THE COMMITTEE OF INQUIRY

At a meeting of the Jewish Studies sub-Committee held on 7 February 1977, it was announced that a Committee of Inquiry was going to be set up to look into the Jewish Studies in the High School. Until this day I have no idea whose idea it was. I have the feeling that some parents or organisations felt that the Religious instruction was becoming too religious. Instead of teaching Bible the pupils were being “indoctrinated” to observe kashrut, Shabbat, Tephillin and so on. I could be wrong but I do have this feeling. I know that a few months earlier there had been a lunchtime meeting between the inspector of the ZFET and the Governors and Managers to which no representative of the RAC had been invited. Could this have had any connection? At the time the RAC asked for “a full report concerning this meeting” but their request was ignored.

My immediate answer to this Jewish Studies sub-Committee meeting was that the High School could not be separated from the Primary School and that both must be investigated and that Modern Hebrew should also come within the frame of reference of the Committee of Inquiry. The meeting fully accepted this. It would have been hard not to.

The names of four people to serve on this Committee of Inquiry were put forward and accepted. Not one of them was an educationist. Not one of them was independent of the King David Foundation. Not one of them was a Rabbi or Minister of Religion. I therefore proposed the name of Rabbi Roberg. He was the Principal of the Yeshivah and also completely independent from the King David Foundation. He therefore had the qualifications and status to contribute objectively to such a Committee of Inquiry. There was a resounding “no” from those sitting around the table. So Rabbi Roberg did not become a member of this Committee!

At a later date, after the publication of the Report, I, together with Michael Rothbard, was talking to a member of this Committee of Inquiry and he denied that Rabbi Roberg’s name had been proposed as a member. Michael Rothbard came to my support and said I had mentioned this to him at the time. In addition, at a meeting of the RAC held in February 1977, the “intentional exclusion of Rabbi Roberg from the Committee of Inquiry” was “deplored.”

I might mention an incident that occurred whilst this Committee of Inquiry was in progress. One Shabbat, Michael Rothbard came into Childwall Shul very angry, saying that he had just seen one of the members of this Committee of Inquiry drive past the Shul in his car. “And this is a man who is going to judge my Jewish Studies teaching,” he added.

It was announced at this Jewish Studies sub-Committee meeting that the parents of pupils at the schools would be invited to submit their comments on Jewish Studies and Modern Hebrew at both schools to the Committee. Henry Lachs who was the Chairman of the meeting said that the word should be spread round to the parents but that it was not necessary to put an announcement in the “Liverpool Jewish Gazette.” It could be that those who wanted the setting up of this Committee were sure that they would be deluged by parents saying that the Jewish instruction was too religious. If so, they were to be very disappointed!

The Committee wrote to the RAC inviting them to submit a memorandum. The RAC arranged a joint meeting with the Merseyside Association of Jewish Ministers to discuss the matter and produce a memorandum. The minutes of both the Jewish Studies Staff Association and the RAC, which were full of complaints regarding the lack of Religious Jewish ethos in the school, were invaluable in writing up this memorandum by the Ministers. One could quote “chapter and verse” from these minutes and this gave the memorandum much more force. Much of the research for it was done by me.

This memorandum began with suggesting a number of ways in which the Jewish Studies could be improved in the High School and here are the suggestions they put forward:

(a) The use of Shlichim as teachers is unsatisfactory. By the time they have mastered the English language and the English methods of schooling, it is already time for them to return to Israel.
(b) Too many secular subjects are taught, especially in the upper school, (4th year upwards). This means that Jewish Studies cannot receive a proper share of periods within the timetable and it should be stressed that the raison d’etre of a Jewish school is to encourage religious instruction.
(c) The lack of interest on the part of parents towards Jewish Studies should be reversed.
(d) Cookery classes should be geared towards the production and preparation of specifically Jewish dishes. Although the ingredients used in general cookery classes were kosher, the dishes themselves were not Jewish dishes and therefore proved wasteful since they were not consumed when brought home.
(e) Pupils must acquire basic skills (reading, berachot, basic Jewish knowledge BEFORE entering the High School. If they do not, they WILL find lessons boring in the High School, for how can a pupil tackle Chumash texts when he cannot read Hebrew fluently?
(f) The syllabus may possibly not be broad enough in its intentions to allow for various shades of Jewish commitment amongst the pupils. Included in the syllabus should be the development of the Torah tradition and not only the teaching of Jewish laws and customs as performed today in orthodox homes. Needless to say, no pupil, be he from the most irreligious of backgrounds, should be allowed to have less religious instruction on his timetable - on the contrary, what is required is an increase. Also material which is not religious knowledge must NOT be introduced into the Jewish Studies syllabus in the guise of religious knowledge. It is essential for a sub-committee of professionals in the field of Torah studies from both within and outside of the town to review the syllabuses from time to time and make recommendations.
(g) External examinations in Religious Studies must not be over-emphasised. The basis purpose of Jewish Studies is to imbue Torah and its values into the pupils and not serve merely as a means to passing another examination.

