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    Grasshoppers – Sh’lach L’cha

    June 23rd, 2019

    When the delegation of spies came back from investigating the Holy Land they made a remarkable comment – remarkable in a bad, not a good way.

    They said, “We looked like grasshoppers in the eyes of the inhabitants, and that’s how we seemed to ourselves” (Num. 13:33).

    That’s the way persuasion works: people tell you bad things about yourself, and after a while you begin to believe the criticisms.

    The modern world with its tragic recrudescence of antisemitism has its own version of the grasshopper allegation. The antisemites tell us we are flawed and inferior and (God forbid) some Jews think it might be true.

    The opponents of Israel smear our State with words like “apartheid” and “racist” and (God forbid) we sometimes wonder if they might not have a point.

    True, we’re not perfect and neither is Israel, but we have to be fair to ourselves.


    A lesson from tzitzit – Sh’lach L’cha

    June 23rd, 2019

    The end of the sidra is the origin of the verses (Num. 15:37-41) that we call the third paragraph of the Shema. Their subject is tzitzit – fringes on the corners of our garments.

    The passage begins with a doubled verb, “Speak to the Children and say to them”. The commentators apply the doubled verb to the two generations that co-exist, you and your children. The adults have to tell the children about the mitzvah.

    One of the lessons we learn from tzitzit is that every aspect of our surroundings should remind us of God – cleanliness of our bodies, fringes on our garments, m’zuzot on the doors of our rooms and houses, and modesty in whatever we do.

    In England Sir Christopher Wren said, “If you want a monument, look around you”; Judaism said, centuries before, “If you want dedication, enhance yourself and your surroundings”.


    Joshua & the spirit of God – Sh’lach L’cha

    June 23rd, 2019

    One of the great Biblical leaders is Joshua.

    Like a number of others his name begins with “Jo”, which in its Hebrew form “Ye-ho” is one of the names of God.

    Names like that are called theophoric; they indicate the leading qualities of the Almighty. In Joshua’s case, “Yehoshua” means “God is (his) salvation”.

    The Joshua who figures in this week’s reading is Moses’ assistant and successor, an important and interesting person, made even more interesting by his father’s name Nun. It means “fish”, and is a symbol of progeny – hence “nin”, a great-grandson.

    In rabbinic writing Joshua is the exemplar of faithfulness and dependability.

    He is considered wise, especially in his sense of strategy. He assesses situations on their own merits and, like Caleb, reports honestly to Moses that the plan to enter Canaan and settle there is workable: ten others who were sent to spy out the land dismiss the plan as unthinkable.

    Joshua’s original name was Hoshea but when he showed the spirit of God the name was changed to Yehoshua.


    Ministers of St Kilda Hebrew Congregation

    June 22nd, 2019

    Article on the St Kilda Hebrew Congregation website by Rabbi Raymond Apple.

    CHIEF MINISTERS

    BLAUBAUM, Rev Elias

    First in the distinguished line of ministers of the congregation, Blaubaum served from 1873-1904.

    Coming from Germany with hardly any knowledge of the English language, Blaubaum soon became an accomplished preacher in English and edited and wrote copiously for the “Australian Jewish Herald”.

    His approach to orthodoxy was sufficiently accommodating for the founders of the congregation, who did not envisage a strictly orthodox synagogue. At the same time he was orthodox enough to gain the British chief rabbi’s approval to sit on the Melbourne Beth Din, though the congregation at first declined to accept the chief rabbi as their ultimate authority.

    Blaubaum married Rebecca Cohen, a member of a St Kilda family.

    The congregation felt lost and bereft when Blaubaum died at the relatively early age of 54 leaving behind five children whom he had struggled to educate.

    DANGLOW, Rabbi Jacob CMG OBE VD

    St Kilda’s longest-serving and most famous ministerial figure.

    Appointed by Chief Rabbi Hermann Adler and holding office from 1905-1957, Danglow presided over several generations of congregants and, whilst not a spell-binding orator was a wise, articulate preacher who stood for a broadly tolerant form of tradition.

    For a time he was acting chairman of the Melbourne Beth Din, though he was bitterly opposed by the strictly orthodox Rabbi JL Gurewicz.

    In his early days he took many communal initiatives including the formation of JYPA (the Jewish Young People’s Association).

