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Occupy Your Local Shtetl

October 18, 2011 – 10:29 pm11 Comments
Jewish Labor Committee

Scene from an Occupy Wall Street march

By Anthony Frosh
At a kiddush on first day Sukkot, I found myself in conversation with a fellow shul-goer about the Occupy Wall Street movement. His daughter, who lives in New York, had attended Yom Kippur services at Occupy Wall Street. As a joke, I mentioned that we should start an Occupy Martin Place movement. He continued the joke, saying Sydney was too much of a schlep, and couldn’t we just occupy Collins St in Melbourne.

Needless to say, I had to laugh when a few days later I was listening to ABC radio news and discovered that an Occupy Sydney protest had now commenced in Martin Place.  The news broadcast mentioned that the protest was part of a now worldwide movement that started with Occupy Wall Street. I thought to myself, “Didn’t this movement actually start with the ‘occupation’ of Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv?” I also thought to myself that suddenly the verb ‘to occupy’ has positive connotations again, but that is beside the point.

How typical of both our local and global broadcasters, many of whom frequently blame Israel where blame is often not due, and also do not give Israel credit where credit is due.

And while the media has failed to make the connection between the Occupy Wall Street movement and the Tent City of Rothschild Boulevard, so have the protestors in New York and elsewhere been reluctant to mention the obvious connection. Rather, many of the leftist protestors prefer to invoke comparisons with Tahrir Square and the Arab Spring.  But how valid are these comparisons?

On one hand, I would argue that the primary antecedents of the Arab Spring were economic. If you have a large mass of young people receiving graduate qualifications but only able to obtain menial employment, you’re going to have enormous levels of societal dissatisfaction. However, despite the economic roots, the lack of democracy in the Arab world meant that their protests manifested as a demands for regime change, rather than direct demands for economic reform.

On the other hand, the Israeli protests have primarily been about economic issues, starting with housing affordability and with a major focus on the widening gap between rich and poor. I do not disregard that there are also some more holistic aspects at play, as argued by Yoram Symons, but these are inextricably linked with perceived social inequality.

Not that long ago, I spoke at an event in Melbourne, and mentioned that our local Jewish community would be wrong to ignore the economic challenges our community faces. I stated that in recent years, housing close to the Jewish hub of Melbourne (and it’s equally applicable to Sydney) has become far less affordable for young people, and that there was nothing anybody could do about this economic reality. However, I argued that we could offset the costs of housing somewhat by reducing the costs of education. We could do this by creating an alternative to the private Jewish day school system.

I have since heard it said that such economic concerns are not relevant to the health of our community. However, it doesn’t take much imagination to realise that if the Jewish community were to be significantly more dispersed, then this would have a major impact on the quality of our community and present further infrastructure challenges. This is true for everyone active in the community, but particularly so for those who whose Shabbat and yomtov transportation is limited to a comfortable pair of walking shoes. The ability to afford housing in a particular area allows them not only to attend their preferred shul, but also to actually enjoy Shabbat and other holidays with their family and friends. This is, of course, but one obvious example.

Despite the slightly provocative title of this article, I’m not actually suggesting that anyone set up a tent city in Caulfield Park or Double Bay Park, although it would make the location for Limmud Oz Fest more convenient, if less exotic. Rather, the take home message here is that while most people, in assessing and planning for the future of the community, tend to focus on the nature and quality of religious, cultural, linguistic, political, or social justice activities, it important not to overlook basic economic factors. It is economic factors that have brought about the Arab Spring, the Tent City of Rothschild Blvd, the “occupation” of Wall St, and it will be economic factors that play an important part in shaping the future of our local Jewish communities and their creative potential.

 

 

 

Occupy Your Local Shtetl

 

At a kiddush on first day Sukkot, I found myself in conversation with a fellow shul-goer about the Occupy Wall Street movement. His daughter, who lives in New York, had attended Yom Kippur services at Occupy Wall Street. As a joke, I mentioned that we should start an Occupy Martin Place movement. He continued the joke, saying Sydney was too much of a schlep, and couldn’t we just occupy Collins St in Melbourne.

