chaplains. Freedman took over part of the line on the Somme in the forward area, including many non-Australian units.

Freedman was posted to Etaples with the 5th Australian Division, his arrival coinciding with the Somme offensive. The hospitals were full of wounded and in nine weeks he paid two hundred and fifty-eight visits to hospitals. He sent weekly reports about patients in hospital to Adler and regular lists of Jewish casualties to Reverend Solomon Lipson, the Jewish chaplain serving in Britain, and conducted services at hospitals and elsewhere. Throughout the rest of 1916 he travelled widely, visiting units, hospitals, dressing stations and casualty clearing stations. At one point when he was fortuitously away his billet was shattered by shelling.

            In February 1917 Freedman saw several senior Australian officers on the subject of leave for Passover for Anzac Jewish soldiers, and all were supportive. He went to Paris and made arrangements with the leadership of the Jewish community for invitations to be extended to every Anzac soldier to celebrate Passover there in a private home. On his return he reported these arrangements to Corps Headquarters and was authorised to circularise all Anzac Jewish troops about them. This he did, in an “Important Notice” from “Rev. D. I. Freedman Jewish Chaplain Anzac Corps” issued on 19 February 1917 from “France c/o 7th Australian Field Ambulance In the Field” to “Officers, N.C.O’s & men of the Jewish Faith in the A. I. F”. It stated that in response to Freedman’s application Lieutenant-General Sir William Birdwood would do all in his power to help the Jewish Soldiers in Anzac celebrate the Feast of Passover and that if the tactical situation at the time permitted three days leave would be granted on 6, 7 and 8 April in Paris, where the heads of the Jewish Community had given Freedman to understand that they would offer our boys a cordial welcome and would afford them facilities for observing the seder in private homes. Each officer and soldier should inform Freedman at the earliest possible moment of his intention to avail himself of the privilege so that satisfactory arrangements might be made for him.

On 2 March 1917 Freedman wrote, on his printed letterhead of “Rev. D. I. Freedman, Jewish Chaplain, Anzac Corps, British Expeditionary Force, France, ….1916”, to Chief Rabbi Joseph Hertz in London. Enclosing a copy of his circular about Passover leave for the Anzacs, he praised the support of the major-generals of all of the Australian Divisions and of Lieutenant-General Sir William Birdwood. “Orders are already out that our men are to have five days leave – three clear days in Paris – a day to go & a day to return. …. A vast amount of detail has still to be attended to & I am just now very busy with it.” He added, obliquely: “I should mention that at the present moment correspondence is proceeding between Mr Adler & myself on this subject but about which, at this stage, I shall say nothing at all.” The Chief Rabbi replied on 12 March that “I am also very glad to hear that your efforts on behalf of the Anzacs to procure for them facilities to celebrate the Passover have been so well received by the authorities, and that arrangements have been made for them in Paris.”

Harold Boas, of whom we will speak shortly, later wrote: “At this juncture the Rev. M. Adler, the Senior Jewish Chaplain of the British Forces, intervened, strongly opposing the leave being given, and the whole scheme was cancelled.” About this incident Adler wrote that there was only one matter upon which he and Chaplain Freedman did not agree. Without consulting him – which may not be consistent with their having been corresponding about the matter – Freedman had arranged for the Australian Jewish soldiers to go to Paris to observe Passover in 1917. When he learned this Adler pointed out to Freedman, who was then living a few miles away, that he regretted that he could not see any reason why any distinction should be made as to the facilities for Passover between Jewish soldiers from one part of the world or another. Adler could not agree to what Freedman had done as it would lead to very serious complaints on the part of the other troops who had also come from beyond the seas. Adler had already received a number of letters from men who had come from South America, South Africa and other parts asking why the same arrangements could not be made for them as for the Australians.

