Australia

The past year has been a challenging one for the Australian movement, in both positive and negative ways. So that this report ends with all the great projects and events that have been happening in the ken, I will begin with the problems that are currently facing the movement.
 
Sadly, our greatest single concern continues to be the number of chanichim attending weekly meetings. While there are some incredibly strong and passionate kvutzot, especially in the senior movement where the ideology becomes more central, some year levels have almost no kids who show up on a regular basis, except for camps. In a movement based on running peulotwhich build on top of each other, this lack of chanichim disrupts the educational process and is often incredibly disheartening for madrichim.

 
It is estimated by the Executive Director of the Zionist Federation of Australia that less than 5% of the Jewish youth in Melbourne attend one of the seven youth movements each week – a number which has been dropping over the past decade and is universally regarded as poor, but which also represents an excellent opportunity. On top of this, a recent broad survey of the Jewish community found that – unsurprisingly – the youth movements do as good if not a better job of creating a meaningful Jewish, Zionist identity than many years of expensive Jewish day schooling.

 
Our goal is to reform the image of the youth movements, and in particular Hashy, from fringe babysitting services to the active and empowering organisations we know they are. We want Hashy to be seen by both kids and parents as offering a serious counterculture to rampant materialism, to the overwhelmingly rightwing Zionism of the Melbourne community, to the assumption that secular Jews are just lazy. So far, this aim has proved difficult to translate into action. For two years we have been running regular peulot in all the major non-orthodox Jewish schools to show unaffiliated chanichim what we stand for. We are now in a position to demand that we no longer only do kef but have full control over our content, and can express our strong viewpoints in our programs. 

 
Aside from this, we are trying to create community and cultural events, like a chag ken to celebrate 100 years of the kibbutz movement, a Shomeric meal under the Succah, and Israeli movie nights, that allow parents to see the huge value that Hashy holds. It may still be too early to really tell, but the success of our canvassing efforts has been quite limited so far. We, of course, continue to look for new ways to grow the movement.
 
In more exciting news, a kommuna composed of bogrim who left the tnuat noar one to two years ago is likely to start in August this year. The kommuna, which will the first of its kind in Australia, will give some direction to the ongoing question ofhagshama and mark the official start of an Australian tnaut chayim. The mission of the kommuna is not yet decided. 

Bogrim have also been instrumental in setting up Ayeka, a secular Jewish learning group that regularly meets to discuss everything from the tanach to Spinoza to the Bund. Ayeka is not officially affiliated with the youth movement, but shomrim form the core and are the driving force behind the group. With the help of professional educators and friends, Ayeka is currently in the middle of a twelve part series on Jewish philosophy. While the group is still small, it is the belief of everyone involved that there is a much larger, disaffected community of non-religious Jews who would be very interested in such a “secular congregation.” Ayeka has just celebrated its first birthday, and it is fantastic to hear that kvutzat orev in NY have adapted the idea for themselves under the same name.

 
Preparations are currently underway for the veida olami on Shomeric pedagogy. Our newly formed curriculum va’ad has been meeting occasionally to draft the first-ever Hashy Australia curriculum, which will cover from grade 3 (about 8 years old) to the final year of school, and also to discuss issues such as developmental psychology and critical education. The end products will hopefully be available towards the end of the year, and will be sent to all the kenim, to help shape the worldwide conversation in the lead up to the veida.

 
Lastly, with every year that passes, the Australian connection to the world movement and the rest of the kenim grows stronger and stronger. Pen pal projects, bogrim and chanichim “exchanges”, and more communication like this are all helping to overcome the physical isolation that shomrim in Melbourne often feel. It is always nice to be reminded that you are not a movement of a hundred or so, but a movement of thousands. I have been very excited to read all about what is going on in the other countries, and wish you all the best of luck with the year to come.

 
PS Check out our new website, www.hashy.org.au.



Chazak ve'Ematz 

Simon Green

Merakez Hashomer Hatzair Australia