Bondi View

Shul be alright in Bondi

Bondi Beach Rabbi Yehoram Ulman Photo: Ale Villalobos

By Linda Hoang

An application has been approved for the development of the Wellington Street Tennis Courts in Bondi Beach to be transformed into a synagogue and two residential blocks.

Community Spiritual Leader, Rabbi Yehoram Ulman said “The Russian Jewish community wanted to have our own synagogue like how every other Jewish community has their own synagogue. We wanted a place to call home, where people could come on the regularity they wanted to come, but to a place which is theirs.”

On 27 June 2018, the Waverley Development Application Panel approved a resubmission of the proposal after the Land and Environment Court ruled against it in August 2017.

The development application was initially submitted to Waverley Council but applicants lodged to have it settled in the Land and Environment Court within 40 days of its submission.

Applicants can choose to have their proposal determined this way instead of keeping it with the Council to be assessed and determined, which can take longer.

The Land and Environment Court refused the original development because it did not address the “potential impacts on public safety.”

Councillor for the Bondi Ward, Leon Goltsman, said “Last time round we did not have a chance to work with the applicants because they took it out of our hands. This time, there was better interaction between applicants and the councillors, and to also work with the residents’ demand, so I think we reached a decent compromise.”

““Now, because it’s gone through the proper channels, it will be a beneficial addition to the Russian-Jewish community.”

Rabbi Ulman said “The synagogue will help make many things happen for the community. It will have a place of worship, a function room, activity area for children and headquarter offices for the Beth Din rabbinical court headquarters.” “At the moment we have inadequate headquarters but whenever there is a festival or a holiday we have to move around.”

A member of the Russian-speaking Jewish community, Natalie Lloyd-Levy said “Currently, the shul is run essentially from Rabbi Ulman’s house. There is a small space next door that they use but the community has definitely outgrown it.”

“While I have very fond feelings for the current location, it is very small and simply cannot accommodate the amount of people who want to go, especially during high holidays like Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur or life cycle events like Bat Mitzvahs and weddings which tend to be big communal events.”

Ms Lloyd-Levy ran a Russian-speaking mothers group at the shul to offer support to new mums in the community whose native language wasn’t English.

“Hopefully with more space we could pick up the mother’s program again. The synagogue will also be a social hub for elderly members of our community to help them stay connected and involved.”

A residents’ advocacy group, Rescue Bondi, has raised opposition because of the possible impacts of the synagogue on the beachside suburb.

One concern the group put forward is the disruption of routine traffic in and out Wellington Street where there is already congestion due to surrounding developments.

The group claims the synagogue and its residential blocks could be inconsistent with the surrounding architecture due to its planned high buildings and concrete security wall.

Cr Goltsman said “The good thing is the Council and its compliance team will make sure the conditions of the application are adhered to and management of the synagogue and the Precinct will be able to communicate with each other in public forums.”

Rescue Bondi fears the buildings will be imposing. On its Facebook page the group claims the security guards and surveillance cameras will create a hostile and unfriendly community environment where “the benefit is only to a smaller community group.”

Cr Goltsman said “This time, the security issues which the applicants themselves presented have been satisfactorily addressed. With the outcome, it may not have been the outcome everyone hoped for but it’s definitely one that’s opened up and will maintain a line of communication.”

Rabbi Ulman said “Our community is concentrated in the Eastern Suburbs and so we wanted to have it in this area. The shul here on O’Brien Street has been here for 30 years and we’re on good terms with the neighbours.”

Cr Goltsman said “I sincerely hope the entire Bondi community will continue to work together and any concerns will be addressed.”

The synagogue development is expected to be completed over the next two years.

 

 

 

Linda Hoang is an Eastern suburbs community affairs writer.

She can be contacted at news@altmedia.net.au

Ale Villalobos is a photojournalist. Her instagram is @alex_villalobos.