Sydney David Einfeld, Politician and Community Leader (1907-1985)

Sydney Einfeld is the man credited with changing Australia’s immigration policy to provide a refuge for Holocaust survivors. As a result, Australia accepted more refugees per capita than any other country in the world and more Jewish refugees than anywhere except Israel.

He was born in Sydney in 1909, three weeks after his parents arrived in Australia – hence his name Sydney. (1909 -1995). He was the son of Rabbi Marcus Einfeld, of London, England, and his wife Deborah Gabel. He married  Billie  (Rose) Appelboom on 2 June 1934 and had one son, Marcus  and  a daughter, Robyn.

His work for the Jewish people began when he reached the age of his Barmitzvah.  Already at the age of thirteen, he became honorary secretary of the Jewish Social and Sports Club and about two years later of the Junior Union of Sydney Zionists. These and other early commitments prepared him for the decades of immense activity and unparalleled leadership which he gave to Australian and world Jewry from the 1940's onwards.

In 1948, Einfeld was elected to the Board of the Australian Jewish Welfare Society.  In 1952, became President, dedicating himself to the needs of new arrivals in Australia, making numerous trips to Canberra, interstate and overseas, and often neglecting his own business interests in the process. He held this position for 25 years. In 1957 he was elected President of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry and served for four terms.

He was the member for Phillip in the House of Representatives from 1961 to 1963,  at that time, only the fourth Jew to be elected to the Commonwealth Parliament.  In 1965 he was elected to the NSW Legislative Assembly. After a period as Deputy Leader of the Opposition, he became a minister in the State Labor Government which took office in May 1976, and became very popular through his championship of consumer interests. Syd was a skilled debater with a booming voice, and enjoyed the cut and thrust of the New South Wales political arena. Neville Wran said that he contributed more to the introduction of consumer protection laws in Australia than any other single person. He also made a significant contribution to the work of assisting refugees and his role as national vice-president of Austcare, a position he held for nearly a quarter of a century till 1990. Syd had lived  through the Depression years and remained  a champion for human rights throughout his life.

Einfeld's leadership of Australian Jewry and his support for Israel were deeply interwoven. No better example could be cited than his role at the time of the Israel Emergency Appeal during the Six Day War in 1967 and when the Jewish Communal Appeal came into being.

In January 1982, Syd Einfeld was awarded the honour of Officer of the Order of Australia. Joachim Schneeweiss was to say of him: “What actually made Syd tick? His family background clearly had an influence on his life, instilling in him the quintessential Jewish combination of a search for truth and justice and charity. A basically humble man, Syd rose to great heights without ever losing his humility. He never lost his touch for the common man and he constantly held out his helping had to each and everyone who sought his assistance.”  (Australian Jewish News, Friday June 21, 1995, page 8).

The Jewish National Fund established a “Syd and Billie Einfeld Forest” in Israel to commemorate his and his wife's lifetime of service. A major bypass road in Bondi Junction, Sydney, the Syd Einfeld Drive, is named in his honour.