I was privileged to meet a large delegation of German educators who visited the Leo Baeck school, www.leobaeck.org.il/english in Haifa this week.
Leo Baeck is a private school with a high reputation for academic achievement and has a very significant percentage of Arab students in its many programs.
One teacher, a recent immigrant from the USA gave his perspective on the school and its programmes. Questions from the delegation ranged from class size, discipline in class, the training of teachers and the conditions and facilities available to the teaching staff in the school.
We were then joined by 8 pupils of the 11th grade in the school who told the delegation not only what they were studying but also about the considerable extramural activities that they undertook within the framework of personal development.
All mentioned the need to develop themselves in order that they could help others around them. Such social projects involved becoming Scout counselors, visiting the elderly, infirm and holocaust survivors with no family. There are also opportunities running a coffee shop for children at risk, being a medical clown for children in hospital suffering from cancer and sitting on the school’s environmental committee to “green” the school.
Most of the pupils had visited countries overseas such as USA, Germany, Austria, China and others in an outreach programme.
The delegation was also interested why the pupils had chosen Leo Baeck when in many cases it involved much more traveling. All answered that the school had an excellent name for academic achievement.
Following a question from one of the delegation, the pupils gave their views on how the conflict with the Palestinians is dealt with in school.
The pupils then were given their opportunity to ask the delegation questions. Naturally they wanted to know why they had come to their school but also asked pointed questions about how the conflict is dealt with in Germany and also the subject of the holocaust.
At this point the Headmaster joined the discussion and gave his vision of the school. In addition to academic achievement, he stated that it was essential the pupils develop social responsibility and within a formal framework pupils receive a certificate recognizing community service in addition to the academic certificates.
In responding to a question about reaching out to the Arab community, the headmaster stated that there is considerable involvement with the Israeli Arab community, many come to study in the school. In addition there is a Jewish-Arab community center, a center for Arab children at risk and an annual Arab Jewish summer camp.
Whilst the headmaster expressed the hope that there would be more involvement with Palestinian children, the present political climate not only in Israel but also within the Palestinian Authority did not make this possible at this time but hoped that it may be possible in the future.