Eretz Israel is our unforgettable historic homeland...The Jews who will it shall achieve their State...And whatever we attempt there for our own benefit will redound mightily and beneficially to the good of all mankind. (Theodor Herzl, DerJudenstaat, 1896)

We offer peace and amity to all the neighbouring states and their peoples, and invite them to cooperate with the independent Jewish nation for the common good of all. The State of Israel is ready to contribute its full share to the peaceful progress and development of the Middle East.
(From Proclamation of the State of Israel, 5 Iyar 5708; 14 May 1948)

With a liberal democratic political system operating under the rule of law, a flourishing market economy producing technological innovation to the benefit of the wider world, and a population as educated and cultured as anywhere in Europe or North America, Israel is a normal Western country with a right to be treated as such in the community of nations.... For the global jihad, Israel may be the first objective. But it will not be the last. (Friends of Israel Initiative)

Tuesday 15 September 2015

Jews, Muslims, & Aussie PM Turnbull

Ms Bishop keeps her Front Bench jobs under Turnbull
I've just got my internet connection up and running again, and as I suspected, the "maybe" Jewish status of the man sworn in today as Australia's 29th prime minister, following his successful (many will add "lamentable") coup last night against the previous incumbent, the more genuinely conservative Tony Abbott, is circulating again.

Thus we learn, from the Times of Israel, citing an interview Turnbull gave to the Australian Jewish News a couple of years ago, that Turnbull's mother may have been Jewish, and if she was, then so is he (halachically) but she was very vague about  the matter, and so therefore is he.

To quote the latter newspaper in 2013:
'....“My mother always used to say that her mother’s family was Jewish,” the member for Wentworth said....
Asked if his mother’s revelation has shaped his views he said: “Yes, maybe.”
 “I grew up in the Eastern Suburbs and as we all observe there were a lot of Jews in the Eastern Suburbs and I have always been very comfortable.
“There is no doubt that the strong traditions of family and the whole heimishe atmosphere of the Jewish community, which I’m sure some people don’t like, for me – as someone who is a good friend, but not part of it – I find very admirable.”
Reflecting on his mother, he noted, “She had a lot of Jewish friends in Sydney and a lot of Jewish friends in Philadelphia, where she was living when she died.”....'
Well, that can't do Mr Turnbull (who, by the way, is a convert from Presbyterianism to Catholicism yet at odds with Catholicism on several social issues) any harm with Jewish voters, although I've always wondered why another Liberal politician, former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett, an Abbott loyalist who yesterday denounced Turnbull as the Liberal Party's Kevin Rudd (a reference to the Rudd-Gillard backstabbing episode in the Labour Party), never big-noted his own undoubted Jewish ancestry.  Indeed, he seems to have kept it snugly under wraps.

Then, again, we're entitled to roll our eyes and say "So what?" when confronted with a politician who just happens to have a Jewish parent or forebear.  I mean, look at the British Labour Party's former leader, "Red Ed" Miliband.  His Jewish parentage didn't make him especially sympathetic to Israel, did it?   And David Cameron's two Jewish great-grandparents, or Jack Straw's one?  True, Malcolm Fraser had a mother with a Jewish father, and Bob Hawke had a (first) wife with a mother of Jewish extraction, and both Fraser and Hawke were friendly to the cause of Soviet Jewry, and to Israel too, though not for the long haul.

I think you get my drift.

But since the Jewish press is always interested in such things (except in Kennett's case, curiously), let's throw it a small morsel of genuine Turnbullian Judaica.  Of sorts.

Mr Turnbull's mother, the noted academic Coral Lansbury, and her cousin, the noted actress Angela Lansbury, had a distinguished grandfather in the person of George Lansbury, interwar leader of the British Labour Party.

And George Lansbury's son Edgar (whose second wife was Angela Lansbury's mother) had a Jewish first wife called Minnie, the daughter of coal merchant Isaac Glassman.    She was a rather remarkable young woman.

