The Perth Jewish Community was privileged tonight to hear from Rabbi Simon Jacobson, a well known and highly entertaining speaker.
His message was unequivocally clear, that Jewish education needs to be a community priority. Rabbi Jacobson drew on his experiences of the past week in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth to conclude that the Australian Jewish community is at a crossroads, in a place that American Jewry was perhaps in fifty years ago. We have the infrastructure for Jewish education, but we do not have the culture or the realisation within the community that greater collective investment is needed to ensure its sustainability and optimum use. Amongst his amusing quips, the Rabbi posed the question; what is worse, ignorance or apathy? His response; “I don’t know, and I don’t care”. Indeed we have too much of both, and good humour always touches a raw deep truth within.
On the topic of Jewish continuity, Rabbi Jacobson talked about the uniqueness of Jewish survival, demonstrating how other civilisations have not endured, but Jewish civilisation has. Rabbi Jacobson drew on the lessons of the historic Jewish experience to path a vision for future. He brought out cultural and traditional traits of Jewish identity and how they distinguish and set apart Jewish identity. But he then went further to masterfully demonstrate that it is the eternal observances of the Torah that has bound Jewish people across generations and across many places. The identity paradox of racial, religious and national identity all infusing to bring the essence of Jewish continuity to the fore was aptly described through his narrative that the large crowd present will remember for a long time to come.
Rabbi Jacobson also spoke encouragingly of his visit to Carmel School and about the foresight that people in the Perth Jewish community had some decades back to place a Jewish Day School at the centre of community life. However he alluded strongly to the realisation that affordability dilemma faced by the “middle class” is the biggest pressure point on a Jewish schools viability. There are those in need of assistance who can obtain help and relief, and those who are affluent to which school fees are not a financial burden. However it is the working families that make lifestyle choices and lean against the sacrifice of everyday comforts for the sake of affording school fees that are most at risk of becoming lost to the system. This is a reality for Australian Jewry here and now, and has a massive flow on impact to community vibrancy and continuity.
Until such time as the number one collective crusade of Perth Jewry becomes investment in education, we place our community continuity at risk. This was well articulated with great feeling and insight by Rabbi Jacobson.
Thanks are due to Chabad WA for hosting this evening. Those who could not make it should know that they missed out on one of the finest public speaker appearances that the Perth Jewish community has hosted for some time.