There is no question that there has been a lot of ink used to discuss the impending closing of the high school division of the Ottawa Jewish Community School, also known as Yitzhak Rabin High School or Midreshet Ner Yitzhak. As one who has been involved with the high school since its inception in 1995, I feel I must comment – not on the decision to close, but on the impact the school has made in this community and beyond.
So far, 137 students have graduated from Rabin with another 12 scheduled to graduate in June. In addition, there are numerous students who attended the community high school at some point in their secondary school years. I know each of them personally and many still remain in contact with me. What unites them is not simply a school address, but a love for Judaism and community. What unites them is a strong desire to raise their families Jewishly. What unites them further is their loyalty to their alma mater.
Unfortunately, the Ottawa Jewish Historical Society volume on the history of Ottawa’s Jewish community neglects to mention the existence of this high school, among others. However, those whose children attended, and those students themselves, do not need a written reminder that this school provided intensive Jewish learning and a resource for the future leadership of this community and others.
Rabin alumni are serving in official capacities at the Jewish Federation of Ottawa and at other organizations nationally and internationally. Some of our students, on graduation, joined the Israel Defense Forces, while others pursued their successful careers and family interests. Many continued their Judaic studies at the university level. Some went to yeshiva in Israel and elsewhere. Others went to seminaries in Israel for more advanced studies in Judaica.
As a congregational rabbi in addition to my position as educator and administrator, I counted no less than 49 graduates of Rabin who attended High Holiday services at Beit Tikvah. I am indeed proud of every student who attended Yitzhak Rabin High School, and I have no regrets that this school – founded by luminaries such as Neima Langner, Ed Zeligman, Paul Bregman and others – afforded an opportunity for these students to grow in their Yiddishkeit and love of community.
My only regret is that Yitzhak Rabin High School was the best kept secret in town and that more students did not take advantage of what was offered there. We were a model, a microcosm of the Jewish community, reflecting a population mosaic of students coming from all affiliations – or no affiliation. All felt comfortable with the Jewish educational outlook of the school, and all points of view were respected.
What happens now with the closing of Yitzhak Rabin? The Federation task force chaired by Ron Prehogan and staffed by Bram Bregman (an alumnus of Rabin) has as its mandate to revitalize a day high school in Ottawa – hopefully for September 2016. For the sake of the future of the Ottawa Jewish community, this is a project that cannot afford to fail.
There is no room for recriminations or malicious thoughts regarding this important venture for Jewish education in Ottawa. We must all work together to ensure that the mission of this task force is fulfilled. Anything less will be unacceptable.