BEFORE December 2016, the last time Launceston Synagogue celebrated a bar mitzvah was almost a decade ago.
That’s why it is unprecedented that there was not one, not two, but three boys from the Tasmanian shul marking their coming of age last month.
On December 17, Jesse David Reich and Toby Rudov were called to the Torah, while the following Shabbat, December 24, Yossi Miller had his bar mitzvah at Hamerkaz Shelanu in Melbourne.
All three boys were taught by Rabbi Yochanan Gordon of Chabad of Tasmania, who noted that the boys’ achievements were particularly noteworthy given they have never had access to formal Jewish education.
“It really strengthened their connection [to Judaism],” Rabbi Gordon told The AJN. “One has already asked me about continuing to learn after his bar mitzvah.”
Rabbi Gordon has been the rabbi at Chabad of Tasmania for just over five years, and services Hobart and Devonport as well as Launceston.
He estimates there are approximately 1000 Jewish people “very spread out around the state”.
Built in 1844, Launceston Synagogue is Australia’s second oldest shul, with the one in Hobart being the oldest. Today, though the congregations are small, services are run every shabbat in both Launceston and Hobart.
Rabbi Gordon said he is aware of twin boys having their bar mitzvah at Launceston Synagogue in the 1940s, followed by another boy a few months later – but can’t imagine when the last time was, if ever, that there was a triple milestone like this.
“It was a momentous celebration,” Rabbi Gordon said. “The last time there was a bar mitzvah in Launceston would have been nine years ago.”
Reich’s and Rudov’s bar mitzvah service was followed by a kiddush for more than 60 people at Chabad House, including family of the boys who attended from all around Australia.
“They both did their part beautifully,” Rabbi Gordon said.
He added that all three boys “really brought a level of knowledge that they can make a difference, and everything that they do can have an effect on those around them”.