Moon over Bondi Beach
Moon over Bondi BeachiStock

JTA - Friends of Refugees of Eastern Europe have announced they will submit plans for a new development application to build a synagogue in Bondi to Sydney’s Waverley Council and suggested jointly that a proposed weekend protest would “be unproductive".

The two parties held a “without prejudice” meeting on Wednesday to discuss the proposed synagogue and apartments at 105 Wellington Street near the popular Bondi Beach for which the development application was refused by the Land and Environment Court on Aug. 2. The court had upheld a Waverley Council’s decision to ban the construction of the synagogue in suburban Sydney because it could become the target of a terrorist attack.

The refusal received world-wide media attention which focused on it as being an act of anti-Semitism.

The new development application could be in place as early as December.

In attendance at Wednesday’s meeting were the mayor, acting general manager and senior planning staff from the Council, and Rabbi Yehoram Ulman, Rabbi Eli Feldman, and Rabbi Eli Schlanger from the Friends of Refugees of Eastern Europe, or FREE, along with their town planning advisor and architect.

The meeting opened with a prayer led by Rabbi Feldman who acknowledged Waverley Council’s commitment to and support of the Jewish community.

Waverley Council reaffirmed that a synagogue is a permitted use at the site under Waverley planning controls and that security issues around other synagogues and Jewish schools had been dealt with quickly and without controversy in the past.

After some constructive discussion, both parties agreed that the decision of the court was not meant to be related to religion or terror and that the matters raised in the judgement could be overcome.

The meeting discussed the process for submission and assessment of a fresh Development Application.

Both parties agreed if outstanding matters could be resolved satisfactorily development approval could be given expressing that Waverley is a safe place to live and visit and that any new development application for the Wellington Street site should reassess security provisions.

Waverley staff discussed the various development applications for alterations to other synagogues and Jewish schools that Waverley Council has dealt with in the past, many including security components, and that all these applications had been approved by Waverley Council once any security matters had been resolved.

FREE advised that they would be submitting a revised security assessment as part of its new development application.

Waverley staff outlined the process for assessment of a new development application, which would be determined by the independent Waverley Development Assessment Panel and not by the councilmen.

Both parties expressed their commitment to work together constructively to resolve outstanding issues and to allay any fears that have arisen out of recent press coverage. A further meeting of the FREE architect and town planning adviser will take place with Council senior planning staff next week.

Rabbi Ulman welcomed the Council’s offer to meet again to discuss a new application for a similar development and was heartened to hear from Council that a synagogue is an acceptable use for a building on the land.

“The meeting today was positive and we look forward to working with Waverley Council to address issues raised in the Land and Environment Court judgement. All going well, we may have development approval in place as soon as December,” Ulman said.

Waverley Council Acting General Manager Cathy Henderson told reporters: “We are very pleased that Waverley and FREE have committed to working together constructively. Both parties will follow the legal process for submission and assessment of the new development application and I feel confident that outstanding matters, including security, can be resolved.”

Both parties expressed their commitment to free speech and freedom of religion, and suggested the planned protest for Aug. 13 would be unproductive at this time.

Rally organizer Avi Yemini told JTA: “I cancelled the rally last name night when I was informed by FREE that an agreement had been reached. Our objective was to ensure the shul was going to be built. It will be.”

New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies CEO Vic Alhadeff told JTA: “It is a positive development that the parties are working together to find a solution, and hopefully they will achieve a mutually satisfactory outcome.”