Shofar at the Shrine

August 18, 2011 by Harold J Karpin
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The Victorian Association of Jewish Ex & Servicemen & Women Australia Inc. (VAJEX) has made its second Annual Pilgrimage Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance.

The VAJEX flag flew proudly from the main flagpole in the Shrine’s forecourt near the display of over 100 VAJEX Remembrance Stakes.  The front line not only displayed the names of two VC winners but included that of General Sir John Monash, an important figure in the design and construction of the Shrine. Tragically Sir John did not live to see its opening.

Climbing the steps to the Sanctuary gave a feeling of solemn anticipation. Once inside, people whispered in homage to the sacred site.

As well as generals and other VIP’s, VAJEX was pleased to welcome WGCDR Peter Isaacson AM, DFC, AFC, DFM, a famous WWII Jewish war ace and currently Shrine Life Governor.

Chaplain Captain Rabbi Dovid Gutnick opened the ceremony by inviting Rabbi Philip Heilbrunn OAM to sound ‘The Great Shofar for our Freedom.’  It was an awe inspiring moment to remember as the historic sound echoed from the responsive walls creating a special occasion.

David Brykman chanted Psalm 91 with such beauty and feeling that only a Jewish cantor can evoke at which time the military theme of the ceremony took place as the Honour Guard marched into the Sanctuary with ‘fixed bayonets.’

The President of VAJEX, ,Ben Hirsh read the Roll of Honour after which Major-General Jeffrey V Rosenfeld AM CStJ, patron of VAJEX, laid a wreath on behalf of the Association.  This was followed by all present, offering poppies which had been donated by the Shrine Trust….  a very personal and meaningful inclusion to the ceremony.

Major General Rosenfeld opened his address with the truism that “the only ones who see the end of war are those who die in it.”  He went on to point out the important role that one plays in contributing to the defence of one’s country and who fight for democracy.

The President recited the’ Ode’ which preceded CPL Sean Nihill sounding the ‘Last Post’ and ‘Rouse’ on the bugle.  If the Shofar was not enough to arouse emotions, the bugle with its haunting strains certainly was.

Rabbi Heilbrunn chanted Kel Moleh Rachami and Kaddish.

The Service concluded when the Honour Guard ‘shouldered arms’ and marched from the Sanctuary

The memory of all those Victorian Jewish fallen is being sustained within a sacred and protected site and the Service gave the same special feeling as one gets at Kol Nidre.

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