As they could not see each other’s point of view Adler suggested to Freedman, who approved, that they submit the difficulty to the GOC of the AIF, Lieutenant General Sir William Birdwood, whose decision should be final. Adler laid the matter before Birdwood, who asked whether it was possible for all Jewish troops in France to go to Paris. When Adler pointed out that this was not practicable, Birdwood decided that the arrangements should be cancelled.

Both Freedman and Adler corresponded with the Chief Rabbi about Passover leave for the Anzacs. Inevitably the matter came before the Jewish War Services Committee (the JWSC) in London, which had been established by the leadership of the Jewish community to liaise with the authorities on matters affecting Jewish soldiers – chaplaincy, kashrut, leave for festivals and so on. Against a background of developing tension between the JWSC and Adler, the JWSC expressed strong disapproval of Adler’s action, and when he was on leave met with him to convey it. After and doubtless in part because of the events of Passover 1917, Australian Jewish chaplaincy was removed from the nominal control of its British counterpart and placed under the Senior Chaplain for Other Protestant Denominations (colloquially OPD or “other poor devils”) of the AIF, Chaplain the Rev. F. J. Miles, DSO, OBE, CF, who, Harold Boas wrote, maintained excellent relationships with the Jewish chaplains.

Adler’s diary, which records his meetings with each of the Jewish chaplains, contains only one further reference to meeting Freedman, on 14 June 1917. On 7 November 1917 Freedman gave a farewell address to Australian Jewish soldiers in London, and later wrote a farewell letter to them. In December 1917 he was mentioned in despatches, resigned his position and returned to the UK. Adler, doubtless stung by the strictures of the JWSC, did not record Freedman’s departure. By then their relationship must have been fragile.

With Freedman’s resignation, the Australian Adjutant General asked Dr Joseph Abrahams as the Senior Rabbi of the Jewish Community of Australia to send to France a “Hebrew Chaplain under 40 years of age” to replace him. Early in 1918 Rev. Jacob Danglow was appointed to succeed Freedman. He communicated with Freedman for advice. Freedman replied that conditions on the front line were changing so rapidly that he could not and would not help, and Danglow would have to make his own decisions when he arrived in the field. Freedman had two years of invaluable field experience which he could have shared with Danglow. But he had come to loathe the war and its carnage. On 19 January 1918 he preached at the West London Synagogue:

There was a time when I believed in man. I had faith in humanity. Today the idol is shattered. Man alone is responsible. The free will given to him to keep his soul pure and spotless he has abused. As a Jew I hate war. We blaspheme God with a horrible blasphemy when we ask Him to help us in pouring our venom, treachery or slaughter. To associate God with the slaying of millions, with pouring out liquid fires on man, with blowing poison gases on poor women and children, so that their flesh writhes in agony as I have seen it writhe – to bring the name of God into this is to me an infamous outrage on the Holy Spirit.

In London Freedman met with Chief Rabbi Hertz. As a tribute to his work Rev. Solomon Lipson publicly presented him with an inscribed Kiddush cup and on 6 March came to bid him farewell at the railway station. Sailing on the Prince George to Alexandria, Freedman spent two months in the Middle East, joining the Anzac mounted division outside Jericho. He witnessed the first of three attempts by General Allenby’s Egyptian Expeditionary Force, including the Jewish Legion, to cross to the east bank of the Jordan River against staunch Turkish resistance. He travelled to Cairo and Jerusalem and in May 1918 departed for Australia on the Port Sydney. Senior Chaplain Miles described him as “a great little man…great in mental capacity, in his breadth of vision, in his love for and desire to serve the boys”.

In 1920 Freedman was offered a position in Sydney but his community in Perth protested so vigorously that he declined it and remained with them until his death in 1939. He was active in the Returned Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Imperial League of Australia, becoming its State President in 1924, the Soldiers’ Children Scholarship Trust and the Jewish Returned Soldiers’ Circle. He made the Jewish Anzac Day Service in Perth a public event. Freedman was awarded the Colonial Auxiliary Volunteer Officers Decoration (VD), the OBE for social welfare service in 1936 and the King George VI Coronation Medal in 1937. He died in June 1939 at the age of 65; two thousand people attended his funeral.

