December 9, 2011
Sir Zelman Cowen dies
Australia’s Jewish former governor-general, Sir Zelman Cowen, has died.
Cowen, Australia’s head of state from 1975-1982, passed away in Melbourne Thursday night after a long battle with Parkinson’s Disease. He was 92.
A state funeral at Temple Beth Israel in Melbourne, where he was married 66 years ago, will be held next week.
Cowen was only the second Jew to hold the highest monarchical office in the country. The other was Sir Isaac Isaacs, the subject of a biography written by Cowen in 1967. Cowen was knighted in 1977.
A Rhodes scholar at Oxford, Cowen became a jurist, constitutional lawyer, university vice-chancellor as well as an ardent republican. He was also a proud Jew and a staunch Zionist, once saying that if Israel had been destroyed in the Six Day War, “it would have destroyed me as a person.”
Tributes have flooded in from representatives of the myriad Jewish and Israeli organizations he was connected to. Among them, the Council of Christians and Jews, the Jewish Museum of Australia, the Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, the Hebrew University, Tel Aviv University, the Weizman Institute of Science and the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem.
Born in Melbourne in 1919, he was the son of refugees from Czarist Russia. He is survived by four children, 16 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.