Isi Leibler has been a central player in the global Jewish arena for over six decades. The preeminent Australian Jewish leader, he was pivotal in driving the issue of Soviet Jewry onto the international agenda. And he played a crucial role in establishing diplomatic relations between Israel and China and India.
As Australia emerged from Britain’s shadow after WWII to punch above its diplomatic weight, so too Leibler propelled the Australian Jewish community into wielding disproportionate influence in global Jewish affairs. A key figure in the World Jewish Congress, he had no hesitation exposing corruption in its leadership or at the Holocaust Claims Conference.
Pugnacious, colourful and principled, he befriended prime ministers, refuseniks, billionaires, Cold War warriors, Marxists and diplomats to further the Jewish agenda, free Soviet Jews, support Israel, and fight antisemitism.
“Gifted with extraordinary energy and a capacity to relentlessly pursue a cause in which he believed, Isi Leibler injected momentum and urgency into any campaign he embraced. These were qualities he brought in a quite breathtaking manner to his heartfelt advocacy of the cause of Soviet Jews …”
— John Winston Howard, OM, AC, former Prime Minister of Australia
About the author: Emerita Prof. Suzanne Rutland was Professor of the Department of Hebrew, Biblical & Jewish Studies at the University of Sydney and the main lecturer in the program of Jewish Civilisation, Thought and Cultures. She has published widely on Australian Jewish history.