Jewish residents of Canberra, Australia, have another reason to be celebratory this High Holiday season: The day after Rosh Hashanah, the city’s first kosher store opened to serve the local community and the many annual visitors to the country’s capital.

In front of Jewish community members and supporters who came for the occasion, Michael Danby MP—one of a few Jewish members of the Australian Parliament—cut the official ribbon marking the opening of the shop located at the headquarters of Chabad Australian Capital Territory (Chabad ACT) in Kaleen, a suburb in the Belconnen district of Canberra.

“Today is an exciting day not just for Canberra, but for the entire Jewish community of Australia,” said Danby. “This shop is a wonderful addition to the critical infrastructure and services that Chabad ACT already provides to the Jewish and wider community. On a personal level, my wife, Amira Malka, and I feel relieved that we will no longer need to schlep food with us from Melbourne when coming up to Canberra, as the range provided in this shop is more than we could have wished for and carries some of our favorite foods.”

A freezer stocked with a full range of kosher items. Prepared meals are also available.
A freezer stocked with a full range of kosher items. Prepared meals are also available.
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Canberra, an inland city with a population of about 350,000, has a Jewish population of between 600 and 1,000 Jewish residents. An estimated 112,500 Jews live in Australia, the majority of them in the large cities of Sydney and Melbourne.

Canberra Kosher, which operates under the auspices of Chabad ACT, has informally been providing Canberra’s kosher community with basic kosher necessities, including chicken and meat. It has now expanded to a full range of kosher and prepared kosher meals in a designated shop that the community and guests alike have embraced.

As Canberra’s only licensed kosher caterer, Canberra Kosher also regularly caters takeout kosher meals throughout the ACT and region, often for members of Parliament, their staff, government contractors and international diplomats.

The shop comes in this 40th year of the kashrut campaign launched in the summer of 1975 by the Lubavitcher Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory. The Rebbe encouraged Jews to keep kosher dietary laws for a healthy and sound soul, in addition to being a mitzvah in the Torah that is binding on all Jews, saying that when kosher foods are eaten, Judaism becomes not just metaphysical, but part and parcel of a person’s entire being.

Theo Menachemson and Harry Chaim Oppermann, both directors of Chabad ACT, spoke of the growth of the community under the leadership of Rabbi Shmueli and Chasia Feldman. “In addition to a synagogue, mikvah, preschool, educational programs for adults and children, chaplaincy and support services, and food- and clothing-donation banks,” said Oppermann, “having a kosher shop completes the basic requirements necessary for a strong and vibrant Jewish community.”

Dancing in celebration after the ribbon-cutting.
Dancing in celebration after the ribbon-cutting.
All smiles after the first sale at the new store.
All smiles after the first sale at the new store.