Kehilat Nitzan was formed in March 1999 by Professor John Rosenberg together with a small group of people interested in establishing a Masorti community in Melbourne. John had been an active participant in the Masorti minyan at the Emanuel Synagogue in Sydney and was interested in developing a Masorti chavurah when he moved to Melbourne. That initial meeting drew 41 participants, and was the start of our community.
For the first six years, we operated on a lay-leadership model, and were blessed to have help and guidance from a number of Masorti rabbis from North America and Israel who visited us for short periods. Starting in January 2006, Rabbi Ehud Bandel from Jerusalem, a recognized leader in the world Masorti movement, served as our Rabbi and emissary to the community during the formative years of our congregation. It was a pleasure to have him, his wife Avital, and their children Hadas and Ro’i as part of our close-knit community. Rabbi Bandel and his family returned to Israel in September 2010.
After the arrival of Rabbi Bandel, we saw a steady rise in membership with nearly 600 people attending services on the high holidays. 70% of our members are drawn from mainstream Orthodoxy, 20% from the Progressive movement and the rest were previously unaffiliated.
On Rabbi Bandel’s return to Israel, Rabbi Adam Stein was appointed and joined us in August 2011. He received his ordination from The Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, American Jewish University in Los Angeles. He also earned a Master of Arts in Education from AJU. Before coming to Kehilat Nitzan, Rabbi Stein was the Assistant Rabbi at Congregation Beth Shalom in Kansas City, Missouri. We enjoyed having him, his wife Tamar, and their children Eli and Gabriel, both born during their time with us, as part of our community until they left in May 2016.
Our current rabbi is Rabbi Yonatan Sadoff, who came to us in May 2018 from Congregation Magen Avraham in Omer, Israel, near Beersheva. He received his ordination from the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary in Jerusalem, and also served as the assistant rabbi at Adath Jeshurun Congregation in Minnetonka, Minnesota (near where he grew up). Rabbi Sadoff is joined by his wife Merav and their two daughters Tiferet Tehilla and Maayan Tekhelet.
We have now grown to a self-sustaining kehillah of approximately 250 families. Nitzan means “a bud,” and indeed, we are a congregation who planted the first seeds of Masorti Judaism in Melbourne and we are continuing to blossom. In July 2013, our congregation moved into its own building on Hawthorn Road in Caulfield North.