Tasmanian Jewish Anzacs honoured at shul

Posted: 3 November 2016

More than 100 dignitaries, visitors and members of the Tasmanian Jewish community crowded into Hobart Synagogue on Sunday, October 30, for a colourful service marking the centenary of the Anzac campaigns of World War I.

The commemoration paid special tribute to the role of Tasmanian Jewish members of Australia’s armed forces.

It began in spectacular fashion as the official party was led into the shul by a bagpipe player in full Scottish dress, and climaxed with the dedication of the Roll of Honour of the Jewish Community of Tasmania, which is now on permanent display in the synagogue.

The Roll of Honour is a plaque made from Tasmanian blackwood and inscribed with the names of 42 Tasmanian Jews who served in the Boer War and the two World Wars. Among these are two Anzacs killed in action on the Western Front —2nd Lt Herbert Ansell and Gunner Felix Bloch.

Relatives of several of the servicemen named in the Roll of Honour were on hand to view its unveiling, as were descendants of founding members of the congregation in 1845, who came from as far afield as Mauritius.

In other parts of the service, visitors and members of the congregation lit four yahrtzeit candles representing the generations of Australians since Gallipoli, a total of 13 wreaths were laid in front of the Ark, and a bugler played the Last Post.

The service was Tasmania’s contribution to the Centenary of Anzac Jewish Program, whose National Coordinator Peter Allen supervised preparations and was one of the speakers.

RAAF Jewish chaplain Flight Lieutenant Rabbi Yossi Friedman led the religious elements, which included reading Psalm 23 and reciting Kaddish. Rabbi’s Friedman’s busy weekend in Hobart had previously seen him take Orthodox services in the shul both on Friday night and Saturday morning.

But a number of members of the congregation made key contributions to the success of the event, most notably board member Susan Steenbergen and our president Jordana Schmidt.

Susan worked tirelessly behind the scenes over many weeks to ensure that the service unfolded smoothly, while Jordana was its public face as she introduced speakers and linked the various sections.

Official guests included Sen. Eric Abetz, representing the Federal Government, Speaker of the Tasmanian House of Assembly Elise Archer, Labor MHA Madeleine Ogilvy, and the leader of the Tasmanian Greens, Cassy O’Connor, as well as a number of interstate and local armed forces representatives headed by no fewer than three Major Generals.

Ms Archer gave an address in which she recalled the outstanding wartime contribution of Dr Eveline Cohen, one of two women to be listed on the Roll of Honour. Dr Cohen served in a series of military hospitals in England, Malta and Greece during 1915 and 1916.

The public limelight for the congregation didn’t end with the service. Afterwards, many visitors and dignitaries as well as invited members of the shul community enjoyed a reception at Hobart Town Hall hosted by the City Council in honour of the congregation.

Ald. Bill Harvey (deputising for Lord Mayor Sue Hickey, who was unwell) reminded guests of the congregation’s historically significant role in both civic and military affairs in Hobart and Tasmania.

In her response, Jordana presented the council with a framed photo of the newly-dedicated Roll of Honour.

It was a day of remembrance worth remembering in its own right. Kol HaKavod to the organisers and everyone who took part—you may be weary, but you deserve every accolade.

Welcome to our new website!

Posted: 28 September 2016

After many pleas going back a long time, and nearly two years of planning and preparation, we’re very pleased to announce the successful delivery of our new, much more attractive, much more informative, shul website.

Make sure you have a good browse through the various options on the menu bar, try out some of the links, and check out the photo gallery. It may look like a straightforward production, but a lot of work is involved in designing a website and putting it together.

We’re grateful to everyone involved in this effort, but especially to Jeff Schneider, without whose contribution the new site wouldn’t have been possible.

Jeff made the fatal mistake when joining the congregation a few years ago of letting us know that he was a professional web developer. He barely survived the rush of enthusiasm that greeted this news, and has since dealt with all our requests and frequently-changing requirements with patience and unceasing helpfulness.

What’s more, Jeff took on this workload on an entirely voluntary basis, despite having a full-time job and a new-born son to look after as well.

Yasher koach, Jeff—we hope you have more opportunity to enjoy your limited spare time from now on!

Reaching out to the North

Posted: 27 September 2016

Although our official name is the Hobart Hebrew Congregation, the shul has had members from other parts of the state throughout its history.

In fact, our rules say any Tasmanian Jew is eligible to apply for membership, and the ECAJ (Executive Council of Australian Jewry) regards us as representing all Jews in Tasmania.

So it’s been a particularly pleasing trend lately that a number of Launceston-based Jews have taken out membership, despite the obvious limitations on how often they can attend services and other events.

They’ve joined Maxine Glanger (formerly Manifold), our Progressive lay service leader and longstanding member from Launceston.

In recognition of the increased importance of our Northern membership group, the Board has appointed Maxine to a new voluntary position as Northern Coordinator for the congregation.

As part of the new role, she’ll represent us in northern Tasmania and act as an advocate for the interests of Northern members. As well, she’ll be looking out for prospective members from the North and helping out those who’ve already joined.

And not least importantly, she’s authorised to run services and other events in Launceston on behalf of the congregation, which members from anywhere in the state are welcome to attend.

Maxine held her first Friday night service in Launceston shul representing the congregation on August 19, and it drew five Southern-based members in addition to the locals. She also put on a sumptuous feast at her home afterwards, perhaps to encourage others to come in future!

As well, her status as Northern Coordinator allowed her to arrange for Jonathan Keren-Black, the congregation’s Progressive consulting rabbi, to hold a session with Launceston Jews after his visit to Hobart over the Shabbat of September 2-3.

So if you know of anyone in the North who might want to become involved with the congregation, our Membership Officer will be glad to point them in Maxine’s direction. You can email her from here.

Shul stalwart awarded Progressive honour

Posted: 23 September 2016

Sandy Graetzer’s unstinting efforts over many years as a voluntary contributor to the shul and the wider community were recognised in a festive Erev Shabbat service at Hobart Synagogue on September 2.

Roger Mendelson as president of the Union for Progressive Judaism—the roof body for the Progressive movement throughout the Asia-Pacific region—paid a special visit to our congregation to confer the prestigious Ner Tamid (Eternal Light) Award on Sandy.

The Ner Tamid Award honours members of Progressive congregations other than current or past presidents who have performed exceptional service to their congregations, community—both Progressive and Jewish—and the wider society.

Sandy was one of only four people from the 27 congregations and organisations served by the UPJ to win the award in 2015.

Her husband Stephen was full of pride as he recounted Sandy’s decades-long contributions to the WIZO movement in Hobart while at the same time taking a lead role in organising shul events such as the communal Seder and Hannukah picnic, and hosting numerous social gatherings for the congregation in their home.

Sadly, illness has curtailed Sandy’s involvement in recent times, but she remains the congregation’s Welfare Coordinator, as always  helping to look after members who are unwell or in need.

The buoyant atmosphere for Sandy’s award was heightened by the presence of three other distinguished interstate visitors. Roger Mendelson was accompanied by his wife Sue, while the service was ably conducted by Rabbi Jonathan Keren-Black whose wife Sue was also in attendance.

Congratulations, Sandy—may we continue to benefit from your unselfish labours for many years to come.