Communal legend mourned

Tributes flow for Isi Leibler

Isi Leibler, 86, has been remembered as a "communal giant" who "had a profound impact on both the Australian Jewish community and on the global Jewish world".

Isi Leibler.
Isi Leibler.

AUSTRALIAN Jewry is mourning the loss of Jewish community stalwart Isi Leibler, who has passed away in Israel at the age of 86.

Leibler, a long-running president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ), was the driving force behind the campaign to free the refuseniks, Soviet Jews who had been refused exit visas.

He had been described as “unquestionably the dominant Jewish lay leader in Australia during the previous quarter century”.

Paying tribute to his brother on Tuesday afternoon, Mark Leibler said Isi was the “gold standard of global Jewish leadership”.

“He fought for the Jewish people relentlessly throughout his life, often against the current, and his positive impact across the Jewish world will be felt for generations,” he said.

“Isi had the capacity to do anything in life but his passion was always singularly focused on his family and his people. He will remain forever in our hearts.”

Jeremy Leibler, president of the Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA) and Isi’s nephew, described him as a “communal giant” who “had a profound impact on both the Australian Jewish community and on the global Jewish world”.

“He demonstrated that one individual can indeed change the world – and that is exactly what Isi achieved in the role he played in the fight to free Soviet Jewry,” Jeremy Leibler said.

“He was fearless and uncompromising in his dedication to the Jewish people and the State of Israel. He enjoyed success in all aspects of his life but his passion was always defending the Jewish people and ensuring the centrality of the State of Israel to Jewish life in the Diaspora.”

He added, “Isi’s leadership and commitment to his people and his family will continue to be an inspiration to me and many others within the Jewish community. May his memory be a blessing.”

Former Israeli ambassador to Australia Yuval Rotem reflected, “The Jewish world has lost a great leader. Very sad to hear the news. My sincere condolences to the entire Leibler family.”

ECAJ co-CEO Alex Ryvchin said he was “deeply saddened” by Leibler’s passing, describing him as “a titan of Jewish leadership and a fearless advocate for the release of Soviet Jewry”.

“He generously praised and encouraged my writing over the years. I will be forever grateful to him,” Ryvchin said.

Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) executive director Colin Rubenstein described Leibler as a “towering figure in Australian Jewish communal life and will be forever remembered for his contribution to the worldwide campaign for the liberation of Soviet Jewry, advancing ties between Australia and Israel and his pioneering work in Israel-Asia relations”.

“Among his many accomplishments was his establishment of the Australian Institute of Jewish Affairs, which became part of AIJAC and continues to inform our activities,” Rubenstein stated.

“After making aliyah to Israel, Isi often generously shared insights on Israel and the Jewish world with visiting Australian parliamentarians, journalists and religious leaders, many of whom were visiting as part of AIJAC’s Rambam program.

“His passing leaves a void that will be felt for years to come.”

Full tributes to Isi Leibler in this week’s edition of The AJN, out Thursday.

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