Should I Stay Or Should I Go Now?

I’m thinking about moving to Sydney.

If my growth in Orthodox Judaism is my number one priority, then there is no question I should stay in LA. The Los Angeles Orthodox Jewish community is about 30 times the size of the one in Sydney. If I want to go to a great shiur, I have more opportunity to do that in LA than in Sydney. But my growth in Orthodox Judaism has not been my number one priority for many years. It has been supplanted by my quest for emotional sobriety, where I find more help from the 12-step approach than from Orthodox Judaism. As a result, I no longer spend my mornings studying Talmud, I usually spend my mornings on 12-step meetings and 12-step phone calls and 12-step prayer, study and meditation. Over the past five years or so, I’ve spent about twice as much time in my 12-step work compared to my time in Orthodox Judaism.

Los Angeles has more of a 12-step culture than Sydney, but I don’t rely on meetings and 12-step culture to stay emotionally sober. I get that from 12-step work, which I can do anywhere.

An Orthodox shul I love is 100 times more important to me than a 12-step meeting I love. I would not want to do Orthodox Judaism virtually, but I am happy to attend virtual 12-step meetings.

I would not live anywhere without a strong Orthodox Jewish community, and Sydney has that. I like the shuls, I like the Jews, and I like the rabbis.

My choice about where to live might come down to how I feel in Sydney compared to how I feel in LA.

How I would talk to a friend contemplating this type of decision? My questions to him would be about income, employment, family, friends, community, relative happiness level, health.

There’s no question that walking down the street, riding public transport, going shopping, hanging out at the beach or at social amenities is a far happier experience in Sydney than in Los Angeles. There’s virtually no crime and no graffiti in eastern Sydney and little social dysfunction. There’s also no question that far more innovations occur in LA than in Sydney. There’s no question that there are far more people at the top of their profession in LA than in Sydney. There is more of a writer community in LA than in Sydney. There is more of an entertainment industry in LA than in Sydney. The future is built in places such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York, not in Sydney.

I’m far more likely to run into a poet, a novelist, a movie director, or an elite professor in Los Angeles than in Sydney.

There’s far more going on in LA than in Sydney. The news in Australia is boring because not much happens here.

If my personal ambition is my number one priority, I would stay in LA.

I have an approximately equal number of friends in LA and in Sydney (because I grew up two hours drive north of Sydney and many of my childhood mates now live in Sydney).

I’d rather interact with strangers in Australia than in American big cities because we are more likely down under to have a similar understanding of right and wrong. Dealing with bureaucrats is a more pleasant experience in Australia. In Australia, you feel like the government is on your side. In America, not so much.

Over the past two days, for my first time in Australia on this trip, I’ve intensely missed my LA life.

Half my time in Australia, I’ve worn my yarmulka and half the time I’ve gone bareheaded. I feel more connected to Aussies when I’m bareheaded and more connected to Yiddishkeit when I wear my kit.

I get most of my energy from connecting with other people. Compared to America, it is easier for me to connect to others in Australia because we have more in common. On the other hand, I get tremendous energy from my bonds in Orthodox Judaism and there is more opportunity for that in LA than in Sydney.

I feel more energized in Australia than I normally do in LA (because I’m more connected to my fellow Australians than I am to my fellow Americans), but much of that could be novelty, and it might not last.

There’s far more of a sense of let’s do it for Australia down here than there is a sense of let’s do it for America in the States. Americans are more outwardly patriotic but Australians are more cohesive.

When I first moved to LA in 1994, I loved exploring the city, but that thrill has largely gone over the past 25 years. I’m excited now about exploring Sydney. I wonder how long that would last?

There’s more diversity and less cohesion and volunteering in Sydney than elsewhere in Australia.

I was just in Tannum Sands for three weeks and I loved being around family, but I missed Jews. I couldn’t live anywhere without a strong Jewish community and an Orthodox shul where I felt at home.

CNN reports Sept. 21, 2021:

(CNN) — Safety has long been a paramount concern for travelers when it comes to deciding which destination to visit.
But the world has been turned on its head in recent years due to the global pandemic and the notion of exactly what makes somewhere “safe” has changed significantly.
This may help to explain the shake up at the top of the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Safe Cities Index (SCI,) which ranks 60 international destinations on digital security, health security, infrastructure, personal security, as well as environmental security, a new category for this year.
While Asian cities like Tokyo, Singapore and Osaka have continuously occupied the top spots year after year, it’s a European destination that holds the number one position for 2021.
Copenhagen has been named the world’s safest city for the first time, scoring 82.4 points out of 100 in the annual report.
Denmark’s capital jumped from joint eighth place in 2019 to the top of the list, largely thanks to the introduction of an environmental security section, which the city scored particularly well in, along with personal security.
“One key factor that makes Copenhagen such a safe city is its low crime rate, currently at its lowest level in more than a decade,” Lars Weiss, lord mayor of Copenhagen, says in the report.
“Copenhagen is also characterized by great social cohesion and a relatively narrow wealth gap. It is a mixed city where both the cleaning assistant and the CEO meet each other at the local supermarket and have their kids in the same school.
“This is one of the very cornerstones of Danish culture, and it contributes greatly to the high levels of trust and safety that we benefit from.”
Canada’s Toronto just missed out on the top spot, taking second place with 82.2 points, while Singapore was third with 80.7 points.
Although Sydney came fourth, with 80.1 points, the Australian city topped the digital security category, while 2019 winner Tokyo was awarded 80.0 points, putting the Japanese city in fifth place.

Social cohesion interests me. I keep talking about it on my show. To cohere means to make whole. Australia, England, France, Germany, Japan are among the countries that are far more cohesive than the United States. On the other hand, Orthodox Judaism in America forms a more cohesive community than all these countries except perhaps Germany and Japan.

Christian Albrecht Larsen says: “I suggest that we define social cohesion as the belief held by citizens of a given nation-state that they share a moral community, which enables them to trust each other.”

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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