Taskforce studies underage drinking among Jews
MELBOURNE - A taskforce has been set up under the auspices of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) Social Justice Committee.
JCCV president John Searle said: "Our community can no longer pretend that under-age drinking is not a problem and the JCCV's Social Justice Committee accordingly formed a working group earlier this year to tackle it head-on."
Although the taskforce is new, a number of strategies have already been suggested and the JCCV has pledged to commit resources to help.
Strategies include an education program for years 7 to 12 students and programs aimed at educating parents, many of whom, it appears, are not aware of the extent of the drinking problem.
Sharp, a former vice-president of the Australasian Union of Jewish Students (AUJS), said while drinking is not a problem unique to the Jewish community, it is well equipped to deal with the issue.
"We benefit from having systems already in place and utilising them," he said "We've got the Jewish schools and Jewish Care, but also AUJS and various youth movements."
He added more alcohol-free events for university students would be planned.
Jewish Care Appeal against the backdrop of hard economic times
MELBOURNE - Using data from the 2006 Census, Jewish Care has estimated that more than a third of Jewish families live on less than $1000 per week.
This figure was calculated before the current economic crisis, which has already led to share market crashes and superannuation fund devaluation.
Australian families are also starting to feel the effects of job losses and the fall in property prices.
To help alleviate the distress for Jewish families, this year Jewish Care is seeking to raise $2 million to assist low-income Jewish families during tough times.
Jewish Care president Robyne Schwarz said: "Over a third of families in the Jewish community are struggling to cover basic expenses such as food, housing, utilities, clothing and education."
A report by Access Economics late last year said that Australia's worsening economic situation will "increase the incidence of financial and social stress."
"As a consequence, the demands on the nation's already overstretched social service sector [which includes Jewish Care] will significantly increase" the report said.
In 2008, Jewish Care received 3500 calls for advice and assistance. During difficult times, the welfare agency provides services such as counselling, emergency financial aid, housing and accommodation, as well as job recruitment and training assistance.
"The distressed families in our community need to know that Jewish Care will be there for them, no matter how bad things get," Schwarz said.
"I urge everyone please to give generously to Jewish Care's 2009 annual appeal."
Fencer aims for Maccabiah history
SYDNEY- Tenelie Murray, 18, is one of Australia's elite fencers.
She is ranked 29th in the country and 12th in the junior category, but her short-term goal is to get to Israel in July, where she'll become the first woman to represent Australia in the sport at the Maccabiah Games.
The University of New South Wales student, who picked up the sport in 2003 at Sydney Girls High, came home with a bronze medal from the recent Junior State Championships.
She competes in the foil element of the sport, which differs from epee and sabre because one can only target their opponent's torso.
Murray is currently in the New South Wales A squad, and is in the midst of a rigorous training regime, practising four times a week under the guidance of Antonio Signorello, a former Italian Olympic coach.
Italy is the sport's powerhouse, and the coach has been brought to Australia to help lift the standard of the low-profile sport.
Murray lives and breathes fencing. If she's not training or competing, she's thinking about it, and that holds her in good stead as she works towards her goals of reaching the pinnacle of her sport by competing at the Junior World Championships, as well as stepping up to the open's competition at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, where the selectors will judge her
rankings and performances as to whether she makes the squad.
But what attracts a young girl to the world of fencing? Murray says it's the elegance and finesse required in the sport, all the while knowing you are in combat.
"It's probably as difficult mentally as it is physically," she said.
"They call it physical chess -- based on strategy but you have to be quite fit. We work a lot on how to react to opponent's advances, but when you're in competition, it's a very long day. You need stamina to get through, and a lot of willpower."
She got her first taste of representing the green and gold in the under-15s in 2005, where she toured New Zealand for the Oceania Cadet Championships.
She then won a bronze in the individual foil at the championships in New Caledonia in 2007.
Murray spent December last year training in China with the Chinese national team, where she learned the incredible discipline and focus shown by the Chinese competitors.
They trained for four hours in the morning and four hours in the evening for three weeks, performing at a level to which Murray says Australia cannot compare.
In terms of national funding and exposure, fencing is well down the pecking order, and it's the same with the sport's profile heading into the Maccabiah.
