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Choose Your Own Adventure: Frankston

August 1, 2011 – 7:20 pm19 Comments

Escape from unaffordable housing prices?

By Simon Morawetz

Anyone familiar with the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series will know that life can be full of tough choices. Any path you choose to tread has both advantages and disadvantages. Otherwise, it wouldn’t really be a choice, would it?

Should you go the safer path that takes longer? Or brave the dangerous short track, thereby saving valuable time?

What made these books so popular (apart from them being interactive) was that everyone can relate to such dilemmas. We often have to give something important up to achieve something else.

We all know that Jews are not averse to large families, but with property prices as they are, enough space for the family in Caulfield North can require a CEO’s salary. When the only option a family of six has inside the Eruv has people sleeping on top of each other, it is natural that they may start looking elsewhere. So it is that an increasing number of Jewish families are leaving the Ghetto – making yerida, as it were – and heading south down the peninsula.

A preferred place for said resettlement is Frankston. Land and housing prices in Frankston are significantly lower than in postcode 3161 – for the price of a shoebox apartment in the ’hood, you can find a four-bedroom home down the highway. For those looking to hold onto some breathing space, it can appear a no-brainer. Currently, around 120 Jewish families live in Frankston and further along the Mornington peninsula.

Frankston is a place not exactly renowned for its multiculturalism, and sure enough, telling the average local that you belong to Chabad will be met with a blank stare. But Levi Bondar of Frankston Chabad stresses that the wider community has nothing but an enthusiastic curiosity about Judaism and Jews, who still hold an element of novelty about them.

Many of those 120 families were there well before the Chabad house opened up. What Chabad offers them is an organised framework in which to maintain their Jewish connection.

I had a good chat with Levi recently, who moved to the end of the Frankston train line over a year ago from Carnegie. He proudly told me of all the activities that Frankston Chabad has on offer for the Jews of the area. Perhaps unsurprisingly, many of them surround communal meals. What else gets a schmooze of Jews in one room quicker than chicken soup, gfilte fish and latkes?

And while I’m on the subject, Levi informs me that now local Frankston milk bars and delis have joined major supermarkets in stocking kosher food.

Tfilot and shiyurim also comprise a sizable chunk of Frankston Chabad’s agenda, and they have several programs aimed at young families. New mothers can share stories and tips – and a few bagels – at the “Mummy and Me” program, and a Jewish crèche will be opening next year. The focus on toddlers is a logical one, since it is often younger families that cannot afford to stay so close to the city while their family grows up.

Of course, however, capitalising on the economic advantage of a move to Frankston has its drawbacks, the most glaring of which is the distance. For anyone working in the city, a daily commute from, and then back to, Frankston is the stuff of nightmares. Getting children to and from Jewish schools is a total schlep, especially if your child happens to be a Scopusnik.

On top of that, Frankston does have a bit of a… reputation. However, Levi assures me that it is as safe a community to live in as any other in Melbourne. In fact, after moving there, his insurance premiums dropped.

And so, all things considered, it doesn’t seem too surprising to learn that the community continues to grow. From new families to retiring couples, there is undoubtedly enough of a base in and around Frankston to allow for a fully Jewish lifestyle.

The choice is now yours, readers: if you would like to stay close to city, turn to page 31. If you would like enough land for the family and perhaps even a garden, turn to page 61.

Simon Morawetz loves travelling and will read anything by Oscar Wilde. He was a madrich at Netzer for more years than is healthy. If there is a sport, chances are Simon knows about it and who the current champion is.

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