After putting forward these suggestions it continued:

However, as long as the administration of the school demonstrates a non-positive attitude toward Jewish observances and practices, no progress can possibly be made within the individual Jewish Studies lessons. We all know the comment repeatedly made in Jewish communities that it is no good for pupils to learn one thing at their Jewish Studies lessons and see quite another at home. It is far more serious when they learn one thing at the school Jewish Studies lessons and see the reverse enacted within the very school itself. In fact, a most important factor which influences the attitude and interest of pupils within the school is the attitude of the administration of the school towards encouraging Jewish practices and observances.

If an administration is going to remain at best aloof from Jewish practice, or worse, decides not to respect Jewish practice, one cannot expect the pupils to act any better and any attempt by Jewish Studies staff to teach these practices will largely be nullified. The pupils will naturally consider that the acquisition of Jewish knowledge regarding Jewish practice has no relevance within the school community itself and will therefore interpret logically that Jewish practices have no relevance for ‘those who are not Rabbis’. This in turn will be a direct factor in causing pupils to lose any interest they might have had in Jewish Studies.

Sadly, the attitude of the administration of the school leaves much to be desired in this matter...

This memorandum then went into great detail to give concrete examples of this attitude towards Jewish practices and observances. For each statement, the supporting source was given.

The subjects of Religious services, what or what does not happen at minor Festivals which occur on school days, Religious observances on school trips and integration of Jewish Studies periods into the regular timetable are dealt with in detail in other parts of this book. Another subject brought up was that of school assemblies:

A disturbing feature of the atmosphere of the school, not conducive to producing a Jewish atmosphere within the school is that at the school assemblies on Wednesdays and Fridays, the hymns sung are Church hymns. The Religious Advisory Committee is most concerned by this fact and has recommended that this assembly be secularised entirely. Parents have also conveyed their own concern over this matter to individual ministers of religion.

The final subject elaborated upon was the question of “Cancellation of Periods.”

If the school administration does not show respect for Jewish Studies periods, we cannot expect the pupils to do so. We recognise that it is inevitable that sometimes periods must be cancelled or curtailed to make way for extra-curricular activities, but it is most important that all subjects on the curriculum shoulder the same degree of cancellation of individual lessons for such periods.

A number of years ago the RAC being increasingly concerned about the fact that Jewish Studies were being singled out for exploitation for precisely this purpose, discussed this matter with the Head who gave them assurances that this activity would cease. Sadly this assurance was not fulfilled and fifth form external examination and mock briefings were given during Jewish studies periods with annual regularity. Jewish Studies assembly lessons and Jewish assemblies have been cancelled or shortened to include collection of dinner moneys etc.

In conclusion this memorandum stressed:
In our opinion the effect of the relative contribution of the administration to the needs of religious and secular activities of the school curriculum has had a devastating effect on the pupils when formulating their own attitude towards Jewish Studies and Jewish commitment.

All the points herein mentioned can be easily rectified by the administration and by doing so would help encourage the right atmosphere in the school which itself is so important in order to conduct successful Jewish Studies programmes of study.

The Committee of Inquiry also wrote to the Jewish Studies Staff asking them to submit information and ideas to the Committee. I accordingly wrote out a memorandum which I then went over with my staff.

We included at length the necessity to integrate Jewish Studies into the regular timetable and what happens when there is school on minor festivals. As I have already written, this has been discussed at length elsewhere in the book.

