Shortly before Passover 1969, I and five other nineteen-year-old students were sent by the Rebbe for a two-year stint of studying, teaching and developing the nascent yeshivah in Melbourne, Australia.

Melbourne is still a distant place, but in those days it was literally a world in isolation, and two years was a lifetime. Nevertheless, we accepted this mandate as an extraordinary privilege.

During those years we submitted highly detailed, bi-monthly reports to the Rebbe and received remarkable attention from him by letter and through personal messages brought by travelers. Those two years were incredibly transformative and shaped my entire life to come.

At one point, during the summer break (December) of 1969, we each paired with another student to travel across the Australian continent to inspire the various Jewish communities. I visited the cities of Adelaide and Brisbane, and, of course, we submitted reports to the Rebbe about the material and spiritual conditions of those communities.

After receiving the reports from all the students, the Rebbe noted that the city of Perth had been omitted and questioned why. Taking the cue, my colleague and I were immediately dispatched to Perth.

Perth prides itself on being the most isolated city in the world—2,000 miles away from any major center of civilization—but surprisingly, it had quite a thriving Jewish community.

The primary factor for this was a community institution that served as the central pillar of Jewish communal life: the G. Gorunski Carmel School named for a local philanthropist who had endowed the community’s local Jewish day school. Mr. Gorunski had been a refugee from Russia during WWI and eventually settled in Perth where he made his fortune in business. While he was never blessed with his children, he devoted his entire fortune to ensuring Jewish education for the next generation by making the school tuition-free.

At that time, the principal of the school was Mr. Singer who was widely regarded for his skill and leadership which greatly contributed to the strong reputation and success of the school. In conversation with Mr. Singer, he shared with us that he had recently planned to depart the community for greener pastures. No inducement offered by the community could change his mind and the community was devastated. That is, until he received an unsolicited letter from the Rebbe in New York asking him to stay. Though he was not personally affiliated with Chabad, he had great admiration for the Rebbe and felt that he couldn't refuse the Rebbe’s request.

He described his feelings to us like this: “When I received the letter, I realized, that on Rosh Hashanah when the Rebbe sheds tears for struggling Jewish communities around the world, there is one special tear there for Perth as well.”

It was then that we understood why Perth was on the Rebbe’s mind and why he sent us there: to give support and encouragement to Mr. Singer, thereby helping to keep the most isolated Jewish community in the world strong and vibrant.

Fifty years later I am still just as enamored and committed to the vision and mission of the Rebbe.

May we merit to see the fulfillment of the ultimate vision of the Rebbe, the coming of Moshiach.

An except from Eclectic Thoughts of Meaning, a collection of essays by Rabbi Shmuel Kaplan.