NEWCASTLE Hebrew Congregation hasn’t had its own rabbi and rebbetzin for 60 years.
But that will soon change when Chabad of Rural and Regional Australia (RARA)’s Rabbi Yossi Rodal and his family move from Melbourne to NSW in a few days.
“My wife and I have been working with Chabad of RARA for five to six years now … We’ve loved the last few years but there comes a time when you need to settle down and get to know people for a longer period,” said Rabbi Rodal.
“Chabad of RARA has been to Newcastle many times over 20 years. Newcastle has a shule and a lovely community that we have got to know and have become close with.
“We’ll be covering the Central Coast and Newcastle as well as the Greater Hunter region up to Forster and inland into the greater Maitland area.”
Once social distancing restrictions have lifted, Rabbi Rodal hopes to increase Newcastle shule’s opening times – initially once a month on Shabbat mornings in addition to its regular opening time on Friday nights, with the intent to open more frequently down the line.
Taking up the Rodals’ post in Melbourne, Rabbi Menachem Aron joined Chabad of RARA after moving from Crown Heights with his wife, Shevi, and their daughter, Chaya Mushka in January.
Before COVID-19 restrictions set in, the Arons visited families for Purim, but by Pesach, with everyone confined to their homes, they sent seder kits to hundreds of families instead of hosting communal seders.
Born and bred in Melbourne, Rabbi Aron commented, “We are now based here but we are facilitating Judaism to anyone in any location that doesn’t have Jewish infrastructure … Whether it’s holding a bar mitzvah or unfortunately assisting with a Jewish funeral or burial, or helping someone get kosher food or have Torah classes, it’s our honour to be able to reach people. It’s very rewarding work.”