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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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Jews Helping Out in the Philippines After Typhoon Huracane

Those who know me well, would know how I often say, “if I were not a rabbi I’d be a helicopter emergency rescue pilot.”

We are very honoured to have someone in our community in Adelaide who does just that. Dr Dan Ellis, works in South Australia in helicopter rescue. He is currently in the Philippines after having been selected amongst four doctors representing South Australia.


Our member Associate Professor Daniel Ellis FACEM, FCEM, FIMC & DipRTM RCSEd, FFICM, FRCS(Eng), MRCP, MRCA, EDIC, DMCC,

Director of MedSTAR Emergency Medical Retrieval Service, Deputy Director of Trauma and Senior Consultant in Emergency Medicine at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, Associate Professor at James Cook University, Queensland, is currently spending two weeks serving in the national Australian medical relief team in the Philippines which is treating patients after the typhoon there. Dan is one of only four medical people from SA in the second wave of relief support, which is operating a tent hospital called Camp Kookaburra. You can read about the relief work of the National Trauma and Critical Care Response Centre here:

And here’s a link to a picture of Dan at work in a tent:

And with the 2000th patient treated by the Australian relief effort:

We send only our best! So come back safely.

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Dealing with Missionaries: Looking Inside Ourselves for Solutions

Dealing with Missionaries: Looking Inside Ourselves for Solutions

Recently, I saw a Jew arguing with a missionary.  The Jewish woman was upset because she had seen the non-Jewish woman trying to convert some Jews.  The argument quickly fell away from anything to do with religion or beliefs.  Instead, it became a game of who could be more condescending and insulting to whom.  It seemed like each was trying their best to make themselves look good while simultaneously putting the other one down.  In the end, nothing was achieved.

You see, when two people believe something very strongly, there is no point in having a debate or an argument because neither will be persuaded the other one is right.  This is true of any subject, but religion and politics are two of the top subjects for which this holds true.

If you are discussing or debating something with someone who has an open mind or who is on the fence about an issue, then it is worth continuing because you might change their mind.  If there are witnesses who might be convinced, it is worth continuing because you might change their minds.  If there is a Jew involved who has moved away from Judaism, it is worth continuing because EVERY Jewish soul is precious and you can never give up on persuading them. However, if you are arguing with someone who does not fall into one of those categories, then it is not a wise use of your time to continue. Instead, it is simply a waste of time and energy that you could be using to do something else.

And of course, if the conversation devolves into an argument without substance, where you are only finding more creative ways to put the other person down, then you won’t achieve anything, no matter who you are trying to convince or why.  If you want to debate with a missionary because, for instance, other Jews are watching, you must remain calm and keep a level head. There are rational responses to everything they say and there is no need to get angry at them.

When it comes to missionaries, I think it is a waste of time and energy to be upset and angry with them.  If they are on private property that belongs to you, you can ask them to leave and they should leave (or you can call the police) but beyond that, there is no reason to expend energy being upset with them for their proselytizing.

There’s no point in getting upset with the individuals doing it, for two reasons:
1) They are doing it out of love. Even if they are wrong, they are doing it because they truly care about others and want them to find happiness and beauty in the same things they do. At least, we must try to believe this because it is our obligation to work on ourselves to see the good in others even when they do the wrong thing.
2) They are merely instruments of the Satan, the Yetzer Hara, Hashem, whatever you want to call it. Remember the mashal of the dog and the stick. The master holds the stick that beats the dog. The dog barks at and bites at the stick. The dog does not realize it is the master who is doing the beating. These individuals are merely the stick. Instead of barking at THEM, we should ask why Hashem has put them in our path. Why do we deserve this? What can we do about it?

Only then can we address the true issue, which is our own teshuva. We have to ask what we can do. We will never be able to stop all non-Jews from trying to convert Jews; it has been that way since the time of the first Jew, Avraham. When he would not be persuaded away from the path of Hashem, he was thrown into a fire. And millions of Jews have been thrown into fires since then for refusing to change their faith and their beliefs. Nothing will stop the goyim from their anti-Semitism until Moshiach comes.

