It has been a tradition going back many centuries that the judiciary barristers and solicitors attend a religious service where they pray for wisdom in the dispensing of justice. Earlier courts were more overtly religious with the creation of Ecclesiastical courts presided over by priests, cardinals and monks.

in Sydney, there are three Law term opening services, in the Sydney CBD, the Catholic service, Red Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral, an Anglican service at St James Church and the jewish service at the Great Synagogue.

The jewish service which I attended was held in the presence of the Chief Justice of New South Wales The Hon. T.F.Bathurst AC, together with representatives of the Judiciary, law officers, leaders and members of the legal profession. Some of the distinguished leaders included Mark Speakman SC MP, Attorney General, the President of the Court of Appeal, The Hon. Justice Andrew Bell, The Chief Judge of the New South Wales District Court The Hon. Justice D.M.Price, The Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Australia and The Hon. Justice James Allsop AO who read passages from the Bible or recited psalms with a legal theme.

The assembled members of the Judiciary and legal profession were addressed by Rabbi Dr Benjamin Elton, Chief Minister of the Great Synagogue, accompanied by Rabbi Philip Kaplan, Cantor and Associate Rabbi of the Great Synagogue and the choir of the Great Synagogue, conducted by Justin Green.

At the lower floor of the Great Synagogue the Chief Justice of New South Wales addressed the packed hall, thanking the synagogue for hosting the service as well as the remarks of Rabbi Elton and also gave a brief overview of the jewish community’s contribution to the legal profession., including the first Australian Chief justice of the then High Court, Sir Isaac Isaacs and a predecessor, Chief Justice James Spigelman.AC. A further remarkable statistic that he presented was the fact that although the jewish community represented only 0.4% of the Australian population, members of the jewish community received 4% of the awards handed out at the recent Australia Day awards.

Featured image : Rabbi Ben Elton, Chief Justice Tom Bathurst, Justice Nigel Rein, Great Synagogue Vice President Max Freedman. All pics by Ben Apfelbaum.