Lea Portrate – A lifelong commitment

Congratulations to longstanding volunteer Lea Portrate OAM, on her much deserved Australia Day Honours for her service to the Sydney Jewish Community across multiple causes. 

Lea has been a volunteer at Montefiore since 1983, but feels like she’s been a “Monte person” her whole life. Lea’s father, Israel Green, was involved in the land purchase and construction of the Hunters Hill campus. Some of her fondest childhood memories are of family outings in the 1930s with her siblings, to the Bellevue Hill Montefiore Home.

“The Matron would hand out lollies from an enormous glass jar on her desk,” Lea recalls.

After retiring from her career as a preschool teacher, Lea began volunteering with Jewish Care, Jannawi, Scarba House for Children, and Montefiore, whilst continuing her active role at the Great Synagogue. Citing her two passions as child protection and dementia care, Lea says: “I believe that everyone should do some form of volunteering, to nurture the soul”. Lea volunteered for years in the Boutique at Hunters Hill, as well as running the once-famous smoked salmon raffle at the annual Fete. But as soon as Randwick opened in 2006, “Leon and I jumped right in,” says Lea, of her role with special care while her late husband Leon volunteered in the cafe.

Pictured above: Lea with late husband Leon z’l, and daughter Karen Whitton

Lea loves her ‘buddy’ volunteer role in the Special Care Unit working with residents living with dementia. Even though she assists with knitting and sing-a-longs, Lea claims that the main skills that she brings to her role are those of listening, and of giving the “gift of conversation”.

Lea epitomises the generosity and spirit of volunteering,” says Volunteer Manager Hazel Stein, and we are thankful for her 38 years of selfless giving, kindness and empathy.” 

Overwhelmed and delighted with her recent award, Lea was mostly impressed that her friends and colleagues were able to keep it a secret, as the nomination process for the Order of Australia awards takes two years.