Tuvia Book
Author, educator, Tour-Guide, artist

A Kiwi Shabbat

I just spent a delightful Shabbat in the bottom corner of the world in New Zealand. To be in such a unique community was truly an education.

My adventure started on a weekday night when I went looking for the only kosher eatery. The Greys Ave Deli was closed for the night, but I bumped into the Rabbi’s wife, Shiri.   Shiri was preparing for an “Ironman” competition (her husband Natan was preparing for the Auckland 1/2 marathon).  Immediately, I was invited for all the Shabbat meals. Rabbi Natan and Shiri Friedler are a delightful Israeli couple in their thirties who have just started a four-year contract at the Auckland Hebrew Congregation (AHC) Auckland’s only Orthodox Synagogue and Community Centre (http://ahc.org.nz/). They are there with their three boys.

After meeting random Israeli backpackers in the local “Starbucks,” participating in a deep conversation about theology with them and attending the only weekday Minyan in New Zealand at the local Bet Chabad, and getting to hike and kayak in and around Waiheke Island, I arrived at the beautiful Auckland Synagogue for Kabalat Shabbat.

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AHC Synagogue.  Photo: T. Book (c), 2014

There was a Shabbaton of the local Kadimah primary school. It is the only Jewish school (K-8) in NZ (http://www.kadimah.school.nz/) Recently it has become a state-integrated school and as a result a significant minority of the students are not Jewish.  It was fascinating to witness the inter-ethnic crowd of children belting out the Shabbat songs with such joy and enthusiasm. The Friday night service led by both the young Rabbi and Bnei Akiva Shaliach was a happy affair.

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Kadimah School. Photo: T. Book (c), 2014

Small communities in isolated locations really need to be warm, accepting, open and tolerant, and to focus on what we Jews have in common in order to thrive and have a future.

Far away New Zealand to Israelis has always been the ideal “Israel-Opposite.” There are many reasons NZ attracts so many Israelis for their post-army trek: The stunning nature, the warm friendly locals and the fact that it is NOT surrounded by malevolent neighbours and constantly having to keep up its guard in a seemingly endless fight for its survival.

Yet even in the pristine corner of the world evil rears its ugly head. I was walking around Auckland checking out the “Jewish sites;” Synagogue, Raul Wallenberg tree, Shoah exhibition etc. when I arrived at the old Jewish cemetery. To my shock I saw that many stones were covered with graffiti swastikas.

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Old Jewish Cemetery Auckland. Photo: T. Book (c), 2014

I was told that once the teenage perpetrators had been caught the local Jewish community took it upon themselves to invite these teens to their houses for Shabbat in order for them to meet and understand Jews and Judaism first hand. This unique method of battling intolerance and hatred by embracing the offenders and reaching out with warmth to educate them on the lofty principals of Judaism that, among other things, puts so much emphasis on family and community I found to be indicative of the very special place I found myself.

About the Author
Dr. Tuvia Book was born in London and raised in both the UK and South Africa. After making Aliya at the age of 17 and studying in Yeshiva he volunteered for the IDF, where he served in an elite combat unit. Upon his discharge he completed his BA at Bar-Ilan University, as well as certification in graphic design. He then served as the Information Officer at the Israeli Consulate of Philadelphia, while earning a graduate degree in Jewish Studies. Upon his return to Israel, Dr. Book graduated from a course of study with the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, and is a licensed tour guide. Tuvia has been working in the field of Jewish Education, both formal and informal, for many years. He has guided and taught Jewish students and educators from around the English-speaking world for some of Israel’s premier educational institutions and programs. Tuvia has been guiding groups for Birthright Israel since its inception and, in addition, has lectured throughout North America, Australia, Europe and South Africa. Tuvia served as a Shaliach (emissary) for the Jewish Agency for Israel as the Director of Israel and Zionist Education at the Board of Jewish Education of Greater New York (Jewish Education Project). He was a lecturer/educational guide at the Alexander Muss Institute for Israel Education (AMIIE) in Israel for a decade. Tuvia has lectured at both Bar Ilan University and Hebrew University. He is the author (and illustrator) of the internationally acclaimed Zionism curriculum; “For the Sake of Zion; A Curriculum of Israel Education” (fifth edition, 2017, Koren) and is at present working on his next book, a history of the Jewish people. Tuvia has a doctorate in Israel education. His dissertation title is: “Through the Soldiers’ Eyes: Exploring the Influence of a Birthright Mifgash on the Israeli Soldier Participants.”
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