Australian Jewry is mourning the death this week of one of
its leading rabbis. Rabbi Chaim Gutnick, the president of the
Rabbinical Council of Victoria (RCV) and former longstanding
rabbi at Elwood Hebrew Congregation, died on Shabbos at
approximately 6.30 pm from a stroke at the age of 82.
More than 1000 mourners -- including all the prominent
Australian rabbis -- attended the funeral at Springvale
Cemetery on Sunday led by Rabbi Gutnick's veteran colleague
and friend, Yeshivah Centre director Rabbi Yitzchok Dovid
In his eulogy, Rabbi Groner said Rabbi Gutnick was one of a
select few who had the ability to rekindle the "pintele
Yid" -- the spark of Jewish consciousness that lies
dormant in many Jews.
Rav Gutnick inspired many people and was very often consulted
on Australian communal matters. Rabbonim of the country
constantly sought his advice on a wide range of issues. He
was a powerful, world-class orator and had the ability to
capture the moment in a few precise words. He was always
happy to speak to any audience in the Jewish community and
always graced any school or Kollel function.
The Australian Prime Minister's office issued a message of
condolence saying, "Rabbi Gutnick's dedication and personal
qualities have earned him the respect of many in the
Australian community and particularly within the Australian
Born in Chevron, Rav Gutnick was lucky to escape the Chevron
Progrom in Av, 1929, when his family happened to be in Tel
Aviv on the Shabbos when Arabs rioted. He later moved to
London with his family when his father was pressured to take
a rabbinical position there. His father soon passed away,
when he was only twelve. His mother then entrusted his
education to the Telz Rosh Hayeshiva who was visiting London
at the time.
He was taken by the Telz Rosh Hayeshiva from London to
Yeshivas Telz in Europe and where he enjoyed what he
described as "his own Gan Eden on this world." In
Telz, they were very concerned with the proper use of one's
time. He said that the concept of wasting time even extended
to listening to a Torah discourse on a topic not currently
learned in the yeshiva. That's how much the Yeshiva valued
Rav Gutnick related the story of how a few yeshiva
bochurim arrived on the shores of Australia during the
war. They were encouraged financially to move elsewhere,
because it was said that the lifestyle of Australians did not
suit the lifestyle of yeshiva people. Many indeed left,
opting to go to America to learn under HaRav Aharon Kotler.
However Rav Gutnick was told by the previous Lubavitcher
Rebbe to remain in Australia, because if Hashem made him come
to that country he should stay.
Rav Gutnick was a Cohen who went in Aharon's footsteps and
pursued peace as much as he could. He was a rabbi's rabbi and
he will be surely missed. He is survived by his six children
and many grandchildren and great-grand children.