JCOSS IS NOT SO SPECIAL: INCLUSIVE JEWISH SCHOOLS EXIST ALREADY
I feel compelled to write in response to some of the comments made by Rabbi Dr Bayfield ( JC, November 2). At King Solomon High School we have always been proud of our open, inclusive style of modern Orthodox Jewish education. Although a United Synagogue school, students and parents of all affiliations have always felt comfortable and valued. We provide opportunities for students to participate in a variety of Jewish activities and a wide range of organisations work within our school, including Tribe, FZY, Aish and Hanoar Hatzioni.
JCoSS will, in fact, not be such a different kind of school. At King Solomon we do not “drive wedges between parents and children”, we do “provide options” and we actively “encourage personal responsibility”; we “promote Jewish ethics” and do all we can to “prompt our students to work with others in the repair of society and the globe”.
It is for these reasons, as well as our history of academic success, that not only the vast majority of the Jewish community of Essex but a large number of families in North-West London decide upon King Solomon High School as their choice of education for their children — whichever synagogue they attend. Spencer Lewis Head Teacher, King Solomon High School, Barkingside, Essex
As the Head of Toronto’s Jewish community high school (1,500 students aged 14-18) for the past 10 years, and as an ex-pat Brit, I believe that the supporters of JCoSS are correct in praising the “community school” model.
Why, then, do I fear for the success of JCoSS? The answer is nothing to do with the school, but everything to do with the community.
In Toronto, the impeccably Orthodox Kashrut authority grants supervision to Conservative and Reform facilities. There is one coordinating agency for Jewish education (the Board of Jewish Education), where principals from every type of school, from extreme right to extreme left, sit together. In our school, the Jewish Studies staff (almost 70 in number) includes teachers from every part of the Jewish spectrum.
We all work together in a mutually respectful atmosphere. The “other denominations” are partners, not enemies. In school, we focus on Rabbi Harold Kushner’s distinction between “serious Jews” and “non-serious Jews” more than on denominational labels — and we are in the business of educating “serious Jews”.
While, to be sure, there are different historical and sociological contexts in North America, for JCoSS to be a real community school, it has to bring down the denominational firewalls and operate in a community where the different streams in the community are prepared to openly and respectfully live and work with each other.
Can this happen in Anglo-Jewry? Paul J Shaviv, Director of Education, TanenbaumCHAT Toronto, Canada
Hurrah for JCoSS. But maybe until it opens in 2010, other Jewish secondary schools should stop excluding children who have made a commitment to Jewish education and are practising members of a synagogue — but cannot go back five generations to find a maternal parent who was married in an Orthodox synagogue.
Perhaps it is time to start including Reform Jews rather than facing the prospect of admitting children of other faiths. Lisa Leighton Radlett, Herts