Shul to host second summer concert

Posted: 10 December 2018

Another musical performance with a Jewish connection is coming to Hobart Synagogue this summer.

Popular Melbourne klezmer musician Ernie Gruner is returning to the synagogue as part of the two-member group Bohemian Nights, along with his collaborator Phil Carroll.

Bohemian Nights have a wide repertoire that includes Jewish, Gypsy, Tango and other world music genres, and over their 20-year existence have played at many Jewish weddings.

The concert in the synagogue, featuring Ernie on violin, mandolin and vocals, and Phil on accordion and vocals, is scheduled for 7:30pm on Thursday 10 January, with members of the congregation eligible for an admission discount.

However, the congregation is not sponsoring the concert and is not involved in its production. More information including booking details is available here.

Ernie has twice previously performed in the shul, as a member of the group Saray Iluminado that specialises in Balkan and Sephardic music.

The synagogue was recently the venue for a successful concert given by Hobart folk and world music duo Meyers & McNamara.

Visiting rabbis lead joyous Simchat Torah

Posted: 12 October 2018

The congregation was pleased to welcome two visiting Progressive rabbis for Simchat Torah services this year.

Rabbis Kinneret Shiryon from Modi’in in Israel and JoEllen Duckor from Wellington in New Zealand led a joyous service filled with enthusiastic singing and dancing with the Torahs. As the service was geared towards children, the atmosphere in the synagogue was imbued with youthful excitement and curiosity.

Congregants and Rabbis in the shul after the Simchat Torah service

Congregants and Rabbis in the shul after the Simchat Torah service

After beginning with renditions of songs including Hevenu Shalom Aleichem and Kol Ha’Olam Kulo, the rabbis invited everyone onto the bimah to take a close look at the Torah scroll. The care and precision taken by sofrim (scribes) when writing scrolls was then explained. Attendees young and older then took turns dancing with the Torah in seven circuits around the shul accompanied by festive songs such as Hava Nagila.

An excellent turnout was on on hand to enjoy the special yomtov service. Rabbi JoEllen provided an apt summary of the night: “It was so beautiful to witness the young families and the older generation mix as we celebrated together the ongoing cycle of Torah in the historical Hobart Synagogue. We feel privileged to have been able to share this unique experience with the Hobart Jewish community.”

AGM approves 2019 family member fee rise

Posted: 27 September 2018

The 2018 Annual General Meeting of the congregation, held on September 2, approved a $40 increase in the cost of membership for couples and families to apply from the next financial year starting in July 2019.

At that time the membership charge (formally called the seat hire fee) for couples and families will rise to $340 annually. The fees for singles at $190 and full-time students at $45 will remain at their current levels.

Supporting the Board’s recommendation for the increase, newly-elected President Susan Steenbergen explained to the meeting that the current $300 rate for family memberships was unfair to the many single members of the congregation who were being asked to pay more than 60% of the family fee even before children were taken into account. She said the increase was intended to rectify this anomaly.

In other business at the AGM, a committee with responsibility for organising events to mark the 175th anniversary of the synagogue in 2020 was established. The meeting also unanimously passed a motion thanking lay service leaders for their contribution.

If you’re Jewish, live in Tasmania, and are interested in becoming a member of our congregation, you can find out about the benefits of joining and how to do it here.

New President chosen at AGM

Posted: 12 September 2018

The 2018 Annual General Meeting of the congregation held on September 2 saw the election of a new President, as well as several other changes to the make-up of the seven-member Board of Managment that included the welcome return of a former President.

Susan Steenbergen is the new President. Susan, a long-time member of the congregation, has served on the Board since 2006, most notably as Secretary for eight years from 2008.

She was the only candidate for the position, which was vacated by former President Jordana Schmidt in April due to ill-health, about the same time that former Treasurer Kalanit Mayer was forced to resign as a result of competing demands on her time from her day-job and from building a house.

