About

Founded in 1930, Temple Beth Israel is one of the most active and creative congregations in the Australian Jewish community. TBI prides itself on bringing innovation to Jewish traditions. It offers programs for all ages and interest groups, and multiple pathways for members and friends to engage with Progressive Judaism in a way that enhances their lives through spiritual enrichment, learning and community.

Guided by principles of egalitarianism and respect for others, TBI seeks to provide a spiritual home for all who wish to embrace its values.

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First gathering on 1 April 1930, the founders of TBI finally settled on the name Temple Beth Israel in 1937, the same year in which the building’s foundation stone was laid.

TBI’s first Senior Rabbi, Dr Herman Sanger, who arrived from Berlin in August 1936, revolutionised Judaism in Australia by establishing a home for German and Austrian Jewish refugees fleeing Europe in the pre- and post-War periods.

In 1938 Dr Herman Schildberger arrived and assumed the musical direction of TBI, introducing to the congregation the majestic music of Lewandowski.

In the 1950s TBI seeded new synagogues in Kew and Bentleigh, The King David School was founded in the mid-1970s, and in the early 1980s the first Israeli shaliach was brought to Melbourne to work with the newly-formed Progressive Zionist youth movement Netzer.

In more recent years, TBI has provided direction to the Jewish community of Victoria and Australia in a number of areas, including the introduction of bat mitzvah and baby naming ceremonies for girls, interfaith work with both the Christian and Muslim communities, active support for social justice issues such as Aboriginal reconciliation and refugee welfare, multicultural forums and synagogue open-house events, adult learning opportunities, community pastoral care programming, and social networking.

With its guiding vision to “meet tradition with innovation”, TBI also has a proud history of creating dynamic and imaginative ways to celebrate the Jewish festivals, appealing in particular to young families.

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The magnificent windows hanging in TBI’s Herman Sanger Sanctuary, crafted by David Wright and James Thompson, embody the vision and innovative thinking of TBI’s leadership. The windows not only depict our story, our past, but also describe our present experience, and signify our hopes for the future.

As the eyes of maturity reveal knowledge, wisdom and a Life full of joy, sorrow and understanding, while the eyes of youth reveal uncertainty, possibility and the promise of hope, so the TBI windows depict the Jewish story simultaneously through both.

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Rabbi Gersh Lazarow is a passionate educator with a strong commitment to Progressive Jewish values, tradition and community. As a university student, he served as federal Director of Netzer Australia and as the Chairperson of the Zionist Youth Council of Victoria. As a young professional, he worked as the Youth and Program Director of the United Jewish Congregation of Hong Kong and as the Education Director of Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Los Angeles.

In 2009 Rabbi Lazarow returned to Melbourne to take up the position of Rabbi of The King David School, where he directed the Department of Jewish Life and Learning and served on the school’s senior management team. In 2010 he also took on the rabbinic leadership of Bentleigh Progressive Synagogue, seeing to its transformation into Etz Chayim Progressive Synagogue.

In 2013 Rabbi Lazarow was appointed Senior Rabbi of Temple Beth Israel, and has since initiated a remarkable series of changes to ensure that TBI continues to be a place of meaning and purpose. His initiatives have extended the reach of the TBI community far beyond that which its founders could ever have imagined.

Beyond TBI, Rabbi Lazarow has championed the causes of marriage equality, indigenous rights, climate action, and has passionately shown us how to love Israel even when we don’t always like her politics.

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Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1988 Rabbi Ettlinger moved with her family to Perth, WA, where she was an active member of Temple David. In 2005 Rabbi Ettlinger was ordained at Hebrew Union College (HUC), where she earned two Master of Arts Degrees, in Jewish Education and in Hebrew Letters. She also has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Politics, Philosophy and Sociology from Murdoch University.

Rabbi Ettlinger first worked at Peninsula Temple Sholom in San Francisco, before coming to TBI in 2010. Recently she also took on the Directorship of the Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Education.

