The Perth Jewish community is a very transient one. People come and people go, for varying lenghts of time. The community has enjoyed more arrivals than departures over the past few years.
When a young Jewish family departs from Perth, we need to both respect their reasons for doing so, and also understand their motivations. This is particularly so when the family concerned is a local one. It is even more so when they leave other family behind them. More so again when they are active contributors to the community. Moreso even still, when the family is an active Rabbi and Rebbitzen who contribute to the community in their own special way.
Many people depart Perth for Israel. This is, in my view, something to be celebrated and marked as an accomplishment of the community. Long may this continue. However, losing families to other Diaspora locations represents a failure of the Perth Jewish community.
The Jacobson family, like many before them, will leave Perth primarily because the educational needs of their children cannot be met through Carmel School. They are seeking a religious education that is prioritised above a secular one, and at a level that is not accomodated by what Perth has to offer. Whether it is within the framework of the school program, or an extra-curricular setting, the environment and intensity of such an education is simply beyond the means of Perth Jewry.
The question is, do we need to accept that once again a family will depart our community due to the limitations of our educational system, or is there something that can be done to arrest this problem in the future?
What many Jewish people in Perth probably do not realise is that at least 50 religious Jewish families with young children have come and gone in recent years. Had the facilities been here to deliver to their educational needs they may have stayed. The potential of critical mass, communal contribution, and energy represented collectively by these families is very significant. The mere presence of a large number of religious families is enough to promote further immigration. It delivers vitality and a strong future as more social networks open up. Most importantly, it ultimately eases the pressure that young single adults feel to relocate and settle down in larger Jewish communities. Just imagine how our community would look today if each and every family that has left in the past decade was still amongst us. Whether we like it or not, it is both the quality and the quantity of people who have decided that this community cannot meet their educational needs that has stifled the otherwise impressive growth of Perth Jewry.
If there ever was an opportunity to create a more intensive Jewish educational environment at day school level, I believe it has now passed. There is a reality check that very religious families, including observant Chabad families, are unlikely to settle here for the long term. At this point in time there is no impetus to create, and no ability sustain, the educational infrastructure that would serve such a community. However this could again change in the years ahead with the right level of focus and support.
What is frustrating is that this issue is not on the communities agenda for discussion, and is not even recognised for the opportunity cost of our future that it is. It is not too dramatic to say that the importance of a higher level of chinuch is in fact the difference between Perth Jewry surviving into future generations, or polarising itself out of existence. In 50 years time this community could be left with a large amount of infrastructure and assets that it cannot afford to maintain, or it could be bursting at the seams with no room to accomodate a large number of children. It is only our ability to invest in Jewish education that will lead to the latter scenario as an outcome.
The Jacobson family is departing Perth and goes with our thanks for the chesed they have injected, the many activities they have organised, the gemach that they have hosted, and for the selfless level of dedication they have shared. They carry many wishes of hatzlacha and good tidings.
To those they leave behind, it is our challenge to deliver what we can to encourage Jewish families of any level of observance to remain. To accomplish this, each family must be able to determine that the resources and facilities needed to sustain their yiddishkeit can be locally delivered.