DELIVERING the Rosh Hashanah sermon is always a special experience for any rabbi, but for North Shore Temple Emanuel’s (NSTE) senior rabbi Gary Robuck, it proved to be “even more poignant”.
That’s because it was Rabbi Robuck’s last Jewish New Year at NSTE, as he will depart the shul in December after a total of 17 years of service.
He told The AJN he’d intended his final Rosh Hashanah sermon “to be somewhat more personal, to the congregation, than it would otherwise be”.
“Every rabbi is privileged to have a certain number of minutes with the full attention of his or her congregation, and I take that privilege [on the High Holy Days] very seriously – we [rabbis] all do.
“I think success is predicated on the relationships built over the course of the year.
“Sometimes the situation lends itself to a more humorous look at the world; other times it tends to be very serious or reflective.
“By choosing the right words, you can make an impact.”
Affectionately known as the “Rockin’ Rabbi” due to his musical and creative abilities applied to worship and programming, Rabbi Robuck moved to Sydney from Cleveland, Ohio with his wife, Jocelyn, in 1988 and served as NSTE’s assistant rabbi for four years.
After an 11-year-stint back in Cleveland at Shaare Tikvah, he returned to NSTE and since 2003, has served as the congregation’s senior rabbi, chazan and principal of the shul’s religious and Hebrew school.
Rabbi Robuck said three elements at High Holy Day services at NSTE will always remain close to his heart.
“Our congregation features a wonderful choir of more than 30 singers, and their music helps create a most beautiful service.
“The moment on Rosh Hashanah when we sound the shofar, surrounded by young people around the bimah, completely encircled, with all their eyes and ears focused – that is always an amazing experience.
“And the community havdalah service at the end of Yom Kippur – when everyone returns to be part of the candle-lighting experience – that is a transcendental moment, and has become an NSTE institution.”
Rabbi Robuck paid tribute to NSTE’s active group of volunteers and said the shul’s leadership is currently engaging in a process to determine the congregation’s future needs.
“I do not intend to retire from service to the Jewish community, rather I’m giving consideration to a number of exciting new opportunities,” he said.
“And with my wife, Jocelyn, I’m also looking forward to spending more time with our children and our darling 18-month-old granddaughter, Eliana.”