How to Grow a Community

There are some impressive improvements to infrastructure within the Perth Jewish community taking shape.  The latest change to the landscape is at the Perth Hebrew Congregation, where the long awaited playground for the Ruth Harp Landau Childcare is being installed.  This will deliver a very substantial improvement to the high quality facilities already on offer.

Recently Carmel School announced the construction phase of the new Arts centre would commence soon.  The Maccabee pavilion appeal is also creeping towards its target.

This physical growth is wonderful to see.  Over the past decade the community has seen construction take place with both Dianella and Northern Suburbs Shules erecting new buildings, the Dementia Wing at the Maurice Zeffert Home, the early education centre at Carmel School, and the perimeter fence at the PHC.  Minor refurbishments have been made to the Jewish centre. 

It would be interesting to speculate as to what the physical dimensions of the Perth Jewish community will look like in 20 years time.  How many new facilities will exist, and will there be a population and revenue base to maintain and service these.  Will our buildings remain assets, or will they become liabilities?

One answer to this question  is that it is the long-term spiritual health of the community that determines the long-term physical health of the community.  People are more important than bricks and mortar.  Our strategic thinking should be focussed on improving our community members affiliation with Jewish community organisations and activities, ahead of improving the properties upon which these activities are hosted.  Better a crowded room with chipped plaster than a pristine edifice that is sitting empty.

There is one central way to acheive this, and this is to focus more of our activity on initiatives in Jewish education.  There is a small book that Rabbi Jonathan Sacks has distributed through United Synagogues called Ten Days, Ten Ways.  It contains ten small chapters for each of the Aseret Yemei Teshuvah.  There is a quote for today’s page as follows:

The history of the Jews has been a history of communities built around schools. They are the key institutions because they convey learning. Greek civilization survived for five hundred years after the Roman conquest of the Greek city-states, because the Greeks, like the Jews, had developed academies and they could live around those academies. When the academies failed, Greek civilization disappeared. The Jewish people has never allowed its academies to fail.  – Daniel J Elazar

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