I saw in the Star that there was going to be a talk at Toitu.  The local Jewish Congregation had put up a little display of artefacts relating to Jews in Dunedin.  Dr Stuart (Shlomo) Swerdloff, a migrant to the university from California, addressed the audience.  His favourite Jewish/New Zealand fusion food is Kumera Latkes.  The Jews that arrived in Dunedin came with the gold rush.  They were following the money.  They were successful enough that they established a temple and expanded it.  Their third temple survives in Dunedin as the Temple Gallery, an especially beautiful building  up steep steps close to the centre of town.  The interior is to admired.  Unfortunately the sanctuary is part of the curator’s flat in the building and can only be seen briefly.  The congregation meets in a simpler modern building in North Dunedin.  Although smaller in numbers they maintain the necessary quorum to read the Torah.

The Jews that came to Dunedin were modern people.  Jews in America created Levi’s Jeans.  Jews in Dunedin started the Hallensteins clothing business.  Look around, they left names that are still part of the city’s history, Willi Fels and the Theomin family.

They maintain the story that when they invited a visiting Rabbi to celebrate the first Purim he wrote the Megillah, the festival scroll, the night before the occasion.  If so he had a very good hand because on examination in the display it is very neat writing.  A prayer book was open to show mention of prayers for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.  These people knew how to pray for the peace and well-being of their city.

Other items that were passed around the audience, it was well attended by interested people,   A Kiddush cup for sharing wine on Sabbath eve, two menorahs, one traditional, the other modern in design, and two kippahs.  These can be serious like the one that was lovingly made, or whimsical, like the one that was a souvenir from Paris!  I resisted trying one on to see what it was like (besides no mirrors nearby!)  Dr Swerdloff displayed how to wear a prayer shawl.  These things are special his family’s life in Dunedin.  They are reserved for their practice, when they are valued.  Apparently his daughter is very good at blowing the ram’s horn for New Year and Atonement.  The congregation has provided one from Israel for her.  There is pride in that.

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