Think again – What a week, a response to terrorism


Coogee Synagogue Weekly News.

It has not been a good week for the Jewish people; again another murderous terrorist attack, in the heart of Jerusalem, in the religious suburb of Har Nof. It was the fourth week in a row that a terrorist attack has occurred; this time the perpetrators targeted a synagogue. There were five dead, Rabbi Aryeh Kopinsky, 43, Rabbi Avraham Shmuel Goldberg, 58, Rabbi Calman Levine and Rabbi Moshe Twersky, 59; May God rest their souls, may God comfort the Jewish people amongst those who mourn after Zion and Jerusalem. Rabbi Twersky was a head of the Yeshiva and the grandson of Rabbi J.B.Soleveichick a scion of Torah Jewry.

Sergeant Zidan Saif, Rabbi Avraham Shmuel Goldberg, Rabbi Kalman Levine, Rabbi Moshe Twersky and Rabbi Aryeh Kupinsky

The fifth death was the hero, a Druze policeman, Sgt. Major Zidan Seif, who engaged the two terrorists in gun fire and prevented more carnage and death. He died of gunshot wounds sustained in the attack. He was laid to rest in his home village Yanuh-Jat in the north of Israel. The religious community of Israel very much empathised with the grief of the family of Major Zidan Seif and they traveled in their thousands to attend the funeral and to pay their respects to the family of this Druze policeman. He received a state funeral in the presence of the president of the state of Israel, Reuven Rivlin as was the chief Rabbi of Har Nof who eulogised the police officer.

State Funeral of Zidan Seif.

The common sadness of Jew and Druze was gut-wrenching, yet the resolve of both peoples has not fazed. The respect and reverence shown between the two cultures both Druze and Jewish was honourable. I could not help but see the commonality of dress between the Sephardi Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Shlomo Amar and the Druze leaders. Rabbi Amar participated in the funeral, reciting parts of the Hebrew Jewish funeral service. It gives Israel untold hope for peace in the multicultural society that is Israel.

There seems no way out of this terrorism. The terrorists at Har Nof were Israeli citizens who worked in the local (makolet) grocery store and who knew when and how to cause most damage and death. They waited till the worshipers were at the amidah part of the service. Israeli justice has resorted to collective punishment of destroying the homes of the terrorists and they will now not be releasing the bodies of the terrorists to receive a martyr’s funeral; yet this surely won’t resolve anything in the long run. What to do, with a renegade fifth column in your midst?

Again the Jew has lived the lesson of his credo that the bitterness of the past never ever will diminish the resolve for the hopes of the future.

At our synagogue we firmly resolved to embrace the future. The Annual General Meeting of Coogee Synagogue took place this past week; an AGM by its nature looks at the events, happenings and accounts of the past year but more importantly it focuses on the future, the upcoming year. A change of guard occurred, as the president Andrew Silvers stepped down at the end of his four year term. Andrew remains on the board as the immediate past president. Our esteemed treasurer Harry Bernfield did not jump ship (thank God), and his steadying influence on the executive committee of the Board will be provide stable and balanced leadership together with his professionalism in providing secure financial direction for the synagogue.

Our new Board is President Dr Billie Glass; Vice President Ronny Schnapp; Treasurer Harry Bernfield; Honorary secretary Wilfred Lax; Board members – Zvika Charlupski, Shirley Snoyman, Monica Foltyn, Gill Sher, and Daniel Serebro; immediate past president Andrew Silvers. Mazal Tov to you all; you have accepted the mantle of leadership at our great little central synagogue. Leadership is both a privilege and a responsibility, an honour and duty but above all I hope that it is satisfying and fulfilling and that as you carry out your communal responsibilities in faith, you find it rewarding, pleasing and ultimately very worthwhile. I know that our community relies greatly upon your services and I look forward to working with you all.

But what a night it turned out to be. Fittingly a number of our members were honoured and presentations were given for outstanding communal service to Coogee Synagogue.

Honours were publicly awarded to Edna Shaw; David Brem; Monica Foltyn and Michelle Serebro. The awards were handed out by the indomitable Herman Gutman OAM which was an honour in itself. Those in attendance will always be able to say we were there when Herman Gutman gave a speech honouring the communal achievements of Edna Shaw, David Brem, Monica Foltyn and Michelle Serebro.

On behalf of our community I wish all the recipients mazal Tov. I would like to convey good wishes to those who stood down from the board after many years of service. Firstly to David Brem who has been on and off the board for the past fifty years, and who just keeps on keeping on, David may you continue to be the backbone of our congregation. Thank you to Ricky Levy who finished his four year term and of course to David Ende who stepped down from his role as immediate past president. As we say in the classics I will see you all in shule!

I don’t have an answer to terrorism; this week the terrorists certainly defiled a place of worship a synagogue in Har Nof; but this week too, in a small corner of the world down by Coogee beach a synagogue brought life and hope into the Jewish world. This week at our AGM, our synagogue once again reaffirmed and resolved that we will stand firm and continue to live and build a synagogue; we will not let go of our collective dreams for our community.

We resolved to confer honour to outstanding individuals and we resolve to remember the outstanding individuals who lost their lives this week. Perhaps in our small way we say to those who were killed, both Jew and Druze, that your lives were not in vain; your names will be mentioned this week in our synagogue; we will not be cowered in the face of terror and we will continue to live on, we will persist in the development and growth of shules and communities, we will continue to make our synagogue great. This is our response to terrorism.

as always

l’chaim and see you in shule

Elozer Gestetner  

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  1. A fund has been created to help the family of Zidan Seif, the Druze Policeman who died saving victims of the Har Nof massacre from the terrorists.

    Please donate and/or share widely