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Rahel Michaelis (1829–1901)

Rarely has a death in the Jewish community of Melbourne occasioned such widespread regret as did that of Mrs. Rahel Michaelis, the wife of Mr. Moritz Michaelis, of Acland-street, St. Kilda. The sad event took place early in the morning of the 5th February, and quite unexpectedly. The deceased lady had not been in the best of health for some time, but nothing so sudden and sad had been expected even by her nearest relatives. She was bright and cheerful on Monday, attended to some out-door duties, and played a game of cards in the evening, retiring to rest at the usual time. But during the night she had a slight attack of asthma. Dr. McAdam, her medical attendant, was quickly summoned to her bedside, and under his treatment she felt much relieved. But while he was still engaged in making her as comfortable as possible for the rest of the night syncope supervened and, without the slightest struggle or forewarning, she laid her head on the pillow, closed her eyes and was no more. All possible restoratives were employed, but they failed. The end had come so suddenly that, of all her children, only Mrs. Theomin, who slept in an adjoining room, was able to be present.

By the death of this estimable lady a large and highly respected family, consisting of an aged husband, four sons and seven daughters, have been plunged into deep mourning. But her loss will be felt in much wider circles, especially by the poor of all denominations, who had in her a sincere and never-failing friend. Endowed with a warm womanly heart and a genial disposition, she was at once an ideal wife, mother and friend:—a devout Jewess withal, heartily supporting her husband in all good works and carefully supervising the religious and moral education of her children. In the company of some other St. Kilda Jewish ladies, whose modesty will not permit us to mention their names, she visited many a poor home, to whose inmates she brought relief from trouble and sorrow: For years and years, and until advanced age and failing health compelled her to desist, she never refused to render personal service in any good cause; in fact, she was foremost in giving both her labour and her means to further any religious or charitable object. When she could no longer take an active part in good work she was ever ready to give monetary assistance, and those whom duty often compelled to canvass for subscriptions knew very well that from "Linden" they would not go away empty-handed, but would often receive more than they could reasonably expect. No wonder that the late Mrs. Michaelis had hosts of friends amongst all classes, and that when the news of her death became known there was invariably amongst Jews and Christians alike one exclamation, "A good woman gone!" Her funeral, which took place on Wednesday, 6th February, was one of the largest ever seen in St. Kilda, the procession, headed by the employes of Messrs. Michaelis, Hallenstein and Co., both in the warehouse and the tannery, being fully a quarter of a-mile long. Mr. M. Gotthelf, her brother, and Captain George Michaelis, her son, came hurriedly over from Sydney to be present at the funeral, and so did her daughter, Mrs. Baruch, who had been on a visit to the neighbouring State. The floral offerings sent from all quarters even beyond Victoria, were something marvellous, and filled more than the special carriage provided for them. Beyond this the funeral, in accordance with the wishes of the deceased and her surviving relatives, was of the simplest kind, the arrangements being in the hands of Mr. W. G. Apps. The interment took place in the St. Kilda Cemetery. The Rev. E. Blaubaum officiated, and, having recited the prescribed ritual, delivered the following short oration:

It is with sad and sorrowful hearts that we have met here to perform the last solemn rites over the mortal remains of our departed sister, Rahel Michaelis. We all knew her, and if to know her meant to respect her, to know her intimately was to love her. The most devoted of wives, the meat affectionate of mothers, she did not confine her sympathies to those of her own flesh and blood. Her heart was large enough to feel for all. She was the friend of all, ever ready to succour those in distress, to extend a helping hand to those in need of it. No deserving movement was ever set on foot in our midst without meeting with her heartiest support, and her good deeds were performed quietly and unostentatiously. She practised virtue for virtue's sake. Strong and resigned in sorrow, thankful in happiness, she had her faith in God, and that faith was deep and sincere. She was never happier than when she could go to the House of God, and even as late as last Saturday she felt exceedingly pleased that she was able to attend Divine worship and join in the prayers offered up for the repose of the soul of our departed Queen. I have no hesitation in saying that this congregation owes her much, and I am equally sure that it will be many a long day before her memory and example will vanish from our minds. If ever the Biblical epithet, "A mother in Israel," applied to any woman it was due to her. She did good, delighting in doing good and encouraging others to do likewise. We are the poorer by her death, but the richer by her example. And while we deeply sympathise with her sorrowing relatives, we can but pray that there may be many like her in our community. She has gone to her eternal home, and, though the pain of separation is keen, it is for us to humbly submit to the will of the Almighty and with implicit faith in Him to say: "The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord!"

The coffin was then gently and decorously lowered, and many a person present, if not all, felt that that day a noble woman had gone to rest. It is sad to think that many a fond hope was buried with her. For instance, when a few months ago, as reported, in this paper, her husband celebrated his eightieth birthday, it was fondly hoped that both might be spared for four years longer, when they would be able to celebrate their golden wedding. This, however, was not to be, and one can but resign oneself to the will of an all Wise and beneficent Providence. To the bereaved husband and his family it must be of some consolation that they have the sympathy of the whole community, and that the name of Rahel Michaelis will be held in affectionate remembrance, at any rate as long as the present generation of men, women and children will last.

Original publication

Citation details

'Michaelis, Rahel (1829–1901)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 19 June 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Gotthelf, Rahel

7 November, 1829


5 February, 1901 (aged 71)
St Kilda, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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