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Visit of The Chief Rabbi Mirvis to Australia. What happened to Adelaide?

Adelaide Hebrew Congregation

Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis was appointed to the role of Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth following the retirement of Lord Jonathan Sacks in September 2013. We learn from a recent  ‘Australian Jewish News’ that Chief Rabbi Mirvis is currently making his first trip to Australia for 12 days, with visits to Perth, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne. Then he travels to New Zealand to visit Auckland and Wellington.

In Perth he is speaking at Perth Hebrew Congregation on his vision for the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth.

In Sydney he is speaking at Central Synagogue, South Head Synagogue, the Jewish Learning Centre in North Bondi and at North Shore Synagogue and at various schools (Masada, Moriah, Mt Sinai and Kesser Torah Colleges), delivering an address for the 65thanniversary of Bnei Akiva and another at a public meeting at National Council of Jewish Women of Australia’s Fanny Reading House.

In Canberra he will attend the inauguration of the ACT Jewish community’s new Rabbi Alon Meltzer.

In Melbourne he visits Caulfield Hebrew Congregation, St Kilda Synagogue, Blake Street Hebrew Congregation, Mizrachi and Central Shule, as well as speaking at Mount Scopus Memorial College, Leibler Yavneh College and Bnei Akiva.

After travelling to New Zealand he will visit Wellington and Auckland to attend Rabbi Netanel Friedler’s inauguration at Auckland Hebrew Congregation on 1st December.

Original Adelaide synagogue consecrated 1850 on right and 1870 on leftAdelaide Hebrew Congregation is older than ALL of the above-mentioned Australian and New Zealand congregations of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth included in the list above. We were formed in 1848 by settlers arriving from England in the earliest ships arriving in South Australia. The customs and rituals, many of them written in detail and adopted by our congregation were based on those of Duke’s Place Synagogue in London from which many of the settlers and merchants came. These traditions are Ashkenazi, from Poland, and include various London shul rituals AHC has maintained for over 166 years. Our parade rituals honouring Chatan Torah and Chatan Bereishit, our pledges to charity at an aliya to the Torah, the prayer for the Queen and many other rituals and customs of our synagogue continue, probably unchanged, intriguing visitors, to this day.

At the time we moved to our new location in Glenside, the congregation’s previous Adelaide synagogue building, which was used for over 140 years, was the oldest continuously used synagogue in the southern hemisphere.

Our first qualified minister (and a Shakespearean scholar), Reverend Abraham Tobias Boas, served 50 years and was finally ordained as a Rabbi at his retirement, during a previous tour by a Chief Rabbi of the Commonwealth; the Chief Rabbi noted that Rabbi Boas was the longest serving Jewish minister in the Commonwealth. Other past AHC Rabbis, including Rabbi Philip Heilbrunn and then Rabbi Baruch Davis (who now serves at Chigwell and Hainault synagogue in Essex) maintained our strong links with these traditions.

Although we are a tiny community, we are proud of our heritage and look forward to learning of the new vision of the Chief Rabbi of the Commonwealth for all the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth.

We remain, like a diamond in the sand, on some distant shore, waiting to be discovered again.

(This is a guest post by a member of the Adelaide Hebrew Congregation)

You can read about Chief Rabbi Mirvis here: http://www.chiefrabbi.org/

 

 

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Parshas Vayera: Don’t Look Back

Parshas Vayera: Don’t Look Back

Change is hard.  Most of us are comfortable in our lives and our lifestyles.  It is no wonder that we find it hard to leave things behind.  A cruel boss, a toxic friendship, and a bad habit are all things we need to cut out of our lives but find hard to.  But even on a simpler level, we find it difficult to walk away.  How many times has a conversation with a group of friends turned to gossip or another subject that makes you uncomfortable, but you found yourself unable to turn around and walk away?

Change is really important for progress, advancement, and growth.  But that doesn’t make it easy to let go of the past.  Usually, when we make a change, whether it is breaking off a bad relationship or walking away from a conversation, we find it hard to sever our ties completely, even though that is the best thing to do.

In this week’s parsha, Sodom and Gemorrah are destroyed.  Of the two cities, the only people to survive are Lot and his family.  As they fled, they were given but one instruction: Don’t look back; you can never look back.  Nevertheless, Lot’s wife gave in to temptation and turned around to look back. As a result, she was turned into a pillar of salt.

How often are we turned into pillars of salt?  How often do we decide to make a change, only to turn back and end up feeling uncertain, rooted to the spot in a pillar of indecision?  This is not the way to make a change.

When we make a change, we must do so wholeheartedly.  We have to decide the best course of action, the right thing to do, and then pursue it with our whole selves.  We must flee Sodom without ever looking back.