With only a single Australian Jewish chaplain at any one time, the British Jewish chaplains inevitably assumed a role in relation to the Australians. One of them, Reverend Louis Morris, wrote of the Australian chaplains:

It was on the Ypres salient that I was once making my way on foot, trying to find an infantry brigade for which I had arranged a service. I was feeling tired and ‘fed-up’, when I saw another road-worn individual plodding heavily along. His clothes were caked with handsome quantities of the choicest Flanders mud and his face was wreathed in smiles. That was Freedman, the Anzac Jewish Chaplain! It was our first meeting, which rapidly developed into a warm but all too short friendship.

Freedman had a voracious appetite for work, which he carried out regardless of risk. With it all he had a calm, gentle unassuming manner that made him everybody’s friend.  Then came Danglow, my former college friend. I knew his fine record from of old. He very rapidly set to work with characteristic keenness and enthusiasm. What a pity conditions did not permit him to join Freedman in the early part of the war.

We will speak of Jacob Danglow, but first of Harold Boas.  

Harold Boas (27 September 1883 – 17 September 1980)

Born in 1893, Harold Boas was the seventh of ten children of Rabbi Abraham Tobias Boas, the minister of the Adelaide Hebrew Congregation, and his wife Elizabeth Solomon. An architect and town planner, Boas settled in Perth where on 29 March 1911 he married Sarah (Sadie) Cohen. They had two daughters. Rejected for military service for poor eyesight, in September 1916 Boas approached the executive director of the YMCA who was on a fundraising visit to Perth, asking to be appointed the Jewish YMCA Secretary. This was rapidly approved by the Australian YMCA headquarters in London, and Boas was appointed, remarkably, as the Australian YMCA Jewish representative of the Australian Imperial Force.

Having sent his wife and daughter to live with his family in Adelaide, Boas set sail from Australia on 29 December 1916 as a civilian on the troopship Orontes. Sailing for part of the voyage in a naval convoy of troopships, the ship travelled around the Cape Town and then made a long detour across the South Atlantic to avoid a German warship. The convoy reached Plymouth in February 1917 with a captured German submarine in tow. The commanding officer of the troopship had to deliver a consignment of gold from Australia, and invited Boas and the Roman Catholic padre to accompany him with it on a special train to London, which they did.

Boas was based initially at two successive YMCA Huts on Salisbury Plain, then as now a military training area in the south of England. He divided his time between Salisbury Plain and London, where he contacted the JWSC and the Jewish Naval and Military Association. Boas wrote that he had established contact and what he regarded as a very satisfactory basis of cooperation with Reverend Solomon Lipson as the senior Jewish home chaplain and Reverend Michael Adler and with Chief Rabbi Hertz and had placed himself unreservedly in the hands of the Chief Rabbi and official London Jewry to use him in any way they thought fit in the interests of the Jewish men. He subsequently called upon the Chief Rabbi, kept him in touch with his work, cooperated with him in connection with the production and distribution of Jewish literature to the troops and wrote that at all times he received from him a genuine interest in and sympathy with his work amongst the Jewish troops. To facilitate his work and to establish his bona fides, authority was secured in September 1917 from General Birdwood, commanding the AIF, in terms of an order which was promulgated:

Approval is given for Mr Harold Boas, the Hebrew secretary of the YMCA, to be the accredited representative in the A.I.F. depots in the United Kingdom, of the Australian Jewish chaplain.

Australian troops – colloquially known as “diggers” – were stationed at numerous bases in the south of England. Boas spent twenty-one months on Salisbury Plain driving between camps in a car provided by the Australian YMCA, learning in the army the art of “wangling” petrol, which, he wrote, was then scarcer than gold. With the financial assistance of Jewish well-wishers in the UK and the Australian YMCA he was eventually able to purchase a motor car. He met Freedman and later Danglow when they made their official tours and organised their itineraries.

