Dr Fanny Reading (1884-1974) was born near Minsk in Russia, her father fleeing to Ballarat shortly after she was born. His wife and children joined him later, having taken refuge in London. The family relocated to Melbourne in the early 1900's. Fanny taught Hebrew to private students and after winning a scholarship, studied music at Melbourne University, graduating in 1914. During World War I, when feeling towards Germans was hostile, the family changed their name from Rubinovich to Reading. A little later, Fanny graduated in medicine and she and her young brother practised in Kogaragh.
She is best remembered for her work in founding the Council of Jewish women in NSW, the precursor of the National Council of Jewish Women in 1923, a Zionist organisation that exists to this day and performs social work. She first proposed an organisation for Jewish women in 1923, when out of a population of 5.5 million Australians 22,000 were Jews. This was the year Dr Reading met Madam Bella Pevsner, a Zionist lecturer from America, who inspired her to etablish the NCJWA. She threw herself with enormous energy into charitable activities for the poor, for Jewish refugees and immigrants. Early in her career she became a passionate zionist. The support of the National Council of Jewish Women for Israel has been massive (in the words of Ben Haneman). Her activities went far beyond Jewish horizons, and as well as representing the National Council of Jewish Women of Australia, whe was involved in the Benevolent Society and its hospitals, Nursing Homes, Meals on Wheels, national disaster relief, the Lord Mayor's Fund and heavily involved during the war year.
In April 1949, Dr Fanny Reading claimed hefty damages against the National Press publishers of "Smith's Weekly" for libel. The alleged libel arose from an article appearing on the front page of "Smith's Weekly" on May 31, 1947 headed "Jews Raise huge Funds to Fight the British" and sub-headed" heavy Levies on hebrews in Australia". However, Mr Justice Herron, was obliged to apply for a non-suit in the libel action, deploring that the law of libel was not directed to the protection of groups.
Several other group photos were taken, as in front of the Newcastle Synagogue in 1947, in the Maccabean Hall and in the long vanished Sydney restaurant, the Trocadero. The photo taken at Darlinghurst is possibly one of the earliest taken of the National Council of Jewish Women.
Over the years, NCJWA partnered with the Jewish National fund in supporting causes in Israel. In 1953, the Wolper Jewish hospital was established as the result of an estate left to the Hospital visiting Committee of the NCJW by Gertie Wolper Stone. After years of holding meetings in the homes of foundation members, in rented rooms and in the Maccabean Hall, the NCJW War Memorial Fanny Reading Council House in Woollahra was opened in 1963. It continues to serve as a meeting point for the many social, educational and fundraising activities of the organisation.
Group in Darlinghurst Green Park in the 1920's.
Luncheon at the Trocadero in 1947.