- Mar 30, 2009
He was called "the face of Australian Jewry in Israel," so it is not surprising that several hundred Australian Israelis showed up yesterday [April 2009] for the funeral of Frank Stein, the former director of the Zionist Federation of Australia's Israel office.
Stein died Monday at the age of 52 of kidney failure, after a brief but intense battle with cancer.
The illustrious group of mourners who gathered in Jerusalem's Har Hamenucha cemetery included prominent Anglo Israelis such as Australian ambassador James Larsen, Ehud Barak's brother Muli Brog and countless representatives from organizations that deal with Diaspora-Israel relations and immigrants, such JNF, Birthright Israel and the Jewish Agency for Israel.
Stein was born in Brisbane, where he became involved with the Zionist youth movement Betar at a young age. After he moved to Sydney, he continued his community work for Hineni, where he led programs for young Australian Jews.
In 1985, he moved to Jerusalem, where he worked for several organizations dealing with Diaspora youth and assisting English-speaking immigrants in Israel. He went on to become director of the Zionist Federation of Australia's local office, a position he left last year to serve as an Israeli emissary in South Africa. He spent three months there.
"He always wanted to help others but never wanted help himself," said his brother Benny Stein, who lives in Tel Aviv. "Frank was a very private person. He was always totally reliable."
Stein's sister Hannah Cunningham, who flew in from Australia earlier this week and spent four hours at her brother's hospital bed before he passed away, added: "He was a giver, not a taker. Giving to other people, that was his pleasure in life."
Stein never married. He is survived by his father George and four siblings, most of whom still live in Brisbane.
By Raphael Ahren, Haaretz Correspondent
See also this site in the Journal of the Turkish Weekly.
Frank Stein Shloshim
Even with Frank Stein’s passing, his influence is felt and his large spirit remains a catalyst for the reunion of long lost friends and for emotional connections sparked between complete strangers, sharing their own Frank Stein stories. Only in his passing, could Frank have sustained this outpouring of adulation, love and sorrow which has followed. He could not bear it in life.
Judaism teaches that at a Shloshim a deceased person can still benefit from the merit of mitzvot done in their memory. The Shloshim provides this opportunity to bring merit to the departed.
Tonight, I‘d like to relate 3 aspects of Frank’s life for which he developed passion. Through these 3 aspects I hope to celebrate the contribution and impact Frank made while he was with us.
Frank’s passions were :
a) His involvement with the youth movements
b) His involvement with Israel
c) His involvement with people
1) Youth Movements
Frank commenced in a youth group at age 7, and attended post-heder activities with Betar at the Margaret Street Shule in Brisbane. Along with some Jewish / Zionist education, he was really drawn by the afternoon walks to the Botanical Gardens, playing hide-and-seek games of Arabs v Jews in the rainforest section, as well as getting the regular “surprise” Mr Whippy our beloved madrich would buy us all.
At age 8, Frank embarked on a most legendary munificent path one Sunday at Betar, by stunning all of his peers. He had a shiny 6d (sixpence) which he just had to spend. Ignoring the begging and rationalising by his peers for giving them the money, he decided to place the 6d in an unused parking place meter. Admittedly, there were few commercial options in Brisbane CBD on a Sunday back in 1965. However the joke was on Frank. You didn’t have to pay for parking on Sunday in those days.
But this critical incident may offer many of his dear friends an insight into the rationale for Frank’s benevolence to so many from his teen years.
At this age, Frank lived for the annual August camps at Betar. His greatest disappointment as a youngster he confided to me, was his missing the August camp in ’69 due to his family’s decision to take a cruise around the Fiji islands.
At age 15, Frank became a madrich and learned leadership methods - or Hadracha - in Brisbane and in the various holiday camps and courses held throughout Australia. He carried this leadership responsibility honourably, in life, not just in the youth movement. In the broader community, he was also a leader being elected school prefect at Aspley High School in 1974.
Upon return from his Machon Year of 1975, Frank was asked to head Betar in Brisbane. He worked tirelessly and spent every of his free Saturday afternoons at the Betar Ma’on. Frank was a regular in the representative colour party for official events. He became well versed in the protocols.
He was also in the Betar singing group. Somehow he was invited to be in the Betar performing dancing troupe. These were possibly the only activities Frank was not asked to re-join the following year.
In 1978, Frank was asked to lead the Youth Movement at the National Level. He fulfilled this role admirably and with a deep passion. He developed the friendship, love and adulation of members, their siblings and of course the trust and respect of parents, throughout Australia.
These were the “Golden Years” for Frank and he often talked about the thousands of people he met through the youth group.
Frank studied Management studies at a tertiary level. As his life revolved around the Youth Movement, his studies were secondary to his life’s passion and purpose. Frank deferred his B.Bus exams in 1981 to take an opportunity to lead Hineni, the Sydney Central Synagogue Youth programme - and built this group to over 300 youth participating in regular weekly activities.
This is where Frank truly shone and extended his influence to more youth, more families and ultimately more communities, which still feel his influence.
