Rabbi Yitskhak Yaakov Super

Rabbi Yitskhak Yaakov (Isaac Jacob) Super

(Written by his granddaughter Jane Berliner’s husband Chaim Freedman on the occasion of the hundredth anniversary of his birth in 1981. Published in the Australian Jewish News, August 7, 1981)

Rabbi Yitskhak Yaakov Super served the Melbourne Jewish community for half a century of its religious life. Many passed through his hands from Brit Milah through Cheder to Barmitzvah and benefitted from his meticulous and relenting supervision of Kashrut.

Son of Shmuel (son of Yosef-Yehoash) Super and Khaya-Minna (daughter of Avraham) Dobrin, Yitskhak-Yaakov was born in 1881 in Lutzin (Ludza) Latvia, a community known as “Jerusalem of Latvia”. The Super family were merchants, scribes, and butchers. He grew up in Karsava (Korsovka). Rabbi Super was educated at local Yeshivot in Rezekne (Rezhitza), Daugavpils (Dvinsk) and Vilnius (Vilna) and then received certification as a Shokhet at the young age of seventeen. He served in that capacity in several small towns in Latvia including Rofe, Sloboad and Lipne.

In 1901 he was obliged to flee from the threat of military conscription which, in Tsarist Russia, was the scene of violent anti-Semitic persecution of Jewish recruits. He arrived in London in 1899 where his services were eagerly sought by the United Synagogue which appointed him as minister to several congregations including Yarmouth and Croydon.

In 1906 Rabbi Super married Lena (Leah) a daughter of Reb Mordekhai Zev (Marks) Bull, one of the first Chabad Chassidim in England. The Bull family was from Karsava (Korsovka), Daugavpils (Dvinsk) and originally from Livani (Lewwnhoff). See separate article.

In 1911 he gave up ministerial duty to serve the London United Shechitah Board in the village of Evercreech, Somerset.

In 1914 Super was sought out by Rabbi Jacob Danglow who had been sent on a mission by the Melbourne community to find a Chief Shokhet for the Melbourne United Shechitah Board. The candidate recommended by Chief Rabbi Joseph Hertz was Yitskhak Yaakov Super.

Arriving in Melbourne on August 17th, 1914, Super immediately acquainted himself with the then inadequate Kashrut facilities. The early years were not without conflict and turmoil as he strove to provide strict control over the standard of meat. Many anecdotes are related of his zeal in raiding butcher shops which he suspected of evading the regulations.

Yitskhak Yaakov Super is remembered by numerous families for his services as Mohel which often took him to provincial communities. Likewise he served as a Hebrew teacher and his soundly based European learning enabled him to raise the standard of Jewish knowledge which he imparted to a generation of Australian children. He was also responsible for the training of Shochtim interstate and in New Zealand. At the Chief Rabbi’s request he wrote a report on the state of Kashrut in New Zealand.

In 1929 he was appointed a member of the Melbourne Beth Din under Rabbi Israel Brodie (later Chief Rabbi of the British Empire). Super continued to serve as one of the Dayanim (judges) of the Beth Din for the duration of his life under Rabbis H. Freedman, H. Stransky, and I. Rapaport. He participated in the conferences of the Australian Rabbinical Council and submitted a paper on Kashrut.

He was often vocal through the Jewish press when he felt the need to raise his voice to condemn lapses in religious observance. He was an active and enthusiastic supporter of the Zionist cause and visited the State of Israel in 1956.

In 1944 Super completed thirty years of service to the community and British Chief Rabbi J. Hertz conferred upon him Semikhah (rabbinical ordination) in recognition of his learning and contribution to the community.

In 1949 Rabbi Super retired from active service and was presented with a testimonial by the community. But his drive to serve Kashrut would not let him rest and he soon came out of retirement to accept the appointment in 1950 of Mashgiakh Rashi (Chief Supervisor) for the Kashrus Commission of Victoria, a body he fought for many years to have established, even to the extent of personal financial support.

This position gave him ultimate authority over the State’s kosher meat supply, Matzah production and all catering establishments carrying the Kashrut Commission license. In this capacity he often resorted to seeking the support of Chief Rabbi Brodie in England on contentious issues.

In his later years Rabbi Super was associated closely with the St.Kilda Hebrew Congregation. At his nearby home in Crimea Street he and his wife Lena Super (until her untimely death in 1945) held open house to the congregation. Hardly a Shabbat passed when he did not bring home a guest for Kiddush. There he held a regular Shiur on a Shabbat afternoon.

Super continued to function as a Shokhet until his last days, despite failing health, assisted by his son-in-law Rev. Phillip Berliner, husband of his daughter Edna.

He passed away on June 28, 1961 (Tamuz 14th 5721).

Rabbi Isaac Jacob and Lena Super were the parents of seven children:

Susaman-David (Cecil), Nakhum (Newton) Melbourne solicitor, Rabbi Dr. Arthur Saul Super of South Africa and Israel, Adolf (died a small child), Shlomo-Meir (Montie), Edna-Yenta (Edna) married to the Reverend Pinkhas (Phillip) Berliner, and Zalman-Ber (Albert).

Below are some documements reflecting his life including an article published in the Ausralian Jewish News marking the 100th anniversary of his birth.

Click to enlarge

An archive of Super's personal and communal papers is to be donated to the Jewish Museum in Melbourne.

Rabbi Super and family, Evercreech, England 1914

Rabbi Super's parents Shmuel and Khaya Minna Super with his sister Fruma, Korsovka (now Karsava) Latvia, about 1905

Mohel certificate Chief rabbi Adler 1910

Semikha (rabbinical) ordination by Chief Rabbi Hertz 1944.

Congratulations to Rabbi Super's son Newton on his father's ordination, from Sir Isaac Isaacs, later Governor General of Austalia.

Appointment to Melbourne Beit Din 1931

L-R: Rabbis J.L. Gurewicz, J. Danglow, I.J. Super, I. Brodie
Inspection of Melbourne abbatoirs 1930's

Super Family tree showing selected relationships

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