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Fanny Reading

READING, FANNY (1884–1974), Australian communal leader. Born Fanny Rabinowich near Minsk, she migrated with her family to Victoria, Australia, in 1889. Active from her youth in Melbourne Jewish communal affairs, she was originally a music teacher but in 1916–22 studied medicine and became a physician, moving to Sydney and changing her name to Reading in 1918. She was one of the first Jewish women physicians in Australia. In 1923 she was instrumental in founding the Council of Jewish Women of New South Wales, serving as its president from 1923 to 1931. Unlike many mainstream Australian Jewish organizations of the time, it was keenly Zionistic, despite communal pressures to moderate its stance. In 1929 it changed its name to the National Council of Jewish Women of Australia. Reading remained its life president until her death. In 1947 she sued Smith's Weekly, a populist Australian tabloid, for libel when it alleged that her fundraising was being used to fight the British in Palestine. Although she lost the case on a technicality, the verdict, delivered "with regret" by the judge, was regarded as a moral victory for the Jewish community. In 1957 a settlement in Israel, Neve Zipporah, was named in her honor. The National Council of Jewish Women of Australia continues as one of the most important Jewish women's organizations in the country.


ADB, 11, 343–44; M. Newton, Making a Difference: The History of the National Council of Jewish Women of Australia (2000).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.