I recently returned from presenting workshops on Israel and Zionism to Jewish day schools in Sydney, Australia. One of the most inspirational concepts I observed during my trip was the decision by some of the Jewish day schools to be inclusivist of all of the Jewish denominations and to accept non-Jewish students.
The result of this decision is that all the families in Sydney who want a Jewish day school education send their children to either Masada on the North Shore or Emanuel in the Eastern suburbs. The lovely students who I addressed had grown up with Jews (and a few non-Jews) of all Jewish denominations from across the ideological and religious spectrum ranging from observant to secular. Despite the differences of ideology, there was a tremendous amount of mutual respect as what to what they all had in common and who they were as individuals and not what differentiated them.
These day schools invest heavily, both financially and time-wise, in Zionist education, as do most of the leading Day Schools in Australia, and the results are laudable. Most send all of their year ten students to Israel in order to experience the Zionist dream in the Jewish homeland first hand. All have dedicated Israeli staff members on both the formal and informal levels.
I felt that the levels of respect, tolerance and open-mindedness amongst both the school students and staff were exceptional. Such a model needs to be replicated in Israel and indeed throughout the Jewish world. The Mishnaic statement, “who is wise? S/he who learns from all people,” was in full evidence in these schools. In these trying times, with constant media reports on internecine Jewish struggles, I think that the Sydney model as practiced in both Masada and Emanuel, is something we can all learn from, and endeavour to emulate, in order to foster Jewish unity and aspire to a better more tolerant world for our children