Judaism in the Outback

August 11, 2016 by Rabbi Yossi Rodal
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Accosted. That was the word that came to Phil’s mind when the three bearded jacketed Rabbis approached him.

“Excuse me, are you Jewish?” they asked.
Phil wasn’t sure exactly what made him respond yes to their question; perhaps it was out of a healthy dose of Jewish guilt, maybe he even felt a twinge of nostalgia.
“Amazing” said the tallest of the three. ” We have driven a long way to meet you!”
The Roving Rabbis are trekking through the outback on a mission to connect with any Jewish people that they can find, offering guidance, Judaica, inspiration, and a good BBQ.
Tellaphin in the Outback

Tfillin in the Outback

Rabbis Mendy Lebowitz, Sruli Lever, and Dovid Junik traveled from America for this opportunity. They will spend a total of eight weeks in their camper van, travelling west. Starting out from Melbourne, they’ll head through South Australia, across the Nullabor, and around Southern Western Australia .

On this particular day, they drove from Mt.Barker to Albany after meeting with Gerald Henderson. ” I once met a bloke who passed through Mt. Barker two years ago. He owns a car repair shop in the center of town in Albany. I reckon he is Jewish” Gerald told them.
After two hours of driving and 45 minutes of questioning the locals, they found their man.
Phil was born and raised in nearby Kendenup. While proud that he was Jewish, he didn’t know anything else on the subject other than in reference to the Holocaust.
A bit apprehensive at first, Phil soon was enjoying the conversation. three hours later, Phil was rolling up his sleeve for tfillin amid the singing and dancing of the Rabbis. “Mazal Tov!” they exclaimed. Today is your Bar Mitzvah, the first time that you put on tfillin!”
Tfillin with Jeffrey Trevinen in Hexham Vic

Tfillin with Jeffrey Trevinen in Hexham Vic

The young Jewish Leyland brothers volunteer for Chabad of RARA, an outreach organisation that has been arranging such trips for 16 years. In a typical year, they will have five  travel seasons, covering all of Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, and parts of Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia.

Founded by Saul Spigler in 2000, Chabad of RARA also  coordinates chanukah parties, pesach seders, and other holiday programs in 15 locations across Australia.
The three Rabbis visit Sally in Denmark

The three Rabbis visit Sally in Denmark

Sally Wagner had moved to Denmark, Western Australia after finding the crowded streets of Sydney too stuffy for her. While the vast expanses and friendly neighbors greatly appealed to her, she sometimes found herself missing her family, her culture, and yes, the fresh Glick’s challah.

So when the Chabad of RARA RV (aka the mitzvah tank) pulled up to her 6 acre farmland, it was a breath of fresh air.
The three travelling Rabbis hosted a lovely Friday night Shabbat dinner at her home, and proved to be great company. The assembled eight locals were treated to Sruli’s jokes, Mendy’s insights, and Dovid’s cooking, most of which he had gleaned from a quick Friday telephone call to his mom.
“It was the first time in my 15 years here in Denmark that I felt connected to our small community. Why, until now I thought that I was the only Jew in town!” Sally said as she helped shlepp benches back to the rental company.
“A lot of people wonder how we find the people we meet”, says Mendy, 23. “Over the years, the number of contacts has accumulated, We will also make cold calls, and ask around town. 3 out of 10 times, there is another Jewish person who we meet through a mutual contact .This is a happy occasion for us. Almost everybody is receptive, and it’s just an all around heart warming experience.”

And as for Phil, he is now a proud and knowledgeable Jew



2 Responses to “Judaism in the Outback”
  1. joseph Solomon says:

    Lovely to read this article. It was very uplifting to have the Mordecai from chabadofrara put Tfillin on me.It has raised my Consciousness to be a Jew to even higher levels
    Thanks Yossi

  2. David Adler says:

    Chabad outreach is just the best. So many stories of bringing Judaism to disconnected Jews.

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