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The Art of Criticism

19/07/18 14:40:23


When I was a young rabbi in Auckland, I received a great piece of advice from one of the elder statesmen of the community, David Pezaro. David was a JP, Board member and President of the Congregation (and many other organisations), but most of all he was an incredible ba’al chesed, a mentsch who helped countless people in his quiet and unassuming (and often invisible) way. He counselled:...Read more...

A Tale of Breath and Courage

13/07/18 11:29:31


It’s been said that we need to constantly focus on creating a better planet for our children and better children for our planet.

The dramatic events and rescue of the twelve Thai boys and their coach this week caught the attention of the world. This was in part because it was a story about vulnerable children, our instinctive need to...Read more...

I Thank My Lucky Stars I’m a Jew!

05/07/18 15:17:01


The sculpture is striking for both its simplicity and the strength it conveys. It stands outside the Australian War Memorial in Canberra in the beautiful sculpture garden. The garden is a place of quiet contemplation, with evocative commemorative works. Here you will find only two other sculptures of individuals, Sir Edward “Weary” Dunlop and Simpson and his donkey, although there are...Read more...

Take the Product, Not the Person?

28/06/18 15:47:30


It was Meryl Streep who said: “Disney, who brought joy, arguably to billions of people, was, perhaps, or had some – racist proclivities. He formed and supported an anti-Semitic industry lobby. And he was certainly, on the evidence of his company’s policies, a gender bigot”. Disney, like so many talented and celebrated individuals, had a lot to give to the world. And like so many gifted...Read more...

A Child’s Tears Move Heaven

21/06/18 13:01:25


There’s hardly anything more poignant than a child snatched away from their parents. It tears at our hearts, it defies our protective instinct. As the verse implies “Like a parent feels for their child, so feel for us, Oh Lord our God”.

In view of this it’s not surprising that the Trump policy (rescinded today) of separating children, including infants from their parents (who were illegally entering the USA) met with such...Read more...

The Heart of Conflict

13/06/18 11:10:32


The optics were astounding, the words remarkable – the unpredictable President Trump and his spurring partner “Rocket Man”, smiling, walking alongside each other, talking peace and compromise. For now at least, this enduring and deep conflict in Korea appears to be closer to an end…

It’s a promising moment for a world more...

The Gratitude Attitude

07/06/18 11:25:12


Some years ago, when I was College Rabbi at Mount Scopus Memorial College, I attended an “Erev Todah”, an Evening of Gratitude, the culmination of a month long unit on the virtue of appreciation by the Year 6’s.  For a month they had not only studied about the meaning of gratitude in general and especially in Jewish sources, they had also visited shelters for the homeless and...Read more...

She Still Has Hope

30/05/18 10:49:51


There’s a pervasive poison that penetrates this place; there’s an affronting beauty to it.

I am referring to Wannsee, just outside Berlin, the setting for the conference on 20th of January 1942 that determined The Final Solution. Here the architects of darkness constructed their deathly shadow plan, here they killed any humanity that...Read more...

30/05/18 10:49:36


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What a Difference a Day Makes

10/05/18 11:26:04


So goes the old song of Dinah Washington.

Being in Israel during this past week, but especially on one particular day, brought this home with a particular and peculiar force: Monday challenged and provoked, brought energy and despair.

There was firstly the historic opening of the American embassy in Armona (following on the heels of Jerusalem Day). At exactly the same time news of the deaths, rioting and protests in Gaza was...Read more...

L’Chaim – Embrace Life!

04/05/18 08:24:13


L’Chaim – Embrace life! That’s the Jewish imperative and one our community of survivors has taught us so well in Melbourne. Death may be inevitable, but life is incredible. So many opportunities for giving, learning, enjoying and affirming. This idea informs and clarifies our Parasha this week which opens with a call to the Kohanim (the priests) to separate themselves from contact with the dead. They were not to occupy themselves with a...Read more...

Soup, Soul and Community

26/04/18 14:49:50


At last week’s Soup, Sandwiches and a Chat meal, the project of our Darchei Shalom (Social Action) Group, there were about 40 residents of the Inkerman Road Council apartments (more than half were Jewish including one Chareidi man; most are of Russian extraction). There were also half a dozen of our volunteers. I came in while the residents were having dessert after enjoying soup and toasted sandwiches.

The atmosphere was relaxed,...

Matzo Balls, Gefilte Fish and a “Gevaltike” (aka great) Governor

19/04/18 16:37:56


In the week leading up to Pesach, I attended a dinner at the stately Government House in our Royal Botanic Gardens. I’ve been fortunate to have visited this splendid State House on several occasions, but this time it was different. Our Jewish Governor, the Honourable Linda Dessau’s invitation was to a “Multi-Faith Youth Passover Dinner”. This was a dinner for young, Jews, Christians and Muslims, and a...Read more...

Happy 70th!

11/04/18 13:32:59


Israel, it’s hard to believe you’re seventy. 70, after all, is a ripe old reverential age. The Mishna calls it the era of settled old age or seiva. I don’t think of you as old even though the years have not been kind to you – you’ve been battered  by wars, torn by the loss of so many of your finest children, pilloried by the UN, maligned by too many nations and become a magnet for some of the oldest and newest anti-Semitism...Read more...

It’s All OK, Beseder Mate!

28/03/18 12:05:09


It’s a popular Hebrew response “Hakol beseder” (הכל בסדר), everything is ok, it’s alright mate… You can also translate this phrase as “It’s all in the Seder.” And in a sense this sums-up the essence of those magical first nights of Pesach. Everything you need to know about being Jewish is indeed contained in those nights. The seder experience is unique in its structure, exciting in its vision and visionary in its...Read more...

