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Levy, David Lawrence (1828–1893)

It was with the deepest regret that his many friends heard of the death of Mr. D. L. [David Lawrence] Levy, which took place on the 1st December. He had been in ailing health for some few weeks, and had been confined to his bed for a month; but it was not until about a fortnight previous that it was ascertained that he was suffering from an internal complaint from which there was no hope of recovery. Mr. Levy bore his affliction with the greatest patience and the most exemplary resignation, and passed away peacefully, surrounded by some of his nearest relatives, by whom he has always been cherished with much affection.

Mr. Levy, who arrived in this colony in 1853, was born at Gravesend, England, in 1828, and received his education at Newmegen's, Kew. After leaving this school he served his articles for the legal profession, to which he was admitted a member nearly half-a-century back, On his arrival in Sydney he established himself as a solicitor, being the first one of the Jewish faith to practise here. After carrying on business for some time alone he admitted into partnership the late Mr. D. Michael, an association which lasted for some years. Subsequently Mr. Levy took into partnership Mr. Alfred de Lissa, who had served his articles in that gentleman's office; This partnership being dissolved, Mr. Levy later on was joined by Mr. A. Hemsley, who remained with him until his (Mr. Hemsley's) death about the end of 1888. His brother, Mr. A. M. Hemsley, and Mr. E. W. Perkins were then taken into the firm, and Mr. and Mrs. Levy in 1891 took a trip to Europe, which had been looked forward to by them for a long period of time, whence they returned fifteen months later.

Mr. Levy, from the early days of his residence here and up till a few years ago, showed great interest in communal affairs, being for many years a member of the committee of the old York-street Synagogue, of which he was treasurer uninterruptedly from 1870 to 1875. He also took a very active part in promoting the erection of the Great Synagogue, filling the position of its treasurer during the years 1879-1880-1881. He was likewise a member of the Board of Management of the Sabbath and Hebrew schools, being treasurer in 1885, and was president in 1886. Mr. Levy was a most charitable and warm-hearted man, ever ready to respond to the call of distress and to do a kindness to any one irrespective of his station, and, indeed, has often been found "doing good to his own hurt."

He was a life governor of the Prince Alfred Hospital, having contributed £100 to its funds, and years ago, when he was in more flourishing circumstances than of late, was noted for the lavishness of his benevolence.

As a lawyer he had earned the highest respect of his brother professional men. He possessed as extensive a knowledge of mercantile and common law as any solicitor in the colony, and these qualifications were recognised by his being appointed at one time on the board of examiners for the admisson of solicitors; in fact, he was one of the most skilful practitioners and highest authorities on the practice of the courts, and in matters of business, the same as in private concerns, his word was as good as his bond.

Thirty-seven years ago Mr. Levy married the youngest daughter of the late Mr. Henry Cohen, grandfather of the Hon. H. E. Cohen, who has ever been the able seconder of his efforts to relieve the needy and make other people happy, and whose tenderness and devotion to her husband have been the admiration of a wide circle of relatives and friends.

Besides an unusually large number of private letters of condolence, Mrs. Levy has been the recipient of communications from the Ladies' Dorcas Society, of which she is the president, and the committee of the Montefiore Home.

The funeral took place on Sunday, 3rd December, and was very numerously attended, those present including many not of our faith. A profusion of wreaths were sent to be placed on the grave. The Rev. A. B. Davis, who conducted the service, delivered the following address:—

Our brother David sleeps with his fathers. Our good old friend has gone the way of all flesh. A voice speaking only to his spirit has called, and he has cheerfully answered "Here am I." A solemn note has struck upon the outer door of his earthly tabernacle, and he has been gathered to the land of souls. Thus are we summoned again to consider the uncertainty of human life, the vanity of human pursuits, the nothingness of human hopes, except those which touch the fringe of an hereafter. He offers to us another example of how we add hope to hope; how we lay out plans for the employment of the years we count upon as being before us; until we are suddenly surprised by the visit of the Death Messenger at a moment when we least expect him, as did he whose mortal remains lie here before us, for but a few days ago he was full of activity, building up expectations which he hoped to realise, not alone for his own good—for he had ever a thought for others beside himself—not only for those nearest and dearest to him, but for many outside his immediate circle, for his heart was large enough to embrace a number whom he reckoned as his life-long friends.

What, then, I ask those here present, are all the externals of human dignity—the power of large means not well used for purposes of philanthropy? What are the dreams of ambition, the pride of intellect, when Nature, as with David Levy, is called to pay its debt, the debt of life ? Let us then, while we drop the tear of sympathy for the pain and suffering of his past few weeks, and which he bore with the patience of a Job; nay, more with the sweet patience of a Saint, cast the broad mantle of Jewish charity over what may have been his foibles—for perfection belongs to none of us—nor withhold from his memory the commendations due to his several virtues.

Among his professional brethren he had earned the laurel of esteem. He possessed the friendship of most of those with whom the work of his life brought him into contact, as made evident by their daily enquiries, and their kindly expressions of regret. As a Hebrew well-known for the steadfastness of his faith, and his Jewish feeling and practice, he some years ago did yeoman service for his religion, by serving the synagogue during several terms as its treasurer; occupying the like post for our schools, and especially on their merging into the Education Board. And, although in more recent years he had taken no active part, his interest never abated, and his hand and purse were ever ready to give the needed aid. Not blessed with a child to carry his name and memory to another generation, he supplied its place by the adoption of a niece, to whom he acted the part of a father, and of another niece upon whom he lavished an equal amount of affection. And so general was his affection for the young of the past and the present—the fruit of a genial nature—that the phrase, "Uncle David," became a household word in Sydney.

The Creator of all flesh having, for some wise purposes which we cannot divine, been pleased in His mercy to relieve our brother from the cares and perplexities of this transitory existence, thus severing another link from the fraternal chain that binds us together—and many of us who knew him, as I did for more than thirty years, regret to find that link now loosened from the fast-failing chain—will receive his soul with favour and compassion, for he was quite prepared and well satisfied to render it up, and we can well leave him in the hands of a Merciful Being, whose loving kindness covers our present and our future.

To his dearly-beloved widow, his fond relatives and many friends —and he himself had been a friend to many—a dear friend, a good friend, a well-tried friend—aye, in a number of instances a friend to his own loss and detriment—we can only offer our sincerest consolation. But our chief sympathy must go first to the now lone wife— the faithful, loving wife of many years, the beloved partner of her dear husband's joys and his sorrows, of his pleasures and his annoyances, and who has of late gone patiently through a terrible trial and vigil. It is to her a bitter and grievous parting, which has robbed her of the jewel of her life. Oh, may she be able to pick up some crumbs of comfort as the days go by, and may she be strengthened to bear her lot with resignation.

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Citation details

'Levy, David Lawrence (1828–1893)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/levy-david-lawrence-20653/text31489, accessed 22 August 2019.

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