Kaddish in the Cathedral: a Council first


A milestone event in the community's remembrances of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the camps heard the words of the Kaddish reverberate around Sydney's immense St. Mary's Cathedral. For once the skull caps worn by the bishops were replaced by those of the numerous members of the Jewish community who joined with Christians in last week's Council of Christians and Jews' 2005 Shoah Remembrance Service.

Community identity, Anna Berger, a second generation Holocaust survivor gave the keynote address to a record attendance of over 250 which included members of State and Federal Parliament, the judiciary and high ranking officials of the various denominations which are sponsoring bodies of the Council. These include the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, The Great Synagogue, Temple Emanuel Woollahra and the Catholic Diocese of Sydney.

The service was compiled and arranged by the Council's Hon. Secretary, Sr. Dr. Marianne Dacy NDS who told the Jewish News it was significant on such an occasion to see people of compassion from all faiths come together to remember the terrible years of 1933-45. She paid tribute to Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell who sanctioned the Shoah Service being held in the Cathedral, the altar of which was dressed in black and white, black representing the horror of the Shoah, white the Jewish colour for holiness and atonement. A yellow star of David badge was attached to the black drape. Sr. Dacy added: An elderly attendee, himself a survivor said to me: ?Why has it taken the lives of six million people for us to reach this wonderful moment??

The Kaddish included during the service was recited for the victims of Treblinka, Bergen-Belsen, Majdanek, Sobibor, Chelmo, Belzec, Dachau, Sachsenhausen, Ravensbruck, Mauthausen, Flossenberg, Auschwitz, Buchenwald and Lodz. Nine candles were placed on the altar: six burned for the six million Jews who died, one for non-Jews who lost their lives during those years and an eighth candle honoured the righteous gentiles who in those desolate, dark days, risked their lives for the sake of their Jewish neighbours.

A ninth candle was lit at the end of the service as a symbol of hope and peace with numerous members of Christian denominations and the Jewish community lighting tapers for harmony and exchanging messages of peace.

NSW Council of Christians and Jews president, Rabbi Jeffrey Cohen commented that the service this year in the Cathedral itself rather than in the crypt where it has been held in the past represented a major step in his organisation's striving to bring together the various faiths in dialogue over differences and celebration of commonalities.

””We recognise that there is not inconsiderable difficulty on the part of many members of the Australian Jewish community in attending a function held in a church or cathedral and we are immensely encouraged by the large attendance at this year's service.

””With the ongoing support of Archbishop George Pell, we are hopeful that this can be the beginning of a new era of coming together each year to honour the six million and the Righteous among the Nations””, Rabbi Cohen said, adding that the Council was in the process or re-instating its Holocaust Seminar program for non-Jewish educators. This educational initiative, introduced in the 1990s by Rabbi Brian Fox has been in recess over the past three years but Rabbi Cohen indicated plans were being made to reintroduce the concept in the medium term.