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.