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Table of Contents: 


How roving rabbis help the few Jews of rural Australia celebrate Rosh Hashanah

20,000 KM to Reach Every Jew in Regional Australia

Miles and Miles of Shlichus - Rabbi Yossi and Malki Rodal, Newcastle, Australia 

Rabbi’s Lennox Head visit is full of heart

Campaign boosts regional outreach

In an Australian Outback Mining Town, a Lone Jew Receives His Final Honors

9000 kilometres of spirit

Outreach in the Outback

Post-Covid Passover a Real Festival of Freedom Down Under

Celebrating 20 years of Chabad of RARA

Chabad of RARA Celebrates 20 Years

Amid Catastrophic Bushfires, Hope and Support From Australia’s Jewish Community

Finding Jews In Australia’s Outback: An Interview with Rabbi Yossi Rodal, Head of Chabad of RARA

Chabad Makes it Easier Than Ever to Find a Service in Australia

Roaming Rabbis roll into town

A new Documentary Features Jews in the Bush

Our pick of free to air TV: Untold Australia Outback Rabbis

Search for ‘lost’ Jews

A Kangaroo Crash and a Rare Rabbi-Sighting in the Outback

First bar mitzvah in Townsville

In the Australian Outback, Girls Spread the Chanukah Light

Chanukah goes rural

RARA aims big with Charidy

Desperately Seeking Jews in the Australian Outback

New York rabbis spread the message of Judaism to rural South Coast towns

Australian Outback: World’s Smallest Mitzvah Tank

Chabad's 'Mitzvah Tank' Brings Hanukkah to Australian Outback Jews

Jewish group Chabad of RARA takes outreach to isolated communities

Abor-mitzvah at Uluru

Chabad of Rural Australia Marks Another Successful Winter

Jewish families among the deluged

Looking for Outback Jews in Australia



How roving rabbis help the few Jews of rural Australia celebrate Rosh Hashanah

September 13, 2023

By: Nomi Kaltman; Jewish Telegraphic Agency 

Link to original article:


Rabbi Mendel Junik prays while overlooking the rugged outback of the Pilbara region in western Australia. (Courtesy of Rabbi Menachem Aron)

MELBOURNE (JTA) — Ruth Hannah has lived in the Australian coastal town of Mallacoota for more than 30 years. The 72-year-old daughter of Holocaust survivors knows of only one other Jewish person in her town, which has a population of 1,183 people.

Known for its beautiful beaches and wildlife, Mallacoota is located near the middle of a 650-mile coastal route from Melbourne to Sydney. Along that route, there is not a single city with more than 50,000 people within a 5-hour drive. Unsurprisingly, preparing for Jewish festivals in the region can be challenging.

“Mallacoota is one of the most remote towns in [the state of] Victoria, so we don’t have a shul,” or synagogue, said Hannah.

Since the 1980s, the Chabad-Lubavitch movement — a Hasidic sect that focuses on outreach to Jews in countries around the world — has filled the void for Hannah and thousands of other Jews scattered across the less populated areas of the outback. Most Chabad emissaries focus on Jewish life in one locale, but Rabbi Menachem Aron and his wife, Rebbetzin Shevi Aron, who are based in Melbourne, coordinate the Chabad of RARA — short for Regional and Rural Australia.

“People want connection. You see how much they need it and appreciate it. It’s really rewarding,” Rabbi Aron told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “You see on their faces. Living in these places is not just far away from a Jewish community, it’s also isolating. People don’t have access to the most basic things…like groceries or healthcare. You can wait eight weeks to see a [doctor]. So, it’s quite challenging for anyone.”

Rabbi Mendel Zarchi helps Howard Rother lay tefillin at his cotton farm in Cecil Plains, in the Australian state of Queensland. (Courtesy of Rabbi Menachem Aron)

Like other Chabad chapters around the world, the RARA branch often sends Jews care packages with food and materials to use in celebrating holidays. For Rosh Hashanah, Jews like Hannah will receive honey cookies and shofars.

But Chabad of RARA also sends out groups of roving rabbis to drive thousands of miles across Australia’s outback to visit Jews and deliver supplies in person. The Arons coordinate groups of young Chabad students from yeshivas around the world who come to Australia for the Northern Hemisphere summer, to conduct visits to Jews living across Australia in some of the least inhabited places on earth.

Young Rabbis Menachem Manssouri and Mendel Junik from Los Angeles flew to Australia in early June for a month, for example, to conduct a 2,500-mile road trip to find Jews to connect with. The trip began in Darwin — one of Australia’s most remote capital cities, which has no existing Jewish infrastructure, and according to the 2021 Australian census, a total of 91 Jews.

“We started in Darwin where we had a list [of Jewish people]. In Darwin, we probably met up with 40 Jews,” Manssouri said.

From Darwin, Manssouri and Junik flew to Broome in Western Australia and drove thousands of miles up the coast.

The RARA Mitzvah Mobile makes its way to Esperance, a rural town of 13,000 people in western Australia. (Courtesy of Rabbi Menachem Aron)

“We did something very unique compared to other RARA trips. We went to a lot of towns. South Hedland. Roebourne. Monkey Mia. Deham. Exmouth. No one had ever done those areas,” Manssouri said.

When asked how he located Jews in towns where there are no existing contacts, Manssouri was full of practical advice.  “We go to the police station. The hospital. We walk around town to all the stores trying to get leads. We were pretty successful with that,” he said.

Manssouri is awed by the way he connected with Jews in the most unexpected places — including at one of Australia’s most remote gas stations, in Karratha, a city in the sparsely-populated Pilbara region. Manssouri talked to Jews who were waiting to fill up their RV with gas and who lived a more than 15-hour drive to the nearest synagogue.

“When you look back at it, it blows you away,” he said. “People think that they get inspired by the rabbis, but really, the rabbis get inspired by the people. It’s a two-way connection.”

Around 7 million people, or 28% of the Australian population, live in remote or rural areas, according to the country’s government. According to Aron, there are about 10,000 Jewish people living in regional and remote Australia, and he said personally keeps in contact with approximately 4,000 of them. (There are approximately 120,000 Jews in all of Australia.)

The Chabad movement is constantly extending its global footprint; in the past years emissaries have established a presence in places from Zambia to Costa Rica to the Canary Islands. Their methods of growing communities in certain countries can be contentious and cause friction with existing communities.

Rabbi Mendel Zarchi in conversation with Gordon Graham in Toowoomba, Queensland. (Courtesy of Rabbi Menachem Aron)

But their track record of growth is undeniable. Around 100 Jews lived in Cairns, Australia, for example — a small city in the Queensland state that’s over 1,000 miles from Brisbane, the state’s largest city — before the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, the city boasts closer to 500 Jews and what is likely the largest communal Passover seder in all of Australia, drawing over 130 people in 2021. It’s one of the Chabad centers connected to the RARA branch.

Aron nominated Groote Eylandt, an island in the Gulf of Carpentaria — which, on the northern coast of Australia is not far from Papua New Guinea — as the most exotic location he sent a shofar to in 2022. A Jewish woman working there in manganese ore mines had specifically requested one.

“Australia is four-fifths the size of the United States of America. It’s a massive country with not a lot of people in it, just 25 million,” said Aron. “There are more Jews in Boca Raton than the entire Australia. You can drive for 27 hours and still be in the same state, but we don’t let that be a barrier to connecting with others and sharing a Jewish connection.”

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20,000 KM to Reach Every Jew in Regional Australia

July 30, 2023 

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Chabad of Rural and Regional Australia, famously known as “RARA,” has had a record-setting past two months, led by Rabbi Menachem and Shevi Aron. During this time, 8 Bochurim have travelled thousands of kilometers around the country, in search of Jewish people in far-flung places.

Chabad of Rural and Regional Australia, famously known as “RARA” has had a record-setting past two months. During this time, 8 Bochurim have travelled thousands of kilometers around the country, in search of Jewish people in far-flung places.

Founded in 2000 by Sauly and Beverly Spigler of Melbourne Australia, RARA seeks to bring connection and Yiddishkeit to Jewish people in remote places around Australia that do not have any Jewish infrastructure.

Led by Shliach Rabbi Menachem Aron, four different areas were identified to be visited by Bochurim over the American summer.

Yaakov Meir Zarchi and Mendel Zarchi were the first group to head out, visiting Jewish people in South-East and Central Queensland. They utilised the Chabad of Brisbane Mitzva Tank, a beautiful motorhome that is dedicated in honour of Sheindal Bas Eliezer Haltowski. A special thanks goes to Rabbi Levi Jaffe for facilitating this incredible vehicle.

The Bochurim spent five weeks and covered 4,000 kilometres on the road, visiting Toowoomba, a town famous for being the site of the very first Synagogue in the state way back in the 1880’s, and then making their way all the way up the coast to as far north as Bowen.

One of the highlights of their trip was connecting with Danielle and her family in Maryborough, a town of just 18,000 people. Danielle has only recently connected with her Judaism, and was keen to learn as much as she could from the visiting Rabbis. Her children were equally as enthusiastic, with her son James donning Tefillin for the very first time during the rabbis visit.

Another Israeli family that the bochurim visited mentioned how much they missed traditional Israeli snacks, and in no time, Chabad of RARA organised that a box of Bamba be sent to them in the mail. “This brings back such great memories of Israel!” the family exclaimed when they received the package.

3,500 kilometres away, on the West Coast of Australia there were more Jewish people to visit. Mendel Lipskier and Mendel Shmotkin flew to Australia, and then spent 4 days driving across the Nullarbor, one of the flattest and most arid environments in Australia. They drove Chabad of RARA’s flagship Mitzva Tank and Mobile Library to people living south of Perth, visiting families there that that had not seen another Jewish face in over a year.

Just earlier this week, they visited Michael in Margaret River, who was so excited to hear that the rabbis were in town. He welcomed them to his 8 acre property, which was followed by a full afternoon of discussion and talking. Michael received a beautiful Mezuzah to hang up on his front door, and his children were gifted with colourful plush Torah toys. Michael was so thrilled to spend time with the rabbis, that he even invited them to spend Shabbos with him over the weekend.

Mendel and Mendel have been turning heads with their brightly coloured Mitzva Tank, which has been parked on busy street corners throughout South-West Western Australia, enabling everyone in the region to hop aboard and learn about Yiddishkeit.

Over 2,000 kilometres north, Chabad of RARA’s third group was hard at work. Menachem Manssouri, together with Mendel Junik were visiting a region that had never before been visited by Chabad of RARA. Starting in Darwin, the rabbis hosted a Shabbos that was attended by more than 20 locals. It was an evening of L’chaims, Divrei Torah, and lots and lots of laughter.

After spending 10 days in the Top End city of Australia, the Bochurim jumped on a plane and flew to a small town called Broome, famous for its pearling industry. There, they met up with the only Jewish resident in town, and a few Jewish doctors that were working in the area. They also visited the old Jewish cemetery that has half a dozen burials, dating back to the turn of the 20th century.

Menachem and Mendel then rented a motorhome, adorned it with temporary Chabad of RARA magnet signs, and began their 2,500 kilometre road trip down to Perth.

With just a few names, their work was cut out: To locate Jewish people living in this remote part of Australia. An incredible encounter took place at a petrol station between Broome and Port Hedland, where the rabbis, by pure Hashgach Protis, happened to have stopped at the wrong petrol pump. When they came around to the right one, they were met with a loud “Shalom!”. They looked up, and met Sivan, a traveller.

The three quickly got into a conversation, with the rabbis mentioning that they were looking to connect with Jewish people in places like Port Hedland, Karratha and beyond. Sivan’s eyes lit up when she heard the names of these cities. “I know a Jewish woman that lives in Wickham, not far from Karratha”. Details were exchanged, and indeed, a few days later Menachem and Mendel were sitting in Wickham and talking with Osnat about Jewish life.

That meeting led to another Jewish person, an Israeli man named Avi who lives in a tiny little town called Roeburn with just 980 residents. The bochurim ended up spending an entire Shabbos with Avi, which was packed with farbrenging, singing Niggunim, and lots of great food. Avi had studied in Kfar Chabad many years back, and the bochurim brought back his memories from then. He had been living inRoeburn for 14 years, and this was the very first time that he had spent Shabbos with other Frum Yidden.

The visit came at the perfect time, as Avi wanted to have his Tefillin checked, and the rabbis were able to arrange for this to take place.

Although this all sounds like a lot already, there are even more people to be reached. So, just two weeks ago, a fourth group of Bochurim arrived in Australia. Yosef Eagle and Yisroel Bernstein hit the road, and headed up to Albury-Wodonga, two cities located on either side of the Victoria and New South Wales Broder.

A very special visit took place with Paul, a paramedic who just managed to squeeze the bochurim’s visit into his busy schedule. Paul related how his mother had only revealed to him that they were Jewish when the family had arrived by boat in Australia. Paul described the connection that he feels every time RARA comes to visit, and was very excited to be able to put on Tefillin again.

While there, the Yosef and Yisroel were sure to tell Paul about the upcoming annual RARA Shabbaton that takes place in Melbourne, were people from all over regional Australia are given the opportunity to spend Shabbos within the Melbourne Jewish community. Paul immediately checked his calendar, and saw that the weekend was exactly when he had off from work. The same day that the rabbis visited, Paul booked to join the meaningful and uplifting Shabbaton.

To be able to have four groups travelling around Australia simultaneously is no small feat, at no small cost. “This year, for Shnas Hakhel we wanted to do something more than the usual,” said Rabbi Menachem Aron, who, together with his wife Shevi, has directed Chabad of RARA for the past 3 and a half years. “There are close to 10,000 Jewish people living in rural and regional areas around the country. So many people have reached out to us, asking for a visit, to spend time with other Jewish people, or even someone to just say ‘Good Shabbos’ to. The Bochurim that we have are doing an incredible job at fulfilling the Rebbe’s mandate that no Jew should ever be left behind, no matter the distance.”

In addition to the above, the Aron’s and their two children Chaya Mushka and Levik also embarked on a trip during the recent winter break, spending 8 days visiting families in regional Victoria and parts of South Australia.

In Warrnambool, a beachside town, they were trying to meet with an older woman named Rachel who had been in the area for about six years. Unable to get through to her on the phone, they turned up at her house, only to learn that she had recently moved into an assisted living home. The timing was just right, as Rachel’s daughter was just then going to visit her. Rabbi Menachem followed along, and was able to meet with Rachel and her daughter. It had been some time since Rachel had seen a friendly Jewish face, and her eyes lit up when she heard some familiar Jewish songs being sung.

Later on, the Aron’s made a Shabbos in Mount Gambier, South Australia, and spent an afternoon with Geoffrey, who since the passing of his mother last year, has become closer with his Yiddishkeit. Geoffrey used the opportunity to get the answers to many questions that he had come up with over the past months.

The stories continue to unfold, with three of the four groups still on the road meeting more people every day.

Thank you to the generous support of those that enable Chabad of RARA to be there for every Jew.

To support Jewish life in rural and regional areas around Australia, visit

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Miles And Miles Of Shlichus – Rabbi Yossi And Malki Rodal, Newcastle, Australia.

June 24 2023

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Shlichus in Australia is unique. Apart from Sydney, Melbourne, and a few other big cities, the rest of the population is spread out over wide areas of wilderness. That’s why RARA – Chabad of Rural and Regional Australia was started. You are essentially the shliach for hundreds of cities over thousands of miles. Much of the shlichus is done virtually, but the highlight of our work would be the month-long road trips, where we visit one or two Jewish families in each area. These are done every few months, so each area is visited once or twice a year. It’s a very challenging shlichus in many ways, but it also comes with its own share of rewards.

When we first moved to Australia, we worked with RARA for five years. During that time, we were approached by SBS, one of Australia’s primary television networks, who wanted to work with us on a documentary, detailing our Jew-finding road trip adventures. Making “Outback Rabbis” turned out to be quite the experience. We learned that not much on “reality” TV is actually real.

As our family grew and our kids got older, it became increasingly impossible to drive that long that often. It was also difficult without a set and stable community. We really wanted a more active shlichus, where we could meet people on a more consistent basis.

