6 February 1934 - 7 April 2013
The year was 1952, and in that time there was an ongoing correspondence between the Betar leadership in
Melbourne and Sydney whose senior leader was Hans Dreyer, a former member of the Shanghai Betar, and
concerned with the development of the fledgling Betar branch in Sydney and the arranging of a meeting in Sydney
on a personal level. The main core of Sydney Betar at that time comprised former members of the China Tientsin
Betar who had a few years earlier arrived to Australia.
We were met by a young group of Betarim, prominent among them as I recall, were Bob Shteinman, Alex
Auswaks, Larry Sitsky and Jesse Trachtengertz – all from Tientsin. Eventually, in 1953, regular Betar activities
began around this group. Alex with his own quiet and elegant modesty had a profound influence on the movement
during this formative period.
Later, around 1959 in Canberra while working in the Civil Service, Alex, together with the Betar Shaliach Chaim
Golovesky, was instrumental in establishing a Betar group in the capital where hitherto no Zionist youth movement
had existed. When I arrived in Sydney in 1962 as the next Betar shaliach, Alex proposed that I visit Canberra to
conduct a Betar seminar during the school spring vacations. It immediately became evident that Alex was well
known and respected within the Jewish community and was able to introduce me and meet the local Jewish
community and to conduct a successful seminar, which even the children of the Israel ambassador attended.
During this visit Alex also introduced me to Prof. Gershon Weiler, a former member of the Hungarian Betar, who
had come from Israel via Dublin and was lecturing at A.N.U. Prof. Weller was persuaded to become a regular
guest lecturer at senior Betar seminars in Australia up until his eventual return to Israel.
The next time we met was in 1967 when Alex arrived in Israel from the U.K at the head of a group of volunteers in
the aftermath of the Six Day War. He organized their allocation among the various settlements to assist in the fruit
picking replacing the soldiers who were still mobilized.
Because of his health problems, he was advised to leave England. On reaching Israel, he made contact with the
China Olim Association and his friends from the Australian Betar in Israel - a relationship which continued
uninterrupted up until a few days prior to his passing. Living in Jerusalem, he found a continuous flow of work
particularly in the field of Russian literary translations and editorial work of which he was unsurpassed due to his
expertise in linguistics and an extensive mastery of both Russian and English literature.
Alex's untimely passing has left a deep void in the hearts of many from all walks of life and from distant parts of
the globe who had the honour and privilege of enjoying his wisdom and friendship.
It is indeed a profound loss to us all.
YEHI ZICHRO BARUCH LE'AD.
- Shimshon Feder
Alex, or you can call him Sana, was my friend. Our friendship goes back 78 years ago when his mother, Ronia
and my mother Betty walked with 2 prams and 2 large babies, Alex and Jesse. His name was Sana and mine was
Seva. That is our long association.
We were both born in Tientsin China. He was very bright and we grew up together.
Sana joined the Revisionist movement of Zeev Jabotinsky and Sana, being a little older than me led me to join the
Betar movement too. So both of us were old Betarniks!
We both went to the Tientsin Jewish School and were in the same class. Sana excelled in English and
consistently topped the class.
Sana was a big boy with a big heart, and friendship and understanding were among his fortes. Sana continued his
education at the Jewish school.
It was after he finished school that his family decided to migrate to Australia. Sana and I met up again in Australia
and we renewed our friendship which never really ended. Alex always did what Alex wanted. In Sydney, he joined
the Great Synagogue Youth, I followed.
His greatest love was the Movement of Zeev Jabotinsky (Betar). Sana, along with Bob Shteiman, Hans Dreyer,
Yosef Steiner and [Shimshon Feder] started the movement of Betar in Sydney Australia. His high principles of
Israel and the the work of Betar engulfed his life. Along with the friendship of Bob, Hans, Yosef and [Shimshon],
his dream came true.
Whilst in Sydney, Alex always felt that English literature and English itself was his strength and concluded a
course at Sydney University. Alex loved crime stories and even called his email address "Crimebuff". It suited both
him and his character.
After spending some time in Sydney, Sana decided to move to London where he lived for 20 years. But his love
for Israel was so strong he decided to make Aliyah to Israel. He settled in Jerusalem. I believe his Jewishness
would never have allowed him to live anywhere else.
We lost contact when Sana lived in London but regained contact again when he moved to Israel. I rang him
regularly and Sana continued to keep in contact with most of his friends. Alex always did things his way, which
was a good way and people liked his sincerity and truthfulness.
