New rabbi for the ARK Centre

February 27, 2019 by David Marlow
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Rabbi Shneur Reti-Waks has announced his retirement as the Rabbi of the ARK Centre in Melbourne’s East Hawthorn.

Rabbi Schneur

He will be passing the baton to Rabbi Gabi Kaltmann, who is the current Rabbi for Programs and Engagement at the Centre.

Rabbi Shneur joined ARK Centre in 2010 and has called time to pursue other life choices.  He will remain in his position until May and will then take up the role as Music Director of the Centre on a part time basis.

Rabbi Shneur stated that this, “will see me doing what I love most – connecting spiritually through Jewish song.”

In his statement to the AGM of the Centre, Rabbi Shneur stated, “After immense self-reflection and considerable discussion, I have decided to retire as the rabbi of Ark Centre. The reasons are varied and I’d like to share some of my thoughts and feelings at this time.”

“Human beings, like the rest of the biological world, find change quite challenging. And this is generally a good thing. If, with every gust of wind, we were to change our course we would go nowhere. But at the same time the engine of evolution, biological as well as cultural, is in fact mutation.”

“My personal narrative is that I have undergone two such transformations thus far in my life. The first was at the age of 24. I had been recently ordained as a rabbi and, following a series of events that served to expand my experiences, I discovered the only thing I knew was that I didn’t really know much at all. After studying Judaism intensely, and exclusively, from morning until night for well over a decade I came to a conclusion that I needed to expand my learning.”

“I became a mutant in an exciting new world where I discovered philosophy, history, literature, anthropology, and archaeology, which literally changed my life. Over a relatively short space of time, I learned for the first time what it meant to be spiritually connected through nature when spending a week alone camping in the Otways, David Attenborough opened the world of biology to me, Jacob Bronowski enlightened me as to the project of science and knowledge and Bob Marley and the Blues Brothers introduced me to the world of music beyond Jewish religious songs.”

“I quickly discovered that I am not alone in my philosophical musings and the ensuing ride has been tremendous. A decade ago when I started at Ark Centre a dozen or so people would converge weekly in a little room they rented at the local Jewish school.”

“Almost immediately, we moved into a cosy house in Lovell St, that became my home, and the infant community began to blossom. People who had never in their lives gone to Shule on a Friday night were now coming weekly and bringing their children of all ages. There was a real buzz. And at every opportunity, there was music and food.”

“It was also in Lovell Street that the love of my life Lisa came to a Friday night dinner on New Year’s Eve 2011. And now, with our two boys in tow, it’s clear to see the years at Lovell were indeed very productive.“

“Eventually, we ran into the problem which was our blessing. We outgrew the space. We became semi-nomadic setting ourselves up in a private house in East Hawthorn while a more permanent home was sought. Before long, in 2014, we moved into an old warehouse in Cato St. that was fitted out to be the premises we now all know as the Ark Centre home.”

Lisa Naphtali, General Manager of the ARK Centre stated, “The ARK Centre Board and Management are in full support of this transition. The reason ARK Centre exists is to provide an authentic Orthodox experience in a way that is meaningful and relevant to people in the 21st Century. Rabbi Shneur has achieved a huge amount in that vein, we thank him for all his efforts and achievements over the past 10 years. The fact is, he is ready for the next chapter in his life and we are ready for the next chapter in ours.”

“What Rabbi Gabi and Rebbetzin Mushka have achieved in 20 months at ARK Centre gives us the knowledge and confidence they are ready to take the next step. This community will be in excellent hands with them at the helm and with the ongoing involvement of Rabbi Shneur as Music Director. Change is daunting but when it’s like this, the future for all of us is entirely positive.”

Rabbi Gabi is from Melbourne and is concluding his Masters in Social Work. Having worked in numerous places in Australia, Israel and the USA he was referred to the ARK Centre co-Presidents in 2017 as someone who was ambitious and looking for a community with shared ideals and values. Rebbetzin Mushka Kantor Kaltmann has roots in Melbourne – the old Kantor bookshop in St. Kilda was her grandfather’s – but she grew up in Thailand where her father is the Chief Rabbi.

Rabbi Gabi stated, “My wife Mushka and I are excited about this new opportunity as Rabbi and Rebbitzen of the Ark Centre. Over the past 20 months as Rabbi and Rebbitzin of programs and engagement we have connected to the community on so many great levels. We feel we have found our home and look forward to a bright future in this beautiful vibrant modern orthodox community. We thank Rabbi Shneur Reti-Waks for a decade of hard work, growth and commitment. We are delighted to  continue working alongside the board, Ark and wider community. We look forward to welcoming you at our beautiful centre.”

Rabbi Shneur said of the handover, “It is with a full heart I pass the mantle to Rabbi Gabi and Rebbetzin Mushka who represent the finest aspects of their titles. Their warmth, intelligence, humility, energy, ideas and genuine care, leave me completely assured that the Ark community will continue to thrive as a centre leading the community in a way that is relevant now and into the future.”

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