Newcastle was one of the cities we regularly visited during our RARA trips. Located conveniently near Sydney, Newcastle boasted an existing Jewish community and shul, which was more than we could say for most of our other RARA stops. Our shlichus technically covers two areas: Newcastle and Central Coast, which, together, is roughly the size of New Jersey. That means that we have two communities and need to do double of everything – two Hebrew Schools, two Chanukah parties, two Sedarim, and any other services we provide. It’s a lot of work, but we don’t intend to back down from a challenge.


One of our RARA trips had us running a seder in Alice Springs for the 40-odd Jews that lived there. It’s one of the remotest and furthest locations that RARA reaches. Five years later, a woman named Linda moved to the Central Coast and called the current RARA shliach to find out what was near her. He directed her to us. She shared with us that she had been lighting Shabbos candles every week for the last five years – all because of a “nice young couple” who had come to do a Seder in Alice Springs and had inspired her. Although she didn’t remember our faces or names, the impact of our shlichus and that one Pesach seder was strong enough to influence the rest of her life. 

What may seem like one small action to you can mean a world of difference for someone else.


We were at the tail end of a month-long road trip for RARA on the Sunshine Coast, a strip of oceanside communities 112 miles long. The day before we were set to begin our 17-hour drive back home to Melbourne, we heard about one Jew named Nebby. He lived on the north end of the Sunshine Coast, an extra hour and a half out of the way. We debated back and forth about visiting, but I knew this would be his only opportunity to meet frum Jews. He didn’t sound overly enthused on the phone, but told us we could come by in the evening, while he was closing up his shop.

We met and began talking, and of course, I offered to put tefillin on him. He informed us that he wasn’t just uninterested, but was anti-tefillin.  His brother had become frum and was constantly harassing him about it. “What makes my brother think he’s the ‘spiritual’ one?” he fumed. “Every Friday night, I go to my backyard and commune with nature and the trees. But just because my spirituality doesn’t include some ritualistic black boxes, it’s not good enough for him. He thinks he’s somehow ‘more religious.’ He’s always looking down on me for it.”

He was an elderly man and had never put on tefillin in his life. At the end of our conversation, something told me to try again. “Listen, I don’t want to bother you, but I have my tefillin right here…” I began. I explained what tefillin were all about, and how they bind us to Hashem. I’m not sure why, but this time, he agreed. I wrapped his head and arm and began to say Shema with him. Suddenly, he burst into tears that streamed down his cheeks, unchecked. “This is life changing,” he said, over and over again.

A week later, back home in Melbourne, I received a call from Nebby. He asked, “Rabbi, what is this verse, ‘V’erastich?’ I don’t remember saying that one with you.” I explained that there were different customs, but commented, “Don’t worry about it. It’s really only a question when you’re actually putting on tefillin.” 

“Of course I am, Rabbi!” he said, to my absolute shock. “As soon as you left, I ordered myself a pair! Haven’t missed a day since!”

I spoke to him again three years ago, and he still hadn’t missed a day – including Shabbos and Yom Tov, until I corrected him. Even with those beginner mistakes, his dedication is inspiring.


Sharon is an incredible testament to the value of chinuch from a young age and the pintele yid that can never be extinguished. 

Sharon’s father isn’t Jewish, but she and her brother have grown very close to our family and are slowly but surely learning more and more about their Jewish heritage. Sharon currently attends a Christian high school where they have mandatory religious studies and prayer time. Throughout the entire chapel service, as the sunshine beams through stained glass versions of saints and various Bible stories, and everyone around her chants their prayers dutifully, Sharon closes her eyes. This young, brave girl, just starting her journey to Yiddishkeit, spends the entire service concentrating on the one Jewish puzzle piece she holds – she recites Shema over and over, exactly as she learned in our tutoring sessions. Now she’s an assistant in our Hebrew School and is planning a trip to Israel in the summer.


Esther is a elderly woman in her 90’s from Jindabyne, a remote town near Sydney. One day, she called the Great Synagogue of Sydney and asked to “see a rabbi before she dies,” even though she was born Jewish, but isn’t anymore. Since she lives far out in Jindabyne, they directed her to our RARA offices. We made Jindabyne a priority for our next trip, and got there on the third night of Chanukah. Esther surprised us by arranging a party for Jews in the area whom we hadn’t even known about. We had a lovely time, and at the end of the party, I asked Esther why she had called for a rabbi, especially since she didn’t consider herself Jewish.

“I was brought up by my grandmother in the hills of Austria,” she told us. “During the war, I was heavily involved in the Austrian underground. I was the guide for groups who needed to escape over the border. Most of my groups were Jews, running for their lives.

“I eventually got married and had a baby boy, but I still kept smuggling groups over the border. I must have taken a total of over 50 groups to safety. After a while, my husband was drafted and sent to the frontlines. A few months later, I was informed that he was killed in action. I mourned his passing, but I was a young, single mother and needed a husband’s support. I remarried and was looking forward to rebuilding my life with my new, blended family. 

“It turned out that my first husband had not actually died, a fact I learned when he showed up at our home. Now I had two husbands and a child from each of my marriages. I chose to stay with my second husband, hoping for a peaceful future. However, he was annoyed that my son from my first marriage was still living with us when his father was alive and able to take care of him. He wanted me to give my son away. I obviously refused. We had many bitter arguments about it, resulting in him taking our daughter and running with her to Australia. I followed them, of course, and that’s how I ended up here.

“I met my third husband here, and lived a good life with him for 30 years. After he passed, I moved here to Jindabyne because it reminds me of the Austria of my childhood. Rabbi, I am definitely not Jewish, but ever since last year, I’ve been getting these feelings and hearing voices, telling me to return to my Jewishism. I tried ignoring them, but they got even worse. I ended up in need of medical intervention. I had to speak to a psychiatrist! Finally, I decided to give in and call a rabbi and here you are!”

I told her how amazing it was that she saved so many lives and that their merit would stand her in good stead. I explained to her how a neshama remains pure, despite conversion and asked her if she wanted to light the menorah.

“I’m not Jewish, but I’ll listen as you light,” she answered. We lit the menorah and began singing Ma’oz Tzur. Esther got very emotional and began to cry. “What’s wrong?” I asked her.

She told us that one of the groups she had smuggled over the border consisted of an Italian father and son who had nothing but the clothes on their back – and a menorah. Their dangerous journey took place over Chanukah and they asked her if they could light the menorah, even if just for a minute. “Absolutely not!” Esther had refused. “It’s incredibly dangerous! It’s basically suicide!” They begged and convinced her it would be just one moment – just so they could say the bracha. “Fine,” she agreed. “But if I hear anything or anyone approaching, I am leaving and abandoning you to your fate – just so we’re clear.” They agreed, lit the menorah, and quietly sang Ma’oz Tzur, the faint strains of which Christina could still hear as we sang it in her modern, well-lit dining room.

It was a very emotional evening for all involved and Esther didn’t want us to leave. She put us up for the night and kept us the next day, asking many questions. She had rediscovered her “Jewishism” as she called it, and was excited about it. She also introduced us to her son who lived next door. We informed him that since his mother Esther was Jewish, he was Jewish as well, and he agreed to put on tefillin for the first time in his life. We put mezuzahs on her doors and remained in touch with her.

We made Jindabyne a permanent stop on our RARA trips and continued visiting Esther. She embraced her Jewishism and chose Esther as her Jewish name. She even kashered her kitchen so that we could stay with her and eat her food on future visits.

Esther is practically blind and had eye surgery scheduled in Melbourne a couple of years ago. She was very anxious about it, but we invited her to stay with us. We promised to care for her while she recovered. She stayed with us for a month, becoming an honorary grandmother to our children. We’re still in touch with her today, and have arranged a kosher kevura for her after 120.


Filming “Outback Rabbis” wasn’t easy. Every aspect of our lives was on constant display for ten days straight! We agreed to it because we thought it might reach people who would never know about Yiddishkeit otherwise. Baruch Hashem, our efforts paid off, and there are many people who have taken massive strides in their Yiddishkeit because of that fateful documentary.

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Rabbi’s Lennox Head visit is full of heart

June 8,2023


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Not ready to retire when he was 70 and about to be made redundant by his employer, Henri decided to purchase farmland near the town, began studying agriculture, and planted 6000 macadamia trees.

Lennox Head resident Henri Bader (left), 93, with Rabbi Menachem Aron on May 28.


Rabbi Menachem Aron and his family made a special stop on May 28 on their road trip up the northern NSW coast, on behalf of Chabad of Rural and Regional Australia (RARA).

Arriving in Lennox Head, they spent some quality time chatting to 93-year-old Henri Bader, and his wife Lorraine, and left feeling truly inspired.

Not ready to retire when he was 70 and about to be made redundant by his employer, Henri decided to purchase farmland near the town, began studying agriculture, and planted 6000 macadamia trees.

Over time, his macadamia nut farm became very successful, reaped huge harvests, and drew interest from television shows, magazines and regional newspapers.

And the farm – and the Baders – are still going strong today.

Henri shared details of his upbringing in a close-knit Jewish community called Springs, on the outskirts of Johannesburg, where he used to go to cheder daily.

Rabbi Aron said these days, Henri puts on a special pair of tefillin every morning, that his late father used before him.

Every Friday night, Lorraine lights the Shabbat candles, and Henri recites the Kabbalat Shabbat prayers, as he has done, weekly, for more than 80 years.

“He has been through tough times and through better times, but Henri still has a twinkle in his eye, as he leans back and speaks about having the right perspective and values in life,” Rabbi Aron observed.

“It is never too late to start something new, and give it another chance.”

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Campaign boosts regional outreach 

By: Shane Desiatnik

March 30,2023

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The campaign has so far raised $260,000 for its outreach work for isolated Jewish families and individuals across Australia, and remains open for additional donations.

A Purim celebration in Katoomba in the Blue Mountains, run by Chabad of RARA earlier this month.

Chabad of Rural and Regional Australia (RARA) has expressed thanks to the almost 700 people that donated to its 2023 annual giving campaign earlier this month.

The campaign has so far raised $260,000 for its outreach work for isolated Jewish families and individuals across Australia, and remains open for additional donations.

Rabbis Menachem Amar and Mani Holzman from New York completed the latest RARA road trip earlier this month across the NSW coast, starting with spending time with Jewish families in Wollongong, before driving hundreds of kilometres up the Pacific Highway to help families in Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour celebrate Purim.

Rabbi Holzman described the road trip as being about “something greater than yourself … and encompassing our inner light – that Jewish spark”.

Chabad of RARA helped coordinate and run Purim celebrations in Toowoomba (Qld), Geelong and Emerald (Victoria), and Katoomba (NSW), and it has planned seders in more than a dozen locations, from Hobart and Launceston in Tasmania, to Mullumbimby in northern NSW, Alice Springs and Darwin in the Northern Territory, Rockhampton and Townsville in Qld, and in regional Victoria.

Items for Passover can also be ordered via its new online shop, from anywhere in Australia.

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In an Australian Outback Mining Town, a Lone Jew Receives His Final Honors

Chabad rabbi and volunteers travel hundreds of miles for a Jew they never met

By Mendel Super

October 26, 2022 

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Dr. Avron Moffson is laid to rest by members of Perth, Australia’s Jewish community, who traveled 14 hours for another Jew. From left, placing earth over the fresh grave: Dennis Davidoff, Marc Roth, David Ninio and Rabbi Shalom White.

The dusty plains near Kalgoorlie, a forgotten mining town deep in the Australian interior, belie the rich Jewish history of Western Australia’s Goldfields region, once home to two synagogues during the peak of the gold-rush era in the early 20th century. While Kalgoorlie—some 370 miles from Perth, the nearest metropolitan area—may be remote, the handful of Jews there are not forsaken.

Just six people identified as Jewish in the most recent census, and Chabad of Rural and Regional Australia (RARA) has kept in touch with them for decades, visiting to provide them with pastoral guidance and a Jewish connection, as recently as August.

When longtime Kalgoorlie physician Dr. Avron Moffson, 85, passed away on Oct. 10—the first day of Sukkot—the staff at a local funeral home was at a loss. How could they help him have a traditional Jewish burial? They posted on a local Facebook group asking if anyone knew what to do for a deceased Jew.

In Melbourne, 1,700 miles away, Avi Kassman, who used to live in Kalgoorlie, received a message from his sister-in-law, a Kalgoorlie resident, sharing the post.

Kassman knew Moffson from his Kalgoorlie days and was eager to help. “I met him about 10 years ago at his clinic with my son,” Kassman, who converted to Judaism, told “I was not Jewish yet, but on my way to becoming Jewish. He noticed our yarmulkes, and we got talking. He was a proud Jew.”

The not-yet converted Kassman later helped the doctor wrap tefillin and gave him a menorah for Chanukah, but soon moved to Perth to facilitate his conversion.

Rabbi Shalom White, center, leads the funeral service

Moffson stayed in touch with Chabad of RARA and received periodic visits from their Roving Rabbis. Rabbi Shalom White, director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Western Australia in Perth sent him packages regularly.

Kassman called White to inform him of Moffson’s passing. At the same time, a Jewish businessman who visits Kalgoorlie had seen the post and notified the Perth Chevra Kadisha (Jewish burial society). Mike Gomer, president of the Chevra Kadisha, also called White, and they liaised with the Kalgoorlie funeral home and made plans to travel to the outback. “Initially, the plan was that I would go myself, and conduct the taharah and the funeral,” explains White. However, being that preparing the deceased for burial is really a two-man job, Gomer decided he would accompany the rabbi on the long journey.

While Kalgoorlie—some 370 miles from Perth, the nearest metropolitan area—may be remote, the handful of Jews there are not forsaken.

Volunteers Set Out on a 14-Hour Journey 

Joined by a small group of volunteers, White and Gomer headed out for the 14-hour round-trip journey on Thursday, Oct. 13. “We left Perth at 6 a.m. and returned at midnight,” says White. White brought along a pop-up sukkah, so the group could fulfill the mitzvah of eating in the sukkah even while on the road.

“It’s amazing that a group of Perth Jews gave an entire day just for a lone Jew who needed help,” says White. “I had always known about him and communicated with him, but the rest of the group had just heard of him for the first time after his passing .”

Kassman is similarly moved. “He was committed to living in remote areas and helping people,” Kassman says of Moffson. “He was well-loved by the community and helped many families with his services. He never forgot who he was as a Jew.” That community, in turn, made sure that this Jewish man was buried according to his sacred traditions.

The small Jewish section in Kalgoorlie’s cemetery is marked by a sign reading “Hebrew.” From left: Perth Chevra Kadisha President Mike Gomer; Rabbi Shalom White, director of Chabad of Western Australia; and Perth community member David Ninio.

Indeed, the outpouring of messages on Chabad of RARA’s Facebook page from local Kalgoorlie residents shows how beloved their doctor was, and how he made sure everyone knew he was a Jew.

“A fitting tribute to a dedicated doctor who gave much care to his patients. We will remember him,” wrote Donna Hendry.

“Bye mate. RIP. I’ll miss talking about cricket with you,” wrote another, one of dozens of such messages.

It had been a decade since the next most recent Jewish burial and at least a half a century since a rabbi had conducted a funeral there.

But by Divine design, Avraham ben Lazer Moffson was buried in Kalgoorlie’s Jewish section (marked by a small sign reading “Hebrew”), at rest in the deep red earth of the Goldfields.

The rabbi built a makeshift sukkah so they could fulfill the mitzvah of sitting in the sukkah during their long journey.

The Jewish section of the Kalgoorlie cemetery.

Rabbis from Chabad of RARA regularly visit the cemetery when they travel through the remote area. Last year, this youg rabbi paid his respects at the Jewish gravesites in Kalgoorlie.

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9000 kilometres of spirit 

By: Shane Desiatnik

19 October 2022

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Since forming 22 years ago, Chabad of Rural and Regional Australia’s (RARA) roaming rabbis have been on scores of road trips in this vast continent, seeking to find isolated Jewish people to help them reconnect with their faith and heritage. But a trip to the most isolated state, Western Australia, is always ‘next level’, as proven this July and August.

An Epic Journey

“I‘ve been on many road trips, but this Western Australia (WA) one was a completely different beast – because everything in Australia is just so far apart!” Rabbi Zelig Baumgarten recalled.

“According to the Rebbe’s call, you have to reach out to everyone – to all Jews – no matter how far they are.

