For the first time in over seventy years the Dunedin Jewish community, in the second-largest city in the South Island of New Zealand, has a leader.
Rabbi Shmuel Kopel together with his wife and children moved to Dunedin from New York. During the late 19th century Dunedin was bustling with Jewish people. There are still many land marks in Dunedin from its Jewish history.
During the twentieth century only a small number of Jews remained in Dunedin, they surprisingly managed to maintain their synagogue without an official leader. An elder of the congregation says “As far as I can recall the last Rabbi was here in 1939.”
Within the last 20 years Dunedin’s Jewish community enjoyed growth from travellers as well as university students and lecturers. The Chabad movement felt the need to help the Dunedin Jewish community.
In their short stay in Dunedin people are well aware of the Rabbi’s presence, locals often stop to ask the Rabbi, what are you?
“Dunedin is a multicultural city,” says Rabbi Kopel. “There needs to be an outlet for the Jewish heritage as well”.
Rabbi Kopel has made numerous guest appearances including at the Olveston House and the polytechnic nursing school.