    He was sometimes controversial within the Jewish community, holding non- or anti-Zionist views, at least until his second marriage, opposing the Jewish day school movement, and emphasising British patriotism above almost all else (some called him Anglo-Danglow).

    In Australian public life he was highly regarded for his work in the military chaplaincy and as a supporter of many civic causes. His broad interests included several sports, and he played golf and bowls with other leading clergymen.

    He married May Baruch, one of the Michaelis-Hallenstein family.

    More than any other minister, he set the tone of St Kilda Synagogue and established its minhag.

    Even those who disagreed with him endorsed the judgment of his colleague Rev Ephraim Kowadlo, who called him “our revered rabbi”.

    HERMAN, Rabbi Dr Simon

    Coming immediately after Rabbi Danglow, who had recommended his appointment, Herman had a relatively short and sometimes difficult incumbency from 1959-1962.

    He was a young man with an earnest personality but encountered some opposition from entrenched forces in the congregation.

    He returned to Britain where, amongst other appointments, he became a dayan of the Federation of Synagogues Beth Din.

    LUBOFSKY, Rabbi Ronald AM

    Holding office from 1963-1988, Rabbi Lubofsky was a powerful figure, tall, handsome and eloquent, whose orations brought the Synagogue pulpit to great heights.

    He was an accomplished scholar and lecturer in many fields, with a remarkable Judaica library.

    He played a significant role in interfaith dialogue and held leadership positions in areas as varied as the Jewish Male Choir and Mount Scopus College.

    He served as president of the rabbinate of Australia and New Zealand and was the founder and mentor of the Jewish Museum of Australia, for which he sourced many artefacts.

    Before coming to Melbourne he had been a minister in London and then assistant minister at the Great Synagogue, Sydney.

    His incumbency is regarded as a golden period.

    HEILBRUNN, Rabbi Philip OAM

    Appointed in 1988 after incumbencies in South Africa and then at the North Shore Synagogue, Sydney and in Adelaide, Rabbi Heilbrunn brought magnificent musical skills to St Kilda. He not only ministered to the congregation with immense personal warmth and wisdom but rendered the synagogue liturgy with unsurpassed cantorial talent.

    Like Rabbi Lubofsky, Rabbi Heilbrunn was president of the Australasian rabbinate.

    His legal degree was often employed in the community mediation and arbitration field and he became a much appreciated role model of modern orthodoxy, held in great affection by the congregation and community. He retired in 2011.

    GLASMAN, Rabbi Yaakov

    The current chief minister, Rabbi Glasman is a young man with a Chabad background. He was appointed in 2011 after beginning his career at a Melbourne suburban synagogue. He was also president of the Rabbinical Council of Victoria.

    OTHER MINISTERS

    FRIEDLANDER, Rev. Joseph

    Appointed in 1886 as teacher and reader, Friedlander preached occasionally, though at first this was resented by Blaubaum. In 1888 he resigned to accept a position at the Melbourne Hebrew Congregation, but returned to England after a few months.

    FREDMAN, Joel

    Without holding an official ministerial position, Fredman devoted six decades of his life to St Kilda, from 1888 to 1943, in roles as varied as secretary (from which office he retired in 1939), choirmaster, headmaster and assistant reader. Between the death of Rev Blaubaum and the arrival of Rabbi Danglow, he bore the main religious responsibility for the synagogue. His pupils and the younger choristers knew him by the nickname “Cocky” Fredman. He had assembled a wide range of choral music and worked hard to bring his choir to the highest possible standard.

    FEUERMAN, Abraham

    Like Fredman, a synagogue official who carried out whatever congregational responsibility was necessary. He served the congregation for 21 years until his death in 1915; he refused to use the title of “Reverend”. He worked with Fredman in maintaining services before Danglow’s arrival. His daughter Hettie was trained by him to teach generations of Bar-Mitzvah boys.

    FALK, Rev Joel

    Second reader (the possessor of a fine baritone voice) from 1915-1933, he was esteemed by the congregation for his kindly manner and his sympathetic interest in people. Apart from his congregational work, he served the community as a shochet.

    SUPER, Rabbi Isaac Jacob

    Melbourne’s head shochet from 1913, Rabbi Super was a member of the St Kilda Hebrew Congregation and assisted the Synagogue in various ways, including giving learned rabbinic expositions on Shabbat afternoons. He was a member of the Melbourne Beth Din. One of his sons, Rabbi Arthur Saul Super, served in the rabbinate in several countries.