Boas served for all practical purposes as a chaplain. He conducted a large correspondence on many aspects of soldiers’ welfare, arranged private hospitality in London with Jewish families for the High Festivals and worked with Jewish individuals from Weymouth and Edinburgh who took it upon themselves to attend to the needs of Jewish soldiers. As each new man arrived in England from Australia or France, Boas immediately wrote to him and then to his family, advising the man of any reply. Whenever he met a Jewish soldier he sent a card to his family in Australia; these cards, thousands in number, formed a link between his work, the men and their families. He encouraged men to write home regularly. He prepared circular letters urging men to keep in touch with him, with the Jewish chaplain and with their families. He arranged “fellowship meetings” for the troops, obtained and distributed Jewish and general literature, facilitated marriages, organised loans and made gifts of money and goods sent by people in Australia and by the YMCA. He also monitored casualties, visited soldiers in hospital, took them gifts and wrote to their families, arranged and conducted funerals and corresponded where possible with Australian Jewish soldiers who had been taken prisoner. He tried to compile a roll of Australian Jewish soldiers and gathered 2,175 names, of whom some 300 were killed. With the assistance of the Australian, New Zealand and British military authorities, he was supplied about every three months with nominal rolls of all Jewish men in units throughout the UK and was kept advised by hospitals throughout Salisbury Plain of any Jewish patients who were admitted.

On 20 February 1918 Boas attended a conference of Jewish chaplains in the UK. In September 1918 he was mentioned in despatches and granted a commission in the AIF with the honorary relative rank of First Lieutenant. He had left Australia intending to go to France. However, no-one in Australia had realised the extent of the AIF operations in the United Kingdom so, after consultation with his headquarters and with David Freedman, it was decided that Boas should remain in the United Kingdom, leaving Freedman to confine his activities to service in the field. Still wanting to go to France, Boas made plans towards the end of 1918 to do so. Because of the suddenness of the collapse of the German offensive and the coming of the Armistice in November 1918, however, he spent only a few weeks there in January and February 1919, including a visit to Paris and Brussels on YMCA business. In January 1920 he returned to Australia, travelling on the same ship on which he had arrived, the Orontes. Senior Chaplain Miles wrote of him: “Right worthily has he served us: I have never known a more energetic fellow.”

Boas published in August 1919 The Australian YMCA. With the Jewish Soldier of the Australian Imperial Force, and in 1923 the Australian Jewry Book of Honour. He calculated that at least one thousand five hundred Australian Jews had voluntarily enlisted and served abroad, over two hundred had been killed and a very large percentage wounded. Current research has tended to confirm those figures. Under the influence of his wartime service he moved from the religious Orthodoxy of his upbringing to the Liberal movement. In Perth he resumed his profession as an architect. In the Second World War he served within the Central Cargo Control Committee, which sought to co-ordinate and speed up the turnaround of shipping in Australian ports and wrote its history. In 1969 he was awarded the OBE for his work in architecture and town planning. He died in September 1980, ten days short of his 97th birthday.

Rev. Jacob (Jack) Danglow B. A., M. A. (18 (or 28 or 29) November 1880 – 21 May 1962)

Rev. Jacob (Jack) Danglowwas the third (or second) child and the oldest son of ten (or nine) children of Michael Danglowitz, a glazier from Cracow in Galicia, and his wife Jessie Loufer. Born in London in November 1880, he studied at Jews’ College, for whose entrance exam Michael Adler was one of his teachers, and at University College London and lectured at Toynbee Hall in London. In 1905 he was appointed the minister of the congregation of St. Kilda in Melbourne in Australia, arriving there on 15 September and being inducted into office five days later. On 24 November 1909 he married May Henrietta Baruch, by whom he had three children. He took a B.A. degree in 1908 and an M.A. in 1911 at the University of Melbourne and became in 1911 a member of the Melbourne Beth Din.

