Australian Jewish community and culture

Dr Fanny Reading

Fanny Reading is best remembered for her work in founding the NSW Council of Jewish Women in 1923 – precursor to the National Council of Jewish Women of Australia (NJCWA) – a Zionist organisation that exists to this day.

Fanny Rubinovich (1884-1974) was born near Minsk in Russia. Shortly after, the family came to Ballarat, Victoria, relocating to Melbourne in the early 1900s. During World War I, the family anglicised their surname to Reading. Fanny studied music at Melbourne University, graduating in 1914. She later returned to university to undertake a medical degree, before going into practice with her brother at Kogarah in NSW.

Dr Fanny Reading photographs, ca. 1890-1965 / various photographers

Dr Reading first proposed the setting up of an organisation for Australian Jewish women in 1923, following her meeting with Madame Bella Pevsner, a Zionist lecturer from America. Despite her busy professional practice, Dr Reading put enormous energy into charitable activities for Jewish refugees, immigrants and the poor but her charity work went far beyond Jewish horizons. She was also involved with national disaster relief, the 1939-1945 war effort, the Lord Mayor's Fund, the Benevolent Society of NSW and its hospitals, as well as aged care in nursing homes and through Meals on Wheels.

Series 03: Dr Fanny Reading realia, ca. 1920's

Over the years, the NCJWA partnered with the Jewish National fund in supporting causes in Israel. In 1953, the Wolper Jewish Hospital was established and in 1963, after years of holding meetings in rented rooms, homes of members and in the Maccabean Hall, the NCJWA War Memorial Fanny Reading Council House was opened in Woollahra. It continues to serve as a meeting point for the many of the organisation's social, educational and fundraising activities.