    GOLDMAN, Rabbi Lazarus Morris

    Appointed in 1929 as headmaster and second reader. Known for his educational skills, Rabbi Goldman was subsequently principal of the United Jewish Education Board. He assisted with services and congregational activities at St Kilda before moving to the Melbourne Hebrew Congregation in 1932 as reader, secretary and subsequently minister. After distinguished war service he became an acknowledged historian of Australian Jewry. He died in Adelaide on Yom Kippur, 1960.

    KOWADLO, Rev Ephraim MBE

    Known everywhere as “the sweet singer”, Rev Kowadlo was chazan, assistant minister and headmaster for 40 years, from 1931-1970. He trained the choir, conscientiously attended to the pastoral needs of the congregation, and for long periods during World War II when Rabbi Danglow was away on chaplaincy duties, also occupied the pulpit. A pious and gentle personality, he was one of the most loved figures ever associated with St Kilda and his name is still widely revered. He died in 1978.

    SHEINK, Emanuel

    Though not an official minister, Sheink tunefully read the Torah and assisted with services for a number of years. His wife was the sister of Rabbi Israel Brodie of the Melbourne Hebrew Congregation, later Chief Rabbi of Britain.

    BERLINER, Rev Philip

    Assistant reader for some years from 1943, Berliner was a highly effective teacher. He married Edna, the daughter of Rabbi Super. His full-time work was with the Shechitah Board. His early passing one Shabbat morning was a great loss to the congregation and community.

    WRESCHNER, Rev Berthold

    A Central European minister who held positions in Britain before coming to Australia. After a brief period at Temple Beth Israel, which was no place for his orthodoxy, Rev Wreschner was principal of the St Kilda Hebrew School and assistant minister to Rabbi Danglow. His sermons were known for their intellectuality. After leaving the congregation he went into full-time education and eventually moved to Israel.

    LINK, Rabbi Steven

    Serving as chazan from 1970-1984 in succession to Rev Kowadlo and bringing pleasure with his rendition of the services, Rabbi Link fulfilled a broad ministerial role as well as carrying out educational work. He was later rabbi of the Kew Hebrew Congregation.

    BELFER, Rabbi Edward

    At first employed on a part-time basis as chazan, he was full-time minister for a period when Rabbi Lubofsky was incapacitated. In 1988 he left St Kilda after 6 years and became assistant minister and later chazan of the Great Synagogue, Sydney, where his melodious services and pious personality were highly acclaimed. From Sydney he went to a rabbinic post on the Gold Coast. He now lives in Israel.

    GLUCK, Rev Harry

    Assistant minister from 1989-1996, he was the son of the greatly loved Rev Isidor Gluck of the Great Synagogue, Sydney. Conducting services and occasionally preaching, he was a friend to everyone in the congregation. His full-time work was at various Jewish day schools; he had been principal of the Jewish school in Adelaide. After leaving St Kilda he worked for the Melbourne Hebrew Congregation. He now lives in Israel.

    NAGEL, Rabbi Hillel

    Appointed part-time to assist Rabbi Heilbrunn, Rabbi Nagel conducts services and understudies the chief minister in the pulpit and general ministerial work. He is greatly valued by the congregation. His professional career is as a lawyer.

    Note: A number of members of the St Kilda ministry (including Rabbi Danglow) held the title “Rev” before later becoming rabbis.


    Torah to the people or the people to the Torah? – B’ha’alot’cha

    June 16th, 2019

    18th century Dutch oak statue of Aaron, the High Priest

    Aaron the kohen gadol was responsible for maintaining the Tabernacle lights.

    He was also the supreme diplomat who brought conflicts to a close by creating love and harmony amongst people who had ill feelings towards each other.

    Pir’kei Avot praises Aaron for loving people and bringing them near to the Torah (1:12).

    Aaron had two options – to bring the people to the Torah or to bring the Torah to the people.

    The Lubavitcher Rebbe said that Aaron chose the first option. He went out to the people and discovered that some had become distanced from Judaism. Having found them, he exerted himself to bring them to the Torah.

    He could have taken the Torah to them – but this meant compromising the Torah and adapting it to the inappropriate way of thinking and living of those who were afar.