Rabbi Dovid Slavin

Rabbi Dovid Slavin

Rabbi Dovid Slavin received a PhD from the University of Sydney in 2013. Whilst his passion for research focuses on what was lost to the Jewish world in the Holocaust, (as opposed to the method of destruction of European Jewry) and his commitment to education and his professional life is impressive, it is his dedication to those most in need that is truly inspirational.

Rabbi Slavin migrated from the United States in 1992 to take up the position of Executive Director of the Rabbinical college of Sydney, a role he has occupied since that time. His principal voluntary activities have included being a member of the Ethics Committee of the Cancer Institute of NSW and Co-founding Director of Gift of Life Australia, an organisation maintaining a register of prospective bone-marrow donors. He was appointed a Chaplain in the Ambulance Service of NSW, a role that he has fulfilled and continues to do so with distinction.

Rabbi Slavin is also the founder and director of Our Big Kitchen in Bondi, a non-denominational, charitable organisation that seeks to bring together people from all walks of life for community-building activities. These have included providing food for the homeless, victims of terror and disaster and ongoing school-based activities that promote social action. The kitchen has been visited, and its programs endorsed by former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Dame Quentin Bryce AD, CVO, Dame Marie Bashir AD, CVO, former Premiers Nathan Rees, Kristina Keneally, Barry O'Farrell, and current Premier Mike Baird and many others.

Without a doubt, Rabbi Slavin shows sheer determination and commitment to everything he does and makes it all look so easy juggling his volunteering and his professional life, whilst simultaneously being a loving husband and father. Rabbi Dovid Slavin lives with his wife, Laya, and their eight children in Bondi and attributes them as his inspiration and driving force.

What are your happiest memories about your time here as a student?
Being able to be immersed in the Fisher Library and totally forgetting where I was. My research trips to Eastern Europe, Israel and the USA were also a highlight; particularly connecting with the people who I interviewed gave me great joy. And of course graduation day deserves a mention!

Who was your favourite Professor while you were a student at the University of Sydney and why?
My favorite Professor was Professor Suzanne Rutland in the Department of Hebrew, Biblical and Jewish Studies.

Do you ever wonder why while its common practice to inquire into the competency of a Doctor into whose hands you put yourself whilst it is not common practice to inquire into the competency of a pilot before you fly? My answer is...after the treatment the doctor will be fine either way but on the other hand the Pilot travels with the passengers and has ‘skin in the game’. Professor Suzanne Rutland was the pilot who travelled with me for the whole journey.

What is your proudest achievement?
My Marriage to Laya and being the father of Mordechai, Zevi, Chana, Mendel, Sheina, Shlomie, Sara, & Rivka

Who inspires you?
Aside from every member of my family, the Lubavitcher Rebbe who stood tall as a giant of spirituality, wisdom, service and compassion

Please may you tell us more about yourself, your background and how you ultimately became the founder of Our Big Kitchen, a registered charitable organisation, which is community led and runs an industrial kitchen preparing meals to support those in need.
I was born in NYC to parents who survived the war and I have travelled extensively as a volunteer to assist those less fortunate. I studied and was ordained as a Rabbi in 1991. I met my wife Laya and married in August of that year settling in Sydney the following year and doing my community work.

Several factors compelled me to found ‘Our Big Kitchen’. My parents’ experiences of hunger during the war, the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s attitude of giving, but practically and most of all to keep my wife Laya happy as she is genuinely happiest when she is able to give to others.

What is the mantra you live by and what drives you?
My main mantra is empowering others to participate in giving – through OBK I have achieved that the most – where anybody is welcome to give of their time and expertise to help others in need.

With the many roles I play as a chaplain to the NSW Ambulance service, co-founder of Gift of Life Australia, Director of Rabbinical College of Sydney and Yeshiva College, I have different mantras for different roles, all of which involve community and benevolence.

What has been the most memorable success you have had?
The continued development of Our Big Kitchen including the very dedicated and talented team that runs it and all the individual successes, far too many to list which form a most beautiful and rewarding mosaic.

When I see large corporate groups coming into OBK and setting aside the imperative of billing hours and instead participating in making food for those in need – I consider that a very memorable success.

What are your plans for the future?
If you want to make G-d Laugh tell him your plans, so I take every day and every challenge and every opportunity as it comes, while progressing my work.

What advice would you give to students graduating from the University of Sydney?
Realise that you are incredibly lucky and appreciate what you have. While you rightfully feel you attend university to get ahead, the joy you get from utilising your degree and skills to help and empower others is often the greatest pleasure of all. So as you go out to the world and as you become more and more successful – remember to take the time to give to others. Nothing will heighten your success more than thought for others along your journey. If you ever need guidance with giving that help – then please come and meet my wife and I at Our Big Kitchen.