By Tzivi G.
After an enjoyable summer of Shlichus in the overnight camp Gan Yisroel and exciting trips around Australia, the OC girls were glad to be back in the dorm in Melbourne, or as some even ventured to say, ‘back home.’ Despite the heat of the Australian summer, the OC group, happily expanded by the addition of 16 Australian students, was excited to begin a new semester of learning, growth and Shlichus.
Seminary started with an interesting learning program, to ease the overseas students back into routine and to integrate the new students in a relaxed setting. School started on the 9th of Shevat with a special Welcome brunch to allow the veterans and newcomers to get acquainted. The summer schedule was comprised of fascinating lectures from some regular teachers and other members of the community who aren’t always available to teach. As it was centred around Yud Shevat, we also had the opportunity to learn Basi Legani in depth from various teachers. As well we were given JLI courses by Rabbi Slavin about the ethical problems of privacy and honouring parents.
The second day was Yom Habahir Yud Shevat, which of course involved a special program. After learning Tanya and Basi Legani, we davened accompanied by a tape of the Rebbe davening, allowing one to imagine the feelings that such an experience would be physically. We wrote panim and then heard from Rabbi Groner about the uniqueness of the day, along with some other classes on Basi Legani and the history of Yud Shevat. A Hiskashrus Workshop was run by some fellow dedicated OC students who also created a program for the Beth Rivkah high school students that afternoon, to teach them about the significance of the date. That evening there was an engaging and inspiring Farbrengen with Rabbi Lange, lasting until 1 in the morning.
Some of the special guest speakers over the fortnight were Rabbi Johnson of the Melbourne Kolel who gave a truly interesting talk about the characteristics of a true leader as seen throughout Tanach and Medrash. Another fantastic lecture was from Rabbi Baskin, formerly of Kosher Australia, who gave an enthralling presentation about ‘Kosher Kunundrums’ in regards to flavourings and fats, enlivening the fascinating science and halacha taught with his great puns. We were also lucky enough to have Rabbi Y Gordon from Tasmania come in and inspire us with stories about his unique Shlichus in the isolated island. Additionally we were treated to a Navi shiur by the incomparable Rabbi Y Gordon (senior) who truly enlightened us about the story of the haftorah of Devorah’s battle against Sisera, weaving in amazing midrashim which added depth and dimensions to the text.
The new dorm counsellors Esther Rivkah and Chaya joined the OC family and got right to work, creating exciting events, niggun nights, rebbe times and achdus programs as well as accompanying the day trips, creating programs for yamei d’pagra and the Shabbaton along with more mundane responsibilities such as ensuring our safety and wellbeing at all times. One such event was the Australia Day Barbecue on January 24th where we enjoyed lots of Aussie meat and a great décor.
On Wednesday 17th Shevat we had a boating trip in Studley Park, under the beating sun. We sweltered and sang, rowed and relaxed, ate and enjoyed. We really appreciate the seminary arranging day trips for us to enjoy in the beautiful summer days to re-energize us for the new school semester.
Sunday, erev Chaf Beis Shevat. The long anticipated day that the Australians moved into the dorm! Joy and ecstasy erupted as the new roommates were graciously welcomed with open arms. That evening for Chof Beis Shevat, a beautiful black tie event was held in the Goldhirsch Hall, expertly catered by the dorm counsellors. We were treated to a sumptuous meal and a song honouring Rivki Holtzberg by our talented OC choir. We were also addressed by Mrs Mushka Rachmani who spoke about the Rebbetzin’s dual role, as the Freidiker Rebbe’s right hand (wo)man, and then her retreat from the public eye once married and the lessons we can take from both aspects.
The following day a special breakfast was held in the dorm, again catered by the dedicated dorm counsellors. In class we heard from our dorm mother Mrs Groner about a fascinating personal experience she had with the Rebbetzin, as well as watching interviews with individuals who knew the Rebbetzin well. We watched the beginning of the Women’s Kinus and learned sichos of the Rebbe about the significance and lessons from Chof Beis Shevat. Some girls ran a function for the Beth Rivkah girls to share the special day with them as well. That evening we were privileged to farbreng with Mrs Sara Gutnick, who had a close relationship to the Rebbetzin as a child. She related meaningful stories about the Rebbetzin’s warmth and dignity and how she is magnificent example worth emulating.
On Tuesday we were on to regular classes, albeit made choppy by the interruptions of the exciting Great Ocean Road Trip and Shabbaton. For the new students it was exciting to finally settle into the official schedule and experience a regular day at OC, while continuing students were glad to progress with their favourite classes as well begin some exciting new courses such as Mrs Wilhelm’s Women in Chazal and Rabbi Wolf’s Tefila Applied.
On Wednesday 24th Shevat was the long awaited Great Ocean Road Trip! Setting out bright and early at 8am, the bus meandered along the windy road in stomach turning motion, as we admired the impressive ocean scenery outside the window. We began with a short stop at a beach, which was full of, as every other place we went, the sights, sun and the ocean. Next was a longer stop at Kennet River, where there were reclusive koalas and overly gregarious birds, as well as the chance to walk out on the rocks and experience the impressive and powerful ocean waves. After a tasty lunch break at Apollo Bay we headed to the much famed landmark of the Twelve Apostles, which, contrary to the name, include only 8 rock structures to this date. They were truly a wonder of Hashem’s nature, and allowed for many a fantastic photo session. The next monolith we visited was the so-called London Bridge which is unfortunately in the process of falling down, with only one remaining arch. Finally we ate dinner at the Loch Ard Gorge, where a secluded cove allowed for a fun dip into the water. The sun setting over the ocean accompanied us as we drove back from a marvellous day.
The month ended on a high note with a beautiful Shabbaton at the Warratah Bay Beach Camp. Upon arrival on Friday afternoon, we headed to the empty beach and were amazed by the pristine sand and blue waters. The theme of the Shabbaton was ‘Victim or Victor,’ establishing our choice to be passively swayed by society or have the courage to make the right choices. This message was emphasised in a fun Friday night game and the inspirational Divrei Torah by the OC girls. The food was delicious and plentiful, catered by Suzie, and all the meals were truly enjoyable.
Friday night a Farbrengen was held by Rabbi Tenenbaum that challenged all the long-term students to reflect on what they had gained from OC so far and together with the newcomers, think how they could improve in order to gain the most from the seminary experience. The discussion continued until after 3 AM and broke up in order to be able to say tehilim Shabbos morning! Shabbos day followed with a lively question and answer session with Rabbi and Mrs Shmerling who gave over their all to help make the Shabbaton informative, educational and meaningful. Later there were some hilarious skits parodying the hilarities and irritations of dorm and seminary life.
Shabbos was perfectly concluded with a Seder Niggunim on the beach. That night was an epic dance party and the next morning another 3 hour bus ride, bringing us back after another month of trips and travelling to our OC home.