Earlier this week one of the most important community events of the year took place. The opening of the fourth year of the Perth Yeshivah was hosted, with around 80 people (a significantly young crowd) in attendance.
Rabbi Shalom Coleman delivered a moving tribute to the Yeshiva. His incredible strength and insight was once again on show. He spoke about his arrival in Perth in 1965, and how many religious facilities in the community (kosher food, Mikveh, Torah study) did not exist. Furthermore there were strong cultural and attitudinal (read: generational) changes needed in order to develop this religious infrastructure. Rabbi Coleman noted today that there is support and widespread use of our religious amenities and that it is no longer a matter of debate or controversy to develop them further. Both Rabbi Coleman, and Rabbi Marcus Solomon spoke with great feeling about the great zchut extended to Rabbi Coleman, simply for being able to stand in front of us and witness the dividends of such an incredible renaissance in Jewish observance that has occurred since he first arrived to these shores.
Since Torah Mitzionwas brought to Perth it has been a very effective program. Most of the Jewish community in Perth, who will have had little or no exposure to the Perth Yeshiva, would not be aware of the impact it has had, particularly on the youth. Large numbers of young adults have been drawn towards Torah learning and observance due to the Yeshiva (with a very strong Bnei Akiva and Carmel School program also strongly influencing this). As noted at the opening, the Yeshiva brings a little bit of Israel into the heart of Jewish Perth, and the model has now been proven as very dynamic and workable for our community. It was also noted through the speeches at the opening that the young students from Israel, who give a year of their life to work in a voluntary capacity in our community is an incredible commitment that needs to be strongly recognised.
The reality is that the Perth Yeshiva, only a few years old, is already one of the most important and successful organisations in the Perth Jewish community. Sadly, with the exception of a few notable people, this is not seen or recognised outside of core group of religiously observant people who live in Perth. Our community has its priorities totally mixed up, when large amounts of donated funds get put to causes that have a comparatively limited impact on the community. Perth has done well to fund its yeshiva for four years running. No doubt this has cost a few hundred thousand dollars, and has been supported by a small cross section of local donors, but the broader question must be asked. Is this sustainable into the long term? Will the Perth Jewish community recognise the importance of this educational facility, and direct its limited financial resources towards retaining and growing the Yeshiva for the next decade and beyond?
There was a nasty rumour heard last week that funding is channelled from Carmel School to the Dianella Shule to subsidise the cost of the Yeshiva. Jewgle has enquired into this, and can say without fear or favour that this slander is absolutely false. In fact, the reverse is true. The Yeshiva bochrim are funded by the Beit Midrash solely through donated funds. They are made available to Carmel School to assist with extra curricular Torah learning, essentially being the hosting of chevrutot within the school itself.
Although the Yeshiva was created and developed by Dianella Shule (aka Beit Midrash of WA), the administrators have been at pains to keep its activities and focus independent of the Shule. The accounts are separate. The physical activity of the yeshiva is borderless; they can and do learn in all shules, in the school and in people’s homes. Whilst the majority and donors of the Yeshiva may be Dianella Shule members, the facility is certainly not an exclusive or limited arrangement to that shule.
There is no use getting precious about who owns and operates this program, and any attempts to undermine it by attributing false labels is paranoia in the extreme. Sadly, it appears that a complex exists that portrays Dianella Shule as exclusionist and underhanded. Whether it is motivated by ignorance, jealousy or just plan deviousness, it is just plain wrong. Not to mention self-defeating and totally unnecessary.
It is vital not to lose sight of the bigger picture. There are six new Israelis who joined our community this week. They will stay for a year and influence hundreds of people around them. They are here to learn, teach, and enthuse. They connect with the youth and are proud and highly regarded ambassadors of religious Zionism.
If the Perth Jewish community desires and deserves to continue with this program, especially now that the results are clear for all to see, then the support and use of the Yeshiva is needed from a broad cross-section of the community. Perth Jews from across the spectrum of identity and observance will also need to recognise the importance of the Yeshiva – its very existence being a statement in its own right about the values of our community. More than anything else, Perth Jews will need to collectively fund its ongoing activities if it is to be a program that will be sustained into the long-term.