Ari Mochkin and Ari Cadaner:
Over the past four weeks, we have been assisting the Newcastle synagogue with their Shabbat services each week. The opportunity to speak in front of such a crowd and really become part of the community is usually not something a RARA Rabbi gets to experience. Since we have been lucky enough to be settled in one main area throughout the duration of our trip, we really get to feel it!
Each week, following the Friday night services, we invite members of the shul back to our apartment and have them over for meals. So far we have hosted over 25 guests and hope to have many more. Our meals go late into the night and the discussions are endless. You can tell that these people have such a thirst and excitement to learn about Judaism.
A walk on the wild side
The day started like many others – driving from Newcastle to the Central Coast. We had knocked on a couple of doors and made some calls but were left with no responses. Next on our list – Steve – previous Rabbis had noted that they had shared wonderful visits with him so we figured that after a couple of hours of fruitless searching, we could take a nice, relaxing visit.
We tried calling Steve but looked like he wasn’t answering either. We didn’t want our entire day to go to waste so we figured we’d “crash” (aka pay him a house visit). We knocked on his door and thank G-d he answered. He was so excited to see us, he told us that he hasn’t had a visit for a while and was thrilled that RARA is in town again.
He showed us his car collection and then asked us if we wanted to see Lake Macquarie, we agreed as the day was slow. On the way to the lake he told us that his town hosts interesting visitors every day. Their remnants were all over the roads for us to see. But, in addition to those, there were many more roaming the streets freely.
We begged him to show us and he agreed. We went for a drive to a neighbouring street and saw a young man feeding about twenty wild kangaroos – the sight was amazing. We saw a joey in its mother’s pouch. Everything we see or hear has some lesson to us in Judaism, so we spoke to Steve about the love a mother has for a child and the beauty of G-d’s creations.
It was that time of the week again when we had to go to Sydney to stock up our food supplies. On our way out of Newcastle, we went to fill up petrol and stopped at the BP station. We filled up and went in the store to pay. Little did we know that behind the counter was young Max whose Bar Mitzvah we had just celebrated the day before! He was thrilled to see us. We grabbed another Tefillin laying with him before we continued on our way…
Mendel Perlstein and Naftoli Goldshmid:
We were heading down to the very bottom of South Australia, to a city called Victor Harbor, we had a few contacts there who we planned on meeting.
As we were getting closer to Victor Harbor we decided its time to fill up with Petrol. Our GPS told us that the closest BP Station was in Port Elliot. The sun was already going down and by the time we got to Victor Harbour it would be dark, so we figured we’d try our luck in Port Elliot first. Maybe we could find someone Jewish in this forsaken little town?
As we were paying for the petrol we asked the BP worker, “Would you perhaps know any Jews in the area?”
We were waiting for the usual response, ”Jews, what’s that?” or the classic, “I didn’t know Jews still existed!”, but we had to give it a try.
To our utter amazement the reply came without any hesitation: “Jews? Of course, Frodo!!!”
“Frodo?” We thought, “who (or what?) on earth is that?”
“Everyone knows Frodo,” he assured us. “He lives here in Port Elliot, somewhere in the center of town.”
We figured, if everyone knows Frodo, then we could just drive into town and ask around, so we got in to the Mitzva Tank and drove in to the center of town.
Stopping the first person we saw, we asked him if he knew who “Frodo” was. “Of course,” came the reply, “if you keep on going down this road, at the second street make a right, you’ll see the pink house on the left, that’s Frodo!”
Now this was getting really interesting, we followed these directions and what do you know?! On the left side of the street was a pink house. After ringing the doorbell a number of times we turned to leave and just then the door opened and a little cat came running out, wow…that was a bit of a shock! Then in the dim opening of the doorway we could see someone with long hair. “How can I help you fellows?” came the question.
We introduced ourselves and told the man what we were there for, and Frodo invited us in.
His house was covered in paintings, old books and lots and lots of old tapes, we spoke with Frodo for a while. A man of many talents, he works in the public library, is a musician and plays in the local pub, he’s also a painter and a photographer, sells post cards, studies astronomy and reads people’s future, just to name a few. We discussed the idea of Kiddush HaChodesh and how this year we did Birchas Hachama – this man knew his stuff.
We told Frodo how nice it was to see that not only did everyone in town know who he is but also know that he is Jewish.
Frodo’s response: “I may not be very Religious or traditional, as a matter of fact, I’m totally unobservant, but everyone who knows me knows that there is one thing about me – that I’m proud to be a Jew where ever I go and what ever I do.”