One of the signs of a healthy community is a vibrant social life. Places to eat, hang out and be social with one another. In Perth, the local Jewish community has never had many of these. When it comes to places to eat a kosher meal, outside the home, Perth has one small place.
Or rather, it had. This week saw Besh Fresh close its cafe doors, permanently.
This surely heralds a tough time ahead for Perth Jewry. Orthodox shules are struggling to get minyanim on a daily basis and community events have lower attendances than remembered – all at a time when our Jewish population is at its highest.
This brings us to the reason a place like Besh Fresh couldn’t survive. In a place with a Jewish population of 8,000 – most living within a confined area, a cafe should have been able to thrive. Instead, we find the number of Jews living in Perth who keep kosher, attend shule regularly and are shomrei is a pitifully small percentage of that number.
This community needs to wear its heart on its sleeve. Perth Jews are often too happy to hide their Jewishness from the greater community. Many, many families keep a “kosher” home but are happy to eat out anywhere. Likewise, many families come to shule on Shabbos mornings – but in the family car. This hypocrisy is not lost on their children.
Children grow up watching parents tell them that God has laid down a series of rules… then they watch their parents break those rules without a seconds thought. Just this week spoke to two young women, both from such (and separate) families, who are now members of another religion. Both of these young ladies cited the hypocrisy they witnessed as children as their reason for thinking of Judaism as a non-option. In their mind, no one keeps these “crazy” laws of a forgotten era, because to them, growing up in their family, no one did. Of course, both women have married out.
I suppose another problem is that in a place where everyone has it so good, through economic prosperity, people get complacent and comfortable and assume things will just keep getting better all by themselves. This is rarely the case.
So I’ll leave the rest of the diagnosis to the comments section, as I’ve made my thoughts on the issue clear. The bottom line is, a frum family with pride in their Jewishness breeds frum kids with pride in their Jewishness. People who hide their kippot in their pocket outside of a shule and happily eat in a traif restaurant will not have kids who grow up to follow the mizvot.