In 2007 my wife and I traveled to Israel and we met Alex. He was a big guy with a big smile with a joke to tell to
put one at ease. We could see his mobility was starting to give him trouble. He could walk but how he walked up
four flights of stairs to his apartment baffled me! He never complained about his life and always relied on himself.
Alex continued to work every week as a vigil would speak to his friend Laura. Laura always understood Alex and
I'm sure Alex cherished their friendship.
As years went on, Alex's health declined. He battled on the best he could. He spent the last 18 months in hospitals
where he was looking for and think of a miracle to cure his ailments. Unfortunately this did not happen. In his last
few months, he did not want his friends to ask too many questions. I understand why. Again it was Alex's way in
life and death. I loved Alex and admired him for his sincerity, his way, and most of all - his friendship.
- Jesse Tracton
Alex was my lecturer when I did a post graduate certificate in Linguistics here in London in the 1970s. The course
was intense, and we became and remained good friends. The last email I got from him a month or so ago, told me
off for not writing often enough. He was correct, of course.
Alex taught us the structure of languages, especially Chinese, and he told stories about growing up in Ulan Bator,
and having to take classes in whichever language the teacher taught in- Hebrew from an English teacher,
mathematics from a Japanese speaking teacher, English from a Chinese speaker etc. He often told us that girls
liked linguists, so he talked it up as much as he could. Alex was funny, and when I visited him in Israel a few years
ago I was reminded of how funny he was. He also introduced me to Israeli sandwiches, for which I remain
permanently grateful, as I am also for his introducing me to pate in the early days of the London course. Food was
a topic of constant conversation.
We had "interesting" political discussions, too, because we never agreed. I used to spend hours in his little house
in St Albans, looking at his rooms full of books, eating brilliant cheese omelets and arguing about linguistics.
Sigh. Like everybody else who knew him, I will miss him.
Is there any possibility of doing something in Alex's memory? In the States one of my friends had a bench in her
favourite park named for her - anything like that? I'd be happy to contribute if something appropriate could be
I will cherish all of the comments I have read from you all. Thank you.
- Laura Miller
Since I heard from Galia, Alex's friend and his cats' vet in Jerusalem that Alex passed away I feel a deep sadness,
longing, a loss and even a sense of orphanhood.
Alex was really an exceptional friend to every one of his friends and with each of them he shared some part of
Alex which would fit them, but with all he shared his amazing heart and generosity.
His last year was very difficult and horrible – but even in the hospice he stood out with his goodness and
magnanimity and his amazing ability to bond with people, to bestow kindness to all around him – those who
treated him and his fellow patients.
With me Alex shared the love for animals and a shared book on dolphins which was always nearly finished – but
Alex was the best in the world in giving. He always gave, much more than he received. For me Alex provided a
type of security, security in friendship, trust in mankind and its generosity.
I already miss this feeling that he is always there for me.
From - Alex's cats' vet from Eilat and his friend-
- Rachel Zilberman-Rochale
It was with very great sadness that I received news of Alex’s passing. Both of us were Tientsin boys, and lived
only a few blocks apart in the French concession. We were in the same class and were the closest of friends
during all of our school years. Alex was incredibly bright and tended to top the class year after year. He was
already then passionate about literature, and began to write poems in both Russian and English, as well as short
stories, which of course later expanded into crime novels! His tastes were very wide, and, at home, he had books
ranging from the complete Tarzan novels to Pasternak’s translations of Shakespeare. Political books were part of
the spectrum, as he was then, and later in Australia, active in the Betar movement. He simply oozed ‘culture’ and
was a thorough old-fashioned gentleman, in the real meaning of the word.
In Australia, he was one of the founders of Betar in Sydney, as well as in Canberra, where he studied at the
Australian National University, until he finally went to the UK, where he studied further and taught at some tertiary
institutions. Throughout all these years, he kept up a long flow of correspondence. I treasured all of his letters, and
they may all be now found in the archives of the National Library in Canberra.
He had to leave England for health reasons and settled in the drier climate in Israel. I knew that he wasn’t well, but
he refused to discuss his health, and always dodged questions concerning his well-being, regarding the subject as
tedious. In later years he began to use emails, under the pseudonym of ‘Crimebuff’, which immediately
encapsulates his interests as well as his highly developed sense of humour.
He was an alert lively human being and we will all miss him and his charismatic presence. I say to his spirit: “In
Pace Requiescat”, which was a quote he loved from Edgar Allan Poe. I still treasure the volume of the complete
Poe poems which he gave me as a birthday present.
