Contact Us

First Torah Completed in Australia’s Parliament in Canberra

First Torah Completed in Australia’s Parliament in Canberra

More than 150 people attend the event, followed by a joyous procession in the streets

 Email
Rabbi Eli Gutnick, right, finishes the final letter of a new Torah in the Canberra Parliament House, witnessed by The Hon. Josh Frydenberg, MP, seated next to him. Standing, from left, are Dr. Mike Freelander, MP; The Hon. Mark Dreyfus, MP; Rabbi Shmueli Feldman, co-director of Chabad ACT in Canberra; Julian Leeser, MP; and the Hon. Michael Danby, MP. Behind them is Menachem Feldman. (Photo: Andrew Taylor)
Rabbi Eli Gutnick, right, finishes the final letter of a new Torah in the Canberra Parliament House, witnessed by The Hon. Josh Frydenberg, MP, seated next to him. Standing, from left, are Dr. Mike Freelander, MP; The Hon. Mark Dreyfus, MP; Rabbi Shmueli Feldman, co-director of Chabad ACT in Canberra; Julian Leeser, MP; and the Hon. Michael Danby, MP. Behind them is Menachem Feldman. (Photo: Andrew Taylor)

Members of the Australian Parliament, government ministers, foreign diplomats, local Jewish residents and guests gathered on Oct. 19, exactly one week after the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah, in the country’s capital city to celebrate the completion of a new Torah scroll—the first for Chabad there and the first ever witnessed in the central government building.

The scroll was written for the Chabad Australian Capitol Territory in Canberra, and underwritten by Dr. Alena Rada and Jacob Reich. Five Jewish ministers of parliament were honored with writing a letter in the scroll during the dedication ceremony and celebratory luncheon. More than 150 people attended the event, including Chabad rabbis; Jewish communal leaders; and diplomats from Israel, Argentina, Belgium, Poland and Romania; along with representatives of other religious faiths.

The Hon. Josh Frydenberg, Minister for the Environment and Energy, said “the Torah has been the basis of our religious and moral obligations, as well as our civil laws” since G‑d handed it down to Moses on Mount Sinai. He noted that the record number of Jewish parliamentarians from a cross-section of political parties exemplified how being a good Jew and a good Australian is not a contradiction, but rather, a testament to how welcoming Australia continues to be to the Jewish community.

RELATED

Attendees watched as the final verse of the scroll was handwritten by scribe Rabbi Eli Gutnick. Each of the five Jewish MPs witnessed the inscription of the final word, “Israel,” which consists of five letters in Hebrew and refers to the Jewish people. On the cover itself is written: “This historic Torah is dedicated to the longstanding support and friendship of the Australian Parliament to the Jewish community.”

Inscribing the final word, “Israel,” referring to the Jewish people (Photo: Andrew Taylor)
Inscribing the final word, “Israel,” referring to the Jewish people (Photo: Andrew Taylor)

“A Torah completion is considered a citywide holiday in Judaism. It is an especially great celebration for our community, as it is the first Torah that will belong to our synagogue,” said Rabbi Shmueli Feldman, who has co-directed Chabad ACT with his wife, Chasia, for the past five years. “This was the first time that many of Australia’s Members of Parliament and senators were able to see a Torah, and be exposed to some of the beautiful and timeless traditions in person.”

Among those present was Michael Danby, the longest-serving Jewish Member of Parliament, who said in his remarks that everyone present is “witness to a proud declaration of what a great country Australia is with a first Torah-scroll completion in Parliament House.”

Chasia Feldman’s father, Michael Kiel of Jerusalem, lifts the Torah for all to see. (Photo: Andrew Taylor)
Chasia Feldman’s father, Michael Kiel of Jerusalem, lifts the Torah for all to see. (Photo: Andrew Taylor)

Since Chabad ACT was established in 2009, the congregation has been relying on borrowed scrolls, but it was clear that they eventually would need their own Torah. As Theo Menachemson, who serves as treasurer of Chabad ACT, explained: “The growth in the community adds to the absolute need for the presence of a Torah—and even a second and third Torah.”

Many helped secure the funds needed to write the community’s first Torah scroll, including synagogue members, family, friends, and people in other Australian cities and places abroad. Some of those same contributors came to participate in the traditional inauguration of a new scroll—the hachnasat sefer Torah ceremony—held at the Chabad House later that evening. Before the gala dinner there, the Torah was joyously marched down the streets of Canberra under a chuppah, a Jewish wedding canopy.

Chabad is Judaism’s largest outreach movement in Australia, with more than 100 centers throughout the country.

Given that Canberra is the seat of the Australian government, Feldman noted the significance of welcoming the finished scroll at the diplomatic venue, saying “this historic Torah is dedicated to the longstanding support and friendship of the Australian Parliament to the Jewish community.”

About 150 people came from near and far to witness the event. (Photo: Andrew Taylor)
About 150 people came from near and far to witness the event. (Photo: Andrew Taylor)
Rabbi Shmueli and Chasia Feldman, co-directors of Chabad ACT (Photo: Andrew Taylor)
Rabbi Shmueli and Chasia Feldman, co-directors of Chabad ACT (Photo: Andrew Taylor)
Dancing with the Torah in the Parliament building (Photo: Andrew Taylor)
Dancing with the Torah in the Parliament building (Photo: Andrew Taylor)
Marching down the streets of the Australian capital city of Canberra (Photo: U Branding)
Marching down the streets of the Australian capital city of Canberra (Photo: U Branding)
Entering the Chabad House with the new Torah (Photo: U Branding)
Entering the Chabad House with the new Torah (Photo: U Branding)


© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
Join the Discussion
Sort By:
4 Comments
1000 characters remaining
Anonymous DEERFIELD BEACH FL October 28, 2017

MAZAL TOV AND MANY MORE SIMCHA'S Reply

nathan dunning elizabethtown via chabadtas.com October 27, 2017

Awesome! This is truly reassuring to see.With all the recent chaos going on in Canberra.There is a Light still burning bright thanks to Chabad and the Jewish people.Thank you for that Reply

Ian Perth October 25, 2017

Good work Chabad Reply

mendle Nashville October 24, 2017

wow Reply

Connect with us
RSS
In the Media
Find A Chabad Center Near You
Chabad-Lubavitch Directory