Jewish Schools Offer ‘Safe Haven’ To Public Students
6 December 2023, The Australian, by Cameron Stewart
Jewish schools are offering safe haven, including potentially discounted fees, for Jewish students to leave the public school system because of the pro-Palestinian bias of public teacher unions and threats of anti-Semitism.
The move reflects growing concern that Jewish students in government schools could feel threatened by recent events including school strikes for Palestine and other pro-Palestinian activism including teachers wearing keffiyeh scarves to classes.
“We have seen a fivefold increase in anti-Semitism in the Australian community and unfortunately public schools are not immune,’ Leonard Hain, executive director of the Australian Council of Jewish Schools said.
“In light of the attitude of the public teachers’ union, we can expect the level of anti-Semitic bullying in public schools to increase further and consequently an increase in the feeling of insecurity among Jewish students in public schools.
“We are informing our community that if the student at a government or independent school at the moment is feeling uncomfortable with the circumstances, Jewish schools will do whatever they can in order to accommodate them … and to ensure the fee is affordable.”
The decision on fee levels is up to individual schools and new students from the public system may be eligible under existing free assistance schemes.
Mr Hain said pro-Palestinian activism from both the NSW Teachers Federation and a Victorian branch of the Australian Education Union had been factually inaccurate and anti-Israel.
“It gave a one-side, pro-Palestinian view without context, without reference to the fact there are still hostages being held and without reference to what occurred on October 7,” he said.
It was clear that the attitude of the AEU “is not a temporary aberration, it will last for many years”.
He said the fear was that Jewish students at public school may begin to feel “that in part, it is their fault”, and that there will be a further increase in anti-Semitism. He also said Jewish schools would offer a safe haven in a “warm and nurturing environment where they can feel safe and proud about their Jewish identity”.
The NSW and Victorian governments have criticised teachers for activist stunts including wearing keffiyeh scarves, displaying pro-Palestinian signs or inviting advocates into classrooms.
NSW Education Minister and Deputy Premier Prue Car has criticised teachers for pro-Palestinian gestures at public schools, saying classrooms “are not places for political activism”.
In Victoria, two AEU sub-branches, covering the inner city and Maribyrnong, supported a week of action last week by wearing pro-Palestinian scarves to school and other gestures of support. “This action is inflammatory, it’s divisive, and only sows more seeds of disharmony in our community,” the state’s Deputy Premier and Education Minister, Ben Carroll, said.
In Melbourne this month, several hundred school students left their classes to participate in a “school strike for Palestine”, a move which was condemned as divisive by the state opposition and by Jewish schools.
The principal of Mt Scopus College, Rabbi James Kennard, said Jewish schools were willing to step up to help students in non-Jewish schools at this difficult time.
“Families choose to send their children to Jewish schools for positive reasons – so that they learn more about their heritage and have greater experience of Jewish life and tradition,“ he said.
“But this might be a time when negative reasons also play a part, when the rising levels of anti-Semitism … make Jewish students in non-Jewish schools uncomfortable and unsafe.’Article link: https://todayspaper.theaustralian.com.au/infinity/article_popover_share.aspx?guid=94986300-1ef3-424c-b2ba-8caa694cce63
Article source: The Australian | Cameron Stewart | 6.12.23