Principal's Blog

The rhythm of the Jewish calendar

At King David we move to the rhythm of the Jewish calendar and this has been especially the case this week as we commemorated Yom HaShoah and Yom HaZikaron and celebrated Yom HaAtzmaut.

Anne Frank wrote that “We can never become just Netherlanders, or just English, or representatives of any country for that matter; we will always remain Jews, but we want to, too.” This week has been a poignant reminder of the complex layering of our Jewish identities as we mourn with Jews around the world and connect intricately and emotionally with the land, people and state of Israel.

Every year at our Yom HaShoah commemorations I am overcome with a great sense of emotion and pride as we sing the Partisan Hymn ‘Zog nit keyn mol’. The words penned in the Vilna Ghetto in 1943 by Hirsch Glick are a call for optimism in the face of despair. The chorus translates as:

Never say that you’re going your last way
Although the skies filled with lead cover blue days
Our promised hour will soon come
Our marching steps ring out: ‘We are here!’

Hearing hundreds of young Jewish Australians singing this refrain is a powerful affirmation of the incredible miracle that we have experienced to build such a thriving community here where Jewish identity is celebrated. I wonder at the incredulity my ancestors would have experienced had they been told when farewelling their family members who were escaping Europe on ship, that more than 80 years later their offspring would be singing in Yiddish, Hebrew and English at a Jewish school in Australia.

In our Yom HaShoah assembly our students heard from Holocaust survivor, Danielle Charak, who shared her story of being removed from her family as a young child and hidden with a righteous non-Jewish family in Brussels. Our students hung on every word and we do not take for granted the enormous privilege in being entrusted with this testimony.

At our tekes (ceremony for) Yom HaZikaron our students heard a video excerpt from a student at the Leo Baeck School in Haifa. She presented her speech from the school’s memorial room for graduates who were killed in military action or in terror attacks. The background was full of portrait photos of fallen alumni from the school – this is a visceral reminder of the stark reality of the sacrifices that those in Israel continue to make. It is not just the immediate devastation to those close to the fallen – it is the ripples of effects that impact every aspect of life in Israel.

And from the sombre tones of Yom HaZikaron our students emerged into the ecstasy of Yom HaAtzmaut. The Senior School students entered the School through a makeshift airport security before boarding a bus converted to resemble an El Al plane for their departure to ‘Israel’. At the Junior School our Year 5s ran a meaningful ceremony in Hebrew and English before the Year 4s partook in the annual tradition of the flag parade.

The day was replete with outstanding educational sessions, exhilarating kef (fun) activities and all the tastes, smells and sounds of Israel.

It is clear that the experiential learning that is characterized in a KDS modern thinking Jewish education provides outstanding opportunities for our students to augment a strong, rich and accessible Jewish identity, while expressing joy and pride in participating meaningfully in Jewish life.

As we watched our Year 4s march with an Israeli flag in hand we could truly say – “Our marching steps ring out: ‘We are here!’