One Community – One Shabbat

For traditionalists the concept of the Shabbat project and the emphasis on a single shabbat’s worth of observance might appear as the antithesis of Judaism, but as our community evolves, we need to look beyond traditional avenues of engagement and expand our reach into the wider community using different methods, to spread the word of Torah and the love of our community. We need to spread out Torah within the community because without observance, education and appreciation of our heritage there will be no next generation.

Diaspora Jewry for the most part, has always been entirely focused around the synagogue, be it the building, the rituals or the services. Nowadays most shules are underutilised and unable to focus on the sections of the community that need the attention. When you consider the role a Shule should be playing in the community versus what actually happens, it is clear that change is desperately needed. The accepted model of one Rabbi one Shule is an antiquated system that no longer benefits the community, especially considering that the majority of Rabbis have so much more to offer, than simply leading services and delivering a weekly sermon. We as a community need to give the Rabbi’s a chance to demonstrate leadership in the community, outside of the parameters of the four walls of the synagogue.

The Perth “Rabbi Without Borders” (RWB) experiment successfully led by Rav Brad Kitay, is an outstanding success. See what is possible when you are free from reporting to an institutional board, stuck in the past.

The Shabbat project this year, was one of the most positive events in our community. Over 500 people showed us what was possible for our community when we all work together and get on and just do the job, rather than wasting time on petty intra-organisational politics. Kol Hakovod to all the volunteers, helpers, assistants and people that joined in to make it such a success. You have lead the way and shown us what is possible and we are indebted to your leadership.

Our Community Infrastructure

Help me

Without a doubt Perth is a very transient community. Riding the back of South African immigration in late 80’s and early 90’s, led to the expansion of the community and it’s institutions.

The mining boom enabled further expansion of the community, with many young families joining the Perth tribe. In the post mining boom and GFC world, Perth is a changed place. Many families left to head back over East, for want of better educational options aligned with their religious objectives. Many left for employment and career options.

In a nutshell Perth is no longer on a growth path as a community. At best it is in maintenance mode. Historically Perth’s Jewish community has only expanded due to an external global event, think recession, escape from Europe and then South Africa.

Community infrastructure (some in urgent need of a rebuild), built over the past few decades served a different market and a different community.

As a community we spend a huge amount of money to maintain buildings be it a shule, school, or community centre. We can no longer afford to maintain the existing infrastructure, use it inefficiently, and afford the maintenance. We all drive past the Jewish Centre and lament that it needs to be rebuilt and then ask “How can we afford to build a new Jewish centre ?”.

Carmel School is one of the finest institutions in our community, so much time and money has been put into the school to make it the academic success it is, yet the site is dormant two days a week.

Combined  our five shules at most serve 400 people out of a community of almost 8000 people on Shabbat morning, yet to cater for this need, Perth Hebrew Congregation and Dianella Shule each maintain infrastructure that in one case is way too large for the population it serves and for the other too small for its growing community.

The Jewish Centre has a place at the centre of our community, but it needs to be sustainable, practical and supported by all, not just a few. It needs to be a unified effort to guarantee success.

What does a redesigned Jewish Centre look like in the future ?

A multi use facility capable of generating commercial returns to subsidise shared community infrastructure and upkeep of the building. A multi storey facility with commercial tenancy’s for perhaps a medical centre, or offices. Short and long term accommodation for community shlichim, visitors. A community kitchen to be used by aspiring caterers or those who want to cook up a storm for a family simcha, similar to Our Big Kitchen in Sydney. Offices and space dedicated to essential community organisations such as CSG and the Mikveh. Facilities for individual or combined religious services. A world class function centre, big enough and ritzy to cater for everyone’s tastes. A retail facility for The Kosher Shop with a dedicated eating area. Activity rooms for the youth groups Bnei Akiva and Habonim.

How do we fund our dreams….

Let’s start with redeveloping the PHC land into a retirement village. Similar property developments for the RSL and Bethanie have generated healthy returns and as a community are only getting older.

The shule(s) as in PHC and Kol Sasson, Kosher Shop, Mikveh, admin offices, and the daycare could be relocated to the new Jewish Centre site.

Dianella Shule itself sits on a more modest property size, more aligned with its needs. It also requires significant upkeep and maintenance and as the building ages it will also require more funding just to keep ticking. It too could be moved into the Jewish Centre or find a home in the school.

The elephant in the room is how much money is sent to Israel annually, from the many fundraising organisations, and while I 100% support the State of Israel, I do not believe we are in 1948 where every foreign dollar helps those in need. Many of the Israeli fundraising organisations that we support today, were established for specific reasons which have long since become null and void. They have morphed into organisations supporting causes that are worthwhile but not critical.  Other communities around the world withhold a portion of funds for local purposes and it is time the community looked at this option. We currently allow any organisation to operate carte blanche in Perth, while paying no respect to our local community.

As radical as these ideas are, they will find acceptance because those of us with vision and foresight can see where we are heading. There are so many other causes in our community that need funding and the money will not come from traditional sources. We have to make better use of our resources and show we can manage community assets to benefit the entire Jewish population.

There will be resistance to any move to combine Jewish activities because of politics, power, greed, and ego. What can you do ? How does an individual change an organisation’s focus ?

If you really believe there is a better plan, urge your leaders and boards of management to consider an alternative strategic direction. If they do not listen show them people power by not supporting fundraising activities and not paying membership until there is real change. The time for action is now.