Danglow enlisted on 1 May 1908 and was commissioned as a military chaplain on 30 November 1908, becoming the first commissioned Jewish chaplain to Commonwealth Military Forces in Australia. He was to hold his commission for fifty-two years until 1960. He attended camps of the Citizen Military Force, meeting Major John Monash and attending meetings of military chaplains. The first Chanukah military service in St Kilda took place in 1911. When the war came Danglow ministered to Jewish troops in Australia and served on the military censorship staff. At the Chanukah military service at St. Kilda in 1917 he encouraged the Australian Jewish community to even greater sacrifices. From early in the war he repeatedly requested his community to release him for service, but they were reluctant to do so. Eventually in 1918 he was appointed to succeed David Freedman as the Australian Jewish chaplain in France. In May 1918 he set sail for Britain on the ship Osterley in the 39th Troop Convoy; on board he had an exact minyan of ten men for services.

Danglow spent three weeks in the UK, attending a chaplaincy training course, on which his special (doubtless meaning Jewish) instructor was Rev. Vivian Simmons. He removed his beard, in order, as he wrote to his wife, to look “less foreign, less ‘fearsome’, less exclusive and less old”. Simmons, whom he described as “a jolly fine fellow”, presented him with a beautiful shaving brush, “a most appropriate gift from a Reform Minister”, which Simmons was. Without his beard, an officer who had met the bearded Rev. Danglow in St. Kilda assumed that this had been his father. At Simmons’ invitation Danglow preached at Vivian Simmons’ West London Reform Synagogue but did not enjoy the experience. Michael Adler gave him some valuable hints, including that his life was precious and he should take care of it. Covering over a thousand miles, Danglow toured military depots in the south of England with Harold Boas, met Australian Jewish soldiers, visited hospitals and participated in religious services. He took his first “air flip” in an Avro aeroplane and thought it one of the most exciting experiences of his life. He sent a letter to all Australian Jewish soldiers in France and the UK introducing himself, offering his services and encouraging them to write to him and to attend his services at the front.

Accompanied by his clerk, Private Fred Jacobs, Danglow arrived in Boulogne on 16 August 1918. Arthur Barnett, by that time the acting Senior Jewish Chaplain in succession to Michael Adler, sent his car to meet him. Danglow’s official reports in France from then until April 1919 are full and detailed. He attended the anti-gas school at St Martin. He stayed for a period at a casualty clearing station with Barnett, who spent some days with him, visiting all of the Jewish chaplains in the several front areas and helping him to learn the nature of the work. Directed to attach himself to Brigade Headquarters, he arranged and conducted services wherever he could, conducted the funeral of a Jewish soldier and assisted Christian soldiers, more than once holding a Cross before a dying soldier.

Danglow met with General Monash, and benefitted from Monash’s support for him as this gradually became known. Monash told him that he would be able to conduct Rosh Hashanah services less than three weeks hence in Bussy and Yom Kippur services in Bray, although these places were at that time still occupied by the enemy. The Rosh Hashanah services were attended by more than seventy Jewish soldiers including some English troops, some coming straight from the line wearing their steel helmets. Monash had promised to do his best to attend but was prevented from doing so. At the services Danglow was shaken and much affected to learn that his wife’s favourite cousin, Lieutenant Dalbert Hallenstein, whom he had met in London, had been killed a few days earlier. “I can tell you I felt the solemnity of the occasion especially when we all recited the prayer to be said by soldiers before going into battle”, he wrote to his wife. On Yom Kippur Danglow conducted services, including a Kol Nidrei evening service in his tent for four men and a daytime service for fifty men; again several came straight from the front line with their steel helmets. Monash had again communicated his intention to attend but was once more prevented through military exigencies from doing so and sent an apologetic message. On the night after Yom Kippur there was a violent storm and a huge tree two metres in front of Danglow’s tent was struck by lightning and crashed to the ground. “Somebody certainly is looking after the Jewish padre”, one officer said. Danglow dispatched letters to all Australian Jewish soldiers about the Jewish Holy Day services and wrote to the families of all of the soldiers, some two hundred, whom he met at his services and elsewhere.

