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Chabad rescues Jewish Studies at Crossroads




At the end of last year, the South African Board of Jewish Education (SABJE) took the decision to cut funding for Jewish Studies classes at non-denominational remedial schools. The board cited the costs of funding its own new remedial school, King David Ariel, as the reason.

In the absence of funding, schools that were unable to absorb the costs themselves had no choice but to call on parents to pay for the lessons if they were to continue. Such was the case at Crossroads.

Parents were upset and angry because for most of them, this is the only Jewish learning their children have access to. What’s more, the children love these extramural lessons.

Says Shereen Sheer, the parent of a pupil at Crossroads, “The Jewish community is very strong at Crossroads and the school has always supported our beliefs. We need our kids to have access to Yiddishkeit.”

Like most parents, Sheer assumed that the SABJE oversaw all Jewish schools, when in fact it represents King David Schools only. This meant, as SABJE General Director Rabbi Craig Kacev explained, that King David parents were subsidising Jewish Studies at other schools, which wasn’t fair.

When Rabbis Pini Pink and David Masinter heard about the plight of Jewish children at Crossroads, they immediately stepped into the breach, making sure that Crossroads could continue to offer its Jewish Studies programme.

Pink, the Youth Director of Chabad House, liaised with Crossroads, and arranged to subsidise the programme to ensure its continuity.

“The rationale is that every Jewish child should be provided with a Jewish education, especially those who are not able, for whatever reason, to attend a Jewish school,” says Pink. “It’s crucial that no one be left out.”

The agreement reached will allow educators Rabbi Azriel and Rebbetzin Laia Uzvolk – who have been overseeing the programme at Crossroads until now – to continue to teach it. They will partner with Chabad to create a new Jewish Studies syllabus at the school.

“The Uzvolks will work together with me to create a new and exciting curriculum. This is being funded by Chabad House,” says Pink.

Together with funding from Chabad, parents are also encouraged to contribute to the running of the programme. Chabad and the school, however, stress that donations of any amount are welcome, and those who are unable to contribute will not be excluded.

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