The parental attitude to Jewish Studies was also brought up in this memorandum:

Several times each year, there are parents’ consultation evenings. Whereas queues are waiting to see the secular staff, the Jewish Studies tables are virtually empty. Before each such evening, parents receive a form in which they can ask for appointments to see the various subject teachers.

I had made an analysis of such appointments for a parents’ evening for pupils of the 2nd year which had just taken place and brought the figures in this memorandum. Whereas about two thirds of the parents had requested appointments for Maths and English teachers and figures ranging from 16 to 46 per cent for other secular subjects, the figure for Jewish studies was a round zero!

We also submitted a number of tables showing the lack of basic Jewish knowledge of pupils coming up from the King David Primary School. The results of our examining such pupils on very basic Jewish knowledge were horrendous! We wrote on this:

Pupils entering the High School are often unable to even read Hebrew properly and lack the most basic Jewish knowledge (e.g. Berachot, Festivals). They are also ill-equipped to deal with texts from Siddur or Chumash.... It is often difficult to distinguish King David Primary School pupils from those who have come into the school from elsewhere.

The attitude of most pupils who enter the school is not positive towards Jewish Studies and this is certainly tied up with the fact that they have not mastered basic skills by the age of about 11 and a half. This in turn will result in lessons seeming boring.

A building needs to be built on strong foundations. If the foundations are weak, the building will crumble.

Why had I come to make these tables? The reason was that after giving the pupils entering the High School a written test in very basic Jewish knowledge, I was really shocked by the results. We were talking here about the very basic Religious knowledge of pupils who had come up from the King David Primary School, the vast majority of whom had been there for seven years. The subjects included basic things associated with festivals and fasts, Berachot recited before eating foodstuffs commonly eaten by children, the occasions when we sing certain well known religious songs and what things are used at Havdalah. I therefore wrote out a memorandum detailing sample questions and the number of pupils who had succeeded in answering them correctly. From the results, I came to the following conclusions:

(1) The questions in this examination were on very basic Jewish knowledge which should be learnt year-in year-out. The fact that such poor results were produced indicates that this knowledge was not taught thoroughly enough - if at all. Is enough time devoted to the teaching of basic Jewish knowledge?
(2) The results for the Berachot questions, indicate that the pupils are not sufficiently encouraged to make Berachot.
(3) From the questions on the songs we can clearly see that the traditional songs are not taught before the Festivals.
(4) The number of correct answers were boosted by pupils who learnt the material from their homes etc. rather than from the school.
(5) Four pupils joined the school from non-Jewish Primary Schools. Their results were not appreciably worse than the average results of the 49 King David Primary School pupils.

I stressed at the beginning of this memorandum “that although these conclusions have been written in strong language, it has not been done for the sake of criticism but in order to get an assessment of the situation so that we may try and improve it.”

I sent a copy of this memorandum to the King David Foundation for further action. On receiving a copy, Henry Lachs telephoned me and said he was shocked by this lack of knowledge and that it would have to be dealt with. In the course of the next two days there must have been a lot of pressure put on Lachs, since he then telephoned me again and, (in a completely different tone!), told me off for even writing such a memorandum!

The Headmaster of the High School told me that the Primary School Headmaster was very annoyed that I had produced such a memorandum and sent it to the Foundation. I realised that I had acted tactlessly in this matter. I should have first spoken to the Headmaster of the Primary School about it. I therefore went to speak to him and apologised for the way I had gone about the matter. I however pointed out that this lack of knowledge could not be passed over. He had obviously been asked to explain to his superiors the reasons for this lack of knowledge, since he was immediately able to rattle off a long list of reasons. I myself did not feel these reasons justified the poor results.

My memorandum was not discussed at the Jewish Studies sub-Committee and on this the RAC wrote in their minutes:

The RAC is somewhat surprised that hearsay opinions regarding Jewish Studies at the High School had been discussed and minuted at length at the Jewish Studies sub-Committee, whilst facts and figures on the inadequate nature of basic Jewish Knowledge on the part of new entrants into the High School are being withheld from the scrutiny of the same subcommittee. In fact these two activities are closely linked since if pupils have attended Jewish Studies lessons for approximately seven years and still have not acquired the most rudimentary facts of Jewish Knowledge, it is more than likely that their entrance into the High School would be accompanied by their probable lack of interest in these subjects as a result.