Danglow travelled widely in France and Belgium, and after the Armistice in Germany, visiting units, depots and hospitals and conducting services. Without transport he was compelled to travel by bicycle, on horseback, by “lorry-hopping” and on foot. Even General Monash, with whom he was able to discuss the matter, was unable to arrange transport for him. To overcome the problem he adopted the plan of becoming attached to different divisions in turn, from which he worked through brigades and battalions, at the same time doing all that he could to make personal contact with Jewish members of the other divisions. On two or three afternoons he was fortunate enough to secure the loan of a bicycle from another officer, and for a period in November 1918 a bicycle was placed at his disposal by the 5th Australian Division, which enabled him to travel widely to units, headquarters and hospitals. He was assigned a batman, and wore an Australian slouch hat:

I am now wearing my slouch hat and they tell me that I look like a real Australian and that the boys like to see a Padre thus attired. I get on well with the boys …. I am feeling splendid. I am glad I roughed it at the last place as it was a fine experience. The life suits me and I am more glad than ever that I came.

Danglow arranged with several casualty clearing stations in the forward areas to be kept regularly informed of Australian Jewish casualties. He was unamused at being told by a soldier whose name was on his list, and whom he had travelled a great distance to see, that the man was not a Jew and that just for a joke he had stated that he was.

Following the news of the signing of the Armistice in November 1918 Danglow held a special thanksgiving serving at Oisement on the afternoon of Saturday 16 November. The following day at the invitation of his brother chaplains he read the Old Testament lesson at the Divisional Thanksgiving Services. In Amiens he participated in five interdenominational thanksgiving services at different brigades. Returning to England, Danglow visited soldiers in hospital, conducted services, officiated at weddings and conducted funerals and tombstone consecrations. A communal dinner was held in honour of General Monash, at which Danglow recited the grace after meals.

For Passover 1919 elaborate arrangements were made by the British and Australian chaplains with the authorities for leave for Jewish soldiers for the whole of Pesach and hospitality for them in Paris and London. In Paris there was a detailed timetable for the first three days with services at the synagogue, Seder services, breakfasts at the Hotel Windsor and dinner there on the third evening, followed by the theatre. British Reverend Solomon Lipson undertook to minister to the Australian Jewish troops of Southern Command during his absence, enabling Danglow to travel from Britain to Paris to conduct the Seder services. These were attended by over seven hundred American, Australian and other Jewish soldiers, and the guests included General Foch, the Chief of Staff of the French Army and by then the Generalissimo of the Allied Armies. Australian Senior Chaplain Miles, who attended both Seder services, proposed three Australian “cooees”, which were heartily given by the Australian soldiers, for the Jewish Welfare Board of America, which had invited the Australian Jewish troops to the Seder services and no doubt paid for them.

Before his departure Danglow sent a farewell letter to Australian Jewish soldiers who were still abroad. On 12 May the Chief Rabbi hosted a large farewell gathering for him; General Monash attended and spoke in the highest terms of Danglow’s admirable service and Danglow was presented with a handsome silver goblet. At the end of June Danglow sailed for Australia on the SS Bremen, arriving on 9 August 1919. Senior Chaplain Miles wrote of him:

He was indefatigable in his energetic labours for the men; no office or service was too small … Somebody, referring to his handsome appearance and intellectual ability, jocularly referred to him as “of the Rolls-Royce type”, but I have known him on occasion travel in a Ford and frequently ride hard on shanks’s pony for the purpose of helping the boys.

