Unveiling of Synagogue Plaque, Shepparton

synagogue memorial unveild

A memorial cairn with remembrance plaque was unveiled at Shepparton East on Sunday, 15 November. A large crowd was in attendance, with many travelling from Melbourne for the occasion.

The Unveiling Ceremony took place at the site of the former Synagogue and Communal Hostel, which is on the corner of Doyles Rd and Poplar Ave, Shepparton East. The unveiling took place on Sunday 15 November between 2:00 and 2:30pm.

After the unveiling, the guests retired to St Paul’s African House for refreshments and speeches. This private function was arranged to express appreciation to this generous group who made the event possible; this also included the families and their descendants who once worshipped in the Synagogue, many of whom had travelled from Melbourne to attend the event. Amongst these families were several Orthodox Jewish families.

Uncle Boydie at Jewish plaque, Shepparton

View of the crowd at the Unveiling

Alf ““Uncle Boydie” Turner began the proceedings with a welcome to country and then also told of his childhood, how the Jewish orchardists totally accepted him and his friends when the came to visit. Uncle Boydie told how he had never forgotten the generosity of these orchardists. Uncle Boydie is the grandson of Uncle William Cooper who, 70 years ago, started a petition to King George V of England to prevent the extinction of the Aboriginal race and to grant Aborigines representation in Federal Parliament. William Cooper led a protest march in Melbourne against the treatment of Jews in Germany only weeks after Kristallnatch and is now honoured in the Holocaust museum in Israel.

Yorta Yorta elder Uncle Boydie welcomes all to Country and speaks of his experience of the Jewish community.

Shirley Randles then gave a brief history of the Synagogue and the Community Hostel. She said Shepparton’s Jewish heritage began with the arrival of eight immigrant families in 1913 to work in the fruit growing industry. Land was acquired on the corner of Doyles Lane and Poplar Ave, and later, a small house was obtained and converted into a synagogue. A Jewish Communal Hostel was later constructed at the site.

More Jewish families arrived in Shepparton before and after World War II. Shirley Randles recalled that Sabbath prayers held on Friday night and Saturday morning and the synagogue was filled with worshippers for the High Holy Days. By the mid 1960s, the second generation of Jewish families were finding it difficult to adjust to orchard work and began moving away, mostly to Melbourne.

The synagogue then fell into disrepair and was demolished when the land was sold in the 1980s.

Shirley Randles in Shepparton with Ina Clive

Shirley Randles at the Unveiling; Ina Clive is on the right.

A Hebrew Blessing was then read out, and a short talk was given on about the significance of the synagogue and thanks for this occasion. A Shofar horn was then blown to signal the end of this part of the Unveiling activities.

A shofar is an instrument made from the horn of a ram or other kosher animal. It was used in ancient Israel to announce the New Moon (Rosh Chodesh) and call people together. It was also blown on Rosh Hashanah, marking the beginning of the New Year, signifying both need to wake up to the call to repentance, and in connection with the portion read on the second day of Rosh Hashanah, the Binding of Isaac (Genesis, chapter 22) in which Abraham sacrifices a ram in place of his son, Isaac.

the shofar is shown

The Shofar horn is shown to all before blowing

Those present were told that Shirley Randles had once heard a Shofar and Digeridoo blown together, and had found this to be a magnificent, sacred experience. A Poem by Shirley Randles was then read out, after which a didgeridoo was then blown, and thereafter, both the Shofar and didgeridoo were blown together. When the notes came together, there was a resounding (albeit brief) harmony which echoed within the listeners.

blowing of didgeridoo

blowing of the didgeridoo

Poem by Shirley Randles

The Didgeridoo, timber honed.

The Shofar, a twisted ram’s horn.

Aboriginal Elder and Rabbi,

different and yet the same,

share beliefs of tradition and faith.

Each blows into their instrument.

A melodious duet fills the hall.

It swells till the air vibrates

with waves of ancient music.

Different and yet the same,

these instruments play one tune.

The music stops, the air is still.

The audience unite in silent harmony.

Moments pass, then applause erupts.

Voices echo and blend in friendship.

Two tribes – different and yet the same,

all members of the human race.

Les Feiglin

Les Feiglin, and daughter Atida Lipshatz, hold a photo of the Jewish synagogue that once stood at the corner of Doyles Rd and Poplar Ave.Mr Feiglin is the grandson of Moshe Feiglin who donated the house for the synagogue.


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