So instead of concentrating on them, the stick, let us ask the Master why He sends this stick. The answer is very clear straight out in the Torah. Look at the blessings Yaakov & Eisav receive from Yitzchak. When Yaakov (the Jews) are strong in their Torah, then Eisav will be their servant. But we see this is not currently the case, nor has it been since, well, pretty much ever.  From the sin of the golden calf to the idolatry throughout the Tanach, we Jews have been rebellious. If we want to break free from the yoke of Eisav, the only way to do so is to be strong in Torah.

So instead of arguing with or putting down others, we Jews have to A) work on ourselves to do as many mitzvot and learn as much Torah as we can and B) we have to work on helping other Jews to do the same. Yes, the does mean rescuing Jews who have been ensnared by those non-Jews who try to pull them away from the path of Judaism. But it also means rescuing Jews who have been pulled away from Judaism by the temptations of the modern world, by bad experiences with other Jews, by any and all possible factors.

But it does not mean attacking the stick. Let us be a light unto the nations! Shana tova!

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Idan Raichel: ANZAC Day, Memorial Day, and Yom HaZikaron

Idan Raichel: ANZAC Day, Memorial Day, and Yom HaZikaron

Today is ANZAC Day here in Australia.  This is the day when we honor the fallen soldiers who gave their lives defending the amazing country of Australia.  It is the Australian equivalent of the US Memorial Day, although in Australia the shops are closed (yes, even the major grocery stores), rather than having big sales.  People spend the day with family, visiting farms, having picnics, going to concerts.

Israeli soldiers stand on a sidewalk in front of a walk painted with the American flag

Israeli soldiers stand on a sidewalk in front of a walk painted with the American flag

With Yom HaZikaron just a few short weeks ago, my remembrance of our fallen Jewish soldiers is fresh in my mind.  In America, Memorial Day has sadly become commercialized.  Every store puts American flags on its advertisements… seemingly trying to convince you that American soldiers have died (and are still dying) for your right to buy an Italian leather couch, a new SUV.  Where is the true gratitude?

Even here in Australia, ANZAC Day is different from Yom HaZikaron.  True, in Australia, fallen soldiers seem truly to be honored.  I have seen graffiti painted on walls reminding us of ANZAC, reminding us of the lost soldiers.  When graffiti artists see this as the message they want to tag on walls, you know you have a country that honors its soldiers. The shops are closed in reverence. And yet, something is different.

I think the difference is that Yom HaZikaron is personal, for ALL of us.  I would venture to say that nearly every Jew in Israel knows or has known or met a soldier who died defending the country.  Thank G-d, given the number of attacks, the death toll is remarkably small.  G-d is with us, always.  Yet, it is a small country.  If one person from a moshav or a yishuv dies in combat, the entire town will feel the loss.

Israeli soldiers guarding Kever Rochel in Bethlehem, both secular and charedi

Israeli soldiers guarding Kever Rochel in Bethlehem, both secular and charedi

Even more, we Jews are more than just a country, a nation.  We are a family.  If you found out that you had a cousin you’d never met who was just killed in combat, you would feel the loss.  Now I will never get to know him/her.  Blood ties run thick.  Family, at the core of our Jewish values, connects us.  And all of us Jews are family.  It is the reason we welcome traveling Jews to our Shabbos table every week, or the reason we let Jews without a place to sleep stay in our home.  We don’t need to know them.  They are family.  If your long lost uncle showed up at your door with nowhere to go, would you shut him out? Your cousin? Your brother or sister? Of course not!

And that is why on Yom HaZikaron, we feel the loss so deeply.  Wouldn’t it be beautiful if every person in every country could feel this way for the soldiers who have died defending them?  If we could all tap into that sensation that we are all of one family?  In the eyes of G-d, in the teachings of Judaism, every life – every life, not just Jewish lives – is sacred.  If one life is lost, it is a loss to the world, and a loss to each and every one of us.

In parting, I will leave you with this letter from famous Israeli musician Idan Raichel.  He speaks about his experience of Memorial Day versus Yom HaZikaron… and I hope that, on this ANZAC Day and every day of commemoration, his words will give us pause.

Hello, Its me, Idan,

writing this morning from Tel Aviv: Exactly a year ago, I was sitting with friends in Atlanta, Georgia, and telling them why, in Israel, stores and shopping malls don’t have Memorial Day sales.