My memoranda were not the first time that this assessment of the lack of basic Jewish knowledge of pupils leaving the Primary School had been made. At a meeting of the Jewish Studies sub-Committee held in December 1974, both Henry Lachs, who taught on Sunday morning at the Yeshivah and a person associated with MATT made similar comments.

The Committee of Inquiry interviewed the two Headmasters, the Deputy Head of the High School, the Head of Modern Hebrew and I had two interviews. At the second interview, I informed them that during the period that they were assembling information, for the first time in my memory, a Jewish Studies period was on one occasion extended by 15 minutes! One of the members commented that they could well believe this, adding that something good had come out of the establishment of this Committee!

The Jewish Studies sub-Committee had obviously hoped that there would be a massive out-pouring of letters saying that I was making the school too religious. The Committee of Inquiry had written to the Parents’ Associations of both schools saying that the Committee of Inquiry would welcome letters from parents and this was publicised in their newsletters. They must have been very disappointed at the results. Only three replies, and of them, two were from the wives of Members of the Jewish Studies staff of the High School!

Apparently they assumed that even if people could not be bothered to write, at least the masses would come to a meeting and express their comments. The Committee convened a meeting and sent out no fewer than three letters to the parents. The main hall was prepared. When it was found that the parents from both schools barely filled a corner of the hall, they moved the meeting to the Jewish Studies classroom and even there, there were plenty of spare seats!

Since I had a daughter in the Primary School, my wife and I had the right to attend. Likewise Michael Rothbard and his wife. I asked my wife to attend and take, as far as possible, verbatim notes of everything that was said. She sat, I believe, in the front row. She had taken large sheets of computer paper and everyone could see that she was continually writing. She heard someone ask what she was doing there, but she had the right to be present. Michael Rothbard’s wife Leah, also went and took notes, but much more discreetly in a small notebook.

There were about 30 people present (this included a number of husbands and wives) which was only about 5% of the parents. These 30 included 3 members of the Committee of Inquiry. (It was close to the local elections and the fourth member was a candidate and was busy canvassing that night - this was of course more important than the Jewish education of the children of the community!) Also included in this number, were Committee members of the Parents’ Association and Parent Teachers’ Association who called the meeting. Even the report of the Committee of Inquiry describes this meeting as “poorly attended.” Only some of those who attended actually spoke.

On the whole the parents who attended were hostile to traditional Jewish religious instruction. Invariably it is those who wish to criticise who attend. The silent majority stay at home.

To get a genuine picture of what the parents think, take a school list and contact by telephone, or preferably go and visit personally, every, tenth or better still, every fifth name on this list. Ask them questions and solicit their comments. They should be assured that no individual would be identified in the Report and thus they could talk freely and in confidence.

What sort of comments did the parents who attended this meeting make? They felt it was unnecessary to teach pupils about the laws of Kiddush or not carrying in the street on Shabbat.

Some parents felt that the attitude to Jewish observance at home was irrelevant to the pupil’s success in Jewish Studies. A person can be a chemist even if he comes from a home where there are no chemists, retorted one parent. (Is he really unable to see the difference?)

One father’s biggest worry seemed to be that his son could not sing the Hatikvah. Another parent complained that her son in one of the upper classes did not learn sufficient about Israel and Zionism. This statement is in fact incorrect. The pupils in the upper school had a course on Modern Jewish History. The 6th years had a course on “How to Answer Anti-Israel Propaganda.” That year we brought in regular speakers to address the 5th and 6th years on a variety of topics including Israel and Zionism. When considering the almost vanishing number of periods in Jewish Studies awarded to the upper years, we did very well on this score.

One parent started to speak well about the morning Minyan, which until shortly before then had taken place at the school. My wife thought at last someone was going to praise me. But her thoughts were premature. The parent put all the credit on Jacob Solomon. It is true that when he was at the school he was the leading spirit of this Minyan. However, when he left the school several years previously, I had continued his work and the Minyan had even increased in size. Had a father who had never attended this Minyan said this, he could be excused for having incomplete information. However the parent who made this statement, himself attended the Minyan every morning!

