New Emanuel Shule sanctuary opens

The opening of the new sanctuary at Emanuel Synagogue.

AUSTRALIA’S first lady and respected businesswoman Lucy Turnbull said she was struck by the beautiful injunction – “do not separate yourself from the community” – inscribed on the wall of Emanuel Synagogue’s new sanctuary, which was officially inaugurated on May 14 in the presence of nearly 600 people.

Guests included Members of Parliament Walt Secord, Matt Thistlethwaite, Ron Hoenig and Gabrielle Upton.

“This new sanctuary is about sustaining places for the community to enjoy themselves, to spend time and to praise God,” shared Turnbull, before reading the Prime Minister’s letter.

Referring to the occasion as a “joyous and fulfilling moment in the life of a great synagogue”, the PM commented, “I believe that this new sanctuary will encourage many more to come, reflect and strengthen their bonds with this wonderful community.”

Adding to the sentiment, Upton paraphrased another teaching from the Torah written on the wall. “How good and how pleasant it is that brothers and sisters dwell together,” reflected Upton. “That is what Emanuel is about – inclusiveness, warmth, social conscience and cohesion.”

Rabbi Jeffrey Kamins extended thanks to all donors, particularly communal philanthropist Millie Phillips, whose contribution of $4 million funded one third of the development project.

Emanuel’s new building which incorporates a sanctuary and gallery for cultural events and a preschool for 60 children – set to open in July – facilitates the shule’s development into a Jewish spiritual and cultural centre.

CEO of Emanuel Synagogue Suzanna Helia said, “What we are planning for the future of this synagogue is for it to not just become a place of worship, but a spiritual and cultural centre … We are trying to beautify and put new life not just into the synagogue but the whole community.”

As a single sanctuary, the space can accommodate up to 700 congregants. Completed in the same year as Emanuel’s 80th anniversary, Helia commented, “This expansion will provide a much-needed community facility with Jewish and non-Jewish people welcome to attend concerts, talks and a musical festival as well as space for exhibitions, meetings and events.”

Architect Ed Lippmann, who is also a member of the shule, drew the crowd’s attention to some of the sanctuary’s stand-out features.

The triangular structure and ceiling reflects the Star of David, said Lippmann, adding that the two abstract artworks tell the story of the Jewish people going out of Egypt and into the Promised Land.

Renowned artist Janet Laurence created the magnificent glass window, representing the Tree of Life, serving as the first element welcoming visitors from the courtyard space into the sanctuary’s main foyer.

SOPHIE DEUTSCH