“So, what will stay with me most from this huge trip is knowing that even in the most far-flung places, you will find Jewish people – and they have a thirst and a yearning to reconnect. They might just not have had an opportunity.”

The vastness of this continent, and the warmth of its people, were front of mind for Zelig, and his fellow young American visiting rabbi, Yisroel Krasnjanksi, when they set off from Melbourne in July in a giant campervan ‘Mitzvah Tank and Mobile Library’, on an almost 9000-kilometre round trip to WA, via South Australia, spanning 36 days.

As one Jewish person they met quipped, “They’d driven across the Nullarbor, looking for Jews, which would have been rarer than emu teeth out there.”

Yet upon arriving in Perth – and then doing a massive loop taking in Mandurah, Bunbury, Busselton, Margaret River, Denmark, Albany, Esperance and Kalgoorlie – the two rabbis met not only dozens of Jews already on Chabad of RARA’s WA contact list, but impressively, 25 new contacts.

Rabbis Yisroel Krasnjanski (left) and Zelig Baumgarten (right) with Nachson Goltz next to the RARA Mitzvah-mobile.

For Yisroel, finding that many Jewish people, “in the most unlikely of places, and the way we met up with them, was, I believe, clearly divine”.

While each encounter was a special experience, if he had to pinpoint a particular highlight, Yisroel said it would be hard to go past meeting – and putting tefillin on – Rusty Geller and Ido Kasher, who both hail from in and around the coastal town of Mandurah, about an hour’s drive south of Perth.

The former had never before put on tefillin despite wanting to, and the latter hadn’t since he was 13, some 70 years ago.

“Being a retired cinematographer from Los Angeles, who migrated to Western Australia in 2003, Rusty is a real character,” Yisroel said.

“And we only met him because after we’d been at the Mandurah Forum shopping mall for a while, we were trying to find our way back to the car park but became lost, so we returned, and only then we were spotted by Rusty, who said ‘Shalom Aleichem’ to us!”

According to Rusty’s own recollection of that moment, his ‘jadar’ [his term for Jewish radar] went off when he saw a young man with a black beard, dressed in a suit, a yarmulke, and with tsitsit dangling down.

“The man introduced himself and Zelig, and we started talking like we’d known each other all our lives,” Rusty recalled.

“I’m an assimilated Jew … I feel my identity, but feel the spirit when I’m surrounded by the wonders of nature – that is my temple.

The RARA roaming rabbis putting tefillin on Ben Kerr at Margaret River in Western Australia.

“Unfortunately I know no Jews in WA other than my two daughters – that’s why this encounter was extraordinary and such a mitzvah.”

Minutes after meeting, the rabbis put a kippah and tefillin on Rusty “and we were saying brachot right in the middle of the shopping centre”.

When Rusty told them that he had at home his grandfather’s tefillin – “likely bought around 1910 in Poland when he fled the pogroms” – the rabbis decided to visit him the next afternoon, to show him how to put it on, and to daven.

“I thank RARA for sending them out into the Australian wilderness and allowing me to connect to my Jewish roots,” Rusty said.

Yisroel said that at the mall, he and Zelig also spoke with a man named Sam, who had approached them to speak a few Hebrew words he’d learned over time from a friend at the mall.

It turns out that friend was 83-year-old Israeli native Ido Kasher, who Sam then phoned.

The next day, Ido – who moved to Mandurah 19 years ago but did not know of any other local Jews – met them at the mall and put on tefillin.

“A few days later, and with everyone pitching in, in the last minute, we held a beautiful Shabbat dinner for 15 people in Fremantle at the home of Chaya Bar-Noy,” Yisroel said.

“There were Jews from Fremantle, a woman from Brazil, a handful of Israelis, and we also invited Ido.

“Ido had not experienced a Shabbat dinner in a very long time, and I’ll never forget the moment when he walked into the dining room that was full of Jewish people, and his eyes nearly fell out – it meant that much to him.”

Zelig’s favourite moment happened outside a bakery in Margaret River’s main street, where the rabbis had parked their highly noticeable vehicle.

“We found that in regional Australia, we could be in the centre of a town for an hour or more and not meet anyone who was Jewish,” he said.

“So, we were taken aback in Margaret River when someone suddenly came to ask if our RARA Mitzvah-mobile was the same one that was in the Outback Rabbis documentary [that was directed by Danny Ben-Moshe and screened on SBS in its 2018 series Untold Australians].

“We confirmed it was, and after he introduced himself as Ben Kerr, he told us that about two years ago, he found out that both of his mum’s parents were Jewish, and he was keen to learn more about Judaism.”

That enthusiastic exchange led to Ben putting on tefillin for the first time in his life in the centre of Margaret River, and he couldn’t stop smiling.

Other highlights of their WA trip include visiting an elderly Jewish woman in Esperance named Sally, who showed them a photo of RARA rabbis when they dropped by her home in 2007.

Upon hearing that Sally enjoyed singing in a choir and listening to Klezmer music, Yisroel took it upon himself to play a Chassidic song on her piano, which she cherished.

And in the red dirt outback mining town of Kalgoorlie, the rabbis connected with a Jewish nurse, Sharon Palmer, who was on RARA’s contact list, but hadn’t seen another Jewish person for some time.

“I thank RARA for sending them out into the Australian wilderness and allowing me to connect to my Jewish roots.”

She was very appreciative of their visit, and told them about the town’s cemetery, which has a large Jewish section, with graves added until 1994, and from as far back as 1899 during the gold rush.

The rabbis went to the cemetery’s Jewish section during their stay, where they recited the traditional Tehillim prayers.

Summing up their trip, Zelig – who lives in New York – agreed with Yisroel that the many coincidences, and elements of luck, that connected them with Jewish people in the tiniest of towns dotting WA’s coastline, “we see as not coincidences, but through divine providence”.

“Each connection was special and meaningful, so I feel that all the miles we travelled, and the time and effort spent, has been totally worth it – just to have those moments,” he said.

“And for many people we met, they know now that if they have any Jewish-related questions, or need anything to celebrate the Jewish festivals, they can contact Chabad of RARA, access resources on its website, and keep in touch through receiving e-newsletters – to keep that sense of community going.”

Yisroel, whose parents have run Chabad of Hawaii for the past 35 years, is now starting a posting in Panama, and said he thoroughly enjoyed his time in regional Australia and would love to visit again sometime.

From left: Rabbi Zelig Baumgarten, Ido Kasher and Rabbi Yisroel Krasnjanski at the Mandurah Forum shopping mall, south of Perth.

“Chabad is in my blood, and reaching out to Jews, wherever they are, is what I’ve been born and raised to do,” Yisroel said.

“What the Rebbe teaches us is that every Jewish person’s soul – their neshama – is alive, and always ready to be spiritually awoken. And I’ve seen that up close on this trip as much as I have anywhere in the USA.”

22 years of roaming the region 

Rabbi Menachem Aron – who with his wife Shevi are the current directors of Chabad of RARA – said that like anyone else, Jewish people are attracted to live in the country for the beauty, the lifestyle and the affordability that regional Australia offers.

“But because of the distance and isolation from the rest of the Jewish community, it can be hard for them to maintain connection to Judaism, and Jewish life and culture,” he said.

Sharon Palmer (left) with the young rabbis during their visit to Kalgoorlie.

“So when our visiting rabbis come through their town or region, even if only for a few days, it offers them that opportunity to reconnect.

“It’s one thing to connect with people via Zoom, but it really doesn’t compare to seeing someone in person – that’s a very different connection.

“Whether it is as simple as experiencing a Shabbat dinner, listening to the shofar being blown, having a mezuzah affixed to their door, or having a discussion with a rabbi – it really brings that home, and that’s precisely what RARA road trips enable.”

Rabbi Aron said another thing roaming rabbis try to do on road trips is connect people with other Jews who live in their region, if they would like to do so.

“This can form an important sense of community for them,” he said.

“We’ve had successes with that on many occasions, and just one example is assisting Jewish people in towns across the Blue Mountains keep in touch with each other, and they now have regular, well-attended, get-togethers during the major festivals.”

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Outreach in the Outback

May 24, 2021 

By: Nomi Kaltmann

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In the 1970s, Melbourne businessman Sauli Spigler, then in his early 20s, rented a mobile home and traveled more than 6,000 miles with a few of his friends over a four-week period across the Australian outback.

While this could have been a typical rite-of-passage trip by young people looking for adventure, Spigler had heeded a call from the Lubavitcher rebbe in New York City to seek out Jewish people living in isolated areas, with a mission to connect them with their faith. The Australian outback, known for its red earth, unrelenting heat, and massive distances between tiny municipalities, is not exactly the place you would expect to find many Jewish people. But with their RV operating as one of the first Australian Chabad Mitzvah Tanks—a Jewish home on wheels, stocked with Jewish supplies for the masses, including kosher foods, mezuzahs, tefillin, Shabbat candles, and books of Torah—Spigler and his friends were pleasantly surprised by what they found, even in remote areas.

“During this trip we encountered many Jewish people living in outback Australia and I really saw how many people were wanting to connect to their Judaism,” said Spigler. “Every house welcomed us with open arms, and we could really see the positive effects our visits had on people.”

Following this first trip, Spigler continued his passion for finding Jews living in the Australian outback, and periodically sent emissaries in some of the least inhabited places on earth to keep in touch with them. After a few decades of this, Spigler decided to formally establish Chabad of Rural and Regional Australia, known as Chabad of RARA. As he recently told Tablet, “I established Chabad of RARA to provide some consistent Jewish presence for people living in remote areas: One-off visits are nice, but people really respond well to regular visits and it helps to keep them connected to their Judaism.”

This year, Chabad of RARA is celebrating its 20th anniversary and Spigler’s organization now spans three of Australia’s states—Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland—and employs full-time four rabbinic couples who permanently live in some of the most remote communities across Australia. With approximately 22 million people living in Australia—an estimated 100,000 of them Jews—the vast majority of the population is concentrated in communities along the beaches and coasts. Chabad of RARA emissaries are responsible for providing to all the Jewish needs of the approximately 10,000 Jews living in towns and areas that are far from any centralized Jewish communities, and are often hundreds of miles away from the closest city.


After spending six years on the road as traveling emissaries, Rebbetzin Malki Rodal and her husband, Rabbi Yossi Rodal, settled in Newcastle, New South Wales, at the beginning of 2020. This harborside city of some 300,000 people, with beautiful beaches and relaxed vibes, already had an existing synagogue that had been constructed in 1900, when the city had an influx of Jewish people due to the mining boom in the area. When the Rodals moved there right before the global pandemic, they arrived to find a synagogue that had not had a permanent rabbi in many years, with a total membership of 40 people. In just over a year of living in the city—100 miles from Sydney—Rebbetzin Rodal and her husband have connected with over 200 Jews in Newcastle and have helped to create a vibrant Jewish community with weekly programs, Shabbat meals, and events.

When asked how she and her husband discover and meet Jews living in regional and remote places in Australia, Rodal was full of practical advice.

“When we arrive in a place where we do not know of any other Jewish people, we often go to a central location in the town, like a post office or pharmacy. In these places there is always an elder resident of the town who knows all of the inhabitants,” she said. “When we ask them if they know any Jewish people, they will often recall something that they heard, even many decades back, about a person who may have Jewish ancestry. And so, like good Jewish detectives, we follow the leads and contact the Jewish residents and ask them what we can do to help connect them to their Jewish heritage despite their remote location.”

Chabad of RARA’s work was the subject of a 2017 documentary focusing on the day-to-day lives of outback rabbinic couples. Screened on Australian TV and at film festivals around the world, it has also contributed to their reputation as Jewish sleuths. “Whenever the documentary screens on Australian TV, we always have an influx of people, often Jews who didn’t know about us, contacting Chabad of RARA via our Facebook page or website asking how they can organize a visit,” said Rodal.

However, despite the increase in technology and internet communication, it is not uncommon for Chabad of RARA’s emissaries to spontaneously meet Jews in unexpected but fortuitous ways. Last Hanukkah, Rabbi Menachem and Rebbetzin Shevy Aron were driving from Melbourne to Coffs Harbor, a beachside location north of Sydney. Faced with a long journey of around 800 miles, they decided to stop for lunch in a tiny town called Cann River, which according to the last Australian census has a total population of 194 people.

“As far as we knew, there were no Jewish people living there” said Rabbi Aron. “We stopped to eat lunch and as we packed ourselves back into the car, to continue our long drive onward, someone walked past us and said: ‘Happy Hannukah!’”

It turns out that this tiny town did in fact have a Jewish resident, unbeknownst to Chabad of RARA, who was thrilled to connect and make acquaintance with the rabbi and rebbetzin. “It helped that we were schlepping a 6-foot menorah on top of our car and we had a Happy Hanukkah sign as well,” chuckled Rabbi Aron, as he reflected on how the resident of Cann River was able to identify him and his wife as Jewish.

This chance encounter in a tiny Australian town epitomizes the experience of the Chabad of RARA couples who, often with their children, spend weeks on the road visiting and finding Jewish people.

Another Chabad of RARA couple, Rabbi Ari and Mushkie Rubin, live in Cairns, a coastal town of 150,000 in far north Queensland that Rabbi Rubin describes as “the Miami of Australia”—a 1,000-mile drive from Brisbane, the state’s largest city. When Rubin and his wife arrived in 2016 they had a big job ahead of them. “There was no Jewish infrastructure there, absolutely nothing: not a single Jewish organization, synagogue, or mikvah! The only thing we knew for certain is that there were approximately 100 Jewish people living there, as we had a list of email addresses that had been collected from the periodic visits different Chabad of RARA emissaries had made over the years,” Rubin said.

These days, the hard work that Rabbi Rubin and his wife have invested in creating a Jewish community has paid off, with over 500 people now part of the Cairns Jewish community. They’ve also opened the first synagogue in Cairns that runs weekly services, a Hebrew school, and bar and bat mitzvah classes.

For Shira Stern, an Israeli living in Cairns with her husband and children, the presence of Rabbi Rubin and his wife has been game-changing. “I don’t know where Rabbi Ari finds all these Jewish people in Cairns!” Stern said with a laugh. Her children attend the Hebrew school and Stern says she is grateful for the strong Jewish identity they feel as a result of the Rubins’ activities: “Having Rabbi Ari and Rebbetzin Mushkie here opens a lot of Jewish opportunities for my kids.”

Earlier this year, Chabad of RARA Cairns likely had the biggest communal Seder in Australia, with over 130 people attending the in-person celebrations. “Cairns was largely spared from the havoc the global pandemic wreaked in other Australian cities that were subject to in-person gathering restrictions and lockdowns—so we have been very blessed here to still be able to host big events here,” Rabbi Rubin said.

The pandemic has also brought unexpected benefits to Chabad of RARA emissaries. As they regularly travel on the road for weeks at a time where they are the only formal Jewish infrastructure, the couples often resort to homeschooling their children. “Once coronavirus hit, people began to understand what we live through while doing this important work,” said Rubin. “Homeschooling your children and always having them at home is our normal experience, but for the rest of the world, this was a new experience!”

The Rodals in Newcastle agreed with Rubin, noting that some aspects of the global pandemic had been a blessing for them. “There has been so much growth in technology and the ability to connect with people who are far out, which means we find it easier to stay in touch with people living in remote areas that we have met,” said Rebbetzin Rodal. Prior to going to live permanently in Newcastle, Rodal and her husband spent years traveling around as the roving Chabad of RARA emissaries of the Australian outback, spending weeks on the road in their Mitzvah Tank seeking out Jewish people living in especially remote central Australian locations like Alice Springs (population 25,000) and Coober Pedy (1,762, according to the last census).

“For almost all the years we were on the road I really wanted to start an online Hebrew school,” said Rodal. “We met kids all around the country and I wanted these children living in a town with only one or two other Jews to be able to connect with other Jewish kids in the same situation as them—except Zoom was not widely used technology and people just were not used to online classes,” she said. However, the onset of COVID-19 changed everything and according to Rodal, “everyone is just so much more connected and used to doing things online in a way that they never had been able to before the pandemic.” Now that online classes and activities have become the new normal, Rodal has since established Zoom classes for these children.

