Jewish House Sleepout Praised in Parliament

June 23, 2011 Agencies
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Bruce Notley-Smith, the NSW State  Liberal Member of Parliament for Coogee this week praised the efforts of Sydney’s Jewish House in successfully supporting a sleepout for school students in order to experience the hardships of the homeless…

Notley-Smith’s speech

Bruce Notley-Smith

On Saturday 4 June I had the pleasure of attending a great event, Students on the Streets. Students on the Streets is a fundraising initiative of Jewish House, a self-funded community organisation that provides support for the downtrodden in our society. It provides counselling, emergency accommodation and advice for healthy living. The event was organised by Avremi Joseph and Rabbi Mendel Kastel, the chief executive officer of Jewish House. Rabbi Kastel has a long history of involvement in our community, sitting on the board of Waverley Action for Youth Services, as well as being a chaplain for Jewish athletes at the Sydney Olympics, a chaplain for the New South Wales Police Force, Maccabi of New South Wales, Reddam House College and local hospitals. He has taken Jewish House from strength to strength over the years, forging ties with Lifeline, Jewish Care and the Chai Foundation.

Rabbi Kastel has also founded local Jewish organisations, including Point Zero, an outreach program that aims to provide a safe space for young people to congregate and J-Junction, a Jewish dating service that has expanded nationwide. Students on the Streets is just one small part of Rabi Kastel’s tireless dedication to our local youth. He is a inspiration not only to our local Jewish residents but also to the wider community. In fact, in my first week as the member for Coogee I had cause to call on him for assistance with a constituent.

At last census it was estimated that approximately 17,000 people around Australia were homeless and living on the streets. That is 17,000 without a warm bed or a warm meal and exposed to the elements with little protection. No-one should live like that. That is where Students on the Streets comes in. On 4 June about 85 local school children chose to sleep rough at Randwick Racecourse to raise awareness and money and to learn about homelessness. The children were from nine different local schools, both private and public. The event was the first of its kind in our area and it was a great success with more than $15,000 being raised. The wonderful thing about the program is not only the money that it raised but the heightened awareness of issues affecting homeless people and the sensitivity towards the plight of homeless people it instilled in the children who attended. After the event many children were vocal in their praise for the evening, saying that it had opened their eyes to a world with which they were not previously familiar. One year 10 student said the following in an email:

It was truly eye opening and something that I will never forget! I realised how sheltered all my peers and I are at Masada College. I would personally like to help in spreading the word about this amazing Jewish House, because we never know who may need this information in the future, and by helping in any way that is possible!

A year 8 student said:

I really enjoyed myself. I think that sleeping in a cardboard box was a great idea as we really got the feel of homelessness. The guest speaker’s stories were very touching and I enjoyed listening to them. I think this organisation is truly amazing and I am so happy I helped donate money towards such a great cause.

Many eastern suburbs children are not familiar with the sight or plight of homeless people. Students on the Streets aims to change that and to provide an education to our local children about the causes and effects of homelessness and the bitter cycle of homelessness to which many are exposed. Such was the response to the program from the children that Jewish House is now seeking to implement a voluntary youth community service program in the eastern suburbs based on the enthusiasm of the young people at the event.

As a society, we all have the responsibility to help those in need. That is a lesson all of our local young people have taken on board with a new-found eagerness and generosity. It is my hope that events like this and organisations such as Jewish House will continue to prosper in my electorate as well as all over the State. For 25 years Jewish House has served Bondi and its surrounds, providing invaluable services to those in need. Students on the Streets is but one of the many ways they support our community. Their education of young people about homelessness in our city will prove invaluable in ensuring our community remains compassionate and ready and able to help those in need well into the future. Jewish House provides a much needed service to those in the eastern suburbs who find themselves in desperate times, and I commend its work to the House.


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