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Rabbi Dr Benjamin Elton
Chief Minister and Senior Rabbi

Rabbi Dr Benjamin Elton was appointed Chief Minister of The Great Synagogue in June 2015. Born in Manchester, England, Rabbi Elton earned an MA in History at Queens’ College, Cambridge and a PhD in Jewish History at Birkbeck, University of London. For seven years he worked in the Ministry of Justice in London and then studied for four years at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah (YCT) in New York. There, he was editor of its journal, a member of its Advanced Kollel and winner of the prize for excellence in Talmudic study.

As part of his pastoral training Rabbi Elton undertook residencies as a hospital chaplain and leading a grief support group. He received Semicha from YCT in June 2015, and in addition has Semicha from Rabbi Chaim Rapoport of London. In addition to his 2014 book, Britain’s Chief Rabbis and the Religious Character of Anglo-Jewry, 1880–1970, he has authored several articles on Anglo-Jewish and Australian Jewish religious history and is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society of London. He is also an Honorary Associate at the University of Sydney, Jewish Chaplain to the Returned Services League (NSW Branch) and Orthodox Rabbinic Consultant to the Executive Council of Australian Jewry. Rabbi Elton is married to Hinda Young are they are proud parents of a daughter, Elizabeth (Lizzie).

Rabbi Elton and Hinda are excited to be leading The Great Synagogue. They are dedicated to creating a warm and vibrant community, with a love for Judaism and for each other.

Please feel free to contact Rabbi Elton via email to  about any matter, large or small.


Rabbi Phil Kaplan 
Minister and Associate Rabbi

Rabbi Phil Kaplan grew up in Queens and Long Island, New York. He graduated from CUNY-Queens College with a BA in Jewish Studies. During his time at Rabbinical School, Rabbi Phil served as rabbinic intern at Beth David Synagogue in West Hartford, CT, Congregation Sherith Israel in Nashville, TN, and at Congregation Tiferet Israel in Austin, TX. Rabbi Phil loves building and facilitating warm and welcoming Jewish community and ritual, teaching, singing, cooking and exercising. He and his wife Abra look forward to meeting and hosting many members of the congregation.


Michael Sassoon
Community Educator

Michael Sassoon joined the team at The Great Synagogue in 2017 as a community educator, leading the shule’s Jewish Enrichment Program at Reddam House, Bellevue Hill Public School and Rose Bay Public School. After attaining a Bachelors degree in Commerce and garnering considerable professional experience in marketing, Michael spent two years studying Talmud, Halachah, Tanach, and Jewish Philosophy with Rabbi Benjamin Blech and other inspiring teachers at New York's Yeshiva University. He also took classes at the Belz School of Music and proudly participated in their choir. Later Michael spent a year in Israel at Ulpan Mila and Bar Ilan University during which he met his wife, Atalia.

He returned to Sydney to complete a Masters in Teaching and through this, pursue his passion for education that began with Bar Mitzvah training in both Ashkenazic and Sephardic traditions. He has been engaged in teaching and learning across all ages both informally and formally, covering both secular and Jewish studies. He brings with him a broad teaching background that spans Bnei Akiva, BJE (Years K-12), Manhattan Jewish Experience (ages 20-40), Masada College and Rose Bay Secondary College where he taught Commerce, Geography, Hebrew, and Jewish Life. He commences 2019 with Moriah College to deliver lesson in Jewish Studies and Studies of Religion.

The ‘JEP’ is an alternating two-year curriculum that is also an excellent preparatory course for Bar and Bat Mitzvah. Michael draws together fascinating content, a focus on strong skill development (including a dedicated Hebrew reading component), and engaging, multi-sensory experiences to enrich students' encounters with Judaism at schools around Sydney as part of The Great Synagogue's Jewish Enrichment Program.


Rabbi Mendel Kastel OAM
Rabbinic Fellow

Rabbi Mendel Kastel has been providing Rabbinic expertise to the Sydney community for over 20 years. He has taken a particular interest in social welfare, and has been the driving force behind various youth and welfare organisations such as Point Zero, WAYS (Waverley Action for Youth Service) and J Junction. He is currently Chief Executive Officer of Jewish House, a leading Sydney Jewish charity, offering social services to the Jewish and wider community. After 15 years of service at the Great Synagogue, Rabbi Kastel joined the Jewish House at the beginning of 2008. His efforts have seen the Jewish House grow and develop, becoming an expert provider of crisis services in the Sydney community. In 2015, he rejoined The Great as Rabbinic Fellow, offering consultancy and support to the Synagogue.



Rabbi Dr Raymond Apple AO RFD
Emeritus Rabbi

Rabbi Apple retired in 2005 after many years as Australia’s highest-profile rabbi and a leading spokesman for Judaism.
After heading London congregations at Bayswater and Hampstead, he was senior rabbi of the Great Synagogue from 1972-2005, and was the guide and mentor of other synagogues and organisations, including the Women’s Tefillah Group.
He was born and educated in Melbourne and also studied in London. He has degrees in arts, law, history, religion and education, a Doctorate of Laws honoris causa from NSW University and is an Honorary Fellow of Sydney University.
He was an army reserve chaplain for 15 years and from 1988-2006 Senior Rabbi to the Australian Defence Force. He had two terms of office as chairman of the Religious Advisory Committee to the Services.

He has taught at Sydney and NSW Universities and is Master of Mandelbaum House at Sydney University. He has lectured at universities and seminaries in several countriesFor 30 years he was judge/registrar of the Sydney Beth Din. He is life rabbinic governor of the Organisation of Rabbis of Australian and New Zealand, of which he had two terms as president. He is patron and past president of the Australian Jewry and NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, and has held office in many public bodies.
He has had a long involvement in inter-faith dialogue and is joint president of the Australian Council of Christians and Jews and a life member and former chairman of the NSW Council. He was a founder of the Christian-Jewish Luncheon Club in Sydney and of the Australian National Dialogue of Christians, Muslims and Jews.
In Freemasonry he is Past Junior Grand Warden and Past Grand Chaplain of the United Grand Lodge of NSW and the ACT.2
He writes the weekly Oz Torah, with a world-wide email circulation. He has written articles, academic papers and books and has frequently appeared on radio and television.

An Officer of the Order of Australia, he holds the Reserve Force Decoration, the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Medal and the Centenary of Federation Medal.
He and his wife Marian have four adult children and a number of grandchildren.
Take a look at the OzTorah website. It contains a searchable archive of Rabbi Apple's Torah essays, "Ask the Rabbi" pieces, and feature articles. We are in the process of updating the site with content from the OzTorah emails from the past ten years – join our RSS feed to view the latest updates.

Thu, 23 January 2020 26 Tevet 5780