Shavuot (2 days of Yom Tov) Day 1 (morning): Mizrachi; Day 2 (morning): Sassoon Yehuda Sephardi Across the two days of the Yom Tov of Shavuot (which included Shabbat), I went to four different synagogues for four different services (Thurs night, Fri morning, Fri night and Sat morning). Each was very different, but in their own right interesting and inspiring. I started at South Caulfield shule, where I went to support my friend who was on a panel later in the night, but in the meantime we had a lovely dinner, listened to a fascinating speech by a convert to Judaism, then a comedy routine and then there was a panel about organ donation from a Jewish perspective. It turns out that in most cases, it is allowed and is even encouraged. My friend was then on a panel about the upcoming referendum on the Voice for Indigenous Australians, and despite the potential controversies that such a topic often induces, it was lovely to discuss it in such a lovely and res
  Torah Portion: Bamidbar Synagogue: Young Yeshivah, Chabad Walking time from home: 10 mins Reason for going: Close to home in the rain Kiddush: Large sit-down Kiddush with multiple courses It is said that there are 61 synagogues in Melbourne, but that belies the fact that there are actually a lot more Minyanim on a Shabbat morning. Within some of the complexes there are 2, 3 or even more services, often simultaneously.  This week, on a rainy Saturday morning, I wanted to go somewhere close and somewhere a little nostalgic, so I went to Yeshivah, which is actually an umbrella term for all the services that are on the complex of the Yeshiva Centre. Many years ago, whilst still in high school, I would occasionally go to the Yeshivah main shule, so I intended to go back there for a bit of nostalgia. But when I arrived, I discovered that Young Yeshivah – one of three ser
  Torah Portion: Behar-Bechukotai Synagogue: Gary Smorgon House Walking time from home: 40 minutes Reason for going: Invitation by the rabbi Kiddush: Sit down kiddush with big birthday cake This was my second Shabbat home after my trip overseas, and though physically I am here, my mind is still not quite back. My shule experience this Shabbat made me confront the issues of my trip yet again, but in a cathartic kind of way. I was invited to attend the shule at Gary Smorgon House, one of the institutions of Jewish Care, where one of my co-participants on the March of the Living is the rabbi. He also became the quasi rabbi of our program and our group. It was great to see him in his home environment, taking on most of the roles in the shule, from leading the service, to reading from the Torah and making the announcements, and somehow in between, he managed to say hello
Torah Portion: Emor Synagogue: Or Chadash @ Caulfield Walking time from home: Under 10 minutes Reason for going: Close in the rain / Kiddush speaker Kiddush: Reasonable It seems that the weather of last Shabbat in Jerusalem has followed me back to Melbourne. Whilst I may have come to Caulfield shule anyway after the service for the speaker at the Kiddush, I came early because it is close to home. Though rather than go to the main shule, I went upstairs to Or Chadash, a shule I am not very familiar with. As it happens, it was a fortuitous choice. The rabbi at Or Chadash is currently the longest serving rabbi in Melbourne, and though the shule regularly only has 30 or 40 people on a Shabbat morning, this week there were half as many, partly due to the rain but mostly due to the fact that many are travelling. The demographic of the shule is mostly older white males, most of
  Torah Portion: Achrie Mot – Kedoshim Synagogue: Kotel (Western Wall) Walking time from hotel: 15 minutes Reason for going: Where else? Kiddush: N/A JERUSALEM, ISRAEL: According to the vast majority of Jews around the world, there is no place more holy these days than the Kotel (Western Wall), the closest remnant we have to the Temple. It is the place people travel to from all over the world to have their lifecycle celebrations and to feel closer to the Almighty. For me, though the place feels significant and special, it has never quite felt holy, though I do understand why so many people come to Jerusalem for their special occasions.  This blog is generally about my Shabbat morning experiences, and though I will get to that, I want to focus the first part of this week’s writings on our collective experience at the Kotel on Friday night. Within our March of the Living
  Torah Portion: Tazria-Metzorah (Rosh Chodesh) Synagogue: Nozyk Synagogue Walking time from hotel: 12-15 minutes Reason for going: Main shule in town Kiddush: N/A WARSAW, POLAND: As we have learned all week in Poland, this country used to be filled with Jews, synagogues and institutions of the Jewish community. Jews have been in Poland for nearly a thousand years, and at one point, this was the centre of the Jewish world, with up to a third of the entire population Jewish. Since so many of the Jews were religious, there were plenty of synagogues, and in Warsaw alone, close to 400. Today, after the annihilation of 3.3 million Polish Jews during the Holocaust, there are many remnants of Jewish life, but few functioning synagogues. Yet despite that, in the last few decades there has been a revitalisation of sorts, and some people feel comfortable to show and practice t
  Torah Portion: Shemini Synagogue: Chabad of Krakow Walking time from hotel: 5 minutes Reason for going: Main shule in town Kiddush: Sit down kiddush with hot kugel KRAKOW, POLAND: In the old Jewish quarter in Krakow where I am staying, there are probably at least 12 old synagogues, maybe more. But most of them have opening hours during the day and are more like museum pieces than functioning houses of prayer. There are one or two that operate as shules as well as museums, but generally only for certain services. One of those is the Synagogu Remu, which is right in the middle of the Jewish square and is a very Charedi shule. That is where I went Friday night, followed by a communal dinner at the JCC, which organises dinners for tourists and locals every Shabbat. But even at the JCC they said that locals and tourists