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You are a Tree of the Earth

05/09/19 13:32:53


Since I was a teenager in high school and initiated the “Yeshivah College Ecological Society”, I’ve been acutely aware of the preservation of our natural environment and how cavalier we are about it.

The society was the idealistic passion of an adolescent and a dismal failure. My teachers indulged it, my fellow students ignored it; most were probably bemused by it.

Since that time, the damage we have done to our...Read more...

The Forests are Burning

29/08/19 14:25:45


The forests are burning, Brexit is boiling, Hizbollah is threatening, Hong Kong unravelling, world trade teetering. What a week!

If a week in politics is a long time, a week of global disruptions is a very long one ... It’s hard to recall a time quite like this. Charles Dickens talks of the best of times, the worst of times. This seems to be the worst of times – an age of anxiety, a period...Read more...

Of Memory,  Education and Sir John Monash

22/08/19 13:07:45


The Legislative Assembly Chamber of Victoria’s Parliament House is an impressive and imposing space. Built in 1856, it immediately attracted the attention and admiration of Colonial Victorians. Its rich interior with gold-leaf columns, soaring ornate ceilings and dark wood panelling continues to command respect and speak of law and power. It’s in this place that the Monash Commemorative Service run by the...Read more...

Be a Listener not a Phubber

15/08/19 08:56:22


You may know that I am obsessed with the art of listening. And the older I get, the more I am convinced that our personal relationships depend on our capacity to pay attention to each other, that our social and business relationships rely on our ability to really hear the other, that our national and international engagements hinge on the way we listen to one another.

I have also...

Be Healthy!

08/08/19 14:22:15


You probably know the old Jewish joke about the proud mother introducing her two baby children: my son the doctor and my son the lawyer. And even though the times have changed the respect for Jewish doctors remains unchanged. As for lawyers we’re probably more ambivalent, despite the fact that thanks to Talmudic tradition we’ve been called a nation of lawyers.

Truth is, we Jews have a long history of respect for both law and...Read more...

The Challenge of Restraint

01/08/19 14:19:59


An allegation of gang rape by a group of young Israelis ranging in age from 15 to 18 at a Cyprus resort gripped Israel over the past week. The 19-year-old British woman who said they had raped her has now been arrested for making a false accusation. The Israelis have returned home to a celebratory welcome by their families and supporters.

Like many Israelis I am deeply troubled by this sordid...Read more...

Burn Brightly But Don't Burn-out

25/07/19 14:15:12


Mama is 59 years old and her life is dwindling. She is weak and refuses to eat or drink. Curled up in a foetal position, her eyes are filled with pathos but also have a faraway look. She’s in a world of her own, seemingly preparing to step into another world…


Mama is a chimpanzee in an...

Exploring space; making space

18/07/19 12:29:54


50 years since humanity touched the face of the moon….Deep in the human spirit is the desire to travel, to explore, to discover new places, meet new people. The Midrash, book of Jewish myth and consciousness locates the urge to travel in the original human being. Adam, it says, was created out of the dust of the earth. It speculates where the dust came from. God, it suggests gathered the dust from...Read more...

Public interest and what interests the public

11/07/19 14:42:52


British Lord Northcliffe got it right when he said that ‘news is what someone, somewhere does not want printed. The rest is advertising’.

We live in an age awash with news and information. The recent raids on the ABC and journalists homes have reignited the Australian debate about the ethics of leaks. The resignation of Britain’s Ambassador to the USA Kim Darroch reveal the damage that leaks can cause: the fall of a seasoned...Read more...

'Of Folau, Freedom and Folly...'

04/07/19 14:33:29


Israel Folau has dominated our headlines over the past weeks. And like the State of Israel is likely to continue to attract attention, heat and passion for the foreseeable future!

The post of Israel Folau on Instagram (and then Twitter) that generated this storm reads: “Warning – Drunks, Homosexuals, Adulterers, Liars, Fornicators, Thieves Atheists, Idolaters. HELL AWAITS YOU. REPENT! ONLY JESUS SAVES.”

He got 73,587...

'Making Space for her...'

27/06/19 13:54:10


When you think Exodus you think Moses; towering figure, saviour, law-giver, leader. When you think Egyptian story, you think Aharon, high priest, man of compassion. When you think Exodus you may think only of the mighty men of that generation; the princes and leaders. But think again, because without the heroism of women there would have been no Moses, no Exodus, no Torah.

The disastrous story of the 12 spies which led to 40 years...Read more...

'So far from home, so near to love...'

20/06/19 13:57:06


So far from home, so near to love ...

The Commonwealth Beer Sheva War Cemetery is located in the middle of suburban Beer Sheva. The neat lines of white gravestones set in the beautifully manicured cemetery are overlooked by tall modern apartment blocks. Here the dead meet the living, the contemporary collides with memory.

It’s a small...

'A Brutal but Blooming Desert...'

13/06/19 13:37:44


Travelling through Israel on an AIJAC clergy trip recently, I was again struck by the haunting beauty of the desert. I was also struck by how large a proportion of the country is covered by it: The Negev desert makes up more than half of the land of Israel.

The desert has always dominated Jewish consciousness: First there was the journey of Abraham followed by the wandering of Isaac and Jacob...Read more...

'Aversion to Conversion'

06/06/19 11:04:39


With Shavuot coming up and its theme of the conversion of the Jewish nation and the reading of the Book of Ruth, I’m reprinting a piece about conversion.

Why the aversion to conversion? I’m referring to the trend to make conversions more difficult and intractable that has gripped the Jewish world for the past twenty five years or so. Conversion to Judaism was never meant to...Read more...

