Affordable Jewish Education – Where ?

Australia has a Jewish education system, considered by some to be world class and held in very high esteem. Combining secular studies with Jewish learning, and catering to every spectrum of religious observance or thought, it is hard to argue the importance of our Jewish educational institutions, specifically the Jewish dayschool movement. These results have come at a price, and while the price was worth it at inception, when the level of education was more affordable, the situation at the coalface is now very different.

Australia’s annual inflation rates courtesy of the RBA. Average annual inflation over the past 10 years is approximately 2.37%

Carmel School fees have increased 57% over a 10 year period.

I am sure there is some kind of justification, why fee paying parents, need to pay 57% higher costs for education over a 10 year period. Whatever the justification it is irrelevant. We have entered an age where there is little wage growth and low inflation. A situation not destined to change anytime soon, unfortunately. Generation X, the largest fee paying group at Carmel School, are now the first generation in Australian history more likely to have gone backwards in wealth generation compared to their parents. In layman’s terms when you die, you will have less to pass onto your children and family.

The system has majors cracks, there exists no leadership in Sydney, Melbourne or Perth who will discuss any other option, other than the status quo, despite being warned repeatedly over the past 10-20 years that in the future, Jewish dayschool education will only be an option for the rich and the poor. The rich will have the money to pay regardless of the amount and the poor would potentially be eligible for subsidy’s from The JCA or another funding mechanism such as the Seeligson Trust in Perth. No real funding mechanism exists, to assist those hard working families shouldering the burden in the middle. Middle class families do not show on the radar, because they never considered Private Jewish dayschool education as an option in the first place because of the financial burden.

As people leave the system the school has no real choice, but to raise fees because, reducing cost structures in schools is very challenging. Certain subjects have to be provided, to comply with federal and state regulations. Cutting subject choices, turns potential fee paying parents off, because the perception is the product is not as good as other competing schools. School buildings are built with a 25-50 year plan to accommodate a certain number of students, if the enrollment numbers decrease, the building remains and has to be maintained regardless. In the increasing fees scenario, the burden increases on non subsidised families who would also have a financial breaking point, after which they look at alternative options. Those families receiving a subsidy would draw more from the already pressured and finite funding systems, so the impact on the community becomes greater as less funds exist to subsidise other important areas of education, welfare etc.

Other factors affecting the number of students for potential enrollment are a declining birth rate in Australia, low wage growth since the GFC in 2008, an increasing tax burden to fund politicians lifestyle choices and debt binges, coupled with much higher rates for utilities. Less children to educate and less money to spend on education.

Currently in Sydney and Melbourne there are a number of public schools that are almost 100% filled with Jewish kids and have introduced a more in depth Hebrew/Jewish studies curriculum. It is certainly not of the same standard of a private Jewish dayschool, but its free. Many families over East have only one choice now, and that is to purchase an overpriced 2-3 bedroom unit and somehow survive. Private dayschool is not an option unless funded externally i.e grandparents, Jewish Welfare, JCA etc. The generation of grandparents funding school fees is almost finished and there are real questions over how long welfare subsidies can provide for the next generation. The money has to come from somewhere.

What next ? I hope as a community we can engage in proper debate, and discuss the options. It is not reasonable for the school to continually increase costs above inflation and expect the full fee paying parents to shoulder the burden. This is a shared responsibility for the school community and it is time all aspects are investigated, starting with teachers salaries, fee subsidy misrepresentation, general wastage, educational programmes that cater to the few and not the many. What is the likelihood of the school committing to a CPI capped fee regime ? Are we willing to accept that with such a restriction some programmes are cut and not available to our children ?

Hope you had a good break, $42000 in school fees for 2 children is only $3818 per month. Oi Vey !!!

World Vision implicated in Gaza Terrorism Funding

Way back in 2013 a meeting was held between World Vision representatives including CEO Tim Costello and representatives of Shurat HaDin. World Vision claim to be a humanitarian and aid organisation accepting funding from Australian Government. Shurat HaDin pursue those involved in terrorism and undermining the State of Israel, to justice through the legal system. At this meeting evidence was presented showing World Vision in a less than glamorous light, using Australian Taxpayer Funds to support various aid initiatives in Gaza, that had links to Hamas and other terrorist organisations operating in Gaza. With the same regard that BDS protestors show for others property, the claims were denied and brushed aside.

