It’s up to you, Sydney

November 7, 2019 by Henry Benjamin
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The new Hakoah Club plans to open in Rushcutters Bay in Sydney around the middle of 2022 if all goes according to plan…but next step will depend on the community’s willingness to support and embrace the project.

Steven Lowy

President Steven Lowy will be following in his father’s footsteps as being president and heads a powerful board determined in getting the new venture across the line…with help from the community.

Frank Lowy is one of the founders who created the Hakoah Club in Roscoe St in Bondi in 1969. Originally, a club for soccer fans it quickly developed into the go-to place for members of the community and outgrew its premises resulting its opening its doors in huge premises in Hall St in 1975.  The New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies described it as a “social centre of the Jewish community offering many facilities and amenities including bistro, sporting and recreational activities, as well as first-class catering available in elegant function rooms.”

J-Wire spoke to Steven Lowy

JW:   What are your very first memories of Hakoah?

SL:   Going to Hakoah in Roscoe St on Sundays for brunch and then going to watch Hakoah’s third-grade, second-grade and first-grade teams play. My brother and Phil Wolanski were playing in the third grade at the time.

JW:   Your father was involved in the Club since the beginning. How does it feel to take on his role as president?

SL:   I have enormous love and respect for the history of the Club and my father’s impact on the Club. But why am I doing this together with Board? It’s not to do with the history. It’s not to do with football. It’s not to do with my father’s personal history. It’s about the future of the Jewish community in Sydney. It’s about the important role the new Hakoah at White City can play in enhancing Jewish identity and preserving Jewish continuity.

JW:  In its beginning, most Jewish immigrants were living in flats and the Club became a home from home but as time passed, many were to enjoy successful lives finding a social life outside the Club. Do you think the new concept will address this?

SL:  I believe it will make a major impact on Jewish continuity and will be embraced by all members of the community for different reasons. There is unprecedented wealth in the community. There is a lot of stress for the coming generations. Housing prices, education prices and health – these type of expenses have expanded beyond the capacity of many families. This facility will be embraced by a large part of the community who may not be able to live as their parents or grandparents did. They will be able to do so much together. Sport, wellness, culture, food, social and friendship…a very good reason to visit the Club and catch up with your family and friends.

JW:   How much will the Club cost a nuclear family?

SL:   We are looking at a basic membership of $240 per year. The Club will offer benefits including a discount in food and other services. For members who use it regularly, the Club may cost nothing. We are a community club, if it is a struggle for anyone to afford it, we will help. In the old club, we had Gold Star memberships. We will have Platinum, Gold and Silver memberships which will be multi-year and will support the Club.

JW: Over and above the membership, will facilities like the fitness centre have a cost?

SL:  The fitness centre will cost and will be competitive with similar facilities in Sydney. Maccabi and Hakoah soccer clubs currently pay for the use of fields…but we expect a reasonable user-pay system here.

JW:   The Hall St club closed in 2009. There was a member list at that time. Are you contacting them?

SL:   There were more than 6,000 members at that time. In 2005, the Club peaked with over 10,000 members in 2005. Of course we will re-engage with the past members. But there is a new generation to be approached.

JW:    All are welcome. Will you consider offering special memberships to this who live directly next to the property?

SL:   There is no doubt we will embrace the broader community. The old club had 25% non-Jewish membership.  The club will be predominantly Jewish club, with Jewish values and Jewish leadership. we are confident that a well-run fitness centre will be commercially successful with a large residential area near the club.

HB:   You say that crunch-time will be at the end of  December. What are your expectations?

SL:   What we would like to achieve by the end of December is sufficient fund-raising from the major donors of the community. If we are successful, and I expect and hope we will be, we will get sufficient momentum to put many things in place next year including a membership drive. We cannot do this until the potential members are confident that the Club will be built. This will depend on the fund-raising this year.

JW:  Can you give me a timeline?

SL:  I would like to be in a position to have enough funding to give us the momentum to conclude the conditions precedent hopefully in the first half of next year. We have to conclude development approvals and construction costs. I hope to start the project in the second half of the year and if so we should complete the project during the second half of 2022.

JW:  I note that there will be kosher facilities…but there will be a kosher restaurant?

SL:  The principle we will adhere to is to have facilities for those who prefer kosher and those who prefer non-kosher. The Club will be a facility for all Jews. We need to cater for both.

JW:  Do you have a question?

SL:  The fundamental question is this. Does the community want this? If they want it, they need to support it…by fund-raising by those who can afford it and membership for the broader community. If many thousands want this and we can raise the funds, it will happen.

JW:   If they don’t?

SL: It won’t happen. And that’s the decision we face as a community now. We are well down the track in fundraising. We have good momentum and we have a highly capable Board experienced in communal matters, real estate, business, finance and marketing. So we have very good leadership, we have made enormous progress in the last six months and we are now ready to come to the community. And if the community is prepared to fund it, and it will only fund it through fundraising and with the broader community funding it through membership, this Hakoah will be built.  Ultimately it will be the community who will decide and it will decide by voting through its feet. We have a business model which will provide surpluses for the community.

Steven Lowy said: “Jewish continuity is a problem around the world and we have the opportunity to do something about it.”

 

Comments

One Response to “It’s up to you, Sydney”
  1. DAVID SINGER says:

    Steven

    You are the right man at the right time for the huge task ahead.

    It has been a long time in coming but I am sure the waiting and careful planning will prove well worthwhile.

    “If you will it, it is no dream; and if you don’t, a dream it is and a dream it will stay”

    The Sydney Jewish community must get behind the Hakoah Board to make sure this dream is realised by 2022.

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