Sunday, October 18, 2009

John Monash

I thought I had added a handful of Jewish people to my list, but I guess there was just two people. Or maybe I added them at a different date.

John Monash is significant to me because he's the last name I added on 12 June. I added so many names on that day. Then I added a huge bunch more on 10 July. But I also have a handful of people I added sporadically between those dates.

Anyway, John Monash was Jewish like Isaac Isaacs. There's a university named after him in Melbourne. That's about all I know. I'm guessing the guy was in politics probably. Maybe he was a Governor-General? Member of Parliament? A Judge on the High Court?

Well, let's go see.....

It's none of the above.

John Monash was a military commander during World War I. I guess then he might have had something to do with Gallipoli.

Baby John was born on 27 June 1865. Lord Wiki gives the street that he was born on. I love when Lord Wiki provides such details. It was Dudley Street in west Melbourne.

Dudley Street is right near Flagstaff Gardens. It's some kind of park. It sounds familar to me. The street is also near the Yarra River pier.

Mommy and Daddy Monash were Polish-German Jews. They had lived in Poland, but had spoken German.

I wonder why they came to Australia.

When Monash was about nine, his family moved to a small town in New South Wales called Jerilderie. It's about four hours north of Melbourne. Although it's in New South Wales, it's close to the Victoria border.

The town is known as being the home of John Monash, but it's also known for one of it's famous visitors....

Ned Kelly.

Kelly came to the town in 1879. Monash would have been about fourteen then. Kelly captured the town's two policemen. They locked them in the jail cells, and stole their clothing. Then they told the townspeople they were there to protect them from the Kelly Gang. That sounds like something out of a movie. Well, I know it was IN a movie....multiple movies. But I mean it sounds like something that ORIGINATED in a movie rather than real life.

According to Lord Wiki, Jerilderie is also known for providing Australia with a quarter of all of it's tomatoes. Cool.

In Jerilderie, Daddy Monash ran a store.

Did Monash encounter Ned Kelly? He claimed that he did. Well, I probably believe him. Why not? We know Kelly came to the town when Monash lived there. It's very possible that they met. I'd be more suspicious if Monash claimed to have met Kelly in a certain town, and there was no evidence that Kelly had been to that town.

Oh! Wait. There's conflicting information here.

Lord Wiki says that the Monash family LEFT Jerilderie in 1877. This means they wouldn't have lived there when Kelly visited. Did Kelly maybe visit at an earlier date?

Well, no. It says here that Monash met him during the raid. Maybe they had gone back to Jerilderie to visit? Maybe Monash likes to tell stories? Maybe he's a pathological liar. Or it could be that Lord Wiki is confused.

Anyway, the reason the family returned to Melbourne is that Monash was a smarty. It was suggested to his parents that they return to Melbourne so he could get an extra-decent education.

Monash attended Scotch College Melbourne. He did extremely well.

He went to the University of Melbourne. There he got several degrees. He got a BA in something. He got a Master of Science in Civil Engineering, and also some degree in Law. Then way later, he got a Doctorate in Engineering.

This guy seems to have liked school. It's nice that they named a University after him.

Between getting all his degrees, Monash got married. In 1893 they had their one and only child. I'm guessing this wasn't an only-child by choice. I don't think only-children were popular back in those days. They're barely tolerated these days...despite the threat that overpopulation poses on all of us. Plus, in Judaism, the whole procreation thing is often heavily pushed.

Monash did a bunch of engineering work. I'm not going to go much into that.

If I'm reading this right, he did some military stuff within the University. By the age of twenty-two, he was a lieutenant. By the ago of about thirty-two, he was a major.

He was the colonel for the 13th Brigade.

All this military stuff is past my level of understanding. Lord Wiki has a whole section on it. Maybe I'll be able to learn some of it.

The war broke out in 1914. Monash became a full-time army officer.

He was sent to Egypt as the commander of the 4th Infantry Brigade.

Lord Wiki has a whole section about this brigade. I shall now read that.

They did participate in Gallipoli. That was in April 1915. I'm sure all of you Australians know that. I didn' least not from the top of my head. Although the April part makes sense, since Anzac day is in April.

After Gallipoli, the Brigade headed over to France. They participated in a Battle in Villers-Bretonneux. Australia is a hero to this little town in France. They saved the day.

Lord Wiki says that on every school blackboard, it says We Will Never Forget Australia. He also says that the kids sing "Waltzing Matilda" everyday. I wonder if they still do all that. It's incredibly sweet. They're so grateful.

That's a beautiful story. I'm surprised I haven't heard it before.

The men who saved this little town were Victorian. 3500 of them died. They made such a huge sacrifice, and I think it's nice that the town continues to honor them.

I just looked at Google Maps. The town is about two hours north of Paris. Jack has talked about wanting to go to Paris someday. Maybe we'll go there, and then visit Villers-Brentonneux.

Anyway, Monash was a big hero in all of this.

Lord Wiki has some stuff about a war historian named Charles Bean. It seems Bean did not like Monash at first because he had a Jewish-German background. What would be worse...the Jewish part, or the German one?

