Marlo Newton’s Update and Jonny Schauder on The Jewish Scene at Glen Eira College
Update from Marlo Newton:
Update on Jewish life at Glen Eira from UJEB.
There is certainly a buzz around Jewish life at Glen Eira College right now. UJEB applauds the enthusiasm and attitude of the senior management of Glen Eira College and the parent body to make a Jewish education available to students at the college.
The UJEB board made a strategic decision to seize on this opportunity to build a quality Jewish studies program at Glen Eira and also to support the existing efforts of the school and parents in offering other important subjects such as Hebrew and Religion & Society. UJEB firmly believes that in order to provide a holistic Jewish education to students at Glen Eira (and other State schools), there must be a program with best practice in curriculum design, student engagement and quality teaching.
We put this vision to the community and our donors and the response was electric. Within a two month period, UJEB has raised sufficient funds (with generous support from the Pratt Foundation, the Werdiger Family Education Grants and a third generous anonymous donor) to run such a Jewish Studies program at Glen Eira. This proves that our community will support worthwhile programs if it can be demonstrated that the programs will be operated professionally and have a real impact. We feel incredibly grateful that our community recognises the importance of funding Jewish programs in State schools.
The centre has been planned using experienced VIT registered and qualified educators and writing a purpose-built curriculum in Jewish text and history. The class began in Term II and is already oversubscribed. Four of the students come from McKinnon College specifically for this class.
We also acknowledge the efforts of Robert Hain of the parent body, who spends hours on enrolling students and as a result the program runs smoothly. We applaud Glen Eira College’s decision to hire a fulltime Hebrew teacher and we were pleased to act as a consultant on the appointment.
UJEB also runs at Glen Eira whole school holiday / life cycle celebrations with the support of the school’s Community Building Sub-Committee. JSN, the Jewish high school network which has been operating since 1990 has also undergone a revamp and (contrary to earlier reports) is fully funded. This valuable program of informal education, social events and annual camp also runs at three other secondary colleges
Great ideas often never get off the ground, because to succeed they require not just ideas but commitment, hard work, experience and expertise. We believe that our program at Glen Eira combined with the fantastic attitude of the College could be a game changer for this community and serve as a model for other public schools. It has taken planning, thinking, and incredibly hard work from UJEB professional staff, Board of Management, parent volunteers and of course our generous donors. It’s also involved a respectful and continuing dialogue with the school community.
For anyone interested in this critical development of the Melbourne Jewish Community you’ll know that I and my team have been working hard to enhance the Jewish Educational opportunities that can be accessed by kids in private or public schools outside the Jewish Day Schools (JDS).
The key activity in the agenda has been the introduction of Hebrew Studies at Glen Eira College, the local State School for a large proportion of our Community.
Every 6 months or so I provide an update to both keep everyone informed, but perhaps more importantly to continue to call for action, support and expansion.
Glen Eira College (GEC) Hebrew Program Continues to Grow
Three years ago, ahead of schedule, we launched Formal Hebrew Language Studies in school hours. We enrolled 6 students in year 7 at the time.
The Minister for Education came to endorse the initiative and the groundswell of enthusiasm was strong. It was a modest but critical start involving students that were already at the school and for whom such studies were a “bonus” rather than a planned part of their in-school time studies.
Although financially not efficient we confirmed and delivered the first ever State School Hebrew Language subject in Melbourne. The subject delivers almost three hours of formal classroom Hebrew studies over the student week.
Quickly the numbers in that program peaked at 10 and then settled at 8 students. Families come and go, and of course student preferences and plans change. The first year however, unpublicised, accelerated to a great degree, and conducted as a trial, proved a number of things.
First that Hebrew in State Schools is a critical part of our Community’s sustainability. It works. And will be permanent. Hebrew is a key gateway for Jewish ceremony, learning and connection.
Second that diverse State Schools with large local cultural groups needs this kind of thinking and innovation to connect with their region. 16% of Glen Eira’s municipal population is Jewish and a higher percentage of Jewish kids comprise the School population. This subject has brought the school and the community into a closer alliance. And that has enhanced enrolments, ideas, and energy invested into the school’s activities, aspirations and standards.
