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   2000-02-18: bohm



 "Brekie" in Aadelaide: Down Under 
with Rabbi Bohm

San Diego Jewish Press-Heritage, Feb 18, 2000


By Donald H. Harrison

If you ever decide to have "brekie" in Adelaide, Australia, Rabbi Lenore Bohm has a health-conscious tip for you. "They put butter on everything. I would have to say 'a bagel and cream cheese--no butter.'"

The Reform rabbi delivered a fond travelogue about the million-resident South Australian city at a Feb. 8 "lunch and learn session" held at the Jewish Family Service offices in Encinitas. The program was part of the Agency for Jewish Education's Festival of Jewish Education.

Now serving as a substitute rabbi at Temple Emanu-El in San Diego during Rabbi Martin S. Lawson's sabbatical, Bohm completed two years in July of 1999 as spiritual leader of Adelaide's Congregation Beit Shalom, a Progressive congregation belonging to a movement similar to Reform in the United States. Previously, she had served as the rabbi at Temple Solel in Encinitas.

"Brekie," an Australian slang word for "breakfast" is typical of the habit down under to shorten up. Another example of this linguistic pattern is "'relatives' are 'rellies,'" Bohm said. Among other expressions one needs to learn, "if you put a check in a box, you 'tick' the box," the rabbi said. "A 'sweater' is a 'jumper.'" And there is a "wonderful phrase, 'good-on-ya' which I always translate as 'yasher koach. '"

Although Adelaide is on the ocean, beef and game are greater staples in the diet there than fish, Bohm said. At restaurants one can find kangaroo on the menu, as well as crocodiles and emu. No, Bohm replied to a question, kangaroo is not kosher. But she said she heard what you hear about every other new food: "It tastes like chicken only tougher."

Although the South Australian diet would horrify a vegetarian, Bohm said the relative lack of stress in that city makes it a very healthy environment. She said that unlike her experiences in San Diego County, she never met a child in Adelaide who was suffering from stress, nor an adult woman who felt overwhelmed. Although she met people of many professions socially, she said she cannot recall ever meeting a therapist or a social worker in Adelaide.

The rabbi said that the slower-paced life style of Adelaide is not at all competitive like the one in Southern California. Instead of people asking you "what do you do for a living?" upon being introduced, they generally will inquire about your hobbies or interests, Bohm said. "They ask 'do you sing?' or 'how big is the latest fish you caught?'"

Students seem far less pressured in their school system, and adults feel considerably less tension in the work place, the rabbi said. "In Adelaide, they have four weeks mandatory vacation when you take a job. Later on it is six weeks." And there are various holidays throughout the year, such as the birthday of the Queen (Elizabeth II of England), as well as the big horse racing day, when they run for the Adelaide Cup.

The range of homes in Adelaide is considerably narrower than in San Diego County, with neither the extremes of large mansions nor run-down shacks, Bohm said.

Her congregation of 150 families had people from many other places. A large percentage of the congregation -- as in congregations throughout Australia -- were families of Holocaust survivors, she said. Additionally there were a lot of Russian immigrants, and some New Zealanders, British Jews and American Jews. In addition there were a few Egyptian Jews who migrated to Australia in the 1950s after the ascendancy to power of Gamel Abd-el Nasser.

Holocaust awareness is very high in Australia, Bohm said. She estimated that 50 percent of the news printed in Australian Jewish newspapers dealt with the Holocaust, and 40 percent dealt with Israel. Only 10 percent was given over to local Jewish affairs -- too little, in her opinion.

Because the seasons are reversed from ours in the Southern Hemisphere, Chanukah comes "on the hottest day of summer" and the High Holidays come in spring time. She said she found it very meaningful that Rosh Hashanah, a time of spiritual renewal, coincides in Australia with spring, a time of physical renewal.