Last weekend saw 60 Jews from rural and regional Australia gather in Melbourne for an unforgettable RARA Jewish Discovery Weekend.
A packed schedule ensured that every moment was used to the fullest. Classes exploring the meaning of Judaism and it’s traditions were well received. An inspiring challah bake with holocaust survivors left everyone in tears. Tours of establishments such as the mikva, chevra kadisha and hatzalah shed light on Jewish life throughout the ages.
Line from Coffs Harbour, who periodically hosts Shabbat meals in her home described the atmosphere which would leave her forever touched. “Hearing a holocaust survivor recount how her faith in G-d kept her alive is a moment that will remain with me forever.
“Sitting at a mammoth Shabbat seudah with 60 other likeminded people from isolated areas really created a sense of community, which is what we are sorely lacking. I can not thank Chabad of RARA enough for these special moments,” she said.
With topics ranging from modern day mysticism to joining the Young Yeshiva community for a first hand account of the events at Entebbe, there was a class for everyone.
A stump the Rabbi session with Rabbi Elisha Greenbaum left the crowd satisfied and the Rabbi unstumped. Minna Lederburger told her story of survival and hope with a sumptuous wine and cheese spread on Motsae Shabbat. Earlier, cantor Dov Farkash led the participants in a heartfelt havdalah ceremony.
Each guest was hosted by a member of the kind and generous Melbourne Chabad community. Experiencing a Friday night meal in the warmth of the traditional foods and customs proved to be a highlight for many of the guests.
“The warmth of our hosts was really the clincher for me,” says Alli Pollin, who came with her 11 year old son Eli from Alice Springs NT. ” Eli told me that he may not grow up orthodox, but he does want our family to increase in perfoming Mitzvot.”
Those mitzvot include mezuza, lighting shabbat candles, and making havdalah. Using a short break from the program, Alli and Eli went to Golds Judaica and stocked up on items that her neighbors in Alice Springs have never heard of.
The Shabbaton was capped with a banquet, catered by a Chinese chef who made authentic kosher Chinese cuisine. Speakers included Saul Spigler, president of RARA and Dudu Lider, who generously lent his stunning Chabad house as a venue for the event. When Rabbi Yossi Rodal, co director of Chabad of RARA presented Joe of Wollongong with his own brand new paid of tfillin, there was not a dry eye in the house.
A comprehensive children’s program was run by the capable Chavi Lazarus, who has also coordinated RARA holiday events in the past. Their schedule joined with the adults for the challah board art project and Hatzaloh talk, but on their own they discovered the sofer, the Jewsh museum, had a scavenger hunt on Carslisle Street and even had time for a late night glow in the dark mini golf trip.
Claire Tipper, a teacher from Newcastle, has already made some changes as a result of the inspiration of the weekend. She has put up mezuzos, opened her siddur each morning since, and has signed up for jnet, a one on one Torah studying program. Her son Josh, 14 has decided to take the brave step of wearing a kippa all day.
“This was completely on his own accord. he is very inspired and tells anyone that will listen that he is Jewish and proud. He has not missed a day of tfillin in a week. I could not be prouder,” she said.