A Snapshot of the Past Year

It has been an eventful year, to say the least. Scroll through and look through some of the highlights of the past 12 months. Be sure to scroll to the end to check out the fabulous pictures…



Tisha B’Av is the most sombre night of the Jewish year and ARK Centre has often found uniquely absorbing ways to involve our community.

On Saturday 10 August 2019, we introduced a new format, a debate on a ‘hot topic’ of relevance to the Jewish and general community.

The topic was Morality vs Legality: The Legalisation of Euthanasia. In a hotly contested debate, those arguing on the Affirmative side were Dr Jonny Orelowitz, Amari Romero, and Ivana Krsteska; the speakers for the Negative side were Deborah Mandie, Dr Barry Teperman and Dr Peter Eizenberg.

Before the debate, with all those attending sitting on the floor, we davened Maariv and read the tragic book of Eicha in Hebrew and English, a text traditionally read on Tisha B’Av, commemorating the destruction of the First and Second Temples and numerous tragedies that befell the Jewish people through history.

The debate was well argued with passion and conviction from both sides and then opened up to questions and comments from those in attendance. As a question for our times, the speakers put their cases forcefully and sincerely, making it very difficult to decide a winner. Even without a conclusive result it elicited a great deal of thoughtful commentary and involvement with the discussion of such a vital subject.


ARK Centre was filled with families coming to celebrate the beginning of the New Year with services led by Rabbi Gabi, accompanied by the superb ARKapella singers led by Shneur Reti-Waks. Rabbi Gabi delivered extraordinary sermons  on both days, which drew applause from the congregation, something we’ve never seen before at ARK Centre nor perhaps at any Shule.

He talked about the concept of “gam ze ya’avor”, this too shall pass, which was poignant then in September but has proven to be even more so now with everything that has happened in the world since. As usual, we had a stellar Youth Program with activities for children of all ages (including a feeding area for newborns and infants) ably organised by Gabbi Sar-Shalom with the assistance

of a top notch team of madrichim, Jordan, Gid, Shoshi, Izzy, Sian, Jade, Hayley and Timnah. The children threw themselves into the program and said it was the best ever.

A record number of people trekked down to Gardiners Creek for the Tashlich service to ritually throw our sins into the water, a very ancient custom. Despite the cold and slight drizzly rain, everyone joined in and sang with enthusiasm.

Just prior to Rosh Hashanah, Rabbi Gabi and Rebbetzin Mushka celebrated the Upsherin (hair cutting) of their second son Lev and invited to the community to celebrate all together. Surrounded by family, including Rebbetzin Mushka’s father who was visiting from Bangkok, friends and congregants, it was a joyous afternoon, and Lev enjoyed it and his cake.


Jews all over the world, even if they’re not observant, wouldn’t miss a Kol Nidre service, and with good reason. It is a haunting, emotional service and at ARK Centre with Rabbi Gabi leading and the ARKapellas supporting, it was something truly unforgettable.

Yom Kippur is a long day, but at ARK Centre it is beautifully davened, and everyone feels they are part of something greater than themselves. With our trademark long break in the middle of the day, members and friends are given the opportunity for a long shluff or, if so inclined, to come back early for a chat and discussion with Rabbi Gabi before the service continues.

Our Break the Fast meal has become a tradition now, with large numbers of the community coming together to eat, talk, drink and enjoy, just like an extended family. This ARK Centre ‘family tradition’ is just one that we hope to be able to resume in the coming weeks and months.


We celebrated Erev Succot with a family event to “make your own edible succah”, with every imaginable lolly, sweet biscuit and canned cream to make walls, floors, schach and decorations.

The kids enjoyed making them as much as they did eating them and the judging of best succah was, of course, very fair and impartial.

During Chol Ha’Moed Succot Rabbi Gabi hosted an event for our younger adults at his home, in collaboration with his friend Pinny Super, and of course all the usual services and delicious kiddushim were enjoyed by all.


This is such a joyous festival, encouraging participation by everyone to carry the Sefer Torah around the shule, to celebrate and have fun! Family and friends of the Chatan Torah, Harry Rosenberg, and Chatan Bereshit, Moshe Goldberg, joined together to enjoy the honour of the chag. During the day one of our favourite traditions is the bringing up of the youngest generations to the bimah to find the first letter of their Hebrew name in the Torah before the leining (reading from the Torah) commences.

They were days that really capped off the New Year period with a memorable party, with meaning and genuine, wholesome good fun.


