Thursday, September 15, 2005

Melbourne Rabbis Make a Difference

An article appeared in COL here reporting the Third Annual Dinner for the ALIYA Institute (Alternative Learning Institute for Young Adults) in Crown Heights. This was a fund raising dinner for the Institute and was held in memory of Leima Levitin.

What makes this interesting to me is that the guys who got together to set this organisation up are young Australian rabbis. Rabbis Moshe Z. Feiglin, Yerachmiel Gorelik, Raphael Jaworowski and Yaacov Vorchheimer setup Chabad Inreach about three years ago in order to stem the tide of children who are drifting away from yiddishkeit. They have setup a Yeshivah, shul, counseling support and vocational programs for young people.

Their web site summarises their aim:

For decades we, Chabad-Lubavitch, have had phenomenal success in reaching out and helping others outside of our community. Now we must reach in and help ourselves, unzer kinder. It cannot be ignored any longer and thus, we invite and encourage you to take part in CHABAD INREACH - the Chabad House that reaches in.
From what I have heard and read they have achieved great success. I think it is a wonderful thing that they are doing and believe that it is because they are Australians brought up in Chabad families that they are able to achieve so much. While many are critical of the laid-back attitude here in Melbourne and the fact that our children have outside influences it is ironical that just these negative influences are what, I believe, makes this Chabad Inreach work so well. Being brought up here, these rabbis have more understanding and empathy towards kids that are a little off the derech. Aussies tend to be more laid back and non-judgmental towards other people whereas many of those brought up in more rigid societies (such as Crown Heights) seem to be less forgiving in their expectations of others.

It is a pity that a program like this has not been launched in Melbourne. Surely our children who do not "fit in" need somewhere to go where they can be in a frum but accepting atmosphere. I know that there are individuals - including the school and YG shluchim - who are doing their best to make Yiddishkeit and Chassidishkeit fun and meaningful for our youth but I think this community needs more.

A vocational program for frum youth who do not excel in the Yeshivah stream would also be a great idea although one needing lots of money and organisation. Something like this was discussed a few years ago but, lacking funding and direction, was just left at the planning stage and then forgotten.

There are a number of things stopping the formation of Chabad Inreach type of programs here in Melbourne. One of the main ones is that the community does not want to admit that there are children that are not 100% chassidish and frum in our families. Another is that, when it is acknowledged that there are kids like this, the blame is placed on the families of those children which means that the community feels they do not have to do anything about it.

When will our community grow up and realise that for all our sakes this community cannot continue on without major change. The Melbourne Chabad community has achieved a huge amount over the years and continues to achieve in some areas - but we have grown to a size where we must rethink where we are heading and what the emphasis should be. There are a many talented people in our community. If the PTB would make use of their talents imagine where we could be.

How many times have we heard at shiurim and farbrengen that if we are not constantly bettering ourselves on a personal level with regards to Torah and Mitzvos then we are going backwards. Surely the same applies to a community.