This week, think about something in your life that needs to change.  What action can you take to make it happen?  Then take it! And, most importantly, keep your eyes on the prize, on your destination, and never look back.

Shabbat shalom!

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Parshas Lech Lecha: Everything in Life is a Test

Parshas Lech Lecha: Everything in Life is a Test

There once was a very wealthy, charitable, and highly respected man who would travel once a year to see his rebbe and get his blessing.  Every year on that Shabbos, everyone would treat him with the utmost respect and he would always get the most honored aliyah in the Shabbat service.  However, he was not just treated with respect because he was such a giving man; he was also treated with respect because people were a bit afraid of him, for he had the reputation of having a very bad temper.

One year, he went to his rebbe and said, “Rebbe, I have a problem and I need help. I have a problem with anger, and I cannot control my temper.” “There is no problem,” his rebbe replied. “But Rebbe,” he asked, “isn’t it considered very bad under Torah law to be angry? And I am always getting angry.” “It is not a problem,” his rebbe said again.  So, confused though he was, the man left his audience with the rebbe and trusted in his words.

After he left, the rebbe called in the gabbai of the shul and told him that instead of his usual honor, this man should receive the “honor” of tying the cover on the Torah scroll, something that children usually did. The gabbai was afraid and knew that the man would be very angry, so he thought he had better warn him.  He called him in and told him what the rebbe had said was to happen during the Shabbat service.

During the Shabbat service, everyone in the shul gasped when this prestigious man was passed over during the aliyot.  They all looked at him, expecting him to be furious, and were surprised to see him smiling serenely.  And when he was given the “honor” of tying up the Torah, everyone looked to him again, expecting him to be insulted, but he did his job with a smile.  Everyone was very surprised.

After the service, the rebbe came over and asked him how it was he managed not to get angry over this slight. “Well, Rebbe,” the man replied, “I knew you were just testing me!” “Ah,” said the rebbe, “so you see that your anger is not a problem, for everything in life is just a test!”

In this week’s parsha, we see some of the many tests given by G-d to Avraham.  The tests begin with him being told to leave his home, family, and friends, and to go into the unknown with no destination named, not an easy feat for an old man! And when he finally does arrive in Canaan, he is beset by famine.  The Egyptians capture his wife, Sarah, and then Avraham has to go to war against several kings. And the list continues on.  Yet, Avraham never wavered in his steadfast obedience to Hashem. He did not lose heart. He was not depressed. He did everything cheerfully.

So, too, is every difficulty in our lives a test.  We do not have to be a righteous tzaddik or a wealthy patron for G-d to care about us.  Just as a parent loves his/her poor child as much as his/her wealthy one, G-d loves each and every one of us, no matter what our faults may be.  And just as we challenge our own children to broaden their horizons and we give them opportunities to show how they have grown, we too are given tests by Hashem, in order to help us demonstrate our growth.  So this week, if temptation or difficulty comes your way, rise to the challenge. Meet it head-on, with a smile. Remember, it’s only a test!

Shabbat shalom!

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The Shabbos Project Adelaide: Havdallah Concert

The Shabbos Project Adelaide: Havdallah Concert

The Shabbos Project in Adelaide capped off a great and inspirational weekend of activities with a havdallah ceremony and impressive concert by Rabbi Heilbrunn of Melbourne and the AHC’s own Rabbi Ben.  First was the communal havdallah ceremony, which was followed by singing by Rabbi Heilbrunn, whose operatic cantorial style reverberated throughout the hall.  Local Matthew generously joined in on the piano in accompaniment.  Then Rabbi Ben sang some traditional yiddish songs, which the older members of the congregation especially appreciated.  There was a break for refreshments prepared by Rebbetzin Rachel and her cheder girls.  Then the Jewish Adelaide Zionist Youth (JAZY) organization did a performance with group participation to show some of the adults the fun they are missing out on by not being young enough to join anymore!  Finally, a sing-along and kumzitz topped off the night… although, of course, some members lingered to schmooze afterwards!  All in all, it was an amazing and inspirational night.  Many members of the Adelaide Jewish community are already asking if we will do it again next year! So put it in your travel plans and we’ll see you then!

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The Shabbos Project Adelaide

The Shabbos Project Adelaide

The Adelaide Shabbos Project was an amazing success! After watching this video:

Rebbetzin Rachel was inspired to bring the Shabbos Project to Adelaide, South Australia.

With the help of the whole community, the Shabbos Project in Adelaide was a huge success!

Learning a new way to braid challah

Learning a new way to braid challah at the Adelaide Shabbos Project Great Big Challah Bake

Thursday night was a challah bake that brought together three spiritual leaders and women from all walks of life, from Israelis to first-time challah bakers. (Read more here!)

