Source: HaYidion, Summer 2014
United Herzlia Schools (UHS or Herzlia) is a Jewish school in Cape Town, South Africa. The Cape Town Jewish community is 15,000 strong, with 80% of the Jewish children attending Herzlia. Established in 1940 in a small building in the city with a handful of pupils, Herzlia today is a network of ten schools with 2086 students ranging in age from 18 months to 18 years (from Chai to Chai); it comprises the Sarah Bloch Day Care Centre, four pre-primary schools, three primary schools, a middle school and a high school. Our main challenge, described below, is maintaining a sense of unity as one school across multiple campuses in diverse locations.
We recognize that education means the development of the whole child—emotionally, socially, intellectually, physically and spiritually. Our educational foundation rests on four pillars: Jewish Life & Learning, Academics, Sport and Arts & Culture. We strive to prepare our students to live lives informed by Jewish values and to prepare them to take their places as citizens of democratic South Africa and in the global community. Herzlia is consistently ranked in the top ten schools in the Western Cape Province and we have a 100% pass rate at grade 12 level (Matric). It is the third largest feeder school to the University of Cape Town.
At the same time, Herzlia is a school for all Jewish children irrespective of their income status, religious affiliation or academic ability. We are proud to be the first mainstream school in South Africa to introduce an alternative academic stream—vocational program—which is considered to be a groundbreaking innovation in the South African educational system.
Herzlia is in a truly unique position of having ten smaller schools in a large framework. This allows for an efficient central administration while still keeping the individual personality, flavor and ethos of each school. Our principals must work in a given administrative and educational framework that is vital for the efficient running of an operation with an operating budget of over R120 million (over $114 million).
As the raison d’etre of our school, Jewish values must be at the heart of a clearly defined ideological policy and core value system that is articulated and communicated across all the schools. The development of suitable and appropriate educational materials, programs and curricula forms a substantial part of this portfolio. The appointment of a head of JLL has ensured that Jewish studies is upheld as the cornerstone of our existence.
Herzlia defines itself as a community school that is aligned to modern Orthodoxy. The alignment to Orthodoxy is determined by five key foundational pillars:
- Shabbat: our observance of Shabbat is Orthodox.
- Kashrut: our kashrut policy is Orthodox.
- Tefillah: our tefillah is Orthodox, with boys and girls separated
- Limmudei kodesh: our curriculum is Orthodox.
- Jewish studies staff: we attempt to employ religious Orthodox role models
as teachers of JS.
While these pillars are entrenched in our ideology, our enrollment policy is open and Herzlia accepts all pupils regardless of their religious affiliation. At present 14% of the students are not Jewish, 12% are members of the Reform/Progressive community and 4% are considered to be fully observant and part of the Cape Town Dati community. The remaining 70% are members of Orthodox synagogues but not necessarily observant.
Our entire pupil body is well integrated within our ideological definition and are all part of the Jewish life of the school.
Through a process of evaluation, we have faced the challenges of a multicampus school, making needed improvements to our teaching and learning as well as upgrading our facilities and resources. Through trial and error, we have developed a plan and strategy to cope with the challenges of a multicampus school in an ever-changing educational environment.
Read the entire article in HaYidion.