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‘Jewniversal’ spirit celebrates Kesher Sukkot and Kabalat Shabbat

Shahar Burla
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Published: 8 October 2017

Last updated: 4 March 2024

Around 60 people gathered in a house in Sydney’s eastern suburbs on Friday night to celebrate a Kesher Sukkot and Kabbalat Shabbat

Kesher (which means “connection” in Hebrew) offers peer-led, musical Kabbalat Shabbat gatherings, multi-faith prayer, reflection and connection. Founded by Benji Holman and Nicola Ossher in 2009, and revived by Keshira HaLev Fife and Rob Davis in 2013, it is an independent, "post-denominational" Friday night gathering that usually meets every four weeks in various homes across Sydney.

A key element is the idea of “Jewniversal”, which means that the Kabbalat Shabbat is grounded in Jewish tradition and structure while also open to people, prayers and practices from all walks of life.

The Jewniversal feeling was obvious from the moment you entered the colourful Sukkah and noticed the decorations on the walls: “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you our neighbour” in English, Hebrew and Arabic, vote “YES” and “All are welcome here”.

The ceremony was led by Keshira HaLev Fife, who recently become the first Australian Kohenet (Hebrew Priestess). In the spirit of the Sukkot imperative to help the poor, the participants collected money to be donated to OzHarvest.

Later in the service, the Festival and the Friday night prayers were also linked to ‘the Great Barrier Reef’, Women Health (it was Women Health Week), marriage equality and other current issues. The ceremony also included a musical Kabbalat Shabbat, prayer circle and dinner.


About the author

Shahar Burla

Dr Shahar Burla is a Sydney-based researcher, lecturer and Contributing Editor of TJI. Shahar holds a Master’s degree in political science from Hebrew University and a PhD in political science from Bar-Ilan University. He is the author of Political Imagination in the Diaspora: The Construction of a Pro-Israeli Narrative (2013) and co-editor of Australia and Israel: A Diasporic, Cultural and Political Relationship (2015).


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