CONVIVIALITY abounded as more than 220 people gathered to attend the Elwood Shule gala dinner last Sunday evening. Held at St Kilda Town Hall, synagogue leaders and members came together to honour the past, present and future, celebrating 60 years of the iconic shule at Dickens Street.
Longstanding member Esther Frenkiel spoke of the “inspirational” Rabbi Chaim Gutnick, who served the congregation for 45 years, ruminating upon his extraordinary ability to move and captivate his audience with words.
“His sermons on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur were always packed to standing room capacity,” she remembered.
“He could deliver a 15-minute sermon in Yiddish on Yom Kippur and there were those like myself, who did not understand a word, yet hung off every single one.”
Frenkiel recalled her teenage years, sitting with her friends as they gazed down at the men’s section, evaluating options for prospective partners.
Rabbi Mordechai Gutnick, who took over from his father, was also honoured, together with current Rabbi Shmuel Karnowsky.
Rabbi Karnowsky and his wife, Rivki, were credited for their passion, warmth and leadership – and bringing the congregation into the 21st century with email, Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp.
Bridging the past to the future, Rabbi Karnowsky spoke on the treasure trove of memories to be cherished: “The characters. The personalities. The traditions and customs. The photos and memorabilia, and wisdom and inspiration of 60 years’ worth.”
“Now it is time for us to accumulate all that wisdom, all of that inspiration over the past 60 years and to learn from the past as we go forward, charting our own path towards a thriving future,” he said.
Shule president Mark Kuran provided a look ahead, unveiling development plans for a new lobby, an extension of classrooms to the existing Hebrew school, and a new hall “to accomodate bigger crowds at our functions”.
While the powerful voice of Chazan Mordechai Levin enthralled with song, master of ceremonies Philip Kingston entertained – his humorous quips interspersed between courses and addresses, and shining in the raffle and auction.
A highlight of the evening was the auction of a stick of wurst measuring a staggering one metre in length. A bidding war ensued, the winner forking out $1000.
Lucky bidder Mark Hansky told The AJN, “This has always been my dream.”
Alas, the dream was short-lived. When asked later what one could do with all that wurst, he revealed he had donated it to a food charity.
Hailing the evening as “spectacular”, event organiser and board member Mandi Elias enthused, “Everybody had a smile on their face and had a great time.”