NSW Premier Chris Minns and the Governor of NSW Margaret Beazley joined communal leaders, rabbis, congregants and guests at Emanuel Synagogue last week for the rededication of the shule’s Heritage Sanctuary.
The beautifully restored building, which features a new wraparound balcony, skylights and reoriented seats for better viewing of services, was completed just hours before it was officially opened.
The evening began with the sounding of the shofar and an Indigenous smoking ceremony, before guests moved inside the sanctuary.
“Friends, this synagogue and its 85 years of history shares a proud story as a place of worship, but also as a place of community, a place to celebrate and mourn, a place to grow and to educate children, a place for women to be empowered increasingly and a place to progress social justice causes,” Minns said in his address.
“The rabbi, in his invitation, reminded me that while this synagogue was being opened in 1938, on the other side of the world we know that horrors were being committed against Jewish people in their synagogues, with many of them being smashed or burned to the ground. It’s something to reflect on that these synagogues had the potential to be beloved sanctuaries like this one is today, with a proud storied past, but were destroyed by hate.
“Against this background, it’s a great source of pride to all of us that this synagogue has not only survived, but blossomed into Australia’s largest congregation of over 4000 members. So I congratulate you on the rededication, on 85 years of history, and I look forward to the next 85 years – although I may not be here for that special occasion.”
Rabbi Jeffrey Kamins led the proceedings, with Minister for Multiculturalism Steve Kamper, former Labor frontbencher Walt Secord and Israeli ambassador Amir Maimon also in attendance.
“It’s not often you find an Israeli who is speechless, but I am,” Maimon said.
“It’s really an amazing, amazing synagogue.”
Former Emanuel Synagogue president Alex Lehrer, whose idea it was initially for the restoration, spoke about his own family’s connection to the shule, with current president Grant McCorquodale concluding the formalities.
“We are all seeing our beautiful sanctuary for the very first time tonight and I’m genuinely breathless at her beauty, as she was only completed three hours ago,” McCorquodale said.
“As we usher in our new year, the sound of our shofar will be blown with a deeper breath than ever before to the fullest audience in the history of our synagogue.”
MP Steve Kamper addressing the audience. Photo: NSW Premier’s Office