'In the Dark Spaces'

30/05/19 10:17:02


Like many children I was scared of the dark. One of my earliest memories is of running down the shadowy, seemingly endless passage of our home in Bulawayo. Darkness touches our deepest fears; it’s about the unknown, the primordial forest, the blackness hovering over the depths of Creation. The second verse of Genesis tells us that this was how it all began: “the earth was astonishing empty and darkness was on the surface of the deep…”...Read more...

'Ten Thousand Hours'

23/05/19 10:13:14


Ten thousand hours. That’s what it takes to achieve mastery in a vast range of fields. 10,000 hours of focused, concentrated practice. This ten thousand hour rule popularised by Outliers author Malcolm Gladwell, was in part based on a 1990’s study of violin students. All of the violinists started playing at about five years of age with similar practise times. By the age of eight, the elite performers averaged more than 10,000 hours of...Read more...

'GOT or GOD'

16/05/19 15:33:59


I’m no Game of Thrones (GOT) devotee or maven having only watched a few isolated episodes. I decided to watch the current series after reading how the epic war portrayed broke all TV records for the longest-filmed scene ever produced (it took 55 straight nights in snow, rain and mud sub-freezing conditions). And it was riveting: awful in its blood-letting, terrifying in its horror, dramatic in its tension....Read more...

‘Thou Shalt Innovate!’

09/05/19 16:12:09


In the year 1 God said: Let there be light and there was light. In the year 3000 and something He said: “You shall surely keep my Sabbath and honour your parents”. In the year 1948 the Lord said: “You shall certainly create a state”. In the year circa 2008 He said loudly and clearly: “Thou shalt innovate!”


As we...

I see you, I need you, I am you

02/05/19 12:20:47




When I look at the lovely photo of Lori Gilbert Kaye at the Kotel I see someone who could have been a friend, a sister, a congregant. When I hear about her life she reminds me of the women of the chesed in our community: generous, loving and looking out for others.



Questions as enticing as Kneidlach… 

18/04/19 13:38:03


Pesach and particularly the Seder has a hold on the Jewish imagination; it attracts even the most alienated of Jews; it enchants the young with it’s curious customs (and the fact that it places them at the centre stage); it talks to their parents recognising their dilemmas and challenges (how to cope with different kinds of children, how to keep them engaged etc.); it stirs the hearts of the grandparents with...Read more...

I’m in a Seder Frame of Mind 

11/04/19 15:33:37


It’s that time of the year – with Pesach just a week away I am in a Seder frame of mind. Despite the number of Seders I have led – my parents handed them over to their zealous teenage son when he was 16. Despite the number of communal Sedarim I have attended, including one or two multi-faith communal Seders, a magnificent interfaith Youth Seder event hosted by our Victorian Jewish Governor, Linda Dessau at...Read more...

A Royal Speech for a Royal Night

04/04/19 14:30:58


A Royal Speech for a Royal Night

Several years ago, the movie, “The King’s Speech”, about the speech impediment of King George VI and the man who helped him overcome it, the maverick Australian Lionel Logue, attracted a lot of acclaim, interest and awards across the world.

Notwithstanding...

Song of the Day

28/03/19 14:45:16


At the end of the daily Shacharit or morning service there’s a psalm for the day known as Shir shel yom. The Mishna (Tamid 7:4) records that on each day of the week the Levites would sing a different psalm (as a choir with instrumental backing) in honour of the particular day. When the Temple was destroyed, the recitation was retained not only in memory of those days but also in the hope of future restoration, a time when the songs could...Read more...

Hatred knows no borders but love has no boundaries

21/03/19 12:07:35


I’ve visited Christchurch numerous times, firstly as a New Zealand Rabbi – helping dedicate its refurbished shule back in the 1990’s – and then as a frequent visitor to the South Island. I was there last just a couple of months ago. It’s a place of quiet beauty with its meandering Avon River, boundless Hagley Park, genteel housing and gentle spirit. Its beauty and serenity (and its shule) have been...Read more...

The End of History?

14/03/19 14:05:17


I am part of the lucky generation, a post war baby boomer (those born between 1946-1964). I grew up in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and South Africa when the world was recovering from the trauma of World War 2 and seeking to rebuild and renew itself. It seemed the world was on the cusp of a new era. The term baby-boom refers to a noticeable increase in the birth rate, a sure sign of hope and belief in...Read more...

“No Man is an Island…"

07/03/19 14:28:33


“No man is on an island entire of itself, every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main… any man’s death diminishes me because I’m involved in mankind”.

John Donne, metaphysical poet, preacher and writer penned...

It was the Best of Times, it was the Worst of Times

28/02/19 14:09:59



Rabbi Genende Keeps in Touch

It was the Best of Times, it was the Worst of Times

Charles Dicken’s immemorial words spoke directly to me this week: “It was the best of times, it...Read more...

How Kosher is Being a Vegan?

21/02/19 14:56:43


“An atheist, a vegan and a cross fitter walk into a bar. I only know because they told everyone within two minutes”. This quote was posted on a sign outside a restaurant. It’s a telling reflection of some of the hot issues of our lives today: religion, veganism, fitness. It’s also a sharp insight into the intense debate around these...Read more...

Do Clothes Make the Man?

14/02/19 13:47:59


Mark Twain once characteristically quipped: “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society”. Of course Twain got it right; we pay more attention to the elegant dresser than the “shloch” or poorly dressed individual. We look up to those wearing the trappings of office, we obsess about school uniform...Read more...

Don't stop when you're tired?

07/02/19 15:30:02


It was Freud who said our lives are shaped by labour and love, the work we do and the people we love. Work is an inevitable and often ennobling activity. Work gives us purpose and our jobs often refine and define us, but is employment the essence of being human and is the love of labour more important that the labour of love?


Sun, 6 December 2020 20 Kislev 5781