Saturday, March 19, 2011

Shabbes, Shabbes, Shabbes, Oy Oy Oy


The title refers to a chant Australians use at sporting events.  Someone chants "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie" or "Sydney, Sydney, Sydney," and the audience responds "Oy Oy Oy,"  Trust me, it's fun.

Australia is an amazing place--exotic and beautiful on the one hand and yet very familiar and comfortable at the same time.  At times it feels like you're not even in a foreign country.  Much of it is like being in California, but with way better beaches, even better weather, (though we've had some rain), and a much better health care system.  Plus they do everything a day ahead, on the wrong side of the road, upside down, and backwards. 

Micah and Jonah at Bondi Beach, having actual fun not on a computer.
Being in Australia, and spending Shabbat and Purim at Congregation Emanuel in Australia, was like coming home for Karen and me.  I spent one year working here replacing the Asst. Rabbi who was on sabbatical in 1997-1998, and it was probably the best year of my life.  Emanuel is an amazing congregation, a combined Reform and Conservative community, and the place which literally saved my career.  I was coming off of two miserable years in New York and ready to quit the congregational rabbinate and return to marketing when this opportunity came up.  They treated me like gold and restored my faith and confidence in congregational life.

Brian Fox, the Rabbi who
probably saved my career.
Emanuel, the place that
probably saved my career.
Whether it is because of the comparison to my New York misery, the fact that it was only for one year, the wonder of being down under, or that it was such a great match for me personally, I tend to idealize the experience.  But visiting only keeps that ideal on the pedestal.  Arriving at shul on Shabbat, Karen and I both had a very emotional reaction, greeting old friends, davening old tunes, and just feeling like we were home.   We both shed quite a few tears, but that's not unusual given what crybabies we both are. Beth Abraham and Oakland also feel that way to us, of course, and the fact that it felt like Emanuel in Australia made us knew it was a great match as soon as I started working there.

The service is not terribly different from ours, except that they do a full Torah reading, two full Amidah repititions, and Anim Z'mirot.  The synagogue itself is not especially beautiful; it's the people that make it so.  Two special surprises greeted us this Shabbat in Sydney.  First, Rabbi Brian Fox, who was the Senior Rabbi when I was here but is now in England, was also visiting, so the feeling of reunion was amplified even more.

Secondly, there was an Aufruf, and the bride was one of the few kids from the Hebrew School that I remembered from my time here.  She was 11 and is now getting married at 24.  Apparently, it's quite common in the Jewish community in Australia to get married in their early twenties.  Still, it was both gratifying and strange to see this little girl all grown up.  When you don't see someone for 13 years, they become fixed in your mind at the age they were when you left.  Almost as if in a movie, the sign flashes "13 years later," and there they are as full grown adults.  I loved it, but I prefer watching the slow, natural development of our kids in Oakland.  I'm still waiting to perform my first wedding for a kid I Bar/Bat Mitzvahed or even confirmed.

The Purim Spiel was phenomenal (though combined with the megila reading and evening service was more than 3 hours!). The spiel itself was an hour long comedy combining Apple technology, Fairy Tales, Elvis songs, and the Purim story.  It had set design, stage lighting, stage makeup, sound, and more.  Very well produced by people in the business and written by one of the rabbis here, Jackie Ninio.  Lots of jokes about the Australian government, pop culture, and everything in between.  My favorite was the "Oy Phone" and the "Oy Pad," spoken by a New York accented Esther. I still miss the Rock & Roll TBA Purim, but this was a lot of fun.

More on the sightseeing, the family, and the food in Australia in my next post.


  1. Dear Rabbi:

    Sounds like you're having a great time.

    The Purim Spiel was great except it was missing one thing, you and your family.

    I especially like that you got to see your former student's aufruf, and I liked reading about the "oy pad" and "oy phone."

    Keep blogging and Chag Sameach!
    Daniel Pascal

  2. What a small world. In 1997-98, when you were at Temple Emanuel, I was in Israel, on the same Jewish educator program as that Asst Rabbi (now Senior Rabbi Jeffrey Kamins)! Joan Rubin

  3. I loved your blog post. I'm glad it was such a good reunion experience at Emanuel. We had a wonderful Purim Speil ourselves -- Debby Barach and her cast did and amazing job and we had a sold out house. Looking forward to more posts!

  4. thanks!!!! our family loved it 2

  5. sounds wonderful..and if only you were back in time for becca's wedding you could marry someone who you had confirmed! will enjoy following along with you and the blog... i am sure each place will have something amazing to offer for you and the family

  6. Rabbi - we had a ton of fun last night and the Purim Spiel turned out great (Debbie did an amazing job as director)! Susan was fantastic as the tooth fairy.

    We miss you!
    Maya, Dan & Angela Engel

  7. The TBA Purim Spiel last night was fabulous as well. We missed you guys, but are glad you're having fun. I always say it's better to go beach than TV! Chag Purim sameach! T, D & ZAP

  8. Gabe and Eliana enjoyed Purim at TBA! Missed you though...lots of rain here. Your garden is very happy! Love the boys on the beach photo-ENJOY!

  9. Rabbi Bloom! I can't believe I missed you at the Purim Speil - I didn't realise you were in town! And so funny since you have been running into my siblings on the other side of the world.

    Lovely to catch up with your adventures on your blog!
    -Rebecca Kummerfeld