Jeremy Stowe-Lindner’s Speech for Ground breaking
Secretary of State, Mr Mayor, Members of Parliament, Councillors, Friends, welcome.
We have just celebrated the festival of Pesach, Passover – at our seder tables we said the words in the “ha lachma anya” passage let all who are hungry come and eat.
“Let all who are hungry come and eat” is an inclusive phrase for an outward looking faith.
What are we hungry for as a community? We will have a school with magnificent buildings, a first-class curriculum, outstanding extra-curricular opportunities, a proudly academic ethos and first class educators. But this is what we expect in every school. As a community we are hungry for more.
‘Let all who are hungry’ – JCoSS is a truly inclusive community. All who identify as Jews are welcome in our gates. We are a Jewish school of the community and for the community. This is what attracted me to JCoSS.
We stretch out our arms to all. As a truly cohesive school, we are unique in the Anglo-Jewish secondary school world to have the word community in our name – for we are building here a true community and a true family.
Let me tell you about my own experiences of Jewish education in my family. My grandmother, zecher l’vracha, may she rest in peace, was a deeply religious woman. She did not have the privilege of attending a Jewish school but she was diligent in her keeping kosher, her enjoyment of Shabbat and her attendance at shiurim, religious classes. But what is interesting is that she often read the siddur, the prayer book, upside down. She couldn’t read Hebrew.
My children, and our children, have the opportunity to be something very different. They have the opportunity at JCoSS to develop as British citizens, as active members of their community, as well qualified, numerate and literate. But they also have the opportunity to be part of a learning community where Jewish literacy and love for Israel is at its core. Where the Jewish year and Jewish lifecycles combine with those around us in the wider secular community to make us citizens, British and Jewish social activists who want to make a positive impact on the world around us. Where the young people who we have the privilege of educating make choices, and informed choices, about the paths they wish to follow and the lives they wish to lead- they will choose how often to hold their siddur, but they will all hold it the right way up.
So what might our new Year 7 then experience when they walk through our gates in a year’s time?
First, they can expect an outstanding curriculum in a proudly academic environment. We have set ourselves the challenging target with a comprehensive intake of being amongst the top 10% of schools in terms of progress nationally. We will take no shortcuts in academic achievement.
Second, spectacular learning environments both inside and outside the classroom – from traditional classrooms to recording and music studios, to top-of-the-range art, drama, dance, science provision and so forth.
Third, magnificent ICT facilities to extend learning into all of our spaces, and bring parents and others into our community.
Fourth, the best and most senior and, no doubt, expensive staff — we will take no gambles with the learning experience of our young.
And fifth, they can expect to play a full part in both the Jewish community and the community beyond learning together, celebrating together, laughing together and supporting each other, together.
All our students can expect a personalised learning experience, where teachers know their strengths and areas for development to stretch them all.
The most gifted and talented amongst them can expect to be challenged in all that they do. They are the leaders of tomorrow. Autistic children, as members of Norwood’s Pears Special Resource Provision, will also have an outstanding experience in what will truly be an unrivalled resource.
My vision for JCoSS ensures parents choosing us for their children will know that academically we are a centre of excellence, pastorally we are renowned for Inclusion and in everything that we do our inclusive Jewish, Zionist and community values and practice will be celebrated.
As the Passover passage of HaLachma Anya says, let ALL who are hungry come and eat. Well, we are hungry and as we lay the foundation stone of this wonderful palace of learning, we are now ready to eat.
I thank you for your support today and I look forward to continuing our partnerships into the future.
Gerald Ronson’s Speech
Groundbreaking Ceremony at JCoSS
Secretary of State, Mr Mayor, Members of Parliament and Barnet Council, friends – thank you for joining us here today at the groundbreaking for our brand new state-of-the art building.
Our vision is now becoming a reality- the creation of the UK’s first Jewish, cross-communal, state funded, secondary school.
After ten years in the planning in just 6 months we will receive our first applications. Suddenly it all seems very real.
As most of you know, I’m quite used to seeing buildings rise from their plans and take shape.
I have been actively involved with building many schools before, both in the UK and in Israel. But – for me – JCoSS is special.
I’m excited because of what this building represents. Let me explain.
Over the past 50 years, the Jewish population of the UK has declined by 150,000. Many Jews have married out or simply lost interest. In my view, mainstream British Jewry won’t survive another fifty years of similar decline.
We have to find ways to re-engage these lost and rapidly disappearing generations and reconnect them with their roots. Education is – in my view – not simply one way to do that; it is the only way.
And JCoSS is crucial to achieving that goal.
It is crucial because it will embrace the entire Jewish community regardless of affiliation or practice, welcoming all on an equal basis.
It is crucial because, by providing an excellent education in outstanding facilities, it will help us to reach out to the disillusioned of our community.
And it is crucial because by bringing our whole community together, in a single building, for a single purpose, it will remind us that there is far more that unites us than divides us.
As Chairman of CST I have seen what happens when we forget that and become extreme in our views. As a middle of the road person and a traditional Jew, I am passionate about ensuring that other Jews across the full spectrum of our community have an equal opportunity to be educated in the best facilities by great teachers while remaining within a Jewish ethos and values system.
But it is not just JCoSS’s place within the Jewish community which makes it so important.
We know, and the Government knows, that many parents favour faith education, and for good reason: faith schools have an excellent record of achievement.
But we also know, that some faith schools can be insular and promote segregation.
Minister, I want to assure you, JCoSS will not be a faith school like that. Our vision is one in which our students learn about and engage with the whole world around them.
Alongside an innovative Jewish education for our students,
will be a religious syllabus which ensures our students engage with the world beyond the school gates. We will expect our students to spend time at other local schools, including schools of other faiths.
And, Mr Mayor, we want to play a full part in the Barnet family of schools.
Our vision is quite simply this: to equip our students – whatever their particular abilities or outlook – with the skills and information that they need to play a full part in the Jewish community, and beyond, and to become self-confident ambassadors for Judaism.
It is the unique nature of this school that is the reason why it has received the immense support it has:
– from minister Ed Balls, the Secretary of State for Children, Schools, and Families and his department, who have supported the Community’s vision from the very start…
– from Barnet council, which offered us a home when we were wandering in the wilderness…
– from the Jewish Community, from whom we have already received, as of today, over 2000 registrations of interest, and donations running into millions of pounds…
– and from our partner, Norwood, whose Pears Special Resource Provision will make JCoSS fully inclusive.
That we have come so far is testimony to the sheer dedication, persistence, commitment, of whole number of people.
I could not let today pass without acknowledging the work of Robert Shrager our first Chair of Governors, who sadly passed away earlier this year.
I also want to thank his successor, Mike Grabiner, who took over the role at a difficult time, and our Chair of Trustees, Michael Phillips, who allowed himself to be hoodwinked into helping to lead this project despite knowing that I wouldn’t give him an easy ride.
Thanks Michael for always being there.
And, finally, I want also to acknowledge the support of Norwood, and its backers.
We have already come a very long way. Today, our vision takes another step towards fulfilment: a £50 million investment in Jewish continuity and educational excellence; a symbol of inclusion and community cohesion; a cause of pride for the Barnet community and for the Jewish community. This is our vision.
Thank you to you all for helping us to make it real.