- Larry Sitsky
Thank you for the information re Alex – I had a letter from him about four weeks ago – I did keep in touch with him
and knew that he had been in hospice etc. Very sad news –wonderful memories of the old Betar Days and
friendship in Canberra.
- Margaret Beadman
With deep sorrow, we regret having to inform you that our dear friend, Alex Auswaks, passed away after a short
stay in hospital, on Sunday morning, April 7, and was buried that evening, at 8:00 p.m., in Jerusalem.
Alex was a special, one-of-a-kind person and friend, and he will be sorely missed.
His grieving friends.
- Shosh Ornstein
It was a privilege and unique experience to have known Alex. We spent many hours on his small balcony in Eilat
sipping wine and talking endlessly. His stories were amazing and his advice always helpful. His wisdom was
accompanied by a big heart and most of all we shared our love and concern for animals. May he rest in Peace.
- Ruthi Lurie
You should know that Alex always spoke of his Betar cronies with huge fondness and a great sense of both fun
and dedication. I wish I'd been there!
And on we go,
- Ari Dale
Alex and I had a friendship and working relationship that continued for the best part of 23 years. I adopted him
when he came on aliya in 1990 and made Ashkelon his first home. He became my mentor, encouraging me all the
way and repeatedly said: "Promise me you won't waste your talent." My first collection of children's stories was
published in Singapore - thanks to Alex. Together we collaborated on a novel set in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Unfortunately it didn't see the light of day. Maybe it still will.
I introduced him to my bosses at University Publishing in Tel Aviv and they gave him his first 'real' job in Israel. He
became their content editor and a very proficient proofer. He also co-wrote a grammar book for them. From
contacts made at ETAI conferences [English Teachers in Israel], he landed his first dictionary job. Alex loved
dictionaries and anything to do with them.
For those of you who didn't know, Alex had an enormous collection of postcards - the old size, mind you. They had
to fit into his Orange Pekoe Tea boxes and he crowned me the 'postcard queen'. I didn't go anywhere without
scouring antique shops and fairs for unusual postcards. He also had hundreds of ordinary ones from my travels.
One day I picked him up at a bus station in the centre of the country. He was carrying two shoe boxes. In them
were the remains of two of his cats that he didn't want to leave behind in Eilat. He had disinterred them and we
drove north to an animal cemetery on Moshav Yanuv where they were given a respectful burial.
The anecdotes, stories and experiences I have had because of Alex would fill a book. His passing has left an
Eleanor Roosevelt said: Many people will walk in and out of your life,
But only true friends will leave footprints in your heart.
Rest in Peace my friend
- Judy Dobkins
I had an email from Shosh Ornstein about possibly putting some kind of notice up on Alex's website "Crimebuff" ...
I was the designer and webmaster on this site and got it online for Alex and continued to TRY to teach him how to
do the simple updates himself ... Sadly, the website has apparently been taken down .
The original URL was: http://www.crimebuff.com.
It does not exist any more and I suspect that Alex just let it lie even though I would see him occasionally at his
favorite bookstore whose owner is my closest friend ...
So Shosh, in answer to your email ... I would have loved to have done something in this fine man's honor on his
website ... but it is impossible ..
And also, as some of you have mentioned Tientsin and Shanghai ... Alex and I even began to work on a second
website about Tientsin but all that was completed on this were the files on my computer and of course the design
by me ... he did not have the time and energies and patience for this, and this too was over 8 years ago .. at
least .. I actually think it was more like 10 years ...
I miss him terribly. Such an amazing person.
May his memory be a blessing to all of us and the hills of Jerusalem are still weeping and will not cease.
Dear friends of Alex,
I met Alex in London while I was doing my PhD (1968-71), and he helped me secure some part-time teaching at
the Polytechnic of Central London, where he was working at the time.
Alex was one of the first friends to whom I introduced Bogna, the woman who became my wife in 1971. He was a
constant, warm and indulgent friend to us while we were courting, and he helped us organize our wedding, a
complicated ceremony where Bogna (a Pole) talked English and I (an Anglo-Australian) talked Polish to confirm
our cultural and personal commitment. Alex chuckled at our decision to do this.
The morning after our wedding he turned up at the door of our apartment unexpectedly with a huge bag of
croissants and fresh rolls for the newly weds. He would not stay or come in – he just wanted to see us well
launched on our new lives.
