Next year in...Syd­ney

Is­rael is not the only pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion for Bri­tish Jews seek­ing a new life in the sun among oth­ers of their faith. It may not quite be aliyah — but Aus­tralia’s pull is ris­ing

The Jewish Chronicle - - FEATURES - BY JAN SHURE

YOU ARE A twenty- or thir­tysome­thing UK Jew, pos­si­bly mar­ried, pos­si­bly not, and you fancy a new life in an­other coun­try. You are look­ing for a place with al­most guar­an­teed sun­shine, a laid-back, out­doorsy vibe, world-class Jewish schools and a vi­brant Jewish life. You might think the ob­vi­ous des­ti­na­tion would be Is­rael — but for a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of young Jews, their “aliyah” is not to Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, but to Syd­ney, Melbourne, or even Can­berra, Perth or Dar­win.

In 2006, a to­tal of more than 400,000 peo­ple left the UK, up from 359,000 recorded in 2005 and the high­est rate since cur­rent records be­gan in 1991. Cor­re­spond­ingly, the latest fig­ures from Bri­tain’s Of­fice of Na­tional Sta­tis­tics — is­sued in Novem­ber 2007 — re­veal that Aus­tralia is still Bri­tons’ favourite place to which to em­i­grate. Al­though it is dif­fi­cult to find hard sta­tis­tics about spe­cific Jewish em­i­gra­tion to Aus­tralia, there is plenty of anec­do­tal ev­i­dence to in­di­cate that sig­nif­i­cant num­bers of young UK Jews are drawn by the sun, sea, sand, the easy ac­cess to the great out­doors and the Aussie lifestyle.

The most com­pelling ev­i­dence is Project Syd­ney, a new com­mu­nity-spon­sored ini­tia­tive to help UK and South African Jews move to the city. A joint ini­tia­tive by the New South Wales Jewish Com­mu­nal Ap­peal and the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, Project Syd­ney was es­tab­lished to­wards the end of 2007 fol­low­ing data from mi­gra­tion agents that showed a hike in the num­ber of Jews ap­ply­ing for visas to Aus­tralia. The project helps with job in­ter­views, find­ing Jewish schools for im­mi­grants’ chil­dren, and gen­er­ally of­fer­ing sup­port to new­com­ers .

In Fe­bru­ary, the project’s di­rec­tor, Selwyn Shapiro, came to Lon­don, where he in­ter­viewed more than 50 Jews. He also spoke to a num­ber of fam­i­lies from Manch­ester and Leeds by phone. He said the bulk of the peo­ple he spoke to were young, as “you are much more likely to get a visa to Aus­tralia if you are young and pro­fes­sional”.

The project’s mis­sion state­ment ex­plains: “His­tor­i­cally, Syd­ney’s Jewish com­mu­nity has been sus­tained by im­mi­gra­tion, and the com­mu­nity recog­nises and ap­pre­ci­ates the cru­cial role that im­mi­grants play in our so­ci­ety. We wel­come and en­cour­age im­mi­gra­tion as a way of en­hanc­ing and sus­tain­ing our Jewish life in Syd­ney.”

Many UK Jews de­cide to move to Aus­tralia af­ter trav­el­ling around the coun­try dur­ing gap-year or post-univer­sity trips. One of those is Glas­gow-born Adam Kay, 37, a TV pro­ducer-di­rec­tor who is now head of pro­gram­ming for the Aus­tralian arm of Bri­tish in­de­pen­dent pro­duc­tion com­pany North One TV. He went to work at the Syd­ney Olympic Games in 2000 and re­turned soon af­ter on a “dis­tin­guished tal­ent” visa, lured by the beach lifestyle, the Aus­tralian ethos of “fair go” and the laid-back at­mos­phere. A Manch­ester grad­u­ate who lived in Muswell Hill, North Lon­don, Kay is a self con­fessed “sports and TV nut” who has pro­duced and di­rected TV at the Com­mon­wealth Games and African Na­tions Cup. He is now gear­ing up for the Bei­jing Olympics.

“I didn’t like the hus­tle and bus­tle of Lon­don, the in­ces­sant rush, the pol­lu­tion and poor qual­ity of life,” he said. “Syd­ney, by con­trast, is all sun, sea, sand... and I like the out­door sport­ing life and the op­por­tu­nity to use my world­wide ex­pe­ri­ence on TV to bet­ter the qual­ity of television in Aus­tralia.”

A grad­u­ate of Habonim-Dror, he says he made count­less Aus­tralian friends when he was on the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s Sh­nat pro­gramme in Is­rael in 1988-89. “The tran­si­tion from Lon­don to Syd­ney was easy,” he says, “be­cause I had many friends whom I’d met back in 1989, thus pro­vid­ing an in­stant in­fra­struc­ture.”

An­other Brit lured by the com­bi­na­tion of cli­mate and sport, plus a vi­brant com­mer­cial en­vi­ron­ment, is Martin Kelly, 33. Orig­i­nally from Clay­hall, Es­sex, he moved to Syd­ney just over three years ago, ini­tially work­ing with Ernst & Young and now in cor­po­rate de­vel­op­ment with Tower Aus­tralia. Kelly, who has an eco­nomics de­gree from Birm­ing­ham Univer­sity and passed out from Sand­hurst as a cap­tain in the Bri­tish Army, says the weather and out­doors lifestyle al­ways ap­pealed to him. “In Syd­ney, I am able to work in fi­nan­cial serv- ices in a chal­leng­ing job, and yet also live by the beach and have a great time af­ter work and at the week­ends.

“There were things that were dif­fi­cult, but con­sid­er­ing it is an English-speak­ing coun­try and its cul­ture is largely Bri­tish, mov­ing to Aus­tralia is about as easy as mov­ing coun­tries can be. I like the lack of cer­e­mony, the in­for­mal­ity, work­ing cul­ture, great weather and the fact that the out­door pur­suits are eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble to all. There is also the sport, af­ford­abil­ity, and the ferry com­mute to work.”

Kelly, who has an Aus­tralian girl­friend and cousins in Melbourne, says his em­ploy­ers and the large ex-pat com­mu­nity were very sup­port­ive in his early days in the coun­try. But leav­ing his fam­ily in the UK was painful, he con­cedes. His sis­ter, Pauline Nel, and her hus­band and chil­dren will be em­i­grat­ing to Oz in a cou­ple of months, and his par­ents are wait­ing for their visas.

“It was tough leav­ing them, and I am not sure how it would have turned out had they not de­cided to join me. But I am ec­static they are com­ing. It will en­rich my life and pro­vide sta­bil­ity.”

The only down-side he sees is Aus­tralia’s re­mote­ness from the rest of the world “which man­i­fests it­self, at times, in a fairly in­su­lar cul­ture”. But de­spite that, he says he “wouldn’t move back to Bri­tain for a mil­lion pounds”.

Other mi­grants make the move be­cause they marry Aus­tralians. Jayne Wise, who grew up in Chigwell, Es­sex, mar­ried her Aus­tralian hus­band Dion in 1986.

Martin Kelly moved from Es­sex to Syd­ney. “I have a great time at week­ends,” he says

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