As stated above, one of the letters to this committee came from my wife. She made a number of points concerning the Primary School. She was concerned that there was no remedial teacher for Hebrew reading, that there were no netillat yadayim facilities and that there was very little religious content regarding the Festivals on the walls of the school.

She was also very concerned about the hymns sung at the school and she wrote at extra length on this point:

One of the reasons that I send my child to a Jewish school is so that I should not have to withdraw her from a non-Jewish assembly and from non-Jewish hymn practice. Imagine then my distress when my daughter came home from school singing church hymns. I assumed she had learned these from non-Jewish pupils. As she assured me that she had learned these in ‘hymn lessons’ and sang them in school assembly. I went to inquire at the school not wishing to base my objection on a child’s sayso. The non-Jewish teacher I spoke to agreed that she taught the children these songs chosen for their religious and moral aspects. The headmaster informed me that ‘Any song taught or sung in assembly is vetted by me to ensure that there is no christological content’. Unfortunately these songs seem equally to lack any positive Jewish content and I understand that they are taught to children in Church Sunday schools.

She did not mention in her letter that after the Primary School Headmaster had heard that she had spoken to the non-Jewish teacher, he telephoned her full of anger that she had gone to speak to the teacher on this subject.

The Report was published in June 1977. As soon as I received my copy, I carefully read it and immediately saw that it was essential that the Jewish Studies staff answer and comment on many of the points. I spent hours upon hours that day carefully drafting out my observations. I then showed my draft to Michael Rothbard, who went over it and suggested a few amendments.

I then took it to the School secretary to type out. She immediately began and whilst she was in the middle of typing, the Headmaster told me that he had stopped her typing it because he had other work for her to do and that she would continue the work for me on the following day. It would seem that he may have had other motives, since first thing the following morning, he told me that he had spoken to Henry Lachs and Lachs did not want anyone to write any observations. I went with Michael Rothbard to speak to a member of the Committee of Inquiry and told him what Henry Lachs had said. This member agreed with our right to write observations, and he there and then, telephoned Lachs. Lachs made some excuse why the secretary could not type it. Maybe I am wrong, but I feel that Henry Lachs was under some pressure to get this report through without any opposition.

The JSSA “deplored the fact that the school secretarial staff were prevented from typing the Observations of the Jewish Studies Staff to the Committee of Inquiry’s report. Great concern was expressed at this attempt to muzzle the Jewish Studies Staff from expressing their comments.” We were not prepared to be muzzled and I therefore looked for a private typist. I found one in Harold House and I employed her to type our Observations, duplicate them (I have forgotten how many copies), and staple them together. I then called the Jewish Studies staff together and told them how much I had paid and that if necessary I would bear the whole cost myself. They all gladly contributed.

I then started to distribute our Observations. When I gave a copy to the Headmaster, he said that he had told us that Henry Lachs didn’t want any observations written out, to which I told him it was our democratic right to do so. Some copies I managed to distribute before the meeting of the Jewish Studies sub-Committee. Others I distributed at the meeting. At this meeting I saw one of the members going through each point in my observations and either putting a tick by it signifying his agreement or a cross indicating the opposite. I think he put more ticks than crosses.

The last sentence of the observations read: “We ask that this document be read together with the Committee of Inquiry report at the meeting of the Jewish Studies sub-committee.” In fact the Chairman at the meeting completely ignored the observations except for one chance snide remark.

I shall therefore in this book give the reader the opportunity to read many of the paragraphs of the Report of the Committee of Inquiry (henceforth: rep), each one being immediately followed by the Observations of the Jewish Studies staff (henceforth: obs).

The observations began by being critical of the composition of the Committee of Inquiry. We wrote that it consisted entirely of the members of the King David Schools administration. There were no independent people on it. There were no educationists on it. There was no Rabbinical representation on it - the suggestion for Rabbi Roberg to be a member was emphatically rejected!