 

Needless to say, I had to laugh when a few days later I was listening to ABC radio news and discovered that an Occupy Sydney protest had now commenced in Martin Place. The news broadcast mentioned that the protest was part of a now worldwide movement that started with Occupy Wall Street. I thought to myself, “Didn’t this movement actually start with the ‘occupation’ of Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv?” I also thought to myself that suddenly the verb ‘to occupy’ has positive connotations again, but that is beside the point.

 

How typical of both our local and global broadcasters, many of whom frequently blame Israel where blame is often not due, and also do not give Israel credit where credit is due.

 

And while the media has failed to make the connection between the Occupy Wall Street movement and the Tent City of Rothschild Boulevard, so have the protestors in New York and elsewhere been reluctant to mention the obvious connection. Rather, many of the leftist protestors prefer to invoke comparisons with Tahrir Square and the Arab Spring. But how valid are these comparisons?

 

On one hand, I would argue that the primary antecedents of the Arab Spring were economic. If you have a large mass of young people receiving graduate qualifications but only able to obtain menial employment, you’re going to have enormous levels of societal dissatisfaction. However, despite the economic roots, the lack of democracy in the Arab world meant that their protests manifested as a demands for regime change, rather than direct demands for economic reform.

 

On the other hand, the Israeli protests have primarily been about economic issues, starting with housing affordability and with a major focus on the widening gap between rich and poor. I do not disregard that there are also some more holistic aspects at play, as argued by Yoram Symons, but these are inextricably linked with perceived social inequality.

 

Not that long ago, I spoke at an event in Melbourne, and mentioned that our local Jewish community would be wrong to ignore the economic challenges our community faces. I stated that in recent years, housing close to the Jewish hub of Melbourne (and it’s equally applicable to Sydney) has become far less affordable for young people, and that there was nothing anybody could do about this economic reality. However, I argued that we could offset the costs of housing somewhat by reducing the costs of education. We could do this by creating an alternative to the private Jewish day school system.

 

I have since heard it said that such economic concerns are not relevant to the health of our community. However, it doesn’t take much imagination to realise that if the Jewish community were to be significantly more dispersed, then this would have a major impact on the quality of our community and present further infrastructure challenges. This is true for everyone active in the community, but particularly so for those who whose Shabbat and yomtov transportation is limited to a comfortable pair of walking shoes. The ability to afford housing in a particular area allows them not only to attend their preferred shul, but also to actually enjoy Shabbat and other holidays with their family and friends. This is, of course, but one obvious example.

 

Despite the slightly provocative title of this article, I’m not actually suggesting that anyone set up a tent city in Caulfield Park or Double Bay Park, although it would make the location for Limmud Oz Fest more convenient, if less exotic. Rather, the take home message here is that while most people, in assessing and planning for the future of the community, tend to focus on the nature and quality of religious, cultural, linguistic, political, or social justice activities, it important not to overlook basic economic factors. It is economic factors that have brought about the Arab Spring, the Tent City of Rothschild Blvd, the “occupation” of Wall St, and it will be economic factors that play an important part in shaping the future of our local Jewish communities and their creative potential.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Occupy Your Local Shtetl

At a kiddush on first day Sukkot, I found myself in conversation with a fellow shul-goer about the Occupy Wall Street movement. His daughter, who lives in New York, had attended Yom Kippur services at Occupy Wall Street. As a joke, I mentioned that we should start an Occupy Martin Place movement. He continued the joke, saying Sydney was too much of a schlep, and couldn’t we just occupy Collins St in Melbourne.

Needless to say, I had to laugh when a few days later I was listening to ABC radio news and discovered that an Occupy Sydney protest had now commenced in Martin Place.  The news broadcast mentioned that the protest was part of a now worldwide movement that started with Occupy Wall Street. I thought to myself, “Didn’t this movement actually start with the ‘occupation’ of Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv?” I also thought to myself that suddenly the verb ‘to occupy’ has positive connotations again, but that is beside the point.

How typical of both our local and global broadcasters, many of whom frequently blame Israel where blame is often not due, and also do not give Israel credit where credit is due.

And while the media has failed to make the connection between the Occupy Wall Street movement and the Tent City of Rothschild Boulevard, so have the protestors in New York and elsewhere been reluctant to mention the obvious connection. Rather, many of the leftist protestors prefer to invoke comparisons with Tahrir Square and the Arab Spring.  But how valid are these comparisons?

