Victorian Association of Jewish Ex & Servicemen & Women Australia Incorporated

Founding Member General Sir John Monash GCMG KCB VD

Rapke AO

Rapke AO
First names
Trevor George
Rear Admiral previously Pay Lieutenant
Service No.
Date of Death
Hebrew Date
13 Sh'vat 5738
Hebrew Date
י״ג בִּשְׁבָט תשל״ח
Age at Death
How Died
Where Died
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Springvale Botanical Cemetery (Necropolis), Victoria, Australia
Service Details
RANVR, HMAS Lonsdale. Joined Militia S/N 179109 1/11/1927-25/2/1930 4 Field Ambulance
South West Pacific Area
Judge of County Court, Victoria, 1958-78. Hon Secretary, St Kilda Synagogue
Age at Enlistment
Place of Enlistment
Williamstown, Victoria
Locality on Enlistment
Date of Enlistment
Date of Discharge
Country of Enlistment
Born 2/9/1909 at Prahran, Melbourne, and raised at St Kilda, home of the city's Anglo-Jewry. Trevor attended Wesley College and entered the University of Melbourne (BA, 1931; LL B, 1933). He also went to the St Kilda Hebrew School: Sabbath afternoon services, followed by higher Hebrew classes, formed the basis of his continuing interest and expertise in orthodox learning and culture. A senior member of the Judaean League, he and Maurice Ashkanasy extended 'its tentacles of dissent into the knitted world of St Kilda and Toorak Road', but he remained committed to traditional Judaism and occasionally gave sermons to his orthodox congregation. He passed on the Jewish faith through the children's services, which he helped to originate in 1924, and through the 3rd St Kilda Scout Group, which he formed to enable Jewish boys to engage in scouting in an appropriate religious context. While adamantly opposed to a secularism that would submerge Jewish identity, Rapke was a leader in replacing the Victorian Jewish Advisory Board with the lay Board of Deputies, of which he was president (1956-58). He disagreed with many of the beliefs of the liberal congregation, but kept in touch with its members and sometimes acted as a mediator in the interests of communal harmony. In 1957 he was appointed Australia's representative on the Jewish Congress's world executive and elected president of the World Israel Movement. He was also a long-term executive-member of the Zionist Federation of Australia and New Zealand. Accepting Jacob Danglow's advice against joining the rabbinate, Rapke had been admitted to the Bar on 1 March 1935. He was appointed paymaster sub lieutenant, Royal Australian Naval Volunteer Reserve, on 19 January 1941 and promoted lieutenant in April. While serving (1942-43) in HMAS Australia, he saw action in the battle of the Coral Sea and acted as secretary to Commodore H B Farncomb. His naval appointment terminated on 22 April 1944. At the Synagogue, St Kilda, on 17 June 1947 he married 19 year old Betty Ellinson. On 22 April 1958 Rapke took silk. It was claimed that he was the first Jew to become a judge in Victoria when he was elevated to the bench of the County Court on 3 November. As a judge, he was outspoken and earthy, showing the same concern as his mother for community welfare, civil liberties and just sentencing. The sharp distinction he drew between offences against property and those involving violence brought him into conflict with government ministers. He publicly condemned illegal discipline at Pentridge prison, procedures in trials for rape, and the practice of keeping juveniles in custody for long periods while awaiting trial. Prepared to make his views known to the press, he antagonised some members of the judiciary by criticising their remoteness from society. In 1964 Rapke was appointed judge advocate-general, Australian Naval Forces. The Commonwealth government chose him in 1971 to investigate allegations of 'bastardisation' at the naval training establishment HMAS Leeuwin, Fremantle, Western Australia. Some believed that his close links with the RAN would compromise his impartiality, but his report was characteristically judicious and his recommendations were consistent with the humane principles he employed on the bench. Rapke was a Freemason, president (1956-57) of the Athenaeum Club and honorary professor of law (1965) at the United States Naval Justice School, Rhode Island. Late in 1977 he was notified that he was to be appointed AO in the Australia Day honours list. He died of complications arising from a coronary occlusion on 21 January 1978 at Templestowe and was buried in Springvale cemetery; his wife, and their four sons and two daughters survived him. D P Whelan, chief judge of the County Court, eulogised him as 'colourful, strong, fair and fearless'. Source: Judith Smart
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