Edna Berliner

Obituary by her son-in-law Chaim Freedman



On the 6th of Av 5768, August 6th 2008, Edna Berliner passed away in Melbourne one week short of her 92nd birthday.

Edna Berliner was born August 15th, 1916 in Carlton, the daughter of Rabbi Isaac Jacob and Lena Super. She had six brothers. In 1941 she married the late Reverend Phillip (Pinchas) Berliner, London born graduate of English and Eastern European Yeshivot who narrowly escaped the Holocaust and arrived in Australia in 1940. Edna was educated at St.Kilda Park State School and Melbourne Girls High School. Her Jewish education she received at Sunday school and basked in the rich tradition and love of Yiddishkeit of her parents.

Widowed at the age of 43 Edna was faced with the awesome task of bringing up three daughters, Muriel Kleerekoper (Sydney, deceased), Lena Pose (Melbourne) and Jane Freedman (Israel). Edna contributed ably to her father and husband’s communal activities. In her youth she acted as secretary to the late Rabbi Dr. Joseph Abrahams who spent his last years living with the Supers and treated Edna lovingly as if she was his daughter. She was active in the National Council of Jewish Women and the women’s auxiliary of South Caulfield Shule where she attended after nearly a half century living in Crimea Street, St.Kilda and attending St.Kilda Shule with which her father and husband were associated.

Edna was a wealth of information about communal history, particularly Carlton, and loved to talk about old times, people, Shule and Beth Din intrigues. She was interviewed by historians for material for their books.

Edna had a wide circle of friends who appreciated her keen sense of humour, warm hospitality, home wisdom and common sense.

In particular she staunchly maintained her love and allegiance to her father’s and husband’s Yiddishkeit. She read voraciously and diligently reviewed Parshat Hashavuah each week in preparation for Shabbat. She attended Shule every Shabbat until her health no longer permitted. Such was her inspiration in this respect that kind members of the congregation came to her home to blow Shofar, to bring her Lulav and Etrog and invited her to eat in their Sukkah. Deprived of the male role in the home after the death of her husband and father, she took on the task of making Kiddush, Zemirot, Benching and Havdalah, ever a staunch advocate for women’s equality in Judaism. Her habit of being ready for Shabbat and Chagim several days in advance was a source of good humour for her family.

Edna’s life was fraught by many illnesses that she coped with in courage and determination. She was like a cat with nine lives twice over and considered every day that she was spared as a blessing. In her latter years she was handicapped in her mobility but was determined to retain her independence and continue to live in her own home in dignity. Her last years were spent at Montefiore Homes.

She was scrupulous in account keeping and one of her typical sayings was “I hate owing money”. She loved shopping and would tell the shopkeepers “I’m looking for my daughter”. Despite her incapacity she diligently carried out her exercises and persisted to walk up her drive to collect the mail until she was no longer able and accepted the help of her neighbors with whom she maintained warm relationships.

She was a determined lady and typical was the occasion when visiting Israel and unable to find other transport to the Kibbutz where her daughter and son-in-law were staying, joined them hitchhiking, even when it involved clambering into the back of a van. On the Kibbutz she insisted in pulling her weight and spent the time of her visit there working in the communal kitchen and exchanging opinions with the ladies in a variety of languages. She traveled to Israel five times by herself and was daring enough one trip to book a tour and get her hair cut in Athens.

The highlight of one of those trips was her reunion in Israel with her brother the late Rabbi Dr. Arthur Saul Super, whom she had not seen for 51 years.

Edna always maintained contact with her many longstanding friends and made phone calls to enquire about their health and the wellbeing of their families.

She was very much part of Australian culture being the first of her parents’ children to be born in Melbourne. So she liked her little flutter on the Melbourne Cup. She was a fun loving parent who read and composed stories to her children when they were young and was not above playing “skippy” with them on a Shabbat afternoon. She liked a dip in the sea and took the children to St.Kilda beach on a Friday morning. In summer she would arise at 5 AM, get Shabbat prepared and thus have the whole day to take her daughters out. She was modest and would say, “I can always learn from my daughters”. She liked a good joke even if it was a bit risqué and had an infectious rollicking laugh.

Edna loved the movies and music. She had a number of favourite songs such as “Danny Boy”, “Roses Whisper” and “Esah Einei”, although her singing voice was ever a source of amusement for her family.

