Jewish Studies Conference

It’s been a busy and invigorating week for the Perth Jewish community, and this belated post is reflective of that.  Next week will be no less momentous with several visiting dignitaries, led by Natan Sharensky.

Some text needs to go on record to describe the phenomenal accomplishment of Carmel School in presenting their Jewish studies conference to their senior students, and also streaming activity for the community and education sector.  There is some coverage in this weeks Maccabean, but this article was sadly edited to remove the context in which this event was presented.  The Kesher Carmel published the full account, reproduced below for the benefit of Jewgle readers:

 The 3rd Annual Jewish Community Conference

by Paul Levi 

Our community has a history of presenting educational programs of different types to develop and encourage spiritual growth. From the “Aish Hatorah” weekend at the PHC in the mid 1980s and many visiting Rabbis before that, to the “Rabbi Ordman Shabbaton” in the 1990s to the Dianella Shule’s six week “Kollel” programs in the late 1990s and early part of this century, Noranda Shules “Netivot” program, the many Chabad Shule guest Rabbis and the more recent 3 week “Seed” programs originally brought by the PHC. Most recently the Perth Yeshiva and its bachurim who give shiurim in all orthodox Shules. All of these have been in addition to regular shiurim at the Shules.

 

Perth has experienced a huge increase in the amount of learning taking place and the community has responded with enthusiasm to the opportunities that have occurred.

One of the most recent additions to the menu of Torah education on offer is Carmel School’s Annual Jewish Community Conference. Carmel School brings a panel of distinguished Rabbis and other speakers who spend three days at the school in an intensive program of lectures to students and teachers and then on the Sunday present an equally intensive program to members of the community.

The concept was brought to Perth by Mr Leon Blacher (Director of Jewish Studies at Carmel School) and is implemented in the main by him and Mrs Heather Niss. The success of the program is a great credit to Carmel School who host it and to Mr Blacher and Mrs Niss who spend a great deal of time and energy putting it together. An objective analysis of attendance at shiurim in Perth makes it obvious that, once the initial enthusiasm of attending a new series of shiurim dies down, the attendances fall away. We seem to take for granted the wonderful teaching that is available right here in Perth. 

It is in this respect that the annual Jewish Community Conference is inspirational. It is unlikely that such a talented panel of Rabbonim could be put together in any other way. Some 150 people attended the Sunday session for the community this year and spent several hours absorbing the wisdom of these excellent speakers.

This author spent the afternoon listening to all of Rabbi Hammer’s shiurim. The first area covered was “taking responsibility for all ones actions and choices” using the rebellious son in the Torah as an example. He went on to talk about “the goal of a Jew”. That being to have a purposeful meaningful existence and that meant not to be static in ones Judaism. Judaism requires time and effort to achieve advancement. It is not easy or instantaneous. His final talk was about Jewish identity and how education and  communication were central to our identity. Education is a life long process and to be static is not good. There is no “resting state” in education. Indeed the word “chinuch” has in it two roots, the one for education and the other for dedication.

Other participants in the conference were equally enthusiastic about the other speakers and the conference was an undoubted success. Yashar Koach to Carmel School the host organisation and to Mr Blacher and Mrs Niss the organisers. We look forward to an equally exciting conference next year.

What was most frustrating is that one element of this conference was not reported at all, and risks not being put on record as an important innovation that makes a world of difference.  Carmel School invests a huge amount of resources in making this activity possible, and as part of their program ran a conference on Monday 25 February called “From the Rabbi’s Mouth”.  This was hosted for 65 non Jewish teachers and involved presentations from local and visiting Rabbis and Carmel students about Judaism.  This material will be used in turn by the teachers to return more informed education to their own students, and will no doubt have a very positive impact on the way many non-Jewish students who may never interact with Jews are taught about the local Jewish community.  Such an important exercise in bridge building surely needs to be highlighted and commended to the community as a whole.

There is much to be said about the content of some of the presentations by our Rabbinic guests.  This blog will try to include postings and discussion relating to that in the days ahead.  However in the meantime, it is important to put on our own virtual record the sensational effort of the Jewish Studies department in administrating this conference and providing us with such a special learning opportunity.  The lasting impact will make a difference to the future Jewish identity of many of the school’s senior students.  In particular it will help equip them to move beyond the secure and culturally protected environment of Carmel School to University and the workplace with confidence in their Jewish knowledge and committment.