In 1983 Frank returned to Brisbane to complete a BA in Community studies. He was the top student in his final year. While studying, Frank acted as a part time communal worker for the demanding needs of the Brisbane community.
Frank dreamed of a life in Israel.
His dream of a utopian lifestyle in a Jewish society could not be shaken.
Ideologically mesmerised by the reruns of the JNF black & white, 16mm films shown at the Betar Maon, driven by a vision defined by Herzl and refined by Jabotinsky, encouraged and challenged by inspiring Shlichim and inspired by his leaders and colleagues in the Youth Movements who made the choice to go on Aliyah, Frank embarked on his own journey to Israel.
In 1985, a communal farewell dinner was held in Brisbane for Frank and around 200 people came to fete and farewell him as he embarked on his Aliyah journey. On the night, when asked to respond to the many toasts, Frank for the first time was struck speechless, overwhelmed by the kind tributes showered upon him. Perhaps it was facing the reality of leaving the comfort and familiarity of his family and surroundings, for a far away ideal and uncertain expectation. He would not let anyone see that side of him.
In Israel, he took on work in the field he loved. Frank became the resident counsellor, group adviser and manager of summer programs at Kiryat Moriah, the world hub of Youth Movements. He was approached to be the UJIA’s Aliyah Counsellor for Jerusalem and its districts. and in a short period, Frank became the Director of Aliyah and Absorption for the whole organisation. Soon Frank was approached to manage the Israel office for the Australian Zionist Federation and became its full time director. To thousands upon thousands of people, Frank was the contact for anything mildly associated with Australia, in Israel. Frank was offered the Aliyah Shlichut to London, but declined the opportunity.
Frank fulfilled his duties in Israel‘s army and rose to the rank of Company Sergeant-Major. During the first Gulf War he became an Acting Officer, responsible for the organization of the whole company in all aspects of its operation, dealing with the public in high stress situations, during the SCUD attacks. He served his Miluim until army retirement age and still found time to do voluntary Civil Guard duties in his spare time. His idealism continued.
Frank’s home in Jerusalem was open to many friends and acquaintances and often when he would leave his house to work, the front door was left slightly ajar to provide a shelter for the stray cats in the neighbourhood. His heart and kindness extended beyond just people to animals in need of protection - that was Frank. Frank of Assisi.
3) Connecting with people
Frank’s innate talent lay in his ability to connect with people. One glance at the Facebook memorial page established for Frank provides a digital microcosm of the numbers, the demographic range and the diversity of people whom Frank helped or influenced.
Wherever I happened to be travelling with Frank, anywhere in the world, he was recognised by someone and generally it was someone he helped - to Frank’s complete embarrassment as they would recall his kindness.
In his life, only a borderline personality type tended to rile him, and fortunately, for Frank, they could be counted on the fingers of a cartoon character’s hand, for that matter. He otherwise had a very calm personality and bright disposition.
Frank admitted that he had little time for pursuing his own interests or hobbies. He loved cooking and entertaining people and he possibly missed a life calling in catering. He loved reading biographies and Israeli and Jewish History, and built up a very much-loved library. On Friday afternoon he could be found listening to Israeli folk music on the radio, welcoming in the Shabbat.
I found a very popular, but suitable quote befitting Frank:
“I've come to believe that each of us has a personal calling that's as unique as a fingerprint - and that the best way to succeed is to discover what you love and then find a way to offer it to others in the form of service, working hard, and also allowing the energy of the universe to lead you. “
Frank lived for his work and fulfilled every part of his personal calling through his service to others.
Frank’s life was not without its disappointments. When he left his beloved workplace of almost 2 decades in Israel, Frank wrote to me stating ”I am finding it hard to say goodbye, I really loved the work here and the people with whom I work at Kiryat Moriah”.
Sadly for Frank, his greatest disappointment was being prevented to serve in a way he dearly wanted to - as the Aliyah Shaliach to Australia. Since Frank’s passing, no one has been willing to explain the decision not to send him on a job truly made for him- to serve his new homeland from his old homeland. This unfair decision troubled him greatly.
But this cannot be allowed to dampen the spirit of Frank’s legacy.
The inspiration we may draw from Frank’s legacy, could be framed in the following manner:
To give, with a pureness of heart;
To serve others for the love of it, and the satisfaction of contributing to others; To do things well for the sake of creating something which inspires;
To do things mindfully, so each interaction is experienced with an intensely affirming connection;
To laugh - loud and heartily - at even silly things - to create unique, cherished and timeless moments;
To many of us Frank, from a young age, possessed a “Howard Hughes-like” ethos, showering his largesse on his peers; To many, he demonstrated a “Mother Theresa” nurturing manner, giving to others without any expectation of reciprocity. For all, Frank would have to be the closest Jewish personification of Santa Claus - bringing joy and laughter to all that would come into contact with him.
It is not possible to make Frank larger in death, because Frank was a giant in life.
Frankie, my friend, your kindness must have been needed elsewhere - and I can only imagine that you will meet thousands more souls that will gain from your example and spirit, as we all did and will continue to, in our cherished memories of you.
Rest in Peace.
Peter (Singer), your friend since age 6.