My Dear Friends: The Life of Rabbi Dr Herman Sanger by John S Levi
My Dear Friends: The Life of Rabbi Dr Herman Sanger by John S Levi

Somehow I’ve ended up writing the history of my synagogue and one of the people I’m interviewing suggested it would be a very good thing to read this book, so I did and I agree. I happened to bump into John Levi a few weeks ago and asked him how he feels when people tell him they’re reading his book, the answer was ‘Amazed!’ when I told him why he suggested I should also read his book about Rabbi Danglow…should be interesting.

Rabbi Dr Herman Sanger came to Melbourne from Germany before WWII to be the rabbi at the relatively new progressive congregation. He was young, idealistic and had great energy. By the time of his death he had overseen the growth of this congregation from a handful of families to a very large community, with sister congregations in both Kew and Bentleigh and also a Progressive Jewish day school. I shouldn’t be listing the school in his list as he opposed it till the day he died but it started before his death and is going strong and is in the same family as the congregations. Sanger was very charismatic with great oratorial skills who managed to make great changes in politics about Jewish refugees and brought out as many Jews from Germany as he possibly could. Everyone I speak to about him only has good things to say and 35 years later they still miss him, this is all conveyed in the book.

Levi is a polished speaker in his own right and if you get the chance to see him speak I suggest you take it. I’ve seen him talk with no notes, no repetitions and with interjections and deal very well with everything that comes his way. He’s very interesting.

This book creates a picture of a man who has seen the writing on the wall in pre-war Germany and has taken great steps to be a leader and help others escape danger. It creates a picture of a man has a vision of a community and leads that community in the direction of that vision. The writing is very good, it guides you at every step of the way so you get a picture of the whole of the man and the community he was living in. Knowing Levi as I do it’s everything I expected it to be, comprehensive and easily understood by everyone whether you’re Jewish or not, knowledgeable or not. I’ll be using parts of this book as a guideline with structuring my book.

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