Q. A Sydney Jewish social centre (the Hakoah Club) has just closed down. Should they divert the proceeds from its sale to Jewish education or build another club?
When its building was put up many years ago the management wanted a kosher licence for one (but not all) of its restaurants and function halls. It finally got a kosher restaurant and facilities for kosher catering but initially the head of the Sydney Beth Din refused to have anything to do with the place and called it a pagan temple, not just because of infractions of Shabbat and kashrut but because some of its activities were morally questionable, e.g. dances in dubitable taste, Xmas Eve celebrations on Friday night, and poker machines that encouraged gambling.
For a number of years the club gave its premises for Jewish communal and charitable events and sponsored Jewish studies courses at a local university. For financial reasons this level of support had to be reduced, but credit is due to the club for its assistance over a long period and for the fact that many members of the Jewish community made it their second home.
What should be now done with the proceeds of the sale of the club’s premises is clearly a matter of concern for the local community. There is a case for building a smaller centre with a tighter degree of adherence to Jewish religious requirements, but there is also a good case for spending money on a massive educational project that would directly assist the spread of Jewish knowledge and commitment.
Some club members will complain that Hakoah was never a yeshivah or synagogue and serviced precisely the sort of people who were not turned on by religion. We all understand this argument but do not have to go along with it if we feel as I do that the need of the moment is to bring Jews closer to Judaism.