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Occupy Caulfield

November 10, 2011 – 9:41 pm13 Comments

Apparently, none of the Jewish Orthodox schools have rowing teams, unlike Scotch College Mebourne, pictured here. Photo: Kathryn Cairney

By Vadim Chelom
I have had enough! This injustice and abuse has to stop. I am going to do something about it – tonight I am putting on an extra layer of thermal underwear and unrolling my sleeping bag at the intersection of Hotham Street and Balaclava Road. You are welcome to join me at this ‘Occupy Caulfield’ protest and let’s speak together: ‘We the oppressed, we the ignored, we the unappreciated…’ I know what you are thinking – I don’t look like the typical ‘Occupy’ crowd, after all I am not a student hippie but a University educated, professionally employed father and husband with two cars and a mortgage. So let me explain you – we are a young Orthodox Jewish family and for decades now the society has been ignoring our needs.

First, there is the housing crisis. That’s right the desperate shortage of large, inexpensive four-bedroom houses in East St Kilda area. Yes, I know there is plenty of cheap accommodation on the outskirts of Melbourne but I am an Orthodox Jew and for me the very idea of living further then 10 minute walking distance of at least three kosher bakeries is utterly inconceivable. In fact, even suggesting such a thing is a gross violation of my human rights. You see, I need to be surrounded by no less then three Shuls and near a Supermarket with Kosher section at least two isles wide. The problem is – the only three blocks that fall within that radius have a median house price of one million dollars plus. I don’t know about you but my grandfather just can’t gift me that kind of money. This leaves me with a terrible dilemma: to brave it alone in the no-man’s-land of beyond Dandenong Road or to cram my growing family into a two-bedroom shoebox-apartment on the third floor.  I know many of you empathize with the plight of those poor cattle sent by boat to Indonesia. Let me tell you, those cows have it easy. Their holding pens are a five star hotel compared to some of the cramped, overcrowded little flats I have seen large Orthodox families squeezed into. You want to see real cruelty? Take a look at the queue to the toilet in one of those flats at seven o’clock in the morning!

Then there is children’s education. I work in a well paying job but whatever money is left over after paying rent is swallowed up by the school fees. When I tell my co-workers that my children go to a private school, they picture green rolling hills with tennis courts and a rowing team. Instead my children are lucky to stake a claim to a patch of hot concrete during their lunchtime, but I still pay as much as the whole of the Scotch College rowing team combined. Every time I am invited to explain why my bill is still outstanding and I apologize and beg and say that it has been a bad year and that is why I am working two jobs and my shoes have holes in them, I am looked at as if this school and the world in general would be better of without me and that the money doesn’t grow on trees, you know. And I explain that yes, I know, and that if it did, I would be able to afford all those luxuries like fixing the brakes on my car.

So to sum it up, I positively have had enough. We the 99% of educated Orthodox professionals, we the 99% of deadbeats without millionaire-grandparents, we the 99%… where was I? I forget. It’s been a long day. My daughter has lice and the dishwasher broke, so now there is a big pile of dirty dishes sitting in the sink for me to wash. I am feeling a bit tired. Maybe I will go protesting tomorrow instead.

Dr Vadim Chelom is a Veterinarian, a writer and an educator. You can read his new book here.

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  • L says:

    I love your writing style! So fresh and conversational.

  • frosh says:

    Hi Vadim,

    I really empathise with the plight of the people you are writing about.

    They should strongly consider getting onboard with Jonny Schauder‘s movement for free Jewish education.

    I’m sure Jonny would be happy to hear from any such people and to have their support.

  • R B says:

    Hi Vadim,

    A nice satire.

    Practically, you can move to the “second belt of the ghetto” suburbs like Glen Huntly or Bentleigh, still not cheap but defitely cheaper than St Kilda East and with a shul within a walking distance and a supermarket with Kosher products within a short drive, or even walk.
    I took that step recently.

    That reminded me of last summer’s protest in Israel, where young people protested against the housing prices in central Tel Aviv, which skyrocket because almost every young secular Israeli wants to live there.

    Re education costs – this is really a problem, maybe it is time that donations coming from the Jewish Australian commnity will go more for education here and less for the education or welfare of the young Israelis that I mentioned before, with a GDP pre capita of 30,000$ a year they should be able to manage by themselves.

  • CB says:

    Dear vadim

    Try affording even a two bedroom semi in Sydney.

  • That's life says:

    What or whom are you protesting Vadim? It is no one’s fault that Caulfield prices are too high for you to have a nice sized home. It is purely caused by supply and demand and market forces. Would you rather we live under a non-capitalist system? Being a Russian immigrant yourself I think your answer would be a definite no. What are you complaining about? You yourself say you make a decent living. Be glad about that since there are lots of men with wives and kids who can’t afford what you can afford. You have a nice home now in Frankston and your wife tells the world how happy she is. Why the bitter sarcasm about not being able to live in Caulfield then? You need to get over it and throw away that chip on your shoulder against people with a rich zeidah. In life there is always going to be those who can afford Toorak and those who can only afford a rented two bedroom flat. Be happy with what you have. There is nothing to Occupy Caulfield about.

  • Cheeky Geeky says:

    Do you send your kids to a Jewish school for rolling hills and a rowing team? One would hope one’s motivations would be less shallow ND UN-Jewish than that. A Jewish education is priceless.

  • Cheeky Geeky says:

    and un-Jewish than that.

  • Andrew Harris says:

    People, Vadim’s addressed a personal issue with his full name attached — why the pseudonyms? You owe him at least that much, even if you’re in diametric disagreement.

  • That's life says:

    Andrew Harris, we owe Vadim nothing. Who asked him to write this silly article that seems to have no point but to kvetch? He chooses to say his name and others don’t. To each his own.

  • Kovi Rose says:

    First off, to Vadim, i really enjoyed reading your piece; it was satirically humorous and still engaged the mind to think about truly worrying issues that continue to be a plight on the Jewish Diaspora Community.
    Secondly, i agree entirely with Mr Harris; i am completely fed-up with spineless people verbally accosting the Galus writers without even the kishkehs to sign their own names!

  • Notmyrealname says:

    Ah, shuddup already about the use of pseudonyms. The whole benefit of such fora is that one can say outrageous things for the sake of s–t-stirring, and no one knows who the hell you are. It’s so much fun, and I, for one, am not going to ruin my daily enjoyment because of some sourpusses who take themselves far too seriously!

    BTW Vadim – a great piece of satire and those commentators who don’t understand your humour should get a life.

    Long live the revolution!

  • ariel says:

    The argument about the use of pseudonyms has started many times on Galus, but never really resolved.

    I personally use a quasi-pseudonym because I don’t want my political/social opinions to be “googled” by work colleagues and others. It has nothing to do with teh Galus contributors.
    I’m sure others feel the same way.

  • Sam says:


    I found your description of your own Galus moniker as a quasi-pseudonym thought provoking. Does it mean in your case “a name resembling but not quite your false name”? I’m not deliberately trying to be funny, just found it quite unusual. BTW I have no problem with the use of pseudonyms on this forum, and there are many valid reasons why it is sometimes very wise to do so, which may be unrelated to being outrageous or to facilitate anonymous personal attacks on other commenters.

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