Rabbi Rubin remains optimistic about the future and was keen to share a particularly meaningful text message he received from one of his congregants a few weeks ago: “A community member messaged me saying that one Friday he had an inspirational moment and decided he wanted his daughter to light Shabbat candles,” said Rubin. “He took his daughter’s hand, lit the candles with her, and was about to help her recite the blessing, but she already knew it. Afterward, he sent me a thank-you text message saying he was sure she only knew this blessing because she attends our Hebrew school. The last line of his text said ‘thank you for not forgetting about this forgotten Jew in Cairns.’”

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Post-Covid Passover a Real Festival of Freedom Down Under

Australia and New Zealand welcome a pandemic-free holiday

By Mendel Super

March 22, 2021

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As the coronavirus began its deadly march across the globe a little more than a year ago, Passover was on the minds of Jews worldwide. Seder without the family? Where to obtain matzah, kosher wine and other Passover essentials? For many of the Jews “Down Under,” this magnified their usual challenges. While many of their American peers could order their supplies with two-day shipping, in Australia and New Zealand, that wasn’t an option.

Jews in the metropolitan areas could shop at the local kosher supermarkets and even some major chains, or call their local Chabad-Lubavitch centers for help. In the sparsely populated regional areas, where sighting a rabbi is only slightly more likely than spying bigfoot, many rely on Chabad of Rural and Regional Australia’s in-person Seders, run by dozens of rabbinical students held in some of the continent’s most remote locales. An impossibility at that time, instead, Chabad of Rural and Regional Australia (RARA) shipped “Seder-to-Go” boxes to thousands of rural Jews, and Chabad of Auckland did the same in New Zealand.

This year however, while many around the world are still living in the shadow of Covid-19, and some countries are back in lockdown, Jews Down Under are celebrating a truly liberating festival. With borders hermetically sealed for more than a year now, virus cases are far and few between.

In New Zealand, Rabbi Mendel and Esther Hecht are hosting hundreds over the holiday with no social-distancing measures in sight. “Aside from the closed borders,” Rabbi Mendel Hecht tells, “the country is completely open; no masks, no distancing.”

But shut borders do have an impact on Jewish life especially. New Zealand is a small community, and without a strong infrastructure of its own, the community is reliant on its neighbors across the ditch, in Australia. “We have babies in need of a bris [circumcision], we don’t have our own mohel here,” says Hecht.

Thankfully, shipping is not impacted, and Chabad of Auckland has imported more than 200 pounds of shmurah matzah, hundreds of bottles of kosher-for-Passover wine and grape juice, 150 kosher chickens and almost 1,000 pounds of kosher beef. Some will be sold at cost to community members, while the bulk will feed the hundreds of guests at the Sedersand holiday meals that Chabad will be hosting.

The logistical challenge of large-scale Passover prep comes as the Hechts just moved to a new property (their third in two years) as Chabad sees massive growth, and their rented spaces couldn’t keep up.

In Australia, Chabad of RARA is delivering Passover supplies to isolated Jewish communities and families.

‘Excited to Celebrate In-Person Again’

Meanwhile in Melbourne, Rabbi Menachem Aron and teams of volunteers prepare for Chabad of RARA’s rural and regional seders, hosted in 15 locations—from Coffs Harbor to Newport—with some attracting upwards of 100 participants.

For many rural Jews, Passover is their only opportunity to engage with a rabbi or even with fellow Jews, and that’s even more important to them now after last year’s visit had to be canceled.

But for those who are just too remote for a communal seder, Chabad of RARA will be shipping more than 1,000 “Seder-to-Go” kits across the continent, and Aron is teaching the Sederbasics to his remote congregation online.

“This is the most amazing thing I have stumbled across since living in the bush,” wrote Tamara in Innervell, after receiving her “Seder-to-Go” kit. In the scenic Blue Mountains region, Lana expressed similar sentiments: “Thank you so much for everything that you do,” she wrote. “I used to feel like I was all alone until I discovered that you were out there trying to connect with Jews like myself. Thank you for helping!”

In Sydney’s St. Ives, a neighborhood that sounds like South Africa (owing to decades of South African immigration, something which has been a boon for Australia’s Jewish community) and feels like the bush, Passover prep is in high gear.

“People here are excited to finally celebrate in-person again,” reports Rabbi Mendy Schapiro of Chabad North Shore. “Spirits are high; it’s almost as it was before Covid hit,” he says, noting that in the absence of the rabbinical students Chabad North Shore usually hosts from overseas, community members are filling their shoes and assisting with the many matzah deliveries the visiting rabbis would do.

“We’re really very lucky,” he says, “but we’re always fully aware that there can be another snap-lockdown at a moment’s notice.”

Volunteers deliver seder supplies at Chabad North Shore in New South Wales, Australia.

Baking in New South Wales

  Families down under are looking forward to a pandemic-free holiday.

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Celebrating 20 years of Chabad of RARA

By Sophie Deutsch 

6 July 2020 

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While official celebrations for the 20-year anniversary have been postponed due to the pandemic, a celebratory dinner in Melbourne is on the cards for a couple of months’ time.

Rabbi Izzy Adelist and Rabbi Mendel Super from Chabad of RARA visited a family in Orbost, Victoria.

IN some parts of Australia, many Jewish people only interact with other Jews once or twice a year when the rabbis from Chabad of Rural and Regional Australia (RARA) come to visit.

The occasions are always cause for celebration – and even more so this month as Chabad of RARA celebrates its 20-year anniversary.

“We’ve been telling everyone about the 20 years, and it’s always good to celebrate, but we are doing our work regardless of the celebrations,” said Chabad of RARA’s director, Rabbi Menachem Aron, who is based in Melbourne with his wife, Shevi, and their daughter Chaya Mushka. 

“We have four guys on the road now – two in NSW and two in Victoria, and they are meeting many families in a safe way.

“Many people in the last few months have been very isolated and lonely … A lot has been happening online, but there is nothing like an in-person visit.”

RARA’s founder, Saul Spigler, first hit the road in his 20s, when he began travelling to Geelong from Melbourne. At age 22, he and a few friends took a mitzvah tank around Australia for four weeks.

“I saw the massive impact of visiting people and coming to their homes and how they welcomed us and appreciated what we were doing,” he said.

After his mother passed away 20 years ago, Spigler officially founded Chabad of RARA as he hoped “to do something in her dedication. It has grown and grown since then.” 

Spigler noted that Chabad of RARA has increased its database from about 500-700 people in its early days to 4000 people today.

“We’ve had some amazing stories over the years of antisemitism that people have [been subjected to], and they’ve been defiant and walked around wearing a yarmulke, and they’re not even remotely religious. We’ve had Holocaust survivors in the most incredible places who tell us their story.”

Chabad of RARA now comprises the Arons, Rabbi Ari and Mushkie Rubin in Cairns, Rabbi Mendel and Esty Khutoretsky in the Sunshine Coast, Rabbi Yossi and Malki Rodal in Newcastle, and a handful of additional roving rabbis.

Since 2018 when the documentary Outback Rabbis screened on SBS – before becoming available on international platforms – Chabad of RARA has increased its reach and presence. 

“We’ve seen many more people around Australia reach out to various other Jewish organisations and say, ‘I never knew I was Jewish until I saw the film’, commented Rabbi Rubin. “We are still having people stop us and say they saw it on TV and it’s impacting their lives.”

While official celebrations for the 20-year anniversary have been postponed due to the pandemic, a celebratory dinner in Melbourne is on the cards for a couple of months’ time, pending the easing of social distancing restrictions.

In the Sunshine Coast, Rabbi Rubin and Spigler marked the anniversary  on a Zoom conference call with those who have played a significant role in developing the Cairns Jewish community.

Speaking of RARA’s humanitarian work, Rabbi Rodal said that “a lot of the people we visit are lonely, in poverty and abject circumstances”, detailing how RARA has helped many people affected by the bushfires.

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Chabad of RARA Celebrates 20 Years

6 September 2020

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Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic, Chabad of Rural and Regional Australia recently marked 20 years of operation, founded by Mr. and Mrs. Shaul Spigler and has four full-time couples working to reach Jewish people wherever they may be.

Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic, Chabad of Rural and Regional Australia recently marked 20 years of operation.

Founded in June of 2000 by Mr. and Mrs. Shaul Spigler, the organization has reached out to thousands of Jewish people living in remote and rural areas around Australia. These families and individuals are far from any Jewish Center, and for most. Chabad of RARA is their only connection to Judaism.

“RARA has changed my life,” says Chrissie Grant, who now goes by Dassy. Dassy lives in Shepparton, Victoria and did not know she was Jewish until she saw the now-famous “Outback Rabbis” documentary on Australian TV. “It has given me a sense of belonging, identity, validation and community that I have never had before. I have learned so much and am able to participate in meaningful rituals and holidays that help me connect with my spirituality.”

Dassy just one of the many thousands impacted by Chabad of RARA’s outreach work.

In recent years, the organization has upped its game, and now has four full-time couples working to reach Jewish people wherever they may be.

There’s Rabbi Menachem and Shevi Aron at RARA HQ based in Melbourne, Rabbi Yossi and Malki Rodal in Newcastle, NSW, Rabbi Mendel and Esty Khutoretsky in the Sunshine Coast, QLD, and Rabbi Ari and Mushky Rubin in Cairns, QLD.

Chabad of RARA regularly brings down bochurim, both local and from overseas to embark on the famous “RARA Trips”, where they spend up to 8 weeks on the road, traveling around the country in the famous RARA Mitzvah Tank and visiting families.

To date, more than 1.5 million kilometres have been traveled in search of meeting up and finding Jewish people.

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Amid Catastrophic Bushfires, Hope and Support From Australia’s Jewish Community

January 8, 2020

By: Mendel Super

Link to original article:

Verne Dove's huband, Troy, and her son, Jaidal, survey the destruction of their home in tiny Nana Glen (population 1,055) in New South Wales’s tropical north.

The Friday before she lost her home, Verne Dove went with her family to a Shabbat dinner in Coffs Harbour, a small coastal city in New South Wales, Australia.

“It was like an apocalypse; 5 o’clock in the afternoon, and everything was orange. It was the most eerie thing I’ve ever experienced,” Dove tells “At the Shabbat dinner we had black, burned leaves falling everywhere around us; we weren’t even sure where the fire was, it was all just orange. It was like being under a cloud of fire without being able to see the fire. We were stuck there, trusting we’d be OK and make it through the dinner.”

As Australia enters the new decade, devastating bushfires ravage the continent; the fires blaze in every state and territory. More than 21 million acres—roughly the size of Maine—have been burned, with 25 lives lost and several missing, and almost 2,000 homes destroyed. An estimated half-billion animals have been killed, pushing some of Australia’s unique and already endangered species further towards the brink of extinction.

Under scorching temperatures—reaching 104-plus degrees in all six Australian states last month—and extreme drought conditions, the fires have spread rapidly, with firefighters battling flames more than 130 feet high in some areas. Authorities are calling it the country’s worst bushfires in history, with the sheer size of the flames far surpassing that of the 2018 California wildfires and 2019 Amazon fires.

Dove, who with her family lives in tiny Nana Glen (population 1,055) in New South Wales’s tropical north, received notice to evacuate her home immediately as the fires began to close in. She gathered her three children, the youngest just 9 months old, and drove to the evacuation center back in Coffs Harbour, the closest sizeable city. Her husband, Troy, stayed behind to defend the family butterfly-house business from the fires before eventually joining his family in safety.

“It was just smoke as far as you could see,” says Dove. Hours after they left, the family home was reduced to a smoldering heap of metal and ash, charred beams and burned-out car bodies littering the property. “There were rivers of molten metal all around where the house was, all the window panes had melted together. We had no idea the fires would be that hot.”

All that was left of their 25-acre property was a children’s play set that remained unscathed. “It was like the fire had a personality,” says Dove. “We saw what survived and said, ‘There’s some hope in this devastation.’ ”

All that was left of their 25-acre property was a children's play set, which remained unscathed.

Rabbi Yossi Rodal, co-director with his wife, Malki, of Chabad-Lubavitch of Rural and Regional Australia (RARA), which serves isolated Jews and Jewish communities scattered throughout the vast continent, says that like the Dove family, at least 250 Jewish families have been directly impacted by the devastating bushfires.

Camp Gan Israel of Melbourne, a Jewish childrens’ summer camp, was evacuated just as camp began with campers and staff members being packed onto buses and taken to safety.

In a historic action not seen since World War II, the Australian Defence Force and Royal Australian Navy have been deployed across the country, with reservists being mobilized in recent days. International firefighting aid has also come from the United States, Canada, New Zealand and Singapore.

As Shabbat approached, the smoke-filled sky over Coffs Harbour, a small coastal city in New South Wales, Australia. (Photo: Verne Dove)

‘It’s Our Job to Be There for Them’

Meanwhile, the Rodals have been coordinating relief efforts together with Jewish community volunteers.

“It’s heart-wrenching to see the pain people are in, and it’s our job to be there for them in whichever way possible,” says the rabbi. Working together with Chabad of Melbourne’s Aliya Institute, a youth group, they have been collecting, packing and then distributing necessary supplies such as bottled water, canned goods and other household staples for affected communities and shelters around the nation.

Chabad of RARA has already raised more than $13,000 to aid those who have lost their homes, businesses and essential belongings, as well as helped accommodate those who have been displaced.

Volunteers from Chabad of RARA help residents, firefighters and rescue workers.

The Dove family’s business had already taken a hit because of the fires’ impact on the area’s tourism. Now, with their home lost, Dove says that aside from her insurance policy, the only help they have seen is when Chabad of RARA stepped in. “We lost a house, and no one cares. We were forgotten, left with the clean-up, and there was no help.”

Rodal contacted Dove as he was reaching out to the hundreds of affected families, offering to assist them. “He called at just the right time,” says Dove, noting that the rabbi offered the exact sum she needed to remove the rubble. “You have no idea how much that will help,” she says emotionally. “It’s been absolutely phenomenal.”

The rabbi offered the exact sum the Dove family needed to remove the rubble that was once their home.

The Doves aren’t the only ones.

From Mallacoota, a sleepy coastal town hit by a mammoth blaze, cut off by road, and accessible only by sea—prompting a massive navy evacuation operation, Rachel wrote: “Thank you so much for your call, Yossi. I’m deeply touched by this connection from you and Chabad. I had a little good ‘feeling so cared for’ cry after we spoke. With much gratitude and appreciation, Rachel.”

In Jindabyne, a popular ski destination in the winter now threatened by deadly fires, Bob wrote: “Thank you for caring as I do have nothing.”

In a historic action not seen since World War II, the Australian Defence Force and Royal Australian Navy have been deployed across the country. (Photo: POIS Helen Frank/Commonwealth of Australia)

‘How Can We Leave?’

Skies across huge swathes of rural Australia have turned bright orange, but the major cities have not been spared either. As the flames continue to rage for months, Melbourne and Sydney are reporting hazy gray skies and hazardously low-air quality. Orange skies are being seen over Auckland, New Zealand, and air quality has been affected as far away as Chile.

In Canberra, the nation’s capital city centrally located between Melbourne and Sydney on the country’s east coast, Rabbi Shmueli Feldman, co-director of Chabad Australian Capital Territory (ACT), has been in a position to help hundreds passing through the capital, as large stretches of the highway interconnecting Australia’s two largest cities are closed, forcing many to detour through the city.

“As one of the only Jewish presences between Melbourne and Sydney, we have been providing free fresh kosher meals and accommodation to many,” says Feldman. He estimates that they have already helped around 100 individuals relocate from stricken areas, with some being put up in Chabad ACT’s crisis accommodation housing. With the assistance of Chabad of RARA, others are being hosted in Melbourne and Sydney.

Preparing meals for those in need as fires rage through Australia.

“Canberra has had the worst air quality among the world’s major cities recently,” says Feldman. “There’s no real reprieve; the country is living in smoke and fear, many shops are out of bottled water, and air masks have gone off the shelves.”

This Chanukah, Feldman was forced to hold his annual celebration indoors due to the poor air quality, and Chabad’s preschool hasn’t had outdoor-play for weeks on end.

Among those Feldman recently assisted is Christina “Esther” Hacker, a 95-year-old Holocaust survivor and former Nazi fighter. She was evacuated from Jindabyne, a two-hour drive from Canberra, and together with her family placed in a Chabad apartment until she could return home.

