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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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19 Comments »

  • TheSadducee says:

    How about wealthy Jews in the community buy up properties in areas and rent them back at affordable prices to fellow Jews?
    (thereby striking 2 birds with 1 stone – tzedakah and establishing Jewish communities)!

    Or – Jewish communities buy property in common and do something similar, or Jewish families buy up houses together thereby sharing costs?

    Or relocate to the country and live the lifestyle of the 18th C again – after all, they’ve got the outfits!

  • Not convinced says:

    Why specifically Frankston?

    There are plenty other suburbs that are cheap and setting up Jewish infrastructure is just as plausible

    There are plenty Jewish families in other suburbs

    The only thing that Frankston has is the Chabad house which is great, if that’s what will fulfill your Jewish religious function

    I’m not convinced of Frankston, particularly when you consider that the area in question is the ‘poor’ area that is known as a trouble spot to Police and has been for many years

  • TheSadducee says:

    “particularly when you consider that the area in question is the ‘poor’ area that is known as a trouble spot to Police and has been for many years”

    – yeah, sort of like in the early 20th C in the East End of London when people had to live in those “poor” areas with those dirty and troublesome Jews with all those police problems…

    oops – different age, same classist bigotry.

  • Sadducee,

    There has been talk on and off about an investment into a satellite Jewish suburb created by a subdivision where land is cheap. The economics seem to stack up, but it never panned out for several reasons.

    I think these things have to evolve rather than be elaborately planned or imposed (particularly by people who themselves will always keep living in the Bagel Belt – the implicit condescension undermines the tzedakah intent).

    Frankston isn’t the first example of a suburb that started as a holiday destination for Jews transforming over many years into a new (all year around) Jewish suburb. I’m not sure if that’s why they chose Frankston.

    It’s fantastic to see young people actually doing something collectively about the unaffordable house prices, and this initiative should be commended and encouraged.

  • TheSadducee says:

    David W

    It is not necessarily condescension to live in one location and help others to live in another – would the same be said for subscriptions for building a synagogue in a location that you would not use?

    However, I do get the point you are making – perhaps the donors could pioneer by moving to the new location themselves?

    The lack of affordable housing, coupled with the impractical location of the synagogue is one of Canberra’s biggest problems.

  • frosh says:

    It’s an interesting balance between affordable housing and living in the nicer parts of a city.

    Being originally from Perth, I remember often hearing “if only the Jewish community settled in Cottesloe etc” As nice as living in Cottesloe might be, it would be unaffordable to a large proportion of the community.

  • frosh says:

    I’d also be interested if anyone can verify a not unheard of belief that a concentration of Jews in an area results in an extra increase in housing prices.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Ant–what about Tel Aviv? Look at the terrible rents & housing costs there. Those Jews are even protesting against their Jewish landlords.

  • Malki Rose says:

    Saducee and NotConvinced,
    I don’t think the process of starting a Jewish Community in any geographical location is ever anything short of completely organic.

    We can have whatever reservations about Frankston we care to mention, valid or not, and it doesn’t change the fact that people ended up there for one organic reason or another.

    I don’t believe that Frankston was ‘selected’.

    I am curious if there is anyone who can demonstrate a single example in Jewish history where a Jewish community has been consciously and artificially ‘started’ as a planned excercise. (The only one close to it that comes to mind is Masada.) – and with any real success. (Clearly NOT Masada)

    It appears that the sustainable ones are the organic ones.

    .. and yes I believe that is why all the attempts to create from scratch satellite communities around Melbourne have failed and will always fail.

    Frosh,
    I’ve also heard this theory regarding increased housing prices around Jewish areas and it does seem to fit the supply/demand theory. Again lots of examples to demonstrate this is the case too. As properties are sought by 20,000 people in the same 4 blocks they of course become rare as hens teeth and increase in worth.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    There are ultra Haredi communities in the environs of New York such as New Square which have been intentionally settled for a specific community. But I think these were settled into existing infrastructure, not built from the ground up.