Here is how she's described on Wikipedia:
'Minnie Lansbury (1889-1 January 1922) was a leading suffragette and an alderman on the first Labour-led council in the Metropolitan Borough of Poplar, England.
Minnie was the daughter of Jewish coal merchant Isaac Glassman and the first wife (married 1914) of Edgar Lansbury, son of George Lansbury, mayor of Poplar and later leader of the Labour Party. (After Minnie's death, Edgar married actress Moyna Macgill and became the father of Angela Lansbury.)
Minnie Lansbury became a teacher, and joined the east London suffragettes in 1915. She was also chairman of the War Pensions Committee, fighting for the rights of widows, orphans and wounded from World War I. She was elected alderman on Poplar’s first Labour council in 1919, before women received Parliamentary suffrage.
In 1921, she was one of five women on Poplar Council who, along with their male colleagues, were jailed for six weeks for refusing to levy full rates in the poverty-stricken area. Due to her imprisonment, she developed pneumonia and died in 1922. She was buried in the Jewish cemetery in East Ham.
There is a Minnie Lansbury Memorial Clock on Electric House in Bow Road, Tower Hamlets that was erected in the 1930s. The Memorial Clock was restored in 2008 and re-fitted on Electric House. The clock was restored through a public appeal organised by the Jewish East End Celebration Society and the Heritage of London Trust. From the appeal the Heritage of London Trust raised over £13,000, which was given to Tower Hamlets Council to complete the restoration. Angela Lansbury was among those who made a donation towards the restoration of the clock. The restored clock, now painted green and gold, was officially unveiled in the presence of relatives of Minnie Lansbury and local people on Thursday, October 16, 2008.' 
'Muslim leaders have called on Malcolm Turnbull to bring an end to the politics of blame they believe impacted their communities under the prime ministership of Tony Abbott.
Keysar Trad, spokesman for the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia, says he is hopeful Mr Turnbull will serve the interests of all Australians. “Certainly the last period of the Abbott government saw more brazen attitudes from groups like Reclaim Australia and attacks on Islam, the Senate inquiry into halal certification; all these things that were very, very divisive in Australian society and seemed to find their nurturing grounds in the last few months of the Abbott government,” Mr Trad said.
Mr Trad said he would write to Mr Turnbull in the coming days to congratulate him and to also seek a dialogue. “Malcolm Turnbull does come across as progressive and as pragmatic, and let’s just hope that within this pragmatism there’s a good appreciation for a diverse nation,” Mr Trad said. “Our diversity is part our tremendous wealth, it’s part of our richness, and let’s hope he can nurture that positively.” Mr Trad said he had been contacted by Muslims “expressing a sense of relief that we may have a chance now of moving forward and moving away from the politics of blame”.
“We hope Australia will go in a direction that serves the interests of all Australians, a direction that will unite us as a nation and make us more cohesive, a direction that exhibits respect for difference in attitudes and difference in cultures that allows us use our differences for the benefit of Australia, rather than making us feel that we have to be defensive about our differences.” Muslim leaders have previously shown sensitivity towards comments on their communities
Muslim leaders have called on Malcolm Turnbull to bring an end to the politics of blame they believe impacted their communities under the prime ministership of Tony Abbott.'
 Update: AIJAC re Turnbull here


  1. Turnbull's being pretty well claimed as of Jewish halachic descent by half the Jewish press in the world! If he wants to be Jewish - great - who are we to keep him out? As far as I can make out his mother Coral's mother was May Morle whose own mother was Alice Harriet Hawes, born GB 1848, her mother being Sarah somebody - there the trail runs cold.

    1. No smoking gun, then, Max! Thanks for your clarification. Australia had another Jewish-descended prime minister besides Fraser, if I'm not mistaken - John Curtin, I think, was descended from First Fleet convict Esther Abrahams.


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