The Great displays its treasures
A specially commissioned art glass Seder plate and a ruby Bohemian glass Kiddush cup, a silver, brass and gilt pair of rimmonim and a silver circumcision knife, the earliest Australian Jewish marriage records and the portraits of the first bride and groom from that list – The Great Synagogue’s heritage collection is vibrant and diverse.
Special and in some cases unique items from that collection are revealed in Treasures of The Great Synagogue at the AM Rosenblum Jewish Museum.
The opening by Mitchell Library Senior Curator Paul Brunton is at 3 pm on Sunday 29 May.
“The richness of The Great synagogue’s collection is incredibly striking,” curator Brittany Freelander said.
“It takes in works in precious metals, textiles, works on paper and parchment, works in glass and paintings in oils.
“Some of the items were created for the collection, others reflect the high status of The Great Synagogue in its colonial years, still others are symbols of historic occasions in the lives of The Great’s congregation and leadership,” she said.
Spanning three centuries, the objects are all of significance and some are examples of particular beauty.
Many of them are also “Great Synagogue specific”, the Great’s president Michael Gold said.
“It is remarkably satisfying to be able to show our visitors items of great importance in the Jewish life of Sydney,” Mr Gold said.
These include the magnificent cedar Ark from the York Street Synagogue, predecessor of The Great, the Chumash used in the first formal Jewish service in Sydney, a Pesach Haggadah illustrated by artist Rabbi Leib Aisack Falk, published for World War II Australian Jewish sailors, soldiers and airmen and a plan of the Jewish Cemetery in Devonshire Street, Sydney with the location of graves for bushranger Edward Davis (“Teddy the Jew Boy”) and for Barnett Levey, founder of the first theatre in Sydney.
“Even the image of the Sturt Desert Pea we have used on our invitations and other published work is significant; a number of illuminated addresses and Rosh Hashanah cards from the end of the 19th century show Australian wildflowers ahead of a more general trend,” Mr Gold said.
The AM Rosenblum Jewish Museum was opened in the early 1980s when then Great Synagogue leader and soon President Rodney Rosenblum and his wife Sylvia, a talented Museum Studies graduate, recognised the importance of items which till then had been stored in less than ideal conditions around The Great.
Through the work of the Rosenblums, curators Marcelle Jacobs, Monica Christopher, Lori Burck and Brittany Freelander and volunteers including Win Rubens and Avril Symon, a professional approach has seen the objects in the collection properly stored and recorded and grants for aspects of the museum’s work from the State and Federal Governments.
The museum will be open during tours on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and on Shabbat morning.
Law service with the Governor General
The presence of Governor-General Ms Quentin Bryce, added lustre to the annual Great Synagogue Law Service and dinner.
Her speech to guests at the sell-out dinner following the service was thoughtful and provocative and paired neatly with the outstanding address made by Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence in shule.
The Chief Justice of NSW James Spigelman presided over an impressive assembly of the judiciary and other members of the legal profession who marched in dignified procession into the shule.
Many participated in reciting an expanded selection of passages from the Jewish texts on law and justice.
In his impressive address, Rabbi Lawrence focused on the relationship between the prevailing law of the land and the Torah as the guiding code for Jewish life. “Jewish law has evolved continually over the last 2000 years and where Jewish parties are concerned, Jewish law emphasises that it should be reflected in their contracts, arbitration and dispute resolution.”
He made particular reference to the Jewish Arbitration and Mediation Service (JAMS) which he described as “a melding of our ancient yet vibrant tradition with Australian civil law under our statutes and principles of procedural fairness.”
At the fully subscribed Shabbat Dinner, Synagogue President, Michael Gold, warmly welcomed the Governor-General and Mr Bryce. He went on to address the Chief Justice and all members of the legal profession. “May you all continue to exercise the necessary wisdom and understanding in your deliberations and handling of all legal matters.”
In her speech at the Shabbat dinner, the Governor General spoke warmly of the Jewish contribution to the Commonwealth and her tremendous admiration, respect and affection for former Governor-General Sir Zelman Cowan, who, she pointed out, was the biographer of the first Australian born Governor-General Sir Isaac Isaacs.
Her Excellency highlighted “the impact of change and social media on both the principles and administration of justice”.
She emphasised that “protection of the rule of law lies at the heart of our responsibility”.