    To bring some politics into the discussion– Of course, many of the settlements on the west bank are purpose built with a fortress orientation in mind, and there is is a very interesting book about the politics of the architecture called A civilian architecture. The first edition was pulped by the Israel Association of United Architects, such was the controversy over the views put forward.

    But more locally, I wonder if anyone has written about the ‘Jewish architecture’ of St Kilda/Caulfield. There is definitely are noticeable styles, , for places built in the 60s until now. I believe many of the 60s classics were designed by Dr Ernest Fooks and there was an exhibition about them at one point at the Jewish Museum. The Bnai Brith Building is a good example.

    The 70s -90s brought forth what I call the anti-Cossack fortress (and entrance hall leading to a blank wall, to stop the horses), sometimes in brown brick, as well as the menorah style (a sort of raised tower or wall, a cry of defiance), then the neo-Georgian, then some real concrete bunkers–the classic of all in Lumeah Road, but nowadays a mish-mash of redone Frank Lloyd Wright meets Kiryat Arba. And gardens are OUT! Underground parking is IN!

  • Marky says:

    New Square was intentionally settled, apparently built up from the ground, as it was bought by square as a large dairy farm. There are also other purposely built areas in NY such as kiryat yoel and others.

    There are also many in Israel.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Thank you. Kiryas Yoel actually. But despite their purpose built nature as a preserve against corrupting influences, they have their share of scams and crime.

  • Marky says:

    “…some real concrete bunkers. The classic of all in Lumeah Rd…”

    Larry, do you mean the one where the front of the house looks like a concrete farm tank? I had a tiny suspicion that it is where you live :-)

  • Zev says:

    Dear all,
    Frankston is brilliant. As someone who moved in after Rebbe Bondar, I can say that the community is great and me and my wife are loving it. Can’t wait to see you all there.

  • Family of seven says:

    Dear Not Convinced,

    Maybe you don’t listen to the news everyday – but there are trouble spots everywhere. Frankston has some but nowhere near where we live. We live in a very quiet neighbourhood with nice families- very close by to everyone from the Shule. By the way Frankston is huge – we are closer to the Frankston South side.

    Before moving here we looked into other areas taking into consideration distance, affordability and ethnic diversity of the area. Frankston came out on top.

    Maybe you should come and visit our nice little but growing and friendly community?

  • Family of seven says:

    Nothing “poor” about the area we live in.

  • Simon says:

    Malki,
    Israel?

  • Commoner says:

    Not convinced,

    Your comment could hardly be more patronising.

    Richmond is a notorious trouble spot too, but it is a prestigious place to live and bloody expensive at that. I don’t know who you are, but I am 100% certain that you’ve never actually been to Frankston.

    Get off your high horse.

  • Joe of Gould Street says:

    I think Levi and Rivkah Bondar and the spirited community they are growing in S-E Frankston is fantastic. Kol HaKavod! Jews can live anywhere, and irrespective of the ideal of ultimate gathering in Israel, many major larger communities end up being led by those who emerged as leaders in smaller communities or congregations. Look at the Jews who came from Shepparton, or look at those frum Kew Jews
    or Kiwis who picked up the leadership reins of what was once Mizrachi in Caulfield (after the generations who either made Aliyah or sadly departed).

    Frankston actually has a long Jewish history and connection: even prior to the Gandel family developing the major shopping malls. Just about every commercial building in the town was built by Jewish people ‘thinking business’ while on holidays in Gould Street. As a young kid, I was privileged to fish for flathead on an old wooden putt-putt boat out of Sisson’s Boats from Kannanook Creek with a tribe that included Maurice Ashkenazy, Arnold Bloch,Leo Fink, Nathan Jacobson, Victor Smorgon and the SCI clans, the Libermans and Ledermans.

    For those who don’t know, Frankston has had a revival in a recreational and residential sense in recent years – and not only the recent Chabad phenomenon. As the Jewish Caulfield community gets older (and some are becoming more traditional), they also run a little shule in Gould Street over the summer, and the growing local Chabad community have come over to beachside to join the holiday people during that period for the past couple of years. There is a strong sense of community, fraternity and Tzedakah for good things too. We are all brother “Islandsmen” …an echo of President Kennedy’s thought when he said ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’.

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