Creating the community we wish to see
I would like to share with you an extract of the speech that I delivered this morning at our KDSPA Annual Breakfast.
Those of you who are here today will be clear that The King David School offers something very special. Alongside a robust and engaging academic, co-curricular and values education, the School provides a unique sense of community that is built on mutual respect, celebration of difference and a genuine care for one another.
Our famous Wellbeing and Kesher programs and the unique flavour of our Jewish life and learning, emphasise this sense of inclusion, but I am well aware that a true community is not just built through programs and activities. What is unique about King David’s approach is that it relies upon each member to constantly build the school that they wish for their grandchild, their child, their students or themselves to go to.
I can assure you that as a school we will continue to do our part in providing the infrastructure and opportunities for this magic to occur. However, it is vital that you all partner us in this most vital mission.
The KDSPA has always truly understood this. It ensures that new families to the School immediately feel a sense of belonging. It provides the social opportunities for us to get to know one another and to forge lifelong friendships in parallel to our children forging their own. It provides enormous support during challenging times and the amplification of joy during our celebrations.
But who is the KDSPA? It is worth stating that in recent times this work that is so vital to supporting the identity of our beloved school community has fallen into the hands of too few.
Over the past few years volunteering rates across Australia have plummeted. In an article in the ABC on this phenomenon, Volunteering Australia CEO Mark Pearce stated that “what we’ve seen is a longer-term decline in volunteering rates, and that’s been amplified by the COVID pandemic.”
The 2021 Census also showed a 19% drop in rates of volunteering from the number recorded in 2016. The ABC reported that this finding was matched by an equivalent drop in data collected by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
In the same ABC article, social researcher Dr Hugh McKay, characterised this change in an alarming manner. He stated “We’ve been changing in ways that have made us more individualistic, much more concerned about ‘me and my rights and my entitlements and my identity.’”
My message to you this morning is to implore the members of our school not to take our precious sense of community for granted. It is all of our responsibility to nurture this. The KDSPA has big, medium and little roles and opportunities available for you. So does the wonderful Parent Safety Group. After being inspired by this morning’s warmth and vitality, I urge you to contact your friendly representative and find a suitable and gentle way for you to get involved.
This morning we will be privileged to hear from my close friend, Dr Jeremie Bracka, a renowned academic and legal scholar who has deep knowledge of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the quest for coexistence and peace.
You may be aware that I recently returned from some sabbatical leave predominantly spent in Israel. It was a fascinating time to be in Israel, the protest movement was in full force and everyone that I encountered seemed to be deeply engaged in questions about the nature and institutions that support Israel’s democracy.
It was in some ways a more divided Israel than I had experienced on previous visits but that shone a light on the power of unity that was present alongside the differences in opinion.
I’d like to highlight a couple of episodes of this for you. On Rehov Eliezer Kaplan in Tel Aviv on a day where around a hundred thousand people were protesting against the proposed judicial changes, I encountered a young man wearing a knitted kippa who was handing out packets of sweets with a note inside. The note read “while we may have different opinions I love you as a fellow citizen.” Around the same time, in an attempt to amplify the protests, the movement leaders brought the protest to the streets of B’nei Brak, a predominantly religious town. Instead of being greeted with violence as some feared, the protestors were met with religious Jews handing out lollies, water and cholent.
At King David we are working hard for our students to be meaningfully involved in coexistence activities too. Just a few weeks ago our school hosted Islamic and Christian students in a Building Bridges session where our students were able to explain the fundamentals of growing up Jewish in Australia today and to establish genuine connections with those of different backgrounds. I am so proud of the organisers and participants in this valuable program because they are making an Australia that I want to live in. This is characterised by a pride in one’s own unique identity which is nourished by a celebration of difference and an appreciation of our common humanity.