07/12/19 01:08:16

This coming Shabbos is called Shabbos HaGadol. Wikipedia offers 7 different possible reasons for the special name, “HaGadol” (I am sure that there are many more); my favourite is the one attributed to the Tur: “The lamb was the Egyptian deity. Many Jews, after 210 years of immersion within Egyptian civilization, had also adopted this animal as their god. When God commanded that a lamb be set aside and tied to the bed for four days in...

Changes at South Head

24/10/19 01:52:04

There have been several important changes in our synagogue.

First, following Rabbi Dovid Sebban’s move to Israel in January, we have asked Rabbi Yehoshua Niasoff to take on the extra responsibilities of being the second rabbi on top of his work as our Chazzan. Rabbi Niasoff is now in charge of the daily minyan (reading the Torah, giving short dvar Torahs and ensuring sufficient attendance), visiting sick members, other pastoral...

The Boer War

16/08/19 07:27:58

Last Saturday was Shabbos Zachor where we are commanded to remember our eternal enemy, Amalek, and their attack on the Jewish people in the desert on the way out of Egypt. The next day was Purim, where the Jews in the Babylonian Exile period were saved from the evil plans for their destruction by a descendant of Amalek, Haman. God was hidden in Purim; the Jews prayed collectively and Mordechai and Esther showed great courage in changing the...

Happy Purim

10/07/19 02:32:12

I wish a happy Purim to everyone. Purim is a time of great joy and celebration. What are some of the special characteristics of Purim? First, God is hidden – in the Megillah, there is no mention of God – in fact, the name “Esther” is related to the Hebrew word “hastair” meaning hidden or concealed. Of course, we believe that the threat to the Jews and their salvation all are part of God’s plan, but in the Purim events the Jews...

More on Fathering

03/06/19 02:26:08

Last week I wrote about Dr Bruce Robinson, Professor of Respiratory Medicine at the University of Western Australia. He leads a prestigious national asbestos research centre there and helped discover breakthroughs in cancer immunology and asbestos disease and new blood tests and treatments for cancer. He also co-founded The Fathering Project and has written many books and frequently speaks about making fathers realise the importance of their...

The Fathering Project

24/04/19 03:04:59

Each year I get invited to the Smith Lecture by my friend Bill Hurditch. Bill is one of the members of the committee to honour the memory of Anglican theologian Bruce Smith, who taught at the University of Sydney and died young. The 2016 Smith Lecture was one of the best: it was delivered by Dr Bruce Robinson, an endocrinologist from Perth (he is a professor at the University of Western Australia and a specialist in lung cancer) who was the...


31/01/19 09:11:16

When I was a student at Oxford University in the mid-1970s, one of the most influential young philosophers was Saul Kripke. He had given a series of lectures at Princeton in 1970, later published as Naming and Necessity, which challenged the way the philosophy of language was done. He said that reference is not achieved through associating a name with a description; rather, names are what he called “rigid designators”: they apply in all...

Happy Chanukah

22/12/18 10:04:29

On Saturday night we light the first candle for Chanukah. The menorah should be placed on a window sill or door entrance so that it is visible to those outside. The Chanukiah (the special menorah with 8 branches plus a shamas) is meant to light up the world.

When I was growing up in New York, there were no public displays of Chanukah and menorahs; of course, there were and are many public displays of Christmas, most notably the giant...


16/11/18 06:22:01

I want to share an uplifting story with you. This past September I was in New York for the wedding of my nephew, Richard Hochroth, and Rachel Maier. I had met Rachel’s parents, Peter and Rene Maier (who live in Los Angeles), about a year earlier, when they visited Sydney after attending a simcha in Melbourne. I think the simcha was the bat mitzvah of the granddaughter of one of the “Nesharim.”

Rabbi Dovid Sebban

02/09/18 04:30:24

Rabbi Dovid Sebban was born in Lyon France in 1967. His parents, Esther and George, are Sephardic Jews from Algeria (Esther was born there, George was born in France but his parents came from Algeria). Together with his older brother (now an eye surgeon in Sydney) and older sister (now an optometrist in Brisbane), the family moved to Israel in 1970, living mainly in Beer-Sheva. Life was tough and in 1974 the family moved to Brisbane. George...

