In the space of two weeks I have been privileged to attend a number of simchas and receive invites to many others. We have celebrated engagements, birthdays, britot, weddings, sheva brachot, bnei mitzvah, and a hachnassat sefer torah. Long may it continue.
There is one thing I have noticed with many of these celebrations, and that is an element of discomfort amongst some non-observant Jews. Top of the list, it is disresepctful for men to be in a religious function without a head covereing. Another common shortcoming seems to be for people to attend the “party” side of a simcha, whilst comfortably disregarding the ceremonial element of the celebration. There seems to be an embedded culture in Perth that the private side of a simcha can be attended to, without any attachment to the public side of the simcha. Going to shule is not important, but rocking up to fress afterwards is sufficient enough.
This afternoon I took a walk around the neighbourhood. I took the time to reflect that Jewish visibility in Perth is starting to increase. Along Woodrow avenue were kids, with kippot and tzit tzit flaying in the wind. In Breckler Park more kids walking a dog, wearing Israeli t shirts. Outside the Jewish centre more people, having just been to the Bnei Cafe in the Maccabi pavilion, eating kosher burgers.
It is wonderful to see so much open Jewish expression, and unfettered Jewish joy around us. Yet the area around our concentration of Jewish facilities does not have much of a public Jewish appeal. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a large sign outside the Jewish Centre, proudly showing this to be a central community facility? What about a permanent large Menorah in David ben Gurion park on the street corner? How about a billboard with information about the Jewish community, its history, organisations, and festivals? There are many other things that could be done to change the asthetics of this neighbourhood area to enhance Jewish visibility.
The celebration and vibrancy of our Jewish community is too good to hide within the confines of our buildings. With the appropriate consideration, a little signage and public profile also does not have to be considered a risk to security.
What is most encouraging is that our youth do not seem to be perturbed by their Jewish identity and appearance. Whilst some of our older community members do not seem to favour any public displays of Jewish noteriety, and would feel embarrassed by seeing Jews behave like Jews out in the open street, there is a different type of confidence and relationship to their identity from some of our younger community members. This should continue to grow, and they should continue to set an example.
So to, when we the community shares simchas, both in shule and through private invitation, a certain standard that relates to the Jewish nature of the simcha should be a matter of expectation. In terms of critical mass, many Jews in Perth are showing greater comfort with their participation in Jewish functions and religious activities. This influence urgently needs to spread further for the sake of the vitality, wellbeing, and profile of the Perth Jewish community.