I tried to explain to them how, unlike in America, Memorial Day is filled with such deep sorrow that it’s not a day for shopping trips or picnics in the park. I told them how every Memorial Day, my mother rides her bicycle from our house to the cemetery for fallen soldiers in Kfar Sava to visit the graves of two of her high school friends who never lived to be 21. She’s been making that trip every year for over 40 years.

I tried to explain to my friends in Atlanta about the minute of silence on Memorial Day eve, and the two minutes the next morning, during which the whole country stands still. They refuse to believe that an entire country completely freezes for a moment of remembrance − they try to imagine the sight, and to them it sounds like a scene from a movie.

I tried to explain to them how in just one moment as Memorial Day ends, like the moment that ends Shabbat and begins the new week, we transition from mourning to the happiest day of the year. We emerge from our great sadness, and while giving thanks to those who made it possible for us to be here, we begin Independence Day, and fireworks light up our beloved country.

I tried to explain how our great joy, a joy that doesn’t know left or right, rich or poor, native-born citizens or new immigrants, is about one thing − celebrating the fact that we are here. We are here in this crazy country of ours, where there’s always breaking news, where everything is tense and seems to be always teetering on the edge, but also where we have everything, old and new: Just a 15-minute drive away from the spot which housed the First Temple, built to praise God, where the Western Wall now stands, someone is filming the Big Brother reality TV show, complete with celebrity contestants.

We have sacred and secular here: We have old and new, Hebrew and Arabic, Russian and Amharic, Moroccan and Yemenite and more. In this country we live and celebrate independence, and democracy. We celebrate with old-fashioned sing-a-longs on kibbutzim, and trance parties in the desert. Happiness floods this country of ours, which after all is barely a dot on the world map, but makes a great deal of noise − as only we know how. Every Independence Day in Israel, throughout the country, everyone takes to the streets for celebrations that could hold their own against those of any country in the world.

I miss the days when I would go with my parents and siblings to the main square in Kfar Sava to join in the celebration. To my regret, but also to my great joy, I’ve been a performing musician from the age of 12 and since then, I’ve only experienced Independence Day from the other side − up on the big stage, facing a sea of people, tens of thousands in every city. In those huge crowds there are native Israelis together with new immigrants from every corner of the world. Big crowds weren’t something one used to see very often in the Middle East − not until the past two years.

On this Independence Day, I think about the people who have taken to the streets recently: in our country, in Egypt, in Syria, and many others. Millions of people who want not only to survive today, but to dream about what is possible tomorrow. People who are looking for new meaning in their independence, or trying to return independence to its original meaning.

Independence, and great hope.

Idan Raichel

Read more on Yom HaZikaron: A Prayer for Israeli Soldiers

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Kokoda part 3, Preparing For My Solo Trek Along the Kokoda Trail.

Some people I met along the Kokoda Trail in PNG

When I arrived in Port Moresby I found a guy I met on couchsurfing who manages a chartered airline company. He graciously let me stay with him and showed me around town (not much to see). In the afternoon I went to the Kokoda Track office and paid my permit fee ($150). The office insisted that I’d need a guide with me and so I agreed. They teamed me up with a guy named Wilson Batia whose brother David would be my guide/porter. Their family lived in a village along the track, and David had not been home to see them in over a year. Because of this they accepted a nominal fee, enough to pay our transport to the start of the trail, food for David, and a bit extra. (a few hundred dollars total) I was also excited about the idea of staying with their family as was the plan.

Knowing that David would be carrying some of my stuff I took an extra 10kg worth, like an extra book, item of clothing, etc. When we set out the next morning, I had two weeks’ worth of food for myself and around nine days’ worth for David.

We met at the market/bus station area the next morning. While David worked out finding us transport, Wilson, who has excellent English skills, gave me an hour-long tour of the market and introduced me to all the new fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Many things I would have never tried if it were not for him pointing them out. For example, pocari nuts, something like a cross between coconuts and brazil nuts. Wilson also explained many aspects of the culture which fascinated me.

We got to the start of the Kokoda Trail, Owens Corner, late morning after taking a public bus (didn’t cost much). We were the only ones there. I prayed Shacharit in tallit and teffilin, ate some breakfast, and we headed off.

