Profile-Rabbi Philip Heilbrunn

Rabbi Philip Heilbrunn B.A. L.L.B.
A non-exhaustive list of Rabbi Philip Heilbrunn's achievements to date

1. South Africa

Prior to his arrival in Melbourne, Rabbi Heilbrunn was a Rabbi and of several large congregations in South Africa and Australia.

a. Linksfield Senderwood Synagogue

Rabbi Heilbrunn's involvement in Synagogue life dates back to his youth: he was encouraged to take an active role in the services at his Boarding School and later at the Linksfield Senderwood Synagogue. Later he became the Junior Minister (Chazan Sheni) of that Synagogue while at the same directing the Jewish Activities Program at the King David Schools Hostel.

Whilst continuing his studies towards Law and Arts degrees, he became a lecturer at the Jewish Students University Program, an institution which had been founded by his fellow Rabbinical students and himself. The Program combined Jewish studies at a tertiary level with University Studies and Rabbi Heilbrunn was a lecturer there in Jewish Studies for a number of years.

b. Victory Park Hebrew Congregation

In 1971, around the time Rabbi and Pnina became engaged, Rabbi Heilbrunn was called to the spiritual leadership of the newly formed Victory Park Hebrew Congregation. He was extremely successful in the building the congregation from a small group of families into a thriving community with its own beautiful Synagogue able to proudly take its place amongst Johannesburg's leading congregations.

c. Northcliff Hebrew Congregation

In 1976 Rabbi Heilbrunn accepted a call to the Northcliff Hebrew Congregation where his success continued. He received his Smicha as a Rabbi at that time and in fact was handed it by Chief Rabbi Casper at his induction.

2. Australia

a. Sydney - North Shore Synagogue

From 1979 Rabbi Heilbrunn served as Rabbi and Chazan at the North Shore Synagogue (Sydney). In Sydney his Rabbinical talents were also widely utilised in lecturing, teaching, and youth work for the wider Jewish and general community. Rabbi Heilbrunn also was extensively involved as a lecturer and Jewish Community emissary to educational and non-Jewish religious institutions.

b. Adelaide - Adelaide Hebrew Congregation

In 1982 Rabbi Heilbrunn moved to South Australia to become Chief Minister of the Adelaide Hebrew Congregation - this was a golden period for the South Australian Jewish community. He was able to profoundly revitalise that community. He built up the membership and services and facilities for congregants in every department of Jewish life and interest such as education, Kashrut, representing the community to the wider South Australian Society, the profile of the community in the other capital cities of Australia.  

His aim as Rabbi in Adelaide was to ensure that in spite of Adelaide's remoteness from other large Jewish centres, he would provide every facility and opportunity for Jewish living available in any major community. Rabbi did this in a very 'hands-on' way.

Rabbi Heilbrunn was extensively involved at many levels in representing the Jewish faith to the wider South Australian community. Rabbi Heilbrunn served as a regular commentator on the media, liaison with civic and government authorities, lecturer and guide to student groups and educational institutions on Jewish subjects and interfaith relations, liaison with the Sydney Beth Din (Ecclesiastical Court) on matters of Conversion, Divorce and general religious matters. Member of the Ethics Committee on Clinical Research at Flinders Medical Centre/University.

In 1988 Rabbi arranged the only National Conference of Rabbis ever held outside of Sydney and Melbourne.

c. Melbourne - St Kilda Hebrew Congregation

In 1988 Rabbi Heilbrunn was invited to succeed Rabbi Ronald Lubofsky as Chief Minister of the St Kilda Hebrew Congregation.