Even as the Emergency Services Agency warns that Canberra and the ACT region may be impacted by the fast-moving bushfires or the dangerously polluting smoke they leave in their wake, Feldman says Chabad plans to sit tight.

“Under these circumstances, how can we leave? G‑d has given us such an important opportunity to help others in desperate need, we are honored to embrace it,” says Feldman.

Chabad North Shore, in Sydney’s northern suburbs, directed by Rabbi Nochum Schapiro, is accommodating families displaced by the fires, and Rabbi Dovid Gutnick, director of Chabad East Melbourne, has arranged with a Jewish-owned hotel with locations in Melbourne and Sydney to put up some of those who lost homes, free of charge.

Skies across huge swathes of rural Australia have turned bright orange, but the major cities have not been spared either. As the flames continue to rage for months, Melbourne and Sydney are reporting hazy gray skies and hazardously low-air quality. (Photo: CPOA Brett Kennedy/Commonwealth of Australia)

‘Our Country Is on Fire’

Chabad of RARA has also launched a campaign encouraging people from around the world to take on an extra mitzvah in light of the bushfires plaguing the nation.

“Our country is on fire, and not in the metaphorical positive sense of the phrase,” wrote Rodal in a social-media post announcing the campaign. “Quite literally, our beautiful country is ablaze with out-of-control raging bushfires.

“We must take action to help and assist at this crucial time. We can donate to funds assisting bushfire relief; we can stand up and join the hundreds of donation appeals around the country; and we can go one step further.

“Bushfires are by nature volatile and unpredictable. They don’t always follow a rational pattern, and at times, defy the laws of nature.

“And so our response needs to be the same: beyond the rational, natural order of things. We can give of ourselves in the supernatural realm: through increasing in our prayer, good deeds and Torah learning.”

To help support Chabad’s relief efforts, donate  here.

To pledge a mitzvah, click  here.

Over 21 million acres—roughly the size of Maine—have been burned, with 25 lives lost and several missing, and almost 2,000 homes destroyed. An estimated half-billion animals have been killed, pushing some of Australia’s unique and already endangered species further toward the brink of extinction. (Photo: CPOA Brett Kennedy/Commonwealth of Australia)

Preparing to deliver home-cooked food to those who have lost their homes.

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Finding Jews In Australia’s Outback: An Interview with Rabbi Yossi Rodal, Head of Chabad of RARA

April 14, 2019

By: Deborah Katz

Link to original article:

When people think of Australia, cities like Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth come to mind – all three of which are located on the coast. Not all of Australia’s 25 million citizens, however, live near the beach. Roughly 700,000 of them – or 3 percent of the population – live in the country’s vast interior, known as “the Outback.”

Serving many of the Jews in this area is Rabbi Yossi Rodal, a young rabbi originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He heads Chabad of RARA (Rural and Regional Australia), which was recently the subject of a documentary in Australia that was watched by over half a million people on television.

The Jewish Press: Can you speak a bit about your activities?

Rabbi Rodal: We conduct eight sedarim for Pesach and organize services for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur throughout Australia. On Chanukah, we have 24 parties around the country.

We visit Jews in South Australia, Western Australia, and in remote areas. People not only come to our mitzvah tank to lay tefillin but to view our mobile library from which they can take books.

I assume you skip territories where there aren’t any Jews.

There really aren’t any territories like that. Part of our mission is trying to explore every town and city to discover a Jew. We will travel for hours to visit one Jewish soul.

Have you encountered anti-Semitism on any of your trips looking for Jews in remote areas?

No, I think we’ve encountered more anti-Semitism in Melbourne than on the road.

Do you find people are generally receptive to you?

Yes, we’ve had an amazing reception from both Jews and non-Jews alike. Often we find that a non-Jewish partner [of an inter-married couple] will encourage the Jewish partner to be more active [in Judaism].

Do you stay in touch with the Jews in the Outback once you’ve connected with them?

Definitely. We try to visit them once a year although obviously it is challenging to visit those living in the Outback. But by using social media, we can organize functions, distribute the weekly parsha, conduct weekly online adult classes, and organize programs throughout the year. We also do online bar mitzvah classes.

Also available is a one-on-one Jewish learning program over the phone that pairs up religious Jews from Melbourne and Sydney to Jews in rural areas. We are in contact with 3,500-4,500 Jewish people in remote areas around Australia.

Who uses the mitzvah tank aside from yourself?

Groups of young post-rabbinical students from Australia, America, and Europe are recruited to do long road trips lasting about 7-8 weeks using the mitzvah tank. We advise them which routes to take.

Most Chabad emissaries are based in one city. You’re traveling around in unknown territories. Is that unsettling?

It depends. The trip can be unsettling for the kids, but we plan ahead and know how much our family can take. Chanukah is our craziest time. Last year we drove over 60 hours in a week to three different states within Australia.

Do you find people maintain the practices you introduce to them?

Yes, to a general extent. Obviously every person is different. To date, we have affixed over 1,000 mezuzahs on homes throughout rural Australia. As a result of our trip, we have over 30 men who put on tefillin daily who were not doing so before.

Every mitzvah happens for a reason. Even if the person only puts on tefillin once, we take delight in that. Who knows how that mitzvah will affect him?

What’s the most interesting experience you’ve had in the Outback?

In December 2015, during Chanukah, we were returning from a three-week trip – we drove past many kangaroos – and we had a man on our list named Joshua who said he was half-heartedly interested in seeing us.

My wife Malki said, “Maybe we should skip him if he’s not so interested and go directly home.”

[But we ultimately decided to go] and when we arrived, Joshua told us he had a brother who became religious and was driving him crazy about putting tefillin on. We talked for a while, and at the end, I said, “I don’t want to put pressure you, but I have a pair of tefillin with me, and if you’d like to put them on, I’d be happy to guide you.”

He had never put tefillin on in his life, but to my surprise Joshua said, “Yes.” Afterwards, when we took a picture of him, he broke down and cried. It was an awakening of his Jewish soul. It was amazing to witness.

A week later I got a call from Joshua who [asked me about saying the beracha for tefillin]. I said, “Joshua, it’s really wonderful that you’re into this, but you only say this blessing if you are putting on tefillin.”

He replied, “Rabbi, of course I’m putting on tefillin. Since we met I got in touch with my brother and I am now putting on tefillin daily.” In the beginning, he was putting tefillin on Shabbos but we corrected that.

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Chabad Makes it Easier Than Ever to Find a Service in Australia

September 25, 2019

By: By Mussi Sharfstein

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As communities are preparing for the High Holy Days, Chabad is looking out for Rural Australia

As communities all over the world prepare for High Holy Day services, Chabad is looking out for the small towns, making sure cities of less that 1,000 Jews can celebrate as well. 

Chabad of Rural and Regional Australia (RARA) is organizing services and dinners for the tiny Australian Jewish populations in the cities of Newcastle, Darwin and the Sunshine Coast,.


Home to less than 500 Jews, the capital of New South Wales is known for its spectacular beaches. It’s a two-hour drive north from Sydney and is Australia’s second oldest city.

Chabad representatives of of RARA have been conducting holiday events and programming in Newcastle for the last eighteen years. This year, Rabbi Levi and Dinah Rosenbaum will be leading services and dinners for all the high holidays. They expect to be hosting some ninety guests at their dinner on the first night of Rosh Hashanah. And no bundling up to eat in the sukkah: the weather will be turning a beautiful spring. 


For the first time ever, two rabbinical students will be heading to remote Darwin in Australia’s outback, where they will lead holiday celebrations in a pop-up synagogue. In a place that has more crocodiles than Jews, Jordan, a resident of the city, has promised to reach out to every one of the fifty Jewish residents to ensure a minyan for services, and they expect around forty to show up for dinner on Rosh Hashanah.

Read: Darwin’s First Jewish Cemetery Dedicated

Sunshine Coast

Understanding the challenges of taking time off on a weekday, rabbinical students Mendel, Joseph and Levi promise that services will begin at 7:00 and conclude by 9:00 AM. The threesome will be traveling the string of coastline villages near Brisbane to ensure that none of the 700 Jews miss the opportunity to celebrate. They’re planning to host eighty guests at their Rosh Hashanah dinner.

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Roaming Rabbis roll into town 

12 July 2018

By: Therese Colman

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Rabbis Mendy Silberberg and Moshe Dubinsky left Melbourne three weeks ago on an unlikely mission – to roam the country in search of Jewish people.

Rabbi Dubinsky is from the US and Silberberg from Mexico, and the pair are members of Chabad Rural and Regional Australia – an orthodox Jewish sect with a mission to connect Jewish people to Judaism.

The Times met with the pair in their motor home, or “synagogue on wheels”, to hear how their journey had been so far.

Rabbi Dubinsky said their job “is literally to find Jews, and it’s an unbelievable experience”.

“Our organisation is about bringing Jews back to their roots so they can celebrate Judaism with other Jews,” he said.

“We look at our history, and because of the Holocaust, so many Jews have been dispersed.”

The young men, who have both recently graduated from their rabbinical degrees, arrived in Margaret River on Wednesday and Rabbi Dubinsky said their journey had so far been successful.

“This morning in Margaret River, we met a Holocaust survivor,” he said.

“She was an unbelievable woman, and no one even knew there was a Jewish Holocaust survivor in Margaret River.

“We did a Mitzvah with her, a commandment from the Torah, and it was an unbelievable experience.”

The SBS “Untold Australia” documentary series followed the pair’s colleagues Rabbi Ari Rubin and Rabbi Yossi Rodal on their journey through remote Australia for their Outback Rabbis episode, which aired in May.

Rabbi Dubinsky told the Times they needed to use “detective skills” to find Jewish people wherever they go.

“We do a lot of our searching on Facebook, for example we’ll do a search for a ‘Cohen’ and suddenly find three Cohen’s in Margaret River,” he said.

“We ask everybody that we see, we’re crazy that way, and you’d be surprised.

“We meet Jews in the middle of nowhere.

“We’re cool Rabbis; come say hi, we’re not scary.”

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A New Documentary Features Jews in The Bush

May 23, 2018

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SBS Australia follows Chabad into Rural and Regional Australia

Untold Australia is Australia’s latest SBS series—featuring the lives of ordinary, and sometimes extraordinary, citizens. Today, a new documentary airs. Outback Rabbis follows the lives of the two families who direct Chabad of RARA (Rural and Regional Australia).

The 1,500 miles of mostly-uninhabited lands on the drive from Melbourne to Uluru features more red sand plains than people. For Jews in these dispersed communities, connecting with their Jewish heritage can be a difficult feat. And so, Rabbi Yossi and Malki Rodal travel. Fifty hours on the Stuart Highway, with two toddlers and an RV, the Rodals visit the most rural areas, bringing along kosher food, Judaica and the warmth of connection. Their partners in the northeast, Rabbi Ari and Mushkie Rubin, are based in Cairns, Queensland, and travel further out to reach Jews in their tropical state. And sometimes, groups of rabbinical students join the crew.

When film-maker Danny Ben-Moshe approached the Rodals in 2016, the two were at first reluctant to document their lives. Their youngest was just three months old, and both are somewhat camera shy. But the Rodals decided that the discomfort would be worth it “to get the word out to so many we could never reach otherwise!” In 2017, their entry was chosen from among 2,000 others.

“I hope,” says Malki, “that it will inspire people to connect to their heritage.”

To connect with Chabad of RARA:

(SBS Australia: Rabbi Yossi and Malki Rodal take a selfie deep in the Australian outback.)

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Our pick of free to air TV: Untold Australia Outback Rabbis

By: Kylie Northover; The Sydney Morning Herald 

May 17, 2018

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The self-contained Untold Stories series, back for a third season, is what SBS does best: observational films about diverse communities around Australia that many of us never hear about, told with warmth and, often, humour.

Outback Rabbis is a brilliant example – it follows two Chassidic rabbis, Rabbi Ari Rubin from Cairns and Rabbi Yossi Rodal from Melbourne, who feel it's their duty to find every Jew in Australia with the aim, purely, of ministering and spreading love.

With their families along for the (long) rides, the two set off on Jew-seeking missions in their specially decorated motorhomes: Ari, initially on his own and later joined by his wife Mushkie and their toddler, travels throughout Far North Queensland, an area known more for rodeos than religion, while Yossi and his wife Malki and their two kids make the drive from Melbourne to Alice Springs – an area that is, Yossi says, "uncharted" in terms of counting Jewish people.

Members of Chabad, an ultra-Orthodox sect of Chassidic Jews, are part of an organisation called CHABAD RARA (Remote and Regional Australia), whose mission is to reconnect Jews with Judaism, no matter how far-flung.

"It's like … the Jews were once hunted down with hate, but now it's time for them to be hunted down with love," says a chipper Ari as he sets off.

The tone of director Danny Ben-Moshe's film (which features some beautiful vistas of the outback and Far North Queensland) is equally upbeat; as Ari or Yossi pull into a new town, a green highway sign flashes up on screen, declaring, for example, "Alice Springs. Population: hot. Jews: 4", and there are plenty of ancient Israelite/desert analogies.

While Ari and Mushkie live in Cairns – where home acts as a hub, and even synagogue, for the city's small local Jewish community – they still travel regularly through the outback, stopping in tiny, dusty towns to ask bemused locals in blue singlets or bored checkout operators if they know any Jews. The answer is, usually, no. In his traditional Chassidic robe, Ari attracts attention wherever he goes – particularly when he stops in the main street of Innisfail (Jew count 3, according to his pre-visit Google search) to say a prayer. Often, he says, he's mistaken for a Muslim or attracts people who think Jews hate Muslims. "We get a lot of that in Queensland," he says evenly after being cornered by one such man.

Ari is this doco's star – his noble quest is so endearing that at times he feels like a character in a gentle mockumentary; he's not proselytising, and his unwavering optimism is inspiring.

He's genuinely excited when he gets to meet some lapsed Jews, even if they're not about to be talked back into practising. "Every visit I do fosters some pride," he says, "so every visit is a success." He even remains sanguine when he visits some kind of creepy exhibition of Nazi memorabilia, where he's told by an attendee that "this isn't the best place to be Jewish".

Gazing around at the Nazi flags and uniforms on display, Ari replies "This is actually the best place to be Jewish."

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Search for ‘lost’ Jews 

May 16, 2018

By: Danny Gocs 

Link to original article:

From the outback to tropical Queensland, a new TV documentary follows two Chabad of RARA rabbis as they go off the beaten track in their mitzvah tank in search of 'lost' Jews.

Rabbi Yossi Rodal prays in central Australia during a trip by Chabad of RARA which was filmed for a SBS documentary.

EACH year rabbis from Chabad of RARA (Rural and Regional Australia) head off the beaten track searching for ‘lost’ Jews who have settled in isolated places ranging from Alice Springs in the outback to one-pub towns on Queensland’s tropical coast.

Sharing the duties are Cairns-based Rabbi Ari Rubin and his wife Mushkie, whose territory covers north Queensland; and Melbourne-based director, Rabbi Yossi Rodal and his wife Malki, who look after the rest of Australia.

Travelling in a brightly-coloured campervan dubbed the mitzvah tank, the rabbis often encounter locals who have never met a Jew, let alone rabbis wearing black suits, hats and tzitzit.

Whether shopping for kosher food, praying in the outback or in the centre of a small town, the rabbis ensure that they are visible in the hope that anyone Jewish will come forward.

They are also proactive, checking local phone directories and calling anyone with a Jewish-sounding surname – often with surprising results.

For more than 10 years, Melbourne filmmaker Danny Ben-Moshe has wanted to make a documentary about Chabad of RARA’s rabbis at work, but his idea never got off the ground.

However, when SBS announced a few years ago that it was planning a series of documentaries set around diverse communities titled Untold Australia, Ben-Moshe thought a film about Chabad of RARA rabbis could be a perfect fit.

Ben-Moshe’s idea was one of more than 100 pitches received by SBS for the latest Untold Australia series and fortunately it ended up being shortlisted.

After another selection process, Ben-Moshe, who runs Identity Films, was commissioned to make Outback Rabbis, one of the four documentaries in the series which premiered on SBS this month.