Susan is now retired, but was formerly a government worker. Her election as President is the culmination of her years of service to the congregation. In addition to her Board responsibilities, she is also a member of the team of lay leaders for Progressive services, acts as our unofficial shammes, and has often taken the lead in the cleaning and maintenance of the synagogue.

David Clark, formerly and for many years the congregation’s Vice-President, generously stood in as Acting President until a permanent replacement could be chosen at the AGM. He has now returned to his previous position as Vice-President.

Those present at the AGM were delighted to learn that Jordana’s health had been restored to the point she felt able to nominate for one of the three positions for non-Executive members of the Board, to which she was duly elected.

In other Board changes flowing from the AGM:

  • Jeff Schneider, who was appointed as Acting Treasurer after Kalanit’s resignation, was confirmed in the role. Jeff, a professional web developer who has designed and continues to administer the shul’s website, joined the Board as a non-Executive member at the 2017 AGM and is the proud father of two young children, Evan and Abby.
  • Louise Knopman was replaced as Secretary by Sean Ladiges, who first joined the Board in May to fill the vacancy resulting from Jeff’s assumption of the role of Acting Treasurer. Sean grew up and had his bar-mitzvah in Hobart, and after a stint on the mainland returned in 2017 in time for the birth of his daugher Netta.
  • Louise for her part has not left the Board completely, but instead has joined Jordana as a non-Executive member. The third non-Executive member is shul stalwart Laurence Herst, who fills the vacancy created when Lev Fridgant decided not to stand for re-election.

More information about the membership of the 2018-19 Board is available here.


Vice-regal tour of shul

Posted: 02 July 2018

The shul has been honoured by a visit from the Governor of Tasmania, Her Excellency Professor the Honourable Kate Warner, AC.

Accompanied by her husband Richard and an aide-de-camp, Professor Warner toured the shul for one hour on 20 June, 2018.

The tour was led by Daniel Albert, one of a group of three volunteer guides who introduce visitors to the synagogue and its history throughout the year.

The vice-regal party took particular interest in the precious historical objects on display in the shul. They marvelled at the ornate Victorian chandelier over the bimah as Daniel explained the various technologies used to generate light from it over the years.  Daniel also shared his extensive knowledge of the Czechoslovak Torah scroll rescued from from the Nazis.

Professor Warner and her husband were interested to learn more about Judaism and were given a general overview of Jewish practices and customs, along with an overview of the congregation and Australian Jewry.

Some of the colourful personalities integral to the congregation’s history were discussed.  Daniel explained the role of Judah Solomon, who first provided a venue for Jewish services in his home, Temple House, and then donated the land on which the synagogue was built. Isaac Friedman, the first Hungarian migrant to Australia, and Phineas Moss, who was a prominent 19th century science lecturer, were also covered.

Tours of the synagogue can be organised for all members of the public on request, subject to the availability of guides and provided at least 48 hours’ notice is given. More information including a link to an online tour booking form can be found here.

Newspaper features Launceston shul

Posted: 01 July 2018

An issue of the Launceston Examiner earlier in 2018 carried an article on the history of Launceston’s synagogue, the second oldest still in use in Australia (with Hobart shul being the oldest).

The article was published on May 13. It has the unfortunate and slightly misleading headline ‘Spiritual heart now quiet’, but otherwise traces the history of the synagogue from when it was first proposed in the early 1840s, with a focus on the early years.

The controversy following Governor Franklin’s refusal of a land grant for the shul is covered, while illustrations accompanying the online version of the article show a range of photos and reports culled from the Examiner’s files.

The online story including the illustrations can be viewed here.

Anyone living in Launceston or the north of Tasmania who would like to belong to an inclusive Jewish community organisation is very welcome to apply to join the Hobart Hebrew Congregation.

A Northern Coordinator has been appointed to represent the interests of the group of members living in the northern part of the state.

More information on joining Hobart shul, including a link to the membership application form, is available on this page of the website.

Digital library showcases community history

Posted: 12 June 2018

A digital library that chronicles the remarkable history of the Jewish community in Hobart has been posted by the congregation.

