The Sydney branch of HaTzofim Australia, Shevet Shahar, has partnered with North Shore local and community stalwart Jono Herrman to provide palm fronds to the community in time for Succot.
The Israeli Scouts youth movement involves thousands of teenagers in Israel and around the world, emphasising Israeli life and culture while assisting integration into their respective communities.
HaTzofim Australia has been active since 2013, with two operating chapters or “shevatim”, Melbourne’s Shevet Onnot, and Sydney’s Shevet Shahar, which runs weekly activities at Sydney’s North Shore Synagogue.
Ariel Kantor, chair of the Shevet Shahar parents committee, said the cooperation was “an opportunity of a lifetime” for HaTzofim in Sydney.
“As chair, I wanted to get [HaTzofim] more involved in the Jewish community as a whole, and I wanted to see the Israeli Scouts as contributing, assisting and being part of the wider Jewish community,” Kantor said.
Shevet Shahar was also looking to raise funds to expand its programming and provide support to its older volunteers to continue to run activities.
“We are very proud that Jono has offered us this opportunity and we want to see it down the track as being extended, implementing more opportunities so we can grow this initiative.”
Herrman founded Sydney Palm Fronds over a decade ago, dedicated to providing the community with schach by building a reliable network of suppliers and using North Shore Synagogue as a delivery point.
He planned to “retire”, but when he stumbled upon a palm tree farm late last year, he saw an opportunity to partner with another community organisation to continue his work.
“This is hopefully a change-over year … I’m still living on the north, and I’m not running away, but hopefully schach will always be supplied in Sydney by Tzofim,” Herrman told The AJN.
“It just seemed like the perfect fit.”
Herrman was driving through the Hunter Valley on his way back from holiday when he came across Cherry Tree Farm, home to a large paddock of palm trees.
When he asked Tom Kirsh, the owner, if he could cut one thousand fronds, Herrman was surprised to find out that they had more in common than he realised.
Herrman recalled of the phone conversation, “He was a very casual, very nice guy. And then he said, ‘By the way, what do you need these for?’ And I said, ‘Look, I’m Jewish.’ And he went, ‘Oh yeah, so am I.’
“I was shocked … I said, ‘Well, do you know what Succot is?’ And Tom goes, ‘Yeah, I had my bar mitzvah at North Shore Synagogue.’
“And that’s when the relationship started … It was great to reconnect,” Herrman reflected.
Kirsh’s father was a Holocaust survivor of the Buchenwald concentration camp, moving to Sydney after the war. The name Cherry Tree Farm was an homage to Kirsh’s family’s name, Kirschenboim, meaning cherry tree.
Cherry Tree Farm has since exclusively supplied Sydney Palm Fronds, and from this year, HaTzofim.
All net proceeds from the sale of the schach will go to HaTzofim, who will also assist in cutting and delivering the fronds to the community.
Kantor said he was excited to see the impact of the new initiative on the young Scouts.
“Building a succah with the Tzofim, offering the parents of the Tzofim to build succot in their homes, encouraging the kids to request it and do the decorations and have dinner in the succah – it’s an amazing thing,” he said.
“We’re very proud to take part this year and obviously we’re very excited about future years.”