The Leo Baeck Centre (LBC) is a Progressive Jewish community based in Kew East, Victoria, Australia. We are a vibrant, friendly, and inclusive congregation, here to assist anyone interested in Judaism. Our website aims to inform interested people in the activities of LBC, including our history, what is distinctive and valued highly by the community, and some of our facilities. The website also provides some information on how to become a member.
Our Community and History
Founded in 1949 and established on its current site on Harp Road, East Kew in 1971, the Leo Baeck Centre is a Progressive Jewish congregation serving Melbourne’s eastern and northern suburbs. Progressive Judaism adapts traditional Jewish practices and beliefs to meet modern conditions. We are committed to egalitarian treatment of people of all genders, to individual choice and diversity in religious practice and to improving the world for the good of all people.
We welcome people from Jewish and non-Jewish backgrounds. In some families, only one adult is Jewish. We welcome these families, and often non-Jewish partners choose to become a ‘Friend’ of LBC. Our membership comprises more than 350 Members and Friends
We provide religious and pastoral services, as well as social, cultural, artistic and educational programs, to our members and the wider community. We are known as a congregation that enjoys music in prayer and spirited discussions.
We employ a rabbi and several other people to administrative and other positions such as a caretaker, sessional teachers, and musicians. Around a third of our members also fulfill some voluntary role, and our Committee of Management is also voluntary. We are committed to engagement with our local community within which many of our educational and cultural events are publicised.. We contribute to the annual Kew Festival through holding a Civic Service, Annual Lecture, and art exhibition. Our centre also takes a leadership role in interfaith dialogue with both Christians and Muslims.
We take our name from Rabbi Dr Leo Baeck who was a German rabbi and religious thinker and is generally acknowledged to be the founder of the international movement of Progressive Judaism.
Leo Baeck was born in Lissa, now Poland, in 1873, the son of Rabbi Samuel Baeck, and died in London in 1956. He first studied at the Conservative Jewish Theological Seminary of Breslau and from 1894 at the liberal Hochschule fuer die Wissenschaft des Judentums in Berlin. At the same time, he also studied philosophy at the University of Breslau and later at the University of Berlin.
Leo Baeck wrote about our emotional awareness, our experiencing the Divine. This awareness naturally leads to ethical acts, what Baeck called the commandments. At the same time, we can also maintain peoplehood, a sense of our role in history, through ritual acts, which give expression to our sense of mystery.
Baeck, considered to be a liberal modern Jew, was not prepared to assign authority to the ritual acts, only to the ethical imperatives. For him, God is both transcendent, immanent, and real. Therefore, being Jewish consisted of being ethical and striving for universal good, experiencing the mystery of the Divine, and maintaining the survival of Jews throughout history.
He felt it was his duty to stay in Germany during WWII and in 1943 was deported to Theresienstadt concentration camp where he continued to encourage and support people as far as it was possible. Thus, he became a “witness of his faith”. He survived and in July 1945 he left Germany for London. Baeck became president of the council of Jews from Germany and chairman of the World Union for Progressive Judaism from 1948 until his death in 1956.