Thanks giving

08/06/18 03:29:06

This year the American Thanksgiving holiday will take place on Thursday, November 24th. I want to tell you a little bit about Thanksgiving and about Jewish views of the holiday. Thanksgiving is the biggest holiday in America, even more popular and observed than Christmas, where most families gather together and share a meal, almost always with turkey as the main course. The holiday falls on the fourth Thursday of November and many people take...

Baseball and Grieving - President's Message

04/04/18 01:36:21

Six weeks ago I wrote about my friend Ike, a prominent New York psychiatrist, a son of Holocaust survivors who grew up in the Washington Heights neighbourhood of Manhattan.  Dr Isaac Herschkopf is a good and interesting writer and below I share two of his recent articles.

Shabbat Project - President's Message

28/03/18 01:40:14

Warren Goldstein was appointed as chief rabbi of South Africa in 2003 when he was just 32 years old. He was born in Pretoria, the son of a High Court judge; he is fourth-generation South African. Rabbi Goldstein trained as both a lawyer and rabbi (and is a qualified dayan) and is a scholar of both Judaism and the law.

Chassanim - Past and Present - President's Message

21/02/18 01:48:51

Simchas Torah is this coming Monday night and Tuesday. Two months ago I wrote about our Chossons, Danny Biggs and Rodney Naumburger, both of whom grew up in our synagogue and whose families are pillars of our community. Danny is an orthopaedic surgeon and Rodney is an accountant and businessman. Fifty years ago in 1966 their fathers, Martin Biggs and Max Naumburger, were our Chossons. As Rabbi has often said, sometimes we stand on the...

Touro Synagogue - President's Message

13/12/17 13:28:15

In my recent trip to the United States, Yvonne and I made a side visit to Newport, Rhode Island, famous for being the long-time home of the America’s Cup (sailing) and its collection of impressive mansions (such as The Breakers and Marble House, both built by members of the Vanderbilt families). It is also the home of America’s oldest continuing synagogue building which has an interesting history and a role in marking religious...

Rembrandt and Moses - President's Message

07/10/17 01:28:23

In early September I went for Shabbos morning service in New York to Shearith Israel, the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue. The senior rabbi, Meir Soloveichik, in lieu of a sermon delivered a lecture at the end of the service on the famous Rembrandt painting of...

Happy New Year - President's Message

30/09/17 00:18:05

In the two weeks since I returned from overseas, we have enjoyed wonderful Shabboses at South Head. First, new MP Julian Leeser spoke movingly about being the first Jewish Liberal member of Federal Parliament from New South Wales and about the death of his father 20 years ago; as Rabbi said, Julian is a proud Jew and a credit to our community. Then we had the Niasoff extravaganza: Levi’s bar mitzvah (where he read the Torah and...

Ostriches & Zulus - President's Message

22/07/17 23:02:40

My daughter-in-law, Matti Gild, was born in Cape Town, left when she was two years old and grew up in St Ives. Matti and my son Adam, together with their daughter Claudia and the machatunim, Lesley and Bernard Gild, went for a holiday to Cape Town in early 2013 and raved about how great it was. So my wife Yvonne and I went ourselves this past January and also had a wonderful time. One of the highlights was a Friday night that we spent with...

New Life Wardens - President's Message

15/05/17 16:07:28

On Shabbos morning, September 24th, we have the pleasure of inducting two new life wardens at South Head, Ian Charif and Malcolm Kofsky. Ian and Malcolm have each been enormous contributors to our kehilla and it is appropriate to honour them for their service.

Ian Charif came to Australia from South Africa in January 2002 with his wife, Bernice, and his two older children; his youngest child, Shira, was born a few months later....

Meet The Niasoffs - President's Message

09/04/17 09:11:36

Shabbos morning at South Head on September 17th will be a very happy occasion for Chazzan Yehoshua Niasoff: his younger son, Levi, will have his bar mitzvah; his youngest brother, Baruch, will have his aufruf; and his mother, Sofia, will celebrate her 75th birthday. We wish mazal tov and nachas to Yehoshua and the entire Niasoff family.