Location filming took place in August last year when Ben-Moshe and a crew that included a producer, cameraman, sound recordist and director of photography followed Rabbi Rubin and his family on a two-week trip from Cairns to Magnetic Island, and Rabbi Rodal and his family a two-week 3000-kilometre trip from Melbourne to Uluru.

“It is such a special story – I’ve always thought of it as a cross between The Frisco Kid and Priscilla Queen of the Desert,” said Ben-Moshe.

Much of Outback Rabbis is filmed as reality-style TV as the camera follows the rabbis questioning locals in small townships over whether they know any Jews.

In Mission Beach in Queensland Rabbi Rubin takes his quest into a pub, while in a supermarket in outback Coober Pedy Rabbi Rodal asks shoppers and the checkout lady.   

“We were concerned that we may encounter some anti-Semitism along the way, but we didn’t during filming,” said Ben-Moshe. “For the most part people were very welcoming and hospitable.”

Ben-Moshe found filming in Central Australia to be gruelling because of the vast distances that they travelled.

“The film crew travelled in a convoy behind the mitzvah tank,” he said. “This was probably the hardest shoot that I have ever done in terms of covering territory to get the content that you need.”

The travelling rabbis caught up with Jews that they have met before who live in Alice Springs and Magnetic Island and welcome the personal contact.

Ben-Moshe, whose documentary films include Shalom Bollywood which was screened at last year’s Jewish International Film Festival and the award-winning 2014 film Code of Silence, is thrilled with Outback Rabbis.

“It’s upbeat and quirky and has lots of characters,” he said. “As a director there is always the pain of what you have to leave on the cutting-room floor and I would like to make a feature-length version to screen at international film festivals.”

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A Kangaroo Crash and a Rare Rabbi-Sighting in the Outback 

April 11,2018 

By: Mendel Super

Link to original article:\
Personal Jewish warmth comes twice a year for some in rural Australia

The seemingly endless Hume Highway, stretching the vast distance of Australia’s east coast, was the destination for two young rabbis who came to visit scattered Jews in the region. (Photo: Mendel Super)

Cootamundra, population 6,700. I had been driving for six hours on behalf of Chabad of Rural and Regional Australia, or RARA, northbound along the seemingly endless Hume Highway, stretching the vast distance of Australia’s east coast. I was headed to Wollongong, just one of eleven locations where regional Seders would be taking place, a coastal paradise famed for its beautiful beaches and warm climate. But now I was taking an hour detour off the Hume Highway to visit the only Jewish family living in Cootamundra. The sun was setting as I neared Cootumundra, simply known as “Cootie,” painting the horizon a beautiful orange and pink medley of color, and sweeping across the drought ridden plains, peeking through the bare trees.

It was nightfall by the time I reached Sarah’s house, hidden away by the bend in the road. Sarah was anticipating my visit, it was the first rabbinical visit since the holiday of Chanukah, and she’d kept her young daughter awake just for this occasion.

Sarah, a native of Canada, had met her future husband while studying at University in Sydney and had also fallen in love with Australia’s remote countryside, the outback. Living more than 100 miles from the nearest Chabad House in Canberra, Chabad of RARA was her only source of Jewish warmth and guidance.

We sat down and spoke about the challenges of being the only Jewish family in such a remote area, and instilling Jewish pride in her young daughter, who comes to preschool with matzah instead of the seasonal chocolate bunnies like all her peers.

I told over the story of Passover in dramatic detail to Rivka, a riveted 5-year-old. “Pharaoh should have let the Jews go!” Rivka exclaimed. “He wasn’t acting very nicely.”

Before I continued on my way, I gave them a large box of handmade shmurah matzah (an auspicious time to do so, being the night of the birthday of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, at whose behest tens of thousands of pounds of shmurah matzah are distributed worldwide) with which to make the only Seder between Wagga Wagga and Canberra, in the dusty plains of Cootie.

Like a true Yiddishe Mamma, Sarah made me promise to text her that I’d arrived safely at my motel for the night. I didn’t anticipate any issues, and I gave her my word.

Rabbinical student Mendel Super, left, helps Joe Braun with tefillin.

It was now getting late, and I had to get to my lodgings before 10 p.m. I was staying the night in the historic town of Yass, three hours south of my destination, Sydney Airport, where I had to pick up my chavrusah, (Roving Rabbi partner), my brother Levi.

Driving down the dark windy country roads, an animal jumped out onto the road ahead of me. I slowed down and narrowly missed a kangaroo. It was a close call.

Back on the main highway, and only 25 minutes from Yass, I was startled as a large kangaroo appeared just feet in front of me. I was traveling at nearly 70 mph, and there was no time to react. I slammed the brakes, braced for impact and ran straight over it. The car was still running, and I wasn’t too far from my destination, so I kept driving. Several minutes later, the engine overheating light lit up, and with that, the car stalled in the middle of the highway. I pulled over to what passed as a shoulder and called the NRMA, the local roadside assistance.

The tow truck arrived after a long, cold wait. “The roo’s knocked out the radiator,” said the guy dryly after inspecting the engine.

The car needed a tow, and I needed new lodgings for the night. But at close to midnight and in the middle of nowhere, I couldn’t find anything open. We drove towards the tiny hamlet of Jugiong, where the car was going to be dropped. Then, like a gift from heaven, a motel appeared. We pulled up, and it was open. The proprietors, fascinated by a rabbi visiting their tiny town (population 222), spoke with me about religion and what I was doing well into the night, and even allowed me to store my frozen meat in their freezer.

Kangaroos can be a dangerous presence along Australia's highways, as one rabinnical student discovered. (Photo: Mendel Super)

The next morning, a kind guest at the motel, who was also heading up north, graciously offered me a ride to Yass, where I was picking up a rental car to continue on my way. The fellow strapped all my many possessions, including a precious Torah scroll, onto the back of his pickup truck, or in Australian parlance, his “Ute.”

Hours later, with all my gear in a new car, I picked up my brother, and we headed for Wollongong.

Preparations for the Pesach Seder were now in full swing. We had to cook for 30 people in a tiny kitchen; there was no time to waste.

Shortly after arriving, we received a call from David. He’d just arrived from France to further his education at the University of Wollongong and wanted to know where he could obtain matzah in Wollongong. We called him over, donned tefillin with him and invited him to our Seder, leaving him with a box of shmurah matzah.

In midst of the hectic preparations, we received a message from a woman in the community, about a woman who lived close to an hour away, whom rabbinical students had met two years before, who informed her that she can’t make it to the Seder this year due to the distance, but instead she’ll attend celebrations at a local church. We resolved to convince her to attend our Seder. After a lengthy conversation, she agreed to come to the Seder. We were elated.

The Seder was beautiful. All the men laid tefillin before sunset, one of them, a retired professor and an advisor to the National Government of Papua New Guinea, donned tefillin for the first time since his bar mitzvah. He later enthralled us with stories of the Seder in Papua New Guinea, organized by some 20 Israeli businessmen in Port Moresby.

Rabbinical students Mendel, fourth from left, and Levi Super get set for the Passover Seder with Jewish residents in rural Australia.

On the second day of Passover, Sunday morning, we had a Shacharit minyan planned, a historic event for the Wollongong Jewish community, after their synagogue had closed its doors some 40 odd years ago. We held the service, complete with a Torah reading, at the home of Dr. Yoke and Bill Berry, leaders of the small local community. During the Torah reading, I made the blessing of Hagomel, customarily recited after being saved from great danger, thanking G‑d for delivering me from the clutches of the kangaroos and sparing me from what could’ve been a fatal accident. This was the first Yom Tov minyan since the closing of the shul, and the first Torah reading in almost a decade.

A Kiddush followed the service, during which we discussed the Jewish future in Wollongong, and all present committed to increase efforts to strengthen Yiddishkeit in the greater Illawara region.

All this was made possible by Chabad of RARA’s dedicated directors, Rabbi Yossi and Malki Rodal and Saul and Beverly Spigler, who facilitated Passover Seders throughout Australia, in conjunction with Passover Australia, from Fremantle in the West, to Darwin up in the far north, and everywhere between.

A student from Connecticut joined the Seder.

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First bar mitzvah in Townsville

12 January 2018

By: Rebecca Davis 

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From left: Rabbi Ari Rubin and Barnabas Sarnyai with his father Zoltan, brother Benjamin, mother Katie, and sister Anna.

Last month, Barnabas Sarnyai achieved more than a milestone.

Not only did the 13-year-old perform his bar mitzvah – he was the first to do so, ever, in the northern Queensland city of Townsville.

But records aside, Barnabas told The AJN that the occasion simply represented his joining of the Jewish community.

“It gave me a much better understanding of the core values of Judaism, and the tools I need to improve upon myself and the world around me,” he said.

Over two months, Barnabas studied under the tutelage and mentorship of Rabbi Ari Rubin of Chabad of RARA North Queensland.

While Rabbi Rubin is based in Cairns, the duo were undeterred by the 350 kilometre distance that separated them. Twice a week, the rabbi and his young student completed their studies – entirely through Skype.

“We would spend a lot of time speaking about the basics of Judaism, what it means to be a Jew – especially in today’s modern age – and we tied that into becoming a man,” Rabbi Rubin reflected.

Setting another precedent, the bar mitzvah was the first time Rabbi Rubin conducted all teachings through the use of online ­technology.

And so, on a Chanukah Shabbat, the countless video chats culminated in Barnabas’ transition into Jewish adulthood, as the rabbi, Sarnyai family, and 20 members of the close-knit Townsville Jewish community gathered in a private home-cum-Chabad of Townsville headquarters.

Rabbi Rubin mused upon Barnabas’ “very keen” and “attentive” approach, adding that the experience was made even more special by the fact that his father Zoltan joined in each of the lessons.

Speaking with The AJN, Zoltan Sarnyai kvelled with pride: It had been an arduous journey to Barnabas’ bar mitzvah for the Sarnyai family, spanning long before Skype – to Europe.

The professor of pharmacology at James Cook University spoke of his own upbringing in postwar Hungary.

“It was very difficult,” noted Zoltan, who was raised by his aunties, survivors of the camps.

“Nothing was really spoken about, and I was not raised as very Jewish. It was not something that you wanted to emphasise in a communist country after the war.”

It wasn’t until Zoltan visited a Jewish cemetery in his late teens that he began to ask questions of his family’s past, embarking upon a quest to discover his roots.

In many ways, Barnabas’ rite of passage represented the rekindling of a family’s link to its history; a repossession of cultural identity displaced in the abyss of the post-Holocaust reality within communist society.

“We may not be religious in a strict sense, but traditions and belonging are very important. We believe it is crucial as a family to have a cultural identity beyond being Hungarian at home – and that is being part of the wider Jewish community,” explained Zoltan.

The connection to family history was honoured deeply by Barnabas in his bar mitzvah speech.

He told the story of his paternal ­great-grandfather, who was drafted into the Hungarian army to fight on the side of the Germans.

While driving a horse-drawn carriage on route to the front, he made the courageous decision to defect.

“He slowed the horses down, waited until nobody was watching, jumped off the carriage, climbed up a tree and waited and waited there for a day or so. He then walked many kilometres,” Barnabas shared.

It would take his great-grandfather more than four weeks to return to his village, hiding in fields by day, and traversing only under the shroud of darkness by night.

Barnabas also recounted the story of his maternal grandfather.

While coming from an agricultural family, at the age 14 years old, Barnabas’ grandfather decided that this would not be his fate. Putting down his hoe, the following day he travelled to the nearest Hungarian city, enrolled himself in college, and soon discovered a strong talent for mathematics. He was selected for a special program in the Soviet Union.

Despite not knowing a word of Russian, Barnabas’ grandfather would teach himself, graduating as a railway engineer, and would eventually become a chief executive of the Hungarian Cable Company.

“[My bar mitzvah] made me feel a connection to the history of my family and the hardships they faced that influenced me today,” Barnabas reflected.

“This return to the family – to love and to look after them, as well as to go away to discover, to prosper and to give back – this is the legacy of my family which I will bring with me on my journey to my adult life.”

Zoltan added: “I felt very emotional for this whole experience – not just for my son, but for my aunties. I wish they knew and could have seen this moment.

“We are now connected to the past, and to our future.”

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In the Australian Outback, Girls Spread the Chanukah Light

They have been making the summer even warmer with holiday visits to Jewish homes

By Menachem Posner

December 28, 2016

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A group of three-dozen Australian high school girls have been touring the Outback, holding Chanukah celebrations on the eastern coast of New South Wales. The holiday coincides with the summer camp season.

With Chanukah coinciding with the summer-camp season, a group of three-dozen Australian high school girls have been touring the Outback, holding Chanukah celebrations on the eastern coast of New South Wales, from Narooma (population 2,400) to Wollongong (population 292,388).

The trip was arranged by the Melbourne-based network of Camp Gan Israel overnight camp. The 11th-graders have been holding Chanukah parties for local Jews, complete with a Chanukah skit, refreshments and carnival games, and have also held Chanukah fairs in shopping malls along the way.

Traveling in a coach-bus-cum-mitzvah tank, the girls represent Chabad of RARA (Rural and Regional Australia), which serves Jewish individuals and communities outside of the established concentrations of Jewish life on the largely unsettled continent, roughly the size of the continental USA.

"We are so proud of our Gan Izzy representatives," said Rabbi Menachem Lipskier of Chabad Youth. "We have watched these girls grow from receivers to givers, and it is amazing to see the passion and enthusiasm that they've exhibited. We know that the investment that we've made will continue to pay off, in their personal lives and around Australia."

As the girls travel along the east coast, two rabbinical students, now at the tail end of a six-week tour, are holding celebrations in towns further up the coast.

Concurrently, two RARA couples—Rabbi Yossi and Malki Rodal, and Rabbi Ari and Mushkie Rubin—are visiting other parts of the continent, each couple holding celebrations in even more communities.

All told, the RARA groups are expected to celebrate in 20 communities (a 21st was canceled due to motor failure), with crowds ranging anywhere from seven to 70 attendees.

Increase in Festivities

Rabbi Rodal reports that the increase in festivities has meant that they have met yet more Jewish people, most of whom have no contact to any established Jewish community. He notes that while the Chanukah celebration in Jindabyne had just two Jewish guests last year, about 15 are expected this year. Chaperoned by older teens, the girls have been “roughing it,” spending the nights camped out in their hosts’ spacious yards, and making do with little in the way of fresh food or laundry. Nevertheless, Rodal reports that they have been maintaining good spirits and have “captured the hearts” of people they’ve met.

“I keep hearing that they are so wonderful, positive, fun and enthusiastic,” says the California native, who now directs RARA. “These girls’ parents—and indeed, our entire community—can be very proud. They have been bringing the light of Chanukah wherever they go!”

The group has been spending days traveling in a coach-bus-cum-mitzvah tank and nights camped out in the yards of people’s homes.

Many of those they meet along the way don't have access to a larger Jewish community, and so the girls have been bringing them a bit of tradition, company and Chanukah joy.

Sharing the lights with residents of all ages in the Australian Outback.

The 11th-graders have been holding Chanukah parties for local Jews, complete with a Chanukah skit, refreshments and carnival games.

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Chanukah goes rural

 23 December 2016 

By:Shane Desiatnik 

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Chabad of RARA will spread Chanukah light and joy in Jewish communities around our vast continent, with an impressive 21 celebrations planned.

A Chabad of RARA Chanukah event held in Jindabyne last year.


CHABAD of RARA (Rural and Regional Australia) will spread Chanukah light and joy in Jewish communities around our vast continent, with an impressive 21 festival celebrations planned, from Cairns in tropical north Queensland to Jindabyne in the Australian Alps.

Co-director Rabbi Yossi Rodal said these regional events are always very poignant.

“At one of these tiny gatherings last year, in Jindabyne NSW, we all experienced a moment above time and place,” Rabbi Rodal said.

“Tina [a 91-year-old attendee] had been living as a Christian her whole life, and only a few months before had decided to explore her Jewish roots.

“As we lit the menorah and sang Ma’oz Tzur, tears streamed down her face, and she said the last time she’d heard that song was when she was 15 during World War II.

“This experience showed us clearly what Chanukah is all about – rekindling the small but powerful soul hidden within every Jew, no matter how long it may have been left dormant.”

The roaming rabbis of RARA will begin the Chanukah celebrations on December 25 in Darwin, Geelong and Cairns.

