IN the Jewish faith the most pure form of kindness you can show another is to be kind to the dead because they can never repay the favour.
Last Sunday, Goulburn saw an example of this when 20 Jewish men travelled from as far away as Sydney to help fulfil the final wish of a dying man they had never met.
Wayne Robinson knew he didn’t have long for the world and when Canberra based Rabbi Shmueli Feldman visited him at his hospital bedside, he told the holy man he wanted a traditional faith based funeral.
He also wanted Kaddish Prayer recited during the ceremony.
However, under Jewish law this would require the presence of a Minyan (a quorum of 10 Jewish men).
Rabbi Feldman is Chabad, he believes that the purpose of every human soul is to help oneanother, regardless of our faith.
That one day every person is destined for one truly life defining act of kindness.
Not wanting to let down Mr Robinson he sought about turning his last request into a reality.
But, that wasn’t as easy as it seemed.
Firstly, there had not been a Jewish burial in Goulburn for more than 70 years and the old Jewish cemetery was no longer a suitable site. There was also no Jewish section at the General Cemetery. So, the Rabbi contacted Council staff, who put forth a late report May 21 meeting, requesting an urgent notice of motion to allocate land. This happened but there was an even bigger road block.
Despite once being home to the third largest Jewish population in Australia (behind Sydney and Melbourne) the Rabbi did not know of any other practicing Jews within the city.
So he put out a call on social media asking men of faith in both Sydney and Canberra to volunteer their time. The response, he says, was overwhelming.
When he sent the initial emails he feared he would not receive enough responses, he didn’t think people would be prepared to sacrifice their weekend for a man they didn’t know. He couldn’t have been more wrong.
“One of the ideas in our faith is ‘chesed shel emet’ which means (in Hebrew) true kindness,” Rabbi Feldman explained.
“Kindness to the deceased can never be repaid because they have passed on to another world so it is an act of pure selflessness… I thought maybe we would get some hardline traditionalists who really cared for tradition but in a sense I was wrong because I underestimated the spark of principle that exists. I didn’t think the spark of people’s soul would do this kindness… “It was incredibly heart-warming to see so many volunteers come to help make up the numbers.
We had at least two Minyans of men accompanied by women and children who also came to pay their respects. By late Sunday morning I was able to let people from Sydney know that they didn’t need to schlep as we had the numbers.”
Before the service the Minyan assisted the Rabbi in consecrating the ground for the burial.
More than 100 family members and friends also attended the service.
Rabbi Feldman said he was moved by the ceremony, which was a celebration of Mr Robinson’s life and achievements.
“There was just something about it that displayed the core of the beauty of humanity…” he said.
“Just the fact that so many people came out to pay their respects to a man they never knew.”
Rabbi Feldman also said that Jews had a strong connection with one another, which was derivative of thousands of years of persecution. However, not everybody who turned out on the day did so for this reason.
South Hill Gallery owner Roland Gumbert helped make up the Minyan but says he did it out of respect for another human being and their system of belief.
His parents are Jewish, however he has never practised the faith.
Mr Gumbert has travelled the globe extensively, studying philosophy and comparative religion.
He has lived in Muslim countries, Hindu countries, Christian countries, Buddhist countries, and says he can easily live in peace and harmony with any of them.
“I feel absolutely the same about every religion,” he said.
“If a member of another religion, be it Christian, Hindu, Buddhist or Muslim (had have asked me to participate in their funeral) I would have done the same.”
However, the one thing he strongly opposes is any denomination which practices exclusivity or claims to have the “one true path to enlightenment”.
“While all religions have the ability to do good it can also tie people to a doctrine which is limiting,” he said.
“All of them say, in essence, we have the only way to truth. They tend to really believe that they have the final word but they all have a version of the word.”