When we first saw the national Australian Jewish population survey the ambiguous presentation of the registration suggested that Perth were not eligible to enrol. In fact this was for the initial registration to Victorians only, andÂ the rollout of the survey was staggered. Currently, under the endorsement of the Jewish Community Council, Perth people are responding and contributing to this exercise.
This research is important, andÂ we take a positive attitude towards the study. All Jewish people should support the survey, as the results will profile a significant number of attitudes within the community and assist with setting a relevant agenda into the future.
When completing the questionairre I was surprised not so much by some of the questions I saw, but rather some that I didn’t see. Some of the areas relating to cutural relationships with Judaism, antisemitism, and community social services were quite leading, and I found it hard to prioritise these over the comparative lack of information about Jewish religious identity. I felt the survey should have measured how many female community members light candles on Friday night, how many people considered they kept a kosher home. There were questions about attending Seder, and attitudes towards children marrying out, but no direct question for Jewish singles as to whether they would themselves be prepared to marry out.
It was very pleasing to see some questions in the survey about the ability of families to make ends meet and put basic provisions on the table. The cost of education as a deterrant to attending day schools was also explored, the results of which should spark relevant and well supported debate.
I firmly believe there are three major factors that will contribute to the strength of Jewish identity for Australian Jews. The first is religious observance, the second is Hebrew literacy, and the third is a personal connection to Israel.
It is the quality and not the quantity of our Jewish community, and the strength of its education system that will carry us into the future. I’m not sure that the national survey will be a yardstick that supports such a conclusion. The survey will however, even through the indicative level of its voluntary participation, provide strong indicators across the board about what is important to us, and how our scarce resources are best applied to meet future needs.
Congratulations to the promotors and funding supporters of this project. We look forward to seeing the results.