THE community is mourning Melbourne’s Rabbi Sholem Gutnick, a senior Chabad rabbi, who passed away at 94 last week.
Rabbi Gutnick developed and led major Torah study institutions in Australia and was the founding rabbi of Caulfield Shule.
Born in Russia in 1924, he and his family made aliyah when he was three years old, later moving to England, where his father Rabbi Mordechai Zev Hakohen Gutnick served as London shaliach.
Receiving s’micha from the Etz Chaim Yeshiva, the young rabbi moved to Switzerland to teach at a yeshivah, before returning to London. Some time later, he was sent to Australia to develop communities here.
Marrying in 1952, Rabbi Gutnick was appointed rabbi of the fledgling Caulfield Hebrew Congregation (CHC), which was a haven for European Jewry after World War II. The shule was later renamed Ahavat Shalom in his honour. He served CHC for more than 40 years, founding and teaching at a kolel there.
In 1953, the rabbi was appointed as a dayan and later as Av Bais Din of the Melbourne Bet Din, where he served for almost 50 years until major structural changes were introduced in the early 2000s.
With the founding of the Yeshivah Centre in 1968, Rabbi Gutnick took a key role in its development.
CHC’s Rabbi Ralph Genende paid tribute to Rabbi Gutnick. “As founding rabbi of Caulfield Shule, he was a man of vision and energy. He was instrumental in the building of the beautiful shule we have today which also carries his name, Ahavat Shalom.”
The rabbi “was a driving force in creating a vibrant community”, he said. “As a long-serving, loyal rabbi, he ensured the place of the shule as one of the leading congregations in Melbourne. He carried out countless lifecycle events, reaching across the community in times of joy and celebration, as well as in times of sadness and loss.
“As current rabbi, I appreciate his tireless efforts and appreciate the personal and family sacrifice in this important and relentlessly demanding position,” he said.