The sun beat down as the group of 50 took refuge under the small tent erected specially for the day.
Rabbi Yossi Rodal, co-director of Chabad of RARA, welcomed the crowd.
“History is being made today,” he said. ” For the first time, a Jew in Darwin and the rest of the Northern Territory can now be buried according to the Jewish law.”
Previously, when a member of the Jewish community in NT passed away, arrangements had to be made to transport them to one of the closest Jewish cemeteries in Brisbane, Melbourne or Sydney. This process could take several days which was difficult according to the Jewish Tradition. Unfortunately for others, the financial burden was too great, or arrangements could not be made and the body of their loved ones was not able to be buried according to the sacred Jewish Tradition.
Saul Spigler, founder and president of Chabad of RARA, flew up from Melbourne for the occasion. He told the crowd how the necessity of having the cemetery became apparent after an older Jew, a Holocaust survivor living in Darwin had been cremated r”l. He had been visited for years by the young Rabbis of RARA, who were just about the only visitors he ever received. He mentioned that he wanted to be buried as a Jew.
Unfortunately, when the time came, his wishes were not respected by his children due to the complications involved in transport and cost.
A thank you was given to Gaye Schultz who advocated for the establishment of the cemetery for two years with tenacity. The local council, Litchfield council were instrumental in the process as well.
Many dignitaries were present, including mayors from three councils and the multicultural minister of the NT. They reminded the assembled of their commitment to religious and cultural freedom, and pledged to continue to do all that they can to help strengthen the Jewish community in Darwin.
Two bochurim from Yeshiva Gedola who are in Darwin in order to run the Pesach Sedarim helped to complete the minyan. Morry Wolko, a dear friend and supporter of RARA was also on hand to witness the event. He was honored with the recital of Kaddish.
In what is possibly the first minyan to ever be assembled in Darwin, the traditional ceremony of consecration took place with participants saying Tehillim at all four corners of the burial plot. Volunteers from the crowd then spread earth imported from the Mt of Olives in Israel on each gravesite to connect the site in Darwin with Eretz Yisroel.
A buffet spread followed the ceremony, complete with traditional Jewish foods such as challah and bagels and cream cheese and lox.
Rabbi Rodal said having a means of a religious burial in Darwin was a big step in establishing a strong Jewish community in Darwin.
“There are still a few other factors of Jewish life Darwin is still missing, such as a synagogue and a kosher food source, but this one of the basics that every Jewish community must have, so it’s a strong start.”
The idea of establishing a Chabad house for travelers and locals was discussed with the minister of legislation and a Jewish former member of parliament present that day. The concept is still being developed, they said.