THE resignation of Rabbi Ephraim Lever, chief minister at Melbourne Hebrew Congregation (MHC), aka Toorak Shule, is the latest development at the troubled flagship shule which has seen three key departures in as many years.
The well-known speaker, educator and author succeeded Rabbi Dovid Rubinfeld.
In an email to members, the MHC board stated, “We would like to thank Rabbi Lever for his dedication to the MHC community, our members and their families.
“We have been privileged to enjoy Rabbi Lever’s inspiring and thought provoking sermons and wise counsel.
“We will miss sharing the rabbi’s encyclopaedic knowledge, profound understanding of Judaic learning and rabbinical wisdom.
“Rabbi Lever has asked us to convey that he greatly appreciates the support he has received from the community and the many friendships made during his time at the MHC.
“He has been honoured to have been welcomed into so many families and into the private lives of many individuals,” the board stated.
Contacted by The AJN, Rabbi Lever, who has ended his duties at MHC, said, “I wish Melbourne Hebrew Congregation success moving forward.”
Shortly after his appointment, the Australian-born rabbi, trained in the US and Israel, and known for his teaching at Mount Scopus College and his online divrei Torah, had signalled plans to broaden MHC’s appeal, telling The AJN, “Judaism isn’t meant to be limited to synagogue services, it’s meant to be vibrant and meaningful, adding beauty to every aspect of your life.”
During Rabbi Lever’s term, the shule saw the departure of its baal koreh Ronny Kowadlo in 2018 and only a few weeks ago, the resignation of president Stephen Stern, due to his professional work commitments.
All the while, MHC has been grappling with its location near the corner of Toorak and St Kilda Roads, which is now difficult to access on Shabbat by a membership that has largely moved from the area.
Sources tell The AJN the future use of the landmark synagogue building will be a central issue as MHC tries to shore up support and regain viability.
The board, with Quentin Miller as vice-president, is currently steering the shule through the COVID-19 lockdown crisis, but no religious services have been scheduled since worship rules were relaxed last month.
Rabbi Shlomo Nathanson is continuing his role as assistant rabbi and there are no plans at present to replace Rabbi Lever.