Er, yes, I’m telling you a little about the books I’m reading as part of my research in my synagogue. In my defence I’m struggling to find time to read much more than this and my uni stuff. This is the history of Temple Beth Israel, the largest progressive synagogue in Melbourne. The reason I read it is that it’s the mother congregation of my synagogue, to understand anyone you need to look back at their parents and see where they’ve come from so that’s what I’ve done.
Temple Beth Israel was founded in 1930 at a time when many Jews in Melbourne were becoming disenfranchised with their orthodox congregations often leaving or marrying out. Most of the Services were in Hebrew making it hard for the average person to understand. The Services at the new progressive congregation were designed with accessibility in mind with much of it being in English. In 1936 after several rabbis had come and gone Rabbi Sanger came to Melbourne and promptly became ‘the’ rabbi who brought with him a Germanic background and lots of enthusiasm, there was no way Temple Beth Israel was going to fail with Rabbi Sanger on board. If you want more about Rabbi Sanger you can have a squiz at my review of the book about him written by Rabbi John Levi.
This book is competently written and I wouldn’t expect anything less as the authors have very illustrious backgrounds. Werner Graff was an optician later on completing a Master of Arts using the Temple Beth Israel as his subject. Malcolm J. Turnbull is a teacher and freelance historian. Eliot J. Baskin is a rabbi and wrote his thesis on The Development of Progressive Judaism in Melbourne. The editors, Dr. Hilary L. Rubinstein and Dr. Howard A. Freeman are both historians of note. Together they’ve put together a good, solid history of a congregation.
The text takes you forward in logical progression. I have one complaint. The index drives me bananas, there are so many references not indexed. I’ll have to reread this while sitting at a desk, rather than my normal reading practice of in bed, making sure to bookmark key references.
I did find it interesting, I learned so many new things about the congregation and I revisited many memories. So many people in the last ten years of this book are people I know personally and it was lovely to see them feted, they’ve done so much.