Big plans for Auckland from new Sheliachs

January 14, 2011 by Ruth Thomas
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Auckland’s new sh’lichim arrived just a few weeks ago from Israel, but talk to them one month into their three-year appointment and the conversation is full of their plans. Just back from the Habonim Dror summer camp, Osnat and Udi Dvorkin are looking forward to their time in New Zealand.

Ud and Osnat Dvorkin

Twenty-eight-year-old Osnat Dvorkin is enthusiastic about the seminars she plans to run around events such as Yom Hashoah when she hopes to bring her grandmother as a special guest.  The 80-year-old was born in Poland and has written a book about surviving the Holocaust. Published first in Hebrew, it is soon to be published in English.

“I would like to get high schools and others involved in this Yom Hashoah project,” Osnat said.

Udi, who is also 28, hopes to start a new group for kids aged 15-17 at the progressive synagogue, after a session at the family camp provided the inspiration.

Then, of course, there are their “day jobs”. Osnat works with the Zionist Federation and Habonim Dror as the community sh’licha while Udi will teach at the integrated Kadimah School and is the Beth Shalom Hebrew School educator.

Jerusalem-born Osnat has been involved in Jewish education since the day she was first asked by her synagogue to lead activities for young kids. She grew up in the Noam youth movement and later worked as their national director of education. For the past three years she has worked for the Jewish agency as a communities’ coordinator for Europe, South Africa, Australia and North America.

Udi has a background in the Reform movement, working for the Netzer youth group. He previously served on the board of the Jerusalem Progressive congregation, Kol HaNeshana, founded on the core value of equality for all human beings.

Kol HaNeshana started in 1984 when more than 100 worshippers attended the first Kol Nidre service at the Labor Party club.

It was no easy matter to be a reform congregation in Jerusalem.  First the local Rabbinate pressured the Labor Party to eject them. Then on Simchat Torah in their new site at Baka, the Sephardic Rabbi and three students broke in and seeing women dancing with the Torah, they began to curse and tried to ‘save’ the Torah. It was only the intervention of the Jerusalem mayor, Teddy Kollek, which allowed them to build a permanent home.

“Today Kol HaNeshana has a membership of 400 families and is well-known and accepted,” Udi  said.

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