Harry’s Yeshiva plans
Triguboff said he has plans to further develop the Jewish activities that currently take place there, including at the synagogue, JEMS and Our Big Kitchen.
Billionaire property developer Harry Triguboff intends to keep the former Yeshiva College property in Bondi as a Jewish educational facility for many years to come, despite putting in an application to have the site rezoned.
Speaking exclusively to The AJN, Triguboff said he has plans to further develop the Jewish activities that currently take place there, including at the synagogue, JEMS and Our Big Kitchen.
“I’m not going to leave that Yeshiva empty,” Triguboff told The AJN. “On the other hand, I have a silly rule by the planning department on the land – I can’t use it for this, I can’t use it for that, so I want to make it useful for something. Not that I am going to knock down the Yeshiva tomorrow, in fact my plans are to develop the Yeshiva, but I should have the zoning done properly.”
Triguboff bought the site in 2012 when Yeshiva College was in financial crisis, and late last year it was forced to close due to non-compliance.
“The problem with the Yeshiva is they teach them too much about Jewish things and too little about (secular) things,” Triguboff said.
“So … it’s not easy for them to find a job. I was against it all the time; I wanted them to study more secular things.
“I always wanted to bring yeshiva scholars here because a yeshiva with little children running around is not really a yeshiva I envisioned. Then I would like even the women to become accredited female Jewish leaders,” Triguboff said, pointing out that his daughter Orna Triguboff is a rabbi trained through Jewish renewal.
The building was designed by the late Harry Seidler, one of Australia’s most renowned architects. It was the only religious building he designed. When news broke that Triguboff put a rezoning request to Waverley Council to permit a low-rise apartment building on the site, it prompted the Seidler family to urge council to place an interim heritage order (IHO) to protect it from demolition.
“I am the biggest admirer of Seidler,” Triguboff said, noting that the architect designed the Meriton building in which he was speaking to The AJN.
“I always wanted one building from Seidler. I liked him, but we can’t make every beautiful building he designed a heritage. It was never designed to be heritage.”
Last week Waverley Council unanimously voted to apply to NSW Heritage for an IHO, which will provide immediate protection of the site from demolition and gives council 12 months to undertake a detailed heritage assessment of the site.
Mayor Paula Masselos said council is committed to retaining social and scarce educational infrastructure in Waverley. “This historical religious and educational facility has served the Jewish community for more than 60 years and it is critical that this facility is not lost for this community,” she said.
“We have the support of the Seidler family, the Royal Australian Institute of Architects (RAIA), Docomomo Australia, and other interested parties including members of the Jewish community who want to see an IHO put in place.”
Triguboff said council’s application for an IHO won’t stop his plans, which he says have been years in the making.
“[Executive director] Rabbi Dovid [Slavin] is paying no rent at all, which is fine, but now I have to plan what to do with the balance of the building,” Triguboff said.
“Because the government won’t give him money and the people who send their children there haven’t got that much money to pay.”
The site is currently zoned to provide crucial social infrastructure, such as education, religious and health facilities, and cultural facilities. According to council, no application for demolition has been received, but the site’s owner has lodged a planning proposal (PP) to amend the Waverley Local Environmental Plan 2012 by changing the zone of the site to medium density residential.
The centre has served the community for decades, while Our Big Kitchen distributes more than 250,000 meals every year. Rabbi Slavin told The AJN that Triguboff has been the “driving force behind everything we’ve done”.