On one hand, I would argue that the primary antecedents of the Arab Spring were economic. If you have a large mass of young people receiving graduate qualifications but only able to obtain menial employment, you’re going to have enormous levels of societal dissatisfaction. However, despite the economic roots, the lack of democracy in the Arab world meant that their protests manifested as a demands for regime change, rather than direct demands for economic reform.

On the other hand, the Israeli protests have primarily been about economic issues, starting with housing affordability and with a major focus on the widening gap between rich and poor. I do not disregard that there are also some more holistic aspects at play, as argued by Yoram Symons, but these are inextricably linked with perceived social inequality.

Not that long ago, I spoke at an event in Melbourne, and mentioned that our local Jewish community would be wrong to ignore the economic challenges our community faces. I stated that in recent years, housing close to the Jewish hub of Melbourne (and it’s equally applicable to Sydney) has become far less affordable for young people, and that there was nothing anybody could do about this economic reality. However, I argued that we could offset the costs of housing somewhat by reducing the costs of education. We could do this by creating an alternative to the private Jewish day school system.

I have since heard it said that such economic concerns are not relevant to the health of our community. However, it doesn’t take much imagination to realise that if the Jewish community were to be significantly more dispersed, then this would have a major impact on the quality of our community and present further infrastructure challenges. This is true for everyone active in the community, but particularly so for those who whose Shabbat and yomtov transportation is limited to a comfortable pair of walking shoes. The ability to afford housing in a particular area allows them not only to attend their preferred shul, but also to actually enjoy Shabbat and other holidays with their family and friends. This is, of course, but one obvious example.

Despite the slightly provocative title of this article, I’m not actually suggesting that anyone set up a tent city in Caulfield Park or Double Bay Park, although it would make the location for Limmud Oz Fest more convenient, if less exotic. Rather, the take home message here is that while most people, in assessing and planning for the future of the community, tend to focus on the nature and quality of religious, cultural, linguistic, political, or social justice activities, it important not to overlook basic economic factors. It is economic factors that have brought about the Arab Spring, the Tent City of Rothschild Blvd, the “occupation” of Wall St, and it will be economic factors that play an important part in shaping the future of our local Jewish communities and their creative potential.

 

 

 

Occupy Your Local Shtetl

At a kiddush on first day Sukkot, I found myself in conversation with a fellow shul-goer about the Occupy Wall Street movement. His daughter, who lives in New York, had attended Yom Kippur services at Occupy Wall Street. As a joke, I mentioned that we should start an Occupy Martin Place movement. He continued the joke, saying Sydney was too much of a schlep, and couldn’t we just occupy Collins St in Melbourne.

Needless to say, I had to laugh when a few days later I was listening to ABC radio news and discovered that an Occupy Sydney protest had now commenced in Martin Place.  The news broadcast mentioned that the protest was part of a now worldwide movement that started with Occupy Wall Street. I thought to myself, “Didn’t this movement actually start with the ‘occupation’ of Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv?” I also thought to myself that suddenly the verb ‘to occupy’ has positive connotations again, but that is beside the point.

How typical of both our local and global broadcasters, many of whom frequently blame Israel where blame is often not due, and also do not give Israel credit where credit is due.

And while the media has failed to make the connection between the Occupy Wall Street movement and the Tent City of Rothschild Boulevard, so have the protestors in New York and elsewhere been reluctant to mention the obvious connection. Rather, many of the leftist protestors prefer to invoke comparisons with Tahrir Square and the Arab Spring.  But how valid are these comparisons?

On one hand, I would argue that the primary antecedents of the Arab Spring were economic. If you have a large mass of young people receiving graduate qualifications but only able to obtain menial employment, you’re going to have enormous levels of societal dissatisfaction. However, despite the economic roots, the lack of democracy in the Arab world meant that their protests manifested as a demands for regime change, rather than direct demands for economic reform.

On the other hand, the Israeli protests have primarily been about economic issues, starting with housing affordability and with a major focus on the widening gap between rich and poor. I do not disregard that there are also some more holistic aspects at play, as argued by Yoram Symons, but these are inextricably linked with perceived social inequality.

