Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Chabad Youth & A'Beckett Street

I just received an email from Angela Carabott on behalf of the neighbours surrounding the Yeshivah Centre and particularly those in and near A'Beckett Street. The email was aimed at the Yeshivah Centre and Yeshivah Beth Rivkah administration and was also sent to AussieEcho and Emmanuel Althaus probably in the hope that we would publicise their issues and complaints. I am happy to reproduce the email here with a few comments of my own (I am sure you are not surprised).

The email is mainly aimed at the proposed Chabad Youth Centre on A'Beckett Street which first came to light a year ago (see here). The author also complains about the noise and other annoying behaviour emanating from the Yeshivah.

From what I hear Anash, members of Yeshivah Shul and parents of the school have two main issues with the proposed Youth Centre. These are (1) that precious and scarce land is being taken away from the Yeshivah grounds and (2) given to Chabad Youth. It seems to me that every square metre of land is needed and will not be easily reclaimed once the Chabad Youth centre is built. It also appears obvious that land should not be given away - just as other Chabad Houses and organisations must raise money for their particular projects so should Chabad Youth. This is especially so considering that it is claimed that Chabad Youth is a separate entity and will be self funding.

Serious accusations are made in the email below that part of Federal Government grants have been "syphoned off" and given to Chabad Youth. It is difficult for me to believe this particular accusation and I feel that, if the accusation is true, there will be a good explanation and probably a misunderstanding of the intention and purpose of the grant.

The last half of the email gets a little hysterical in tone but some of the accusations of noise and bad behaviour are probably true. I do know that, especially during Sukkos, there was a lot of noise and singing in the street well after midnight but also know that this did not come from the Yeshivah but from another group of exuberant young men in the area.

In any case the neighbours appear to have legitimate concerns and it will be of interest to see if these are taken seriously by both the Yeshivah and Chabad Youth leadership.

Subject: Youth centre in A'Beckett Street - Action taken by neighbours

As you are aware, your neighbours do not believe it is appropriate to build a 4 storey youth centre in A'Beckett Street because of the inevitable excessive noise, traffic and breach of privacy that such a building will bring to A'Beckett Street.

The neighbours are fed up to the back teeth with the noise late at night that regularly emanates from the Yeshivah College campus during the week and the illegal and dangerous behaviour that is being increasingly conducted by the parents, students and visitors to the Yeshivah College campus.

Since the beginning of 2009 the neighbours have all agreed to consistently report to the police, the State and Federal Government and/or the Glen Eira City Council (whichever is appropriate) ANY breaches of any planning permit conditions of any Yeshivah College building, or ANY breaches of State and Federal laws including parking regulations and use of fireworks (which are illegal in Australia).

This resolve should be evident to you as it has been through the actions taken by the neighbours that the planning permit to use Werdiger Hall for non-school events was only given once many conditions limiting the hours of use, acoustic fencing, limiting number of events and people and car parking requirements were added. In addition, it was the action of the neighbours which stopped the illegal use of the ramp to the A'Beckett Street staff car park and now requires the ramp to be removed costing Yeshivah College thousands of dollars in wasted construction costs and fines from the Glen Eira City Council.

Having stated that, you should be aware that following statements made by Craig Brown (of McIldowie Partners Architects) to several people, that $860,000 of the Government School Funding Stimulus given to Yeshivah and Beth Rivkah College by the Federal Government has been syphoned off to be used by Chabad Youth, a complaint has been lodged with the Minister for Education (Hon. Julia Gillard, Deputy Prime Minister), the Department of Education and several state-wide newspapers.

The neighbours do not believe that the Chabad Youth building is in keeping with the Federal Government's expectation that the funding is to be used by Yeshivah and Beth Rivkah College for school buildings especially as Moshe Kahn made it very clear at meetings with the neighbours in December 2008 and February 2009 that Yeshivah College will have nothing to do with the activities/uses of the youth centre and that Yeshivah College will have to obtain his permission to use the building at all.

It is apparent that the proposed Chabad Youth building will be used the majority of the time for the DaMinyan of over 200 congregants as stated on www.DaMinyan.com "Since its inception, it has experienced tremendous growth, and now has over 200 congregants, making it one of the fastest growing Shules in Australia." and "To further this goal, DaMinyan is relocating to a new, state-of-the-art premise, which will ensure adequate space for our ever-increasing members, and offer modern facilities for our functions." This is not what was stated in the application for the youth centre's planning permit to the Glen Eira City Council and the civil compliance unit has been advised of the possible deception.

In the past 6 months there have been a number of disturbances at Yeshivah College late at night (after 12 midnight) which the police, the fire brigade and Councillor Jamie Hyams have attended. After each disturbance the Glen Eira City Council civic compliance unit has contacted Yeshivah College and been told that either it was another Jewish organisation who created the disturbance or that youths had entered the ground without permission - there are a number of eye witnesses to the disturbances which have categorically stated that these statements made by Yeshivah College are untrue and show just how Yeshivah College wants to treat their neighbours. Not only are the neighbours unable to sleep at night as a result of the singing and bonfires but on one occasion fireworks being set off from within the Yeshivah College campus set alight the grass of 82 Hotham Street and another firework hit the Groners' roof at 80 Hotham Street.

The fact that no one from Yeshivah College is responsible or willing to do anything about this dangerous behaviour makes the neighbours question whether staff, parents and students of Yeshivah College believe in the principle of treating their neighbours the way they would want to be treated (unless loud singing until 2am outside their home and fireworks nearly burning down their house is how they want to be treated). It is hard to believe that it is a Jewish religious organisation which is acting in this manner.

As a result of the unwillingness of Yeshivah College to accept responsibility for the actions of people who are invited to the campus for events or take control of people's actions at events (for example, the Lag B'Omer party held in the Chabad Youth classrooms on 11 May 2009 which almost ended up in the Werdiger Hall being burnt down had the neighbours not rang the fire brigade at 1am to put out an unsafe bonfire which had been lit by drunken youths from the party), the neighbours will shortly install 24 hour digital video surveillance of A'Beckett Street and Yeshivah College to be used as evidence for the Glen Eira City Council civic compliance unit, VCAT and the police.

Once the Chabad Youth building is operational with over 200 congregants (and growing) of Yeshivah Alumni and other non-Yeshivah people then the video surveillance will be used to ensure that all the 22 conditions within the planning permit are adhered to or else evidence will be provided to the Glen Eira City Council to fine Chabad Youth with the aim of having the planning permit changed by VCAT to close down the use of the building after school hours.

Yours sincerely,
Your neighbours