By Ruth Thomas…

The year was 1959, the place Wellington, New Zealand. A small group of enthusiastic Jewish men and women decided they wanted more from their religion than they could get at the time.

Their aim was to join with other similarly minded people to form a congregation that would allow Judaism to be celebrated in what they considered a meaningful way. Amongst their frustrations were the difficulties of conversion in the orthodox community, the lack of change to the ritual itself and that women could not participate as equals.

The catalyst was the formation of a liberal Jewish congregation in Auckland in 1956.  The instigator, Max Levy, decided Auckland needed support from a Wellington congregation and asked Karo Emanuel who was interested if he would be support a public meeting. At the same time student rabbi John Levi who had almost completed his rabbinical studies was visiting.

And, so, in August, a public meeting was held in Wellington. About 150 men and women attended. Some 50 of them indicated they were interested in the new congregation.

Perhaps they might have not gone ahead if they knew in advance how much time and effort it would take. But the result is the strong progressive Jewish congregation of Temple Sinai with it is own building in Ghuznee Street and a rabbi, Rabbi JoEllen Duckor.

During the first weekend in August, Temple Sinai will celebrate its 60th birthday. On Saturday August 3 the Shabbat service will recognise and honour current and former members of the congregation.

Rabbi John Levi with his wife Robyn will be visiting Wellington from Australia that weekend. A special service booklet is being prepared incorporating the theme of journeys, the congregation’s past, present and future journeys in the readings and prayers.

On Sunday August 4, celebrations will run from 2.30 to 5.30pm.

“While planning is at an early stage, there will be activities that include tots, Beit Midrash kids, post Bnei Mitzvah, under 40s and older members,” says organiser Mona Williams.

“A klezmer band is promised and there will be kosher food and wine. Tickets are free. If people wish ladies can bring a cake, men a bottle.”