First Jewish funeral held in Australian Outback since ‘43

May 30, 2013
BY JTA Wire Service

The first Jewish funeral in an Australian Outback town since 1943 was held with the aid of a Facebook and Twitter campaign.

On Sunday, more than 20 Jews came to the cemetery in the rural town of Goulbourn, about 125 miles south of Sydney, for the funeral of Wayne Robinson, whose dying wish was to receive a Jewish burial.

Since there is no active Jewish cemetery in Goulburn, Rabbi Shmueli Feldman had to seek approval from the local council for an area of the general cemetery to be allocated to Jews, even though there has been no Jewish community there since the gold rush in the 1800s.

Feldman, the son of Chabad’s American-born chief rabbi in New South Wales, had been called to Robinson’s bedside last week.

He also had to find 10 Jewish men willing to travel from Canberra, where Feldman operates in the small Jewish community, or Sydney to cleanse the land and consecrate it according to Jewish law. The word was sent out on Facebook and Twitter.

“The story highlights the incredible unity and interconnectedness of the Jewish people,” Feldman, who had never consecrated a Jewish burial ground, told Australian Broadcasting Corp. Radio. “It was the most beautiful thing that I’ve ever witnessed.”

The group who came for the funeral included four or five previously unknown Jews from Goulburn. One of the men told Feldman he had never officially become a bar mitzvah.

Hours after the funeral, in front of his wife, daughters and the traveling minyan, the man put on tefillin and had what Feldman described as “a mini-bar mitzvah” some 50 years after his 13th birthday.