During the Second World War Danglow served again as a chaplain, travelling to training camps in Australia. He visited the internment camps at Hay and Tatura; later he assumed responsibility for chaplaincy at Tatura and Rev. Leib Falk at Hay. The camps held refugees from Nazi Germany, some of whom had arrived in September 1940 after a brutal voyage on the SS Dunera. After the death in December 1942 at the age of 83 of the incumbent, Rev. S. M. Solomon, who had held the position since before the First World War, Danglow became on 7 December 1942 the Senior Hebrew Chaplain for the Commonwealth with the rank of colonel. He convened a conference of Australian Jewish Chaplains and initiated the production of a pocket-sized prayer book and Pesach Haggadah. Controversially he agreed that Jewish soldiers could be buried in non-denominational cemeteries rather than in separate ones. In March 1943 the army summoned him to serve for four days a week. In June 1943, at the age of 62, he undertook a tour lasting three and a half months of army bases in Central Australia, the Northern Territory, New Guinea and the Pacific Islands. This involved his travelling fifteen thousand kilometres with seven flights and a truck ride through the desert, and almost killed him. After the war he assembled statistics on the Australian Jewish war effort, was in Tokyo in 1945 and was one of a group which investigated the morale of occupation troops in Japan.

Danglow’s wife May died in September 1948, and in August 1949 he married a widow and childhood friend, Diana (Dinah) Rosen (nee Heftel or Hestel) in London. In 1956 he retired from his community in St. Kilda which he had served since 1905, although he continued to preach until his successor arrived in 1959. He was awarded the Colonial Auxiliary Volunteer Officers Decoration (VD), in 1937 the King George VI Coronation Medal, in 1950 the OBE and in July 1956 became a Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George (CMG). He retired in 1960 from the military chaplaincy, in which he had served since 1908. In September 1961 he visited London and attended the annual Ajex Parade in November. The British War Office invited him to visit the chaplains and troops of the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR), and provided him with a car and a driver, so for the second time in his life he saw Germany under Allied occupation. Tall, imposing and every inch the army officer, Danglow was proud to say that he wore the same Sam Browne military dress belt in the Second World War that he had worn in the First. He died in May 1962 at the age of 81, and more than eleven hundred people attended his funeral. Sir Zelman Cowen wrote that “He seemed an immense and powerful figure”. Rabbi Raymond Apple told me that he recalled as a child viewing Danglow as a virtual deity. Danglow’s biographer, John Levi, termed him the Uncrowned Monarch of Australian Jews.

Conclusion on Anzac Chaplaincy

The issue whether Australian military chaplains operated under British chaplaincy authority was unclear for virtually the whole of the First World War, so it was natural for the miniscule number of Jewish chaplains to regard themselves as effectively interchangeable. David Freedman and Jacob Danglow were both moulded in Britain, with the same conventional British ministerial education, through which they were both taught by Michael Adler. Adler probably gave little thought to treating Freedman as under his authority, nor Freedman to placing Australian Jewish chaplaincy under British control, to which the Australian military authorities consented. By the time that Freedman’s successor, Danglow, a forceful personality, arrived in August 1918, Adler had been succeeded as Senior British Jewish Chaplain by Arthur Barnett. Having observed Adler over a period of more than two years since March 1916, and benefiting from the chaplaincy infrastructure which Adler had created without Adler’s sense of ownership of it, Barnett, a less authoritarian figure, was able to forge a more egalitarian relationship with Danglow than Adler probably had with any of the chaplains. Within Britain, Harold Boas necessarily remained effectively under British control until the end of the war. For the Australian authorities he was a civilian representative of the Australian YMCA, although in September 1917 he was appointed the accredited representative of the Australian Jewish chaplain, being granted a commission only in September 1918. But it was Passover in 1917 that marked the setting of the imperial sun over Anzac Jewish chaplaincy. The celebratory Passover in Paris in 1919 was a distinctly Anzac event. If Australia and New Zealand became nations at Gallipoli, the First World War initiated the weakening of British Jewish religious control over their Antipodean Jewish subjects.