The library includes more than 300 records, starting with an 1839 newspaper article detailing an early Yom Kippur service. Several items specifically relate to the history of the synagogue.

The website hosting the library can be accessed here. It is meticulously organised, with researchers easily able to track down resources relating to a wide array of subjects.

The material provides fascinating insights into some of the colourful personalities who have helped maintain an active Jewish presence in Tasmania despite the community’s small numbers. There is also an active blog that highlights particularly interesting themes.

The library has been created by the shul’s Treasurer, Jeff Schneider. He explained what motivated him to take on the project: “When reading about our congregation’s history in the book A Few From Afar, I developed an immense respect for the dedicated members who have overcome adversity to keep the congregation active for nearly 175 years.”

“After discovering several fascinating newspaper articles through the National Library of Australia’s Trove archive, I thought it would be useful to provide a central location for those wanting to research our long and storied history.”

Changes to Board personnel

Posted: 01 May 2018

At its April 2018 meeting, the Board accepted with regret the resignations of the congregation’s President Jordana Schmidt and Treasurer Kalanit Mayer, and thanked them for their contributions.

Both positions have been filled on a temporary basis until permanent replacements can be elected at the next Annual General Meeting later this year. The Board has also chosen a temporary replacement for the non-executive position that became vacant as a result of the other changes.

Jordana had been President since August 2016, and a member of the Board since 2014. She resigned due to ongoing health issues.

David Clark, the shul’s long-time Vice-President, was chosen by the Board to be Acting President in Jordana’s place, leaving the position of Vice-President vacant until the AGM.

Kalanit submitted her resignation because of mounting work demands on her time. She was elected to the position at last year’s AGM in August, and had been Secretary the previous year.

Jeff Schneider, a non-executive member of the Board since the 2017 AGM, has been appointed as Acting Treasurer.

The vacancy for a non-executive member of the Board flowing from Jeff’s selection as Treasurer has been filled by Sean Ladiges.

Although Sean, his wife Sarah Gelbart, and young daughter Netta haven’t been members of the congregation in their own right for very long, Sean is a familiar figure around the shul. He was brought up as a member of the community by his parents Michal and Sven, and celebrated his bar-mitzvah with us.

You can find out more about the current members of the Board here.

Progressive service frequency reduced

Posted: 18 April 2018

The Board of the congregation has reluctantly authorised a reduction in the number of Progressive services each month from three to two.

From the first service in May this year, Progressive services will be held on the first Saturday and third Friday in each month. There will be no Progressive services on the second Shabbat of the month.

This means that Erev Shabbat services followed by a shared supper will move from the second to the third Shabbat of each month, starting in May.

Orthodox services are unaffected by this change in the service schedule, which has come about as a result both of falling attendances and the withdrawal of a Progressive lay service leader.

The shul is in desperate need of more Progressive lay service leaders, and can provide training and support for the role. If you are interested, please email this address to register your willingness.

Call for history gifts to shul

Posted: 09 November 2017

Daniel Albert, the long-time former president of the shul, has been appointed to a new honorary position as the congregation’s first archivist.

In the new role, he will be managing all materials relevant to the history of the shul and the Tasmanian Jewish community generally.

These materials can include both documents and objects, whether they’re already in our possession or are donated in the future.

Daniel will start by sorting out material that’s been stored and sometimes hidden away in various places around the synagogue building, but also has the task of responding to enquiries concerning the shul’s history that are generated from the synagogue’s website.

He’s hoping that some of those enquiries will involve possible donations to the shul’s historical collection.

Anyone who’s thinking of contributing materials of historical interest to the shul can reach Daniel by leaving a message here. Please include the words Archivist Contact in the subject line.

“I’m interested in any old documents and other items of historical significance, not just about the congregation, but the Jewish community in Tasmania as well,” he says.

Daniel served as President of the congregation for 10 years from 2006, and was a Board member both before and afterwards.