Each month Dr Barry Teperman rounds up the troops to attend the ARK Centre Rosh Chodesh service. Barry is renowned for saying ‘phylacteries optional’, and he always provides poppy seed cake for everyone much to the delight of all who attend. During these weeks of lockdown due to Covid-19, ARK Centre moved to Zoom for online Rosh Chodesh services which were very well attended although the poppy seed cake was missed. It was delightful to see the eagerness with which participants came back to Shule, albeit briefly, for one of the monthly services with strict adherence to number limitations and social distancing protocols. These services will continue over Zoom until we can gather again safely.


We couldn’t let the year end without a celebration. And we didn’t. In early December 2019 we held the now renowned annual Whisky and Herring night warmly hosted by Dov and Rosie Potaznik at their home. As usual it was well attended and provided several good bottles of Scotch for enjoyment on the night and for donation to the Shule. Many thanks for all the generous donations and to our wonderful hosts.

We finished the calendar year with a heartfelt musical Kabbalat Shabbat service, celebrating the end of the year and the beginning of the summer holidays.


It was a very different Purim this year with, for the first time, ARK Centre hosting both a women’s and a mixed group’s reading of the Megillah.

It was an historic and memorable evening with the women reading the Megillah bringing a great deal of warmth and skill. Each woman who leined (read) the Megillah did so with gusto, enthusiasm and a great deal of passion.

Our thanks to Elise Loterman from WOTIV (Women’s Orthodox Tefillah in Victoria) for coordinating a fantastic evening. It was an evening true to ARK Centre’s mission of inclusivity and engagement, (as well as choice!), and delivered a great deal of joy to all who attended. The two groups joined at the end of the readings for a delicious supper and discussions went on for some time.

Rabbi Gabi was a huge hit at the Bialik College Purim celebrations partying along with the students, and the principal, during their range of activities during the day.

Sadly, it was also that week that Covid-19 restrictions were instituted, and as a result we had to cancel our much-anticipated Purim-themed Kabbalat Shabbat party, but we look forward to 2021 when we can hopefully gather together again to celebrate.

Before Purim we hosted a Pre- Purim Hamentashen Bake, in the ARK Centre kitchen, ably led by Rebbetzin Mushka with thanks for the generous support of Rosie Potaznik in memory of her late mother Sala Cukierman. And the hamentashen were delicious!


Pesach 2020 was the most unusual Pesach any of us had experienced with many commenting on the similarities between the Plagues of Egypt and living through a real-life plague in the present.

This year, to help our community celebrate and commemorate together, ARK Centre offered ‘Pesach in a Box’, and we sold out in record time. Each recipient received a prepared Seder plate, matzah, and a three-course meal. Many thanks to Chef Dan and his team for helping the community enjoy a delicious Pesach meal in trying times.

Pesach also saw the introduction of our Pay it Forward initiative where community members donated a ‘Pesach in a Box’ to enable families struggling with the changes brought by COVID-19 to enjoy a Seder meal. These were done anonymously to protect the privacy of those receiving the meals.

The Pay it Forward initiative has continued since with the focus moving toward providing Shabbat Boxes to those doing it tough in these challenging times. There’s more information on the Shabbat Box later in this magazine.


It was with great joy and relief that ARK Centre shule was able to open its doors, in a limited way, to a small congregation to celebrate Shavuot with prayer in person.

Rebbetzin Mushka hosted a Zoom Tikkun Leil Shavuot the day before Shavuot entitled Alternative Perspectives: Exploring Old Ideas in a New Way. It was a most interesting and thought-provoking evening, with some of the large audience joining in with questions and comments. Rebbetzin Mushka looked at a number of stages and stories through time, ones that many of us know well, and offered different perspectives on what we thought we knew. In many cases, she delved into a female perspective turning what we had seen through one lens, perhaps, completely on its head.

It being the second Chag we celebrated in isolation, we wanted to give everyone the opportunity to get involved. In the afternoon prior to the beginning of the Chag, Chazzan Tunni livestreamed a range of songs and, after Shabbat, together with Rabbi Gabi livestreamed a beautiful Havdallah service.


Rabbi Gabi leads a wide range of shiurim (lessons) during the year, often linked to a festival and covering many different topics. Prior to Rosh Hashanah there is a shiur for those who would like to know more about the how to, why and when of davening. There was a session to teach the Pesach songs prior to the first Seder, and a series on Pirkei Avot that Rabbi Gabi led over Zoom during isolation to name a few.

To find out more about upcoming shiurim topics, dates and times see our weekly newsletter.

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