Some years ago, David Lesnie and I were chatting about his interest in the library at The Great Synagogue. This was only one aspect of his passion for books, cricket and history. David said “If you ever have something significant that needs money and might resonate with me, call me.
If took a few more years, but when the idea of digitising all the Australian Jewish newspapers, that conversation came back to me.
David immediately embraced the idea and increased the amount that he had originally indicated giving to $50,000 which was the kick-start that the newspaper project needed. The following year I again approached David and this time with the support of brother Warren, they have helped fund the digitisation of more newspapers and the fitting out of our new office on Level 1 of this building.
The story of the mother’s side of the Lesnie family in Australia begins with the arrival almost 200 years ago of Aaron Isaacs in Sydney in 1822. He had been sent to the Colonies for life for stealing a man’s watch chain and seal – value four shillings. It’s even recorded that Aaron’s father attempted to menace the prosecutor and was reprimanded by the court.
Aaron married the daughter of an extortionist and was acquitted of cattle stealing. He opened a store in Paterson near Maitland before moving to Sydney.
He is recorded as having given five pounds to the York Street Sydney Synagogue in 1845.
Aaron died in 1866, having had 12 children. He was buried at Devonshire Street and later reinterred at Rookwood.
On their father’s side, the Lesnies came from Poland via England with David and Warren’s grandfather Harry arriving in Australia in 1905. To quote David, “He was 6ft 1 in and 18 stone and was not likely to blend into the local crowd!!”
The Lesnies have long been connected to and supporters of Sydney’s Jewish community.
Checking on Trove, we find that Dun’s Gazette reported the registration of the AUSTRALIAN JEWISH WELFARE SOCIETY on 28 November 1938 with Objects: To promote the welfare of and to assist Jewish persons, etc. The subscribers: Samuel G. Cohen, John Goulston, , Saul Symonds, Israel Green, Gerald de V. Davis, Keith P. Moss and Paul A. Cohen. And Harry Lesnie, David and Warren’s grandfather. David continued that association by holding board positions at JewishCare from 1978 to 2007
Today, we are honouring the Lesnie family by naming our new office as the Lesnie Office.