A new rabbi for Newcastle…after 60 years

May 17, 2020 by Henry Benjamin
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Rabbi Yossi Rodal has been spent six years working with RARA, Rural and Regional Australia, combing this vast country for Jews living in remote areas but now it’s time to settle down and he will move this week from Melbourne to Newcastle to be the first rabbi the shul has had for 60 years.

Rabbi Yossi Rodal and Rebbetzin Malky with their children Yitzchak, Shmuelik and Menachem

Yossi and Menachem are well known to many Australian Jewish families as they featured in the popular documentary “Outback Rabbis”.

His new kehillah will also cover NSW’s Central Coast and from Newcastle to the coastal town of Forster. His southern border will be at the Hawkesbury River at Brooklyn.

30-yr-old Rabbi Yossi Rodal and his wife Rebbetzin Malky, 28, have three children 5-yr-old Yitzchak, 3-yr-old Shmuelik and 11-months-old Menachem.

He told J-Wire: “Newcastle is one of the oldest shuls in Australia. There used to be a thriving community there but I understand in the 1960s many of the congregation moved to Sydney. Today, it is operated on a very limited basis. Before COVID it would open for a Friday night service with a few members. RARA has been visiting the shul to add numbers and RARA has been visiting Newcastle for around 20 years.”

The visits included ones for all the main chagim including Purim. Rabbi Rodal said the community is great to work with and believes that between Newcastle and the Central Coast there are around 1,000 Jews.

He pointed out: “That number does not include holidaymakers or Sydneysiders who have homes on the Central Coast. I think they will swell our numbers especially when they learn that we have Kosher facilities in the area and can deliver Kosher food products.”

He believes that the Shul will become immediately more active. He said: “My goals are to start immediately with adult and children’s Jewish education both in Newcastle and on the Central Coast. I want to have services on a Friday night and open once a month for Shabbat morning services when the Government allows us to do so.”

Rabbi Yossi Rodal has fond memories of featuring in “Outback Rabbis”. He told J-Wire: “It was marvellous to meet new people all the time and hearing their incredible stories. It was also a privilege to see the remote parts of Australia and it was wonderful to experience the growth of individual communities.”

In his first year with RARA Yossi was on the road for six months but it reduced subsequently to 3-4 months a year.

Yossi and Malky are happy to be settling down. He said: “We are getting older so it is a necessary step. We love the idea of getting to know one or two communities. It is more satisfying to be able to focus on the same people and develop a personal connection.”

According to Rabbi Rodal, Newcastle is booming and there are young families moving to the area. He chipped in: “I want to start a Hebrew school one day a week in both Newcastle and on the Central Coast.”

President of the Newcastle congregation Max Lenzer told J-Wire: “We have about 45 members and the numbers are best described as stable although with Rabbi Rodal relocating here it is our hope the Congregation will grow.

Reverend Wugman was the last official minister and was here until I think the mid-1970’s. Rabbi Tarsis was the Rabbi prior to that and before him Dr Gottshall.

My grandfather Rabbi Benzion Lenzer was Rabbi at Newtown Shule.”

The Newcastle Kehillah will be a branch of RARA.


One Response to “A new rabbi for Newcastle…after 60 years”
  1. Mr Leslie Staines says:

    His wishing Rabbi Yossi Rodal and his family have a rewarding time and future in living and working in Newcastle may all of your family Rabbi enjoy the Hunter Valley.

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