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‘Affordable luxury’: Inside a new outer suburban shtetl

Several families have now moved into Fraser Rise, an up-and-coming Jewish community in Melbourne’s north-west established to help Jews navigate Australia's housing crisis.
Ruby Kraner-Tucci
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Melbourne's New Jewish Community in Fraser Rise

Fraser Rise in Melbourne’s north-west is home to the New Jewish Community (Image supplied).

Published: 22 April 2024

Last updated: 18 April 2024

In a quiet neighbourhood in Melbourne's outer west, a small group of Orthodox Jews are gathering inside a large, brand new, custom-built house to pray.

It is one of the first weekly Shabbat services for several families who now call the New Jewish Community of Fraser Rise home. For now, they make do with a home minyan but there are plans for a purpose-built synagogue.

Talks of creating a new home for the Jewish community away from the traditional and well-resourced Caulfield or St Kilda in Melbourne and Bondi in Sydney have circled for many years, but no attempt has yet been successful – until now.

The New Jewish Community (NJC) – set over five acres in Fraser Rise’s Westwood Walk estate, a developing area around 25 kilometers north-west of Melbourne’s CBD – aims to address Australia’s housing crisis by providing affordable and accessible housing while supporting an Orthodox Jewish lifestyle.

The NJC is about 45 minutes drive from Melbourne's shtetl (Image supplied).
The NJC is about 45 minutes drive from Melbourne's shtetl (Image supplied).

The idea for the new community first came to a group of Orthodox Jews in Melbournein 2021. Increasingly jaded by soaring house prices and craving more space during the COVID lockdowns, about 20 families bought cheap land together and mapped out a community in Fraser Rise. One month ago, the first of them moved into their newly built properties.

Residents say they are delighted with their new homes but they are also conscious of security in the current climate and none was prepared to be identified for this article.

While one resident admits the distance from the centre of Melbourne Jewish life in Caulfield/East St Kilda was “definitely an adjustment”, the benefits of moving into the NJC were “obvious [and] immediate”.

“We live in luxury. We built a dream home, which is brand new, modern, large and luxurious. This wouldn't have been at all contemplatable in St Kilda. The children each have their own bedrooms, some with ensuites which they enjoy and appreciate,” the resident told The Jewish Independent.

“We quickly got used to the travel and timing. [We] enjoy the scenery and family time while traveling… The kids are happy and that's our main concern. Everything else can be worked out.”

House and land packages in the NJC start from $550,000 – a far cry from Caulfield’s $1.7 million median – with designs offering multiple bedrooms, large backyards and the option of additional space for a Pesach kitchen or a sukkah.

Families who don’t want to build from scratch can opt to buy an existing property from $500,000 or otherwise rent in the area for just $400 per week.

Sydney-based Alex Robinson, who volunteers with the NJC and is in the process of building his own home in the area, estimates that Fraser Rise’s house prices are “a third of Caulfield and five times cheaper than Bondi”.

He said the NJC offers a lifeline for Orthodox families who are increasingly leaving Melbourne for similar established models in Israel and other diaspora communities that can better cater to their needs.

Alex Robinson is moving with his family from Sydney to Fraser Rise<em> (Image supplied).</em>
Alex Robinson is moving with his family from Sydney to Fraser Rise (Image supplied).

“There's been a big exodus in the Orthodox community, particularly since COVID,” Robinson explained.

“Many Orthodox people don't see a future in Australia for their families, they don’t see vibrant young communities, they don’t see an affordable place to live – especially the younger generations.

“To enter the Jewish community, which is centered around the very expensive suburbs of St Kilda, Caulfield and Bondi, people have to live a lesser quality of life because they’ve bought an expensive property, or are in smaller, older or more cramped homes.

“The NJC is finally address the housing affordability issue for the Jewish community. It’s actually giving Jewish families that option to stay in Australia.”

House and land packages in the NJC start from $550,000 <em>(Image supplied)</em>.
House and land packages in the NJC start from $550,000 (Image supplied).

The amenities typical of any community are already present in Fraser Rise, including playgrounds and parks, sporting facilities, and a shopping precinct. The NJC is currently negotiating to bring kosher products into local shops.

A 1100-square-metre plot of land – purchased with support from the Harry Cohney Charitable Foundation – will soon be converted into a synagogue, community and childcare centre, and plans for a mikvah, eruv and bus service to Melbourne’s Jewish schools are underway.

While the NJC clearly promotes a frum lifestyle, the hope is for the broader Jewish community to also be represented in Fraser Rise.

“I think it would be fair to say that there are members of the community waiting to see whether or not we are successful,” Robinson continued.

“We don't really have an upper limit as to how big we would like to be, we just want to provide an option for any Jewish person in Australia to have an affordable place to live. We would like to see a cross-section of the Jewish community represented there.”

Robinson is quick to note that many people outside of the Jewish community already live in Fraser Rise – which had a population of just over 9,000 in the 2021 Census – and the NJC is not fully in control over who moves in. He likens it to Caufield where there is a strong minority of Jews who have built a vibrant Jewish presence.

“Up until now, it’s been a vision, an idea. It’s a process, but we’ve now had multiple families move in, we have a weekly minyan, it’s becoming a reality,” Robinson concluded.

“We’re entering a real turning point. The NJC will only become bigger and better.”

About the author

Ruby Kraner-Tucci

Ruby Kraner-Tucci is a journalist and assistant editor of TJI. Her writing has appeared in The Age, Time Out, Law Society Journal and Dumbo Feather Magazine. She previously reported on the charity sector as a journalist for Pro Bono News and undertook internships at The Australian Jewish News and Broadsheet Media.


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