Friday night the ladies of the community joined with WIZO South Australia in a communal candle lighting ceremony.  This was followed by a kabbalat Shabbat service led by visiting Rabbi Philip Heilbrunn of Melbourne, whose booming voice led Adventuring Akiva to clap and dance in the aisles.

After the service was a communal dinner with preparation led by a long-time community stalwart.  With nearly 40 people in attendance, the Adelaide Jewish community was well-represented.  Ages ranged from under one to the 80s!  Food included a first course of dips and salmon mousse, a main of half a dozen salads and chicken, and dessert of sorbet and berries.  Rebbetzin Rachel introduced our visiting rabbi with some stirring words about Jewish unity and how to use technology to keep Torah better.  Rabbi Heilbrunn then gave an inspirational sermon about the importance and the power of Shabbat.

Saturday morning saw a popular service led by Rabbi Heilbrunn, followed by a community kiddush.  Then there was a delicious lunch of homemade hummus and tehini, spinach salad with heirloom tomatoes and balsamic vinegar pearls, tropical barbeque salmon, lasagna, and a selection of homemade sorbets, held at the rabbi’s house.

Congregants at the AHC enjoying refreshments during the havdallah concert

Congregants at the AHC enjoying refreshments during the havdallah concert

Finally, the Shabbos Project ended with maariv services and a havdallah ceremony.  Then there were mini-concerts given by Rabbi Heilbrunn and Rabbi Ben, a performance by the Jewish Adelaide Zionist Youth (JAZY), a sing-along and kumzitz, and refreshments prepared by Rebbetzin Rachel and the cheder girls.

All in all, the Shabbos Project Adelaide was a big success!  Visitors came all the way from Melbourne to participate and Jews from all walks of life, from the strictly observant to the strictly secular, came together in a display of Jewish unity.  Adelaide Jews are already asking Rebbetzin Rachel to begin organizing for next year!

Kol hakavod, Adelaide and the Shabbos Project!

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The Shabbos Project: The Great Big Challah Bake!

The Shabbos Project: The Great Big Challah Bake!

In Adelaide, South Australia, I decided to organize our own challah bake in solidarity with Jews all over the world who were participating in their Shabbos Project challah bakes.  We may be a small community, but this was a great chance to have some unity!  Jewish women from all walks of life showed up to bake challah. It was an amazing event! Just check out some of the photos below!

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Parshas Noach: Shabbat – A Lifeboat for All of Us

Parshas Noach: Shabbat – A Lifeboat for All of Us

This weekend we will be participating in The Shabbos Project.  This is a grassroots attempt to get Jews worldwide to experience the magic of the Sabbath, just once.  Last year, it happened in South Africa, where almost every single Jew participated – even if they were not at all religious! That’s because you don’t have to be “religious” to participate in Shabbat.  Shabbat is not some sort of punishment, it is a gift, given by G-d to all Jews, religious or not.  There are some special aspects of Shabbat that have actually been studied and advocated for by scientists!  You don’t have to be religious to appreciate that having the whole family sit down for dinner together once a week is proven to be good for family unity, or that putting down phones, computers, and all other screens for a 24 hour period is great for improving relationships with your children and spouse.

In this week’s parsha, Noach was faced with a world of decadence and decay – sadly, not that much different from what we experience today.  We open our email and find obscene spam, we turn on the television and see scenes of murder, and we turn on the radio and hear foul language.  Shabbat is our chance to turn off all the garbage and focus on what is good and meaningful in our lives – our real-life, face-to-face relationships.  Just as Noach had to build an ark and G-d had to wash away the garbage that the world had become, so too we can build ourselves an ark in time and each and every week wash away the mundane so we have space to illuminate the spiritual.

This week, we have many opportunities to connect to this precious gift of Shabbat in a community setting.  Unlike Noach, we don’t have to go it alone on our arks. We can keep ittogether!  Women can join the Rebbetzin for a challah bake on Thursday night, one of the special mitzvot for ladies.  And everyone is welcome to join in the community celebrations of Shabbat over the weekend: community candle lighting on Friday night, followed by kabbalat Shabbat services and a delicious dinner at the Shul; Saturday morning services led by visiting Rabbi Heilbrunn from Melbourne, followed by a Kiddush and then community lunch at the Rabbi’s house; and finally, a havdallah ceremony, concert, JAZY performance, and kumzitz sing-along at the Shul.  Let’s build our ark and keep it – TOGETHER!

Shabbat shalom!

(To indicate participation in the Shabbos Project, please feel free to tag photos and videos of your involvement with #shabbosproject and #keepingittogether !)

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