Not that long ago, I spoke at an event in Melbourne, and mentioned that our local Jewish community would be wrong to ignore the economic challenges our community faces. I stated that in recent years, housing close to the Jewish hub of Melbourne (and it’s equally applicable to Sydney) has become far less affordable for young people, and that there was nothing anybody could do about this economic reality. However, I argued that we could offset the costs of housing somewhat by reducing the costs of education. We could do this by creating an alternative to the private Jewish day school system.

I have since heard it said that such economic concerns are not relevant to the health of our community. However, it doesn’t take much imagination to realise that if the Jewish community were to be significantly more dispersed, then this would have a major impact on the quality of our community and present further infrastructure challenges. This is true for everyone active in the community, but particularly so for those who whose Shabbat and yomtov transportation is limited to a comfortable pair of walking shoes. The ability to afford housing in a particular area allows them not only to attend their preferred shul, but also to actually enjoy Shabbat and other holidays with their family and friends. This is, of course, but one obvious example.

Despite the slightly provocative title of this article, I’m not actually suggesting that anyone set up a tent city in Caulfield Park or Double Bay Park, although it would make the location for Limmud Oz Fest more convenient, if less exotic. Rather, the take home message here is that while most people, in assessing and planning for the future of the community, tend to focus on the nature and quality of religious, cultural, linguistic, political, or social justice activities, it important not to overlook basic economic factors. It is economic factors that have brought about the Arab Spring, the Tent City of Rothschild Blvd, the “occupation” of Wall St, and it will be economic factors that play an important part in shaping the future of our local Jewish communities and their creative potential.

 

 

 

Occupy Your Local Shtetl

At a kiddush on first day Sukkot, I found myself in conversation with a fellow shul-goer about the Occupy Wall Street movement. His daughter, who lives in New York, had attended Yom Kippur services at Occupy Wall Street. As a joke, I mentioned that we should start an Occupy Martin Place movement. He continued the joke, saying Sydney was too much of a schlep, and couldn’t we just occupy Collins St in Melbourne.

Needless to say, I had to laugh when a few days later I was listening to ABC radio news and discovered that an Occupy Sydney protest had now commenced in Martin Place.  The news broadcast mentioned that the protest was part of a now worldwide movement that started with Occupy Wall Street. I thought to myself, “Didn’t this movement actually start with the ‘occupation’ of Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv?” I also thought to myself that suddenly the verb ‘to occupy’ has positive connotations again, but that is beside the point.

How typical of both our local and global broadcasters, many of whom frequently blame Israel where blame is often not due, and also do not give Israel credit where credit is due.

And while the media has failed to make the connection between the Occupy Wall Street movement and the Tent City of Rothschild Boulevard, so have the protestors in New York and elsewhere been reluctant to mention the obvious connection. Rather, many of the leftist protestors prefer to invoke comparisons with Tahrir Square and the Arab Spring.  But how valid are these comparisons?

On one hand, I would argue that the primary antecedents of the Arab Spring were economic. If you have a large mass of young people receiving graduate qualifications but only able to obtain menial employment, you’re going to have enormous levels of societal dissatisfaction. However, despite the economic roots, the lack of democracy in the Arab world meant that their protests manifested as a demands for regime change, rather than direct demands for economic reform.

On the other hand, the Israeli protests have primarily been about economic issues, starting with housing affordability and with a major focus on the widening gap between rich and poor. I do not disregard that there are also some more holistic aspects at play, as argued by Yoram Symons, but these are inextricably linked with perceived social inequality.

Not that long ago, I spoke at an event in Melbourne, and mentioned that our local Jewish community would be wrong to ignore the economic challenges our community faces. I stated that in recent years, housing close to the Jewish hub of Melbourne (and it’s equally applicable to Sydney) has become far less affordable for young people, and that there was nothing anybody could do about this economic reality. However, I argued that we could offset the costs of housing somewhat by reducing the costs of education. We could do this by creating an alternative to the private Jewish day school system.

I have since heard it said that such economic concerns are not relevant to the health of our community. However, it doesn’t take much imagination to realise that if the Jewish community were to be significantly more dispersed, then this would have a major impact on the quality of our community and present further infrastructure challenges. This is true for everyone active in the community, but particularly so for those who whose Shabbat and yomtov transportation is limited to a comfortable pair of walking shoes. The ability to afford housing in a particular area allows them not only to attend their preferred shul, but also to actually enjoy Shabbat and other holidays with their family and friends. This is, of course, but one obvious example.