We fell out of regular contact over the years, though emails provided intermittent checks. Over the past few
months I got back into more regular contact with him as my wife had a very late diagnosis of cancer, and then died
very shortly thereafter. Alex's messages were full of compassion, warmth, understanding and support. I am
immensely reassured to learn from the emails to this group of his friends that he had similar support and people
caring for him in Israel.
Sadly, but with gratitude for having known Alex,
- Roly Sussex Brisbane, Australia
If people would like to participate in a memorial book in memory of Alex, please send me your stories about him. I
will write it and put it up on Kindle for everyone to read. Alex touched so many people throughout his long life, in
England and in Israel.
- Rachael Orbach
Have just sent you my contribution about Alex - if you could send it on with the rest that would be great. Thank
For a bit of whimsy and sentimental reasons, I have used the email account created in 2004 for Immanuel
Holding - email@example.com. At Immanuel's suggestion it was called barbatus - "bearded one" - and
it was his 80th birthday. :-)
Dear Fellow Friends of Alex,
Alex and I began to email in about 2004. His lament posted on the Sydney Betar website about the (supposed)
passing of his great friend and mentor, Immanuel Holding, popped up for me during a Google search of
Immanuel's name. In fact, Immanuel was still in the land of the living and, though frail and hemiplegic from a
stroke, was being nursed at the Montefiore Home in Sydney. [See article #8 on the home page for the referenced
material - Ed.] Immanuel never had visitors and as his volunteer carer I had turned to Google to find his
connections. From then on Alex showed his care by regularly emailing Immanuel via me, and would do his best to
entertain and keep Immanuel's memory sharp with stories of the pioneering days of Sydney Betar in the 1950s. In
2006 as Immanuel's condition worsened Alex emailed me daily - and then hourly - as Immanuel passed over. Alex
wrote the lion's share of Immanuel's obituary and from the other side of the globe he encouraged us in Sydney to
see to all details of Immanuel's grave. I sense, even though I never actually met him, that this sort of loyalty and
attention to detail was an integral part of Alex's character.
Alex made regular inputs into my email Inbox in the years that followed and I hope that I contributed a few items to
his postcard collection. He thought that email communication was a sad step down from real letter-writing and so I
once quite deliberately wrote him a letter on paper and using a fountain pen - to prove to him that I was not one of
the damned who could not write a letter to save their lives. He was a man with high literary standards and I will
admit to nervously editing my emails to him lest they contain the dreaded abbreviations that are part of email
Though I sensed his end was coming, I will miss Alex and his emails very much. From the responses we have all
been comforted to read in the past week it is obvious that he still had a lot to contribute to the lives of his many
friends and the world is poorer for his loss.
I will sign off using an Alex-ism - "Bestest to the bestest",
- Helen Yarad (Sydney)
It's strange - I don't remember ever meeting Alex face to face in Australia - yet, in the correspondence we
exchanged in the setting up of this website, I felt I knew him extremely well. It all started with his email to
162SmilingFaces in September 2004:
Just a note to say Shalom, Tel Hai and Happy New Year.
I was a member of Sydney Betar from 1952 for a couple of years. I used to write letters. I was in charge of the
camp at Kuringai Chase (Koala Bear Park) in 1953 (I think). With me were Hans Dreyer, Bob Shteynman,
Larry Sitsky, Immanuel Holding, Rochelle Sher, Phyllis "Lutka" Mahler (not sure of the surname). There was a
drought and a farmer in the vicinity recognised the flag - he had been with the Anzacs in Palestine - and
brought us water and tucker (God Bless him).
In the early sixties I formed the Canberra Betar. Anyone wishing to see the story should get in touch with
Danny Rosing. The heroes were the Feders, Margaret Beadman, Josh Riches, Tom Frommer.
Always happy to hear from Betarim who may remember me. E-mail or snail mail at PO Box 31493, Jerusalem,
91314. Telephone: 02 67 34 626.
Cheers! Tel Hai! Happy New Year!
That rekindled the connections to other Betarim and eventually to the situation described by Helen Yarad (above)
in which Alex had incorrectly exaggerated the demise of Immanuel Holding and led to a close association between
the two until Immanuel's passing.
Alex had a profoundly developed sense of humor and we got along famously. I always hoped to see him in Israel
on a visit but, alas, that is not to be. From the tributes that have been submitted, I can see that we have lost one
great person and my sadness is in line with those whom he personally touched during his life.
- Harry Stuart