On the other hand

Having just written about all that is right and good about being Jewish in Perth, there is conversely another issue that typifies all that can be wrong and unhealthy about being Jewish in Perth.

Many people in this community simply do not attend a Synagogue service.  Even on Yom Tov at least one third of Jews (I would guess in a broader context as many as one half) have no inclination to visit a Shule.

So drastic is this culture that when people are invited out for Simchas or Shabbat dinner with Shule attending hosts, they turn up for the meal without attempting to meet their hosts at Shule first.

Over the past month I have attended 3 Bar/Bat Mitzva at 3 different Shules.  My experience was the same in each Shule, but there is one Bar Mitzvah that I would like to talk about in particular.  The boy was a wonderful and diligent student.  He does not come from an observant home, but he comes from a very traditionally strong home and obviously appoached his day with great purpose and meaning. 

As with the other Bnei Mitzvot, approximately 50 of his classmates turned up to Shule. 

The first thing was that many of them were dropped off by their parents at 10.00 and then picked up at 12.00, like it was some sort of weekend party run.  On this, it should be said, the culture of the parent body involved is simply obnoxious.  What sort of example do they set for their children by treating Shule this way, and more to the point, why bother to send their kids to a Jewish school for a Jewish education when they don’t have the courtesy to accompany them to Shule?  The mixed message they are sending is that “you are obliged to go to Shule, but its not important enough for me.”

The second was that there were 12 and 13 year old boys turning up to shule in Jeans, Tshirt, with earrings like they are going to a skateboard fashion show at Trigg beach.  Most of their time was even spent outside picking at the kiddush, totally oblivious to the occasion at hand.

The third is when they were herded into Shule, which is where I totally lost my patience.  A line of a dozen young boys, sitting in Shule, talking right througout their friends bar mitzvah and cracking jokes about his singing.  Not a single siddur or chumash in front of them.  I offered one of them my siddur and got a look as if I was from Mars. 

In a few years time when these boys graduate from Carmel School, they will obviously not be conversant enough to so much as recognise a regular Shabbat service.  That is an indictment on the school and the whole community, and a big shame. 

I wonder what will happen to some of those Bar Mitzvah boys?  Maybe they will care little for their Judasim.  Maybe they will date non-Jewish girls, and then decided to marry out.  Maybe their parents will blame Carmel School for not giving their children enough of a Jewish education.  Maybe their parents doesn’t realise that this scenario is in fact not so far fetched.  Statistically it is more likely to happen than not to happen.

Shule is not a place for grumpy old men to sit and pass judgement about the habits of the young, but in this situation, a little grumpiness is in order.  If Shule attendance is not given context and meaning at the time of Bar Mitzvah, then the ceremony is pointless, and the continuity of our community is at risk. 

If you are the parent of one of those youths, it is time to start to feel guilty.  It’s also a good time of year to feel guilty.  Rosh Hashana is just over two weeks away.  If you have a child at Carmel School, do you dare to suggest that they have the day off while you go to work?  Or do you prioritise your Jewish identity, take your family to Shule, and teach them about the importance of Jewish values and traditions?  

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