 

Carmel spreads its wings – “Giving Life to old news” Art Exhibition

Last Sunday Carmel School hosted an art exhibition for The Really Useful Recyclers. The Really Useful Recyclers make paper art from mainly recycled paper. They produce various artworks, comprising different themes which are truly amazing and inspiring, not just because of the ingenuity or hard work invested into the design and production process.

What makes this art so special is the two young men behind The Really Useful Recyclers, Josh Flintoff and Courtney Smith. There journey in life is different to most of us as they deal with the effects of Autism on a daily basis. Things we take for granted are more difficult, a challenge for us becomes a huge obstacle to achievement in their every day lives. Despite the odds being stacked against Josh and Courtney them, together with their two mothers Deb and Del they created a programme to recycle paper into paper art.

The results were on display last Sunday at Carmel School where a huge collection of art works was displayed to the many visitors from all over Perth. The amount of support from the wider Perth community dwarfed, the Jewish community representation. Most of the art was sold to an enthusiastic crowd who continued to roll in throughout the day, long after the formalities were over at the VIP morning tea. The support from various politicians was highly appreciated with the Hon Stephen Dawson MLC, Minister for Environment and Disability Services attending as well as Simon Millman MLA, Member for Mount Lawley.

 

 

Any endeavour of this size, does not happen without blood, sweat and tears. Inspired by helping others and putting back into the community, Gila Cherny (Year 12 Carmel Student) first approached Shula Lazar (Principal) and Leanne Ben Majzner (Art Teacher) about the idea and together with the help of a few v

 

olunteers and helpers, dreams became reality. Top marks to the school for backing their students and showing them the right path in our community. Its great to see the school nurturing talented students who can organise and inspire others for good purposes.

For more information on the The Really Useful Recyclers visit their Facebook Page.

Affordable Jewish Education – Where ?

Australia has a Jewish education system, considered by some to be world class and held in very high esteem. Combining secular studies with Jewish learning, and catering to every spectrum of religious observance or thought, it is hard to argue the importance of our Jewish educational institutions, specifically the Jewish dayschool movement. These results have come at a price, and while the price was worth it at inception, when the level of education was more affordable, the situation at the coalface is now very different.

Australia’s annual inflation rates courtesy of the RBA. Average annual inflation over the past 10 years is approximately 2.37%

Carmel School fees have increased 57% over a 10 year period.

I am sure there is some kind of justification, why fee paying parents, need to pay 57% higher costs for education over a 10 year period. Whatever the justification it is irrelevant. We have entered an age where there is little wage growth and low inflation. A situation not destined to change anytime soon, unfortunately. Generation X, the largest fee paying group at Carmel School, are now the first generation in Australian history more likely to have gone backwards in wealth generation compared to their parents. In layman’s terms when you die, you will have less to pass onto your children and family.

The system has majors cracks, there exists no leadership in Sydney, Melbourne or Perth who will discuss any other option, other than the status quo, despite being warned repeatedly over the past 10-20 years that in the future, Jewish dayschool education will only be an option for the rich and the poor. The rich will have the money to pay regardless of the amount and the poor would potentially be eligible for subsidy’s from The JCA or another funding mechanism such as the Seeligson Trust in Perth. No real funding mechanism exists, to assist those hard working families shouldering the burden in the middle. Middle class families do not show on the radar, because they never considered Private Jewish dayschool education as an option in the first place because of the financial burden.

As people leave the system the school has no real choice, but to raise fees because, reducing cost structures in schools is very challenging. Certain subjects have to be provided, to comply with federal and state regulations. Cutting subject choices, turns potential fee paying parents off, because the perception is the product is not as good as other competing schools. School buildings are built with a 25-50 year plan to accommodate a certain number of students, if the enrollment numbers decrease, the building remains and has to be maintained regardless. In the increasing fees scenario, the burden increases on non subsidised families who would also have a financial breaking point, after which they look at alternative options. Those families receiving a subsidy would draw more from the already pressured and finite funding systems, so the impact on the community becomes greater as less funds exist to subsidise other important areas of education, welfare etc.

Other factors affecting the number of students for potential enrollment are a declining birth rate in Australia, low wage growth since the GFC in 2008, an increasing tax burden to fund politicians lifestyle choices and debt binges, coupled with much higher rates for utilities. Less children to educate and less money to spend on education.

Currently in Sydney and Melbourne there are a number of public schools that are almost 100% filled with Jewish kids and have introduced a more in depth Hebrew/Jewish studies curriculum. It is certainly not of the same standard of a private Jewish dayschool, but its free. Many families over East have only one choice now, and that is to purchase an overpriced 2-3 bedroom unit and somehow survive. Private dayschool is not an option unless funded externally i.e grandparents, Jewish Welfare, JCA etc. The generation of grandparents funding school fees is almost finished and there are real questions over how long welfare subsidies can provide for the next generation. The money has to come from somewhere.

What next ? I hope as a community we can engage in proper debate, and discuss the options. It is not reasonable for the school to continually increase costs above inflation and expect the full fee paying parents to shoulder the burden. This is a shared responsibility for the school community and it is time all aspects are investigated, starting with teachers salaries, fee subsidy misrepresentation, general wastage, educational programmes that cater to the few and not the many. What is the likelihood of the school committing to a CPI capped fee regime ? Are we willing to accept that with such a restriction some programmes are cut and not available to our children ?

Hope you had a good break, $42000 in school fees for 2 children is only $3818 per month. Oi Vey !!!