Bean and Keith Murdoch (Rupert's Daddy!) tried to undermine Monash's position in the military. They convinced Prime Minister Billy Hughes that the senior officers were unhappy with Monash. Hughes went in to get rid of Monash, but then he learned that it had all been false. The senior officers were fine with Monash.

By the time World War I had ended, Monash had a pretty good reputation.

After the war, Monash was heavily involved with several civil organizations.

He became the head of the State Electricity Commission of Victoria.

He was Vice-Chancellor of the University of Melbourne.

He was President of the Rotary Club.

He was involved with he didn't take the same route as Isaac Isaacs.

Monash died in 1931. He has been honored in many ways.

He has that whole University named after him.

There's a local government area in Victoria named after him.

He's featured on the 100 dollar note in Australia.

There is a village named after him in Israel.

Well, I'm done with Lord Wiki. I'm going to go get some breakfast....or lunch. Brunch! Then I'll go to the Australian Dictionary of Biography Site.

Uh...never mind. I seemed to have missed breakfast. Jack and Tim already ate. I don't feel like eating alone because I'm not even hungry. So I'll just eat later. I'd rather keep working.

I did take a short break for a fight with a mini-sized coughing Darth Vader. Jack is very excited about his new Halloween costume. It's the first time we've bought him one since he was two or three.

Awww.....I just a got a kiss from Darth Vader. How sweet is that.

Back to Monash. I emailed my parents about him. They're all into the Jewish-pride stuff. They're going to Australia in a few months, so I told that them he is something they might want to learn about.

Now I'll read the biographical dictionary and see if there's anything exciting that Lord Wiki missed.

Monash was the eldest of three children. The other two kids were girls.

Grandpa Monash was a publisher and printer.

I'm confused about where the Monash family lived in Poland. I think it's Krostoschin, or the town was in Krostoschin. Anyway, the website says the town in which they lived was about one-third Jewish.

Daddy Monash migrated to Melbourne in 1854 where he did well as a merchant. By 1856 he was naturalized. He returned to Europe for awhile in 1863, and found himself a wife. I wonder why he returned to Europe. Did he go with the purpose of finding a bride? Maybe he went to visit family, and ended up meeting the love of his life.

Daddy Monash and his wife returned to Melbourne in 1864. Soon after they gave birth to little John.

Daddy and Mommy Monash spoke Yiddish, but they're English was very good. I guess they spoke English more to their children because the website says he never really picked up much Yiddish.

The website says that for three years Monash attended St. Stephens Church of England School, Richmond. I looked that up, and it's in England. I guess the family lived there for awhile, or did they ship Monash off to boarding school? I'm confused.

In Melbourne, the family wasn't extremely religious, but John did join the East Melbourne Synagogue choir. He also had his Bar Mitzvah there.

The website mentions their Richmond home. Maybe there is a Richmond in Melbourne, and they didn't move to England randomly for three years.

Okay....yeah. Lord Wiki says there is a Richmond suburb in Melbourne. Good. That makes me feel better. I'm not sure about the school though. Maybe there is a Church of England school there...or maybe there was one in the past.

Well, there was a Church of England school in Melbourne. Lord Wiki says this became Melbourne Grammar School. Maybe this is the school that Monash attended?

He's not listed as one of their notable alumni. So, probably not.

Mommy Monash was good at playing the piano. John learned how to play when he was young.

I don't know. I just like little pieces of trivia like that.

Mommy Monash had a lot of friends. Some of them included Alfred Deakin's relatives.

The website says that Monash was pushed hard by his parents. Traditionally, education is strongly pushed in Jewish families...specifically SCHOOL education. This may be why our Fort Worth rabbi was so negative about homeschooling.

Monash must have pleased his parents because he did very well in school. If I'm reading this right, he was finished by the age of fourteen. I mean he didn't drop-out. He had finished what needed to be finished. But then someone encouraged him to return to school and learn even more. At this time, he did prize-winning essay about Macbeth, won a math competition, and came in fourth in his class with German and French.

Monash found his University classes to be slightly boring. He did his own studying at the library. His preference was for English Literature and history.

He went to the theater twice a week.

He kept diaries and wrote short stories.

Monash was a total Renaissance man. I don't picture that type of person being a military leader. I guess it's my own personal stereotypes. I'd probably picture a military leader as one who is more physical than intellectual. I'm sure a person needs to be brainy for such a job, but I'd picture them being better with leadership skills than artistic ones.

Monash had a pantheist view of religion. I'm not sure what that means. I'm guessing it's multiple gods.

Oh good!!! I think I have found out what I am finally. I think I AM pantheist. Lord Wiki says it's believing that nature is synonymous with God. Instead of believing in an anthropomorphic God (which I totally don't) you believe that god is kind of....well, everything.

I'm looking at the World Pantheism Website now. They say Albert Einstein was one of them. I'm not sure if he declared himself to be a pantheist, or they decided he acted like one.