He is highly regarded amongst the community and its institutions and organisations who often turn to him for his guidance and advice. He is called upon to guide the leaders of the community in Jewish matters and his good offices are called upon to serve as a mediator or arbitrator in disputes arising within the Jewish community. Often he is called upon to represent the Jewish point of view to Civil, State and National authorities as well as to other religious denominations. He lectures, consults and teaches widely and has taken a leading role among the city and indeed Australia's Rabbinate. Rabbi Heilbrunn was elected President of the Association of Rabbis of Australia and New Zealand in 1992 serving for seven years and has continuously been on the executive for over 25 years. He is Vice President of the Rabbinical Council of Victoria and is a member of the Heads of Faiths Committee of Victoria.  He has been a regular spokesman for the Australian Rabbinate on issues of local and international concern and is often called upon to comment on matters of the day. Rabbi Heilbrunn's constructive attitude and “can do” approach to all challenges combined with his open and unassuming personality have gained him much success and achievement in his calling as a Rabbi.

3. At a glance - summary of Rabbi's achievements    
a. Appointments and Positions
  • Chief Minister of the St Kilda Hebrew Congregation since 1988
  • Chief Minister, Adelaide Hebrew Congregation, from 1982 and Spiritual Leader of South Australian Jewish Community
  • Rabbi and Cantor, North Shore Synagogue, Sydney, from 1979
  • Rabbi, Northcliff and district Hebrew Congregation from 1976
  • Rabbi, Victory Park Hebrew Congregation. From 1971
  • Master in Charge Jewish Education Program, King David Schools Hostel from 1968
  • Lecturer at the Jewish Students University Program, South African Rabbis Training College
  • Assistant Minister and Cantor, Linksfield-Senderwood Hebrew Congregation from 1968
  • Head Instructor, Ramah Academy, Sydney North Shore 1979-82
  • Scholar in Residence, Conference of the Australian Jewish Medical and Dental Federation, Alice Springs
  • Chaplaincy Consultant to several major Victorian hospitals.
  • Lecturer to Nursing Courses on Jewish Patients and Jewish Ethics at all major Sydney North Shore Hospitals 
  • Arbitrator and Mediator on behalf of members of the Jewish Community

b. Associations and Committees
  • President of the Association of Rabbis and Ministers of Australia and New Zealand from 1992 to 1999 (now known as the Orthodox Rabbis of Australia)
  • Spokesman for the Australian Rabbinate on matters of local and international concern, commentator on issues of the day
  • Vice President, Rabbinical Council of Victoria, on several Subcommittees including: Beth Din matters, Chevra Kadisha (Burial Soc.) and related matters, Pre-nuptial Contracts research and advisory committee
  • Committee member of JEMP Member, Heads of Faiths Committee, Victoria 
  • Education Committee, Mount Scopus Memorial CollegeConsultant to the Executive Council of Australian Jewry personal adviser to several Presidents
  • Consultant, Emmy Monash Homes
  • Australia Remembers 1945-95 Committee
  • Jewish Music Archive, Monash University, Consultant
  • Council of Christians and Jews, a President, lecturer, consultant
  • Ethics Committee on Clinical Research at Flinders Medical Centre/University.
  • Australian Chairman, Rabbinic Forum of the Jewish Agency
  • Victoria College, Adult Jewish Studies, 1989, Course leader
  • Jewish Community Services (formerly 'Jewish Welfare Soc.) various sub committees
  • Jewish Museum of Australia, Subcommittees, lectures and liaison 
  • The Jewish Taskforce Against Family Violence, consultant
  • Consultant, Australian Union of Jewish Students
  • Rabbi and Mentor of the Hineni Zionist Youth Movement
  • Bnai B'rith, member, lecturer, Maccabi Victoria, liaison and consultant on religious issuesHead Instructor, Ramah Academy, Sydney North Shore 1979-82
  • Rotary Club of Adelaide
  • Treasurer, South African Rabbinical Association
c. Lectures and Articles
  • Frequent Contributor Australian Jewish News
  • Generation Journal
  • Regular Speaker at National Conferences of the Jewish Community
  • Public Speakers Bureau - U.I.A. 
  • Wattle Park Teachers Centre, Religious Education Project, Consultant 
  • Public Speakers Bureau - State Zionist Council of Victoria.
  • Regular Cantor and Concert Artist in Cantorial and Jewish Music
  • Queensland Law Reform Commission, Circumcision, 1993/4
  • Regular Lecturer and adviser to Australian Institute of Jewish Affairs
  • Keynote Speaker at major events of the Australasian Jewish Community.
  • Co-founder and principal soloist Melbourne Jewish Male Choir
d. Qualifications and Training
  • Smicha, South African Rabbis Training College, 1977
  • University of Witwatersrand: B.A. degree Majors in Legal Studies, Sociology and Industrial Sociology 
  • University of Witwatersrand: Legal studies L.L.B in 1973
e. Miscellaneous
  • Expert witness on behalf of Sephardi Association of Vic. Building Appeals Tribunal, Victoria, re Building of their Synagogue
  • Expert witness, Anti Discrimination Commission, Vic. On behalf of Catchment Youth Refuge
  • Expert witness/consultant, several matrimonial cases on the issue of Gett (Jewish Divorce procedure)
  • Expert witness the Anti Discrimination Tribunal of WA on behalf of the Korsunski Carmel Jewish Day School.
  • Expert witness (affidavit) Australia's first 'Jewish' Marriage Broker, Tribunal and appeal
  • Successful Nominator of recipients of Awards in the Order of Australia


