Some synagogues offer special Simchat Torah programs for women. Others provide programs geared towards children. But in the Bondi region of Sydney, Australia, Young Adult Chabad offers festivities for young Jews between the ages of 18 and 39.

Celebrations will be held this year from the evening of Monday, Oct. 5, to nightfall on Tuesday, Oct 6, as Jewish people everywhere mark both the completion and the restarting of the weekly Torah readings. (In Israel, Simchat Torah is celebrated on Sunday night and Monday, along with the holiday of Shemini Atzeret.) In Bondi, they follow weeks of different programs ushering in the Jewish new year.

Throughout the night, young people pop in from all over Sydney, and a l’chaim is said with each one, according to Rabbi Eli Feldman, co-director of Young Adult Chabad with his wife, Elka Malka. He notes that people will have the chance to hold the Torah, say the Shema prayer and “take a moment to have a silent prayer with G‑d, as well as take on a new mitzvah for the coming year.”

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Additionally, women are given the opportunity to light candles for the holiday.

“The idea is to make the experience personal, encourage the young adults to do a mitzvah, and help them stop and think about what being Jewish means to them,” explains the rabbi. “With G‑d’s help, they will take this experience back into their lives and be inspired by it.”

A new twist: Dipping the apple in honey cake.
A new twist: Dipping the apple in honey cake.

One of Many Programs

The annual Simchat Torah celebration is one of many programs offered during the year to Jewish professionals through the Young Adult Chabad group and its “JUNI” division for university students. The latter is coordinated by Hadassah (“Dassi”) Leggett and features programs aimed at students in four area schools: the University of New South Wales, the University of Sydney, Macquarie University and the University of Technology Sydney.

Hundreds of people participate in weekly Shabbat dinners, Torah classes, and on- and off-campus holiday events. Also, as an officially recognized university chaplain, Rabbi Feldman meets with both Jewish and non-Jewish students, staff and faculty to provide support, answer any questions, or hold discussions regarding Judaism and its practices. Elka Malka Feldman offers a weekly learning class for women.

The rabbi blows shofar for James Ashton, who is donning tefillin at the start of the new year.
The rabbi blows shofar for James Ashton, who is donning tefillin at the start of the new year.

Then there’s the “Jusi” (Jews United to Share and Inspire) volunteer organization that matches young adults with volunteer opportunities in Sydney’s Jewish community. “This is another way to connect young adults with meaningful experiences and keep them involved in the Jewish community,” says the rabbi.

He adds that keeping young adults involved and connected Jewishly can prove the crucial link in ensuring Jewish continuity for the next generation.

“We strive to provide programs that engage young adults in varying ways, so that every individual can have a Jewish experience that is meaningful to them,” says Feldman. “At this delicate stage of life, these experiences can influence their future lives and relationships. These young adults will shape the future of Jewry, and it is important that we find ways to engage with them and get them positively involved with the community.”

For information and inspiration about Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, and to find a celebration near you, visit the directory here.

Dean Kaplan shakes the lulav during Sukkot with Rabbi Eli Feldman, co-director of Young Adult Chabad in Bondi with his wife, Elka Malka.
Dean Kaplan shakes the lulav during Sukkot with Rabbi Eli Feldman, co-director of Young Adult Chabad in Bondi with his wife, Elka Malka.
Feldman shares a moment in the sukkah with Shmuel Rozentsvet, Shmuel Sontag and David Perkis.
Feldman shares a moment in the sukkah with Shmuel Rozentsvet, Shmuel Sontag and David Perkis.
The rabbi makes the campus rounds, spending time with, from left: Chaim Deitz, Adear Hayman and Alexandra Feygelson.
The rabbi makes the campus rounds, spending time with, from left: Chaim Deitz, Adear Hayman and Alexandra Feygelson.