Well, no. This website doesn't sound like my beliefs. They sound more atheist actually. There's no belief in spiritual beings or an afterlife. I'm not sure why they separate themselves from atheists. How are they any different?

Well, their website says they ARE like atheists. The difference is they give more love to nature. I think that's bullshit. You can be Atheist and have reference for nature. It seems silly to me that they'd divide themselves from Atheists. It almost seems to infer that atheists don't care about the earth and nature.

From what Lord Wiki says though, I think there are different types of Pantheism. Some seem to be spiritual, while others seem very Atheist.

All right. I better get back on track here.

All this extra studying and theater-going happened in Monash's first year at university. He failed his examinations. After that, he got his butt in gear. He did well in school.

While not studying, he tutored other students in math, played chess, and played the piano.

He also was the co-founder of the Melbourne University Union, and edited a school journal.

Oh yeah....and there was the military stuff as well.

This Monash guy was quite amazing.

The website says he craved attention. Well, I would assume that to be true. I can't imagine getting involved with so much stuff if you didn't crave that attention.

He was sensitive to slights. I can relate to that. I'm sometimes easily offended. I still don't know if this is because I'm too sensitive, or a lot of people enjoy saying rude things.

When Monash was about twenty, his mother became fatally ill. Life was tough for the Monash family. If I'm reading this right, Monash took a break from school. Monash worked in order to help with the family finances.

Wow. We have some major scandal here. Monash had a very lively social life. He was also a flirt. He was popular with the girls. One woman that attracted his attention wasn't Jewish. If this wasn't shocking enough....she was also married. Monash almost abandoned his culture/religion because of this romance. But the woman's husband whisked her off to Sydney.

A month after this all happened, Monash married a Jewish woman. Was this perhaps a rebound relationship?

Their daughter together was named Bertha...named after Monash's mother.

Monash went through some years of struggles....some poverty. Then he helped form a company called Reinforced Concrete and Monier Pipe Construction Co. Ltd. This led him to significant wealth.

Monash bought a mansion. He bought a fancy car. He had servants and everything.

This was all before the war.

I'm kind of skimming stuff. I'm TIRED.

Well, I did pretty much read it. I'm just too tired to report much of it. To summarize, he was a popular guy....a great leader. He was liked by most people.

My mom responded to my email about him, and sent me a link. I shall read that now.

It's some kind of Jewish program on ABC. The Ark.

Grandpa Monash was a printer of JEWISH books....prayer books and everything. So this wasn't a family that happened to have some Jewishness in them. They had a pretty strong Jewish background.

Monash had an uncle by marriage that was a Jewish historian.

Monash was fluent in three languages by the time he was thirteen. As a Bar Mitzvah gift, he was given his uncle's book translated into French. Maybe knowing the language helped Monash defend France.

He wasn't good at all languages. Monash had trouble with Latin.

This program talks about the military stuff in a way that's easier for me to understand. They say what made Monash so great was that he was so good at organizing and planning. He treated the battles like a chess game. I guess he had very good logic skills.

In a 1970 Synagogue dinner, someone said this about Australia. With the exception of modern Israel itself, only one nation in more than 2,000 years has called upon Jews to be head of its armies, head of its judiciary and twice head of State: John Monash, Isaac Isaacs and Zelman Cowan.
I'm happy my mom read all that. Maybe it will make her love Australia more. Maybe my parents will love Australia so much that they'll decide to move there! If they move there, of course they'll want us there with them.

Monash might end up being my savior.

Hopefully Australia will kiss my parent's ass when they come to Australia. Good weather would be helpful.

I honestly don't feel much connection to Judaism. But it does make me feel good to know that a Jewish guy played an important (and positive) role in Australian history.


  1. Monash apparently 'thought outside the box' more than most of the British generals of that time and was apparently generally admired by his troops despite the instances of apparent anti-semitism that you mentioned.

    I was thinking about mentioning Sir Zelman Cowen to you as another Jewish GG after your Isaac Isaacs post and then you mentioned him in this post (Cowen also wrote the biography of Isaacs that you read at the ADB site). I keep thinking of names I want to hear your 'take' on because you often research quite intuitively, I think, and I enjoy reading your insights.

    For the record, here's a web page that suggests there was a St Stephen's Anglican School at Richmond in Melbourne from the 1850s (I don't know how you set this up from there but I have the advantage of being able to easily narrow down Google searches to websites within Australia because it's already set up for that here):

  2. Martin,

    Ah! Good idea. I can limit my google searches to Australia too. I just never think to do that. I should DEFINITELY do that! I mean not all the time, but some of the time it would be helpful.

    Thanks for tracking down the school info.

    I shall add Zelman Cowen. I never noticed the author of the posts on the ADB site. I'll have to start looking more closely at that.

  3. "Monash died in 1831." ... 1931.

    He also has a major freeway named after him, which goes through the Local Government Area with his name.

  4. Daniel,

    Thanks for pointing out my mistake
    : )

    I fixed it. Now I don't have Monash dying before he was born.