Wednesday, 24 July 2013
Reflections on leaving King Solomon High School
Firstly, the students are the best thing about the school. There are so many wonderful people with such great potential! I have enjoyed banter in the lessons, shmoozing in the dining hall and sharing deep and meaningful conversations about Judaism, Israel and Tottenham Hotspur. It has always been my aim to build strong kesharim (connections) with the students. One of my life's ambitions has always been to help Redbridge Jewry and encourage young people to be passionate about their identity and committed to their community - I hope I have gone some way to achieving that.
I have also really enjoyed working with the teachers, especially the Jewish Studies department. There has been no end to the support they have given to me and others and it is a very friendly and fun environment in which to work! There is so much more to say but I couldn't even start to thank individuals here.
I am a product of the Redbridge Jewish community: I learnt how to live Jewishly through going to Wanstead & Woodford shul with friends; I had an amazing Jewish education at IJPS, learning Chumash, Mishna and leyening as well as gaining an encylopedic knowledge of Jewish songs; I socialised and learnt so much at South Woodford Bnei Akiva, my local youth movement. I believe it was my family and community upbringing that enabled me to get where I am today, from learning in Yeshivat Hakotel and Birmingham University to becoming Mazkir of Bnei Akiva and a qualified Jewish Studies teacher with a Masters in Jewish Education. I am therefore in debt to the community - and these two years were a small way in which I was able to encourage the youth of today that they can achieve high and find their place in the Jewish community too.
The number one question I have been asked by others about KS is 'What is it like with non-Jewish students?' Having attended Ilford County High School, the school's ethnic make-up has always been quite familiar to me, albeit with the difference that here we are positively promoting the Jewish religion. I have enjoyed close relationships with Jewish and non-Jewish students alike and I am passionate about educating them about the Jewish faith as well as universal morals and ethics. If it is possible to generalise, they have enhanced the school in many ways and have even made Jewish students think a little more about their religion and identity - which is certainly not a bad thing. We are building a model of what society should look like, with strong moral foundations and respect for all beliefs, and I am proud to have seen, and helped, this ongoing project to develop.
There are many messages I'd like to have imparted during my time here - from the fact that one's religiosity is not based on what one wears to my belief that a gap year in Israel is the most important part of a young Jewish person's education, and many more besides.
But above all else there is one message that I would most like to share. That is that we must be maximalist in our approach, aims and content of our education. We must ensure that our Orthodox Jewish ethos pervades every aspect of the school, from the 'secular' classroom to the tidiness of the floors, from the way we connect to local shuls to our PR and social media activity and from the way we act in public to the way we act in private. We must never use the changing student intake, or the fact that we are from 'Essex' and considered by some to be 'inferior' to North London, as an excuse for not giving the best education we can. There is no reason why King Solomon can't be the most successful Jewish school, academically and Jewishly, if we all believe that it can be. We have shown this year that we can get a minyan for Mincha every week without fail, all because of a maximalist belief that has pervaded a growing number of students and staff that Mincha is the most crucial thing we could do on Wednesday lunchtimes!
I made a decision to turn down another job offer at a Jewish school to come to King Solomon because I believe more people should put this community first; I hope others will do the same, whether students, teachers or parents, for the good of the school and the future of the community. It's now time for me to put the dream of aliyah at the forefront of my life, fulfilling an important mitzvah and being part of the greatest journey home in world history, but I will never forget the time I have had at KS and I wish everyone connected with the school all the best for the future.