Murray doesn't have the luxury of club fundraising, and without some community backing, might struggle to make it onto the plane to Israel.
"I'm so excited ... I'm dying to go. It would be such an amazing opportunity to compete against people from around the world and to see all the different styles.
"It's something so unusual as well -- no woman has represented Australia before so it's pretty cool to be the first."
Buy Kosher, Buy Australian, mashgiach says
According to Kosher Australia general manager
Yankel Wajsbort, national kosher retailers hurt
local kosher production and drive up the cost of
keeping kosher, by importing too many goods to stock their shelves.
Despite the recent spike in the price of imported goods from the Unites States and Israel - largely due to the rising production costs and low Australian dollar - to depend on imported products for their stock Wajsbrot said some
kosher retailers continue to depend on imported
products - "obviously they will do that because they there to make a buck".
"They can pretty much charge as they feel. If they believe they can make more by importing products, they obviously will/" But the consumers end up losing out he said. "With sole dependence on imported products, the impression is that
kosher food is entirely imported and expensive. If people can't afford it and can't keep kosher, that's a serious concern".
Relying in imports also hurts kosher production in Australia. "Local manufacturers want to see their products move into the kosher market" he said.In a bid to promote local brands, Kosher Australia, recently released its guide for 2009,
listing mostly local brands. "Ultimately there is no burning need to buy imported products". But some kosher retailers say they lean towards imported goods because it's a better deal.
"We go for imported goods because we can get them cheaper, and we can be competitive with the large supermarket chains," the owner of a Melbourne kosher store said.
A Sydney kosher retailer said he supported the local market whenever possible. "But the local market is a limited market especially around Pesach time."
While customers like the idea of supporting local brands, he added, many also want to put their money behind Israel. "Even if a Israeli product cost more, some people will prefer to support Israel, while some customers tend to go both
ways, depending on individual products."
But with the recent import hikes - with prices reportedly jumping by 30 percent - the time may be ripe for local manufacturers to make their mark on the market he said. "We are 100 percent open to using local manufacturers," he added.
Chabad opens in nation's capital
CANBERRA - Canberra has a resident rabbi, after a Chabad couple moved to the nations's capital last week. ACT Jewish Community president Dr Anita Shroot welcomed the arrival of Rabbi Dan and Naomi Avital. The couple settled in a house
purchased last year by Melbourne-based Mrekos L'Inyonei Chinuch (Merkos). The initial intention was the property would house a mikvah.
Asked about the building of the mikvah, which has been on the cards for a long time and was desired by a number of Orthodox women in Canberra, Rabbi Avital said there were no specific plans. "The plan at the moment is to meet people and the community. Our aim is to provide the community
with whatever they want us to provide them with", he said.
The couple have brought a Torah scroll with them and plan to eventually hold a minyan in their home. "I am personally very pleased that their coming will ensure that the mikvah will be built. I welcome a Chabad house, and hopefully a mikvah,"Dr Shroot said.
She said she expected the established community would work together with the Avitals. "They're here to help, to increase Yiddishkeit in Canberra, they're here to do outreach work. Our community will remain as it is the two groups under one umbrella of the ACT Jewish Community."Currently Canberra has just one Jewish centre, which houses both Progressive and Orthodox congregations, as well as combined community
events. The Avitals are at pains to stress they will discourage community divisions.
"We are very, very excited to be here, we can hardly wait to meet and help people as much as we can. We don't have a goal of setting up a separate centre in opposition, outside this
shule. Anything we do is with the shule", Rabbi Avital said.
He added the community's religious pluralism was "not a barrier for is at all, we view kit as a positive thing".
Born in South Africa, Rabbi Avital, 23, spent most of his high school years at Melbourne's Bialik College and then studied at Mayanot Yeshiva in Jerusalem.His wife, Naomi 21, move to Melbourne from Adelaide seven years ago. "We were very secular and became more interested in Jewish life" she
said. After spending her last few years of high school at Beth Rivkah Ladies College, she studied at Ohel Chana seminary in Melbourne and then spent a year at Machon Chaya Mushka in
Israel. They are expecting their first child in May, swelling the Canberra Jewish community by one.