For the past few years the Jewish studies program at Carmel School has run a learning conference for senior students. As part of its investment into the program, a community seminar featuring the guest lecturers is run adjacent to the school program.
This year, talks by Rabbi James Kennard, Clive Lawton, Rabbi Davy Blackman, and Rabbi Yitzchak Neriya were presented.
The quality of the program was outstanding. The insights into Jewish identity presented by the speakers, and the quality of the delivery of the sessions was truely inspiring.
Although reasonably well supported, it is a shame that hundreds more people were not present to benefit from this learning program. It was well publicised, and very well administrated.
In particular, the director of the international Limmud program, Clive Lawton, shared with us some of his positive energy and insight. In one talk he challenged the way in which we relate to Jewish history, noting that we unfortunatly tend to focus on the negative, at the expense of the positive experiences of Jewish history. He noted that the role of history for Jewish people is misrepresented. He went as far as to suggest we do not have history. We have memory. We use our festivals and events to recreate the lessons of these memories. The purpose of this is to look forward, not backwards. Our focus is not on the history of the past, but the destiny of the future.
Rabbi Kennard, who has previously impressed through his involvement with Carmel School, spoke about the importance of the Jewish day school movement. He outlined the history of Jewish day schools, and put forward quantitative evidence about decades of graduates from Jewish schools around the world and how their careers and community involvement compares to their counterparts who did not have a Jewish day school education. He also talked about the broader role of the school as a binding and engaging institution of Jewish continuity, and how the Jewish day school had the credentials and the relationship to Jewish families that could allow them to function better than Synagogues as central communal organisation. Certainly this is true of Carmel and its positioning as the single school with students from across the religious spectrum, and whose families belong to different Shules.
Two of the seminar guests have been to Perth before, and two of the Seminar guests were first time visitors to Perth. In asking one of the newcomers, Clive Lawton, what his honest impression of Perth was, I received a wonderful response. Clive noted that Perth is in quantitative terms a medium sized community, not a small community. Yet we refer to ourselves as small. Our facilities and infrastructure far exceeds that of comparative commuinties, and our friendly reputation preeceds us. Clive noted that as a community we punch above our weight. He found our students to be highly articulate and expressive thinkers, and reasonably knowledgable. He also found it wonderful that so far from his home he could meet people who knew his friends and relatives from the UK Jewish community which is so far away.
I really enjoyed the intellectual quality of the seminar we attended this weekend, and in particular I valued the way in which it focussed its participants on the positive and proactive aspects of Jewish living. In the face of so much doom and gloom, and so many pressing Jewish concerns, this seminar helped its participants to rise above the tzorres and feel good about their Jewish wellbeing and identity.
We can only hope that Carmel School continues to provide this facility to the community, and that the community has both the courtesy and strength of resolve to participate and benefit from the knowledge and charisma of its presenters. With no exaggeration, we were extended a unique opportunity to be able to hear from some of the best contemporary Jewish educators in the world.
Thank you Carmel School for providing this wonderful opportunity to us.