Jews in the Central Coast, the Dandenong Ranges, Narooma and Townsville will get their opportunity to partake in chanukiah lighting, singing, and eating doughnuts and latkes on December 26.

The Chanukah cheer will then head to Albury, Newcastle, Bowral and Mackay on December 27 and to Port Macquarie, Jindabyne, Coffs Harbour, Nowra and Airlie Beach on December 28.

The series will conclude on December 29 with Chanukah events in Wollongong, Toowoomba, the Blue Mountains and Port Douglas.

Rabbi Rodal said a fair bit of planning is involved in arranging so many events in far-flung locations within less than a week.

“It required a lot of logistics, manpower and, yes, a bit of craziness,” he said.

Rodal said a group of young rabbis will kick things off in Darwin and then make their way to NSW, visiting different locations every night.

Rabbi Ari Rubin and his wife Mushkie will be covering North Queensland, and Rabbi Rodal and his wife and RARA co-director Malki will begin in regional Victoria and finish in Wollongong.

Volunteers from the Beth Rivkah Ladies College school community in Melbourne will set out to the Southern Highlands, volunteers from Sydney will head to the Blue Mountains and a Melbourne couple will travel to Drouin to celebrate with its small Jewish population.

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RARA aims big with Charidy

Date: 19 August 2016

By: Phoebe Roth 

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Chabad of RARA (Regional and Rural Australia) will enlist to carry out a 24-hour campaign (from 2pm on August 22) in which they are seeking to raise $250,000 to continue and improve their services.

Chabad of RARA is hoping to raise $250,000 through a Charidy campaign.

CHABAD of RARA (Regional and Rural Australia) will enlist to carry out a 24-hour campaign (from 2pm on August 22) in which they are seeking to raise $250,000 to continue and improve their services.

Charidy launched in New York City three years ago, and came to Australian shores a few months ago with Peretz Schapiro at the helm.

Speaking to The AJN, Schapiro, who is managing director of Charidy Australia, explained that their philosophy is that people love giving to their favourite charities, but don’t give to their capacity. He said major donors can feel like “an ATM”, while small donors are “never really asked”.

“How do we harness the crowd, as well as getting the major donors inspired?” Schapiro explained of Charidy’s objective. “Our goal is to bring major donors and small donors together.

“People want to give, but they need to feel that their donation is making a difference.”

In this climate, the way Charidy works is by having each organisation running a campaign enlist three major donors, who will then match dollar for dollar the donations given from general supporters. Therefore, if one donor gives $100, his or her donation will be increased to $400, thanks to the support of the matchers.

Schapiro explained that this online giving platform has been successful for various reasons, including the 24-hour length of every campaign. “There is a sense of urgency.”

Notably, if a campaign’s goal is not reached, the donors’ money is not taken. But Schapiro noted that this has only happened three times in Charidy’s history, whereas it has carried out approximately 850 successful campaigns and raised millions of dollars for a variety of organisations.

So far, Charidy has run eight successful campaigns in Australia for Jewish organisations, including Leibler Yavneh College and WIZO. On average, these campaigns have exceeded their goals by 61 per cent.

“The Jewish community is a very giving community,” Schapiro said, adding they are seeking to expand into Australia’s wider community.

Chabad of RARA’s campaign will run from 2pm on Monday, August 22 until 2pm on Tuesday, August 23.

Director Rabbi Yossi Rodal explained that the money raised would go towards purchasing a new vehicle, which will travel around the country and double as a library.

The money would also allow Chabad of RARA’s North Queensland shlichim Rabbi Ari and Mushkie Rubin to remain in their roles serving the 1000 Jews who live across the region. Finally, Rabbi Rodal said they would like to start servicing the outer areas of Melbourne with classes, holiday events and Shabbatons.

To donate to the campaign on August 22-23, go to

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Desperately Seeking Jews in the Australian Outback

August 3,2015

By: Dovid Zaklikowski

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Traveling in a motor home armed with Jewish gear, Rabbi Yossi and Malki Rodal make their way around the Australian outback in search of Jews.

Some 7000 Jews live in outlying areas with no Jewish community infrastructure, so these “Jewish Detectives,” as they were dubbed by Australian ABC radio, are on a roll. The challenge? To meet and greet every single Jew in the outback at least twice a year with the offer of friendship and mitzvahs.

Chabad of Rural and Regional Australia, or RARA, is the only connection to things Jewish that Jews scattered in this dispersed area can enjoy. Announcing themselves with their bright maroon and yellow motor home or “Mitzvah Tank,” the RARA reps are, says Evan Humble, a motorcycle trainer in Port Macquarie, a breath of fresh air.

“Living remotely”—and remote Port Macquarie, a small town in New South Wales, is—it is “nice to have fellow Jewish persons or a rabbi come to refresh the memory of what being Jewish and living in Jewish community is about,” Humble says. The Chabad representatives make the 13-hour trip from Melbourne in their mitzvah tank to give new life to the memories. “Regrettably these memories fade when one is remote and away,” says Humble.

RARA was founded in the 1990’s by Saul Spigler, a Melbourne lawyer whose expertise is in recovering money lost and stolen during the Holocaust. Spigler, who now voluntarily oversees the organization together with his wife Beverly, was inspired by a 1977 trip he made as a Chabad rabbinical student through 6,000 miles of the Australian outback in New South Wales, South Australia and Queensland.

“The experiences on that trip inspired me to commit myself to organizing and supporting Chabad of RARA over the years,” says Spigler. RARA has indeed grown with several groups of rabbinical students traveling in the outback. The Rodals have assumed full time leadership, and maintain contact with Jews in the outback year round.

The Rodals, one of two groups on the road during the Australian winter months of July and August, are looking to make meaningful connections and to empower locals to grow in their Judaism. “We create opportunities for Jews in rural and regional Australia to reestablish their connection with their heritage as well as with established Jewish communities Australia-wide, and to provide opportunities for their involvement with the Jewish community,” says Yossi Rodal during an early morning stop in the outback. “Our vision is to overcome the tyranny of physical distance and isolation in order to build a Jewish community.”

The groups, which will respectively travel 6800 and 4300 miles, departed from Melbourne with a large database of names, addresses and contact info. This summer they will be stopping in some 210 towns and cities. Throughout there year they average eight long trips, making their way up the coast, meeting Jews—sometimes the only one in a town. Additionally, they regularly make stops in small towns, looking for Jews that are not on their lists.

Recently the Rodals stopped in the small town of Macksville, situated on the Nambucca River, to see if they could find a Jew. That’s when they happened upon the Autumn Lodge Nursing Home where they met Jed, who had been in touch with Chabad decades earlier when he lived in California. “When I moved to the outback I lost touch with the Jewish community,” Jed told the Chabad reps. The couple spent several hours with him, affixed a Mezuzah on his room, promised to stay in close contact.

“I bet this is the only mezuzah in the entire Macksville,” Jed said proudly, as the couple headed to the next small town for a scheduled meeting.

Fifteen hours from Macksville in Mackay, Queensland, a group of rabbis arrived after nine hours of travel to meet a doctor on the list. When they went to the wrong hospital, they lost time and missed the doctor. Disappointed that their trip would be wasted, the students made their way to the local mall hoping to meet “Israelis working at the Dead Sea salt kiosk.”

Making their way through the mall, the searched in vain for the kiosk. But they were flagged down from across the plaza by Paul, who told them that when he entered the parking lot, their flashy “motor home caught his attention.” A doctor, Paul, told the students that he recently became interested in his Jewish roots but did not know who to speak to. He now found the right people. The three went to Paul’s home where they gave him a crash course on Judaism, put on Tefillin and promised to keep in touch.

The Rodals plan to establish an online Hebrew School for outback Jewish children, Jewish themed weekends in centralized areas, winter and summer camps and stepping up the visitations by rabbinical students to more towns and cities where Jews come from nearby locations. The idea, explain the Rodals, is to help Jews living in the outback establish some kind of Jewish infrastructure for themselves so they should not have to depend too heavily on RARA.

George Koulakis, a former member of the Royal Australian Air Force, met RARA rabbinical students in 1996 while working in Darwin, the capital of Australia’s Northern Territory. Today with the help of RARA, he has built a small Jewish community in Townsville, (pop. 200,000) in Queensland, where Rara comes to visit at least four times a year, with last year students coming for most of the Jewish holidays. The city has 105 known Jews living there and RARA is sure that there are more.

“I fell in love with their dedicated, blind ambition, and headstrong way of just going after Jews with no setbacks slowing them down,” he tells over breakfast. He is, he says, humbled by how much they’ve managed to do for Jewish life in the city. “They are driven by forces that most of us don’t know.”

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New York rabbis spread the message of Judaism to rural South Coast towns


December 5, 2014

By: Justin Huntsdale

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The end of December is an important time for many of our religions, but if you're Jewish and living in a small coastal town, it's easy to feel disconnected while everyone else seems to be celebrating Christmas. Two enthusiastic young rabbis have come all the way from New York City to help.

New York City Rabbis Nuftali Minkowitz (left) and Shalom Brook have been travelling up the New South Wales South Coast as part of the Chabad of Rara outreach program for Jews. (ABC:Justin Huntsdale)


New York City Rabbi Shalom Brook probably doesn't know what it's like to feel isolated - he comes from one of the most densely populated areas of the USA, and is one of 15 children.

But along with his childhood friend Rabbi Nuftali Minkowitz, he's on a spiritual journey to bring Judaism to some of the rural areas of the New South Wales South Coast.

"No one has their own Jewish soul - it's split up and everyone got a piece of it, so everyone's part of a larger Jewish soul," he says.

"It's in the bones and everyone feels where another Jew is, but I have no doubt there are Jews in all these cities we're not finding yet."

Together they do their best to find them all, usually steered in the right direction by a local Jewish leader.

From there, they do what rabbis are trained to do - offer spiritual guidance and friendship, something especially important in towns where there isn't a large Jewish community.

It's all part of an outreach program run by the Chabad of Rara - a organisation committed to providing spiritual services to Jewish people living away from major Jewish centres.

"We'll speak about anything they're interested in, but our message to them is we live in a dark world and through acts of goodness and kindness, any of these small actions a person may do brings a lot of light into this dark world," Rabbi Naftali says.

"[I told Rabbi Shalom] I had a wonderful opportunity where we can take everything we've learnt over the last eight to nine years and help Jewish people who live in isolated communities and give back what we have."

They had a particularly enlightening experience at Mogo, a small town on the South Coast south of Batemans Bay.

In a bookshop, they met a Jewish man who had recently visited a synagogue in New York City.

Out of the thousands of synagogues in New York, he visited one just five blocks from where the rabbis live.

"I really like it out here and I love the small towns," Rabbi Naftali says.

"Everything in New York is commercialised and everything's a chain store.

"I love being able to support the small businesses because it's new to me, and seeing all the farm land. In Brooklyn I've barely got a patch of grass in front of my house."

They say they've had to adjust to the early closing times of some shops, noting they need to buy a coffee before 3pm to avoid missing out.


A message for Hanukkah


December is a time for religious celebration and in Judaism they celebrate Hanukkah from December 16-24.

Rabbi Shalom says his message for Hanukkah is a global one encouraging people to do good deeds.

"It's not a short message for a couple of Jews in their little places, we make public Hanukkah parties because the message of Hanukkah is to take the light outwards and bring it to this world.

"One small act of goodness and kindness and one little light can expel a lot of darkness - one act from one person wherever it may be."

The rabbis will host a special Jewish dinner on Friday December 5 at 7:15pm at the Senior Citizens Hall in Gipps Street Wollongong. To RSVP, call 0425 730 412.

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Australian Outback: World’s Smallest Mitzvah Tank


By: Natalie Kotsios / The Border Mail

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Despite it's uncanny similarity to a New York Taxi, the "Chabad of Rural & Regional Australia Mitzvah Mobile" is a full-fledged Mitzvah Tank, reduced to car-size to reduce carbon emissions ● Bochurim Yossi Kagan and Srolik Winner have been driving the Mitzvah Mobile across rural Australia finding Jews and igniting the Jewish spark

It’s never too late to explore your heritage, Rabbi Yosef Kagan says.

Take for example the Albury-Wodonga man in his 70s he and fellow Rabbi Srolik Winner met at the weekend — a man who found out just four years ago he is Jewish.

“He thought it was too late for him, that no one needs him,” Rabbi Kagan said.

“But on the contrary, every Jew is important, just as every person in the world is important.”

The pair have travelled from the US — Rabbi Kagan from Miami and Rabbi Winner from New York — as part of an annual Chabad of rural and regional tour, where volunteers like them set out to visit all Jewish people living in regional towns and hamlets.

The rabbis have spent four days in the region in their “Mitzvah mobile” to inspire and educate their community.

Rabbi Kagan said that in small towns with few Jewish people, there was often little chance for people to learn about their religion and culture.

From the man in his 70s, just discovering who he was, to another who thought he had missed out on having his bah mitzvah, the pair pass on that knowledge.

“In the big cities, there’s a lot of Jewish life but in the smaller cities or towns, there’s not that much,” Rabbi Kagan said.

“Every Jew (in a small town) thinks they’re the only Jew in town so, if we can inspire a little Jewish energy and pride, maybe it can unite the community.”

The Border’s Jewish community is tiny — 30 to 40 people — among them Avi Arditi.

Mr Arditi, who met the rabbis, said the region’s Jews did not socialise much, something he hoped to change.

He welcomed the rabbis as a way of not only uniting Jews but also as a way of exposing the broader community to their culture.

“It’s the beautiful thing about Australia — we diversify and embrace whatever that brings,” he said.





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Chabad's 'Mitzvah Tank' Brings Hanukkah to Australian Outback Jews

December 2 2013

By:Dan Goldberg

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There may be more deadly crocodiles than Jews in the Outback, but that's not stopping Chabad emissaries from reaching out to far-flung Jews.

Hanukkah Down Under is arguably the most public of Jewish festivals, an eight-day blitz of festivities across the continent.

Cherry pickers hoist rabbis high above the crowds to light giant Hanukkah menorahs in public spaces; inside the Westfield chain of shopping malls – founded by Holocaust survivor Frank Lowy – menorahs jostle alongside Christmas decorations; on the beaches and in the bays, in parks and even in parliament, Hanukkah is a hive of activity.

But in the Outback, the Festival of Lights would be consigned to virtual darkness were it not for a bright red-and-yellow Winnebago emblazoned with the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s face on the back.

This kosher synagogue on wheels – dubbed the “Mitzvah Tank” – is armed with Hanukkah menorahs, doughnuts and dreidels this week, as Rabbi Eli Loebenstein and his wife, Goldie, head into far northern Queensland, home to many more deadly saltwater crocodiles than far-flung Australian Jews.

Married in the Crown Heights neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, just a month ago, the young couple in their 20s are the latest emissaries to hit the road on behalf of Chabad of Rural and Regional Australia (RARA), a unique wing of the outreach organization that sends students into the Outback to visit the 7,000-10,000 isolated Jews believed to be living beyond the main centers.

Having spent the third and fourth nights of Hanukkah in Townsville, a small coastal city renowned as the birthplace of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, they headed further north to Cairns, the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, for the fifth night.

Now, they’re on the long road back to Melbourne, a 3,000-kilometer trek during which they’ll hopefully unearth lost-lost members of the tribe.

“We’re carrying mezuzahs, tefillin, Jewish books, kippas, kosher food, shofars, charity boxes – all the different things you need,” said Goldie Loebenstein. “We're going to visit different homes to light menorahs in people’s houses.”

Her husband, Eli, who was born in Melbourne, further explained their mission, saying that when the Lubavitcher Rebbe was alive, he "sent out different rabbis to go all over the world to find every single Jew to make sure they have what they need for every holiday. That’s what we’re doing.”

The brainchild of Melbournian Saul Spigler, who travelled Australia in a campervan in 1977 in search of isolated Jews, RARA was founded in 1999 and has more than 3,000 rural Australian Jews listed in a database.

“One of the cardinal tenets of Judaism is that are all Jews are one regardless of geographic distance,” Spigler wrote on the RARA website. “We’ll go anywhere to visit anybody.”

