Emeritus Prof Alan Crown AM


1932 – 2010

The website of Mandelbaum House currently reads as follows: ‘Emeritus Professor Alan Crown AM has been a Trustee of the College since its inception and is Chairman of the Mandelbaum Council and Joint Master.  Emeritus Professor in Semitic Studies at the University of Sydney, he is a world renowned scholar and author.’

Alan Crown was an exceptional person.  There was in fact nothing average about him at all.  He was in feet and inches pretty short – but in stature – he was a giant of a man.  He genuinely made a difference to the lives of many as a mentor, a source of great knowledge, a father figure.  He was one of those great men who remained accessible and human, and one even tolerated his coffee-drinking and occasionally inappropriate humour!

Professor Stephen Garton, Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney wrote that Alan had made a huge contribution to the University, to the community and to the world of scholarship more generally.  But more personally, he added, Alan was simply a wonderful human being.

Alan was born in Leeds, England, on the 28th of September 1932, to Abraham and Sarah Crown.

With his wife Sadie and two daughters, and with an MA from Leeds, he moved to Australia in 1959, teaching first in Melbourne.  In 1962 he was appointed to a Lecturership in the Department of Semitic studies at the University of Sydney where he completed a PhD in 1967, and where he taught until his retirement at the end of 1996. He was head of department from 1985 to 1996, and in October 1990 he was appointed to a personal chair in Semitic Studies.  In recognition of his service to education at secondary and tertiary level, he was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 1995.  Alan’s legacy remains the strength of the University’s department in the three fields of its more recent name – Hebrew, Biblical and Jewish Studies.

He was an acclaimed international expert on the Samaritans, and has published widely on this topic and many others, including the Dead Sea Scrolls, Yiddish language and culture, Jewish education, Zionism and Australian Jewry.  He was also Senior Associate Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies and was a visiting professor at University College, London.

In retirement he continued writing papers, contributing to academic journals and providing articles for upcoming encyclopaedias.  A Festschrift entitled: Feasts and Fasts: A Festschrift in honour of Alan David Crown was launched at Mandelbaum House on April 11th, 2005.

The depth, but also the breadth of his knowledge, became his hallmark over the years. It is to his credit that so many of his doctoral students fill key positions around the world.

A prolific and versatile writer, Alan wrote a series of stories for his grandchildren, which were called the ‘Adventures of Mr Flop’ and also wrote a series of stories called the ‘Roo and Bushy’ tales, which he signed with a paw print.

To his daughters, Jacqui and Aviva – he was simply ‘Dad’.  Jewish traditions were always upheld with all the family coming together to celebrate the festivals.  His corny jokes made them cringe and laugh at the same time.

Above all else, he was completely and utterly devoted to his wife, Sadie, whom he visited in the Montefiore Home each and every day without fail.

Beyond his own family and that of Mandelbaum, one must also record the affection and respect in which he was held at the NSW Board of Studies, where he was renowned for his work in Classical Hebrew.

He may have inherited the name Crown from his parents, but he earned the title ‘CROWN’ – the Crown of Torah, through his own merit, his sharp intellect and his deep respect for scholarship.  He will be remembered by his family, his colleagues and his students – may his memory be for a blessing.

December 2010

Click here for Rabbi David Freedman’s Eulogy, delivered on November 3rd 2010.

Click here for a tribute to Professor Crown by Father Dr Paul Stenhouse MSC, prepared for The Great Synagogue, Sydney, November 2010.