Sadly we have to report the passing of Henry Mendelson AM at the age of 92 on Sunday.
Henry was an influential leader and organiser of the Council of Christians and Jews NSW (CCJ NSW) and the Australian Council of Christians and Jews (ACCJ). He was the Chair of CCJ NSW in the early 2000s and Chair of the ACCJ for a time.
Henry was a leading force in convening the very successful July 2007 conference of the world body, the International Council of Christians and Jews (ICCJ), at Shalom College in Sydney. This was the first conference of the International Council of Christians and Jews in the southern hemisphere. Its theme was “Healing a Fractured World.” It brought together speakers and about 300 participants from all round the world, many of whom were young Australians and New Zealanders sponsored by the Council.
Henry’s fundraising talent was an important factor in the organising of the 2007 conference.
In 2009 Henry won the inaugural Nicholas Winton award, presented by the NSW CCJ in honour of the UK humanitarian whose efforts resulted in thousands of children being rescued from the Nazi regime in 1939 and brought to Britain, in what became known as Kindertransports. Unbeknown to the CCJNSW Council, Henry had at the age of eight experienced Kristallnacht in Germany in 1938, and he and his sister joined a kindertransport, fleeing to England. Fortunately his parents survived and the family subsequently migrated to Australia.
Henry helped organise the annual CCJ NSW commemoration of Kristallnacht in Martin Place, Sydney, where he regularly crushed a glass vessel symbolising the event as part of the ceremony. He also wrote a book on the topic. Henry applied his background in publishing and copywriting to editing the ACCJ newsletter, Christian and Jewish Scene, for many years. He also enjoyed singing in a choir and played tennis till well into his 80s.
ACCJ executive member Sr Marianne Dacy shared a birthday with Henry and for many years they mutually congratulated each other. In later years, Henry became increasingly deaf so she contacted him on his mobile, which was especially tailored to his needs. His health deteriorated when he broke his leg playing tennis and in 2018 he had a hip replacement operation.
He was awarded membership of the Order of Australia (AM) for his untiring efforts on behalf of Jewish Christian dialogue and the Jewish community.
He is survived by his wife, Naomi, and children Cara & Guy. Father-in-law of Craig and Joanna, he was grandfather of Nathan and Koby.
May his memory be a blessing.