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Elwood Shule History Contributed by Yossi Aron | 2008

The Elwood Talmud Torah Hebrew Congregation has its origins in the expansion of Melbourne’s Jewish community prior to World War II and the post-Holocaust European immigration of the late 1940s and early 1950s.

The congregation began with a private Minyan held in the home of Joseph Fisher from about 1932. In 1938 premises were found at 40 Mitford Street, where services were held and a part-time Talmud Torah school provided after school and Sunday morning instruction in the Jewish religion. As Jews fled their homelands in Central and Eastern Europe in the lead up to World War II and the impending catastrophe, many settled in Melbourne. Increased numbers put pressure on the facilities as well as making it clear that the congregation faced a solid future. At peak times, services took place in halls in Acland Street, St Kilda, and Hennessy Avenue, Elwood.

Permanent premises were acquired at 26 Avoca Avenue in 1942. The existing house was renovated to serve as a home for the congregation through the turbulent post-war years until the further increase in numbers led to another move. The house was used for prayer services as well as for a Talmud Torah (part-time religious school) that grew to become one of Melbourne’s largest. The building was later sold and became a Scout Hall and remains as such to this day.

In the early 1950s President Abe Sicree realised that the congregation had outgrown the Avoca Avenue premises. Independently he decided to buy the current site of the congregation at 39 Dickens Street with the intention of ensuring the congregation had sufficient room for synagogue, school and communal hall. The foundation stone was laid on 26 February 1956 by past president Aaron Cohen JP in the presence of the then president S. Gandel. The building was completed and opened in September 1957, in time for the High Holidays. The following year Rabbi Chaim Gutnick arrived and served as Chief Minister until 2003, his son Rabbi Mordechai Gutnick who is still serving as Chief Minister in 2008 succeeded him. Cantor Avraham Adler was also appointed in 1958; Cantors Natan Mittelman and Yitzchak Levi succeeded him.

Rabbi Shmuel & Rivki Karnowsky were appointed as Outreach Rabbi and Rebbetzin of our community in January 2008. Together with Rabbi & Rebbetzin Gutnick they have been responsible for offering a host of innovative programs and spiritual growth opportunities to the local community. A dedicated Board of Management is currently headed by President Mark Kuran.

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