In year two, with many parents enrolling their children specifically for the Hebrew option, numbers swelled. We had 23 Hebrew students join us last year. That enabled more efficiency in both the model and structures, with a semi permanent teacher appointed, and the acquisition of resources and curriculum. In the second year, we expanded the “SCENE” dramatically.
The vision tagged as “SCENE” targeted 5 areas:
- Community hub creation
- Educational excellence
- Networking; and
With over 20 students in year 7 and the others continuing into year 8, our collaboration with UJEB’s senior school arm, “The Jewish Student Network” (JSN) expanded.
Purim, Yom Ha’aztmaut, Chanukah and Yom Hashoah were all engaged with great enthusiasm by the whole School community in on-campus activities.
After school education, Kosher food in the canteen, Jewish holidays accounted for in planning, and cooperation between the library and Makor were all examples of ideas and achievements that progressed well.
Laptops with Hebrew keyboards and software were acquired and a state-of-the-art Hebrew language centre set up. Social events and learning opportunities were pervasive. It was a fantastic year! Two camps and many social events conducted by JSN allowed further choice and interaction with Jewish kids from other schools.
This year, we grow again!
Fifteen students have enrolled for Hebrew in Year 7 in 2014. The lower number was in part driven by unusual circumstances, for example Sholem Aleichem College – where many previous students had originated – did not have a grade 6 graduating class last year.
Fifteen however was our magic number.
With around 43-45 students now enrolled in formal Hebrew studies a full time teacher has now been permanently appointed on to staff to deliver Hebrew and Maths. Of the kids who have not re-enrolled in Hebrew, most have entered the Jewish Day School system at Year 9.
The feedback otherwise has been excellent with the students genuinely stimulated by activities like reading the actual Israeli newspapers that are circulated for new residents when they commence their aliyah.
This year will see the Religion and Society subject at VCE level offered in years 11 and 12 although we have no indication of interest or numbers at this stage. The subject is an ideal vehicle for deeper learning about spirituality and its role in society and to my mind is targeted at the right age groups.
Also on the agenda is the notion of having a “roots” type project in year 9 and continuing to engage in cultural festivals and activities on and off campus as well as collaborating as much as possible with the range of Jewish services that surround the school.
There will still be a minimal per term charge for the tuition for families in 2014, but as the numbers grow futher over the next few years this amazing service is envisioned to become part of the School’s normal operating agenda.
In term of expansion generally, I have heard Bentleigh Secondary College is exploring the options around Hebrew language studies; and we have been contacted by New South Wales and other Schools to learn about the model.
At the other end of the spectrum is the recent news that JSN only scraped-in to secure sufficient funding to operate this year thanks to the incredible effort of Dani Miller and Marlo Newton.
That suggests that the community did not found it important enough to finance JSN and its secondary-school activities. Core programs like the development of leader-interns in informal Jewish Education, weekly Jewish student meetings on State campuses, and a wonderful set of camps and social activities were a key to last year’s success at Glen Eira College. Parents like me don’t really know what to make of such a community outcome.
Does the wider and donor community just not care? Surely not. Is the service not the right service? I guess that’s possible. Does the community think there is a better way? Or was this just an aberration?
In any event JSN has scraped enough funds together to operate, albeit at a streamlined level.
So for this element of this year’s plans we will have to go back to the drawing board and as a School community do some soul searching about what exactly this means. I am not part of UJEB so only understand these challenges from a distance. In the meantime, if you can offer ideas, suggestions or feedback that’d be great. If you can intervene with more funds for JSN… even better!!
To conclude: I’d like to take the opportunity to thank everyone who has worked on the Project this past two years. We learn in so many festivals – Chanukah, Purim, Pesach… that persistence against overwhelming odds is critical and that small committed groups of inspired people are ultimately the ones who bring the biggest changes.
Wishing everyone a year of strength to strength!
Addendum: UJeB has commenced its formal after school J Ed program called “JED” for state school secondary students. 10 kids enrolled presently. Straight after school at GEC… Some of the kids come from Mckinnon.
I continue to dedicate my own investment in these endeavours to my Grandparents David and Joyce Altschuler, who never lost the passion for community improvement!