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Cantor Laloum was born in Belgium, and raised in Australia, with a strong Yiddishist/Bundist influence on his mother’s side, and a traditionalist Sephardic influence on his father’s. He then worked and studied for 15 years in Israel, New York and France, undertaking a Bachelors of Music performance, Bachelors of Arts in psychology and philosophy, and studies in orthodox yeshivot (seminaries) in Jerusalem’s Old City. In 2001 he was ordained as a Cantor at the Progressive Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion. He also completed Rabbinic studies at the Academy for Jewish Religion, Jewish Theological Seminary and New York University.

Michel has performed and lectured extensively. He served with the World Union for Progressive Judaism, presenting workshops, lecture tours and concerts in several countries. While working in Lyon, France, Michel’s community, the Communauté Juive Liberal more than quadrupled in size, and became a major proponent of Progressive Judaism outside of Paris. His passion for interfaith dialogue also brought about closer working relationships between Jews, Protestants, Catholics, Dominicans, Buddhists, and Freemasons.

After returning to Melbourne in 2010, Michel worked with the Union for Progressive Judaism and Etz Chayim Progressive Synagogue before rejoining TBI.

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Rabbi Fred Morgan has lived in America, England and Australia and spent extended periods in India, Hungary and Israel. For several years he was a lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Bristol in the UK, specialising in the religions of India, before entering Leo Baeck College in London to study for the rabbinate.

Ordained in 1984, Rabbi Morgan served North West Surrey Synagogue in England for 13 years before taking up the position of Senior Rabbi at TBI. He has also held a number of other positions in the Jewish and wider communities, including Hon. Associate Rabbi of Sim Shalom Congregation in Budapest, Hon. President of the Council of Christians and Jews (Victoria), and Hon. Fellow in the Faculty of Theology and Philosophy, Australian Catholic University.

After 16 years as Senior Rabbi, Rabbi Morgan took up the position as Emeritus Rabbi in August 2013.

Rabbi Levi was the first Australian to be ordained as a rabbi and return to work in the country. He was named Rabbi Emeritus of TBI in 1997 following 37 years of distinguished leadership.

Rabbi Levi was elected Deputy President of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry in 2005 and is a Patron of the Council of Christians and Jews (Australia), an organisation he helped found in 1985. He was a Vice President of the governing body of the World Union for Progressive Judaism from 1974-1998, and was one of the founders of The King David School. He is the author of several publications including Australian Genesis (1974), Rabbi Jacob Danglow (1995), A Passover Haggadah (2002), These Are the Names (2006) and My Dear Friends: the Biography of Rabbi Dr Herman Sanger (2009).

In 2006 Monash University awarded Rabbi Levi the degree of Doctor of Laws (honoris causa) for his contribution to the community and to Australian Jewish history, in 2008 he  accepted an appointment as adjunct professor to the Australian Catholic University’s Asia-Pacific Centre for Inter-religious Dialogue, and, in 2021, he was made a Companion of the Order of Australia.

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Tammy is passionate about helping individuals, families and communities develop their own connections to Progressive Jewish values, traditions and history. Tammy developed her love for Progressive Judaism, Jewish music and prayer, and lifelong learning growing up in the TBI community and attending the King David School.

In 2020 Tammy graduated from Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion with a Masters of Jewish Education and a Masters of Jewish Nonprofit Management. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts (Musical Theatre) performance degree and has diverse training and experience in the arts.

Highlights of her years of study in Los Angeles and Jerusalem include working in family education and teen retreats with Congregation Or Ami, developing a family camp for URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech West, working towards social justice with the young adult Glass Leadership Initiative and the Asian Jewish Roundtable with the Anti-Defamation League, and leading Pesach s’darim in Belarus.

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EXECUTIVE

Joanne Loewy Irons, PRESIDENT
Judi Cohen, VICE PRESIDENT
Alla Medownick, TREASURER
Nichola Strauch, SECRETARY

MEMBERS

Joshua Dascal
John Hillel
Simon Langer
Gary Lewis
Jane Portnoy
David Ryan
Jodi Sanders
Rebecca Silk

 

PAST PRESIDENT

Craig Levin

EX OFFICIO

Rabbi Gersh Lazarow
Robert Hershan AM

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