The Jewish Chronicle - - Comment&analysis -

I have been fol­low­ing with in­ter­est the dis­cus­sion re­gard­ing Jewish schools ( Let­ters, Septem­ber 12).

For the Toronto com­mu­nity — cos­mopoli­tan and plu­ral­is­tic, with a ma­jor­ity of Con­ser­va­tive and Re­form Jews — the Jewish school sys­tem is the back­bone of our com­mu­nity, sup­ported across the board. Choices in­clude North Amer­ica’s largest Re­form Jewish day school and Con­ser­va­tive, Arts-based, Montes­sori, Labour-Zion­ist, Tra­di­tional, Or­tho­dox and Yeshivah schools. Some 80 per cent of all stu­dents grad­u­at­ing our ele­men­tary schools con­tinue on to our com­mu­nity high school, the Com­mu­nity He­brew Academy of Toronto (CHAT).

But our stu­dents are not — de­spite the fears of some of your cor­re­spon­dents — iso­lated from wider so­ci­ety, nor is “the Jewish voice” ab­sent from other lo­cal schools. Our stu­dents con­trib­ute more than 30,000 hours of vol­un­teer work per year to lo­cal Jewish and non-Jewish so­cial ser­vice agen­cies. Our stu­dents helped re­build New Orleans fol­low­ing Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina; they play in lo­cal non-Jewish sports leagues; there are in­ter­faith and in­ter-com­mu­nity ini­tia­tives; they are ma­jor sup­port­ers of a range of char­i­ties, Jewish and non-Jewish.

A re­cent sur­vey of our grad­u­ates (stretch­ing back over 45 years) showed that the over­whelm­ing ma- jor­ity are comfortable so­cially, pro­fes­sion­ally and cul­tur­ally in wider so­ci­ety. Their Jewish school back­ground makes them more se­cure, not less.

Even with Jewish com­mu­nity con­cerns aside, you can­not have mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism without cul­tures; and you can­not have deep and re­flec­tive cul­tures without cred­i­ble cul­tural ed­u­ca­tion. Our ex­pe­ri­ence shows this con­clu­sively — as does the ex­pe­ri­ence of ev­ery other di­as­pora com­mu­nity. It is puz­zling to see the UK Jewish com­mu­nity in a frenzy of ret­ro­grade dis­cus­sion. Paul Sha­viv Di­rec­tor of Ed­u­ca­tion, Tanen­baum­CHAT, Toronto, Canada Please note that in­di­vid­ual let­ters can­not be ac­knowl­edged. Let­ters may be edited. The email ad­dress for cor­re­spon­dence is: let­ All cor­re­spon­dents are re­quested to sup­ply their postal ad­dress, even when writ­ing by email.

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