Sydney Talk & New KehilaLinks

Please note that my Sydney talk now starts at 8pm on Thursday 5 November 2015:

Sydney Central Flyer

The Melbourne talk is as before on Sunday 1 November at 8pm


Please look at the new Sydney and Melbourne KehilaLinks / Jewish websites.


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Please email your family photos and stories to

Talks in Melbourne and Sydney

For those in Melbourne and Sydney interested in connecting to their roots, learning more about their Litvak heritage, this is for you ………..

your invitation to join me on a photographic journey of the Litvak shtetls.

Below is the advert for Melbourne for this Sunday, 1 November at 8pm.

I will be giving the same presentation at  Sydney Central Synagogue next week Thursday, 5 November at 7pm.

Address: 15 Bon Accord Ave, Bondi Junction NSW 2022


Were you married at the Great Synagogue, Cape Town?

The Great Synagogue, Cape Town, aka the Gardens Shul, is celebrating 175 years.

Were you married at or through the shul in the past 175 years?

Please send your wedding photo to:

You are also invited to be in a group photo to be taken 30 minutes before the services commence on 6 November 2015.

Please read this notice.

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Here are some memories of Jill and my wedding on 31 July 1977:



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An audio of the shul service recorded on a reel to reel tape by my late aunt, Rachel Rabinowitz Herison.

mp3 of Cantor Max Badash and the choir – see sidebar on right.

A video taken by the late Basil Tyler, who inspired me years later, to film other simcha videos:

Here are more ideas for documenting one’s own history and journey:

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My previous blog on the Gardens Shul:

The Cape Town KehilaLink and the history of the Gardens Shul:


Best regards


Bloodied But Unbowed

From our cousin Richard Shavei-Tzion in Israel

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These are hard times for us in Jerusalem and for our brothers and sisters in Tel Aviv, Ra’anana, Kiryat Gat and Hadera. These are hard times for all of Israel. We have lived through cycles of violence in 34 years of residence in and around Jerusalem. Through this miniscule moment in history we have witnessed booby trapped bicycles, bombs in busses, shooting attacks, suicide bombers, missiles over the city and now knives, wielded by 13 year-old boys and young women. These misguided maniacs are incited by leaders of a multitude of vicious organizations, the most moderate of whom, one Abu Mazen, whose doctoral thesis is titled “The Secret Relationship between Nazism and Zionism,” had the following to say on the 16th of September: “The Al-Aqsa [Mosque] is ours… and they have no right to defile it with their filthy feet.” On Monday he lauded the terrorists, proclaiming their martyrdom.

How pathetic these pitiful Palestinians and their partners, who believe that if they could not get their way with bombs, they could with screwdrivers. How futile their struggle, how feeble their thinking, that us Jews who have endured multiple mass murder would succumb to poisonous blood liable and kitchen tools. How forgetful they are to believe that if we bled we would flee.

We have divested ourselves of naivety regarding the true intentions of this decrepit cohort of murderers. Even though I remembered hearing as a kid in far away South Africa well before the Six Day War, about Arab textbooks with pictures of Israeli’s being thrown into the sea, I believed that in my time we could see a Two State Solution. I believed that they were capable of simple dialog. Now, while I still hope, I do not believe. For it is now clear to me that this struggle is not about settlements or El Aksa, national aspiration or human rights. These Palestinians are not even interested in a one-state solution ruled by a dictator of their choosing. Their raison d’etre is the removal of every living pair of filthy Jewish (and Christian) in the greater Middle East. Simple as that.

The Israeli consensus is that Ariel Sharon’s evacuation of Gaza was a tragic historic mistake which resulted only in a rain of missiles upon our cities. Yes, death and misery ensued. But at this cost we learnt something crucial to our survival. The evacuation gave the Palestinians an historic opportunity to create a model Mediterranean Singapore, with beautiful coast line and hundreds of billions of dollars pouring in from the international community. Instead they chose to subject their children to a destiny of pain and misery all in the cause of Jewish holocaust. Had we not witnessed this aberration, the vast majority of middle-of-the-road Israelis like myself may still have mistakenly believed in the holy Two-State grail and perhaps ceded the “territories” to these butchers. No more. If we could somehow scrape out this festering canker, separate from it, that of course would be best, but I am unable to work out how to do it short of committing national suicide or genocide, so for the meantime we have to just be strong and deal with it as best as we can.

We are stronger than these people, because they have given us no choice and because history has taught us a thing or two. But while our honed survival instinct has forced us to use our brains and brawn to defend ourselves, we have at the same time dug deep and found the energy to create a remarkable, progressive, modern society within the cauldron of chaos that is the Middle East. Call it man-made or miracle, this is an impressive testament to the resilience and talent of our people. From Nobel prizes to great thinkers, Torah to technology, our per capita contribution to the welfare of the world is astounding. The tragedy for us and them is that they have been too distracted by hatred to see this. So we continue to bury our dead victims with dignity and introspection, as they bury the dead perpetrators with screaming vitriol and vows of revenge.

Israeli society has many flaws and like other societies on this earth, we have crazy fanatics. The difference between us and them is that the vast majority of us beat our breasts and seek to cast these unwanted fringe extremists from our society, whereas the Palestinian collective exalts theirs, names streets after them and consecrates the bloody lives of savages as role models for their children.

Now we await the serial condemnation of the international community for our temerity in defending ourselves so successfully against brutality. After all, once again we are using excessive force by shooting at youths and women who attack our babies and mothers with knives. This barbaric use of children to con the international community, BDS et al, into sympathizing with them and bullying us may blind a world cowering in fear of Muslim radicalism and wallowing in classic anti-Semitism. But we will continue to protect ourselves as best as we can and fight to save the lives of the injured, our victim’s and the murderer’s, utilizing the state-of-the-art emergency medical facilities we have developed. Such is the value we place on life. As for the so called Palestinian People, get this: You can bloody us but we will not be bowed. Just as we have outlived great destructive empires, we will outlive you.

