Jewish Latter-day Saint Keeps Traditions Alive

  • 16 April 2012

Hazel searched for genealogical records in this synagogue in Prague.  

“While we are proud to be members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” says Hazel Hillier, “I am glad our family is able to continue a custom that has been in force for millennia.”

The Hilliers, who live in Brisbane, wanted their children to remember their Jewish heritage. “One way we did this,” Hazel explains, “was to hold Passover every year in our home.”

Neville Hillier, Hazel’s husband, presides at the event, reading the story of the exodus of the Jews from Egypt as found in the Haggadah, a special book detailing the event.

“Our youngest son reads all the traditional blessings in Hebrew if he is present,” says Hazel. “We sent him to a Jewish school for his last two years of Primary education. However, many times now he holds Passover in his own home, with his wife and some of their friends.”

Another son and their two daughters do likewise—all keeping alive the tradition. So Hazel and her husband, for some years now, have invited friends to their Passover celebration.

“Being members of the Church,” say the Hilliers, “we never lack for people who want to participate.”

Hazel loves this passage from the Haggadah: “Even if all of us were wise, if all of us understood very much, if all of us were learned in the Torah, it would still be our duty to tell how the Israelites went out of Egypt. And the more a person tells about it, the better it is.”

“I grew up in a liberal Jewish household in Cooma,” says Hazel of her childhood. “We couldn't have had a kosher kitchen even if my parents had wanted it. With only two Jewish families in the town, there was no local source for kosher foods. However, we still observed the three High Holy Days of Passover, New Year and Day of Atonement.”

Her family had American neighbours who were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “After I married, I became a Christian first of all, and later on a member of the Church. My mother was sorry I converted to Christianity,” says Hazel, “but she did not mind when I became a Latter-day Saint because of the wonderful example set by our old neighbours, who had long since returned to the US.”

Neville and Hazel had difficulties in their marriage; but Neville felt that if there were a solution to their problems, it lay in Jesus Christ.

Hazel’s Jewish parents, as part of a world tour, visited Salt Lake City. They brought back with them a book said to be another testament of Jesus Christ, and also a pamphlet containing the testimony of Joseph Smith, who claimed to have seen God and His Son Jesus Christ.

They showed the items to Hazel and her husband. Neville was deeply affected by Joseph’s testimony.

One day, from their car, the couple saw two missionaries entering a house, and Neville asked Hazel if she would like to find out what they were saying about the Saviour.

“I knew what Church they were from,” says Hazel, “because poking out of the back trouser pocket was the Joseph Smith pamphlet.”

Neville decided to go around the block, to try to connect with the missionaries. The plan worked, and the Hilliers were subsequently taught the discussions. Gospel principles helped them put their shoulder to the wheel of their marriage difficulties, and they were baptized. 

They have five children. Their three sons served missions; two of them and both their daughters married returned missionaries. “All married in the temple,” says Hazel. “We have fifteen grandchildren.”

Hazel is a noted cooking enthusiast. She has published two recipe books and had a recipe accepted for Maggie Beer’s Homecooked Feasts.

A gifted singer and actor, Neville’s hobbies lie in the arts. Quite fittingly, he has played the part of Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof” several times.