In addition to being the Chief Minister of the St Kilda Hebrew Congregation and past President of the Orthodox Rabbis of Australia and New Zealand, Rabbi Philip Heilbrunn is also a highly gifted cantor and vocal artist of international reputation. He sings and collaborates with some of the world's greatest cantors and choirs on a regular basis.

Prior to his arrival in Melbourne, Rabbi Heilbrunn was a Rabbi and popular Cantor of several large Jewish congregations in South Africa, the North Shore Synagogue (Sydney) and subsequently Chief Minister of the Adelaide Hebrew Congregation. He has enjoyed much success as a Rabbi, Cantor, lecturer, educator and counsellor. Rabbi Heilbrunn has involved himself in all aspects of the Cantorial and Jewish Liturgical art and the promotion of Jewish Synagogue music throughout the Community.

Together with the late Rabbi Ronald Lubofsky, Rabbi Heilbrunn is a founder of the MJMC. He is its President, its principal soloist, and a driving force behind its continued growth and success.

Blessed with a beautiful lyrico-spinto tenor voice of impressive range and power, Rabbi Heilbrunn has provided spiritual uplift through his inspirational liturgical renditions in many prestigious Synagogues in South Africa, Australia, United States and Israel. Rabbi Heilbrunn is also a consummate concert artist and his talents are widely sought throughout the Jewish and general community.
Born in South Africa with its rich cantorial and choral tradition, Rabbi Heilbrunn is steeped in and has a great love of Jewish music of all kinds. As a Rabbi his extensive background in Jewish scholarship provides an added depth and poignancy to his interpretation of our prayers, his chazanut (cantorial expression) and his ability to inspire worshippers to increased spiritual devotion. He has a wide repertoire from serious cantorial classics to lively modern Chassidic and Israeli pieces, songs in Yiddish, Operatic arias and Neapolitan songs.

Given his outstanding talents and his reputation as the leading exponent in Australia of the Jewish Liturgical art, it is no surprise that Rabbi Heilbrunn was the natural choice for the Tenor role in the Australian debut of Noam Sheriff's great epic, Mechaye Hametim together with the Victoria State Orchestra under the baton of the composer. Rabbi Heilbrunn was also the Principal vocal soloist at the triumphant performance, together with Melbourne Jewish Male Voice Choir and the Victoria State Orchestra programme of the debut of  “A Voice not Stilled” by composer Michael Easton.

Rabbi Heilbrunn has also had training in the operatic field and for ten years studied voice production with Francis Russell, late Principal tenor at Covent Garden.