WHEN Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis turned a sod of soil at the National Jewish Memorial Centre in Canberra last Tuesday, he was breaking ground in three ways. It was his first visit to the national capital as Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth; he took part in a ceremony to inaugurate the first full-time salaried rabbi of the ACT Jewish Community Inc., Rabbi Alon Meltzer; and he turned the first sod on the site of a planned extension to the building.
“It is my prayer that you should be blessed to emulate … Abraham, Joseph, Mordechai and Moses,” Chief Rabbi Mirvis told Rabbi Meltzer in his address.
“It has been my sincere dream to become a rabbi since I was just a young child,” New Zealand-born Rabbi Meltzer told the gathering. “Nothing has tugged at my soul more than engaging people with their Judaism: educating and sharing our rich faith, history, culture, and ultimately, our connection with God,” he said.
Rabbi Meltzer later told The AJN: “It is the beginning of my career as a rabbi here in Australia, and it is the start of a new chapter for the ACT Jewish Community Inc.”
Since its establishment in 1951 the ACT Jewish community has primarily relied on lay leadership and visiting rabbis.
Rabbi Meltzer’s appointment as rabbinical leader, program coordinator, educator and pastoral carer represented “one giant step” in the life of the community, said community president Robert Cussel.
“On behalf of the Australian government I do wish to extend our heartfelt congratulations on his appointment,” said Federal MP Tony Sukkar who was representing Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Other speakers were Executive Council of Australian Jewry executive director Peter Wertheim and Zionist Federation of Australia president Danny Lamm.
Among the 200 guests at the inauguration were Chabad of the ACT’s Rabbi Shmuel Feldman, Israeli Ambassador Shmuel Ben-Shmuel and representatives of the local Christian, Muslim and Baha’i communities.
Rabbi Alon Meltzer at the inauguration.