Close to 100 people – including NSW Premier and Kogarah MP Chris Minns, Georges River Council’s mayor Sam Elmir and NSW Jewish Board of Deputies president David Ossip – joined congregation members and friends at a luncheon at Hurstville Entertainment Centre on October 29 to celebrate the 80th anniversary of Southern Sydney Synagogue.
Among the audience were past ministers of the shule Rabbi and Rebbetzin Yossi and Shaina Feldman, and Tzuri and Fiona Avila.
The shule’s president, Dr George Foster, told The AJN last Thursday, “They all expressed their support for the community and wished us success in our future endeavours.
“The Premier, in particular, has for some years supported the congregation – both practically and emotionally – and we appreciate his warmth towards the community.”
Foster added, “Southern Sydney Synagogue – or Illawarra Synagogue as it was once known – was a thriving and busy community.
“While over time our numbers have reduced, we remain an active and close congregation, with regular functions, weekly services and a willingness to look forward.
“In this regard and with a mind to attracting young families and new members, the synagogue has employed a new minister, Rabbi Mani Holzman, who joined the congregation on October 3.
“We look forward to a long and fruitful relationship and to celebrating many simchas in the future.”
In his speech at the anniversary event, Minns highlighted the treasured values in Australia of inclusion, respect and community, which were evident from the shule’s earliest years, right through to today.
He also expressed his deepest condolences to the Israeli and non-Israeli victims of the atrocities committed by Hamas in southern Israel on October 7, condemned Hamas for all of its terrorist activities and expressed unequivocal solidarity toward the local Jewish community, Jews across Sydney and NSW and their relatives and friends in Israel.
“This synagogue has played an integral part in bringing together people of diverse backgrounds and cultures,” Minns said.
“Now more than ever, it’s important that Australians of all faiths have safe places to gather and connect with one another.
Avila – who was the shule’s spiritual leader from 2015 to mid-2021 and is now youth minister for Central Synagogue – told The AJN the event was “a very special occasion celebrating a big milestone and it brought people together of all ages”.
“It was great to see some grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the shule’s founders and also to see people come along who may not have attended the shule’s services for many years and who now live in other areas.
“Having been a part of this community for 5.5 years as minister, I would describe the Southern Sydney Synagogue’s congregation as a very warm and wonderful community.
“It’s a relatively small community, but it is one that is actually growing steadily again, as more younger families move into the southern Sydney [area].
“And I think the shule’s new 31-year-old rabbi will be able to relate to and tap into, that [generation].”