The Jewish Studies Staff’s comment on the lack of parental interest in Jewish Studies was reinforced by the parental response to this Committee of Inquiry. A total of three parents wrote and they included my wife and Michael Rothbard’s wife!

rep: ...an important aim of the Primary School should be to have a large majority of pupils reading well by the time they start the 3rd year Juniors (average age 9 and a half).
obs: We consider this to be totally unacceptable. Insofar as English reading is concerned pupils are already reading well by the age of about 6 and a remedial English reading teacher is already provided for children of 5 who are falling behind with their reading. The Headmaster also regularly hears the children in their English reading. Surely, if a remedial Hebrew reading teacher were to be provided and the same interest taken in Hebrew reading, pupils should then be reading well by about the age of 7. At present, we are often finding pupils entering the High School who struggle to read Hebrew. We also find that pupils entering the High School lack the most basic Jewish knowledge, such as Festivals, Berachot, etc., and they are not equipped to learn Chumash and Siddur texts. If pupils at this age (about 11 and a half) have not yet mastered these basic Jewish skills after seven years of study, they will already enter the High School bored with Jewish Studies. This boredom may be largely latent at this age, but it is soon manifest when the pupils reach 12-13 years.

[From now on the recommendations and observations are those appertaining to the High School.]

rep: The Jewish origin and character of the School should be much more strongly emphasised ...
obs: We cannot agree more... A French assistante was in the School for nearly half a year before she realised it was a Jewish School! It is bad enough when a pupil sees one thing at home and another at School. It is far worse when they learn one thing in their Jewish Studies lessons and see the opposite in the running of the School, and this just makes a complete mockery of the Jewish Studies lessons in the School.

rep: The Head and Deputy Head must be seen to identify with the Jewish aims of the School and to be ultimately responsible for Jewish activities ...
obs: It is extremely important that the Jewish Staff, particularly those at the top, must, both in the activities of the School and in their own practice both inside and at least publicly outside the School, show that Jewish observances are not just for “Jewish Studies teachers” but also apply to the “masses.”

rep: ... greater cooperation between the Modern Hebrew and Jewish Studies Departments.
obs: ... it should be remembered that there are two ways of approaching the teaching of Modern Hebrew. One is that it is taught in a religious way as “Lashon Kodesh” by Orthodox teachers - co-operation is then possible with Jewish Studies. The other is when it is taught as just “another language” with no regard to the Orthodoxy of the teachers and the sanctity of the language. Sadly, in our school, the latter method prevails making a “much greater co-operation” impossible.

rep: ...Assemblies of the whole school should be completely secularised ...
obs: It goes without saying that Assemblies of the whole School (which are about 60% Jewish, 40% non-Jewish) should be completely secularised. Jewish pupils do not go to a Jewish School to sing Church hymns or to take part in “Mixed worship.”

rep: Jewish Assemblies should be limited to the 1st and 2nd years.
obs: We are quite amazed at the suggestion... The Ministers have repeatedly expressed concern that there are no Jewish assemblies from the 4th year upwards, and that as a consequence pupils are no longer laying Tephillin and davening. Now the Committee of Inquiry are suggesting that Assemblies for the 3rd year should cease!

rep: ... we see no net advantage in integrating the 4th and 5th form Assembly Periods into the normal timetable.
obs: Unfortunately they do not give any indication of how they arrived at this conclusion. However, we can only reiterate what we have stated on numerous occasions in the past; that having these subjects before the official start of the school day lowers their dignity and prestige and hence the respect pupils accord to them.

rep: The Minyan [the voluntary Minyan of 8.15 a.m. which had collapsed] should start on time, come what may...
obs: The report omits the reasons for the early Minyan collapsing...[The reason was given in detail in these observations and can be found elsewhere in this book.] We would be only too happy to see this Minyan start again, but from previous experience to begin at 8.00 a.m. would be unsuccessful ... The statement “The Minyan should start on time, come what may....” is ridiculous - one cannot conduct a service without a Minyan!

rep: Preparation for the GCE and CSE examinations in [Scripture Knowledge] should begin in the 3rd year with some pupils taking the examination at the end of the 4th year.
obs: The suggestion ... has been discussed in the past by both the Jewish Studies staff and this Jewish Studies sub-committee. Amongst the reasons given were that it would mean cutting out other Jewish topics in the third year, and that pupils are not sufficiently mature to answer such a paper in the 4th year, and it would also lead to a lack of interest in Jewish Studies in the 5th year. It should also be mentioned here that in order to enable pupils to take Modern Hebrew O-level in the 4th year, the previous Director of Jewish Studies gave some Jewish Studies periods to the Modern Hebrew department (an arrangement which he later regretted). It should be made clear that if Scripture Knowledge O-level/CSE were to be taken in the 4th year, these periods would have to be taken back from the Modern Hebrew department.

