Friday, July 14, 2006

NSW Governor reopens Coogee shul, blasts attack as 'shameful'


THE attack on Coogee Synagogue last month was “shameful” and “mindless”, and deserved “the most widespread condemnation”, NSW Governor Professor Marie Bashir (pictured) said this week.

Speaking at the official opening of the shul’s $1-million redevelopment on Wednesday night, just 10 days after the attack in which the curtain of the ark was stolen and a handle of a Torah scroll was broken, Professor Bashir said it affronted all Australians.

“This outrage must be felt with shame by every right-minded citizen, regardless of religious or ethnic background. But not even that miserable act could dampen the joyful anticipation of the renewed synagogue,” Professor Bashir told more than 300 people at the shul.

Praising the “noble” and “courageous” history of the Jewish community in Sydney, Professor Bashir said that the synagogue’s redevelopment serves as a “testimony to the diligence and loyalty of the [Jewish] community, and to the powerful role of this synagogue as central to the community's continuing harmony”.

“It will never be forgotten that the first location was established — in a garage, and with a sefer Torah, borrowed from the Great Synagogue, the first prayer gathering was held [in Coogee],” she said.

Coogee Synagogue’s rabbi of over 20 years, Elozer Gestetner, dubbed his shul “the great little central Coogee Synagogue”, saying its long tradition was comparable to the Great Synagogue, and its new “modern architectural sleek look” akin to Central Synagogue.

“Above all a synagogue is a home; it is like family, and families are forever,” he said.

Harry Schnapp, the shul’s seventh president,thanked the Emanuel School for providing the congregation with a place to worship during the year the renovations were underway. “[It] displayed a wonderful sense of community spirit for which we will always be grateful,” he said.

Coogee Synagogue’s building committee chairman, Charles Beck, also addressed the guests, which included Sir Nicholas Shehadie, Coogee MP Paul Pearce, NSW Jewish Board of Deputies president David Knoll and other political and religious leaders.

Coogee Synagogue was established at its current site in 1962. A kiddush hall was added in the late 1970s and a kindergarten and a ladies gallery was erected in the 1980s. The capacity has been increased to 450, with new leather seats and stained-glass windows.

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