Rev. Leib Aizack Falk (31 January 1889 – 6 May 1957)

This lecture commemorates Rabbi Leib Aizack Falk, so although he served as a British rather than an Australian chaplain we must draw it to a close by speaking about him.  Born in Bauska in Latvia in 1889, Falk attended yeshivot at Kaunas (Kovno) and Telsaiai (Telz) in Lithuania. Fearing that he would be conscripted into the army, Falk’s mother sent him alone to Britain, where in March 1911 he was ordained as a minister. He ministered to several successive small Scottish Jewish communities. In 1915 he married Fanny Rosen and moved to the community in the naval town of Plymouth on the south coast of England.

In the First World War, every other British and Australian Jewish chaplain ministered to Jewish soldiers as a small minority widely scattered throughout numerous units. The role of Rev. Leib Aizack Falk was different. At the age of 29 it fell to him to serve for three years from 1918 until 1921 in Egypt and Palestine as the sole chaplain to what, albeit within the British Army, was an all but entirely Jewish fighting force, the Jewish Legion. Created in August 1917 it came to comprise the 38th, 39th and 40th battalions of the Royal Fusiliers. Falk served with the 38th battalion, which was commanded by Lt.-Col. John Henry Patterson, DSO (10 November 1867 – 18 June 1947), a fiery Irish Protestant, Boer War veteran, big game hunter, disciplinarian, philo-Semite and Zionist. Patterson had commanded the Zion Mule Corps at Gallipoli in 1915 and dreamed of leading a Jewish army to liberate the Holy Land. Patterson’s deputy was Joseph Trumpeldor. Another officer in the battalion was Ze’ev Jabotinsky, and Falk largely embraced his brand of Zionism. Unlike all of the other Jewish chaplains, Falk did not need to locate and maintain contact with the members of a widely scattered and ever mobile network of Jewish soldiers and to negotiate services and facilities for them, although he faced many other challenges. For his service he was mentioned in despatches.

On his return to Britain in January 1921 Falk sought a ministerial position but found only brief appointments as a relief minister. Partly because of his Zionism he was approached in 1922 by the Great Synagogue in Sydney to become the Second Reader to Rabbi Francis Lyon Cohen. He arrived there with his family in September 1922 in time for Rosh Hashanah and was inducted into office within days. Falk’s memoirs, written in London in 1921, were serialised in a Jewish journal, The Maccabean, in Australia in 1929. He was to serve the Sydney congregation until his death in 1957. During a period of leave of absence to study in Jerusalem he received his Rabbinical diploma from Rav Kook in 1936.

On 7 June 1935 Falk was commissioned as a Chaplain to the Australian Forces. At the end of 1939 he became the Jewish chaplain to the Citizen Military Forces established for home defence. In 1942 he was appointed to the Eastern Command. His three sons all served in the Australian forces and all survived the war. A family photograph of Falk and his sons, all in uniform, is captioned “The Fighting Falks”. After the war Falk acted as a chaplain to the New South Wales Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and became well known for his Anzac Day addresses. He died in May 1957 at the age of 68, and a thousand people attended his funeral in Sydney.

The memory of Rabbi Falk is an appropriate conclusion to this lecture. I thank you again for the honour of delivering it and will be pleased to attempt to answer any questions which you may have.

© Jonathan Lewis


1. Sections in italics were omitted from the lecture on grounds of time.

2. This material is drawn from Dr Jonathan Lewis’s doctoral research and his book Jewish Chaplaincy in the British Armed Forces, Captains of the Souls of Men, 1892-2021 (London and Chicago: Vallentine Mitchell, 2022, pp. 432 + xi). Hardback and paperback copies are available by contacting the author on lewisjandr2004@yahoo.co.uk.