rep: From the 3rd form onwards there should be more emphasis on the philosophy of Judaism to strengthen pupils for the outside world.
obs: There are at present courses in Jewish Philosophy. However, the best Jewish philosophy to give pupils is not in the classroom but the strengthening of the Jewish atmosphere in the School. It is no good teaching pupils laws of Kashrut or prayer if School trips will be arranged which involve non-kosher food or pupils are told that there is no time for davening on a trip. How can we justify to the pupils the importance of Tephillin if the School gives no opportunity to put them on from the 4th year upwards and according to the recommendations of the Committee of Inquiry from the 3rd year upwards? How can we explain to the pupils that we are the only Jewish High School without Minchah in the daily timetable? Minchah has to be held in the afternoon break and pupils who wish to attend must sacrifice this breaktime daily. Why are the Jewish Studies staff the only Staff who attend? Why should we have to fight for time on Festive days to be allocated to Festival activities? Let the pupils see that a School can be run with a true and sincere Jewish atmosphere and you will then “strengthen pupils for the outside world.”

rep: We feel that the Jewish studies Sub-Committee is too large ... The present Sub-Committee should be replaced by a smaller one ...[then follows suggested composition]
obs: We agree that this ...sub-committee is too large. We notice however that in the recommended new composition, representative(s) of the Religious Advisory Committee have been totally excluded. This seems to conform with the policy of excluding any Ministers from the Governing Bodies of the School and the various other sub-committees and meetings. This is in complete variance with all other denominational Schools - Jewish, Catholic, Church of England - and even a number of County Schools which have ministerial representation. Even written suggestions and requests which have been deliberated and put forward by the Religious Advisory Committee are not even acknowledged, let alone answered.

rep: The new Sub-Committee would also as its prime task carry out the detailed examination of curriculum which is needed.
obs: In our view, this is unprofessional. With the greatest respect to the layman who give up their time to the School, they are not educationists and do not have the qualifications or knowledge to perform a “detailed examination of curriculum.” How would the sub-committee like it if non-medical people were to decide on what medical treatment to give them, or would they like to live in a house designed by non-architects, or would they like to be defended in court using a brief written by a non-lawyer?

rep: The new Sub-Committee would have the power to invite outside experts to be present as advisers
obs: [This point] is far to vague. What sort of outside experts would be invited? Would they be observant Jews? Would invitations be extended regularly or would it just be a theoretical idea? Who would have the final word on curricula, the experts or the laymen?

When he received his copy of the Report, Rev. Malits was surprised to see that the members of the Religious Advisory Committee were not included in the proposed composition of a new Jewish Studies sub-Committee. He telephoned a member of this Committee of Inquiry, and pointed out there had been a typing omission. No, he was told, there is no error!

I received support from a surprising source on my statement about it being unprofessional to have non teachers writing curricula. It was from the Deputy Head who I am sure disagreed with a lot of my comments. Incidentally, the reason I included in my examples a lawyer and a doctor was that amongst the school governors was a barrister and two doctors!

The recommendation that children should be fluent in Hebrew reading only by the age of 9 and a half, came under the scathing criticism of the Principal of the Merseyside Amalgamated Talmud Torah at their Annual Prize Day:

Those who maintain that the age of 8 or 9 is a satisfactory goal for the attainment of fluency in Hebrew reading are themselves ensuring the ultimate failure of Jewish studies in this city.
For such a child arrives at the High School as an under-achiever, able to follow only a syllabus designed initially for 6 year-olds. Naturally a twelve-year old rejects such treatment, and does not respond to Jewish Studies and maintains this negative approach throughout his teenage years.

Until I left the school just over a year later, I did not notice any difference in the running of the school as a result of this Committee of Inquiry Report. At least it was an interesting exercise!

to continue

to documents

to contents

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

to view "The Collected Writings of Rabbi Dr. Chaim Simons" please click here