Ask Me a Question

22/03/18 09:54:34


It has been said that animals are such agreeable friends – they ask no questions. Oliver Goldsmith once retorted: “Ask me no questions, I’ll tell you no lies”.

I can’t imagine comments less Jewish than these! The Kotzker Rebbe who was known for his sharp retorts was once faced with a challenging question from a Yeshiva student. The student asked why it took God so long to...Read more...

Press the Pause Button

15/03/18 14:56:52


Do you find yourself rushing from task to task, event to event, appointment to meeting? Stressed-out, worn-out, burnt-out seems to be the mantra of our manic lives. Apparently 52% of people say stress keeps them up at night.

Not only is ongoing stress bad for our health, it also affects our relationships, our capacity to be effective and of course our well-being. Even when we are...Read more...

The Measure of Transparency

08/03/18 14:16:44


Transparency, accountability, openness – these are the buzzwords today for any organisation or business worth its salt. They are also the key words to understanding the opening of the second parasha this week, Pekudei, Exodus 38. It begins with Moshe giving a detailed financial accounting of the costs of setting up the Mishkan (Sanctuary).

Moses was all too aware of the need to...

A Woman’s Voice

02/03/18 11:16:34


We had a riotous run-up to Purim with our young bubs (Caulfield Mums & Bubs) in their colourful Purim costumes, a spectacularly smart and entertaining Grand Debate on the “Future of the humble ham (entasch) and topped it off with a splendid carnival of Purim activities for our kids. Not to mention 5 Megillah readings (including one at Arcare Kooyong Rd by Rabbi Gedaliah Levin).


“The Whole Megillah”

23/02/18 08:14:45


We may call it a Megillah, we may think of it as a long, rambling, rambunctious fairy tale drama, we may joke about unchecked, unfiltered dramas being “gantseh megillahs”. The truth is that this little book, Megillat Esther, the story or scroll of Esther, is as profound as it is perceptive, as succinct as it is short. It comprises ten brief chapters and is more of a long short (but sharp) story than a book. At...Read more...

Saying Sorry

15/02/18 14:43:37


It’s been ten years since Kevin Rudd’s historic statement of apology to the ‘Stolen Generation’. It was a breakthrough moment for the survivors; as one survivor put it – “It was what happened to Aboriginal people more broadly. And it wasn’t an argument, it wasn’t a debate, it was just the sky is blue, the grass is green. This happened and we need to do something about it...Read more...

The Stranger is Me

09/02/18 10:37:19


It’s one of the thorniest questions across the world today. It’s causing controversy and a heated debate in Israel today. It’s not new to us in Australia. It’s the question of accepting “illegal” asylum seekers, or those who enter a country without going through the usual channels and processes.

It came to the fore in Israel in...

Moon dance and #MeToo

02/02/18 11:55:39


If you stepped outside at midnight on Wednesday, you would have had a once-in-a-blue-moon experience! The streets of Caulfield were quiet and sleepy, but the moon was colourful and vibrant. It wasn’t blue, but in fact a ‘super blood moon’, radiating an eerie reddish-orange glow as it was slowly and majestically eclipsed by shadow. It’s called by this impressive name because it was...Read more...

The Year of Chai

25/01/18 12:22:13


 Welcome to the year of the “Chai” – 2018! Even though our Jewish new year (5778) commenced several months ago, we live by a parallel calendar, which especially outside of Israel, shapes our routines and determines so many of our plans....Read more...

From Trump to Triumph

15/12/17 13:56:09


I arrived in Jerusalem on the eve of Trump’s historic announcement and I left it on the eve of the historic festival of Chanukah. I would like to say I timed my visit deliberately, but then there were no calls from Jared Kushner and  even though Rabbi Riskin may have heard I was in town Bibi seemed oblivious…

Jerusalem is always an edgy city. Even when it’s relaxed it’s looking over its’ shoulder. This past week it...Read more...

Clothes to kill for

05/12/17 13:54:39


If ‘clothing makes the man’, sometimes it can also kill the man! The story of Joseph can be seen as a man betrayed or at best greatly endangered by his clothing.  I am of course referring to the “ketonet passim”, the magical dream coat given to Joseph by his father.

It is the coat which singles out Joseph and gives him an initial edge over his brothers. They rightly read into the coat their father’s favouritism and...Read more...


29/11/17 14:40:39


As Jacob prepared to encounter his brother Esau after a separation of twenty years, he has one of the strangest encounters recorded in the Torah.

Leaving his family on one side of the river, he crosses it, remaining alone on the other shore in the dark of the night. 


Turning rocks into stars

24/11/17 13:54:37



It’s my Barmitzvah parasha, Vayetze, this week. Shakespeare knowingly asked “what’s in a name?” and we could just as well ask “what’s in a parasha?” A Jewish name is significant in that it conveys ones essence and potential. The parasha of the week of one’s birth is important in that it transmits something of one’s substance and capacity.

I was given the name of my father Isaac’s brother Raphael killed as...Read more...

Looking back with love

17/11/17 12:47:32


In 1956 a young British playwright wrote a play that is said to have changed the face of modern drama. The playwright was John Osborne and the play was a verbal barrage on a wide range of topics from the class system to family, sexuality to religion. It was ferocious and unrestrained and apparently set the scene for a new cultural movement and the libertine 1960’s.

I was thinking of the play this week (which I studied at Uni) not...Read more...

We all start as strangers

10/11/17 12:47:28


From the beginning of time we have all been strangers. The very first encounter between human beings was one between two strangers: Adam meeting Eve. We all know what it is to be the other, an outsider. It’s part of the universal human experience; it’s something we’ve all felt, and it’s not necessarily negative; most of our friends and partners were probably strangers at first.

As Jews we have felt the loneliness and...

Thu, 25 February 2021 13 Adar 5781