Many years have passed since Golda Meir said, “We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.” We await still, the love. Until then, as we have done for millennia we will have to defend ourselves against the assassins, relish life and pray that one day our children may live in peace.
Richard Shavei-Tzion

The New Melbourne KehilaLink

The new Melbourne KehilaLink has just gone live.

JewishGen KehilaLinks (formerly “ShtetLinks”) is a project facilitating web pages commemorating the places where Jews have lived.  KehilaLinks provides the opportunity for anyone with an interest in a place to create web pages about that community.  These web pages may contain information, pictures, databases, and links to other sources providing data about that place.

Kehila קהילה [Hebrew] n. (pl. kehilot קהילות):

Jewish Community.  Used to refer to a Jewish community, anywhere in the world.

This site is hosted by JewishGen, the world’s largest Jewish genealogical organisation, an affiliate of the Jewish Heritage Museum in New York City. JewishGen provides amateur and professional genealogists with the tools to research their Jewish family history and heritage.

I like to include my photos of synagogues, of which there are many  in Melbourne.

St Kilda is one of the beautiful synagogues to be found in Melbourne

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Joseph Plottel

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Joseph Plottel

Joseph Plottel 1936
Born 1 January 1883
YorkshireGreat Britain
Died 28 March 1977 (aged 93)
Melbourne, Victoria
Nationality Australian
Occupation Architect
Buildings Footscray Town HallSt Kilda Synagogue

Joseph Plottel (1883– 28 May 1977) was a British born architect who was active in Melbourne, Australia between 1911 and World War II, working in a modernist style with some significant Byzantine-Romanesque features.

Melbourne architectural practice

Plottel enjoyed a very diverse architectural practice with commercial and residential commissions in an eclectic modern style drawing on the American Romanesque and Arts and Craft movement. Among his early commissions were Embank House at 325 Collins St in 1911, the Williamstown Municipal Buildings in 1914 and several flat projects such as ‘Chilterns’, Glenferrie Road, 1917 ‘Garden Court’ of 1918 in Marne St South Yarra and ‘Waverly’ at 115–119 Grey Street St. Kilda from 1920. These designs tended to fine detailing in brick, but in a restrained manner characteristic of the romantic movement of the Arts Crafts. The prominent use of rain heads and down spouts in the composition is an interesting pointer to Plottel’s later work.[5]

In 1924 Plottel married and also was appointed to design the new St Kilda Synagogue, as the congregation had outgrown the 1872 building. As inspiration he presented a photo of the Temple Isaiah in Chicago, adapting the exterior to a ‘Byzantine Revival’ style with an octagonal base and dome roof clad in Wunderlich tiles, while the interior was finished in what was to become Plottel’s trademark finely crafted woodwork.[6]

The Jewish community provided many commissions, as he became close to several business people who had factories in Melbourne’s Western Suburbs including Footscray and Yarraville. Plottel’s wife Rachel was a doctor specialising in skin conditions. Their only daughter, Philippa May, married Cpl Rolf Hallenstein[7] (the brothers Isaac and Michael Hallenstein established the vast tannery of Michaelis Hallenstein in Footscray with their cousin Moritz Michaelis) and obtained a Master of Laws at the University of Melbourne then went on to a prominent role in women’s affairs and law, as a member of the National Council of Women of Victoria, the Victorian Women Lawyers Society, the Australian Local Government Women’s Association Victoria and many other organisations.[8]

St Kilda Synagogue

The foundation stone of the new synagogue was laid 28 February 1926 (the contractor being H H Eilenberg) and the synagogue was consecrated on 13 March 1927. The Ladies` Gallery was also extended in 1957–58 to designs by Plottel.[9] The Masonic Club, 164 to 170 Flinders Street Melbourne 1926 – 1927 again featured the extensive use of decorative brickwork, this time in a variation of the Neo – Grec theme, showing the style’s usual chaste ornament, formed by swags, antefixes and a shallow pediment.[10]

Last Week’s Classes in Lithuania

Late last week I gave two talks to the students at the Atzalynas Gymnasium in Kedainiai, Lithuania.

Laima Ardaviciene, their English teacher, set up the meetings using Skype, which has proven effective on previous occasions.

What makes our meetings so special is that Laima uses Jewish history and culture as her subject.

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Keidan was an important multicultural town before the Holocaust, with around 50% of the town Jewish. No Jews live there now.

My connection to Keidan is via my third great grandfather, Avraham Shlomo Zalman Tzoref. He was a follower of the Vilna Gaon, and left in 1811 for Jerusalem.

I chose 15 of my photos of Lithuania to discuss with the classes.

They were in four different themes:

Theme 1

Three dual synagogue complexes in Lithuania




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Theme 2

Righteous Gentiles who risked their lives to save Jews

Simon Davidovich, director of the Sugihara Museum in Kaunas

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See Righteous Among the Nations


Theme 3

Yaakov Bunka, Last Jew of Plungyan in the Plunge, Salantai and Plateliai area.

The program is now run by his son, Eugenijus.

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See Video


Theme 4

The Curonian Spit, a World Heritage Site

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Curonian Spit

Memories of Muizenberg in Toronto

Hi All

Here are the details of the highly successful Memories of Muizenberg exhibition visiting Toronto in November.

This exhibition has had successful runs in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Herzlia, London, Melbourne, Sydney East, Sydney North Shore and Perth.


Watch the entertaining video of the London opening with Sir Jeremy Isaacs and Leonard Weinreich:

Other openings: