Friday, January 18, 2013

Hobart - Second Stop 1/18/2013

View from Mt. Wellington
Conservatory at Botanical Gardens
People who live in Hobart claim that one can experience all four seasons in one day.  We believe them. We started our day with a tour titled, “Hobart, Jewel of the South”. As we left the ship to make our way to the top of Mt. Wellington it was cool and raining. At the top of the mountain, as we took in the panoramic view, there was a cold, biting wind. The rain let up when we visited the Botanical Gardens but we were still happy to go into the warm Conservatory to see the orchids. Our tour ended by the pier where is was sunny and became quite warm as we walked through the shops and cafes of the Salamanca Market. 

We had been told that we could not come on this trip without having fish and chips at least once and today was the day. By the pier, we stopped at “Fish Frenzy” to have one beer battered and one crumbed piece of fish with the traditional chips (French fries). With this accomplished, I guess we can now come home, but neither of us is ready. We have more to see and do before returning home.

The Hobart Synagogue was this afternoon's stop. This synagogue, dedicated in 1845 during the eighth year of the reign of Queen Victoria, is the oldest synagogue building in Australia. It stands as a rare example of the Egyptian Revival style of architecture, which became popular at the time Napoleon invaded Egypt. The synagogue began with approximately 540 congregants, today has between 40 and 50 and shared by the Orthodox and the Progressive (Reform) population. The entrance was decorated with two carved pillars supporting an architrave and cornice, upon which still appears the Hebrew inscription from the Book of Exodus: “Wherever my name is mentioned there will I come and bless you.”

According to information given to us by our guide and found on the Internet, James Alexander Thomson, a Scotsman originally sent to Australia in 1825 for attempted jewel robbery, designed the building. The Egyptian style represented antiquity and the synagogue’s design was meant to indicate Judaism’s ancient roots. On either side of the doors of the Ark, which are richly carved and gilded, are placed two elaborately carved pillars, supporting an entablature and cornice of cedar, which are also gilded. The Ark contains multiple Torah scrolls, thought to be as old as the synagogue. In 1951 Lady Rachel Ezra of Calcutta, India donated another scroll, which is thought be of Syrian origin. It is kept in an ornamental silver casing in the Shefardic style.  

Elsewhere on display is a Memorial Sefer Torah from Czechoslovakia that is one of the 1,564 scrolls seized from desecrated synagogues.

A large group had come from the ship to see the building and after our tour returned to our "home away from home". Later, onboard Jon and I attended Friday night services and joined two other couples for our Shabbat dinner. One of the couples was from Houston, the wife being a native Houstonian, who knows my family and many of our Houston friends. The other couple’s husband had an interesting story to tell. In 1939, when he was nine years old, his family had tickets to leave Germany. They arrived at the pier and were informed that their Visas had been cancelled and their point of destination was no longer accepting refugees. With the help of many and a willingness to go wherever they would be accepted, they boarded a boat for Bolivia, South America, where his family made their new home. When old enough to go to college, he was encouraged to attend in the United States. With little money but a strong desire and a long process of searching, he found a school in Illinois that would accept him. He came to the United States and eventually earned a PhD from Columbia. He and his wife now live in Philadelphia and have three grown children with families of their own.

With our experiences in Hobart today, and our upcoming tour of the Jewish sites of Melbourne, this must be the segment of our trip devoted to "Judaism Down Under".

1 comment:

  1. Judy, the photos and description of the synagogue remind me of the visits to the Jewish buildings and cemeteries in Prague and on cities the Baltic Sea. Man's reverance for G-d and houses of worship are so similar just as the words and melodies are across the seas. Being Jewish connects us to all Jews in four corners of the world. The beauty of the torahs and the arks are remarkable testimonies of belief and trust in a higher being.

    Glad you are enjoying the tours and adding lots to your bank of memories of places new yet familiar.

    We hope Jon is getting stronger with consistent workouts and pilate sessions. Hugs to you both. M & M