Two statistics have caught my ear from the news this week. The first is that average life expectancy is currently rising by over 2 years per decade. This means that for every day we live through, our life expectancy increases by about 5 hours. The editorial timetable for the Newsletter is such that by the time you read what I am currently writing a whole extra day will have been added to your life – even more if, as I hope, you read it again and again for months to come. What a great service we offer our readers…
Statistical sleight of hand aside, it is a fascinating thought to ponder. It is a tribute to advances in medical science, and to economic and social progress; it also gives pause for thought that life expectancy varies so hugely even within the UK, never mind across the world; but lastly it gives plenty to reflect on spiritually and religiously also. However long life lasts, what is it for? How should we best live it? What, if anything, does it mean, and where, if anywhere, is it headed?
Given that our students’ lives are extended by well over a year during their 7 years at JCoSS, these are questions that should always be alive or us. How can we best equip students for this gradually extending span of life, weaving together the rich resources of Jewish tradition with the rest of human endeavour – as the educationalist Matthew Arnold put it, “the best that has been said and thought in the world”.
Not a bad answer came to me last Friday lunchtime as I enjoyed a beautiful combination: the first strains of the Kabbalat Shabbat service mingling with the JCoSS Science Fair. On the one hand, the ancient tradition of welcoming Shabbat with candles, song, wine and challah – bringing centuries of reflection on the rhythms and circles of life into the midst of school life in our Heart Space. On the other hand, some of our keenest scientists presenting experiments they had designed and researched themselves, the culmination of a wonderful week of interactive and exploratory activities. The best of all worlds, you might say.
In the same place a week earlier, the entire school – staff included – were, and looked, thoroughly silly as we carried out the mitzvah of Purim to enjoy ourselves. I hope you are among the 3,700 who have seen it online. I would like to pay tribute to the Informal Jewish Education department who gave us all such a marvellous day. This is a good place to make a special mention of Mr Rosenberg who (with Ms Gold holding the camera) was the driving force behind the Purimspiel. He leaves us at the end of this term to become head of Redbridge Community Centre – a wonderful move for him and for them, but one that leaves JCoSS somewhat bereft.
Mr Rosenberg has been at JCoSS since we opened and is part of the landscape. He filled in as Director of Jewish Education during Ms Robinson’s 2 maternity absences, and his combination of deep spirituality and deep irreverence makes him a unique and much-loved presence at JCoSS. He goes with our love and best wishes, as do Rabbi Barrett (to lead the Reform Community in Bournemouth) and Mrs Kos who is relocating to Lincolnshire. We are grateful to them both – and we particularly salute the huge developments in Music which Mrs Kos has overseen since joining us in 2011.
Staff leave and staff join: the second statistic from this week’s news is that London apparently now qualifies as the 6th largest city in France on the basis of the population of over 300,000 French nationals who live here. I am delighted that one of them is Ms Sara Wagman who joins us next term as Head of Modern Languages, as per my email announcement the other week. In the same email I promised introductions to some of the senior staff we have appointed this term, and Mrs Mitchell-Golding (head of Key Stage 3 from September) is the first to be featured in later pages.
School is not simply a time to prepare for life (however long it lasts and whichever country it takes us to): it is life, to be enjoyed, explored and extended for its own sake, and we are certainly doing that at JCoSS.