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Friday, February 02, 2007

Coexistence

This story is interesting:
...at King David there's a twist that gives it a claim to be one of the most extraordinary schools in the country: King David is a strictly Jewish school. Judaism is the only religion taught. There's a synagogue on site. The children learn modern Hebrew - Ivrit - the language of Israel. And they celebrate Israeli independence day.

But half the 247 pupils at the 40-year-old local authority-supported school are Muslim, and apparently the Muslim parents go through all sorts of hoops, including moving into the school's catchment area, to get their children into King David to learn Hebrew, wave Israeli flags on independence day and hang out with the people some would have us believe that they hate more than anyone in the world.

The Muslim parents, mostly devout and many of the women wearing the hijab, say they love the ethos of the school, and even the kosher school lunches, which are suitable because halal and kosher dietary rules are virtually identical. The school is also respectful to Islam, setting aside a prayer room for the children and supplying Muslim teachers during Ramadan. At Eid, the Muslim children are wished Eid Mubarak in assembly, and all year round, if they wish, can wear a kufi (hat). Amazingly, dozens of the Muslim children choose instead to wear the Jewish kipah.
I find this fascinating. At a time when we've been hearing trumpeting from some British lawmakers about the rise of anti-Semitism in the UK due to anti-Israel sentiment on the part of "Muslim extremists", it's almost startling to see Muslims and Jews coexisting so beautifully. A Rabbi who is involved with the school has an idea as to why it's working out so well:
"King David School is amazing," says Rabbi Tann. "The reason I think it works well is that racism is engendered entirely by adults. Children don't have it within themselves. Their natural mode is to play happily with everyone. It's only when adults say, 'Don't play with him, he's black, or don't have anything to do with him, he's Muslim, that troubles begin.'

"We never have any racial or inter-faith problems at all. Not ever. In 20 years here, it's simply never happened in any significant way. We teach that if you don't like someone, you avoid them. Don't play with them. Go to the other side of the playground. I believe that if more people followed the lead of King David School, we'd have a much more peaceful world."
Thoughts?

8 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

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12:45 PM  
Blogger uberimma said...

I used to live in Birmingham--I went to the university there. I've eaten by Rabbi Tann on Shabbos and walked by the King David school hundreds of times. You would never, ever know from the street that it's a Jewish school, and it is incredibly low profile even within the community. The flip side of what's in the article, of course, is that having a mixed class leads to problems with learning Torah and teaching halacha. There aren't many Orthodox families in Birmingham, and many of those that are there would fall under the "conservadox" label here. The kinds of families that would object strongly stay in Manchester and London.

Part of why the school operates as it does is that there simply isn't the population to sustain an all-Jewish school. This way, there is at least something. Despite what the article says, I don't think most of the families consider it ideal.

2:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your article is very informative and helped me further.

Thanks, David

1:30 PM  
Blogger YMedad said...

Shavua Tov.

I loved the way the paper used the Hebrew word "Ivrit" (as in "Boker tov," [Ivrit for "Good morning"]) to describe Hebrew. That from a paper that is actually very anti-Israel.

I'm amazed there are Jews left in Birmingham with all the demographic shift of those from Pakistan moving in but maybe there's a difference between Muslims (with whom we have a chance at coexistence) and Arabs with whom their own nationalism is anathematic to ours.

3:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd rather send my kids to a goyishe school with Christians than risk it at a Jewish school with Muslims.

3:29 PM  
Blogger FiveTownEyes said...

Amazing article. Thank you for bringing it to our attention.

What is amazing is that the reform, conservatives and Orthodox in the Five Towns community have their lines drawn. Our public school system ("us vs. them") mentality that permeates the air has been detrimental to both sides, yet two opposite religions who have historically been each others' enemies can educate their children jointly.

There is a positive lesson in there for which to learn from.

5:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find this hard to believe, and would like to see it to believe it.

12:42 AM  
Blogger tafka PP said...

Believe it, anonymous!! This is my old school! And back in my day there were many more orthodox Jews there: I have fond memories of Family Kiddush on Friday where Omar would be the Shabbos Daddy while Chana would be Shabbos Mummy...

Orthomom, I might link to this if that's OK.

- Uberimma - "stay in Manchester or London"? Can I respectfully point out that the local community, with the exception of a couple of rabbinic imports, is completely indigenous. Maybe you meant "leave for Manchester or London"... and I maintain that the attitude to Judaism I learned from KD (in the context of being in a class with lots of people from other religions) ran rings around the worldviews of my friends who were educated in more full-on Jewish schools in those two cities.

8:24 AM  

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