 

Fast forward to 2017 and the full seriousness of the accusations against World Vision are becoming harder to ignore. The Israeli Security Agency has confirmed claims first made by Andrew Hamilton back in 2013. Full details available here. I always thought as an Australian taxpayer I was paying my taxes to support a bloated inefficient political class in Canberra however in reality I am an unwitting financier of terrorism. I don’t feel so average now.

 

I hope that World Vision use this opportunity to cease, desist and renounce any involvement in funding terrorism. I am betting that they will deny the allegations and try and find a way to soften the blow. In the meantime I urge everyone to stop any donations or involvement with World Vision. If you feel like writing to the Australian Foreign Ministers office the email details are Chief of staff – [email protected] and Julie Bishop – [email protected]

Double Standard


One of the many issues facing society is the double standard. It comes in all shapes and sizes and does not discriminate. The strict definition of a double standard is “a rule or principle which is unfairly applied in different ways to different people or groups.”
Double standard’s are more sinister and can be used to disguise corruption, create an easy path to power, drive an agenda or perhaps educational philosophy. It is all around, us yet many of us, only catch a glimpse of it when witnessed.
We can all think of the common double standards regarding sexual behaviour, male sexual activity is promoted, while female promiscuity results in slut shaming and labelling with derogatory terms.

Freedom of speech is one of the hottest double standards in Australia at the moment, not helped of course by the many failures of the Australian Human Rights Commission, especially in relation to QUT. How can excluding bring about togetherness and acceptance? I am not aware of any interfaith dialogue that uses exclusion and non-discussion as a way of bringing people together. Those who believe segregation is the answer, need to study history.
We believe that any racist cartoon or statement, should be recognised as such and removed regardless of who it is targeting. However many people, now use racism as an excuse to shut down rational discussion and debate. No better example is the role of Islamism in Australia, and why Islamist leadership, is often not united when condemning terror attacks ? It is not racist to pose that question, we should all be asking why this situation is allowed to exist in the first place.

Locally a major double standard exists where it is considered bad form to criticise any Jewish community organisation regardless of their track record in corporate governance, objectives and aims. We would not accept such behaviour in the wider world but it is acceptable in the local community because ….. ?
Is it acceptable to have many organisations and random individual’s visiting Perth to solicit donations for Israel, when Menora Charity Fund and other local charities are stretched to the limit providing for those in need in our local community ? Do we just rely on our own decision making to keep things in balance, or has the time come to have an open discussion about where community priorities should be focused ?
We all know that some organisations are wasteful when spending money, others are in long term decline because they are no longer relevant and need to be disbanded, some need to be reinvigorated and some need to be held to account because we as a community simply deserve better.

A great example of a double standard, is analysing the discussion on the Jewish Perth facebook group. There are many members of the group who rather than defend their organisations values and legacy, call for all debate to be shutdown and censored, on the basis that they are offended. You would seriously have expected the Australian Human Rights Commission to have been involved already. A poster on the group posted a statement about the Habonim youth group. Rather than defend Habonim, the first and many other responses were to shutdown the debate. Eventually someone saw the light, and actually posted something positive about Habonim. It is really not that hard, to find positive things to say about Jewish youth groups, so why it took so long is anyone’s guess.

Maybe the rage from having your world view challenged causes people to lose focus and engage in personal attacks rather than focusing on the real issue.

What happened to the Jewish Centre ?

As a community we have so much to be proud of, the State’s leading academic school, synagogues catering to all facets of Judaism, community aged care facilities, youth groups, cultural functions and leadership in droves. We are proudly represented in the wider community by individuals, who have been successful in almost every field and discipline. Yet we have a disaster, of our own making, in our very own backyard.

The Jewish Centre was built for a different Perth. A time before waves of immigration, changed the face, and expectations of the community. A time when the community, could be supported from traditional fundraising activities. The Jewish centre as it stands now is a relic of its former self. The infrastructure is in urgent need of repair, the business model is broken, and the function centre, underutilised.

The tireless work undertaken, by the current committee is only a band aid approach, and the best that can be done given the circumstances and history. It is time for the patchwork to stop and wholesale surgery undertaken.

A public/private partnership model could be undertaken where retail shops, commercial and special use office space, a shared kitchen facility, accommodation, memorials to the various Jewish events in our calender and a modern function centre, could all be considered as part of a new vibrant Jewish centre for our community. The funds could possibly come from the private sector, who build and operate the facility for a period of time, after which it passes back to the community to manage and operate. All we need to do as a community, is offer our support by utilising the facilities once it has been rebuilt.

The centre is appealing for funds to make urgent repairs and I am sure that any support they receive would be appreciated.