She used to jokingly say that she would come to Israel to help her daughter do the mending. She hated wastefulness and would save pencil ends, envelopes, jars and plastic bags. She loved her garden and had “Green fingers”. Her garden was a riot of colour and fragrance, winter and summer. Even when she had to walk with a frame she was determined to potter amongst her plants.

Always interested in current affairs at one time she worked voluntarily for a radio station collecting news items. Similarly she combed the newspapers and sent clippings to her family in Israel.

Edna was a proud grandmother and great-grandmother and called her extended family her “treasure”. She loved to entertain and cook them their favourite dishes. Her greatest pleasure she derived from being surrounded by her loving family. In particular her grandchildren and great-grandchildren after whose welfare she constantly enquired, despite them being spread over four continents.

She was loved and respected by her sons in law whom she treated as if they were her own sons.

Edna is survived by two daughters, six grandchildren and nineteen great-grandchildren.

Long will she be remembered – a true Eshet Chayil.

Eulogy at the funeral of Edna Berliner

Written and delivered by her granddaughter Deborah (Pose) Lazerow.

Edna Berliner was born August 15th, 1916 in Faraday St Carlton, the daughter of Rabbi Isaac Jacob and Lena Super. She had six brothers and was proud of saying that she was the first of the Aussie batch. Edna was educated at St.Kilda Park State School and Melbourne Girls High School and had classes at Government house. Her Jewish education she received at Sunday school and she basked in the rich tradition and love of Yiddishkeit of her parents.

In her youth she acted as secretary to the late Rabbi Dr. Joseph Abrahams who spent his last years living with the Supers and treated Edna as if she was his daughter. She was active in the National Council of Jewish Women and the women’s auxiliary of South Caulfield Shule.

In 1941 she married the late Reverend Phillip (Pinchas) Berliner, who arrived in Australia from London in 1940 and later became chazzan at St Kilda Shule, community shochet and bar mitzvah teacher.

Widowed at the age of 43 Edna was faced with the awesome task of bringing up three daughters, the late Muriel Kleerekoper, Lena Pose and Jane Freedman.

Throughout her life she staunchly maintained her love and allegiance to her Judaism. She read voraciously and diligently reviewed Parshat Hashavuah each week in preparation for Shabbat. She attended Shule every Shabbat until her health no longer permitted and continued to pray at home throughout her days. Such was her inspiration in this respect that members of the Shule congregation came to her home to blow Shofar, to bring her Lulav and Etrog and invited her to eat in their Sukkah.

Deprived of the male role in the home after the death of her husband and father, she took on the task of making Kiddush, Zemirot, Benching and Havdalah, ever a staunch advocate for women’s equality in Judaism. Her habit of being ready for Shabbat and Chagim several days in advance was a source of good humour for her family and continued to be the top of her mind even in her last days.

Edna’s life was fraught by many illnesses that she coped with in courage and determination. She was like a cat with nine lives and considered every day that she was spared as a blessing. In her latter years she was limited in her mobility but was determined to retain her independence and continue to live in her own home in dignity until her late 80’s. Edna had a green thumb and one of the saddest things for her to give up besides her independence and loving neighbors when she moved to the Montifiore was her beloved pot plants.

Despite her growing frailty she diligently carried out her exercises and persisted to walk up her drive to collect the mail until she was no longer able and accepted the help of her neighbors with whom she maintained warm relationships

She was a determined lady and typical was the occasion when visiting Israel and unable to find other transport to the Kibbutz where her daughter and son-in-law were staying, joined them hitchhiking, even when it involved clambering into the back of a van. She traveled to Israel five times by herself and was daring enough one trip to book a tour and get her hair cut in Athens. The highlight of one of those trips was her reunion in Israel with her brother the late Rabbi Dr. Arthur Saul Super, whom she had not seen for 51 years.

Edna always maintained contact with her many longstanding friends and made phone calls to enquire about their health and the wellbeing of their families, children and grandchildren.

Edna loved the movies and music. She had a number of favourite songs such as “Danny Boy” and “Roses Whisper” although her singing voice was ever a source of amusement for her family.

She used to jokingly say that she would come to Israel to help her daughter do the mending. An early environmentalist, she hated wastefulness and would save pencil ends, envelopes, jars and plastic bags. Always interested in current affairs at one time she worked voluntarily for a radio station collecting news items. Similarly she combed the newspapers and sent clippings to her family in Israel and her granddaughters when they traveled.

