Sydney Jewish hub closes

SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) — The Hakoah Club — the social, cultural and sports hub of Sydney Jewry — closed after more than 30 years.

Facing mounting debts and dwindling members, the four-story institution near Bondi Beach shut down Thursday. President Phil Filler said the club, an integral part of Jewish life in the harbor city since it was built by Westfield chief Frank Lowy in 1975, was "bleeding to death."

In its heyday the club was where local Jews — many of them Holocaust survivors like Lowy — celebrated bar mitzvahs and weddings, danced at balls and discos, enjoyed bridge and bingo, and played sports. Jewish organizations hosted events where leaders wined and dined federal prime ministers and state premiers.

A bomb exploded at the club in 1982 that some suggested was detonated by Palestinian terrorists. There were no injuries and no one was arrested.

The premises were sold in 2007 for $17.2 million and are set to be transformed into a beachside hotel. The board had temporarily leased back the site while it searched for new premises, but no new site was found.

Founded in Vienna in 1909, Hakoah was a top soccer club in Europe until the Anschluss. Jewish refugees resuscitated it in 1938 when they launched Hakoah in Sydney.

Under Lowy’s presidency, Hakoah became one of the country’s best soccer clubs, as well as a thriving community center.

“It served the community well, but we need to recognize the changes in the needs of the community,” Lowy said at the time of the sale.
 

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