Chana Raizel and I are looking forward to being back in Shule this Shabbat, after having been away last Shabbat in Hobart, Tasmania! We went to take part in a special Centenary of Anzac service in my capacity as Jewish Military Chaplain and while we were there, I also lead all Shabbat services in the Hobart Synagogue. This Shule is remarkable. It stands exactly as it was built in 1845 with almost no refurbishment or restoration. When you walk inside, you feel as though you are going back in time. You wonder as to the nature of individuals who filled the same pews and the many events that were taking place throughout the world over its one hundred and seventy-year history. The Shule still has the low stools that were set aside for the convicts to sit on as well as an old Torah scroll that survived the Nazi atrocities in Europe. This Torah was confiscated from a destroyed community in Czechoslovakia and was intended to be kept in a Nazi museum as a remaining relic of an ‘extinct race’! Well, look who is still around. The Nazi’s are gone and the Jews are still here!
We enjoyed learning about the history of Australia’s oldest Jewish community – going back to the convicts – and had the opportunity of meeting many of Hobart’s Jews as well as visitors from across the world. It was quite amazing. Despite the different backgrounds of the faces in Shule that weekend, we all instantly connected and a beautiful atmosphere filled the Shule. You see, we shared in a special bond – our common Jewish identity, heritage and history. You can bring Jews together from across the globe – complete strangers – and within minutes they either determine that they are somehow related or leave feeling as if they are related!
But what this special Shabbat away made me realise is how lucky we are in our Shule – in a community of our size – to have retained our warm and welcoming atmosphere. You see, often when communities grow in numbers, they loose that personal touch. It is easier to get lost in the crowd. Yet people often remark to me how warm and welcoming our Shul is and I always enjoy leading our services and take pride in seeing everyone having such a good time. I always hope that our community remains committed to each individual and makes everyone feel as if they are valued and important.
This Shabbat, our youth are excited to launch our first Friday night Carlebach Minyan! We hope that this will become a monthly tradition, so please come along, sing and enjoy!
Wishing you and your families a Shabbat Shalom and looking forward to seeing you in Shule!
Rabbi Yossi and Chana Raizel Friedman