First, a big mazal tov to Yehoshua and his wife Nissa on Levi’s bar mitzvah. Levi has been a...

Julian Leeser - President's Message

01/01/17 22:14:57

South Head will have the great pleasure of welcoming Julian Leeser as guest speaker at our Friday night Shabbos service on September 16th. Julian was recently elected as the Member of Parliament for the Federal seal of Berowra. He is the first Jewish member in the...

Chasonim For Simchas Torah - President's Message

25/12/16 18:37:46

Last Friday night we had a very nice dinner in shul for a group of bat mitzvah girls and their families, where each of the girls spoke briefly. Our thanks to Rebbetzin for organising the dinner, cooking all the food (which was very tasty) and doing all this at a time of great personal stress; we wish long life to the entire group of families volunteering. On Saturday we had our special New Zealand Shabbos – it was wonderful! Thanks...

Thank You All!

18/11/16 23:45:13

My mother, sister and I, together with all our family, have been absolutely overwhelmed by the huge level of support that we have received from you, our community, over this past week and a half. Your calls, texts and emails have helped soften the pain of our father's unexpected passing. (Although our father was 92, he was regaining muscle strength after a serious fall and the week before his passing began walking again. Until the end he was...

Tisha B'Av Presentation - President's Message

18/09/16 22:08:06

Last Saturday night I watched the Tisha b’Av presentation at our synagogue of the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation, the same program that was shown this year (2016 or 5776 in the Jewish calendar) all over the world.  It was a powerful collection of talks by leading rabbis on the theme of “opening the door,” how to defeat loshon hora and sinus chinum (baseless or unexplained hatred).  I want to share some of the thoughts of a...

Bashert - Or How I Met My Wife - President's Message

05/08/16 00:16:04

One of the harder theological doctrines is that of free will:  we believe that God is all-knowing and that nothing happens by chance yet at the same time we believe that we have free will, indeed, that we are responsible for all our actions.  There is a similar conundrum with the concept of “bashert,” the Yiddish word that means “destiny.”  It is most frequently used in the context of a person’s divinely foreordained...

Celebrations - President's Message

29/07/16 04:34:17

Last Friday night South Head Synagogue was a happening place. There were about 250 people in shul, many of them especially for the bat mitzvah of Tayla Hechter, including some overseas visitors (I met her uncle from Los Angeles). Tayla spoke movingly about many of her grandmothers and great-grandmothers and their lessons for her – mazal tov to Tayla and her family.

At the end of the Maariv service we held our inaugural Friday night...

Why Synagogues Are Important - President's Message

22/07/16 00:41:48

Last week I discussed how my father’s death led me to daven at the daily minyan, an enveloping experience. Coincidentally, in his weekly Torah commentary on Parshas Chukat, former Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks also starts with the death of his father: he relates that his personal experience of the trauma of loss gave him insight in understanding the incident of Moses striking the rock instead of speaking to it to get water. He sees the parsha...

Daily Minyan - President's Message

15/07/16 02:52:22

I remember well the day my father died. It was January 29, 1969. He worked the afternoon shift (4.00pm to midnight) at a big sorting station of the US Post Office and would often sleep late into the mornings. I was 16 years old; it was my last year of high school. I did not go to school that day because I was going to an interview at Columbia College, where I had applied for university admission (and subsequently studied). My mother, who was...

Making The Shule More Responsive - President's Message

07/07/16 11:49:41

I have written to you over the past few weeks about our overall position, becoming more like a family, and staff changes. This week I focus on how we are moving to make the shul more responsive to the kehillah.

New Initiatives
Last weekend we held the first of our planned Friday night dinners at the shul in the Herbert Hall. Full credit to Rebbetzin who did all the organising, planning and cooking – plus her team...

  Alos Hashachar Shabbos Mevarchim & Parshas Shekalim
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666 Old South Head Rd
Rose Bay, NSW 2029
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