There was a cloud cover that blocked out the sun and made the temperature bearable. The first section of the trail is steep (though I quickly learned that everything is steep along the Kokoda!) I had read a number of Kokoda Trail reports on the internet, where many of the people mentioned how much they fell and slipped in the first hour. Some of them spoke about how they had to walk a few kilometres just to get to the start of the trail because their vehicles could not get through the mud. I guess I was lucky as the ground was dry as a bone, and easy to go down.

Two weeks later when I came back in the pouring rain, the trail leading up to Owens corner was a mud slide. I would take two steps up and slide one down. Thus I can full appreciate, should anyone have been on their way down from Owen Corner on that day, they would be guaranteed multiple slips and falls. This overall was my understanding of the Kokoda Trail, that the weather plays an important part. It can go from pleasant to miserable very quickly: it starts to rain, the sun comes out, it gets cold, your attacked by millions of bugs, or maybe you are lucky and there are no bugs!

I was carrying around 25kg which was okay for me. I’m used to carrying a pack along trails. David on the other hand, was obviously struggling and sweating profusely. He complained of a sharp pain in his ribs and was struggling to breathe. He said it was from an earlier injury when he fell a couple of years ago. We only made it to the first camp stop where we spent the night. The next morning after an hour of slow walking where I was far in the lead I suggested to David that he turn around and go home. He was not happy about the situation but realized he could not continue. I gave some of the extra food we now had to a villager along the way, and the rest for David to take back with him.

With no guide, no porter and a 30kg pack, I headed out alone along the Kokoda Trail.

Previous posts on the Kokoda Trail:

Post 1

Post 2

This is the famous war memorial commemorating the Australian diggers who fell along the Kokoda Trail. I am not yet up to this part in my story, though I post this picture in honor of today being ANZAC Day




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Walking the Kokoda Trail Solo and Keeping the Sabbath and Kosher Along the Kokoda Track

The start of my Kokoda trip

‘This post is in honour of the Jewish Australian service men who gave their life defending their country.’


The first time I heard about the Kokoda Trail was from an Australian friend in Sydney. I think it was sometime in 2006. A friend of mine saw a program on television about the history of the Kokoda campaign and got excited about walking the Track.  We brainstormed together ideas how we were going to travel to Papua New Guinea and do the 97km trek through mud, rain, and ankle twisting terrain.

We never did end up going and I largely forgot about Kokoda as I travelled around the world doing other tracks and climbing mountains. In June 2012, something triggered off my memory of Kokoda and I decided to do the track. It is a challenging walk and when I took into account I’d need to keep kosher and Shabbat along the way, I ruled out going with any organized tour. My only solution was to get a company to take me alone, or I’d have to walk the Kokoda solo. I was quoted prices from various companies that organize Kokoda trips, ranging from $2,000-4,000. In addition to this cost, I would need flights, some personal gear, visa, additional food, and so on. It was going to cost over $4,000, which seemed too much money to pay to trek through rain and mud for a week.

I posted in forums looking for someone else who would be interested in joining me, to offset some of the cost. I found and met one guy in Sydney, who agreed to come but then pulled out a couple of weeks before. His doctor had suggested that he was not fit enough to do the walk.

I contemplated putting a kosher/Shabbat group together and found a few people interested. I realized through it could be a year or two until it would actually happen that everyone would be ready.

And so not wanting to wait I went alone.

I purchased plane tickets to PNG, bought most of the food I’d need and threw in a bit of exercise to get in shape. I read online from a number of people that one of the most important things on the Kokoda Track is to have a pair of boots with solid treads. My pair of hiking boots had seen better days, so I bought a new pair from Kathmandu that have some of the largest treads I’ve ever seen on a pair of boots. This was certainly the right decision. Having these boots on the Kokoda saved me from falling numerous times as I slipped my way down muddy slopes.

I broke in my new boots (very important to do before heading for a trek) and got a bit fitter by doing a few day walks carrying my pack with 25kg in it. I’ve done loads of trekking with a backpack so it was no big deal. I just wanted to push myself a bit more.

A guy who had a bunch of maps and track notes from his previous trip responded to one of my posts. We met and he gave me some pointers and let me photocopy all the material.

From the library I took out 5 books on the Kokoda campaign along with the documentary ‘Kokoda.’ I felt it was important to find out and educate myself as much as possible before getting to the track. The more I knew about the history, the more I could appreciate what the Australian soldiers had to endure.

To be continued.

Previous post on the Kokoda Track


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