TRIBUTES flowed in for Dr Joachim Schneeweiss, a “true mensch” and a “giant” of the Australian Jewish community, when he died at the age of 89 on Monday (March 6).
Born in Hannover, Germany, in 1927, Schneeweiss – a survivor of Kristallnacht – served the community in many capacities through key Jewish organisations, including the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (JBOD) and the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ), where he served as president for two terms from 1976 to 1978 and from 1980 to 1982, and of which he was a life member.
ECAJ president Anton Block, executive director Peter Wertheim and immediate past president Robert Goot said Schneeweiss managed to “combine a resolute determination to protect and advance the interests of the Jewish community with great sophistication, a gentlemanly manner and a wonderful sense of humour”.
“His knowledge of Jewish history and tradition was outstanding, and his many public addresses to the Jewish and wider communities were marked by erudition, eloquence and wit,” they recalled.
Describing him as a man of “great depth of character and immense charm”, they added, “He was devoted to his family, community and people, a true mensch, and a role model for future Jewish community leaders.
“He will be sadly missed by all of us at the ECAJ and his many other friends.”
JBOD chief executive Vic Alhadeff said Schneeweiss was “unquestionably one of the giants of our community, serving as Board of Deputies vice-president among his plethora of leadership roles”.
“He will be remembered as much for his urbane manner and warm sense of humour as for his tireless championing of Jewish causes. We extend our condolences to his family,” Alhadeff said.
Communal figure Jeremy Jones remembered Schneeweiss as being “always erudite, articulate and well-informed”.
“To the very last days of his life he was always willing to give advice, guidance and share his incredible experiences,” Jones said.
“Everyone in the Jewish community in Sydney, Australia and internationally would’ve looked up to him and wished there were more Joachim Schneeweisses in every community.”
In 1989, Schneeweiss was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for his service to the Jewish community, and in the later years of his life he was a regular volunteer at Montefiore Home.
Paying tribute to a “committed, dedicated volunteer who never missed a beat”, Hazel Stein, volunteer manager at Montefiore, said, “He wanted to give back to the community and a lot of the residents he spoke with were his patients, a lot of them knew him well.
“He had the true spirit of volunteering and it was fabulous.”
He is survived by his wife Sybil and his sons Geejay, David and Daniel.