By: Ilana Siyance
Isi Leibler, the Australian-Israeli Jewish activist who was responsible for leading the campaign to free Soviet Jewry, has passed away at the age of 86.
In recent years, Leibler had become ill, suffering from multiple life-threatening diseases, but had done his best to forge forward and continue his life as normally as possible. Leiber, born in October 1934 in Antwerp, Belgium, passed away on Tuesday April 13, in Jerusalem, where he lived since 1999. Just by looking at social media alone, and the messages that he amassed, a person can get a picture of the giant stature of this man, and how highly he was esteemed by the Jewish communities around the world.
As reported by the Jerusalem Post, Leibler was the eldest son of a diamond dealer, whose family left Europe in 1939 to settle in Melbourne, Australia, due to the difficult situation for Jews around Europe at the onset of World War II. Leibler grew up in a religious, passionately Zionist and community-conscious family. His father was elected president of the Victorian Jewish Board of Deputies in Melbourne, a position which he later took on himself in 1974. He later became the presidency of the executive council of Australian Jewry. In 1980, he became chairman of the Asia-Pacific Region of the World Jewish Congress.
He was a vibrant businessman, and utilized his success for diplomatic means on behalf of his Zionistic missions. His good standing with Australian politicians, and his bravery on behalf of his Jewish brethren, secured the country’s support for Soviet Jewry. In fact, thanks to Leibler, Australia was the first country to support the cause at the United Nations, something that many at the time thought was a lost cause. Leibler zealously toiled with personal sacrifice to free the Soviet Jews, sending them to Israel, and personally visiting the USSR on several occasions. The only time he shied away was when it was time to accept the credit and praise for what had been accomplished. Leibler went on to forge diplomatic relations between Israel and countries including China and India, and continued to be active in international Jewry. Since 2000, he has also been writing for the Jerusalem Post.
Mr. Leibler was put to rest in Israel in his family plot in Jerusalem’s Har Hamenuhot Cemetery. He is survived by his loving wife of close to 63 years, Naomi, and their children, Romy, Tamara Grynberg, Gary and Jonathan, by numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren and by his brothers, Mark and Allan. May his family be comforted among the mourners of Zion, and may his memory continue to be a blessing.