Eulogy delivered by Rabbi Raymond Apple at the funeral service for Sir Bernard Sugerman at the Great Synagogue, Sydney, 5 November, 1976.
We are met to bid farewell and pay tribute to a great man who was a great man of the law.
It is is not often that a funeral service is held in a synagogue. That is an exceptional honour reserved for those who are truly great sages, pious, saintly figures, or men who have occupied themselves with exemplary devotion to the affairs of the community. It is an exceptional honour, but one which is fittingly accorded to a highly respected judge whose life and public career bore impressive witness to the Jewish dictum that he who renders true judgment is more than a good judge: he is a co-worker with God, who is the Judge of all the earth.
Sir Bernard Sugerman’s career spanned many decades and many areas of notable distinction.
He was an academic man. He had a brilliant University record. He was a lecturer in law for many years and made his contribution towards training lawyers who today are leaders of their profession. He was a diligent editor of important legal publications. No matter what important work he was engaged upon, he read, studied and absorbed wisdom, both on legal subjects and in disciplines outside the law.
He was admitted to the bar fifty years ago and developed a solid reputation in various legal fields, taking silk in 1943. As a tried, tested lawyer known for sound judgment he merited appointment to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and then to the Supreme Court of New South Wales, finally becoming President of the Court of Appeal – a remarkable record of judgeship, and indeed few judicial careers have been longer.
One should add that at various times he was acting Chief Justice and acting Administrator of New South Wales.
It is not for me to speak of the important judgments with which his
name is associated, but let me tell you that when one recalls the statement in the Talmud that only those are appointed to the Sanhedrin who have stature, wisdom, good appearance, maturity, a knowledge of human frailties, and familiarity with human idiom, one hardly needs to look further for a fitting summing-up of his judicial gifts.
Within our Jewish community he and his talented wife developed a whole array of cultural interests and he gave quiet but valued assistance to many of our organisations. He was well-read on Judaism and Jewish law, and even after his retirement and during his difficult period of illness he maintained his interest in and correspondence on Jewish legal problems.
Outside the Jewish sphere he held office in a number of organisations; in Freemasonry, for instance, he was a Grand Lodge officer and in the Sydney High School Old Boys’ Union he was past president.
These are some of the facts of his public life. Others will or ought to ensure that his role in State and national history is properly recorded. This is not the moment for that. This is the moment for colleagues, friends, family and community to tell his dear ones that they recognise who he was and what he meant. This is the moment to assure those who today mourn his passing so sadly that he made his mark, and he will be remembered.
He will not be remembered as a demonstrative man, a loquacious man, a man who needed adulation. No: for he was quiet and unassuming, not too talkative, able to keep his emotions under control, but the sort of man who gave you the decided and even disturbing feeling of being capable of quiet, shrewd summing up of people, their views, and their pretensions.
His earthly life has come to an end, not without its last distressing phase of limiting illness. He who was a judge on earth must now face scrutiny by the Chief Justice of the Court on High. He will plead that he was aware of his awesome responsibility and sought ever the ways of truth, integrity and justice. He will plead that he endeavoured to be a worthy master of the law of men: and the Divine Master of the law of heaven will surely heed his words, and the verdict will be in his favour.
Lady Sugerman and the family, may God comfort you and grant you strength. May you have long life and may good health be with you. Sir Bernard Sugerman, go in peace, and enter upon your eternal reward. AMEN.