Despite the slightly provocative title of this article, I’m not actually suggesting that anyone set up a tent city in Caulfield Park or Double Bay Park, although it would make the location for Limmud Oz Fest more convenient, if less exotic. Rather, the take home message here is that while most people, in assessing and planning for the future of the community, tend to focus on the nature and quality of religious, cultural, linguistic, political, or social justice activities, it important not to overlook basic economic factors. It is economic factors that have brought about the Arab Spring, the Tent City of Rothschild Blvd, the “occupation” of Wall St, and it will be economic factors that play an important part in shaping the future of our local Jewish communities and their creative potential.

 

 

 

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11 Comments »

  • Seraphya Berrin says:

    There are quite a few Jews at Occupy Melbourne.

    Chabbad CBD has a sukkah in the same city square between Collins and Flinders lane on Swanston. Two different types of huts in the same square, but so far there have been no issues.

    I have been trying to raise awareness in both groups about what the other is doing.

    Some photos

  • nadine says:

    Seraphya and Frosh,

    Last night I passed by the tent city. I was disappointed the Chabad sukkah could not have been used by the Occupy Melbourne people at night. A tent is a tent is a tent afterall. Where is the sense of mutli-purposing? tzedakah? sharing?

  • Doc. says:

    Frosh, I enjoyed your article.
    wanted to say that I have been at the Occupy Melbourne protests the last few days and there are many people here who recognise the events in Israel as the trigger to Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy movement here.

  • That’s the Jewish Labor Committee’s banner – no u in Labor, cobbers.
    Interested Aussies – and others – are invited to peruse our website which is http://www.jewishlabor.org and also our Facebook page which is http://www.facebook.com/Jewish.Labor.Committee (and if you find the FB page of interest, go ahead and “like” it!

    Arieh Lebowitz
    Associate Director
    Jewish Labor Committee
    25 East 21st Street
    New York, NY 10010

    t 212-477-0707 f 212477-1918 e arieh@jewishlabor.org

  • ariel says:

    Shouldn’t we be condemning “occupation” in all its forms?

    We keep hearing how evil occupation is. Why is okay to occupy Martin Place or Collins St or Wall St? Or Rotschild Bvd for that matter?

    Unless occupation is okay sometimes. Bah humbug.

    In all seriousness, there are problems in our own community which must be addressed. There is a functioning Jewish community now in Frankston. I heard a few years ago there was talk of establishing a new community in Western Melbourne with Mikvah and all. What happened?

    I’m discussing with my wife and friends the possibility of planting a Jewish community in the Blue Mountains near Sydney due to the high cost of living in Sydney itself. Who’s coming?

  • frosh says:

    Blue Mountains?

    Ariel, can’t we do it where there is a nice clean warm beach with some reliable surf? I hear that property in Noosa has fallen a lot.

  • ariel says:

    frosh,
    i agree with you that beach is important to us as Jews

    however, one must also consider distance to the office in Sydney or Melbourne…

  • ariel,

    The plans for a satellite Jewish community in the Western suburbs stumbled for a few reasons. I think one was that it was top-down, when moves like this need to be bottom-up. Frankston was the initiative of a group of young families, who collectively decided to take the leap. I hope that in 10 years they will be viewed as “founding fathers”.

    Frankston is serviced by trains, isn’t too far, and is also a Jewish summer holiday destination. So people can still get to work and send their kids to school without a major change to their lifestyle. Blue Mountains sounds more like a “seachange” move, and might not be as effective. What other suburbs in Sydney might fit the bill?

  • ariel says:

    Hi David W,

    Hornsby in the NW had a Jewish community post Shoah, with Rabbi, etc.
    Then they all migrated to Bondi. I have heard talk of Jews living there who are trying to start again…

    BTW, are you related the Werdyger family of Chazanim?

  • It’s probably not going to be based on nostalgia – rather economics. The housing price disparity between “bagel belt” suburbs and outer suburbs is far greater in Sydney than in Melbourne. It does take a lot of guts to actually make the move.

    Yes – we are all cousins.

  • Motty says:

    David and Ariel…
    What about the community in Parramatta?
    It is still close to Sydney and we have great public transport.
    We have a shul with sifrei Torah and a large membership base.
    Why shlep to the blue mountains when you can come to Parramatta?

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