JCOSS IS NOT SO SPE­CIAL: IN­CLU­SIVE JEWISH SCHOOLS EX­IST AL­READY

The Jewish Chronicle - - COMMENT&ANALYSIS -

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

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