A lawyer and forensic geologist who has reclaimed estates taken from Jews by the Nazis, Spigler’s students have travelled hundreds of thousands of kilometers, accruing some remarkably improbable stories: the priest on the island of Tasmania who asked to put on tefillin; the pig farmers in northern New South Wales who turned out to be Jews; the elderly man in Darwin who had no connection to Judaism but lit candles every Friday night; the man who was smuggled out of Auschwitz as a baby and never had a bar mitzvah until the RARA rabbis discovered him in the phone book; and, most recently, the 44-year-old son of a Jewish mother and Aboriginal father who donned tefillin in front of Uluru, the spiritual heart of Australia, to celebrate his bar mitzvah.

The impact that Chabad has had on Outback Jews is immeasurable, according to George Koulakis, the unofficial coordinator of the Jews of Townsville.

Koulakis, 44, a former pilot in the Royal Australian Air Force, was born in Darwin, in the Northern Territory, and has spent most of his life in remote places that have no formal Jewish community.

“There wouldn’t be a community here in Townsville without Chabad of RARA. There would not be a coming together of Jews,” said Koulakis, who hosts a local Jewish blog that helped promote last Saturday night’s Hanukkah party.

“Of the 105 Jews in Townsville only about 55 participate in events,” Koulakis said, adding that a local property owned by an affluent philanthropist doubles as a Chabad house. (The nearest rabbi, kosher shop and synagogue are in Brisbane, some 1,300 kilometers south.)

“We now have a sense of community,” he told Haaretz. “We are one of RARA’s success stories.”

Koulakis also maintains the Mitzvah Tank so that the Chabadniks can drive into the Outback, where they trawl through phone books, sift through cemeteries, quiz police and cold-call people who may be Jewish.

“They’re like Jewish detectives,” Koulakis said. “They’ve got a very good formula for finding Jews,” he adds, even if not every Jew necessarily wants to be identified.

“For every 10 calls they make sometimes only one Jew agrees to see them,” he said.

That's not stopping Eli Loebenstein and his wife, as they make their way south this week from tropical Queensland to Melbourne, where they hope to rekindle the spark of Yiddishkeit among some of Australia’s Outback Jews.

“Wherever you find Coca-Cola," Loebenstein said, "you’ll find Chabad."

The 'Mitzvah Tank,' a synagogue on wheels, belonging to Chabad of Rural and Regional

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Jewish group Chabad of RARA takes outreach to isolated communities

28 November 2013

By: Bush Telegraph

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Chabad of RARA is part of a global network of Jewish outreach ministries.(Chabad of RARA)

Jewish group Chabad of RARA travels to Australia's most isolated areas to find and support its people in rural and remote locations. As Sonja Heydeman writes, the group has unearthed some surprising stories.

As Jewish communities in major cites celebrate the start of the Chanukah festival this week, one group is heading into country Australia to support Jewish people living in isolated areas without a synagogue or connection to their culture.

The founder of Chabad of Rural and Remote Australia, Saul Spigler, says while the census lists only 3,600 Jews as living in remote areas, the work of his group indicates there could be between 7000 and 10,000 in regional areas.

“There might be a lot of people who've come from overseas and moved to these rural and regional areas and they might not necessarily want to put it out in the open that they're have a lot of people trying to hide it”

He says he and his workers are a little like 'Jewish detectives', who will go 'anywhere to visit anybody'.

Trawling the phone books, knocking on the doors of local shops and visiting cemeteries, town halls, police and Jewish doctors, they've found 250 new contacts in the past four months.

In the process, they've stumbled across some remarkable stories—a man who, as a baby, was smuggled out of Auschwitz, was discovered by Chabad in the telephone book, and eventually made his Bar Mitzvah as a 40-year-old with tears streaming from his eyes.

He turned out to be a direct descendant of the famous founder of Kabbalah, Rabbi Isaac Luria.

There was also a Jewish didgeridoo player they discovered living in a an Aboriginal community at Uluru, where he too, eventually made his Bar Mitzvah. The man's mother was a Jewess of Moroccan French descent and his father was an indigenous Australian.

Saul Spigler's son, Rabbi Yossi Spigler, recalls many enjoyable experiences along the way.

‘We had a funny story in Proserpine where the lady in the local Post Office told our group, "I don't know of any Jews alive but there was a woman who passed away recently here, she was Jewish, and the priest was there and he read out the Jewish prayer", and it turned out the priest was actually Jewish!’

He also visited a family in Toowoomba where their young daughter took him by the hand to a room where she measured his height and put his name next to it, on an RARA 'honour wall'.

However, in isolated areas, not everyone is happy to stand out as Jewish.

‘There might be a lot of people who've come from overseas and moved to these rural and regional areas and they might not necessarily want to put it out in the open that they're Jewish... you have a lot of people trying to hide it,’ Rabbi Spigler said.

‘But when you knock on the door and meet them, they just want to talk to you and learn more about their heritage.’

With very few synagogues outside city centres, only in Ballarat, Victoria and Wollongong, NSW, Chabad of RARA has sparked 13 small communities in regional centres such as Townsville, Cairns, Coffs Harbor, Geelong, Alice Springs, Darwin, Newcastle, Wollongong and Bowral.

George Koulakis is a Townsville supporter of the organisation, who describes his house as 'base camp' and maintains the motor home the group uses to travel.

As a member of the armed forces, Mr Koulakis used to bump into Jewish people on most of his postings, and had an interesting interaction after stopping to get a drink on one long trip through country New South Wales.

‘I pulled into a one horse town and wanted an iced drink,' he said.

‘When I came back an old Aboriginal woman was staring at our big yellow motor home and its Hebrew writing, and I said "It's Hebrew, we're Jewish".'

‘She said "You know what? The Jews and the Aboriginal people have a lot in common, we're both from a very old culture and we're both still fighting for our land".'

‘That was such a small but significant exchange.'

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Abor-mitzvah at Uluru

Date: 18 November 2013

By: Alexandra Roach

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A JEWISH-ABORIGINAL didgeridoo player was able to celebrate his bar mitzvah at Uluru recently thanks to the travelling rabbis of Chabad of Rural and Regional Australia (RARA).

A JEWISH-ABORIGINAL didgeridoo player was able to celebrate his bar mitzvah at Uluru recently thanks to the travelling rabbis of Chabad of Rural and Regional Australia (RARA).

Rabbis Yehezkel Tuvel and Eli Adelist made contact with 44-year-old Dwayne Phillis, the son of a Jewish mother and an Aboriginal father, last month during a tour of the Northern Territory.

Recent rabbinic graduates Tuvel and Adelist were travelling around the NT in one of RARA’s kosher-certified Winnebagos, which acts as a synagogue on wheels, searching for and supporting Jews living outside urban centres.

“We met Dwayne when we visited Uluru,” Tuvel told The AJN.

“He plays the didgeridoo in town every night for the tourists and only found out about his Jewish heritage from his mother later in life.”

Tuvel and Adelist had been on the look-out for Phillis after a rabbi had contacted RARA, requesting they contact him. “The rabbi heard about Dwayne from a Jewish woman who had heard Dwayne play,” Tuvel said.

“She and Dwayne were chatting after the show and he mentioned he had discovered he had Jewish blood.”

Curious about his Jewish roots and Jewish customs, Phillis was enthusiastic to speak with Tuvel and Adelist.

“My mother spoke about her Jewishness very rarely but I knew that you were considered Jewish if your mother was,” Phillis told them.

“I don’t know why, but the family’s Jewishness was always kept very secret.

“Because mum barely spoke about it, I don’t know much about my family history.

“I know the family came from France and they then fled to Australia, although I don’t know under what circumstances.”

Wishing to embrace both his Aboriginal and Jewish roots, Phillis celebrated his long-delayed bar mitzvah at Uluru with the help of the rabbis.

“Dwayne is a very spiritual man and really enjoyed discussing and learning about Jewish life, observance and culture, including the significance of tefillin and the importance of having a bar mitzvah,” Tuvel said. “It was a very emotional and spiritually uplifting experience for all of us.”

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Chabad of Rural Australia Marks Another Successful Winter

August 7,2013 

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Chabad of RARA (Rural and Regional Australia) recently celebrated its Bar Mitzvah year. Since its inauguration in June 2000 (Tammuz 5760), one million kilometers have been traveled by over 70 groups of different Bochurim. RARA has contacts in over 250 different cities and towns and has helped to create and assist in 12 regional Jewish communities throughout Australia.

This Australian winter and spring, RARA has six groups of Bochurim travelling the length and breadth of Australia.

Mendy Simpson of New York and Nochum Labkowski of Israel had the mission of visiting 50 towns throughout Northern Victoria, New South Wales and Southern Queensland. The pair had the zechus of finding 30 new Jewish contacts and over 85 visits in total. Several Karkaftas were found and visits were had that included putting up mezuzahs, laying teffilin and giving out plenty of Shabbos candles to women and girls. Mendy and Nochum also hosted Shabbatons in Coffs Harbour and Toowoomba, with over 25 participants at each event.

Dovi Zaetz and Peretz Chein of New York, traveled through Western Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. The pair visited over 45 different towns and found over 25 new Jewish contacts. As with Mendy and Nochum, they performed many Bar Mitzvahs and had many inspiring visits.

Chabad of RARA recently welcomed Zalmy Groner of North Carolina and Yossi Schapiro of Sydney, who have commenced their journey as this year’s third group. They will be travelling through Eastern Victoria and Southern New South Wales. They will hold shabbatons in Wollongong and the Blue Mountains and will be conducting services in Newcastle, NSW over Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur. This will be the 12th year that Chabad of RARA has conducted Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur services in the region.

Next week, Chabad of RARA will be welcoming Mendy Gurevitch of Laguna Beach, California and A.Y. Posner of Boston, Massachusetts, who will be travelling to Northern Queensland, a trek of four days. They will be organizing a number of Shabbatons in Townsville and Cairns and conducting Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur services in Cairns, where they are expecting over 100 people to attend. This will also be the 12th year that Chabad of RARA has conducted Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur services in the region.

Six weeks ago, Chabad of RARA set up its Facebook page and to everyone’s surprise, hundreds of people have viewed its contents, and, more importantly, it has helped RARA to find over 10 new contacts.

Chabad of RARA wishes to thank those individuals that over the last 13 years, have given their time to help visit the Yidden of Rural and Regional Australia.

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Jewish families among the deluged

7 January 2011 

By: Gareth Narunsky

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JEWISH Queenslanders are among the thousands of people affected by the recent disastrous floods in the Sunshine State.

The flooding has severely impacted central Queensland and the state’s southern inland regions, with thousands of properties being affected in Emerald, Bundaberg, Rockhampton and other towns.

Rabbi Moshe Loebenstein of Chabad of Rural and Regional Australia (RARA) said Jewish families caught in the floods had been affected in different ways.

There are around 80 Jewish families known to Chabad of RARA in the affected area.

“There are some that are just waiting for the water to go down so they can see their property again,” he said. “[But] there are others that have moved in with family and friends further south and they don’t even know, they have no idea what’s going to be once the water resides.”

He was glad to report that that there were no Jewish casualties.

“Thank God everyone that we know, that we’ve made contact with, is alive and safe,” he said.

Rabbi Loebenstein has been busy networking with families known to Chabad of RARA that live nearby who aren’t affected, asking for their support.

“Many of them have volunteered to take people in, to provide dry clothing and food for the next couple of weeks,” he said.

He has also been providing religious items to families that may have lost them.

“I’ve got mezuzot and so on lined up here ready to post out if need be,” he said. “Once we know they’re safe and well my concern is to make sure that their religious needs are taken care of, especially at a time like this.”

Queensland Jewish Board of Deputies President Jason Steinberg thanked Chabad of RARA for their efforts, adding “All the assistance that Australian Jewry can give to those affected by the floods, both Jewish and non-Jewish, will be accepted with appreciation.”

Nine people have died in the floods, while damage to property and infrastructure have added to the economic cost, which is already running into the billions of dollars after crop losses and mining disruptions.

JEWISH Queenslanders are among the thousands of people affected by the recent disastrous floods in the Sunshine State.

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Looking for Outback Jews in Australia 

September 19, 2007 

By: Dan Goldberg

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SYDNEY (JTA) – The idea of hunting for Jews in the Australian Outback may sound as ridiculous as combing the streets of Jerusalem for Aborigines.

But when two Chabad emissaries set out this summer to find landsmen in the desolate Outback, they were not disappointed.

In fact, had history turned out a little different, there would have been a Jewish colony in the Australian wilderness, but in 1944 then-Australian Prime Minister John Curtin quashed a plan called the Kimberley Project to resettle 75,000 Jews from Nazi Europe in the Outback.

More recent, Australia’s colorful Orthodox rabbi, Joseph Gutnick, became known in the 1990s as “Diamond Joe” after his mining companies in the Western Australian desert struck rich veins, which Gutnick claims the Lubavitcher rebbe prophesied with a blessing on a map.

The rebbe hassed since passed, and the diamonds have dried up, but Jews are still searching the Outback. Only now it is Chabad emissaries seeking Jews, not jewels, in the Australian wilderness.

“The Lubavitcher rebbe instilled in us a love for every single Jew,” said Chaim Telsner, one of two visiting yeshiva students from New York who traveled through the Outback over the summer in a bright red-and-yellow Winnebago emblazoned with the Lubavitcher rebbe’s face looking for a few good Jews.

He and Mendel Grossbaum, a Minnesota native, were brought to Australia by the Chabad of Rural and Regional Australia to cross the continent in a “mitzvah tank” in search of Outback Jews.

“Most of the places we visit only have one Jew,” Telsner said. “We’ll drive four to six hours for one Jew.”

Saul Spigler, who founded the Chabad of Rural Australia in 1977, estimates there are 7,000 to 10,000 Jews living outside Australia’s major metropolitan-area cities. For years he has been overseeing a project to find, register and impact rural Australian Jews.

Operating on a shoestring budget and with only one full-time employee, Spigler says his project to reach the Jews of Australia’s remote areas yields high returns.

“Every Jew has a spark of Judaism, and you’ll be surprised how that spark becomes a burning bush sometimes,” said Spigler, who has 3,000 rural Australian Jews on his Chabad database. “There’s no other Chabad operation like this in the world that I know of.”

Spigler, a lawyer, reels off stories from his years on the road: the man living in tropical north Queensland who thought the mezuzah they installed on his door was a menorah; the priest on the island of Tasmania who asked to put on tefillin; the pig farmers in northern New South Wales who turned out to be Jews; the 90-year-old man in Western Australia who had never had a bar mitzvah until the mitzvah tank arrived at his door.

Most rural Australian Jews are amazed that the Chabadniks have traveled so far just to be with them, Spigler says.

“The chance to have some lasting impact is really there. It’s one of the reasons that inspired me” to create the Chabad of rural Australia, he said.

Ruthi Urbach is the only Jew living in Scone, a town in rural New South Wales best known as the last resting place of Australia’s richest man, media tycoon Kerry Packer.

“To have these boys turn up out of the blue just to say hello and bring some Jewish contact into our lives was just lovely,” she told JTA. “It’s a good feeling to know that someone out there has come so far just to see we are here.”

Michael Rosenfeld, who was one of the people Spigler visited back on his first trip to look for Jews in rural Australia in 1977, said the visit had a profound effect on him.

“Growing up I didn’t really have a lot of contact” with other Jews, Rosenfeld said. “I think they were a very important link for me at a critical time in my childhood.”

Rabbi Dov Oliver became Chabad of Rural and Regional Australia’s first full-time employee in 2004. He grew up in Melbourne; his father was a rabbi who traveled as far as Singapore to spread Yiddishkeit.

“The rural aspect is driving around the Outback looking for Jews,” Oliver said. “The regional aspect is different. My wife and I will fly somewhere where there are between 30 to 100 Jews and set up shop for a couple of weeks for a Pesach seder, Chanukah program or Rosh Hashanah.”

Oliver manages the mitzvah tank Winnebago, ensuring it is staffed by yeshiva students and stocked with kosher food, Jewish books, mezuzahs, tefillin and other Jewish paraphernalia.

“A fellow named Joseph in Darwin made a huge impression on me,” Oliver recalls. “He is elderly, has had a stroke, is quite poor and his wife left him. He knows little about Yiddishkeit but sits every Friday night and lights candles.”

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