Edna was a proud grandmother and great-grandmother and was fondly known as Super Nanny.

Roses whisper good night neath the silvery light asleep in the dew while the dawn peepeth through. These words, sung out of tune and full of love, were the words that Nana used to sing us to sleep as kids. It was also the words that we whispered to her last night as she slipped into her final sleep.

It’s poignant that nana sang about roses because she herself was like a rose.
Like a rose, Nana was held aloft by a strong stem. Her will and her faith gave her a strength that was hard to equate with such a frail elderly woman.

Nana’s personal motto was PMA – positive mental attitude. She strongly believed in the power of the mind to influence everything and kept her mind active by clipping newspaper stories for her loved ones overseas. To keep her mind positive, she always chose to surround herself with positive imagery. No matter the occasion, she always chose to wear happy colours, pretty beads and bright red lipstick and she always asked the same of the women that she loved. She was fond of saying that a woman is never dressed without her lipstick so for you nana, we are properly dressed today.

Her positivity was infectious. It was impossible to visit her without cheering up and the nurses and staff that cared for her , particularly those at Montifiore who showed such affection and professionalism always loved to pay her a visit. She never complained about physical discomfort, after all there was nothing that a bit of dencorub and a panamax couldn’t fix and nothing that avocado cream couldn’t make beautiful.

Nana was testament to the power of faith. A deeply religious woman, her life was steered and steeled by Judaism. This was epitomized by the fact that she held on to say shema and sing tehillim on her last night with, Rabbi Sufrin, who she called “her boyfriend” and who proved to be an amazing support to her and all our family over that past few years.

While she was still living at home, to visit Nana on a Friday afternoon was inspirational. Her table would be set immaculately with white table cloth and polished silverware. The kitchen would contain one setting of entree, soup decorated with parsley, main course, her famous coleslaw (when she remembered to put it on the table) and of course desert followed by biscuits to go with her tea. Her bedroom would be set up with her shabbes outfit, including her brightest jewellery, lipstick and shabbes shoes. She even kept a special pair of shabbes slippers to wear after dinner, which she often chose to eat alone to avoid breaking Shabbat by travelling to her family.

Nana had the self-respect to spoil herself for Shabbat and Yom Tov but her greatest love was spoiling others. Even at Montifiore she kept her not so secret stash of chocolates, wafers and suck lollies to share with all her visitors.

Like any flourishing rose bush, Nana had strong roots that she was proud of. While she was modest in her own right, she was always delighted to tell us about the achievements of her scholarly brothers, her elegant mother and her father who was a member of the Beth Din in Australia. Nana’s stories were filled with words about the rabbonim that the family would entertain in Crimea Street and the grand social gatherings that she attended with her accomplished brothers.

Like a the leaves on a rose, Nana has sprouted bountiful offspring and I know she was fulfilled to attend marriages of 3 daughters, dance at the weddings of three granddaughters, send messages to the weddings of two grandsons and to receive an invitation to the wedding next week of her great granddaughter, Mirel. Nana waited almost 90 years to give her debut speech in public and I’m sure many of you will remember the touch words that she delivered at both Karyn and my weddings. Into her later years, Nana could still remember all the important family dates and would be the first to call for birthdays, Hebrew birthdays, half birthdays and anniversaries.

Like the thorns of a rose bush, Nana had the surprisingly sharp barrier of self protection. A feminist before her time, her feistiness when her rights and comforts were at stake was renowned, even at Montifiore. But even with this assertiveness, her guiding principle was respect for everyone so she would demand a cup of HOT tea with a smile. She fought death on a number of occasions and only went when she was ready to go.

Although a rose is held aloft by strong stem, roots and leaves it is the perfumed flower that everyone admires and so it is with Nana. Nana’s Hebrew name was Yenta, and rather than the gossiping yenta of folk law, Nana adhered to her namesake in being a gentle woman with the softness of rose petals. Nana kissed and hugged with the softest of arms and cheeks. Last week mum celebrated her birthday and Nana still found the energy to give her 61 gentle birthday smacks, with one to grow on.

Our rose wilted 10 days short of her 92nd birthday but her perfume remains in all of us and we are truly blessed to have known this Eshet Chail.

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