Yavneh: Is it time to go?
By Malki Rose
With the Jewish education crisis looming larger than ever, (although some might say it loomed just as large 20 years ago and that this is nothing new), many individuals have been heard to ask the question “Do we really need 9 Jewish days schools in Melbourne?” and “If two or more of the schools were to merge, wouldn’t this free up more funds and resources for all schools?”
Let us consider for a moment the possibility of a merge.
It seems that one of the reasons it’s difficult for a merging to take place between any of the day schools is that there is a distinct difference in ideology within each school. For example, Beth Rivkah Ladies College, being both a Lubavitch and girl’s school, would be ideologically at odds to merge with the King David School, a coeducational Progressive Jewish day school.
However, Mt Scopus and Yavneh are ideologically similar and therefore if a merger had to take place, these two might be the ideal candidates.
Both schools identify as coeducational, modern orthodox Jewish day schools. Yavneh’s website calls itself “Zionist” and Mt Scopus’ website asserts its belief in the “centrality of Israel” as integral.
It’s probably important to note that the Yavneh and Scopus communities are socially and culturally similar too. Many families whose children attend the schools might be found sitting next to one another in the Mizrachi Synagogue or the Gandel Besen Congregation. On the other hand it would be a rare occurrence to observe a Bialik student in attendance at the Yeshiva Synagogue.
Are having two ideologically similar schools a case of “doubling up”? Could it be that merging the schools would mean that government and community funding could be directed towards 8 schools instead of 9?
Certainly Yavneh appears to be a less viable school, serving a much smaller 700 students, offering fewer subjects, fewer electives, fewer resources and facilities, and fewer interschool and tertiary programs.
It would seem that Yavneh students and families might benefit from a merge with Mt Scopus in that they might have access to more subjects, more electives, more resources and facilities and more interschool and tertiary programs.
The flip side of this would be that Mt Scopus, would stand to benefit from an injection of more orthodoxy. While Yavneh parents may be scared that the religious environment of their kids might be diluted, the flip side is that Scopus would be injected with a vibrant religious student base that could influence Scopus and the community in many unforseen positive ways.
However, in reality there is an additional consideration which may act as an obstacle to such a merger. As with most private schools, both Yavneh and Scopus are funded by individuals as well as by government. And although the contributions of private individuals can never ever be praised highly enough, it is these key individuals who would have to be the driving force behind any such merger. They would need to see a merger as the best outcome for both the community and the students.
Perhaps those with access to some facts and figures on enrolment and on funding, as well as those who work within the Jewish day school system, might be willing to offer their professional opinion on the viability of a Yavneh-Scopus merger.