Dear board members and administrators,
I am here today to speak on behalf of hundreds of students who have joined together since the announcement was made that TanenbaumCHAT’s two campuses would be merging in the south.
We are shocked and dismayed at the suddenness of the announcement of a merger and the lack of advance communication and outreach. The entire community was shaken to its core when this was announced March 6 – disillusioned and heartbroken. While I am usually one to embrace change, to try to understand both sides of a story and embrace the ethos and values of TanenbaumCHAT, I simply could not wrap my head around this decision.
While we knew that enrolment was declining at the northern campus in Vaughan, we were not informed of the severity. Why were we, the student ambassadors and main constituents, not mobilized? Why was there no call to action? The entire community was kept in the dark. It is a shame and an absolute travesty that there was no transparency or communication leading up to this announcement. I am certain that if we rallied together as a community and set goals together, we would not be in this room today imagining the unthinkable.
As a Grade 11 student who has been immersed and involved in this school community for the past three years, I ask: how did we get here?
It was a mere four months ago, on Nov. 8, when we heard the announcement that the Leo Baeck Day School would be relocating to this building. This was followed by a town hall assembly where we discussed the idea of opening our doors to another Jewish institution. Once we understood the benefits of this move, we looked forward to having collaborative opportunities within a vibrant educational hub. As a Leo Baeck graduate, it pains me to think that they will now be settling into an empty building– a terrible loss for the entire Jewish community. So again I ask: how on earth did we get here?
I chose to come to TanenbaumCHAT because I wanted to solidify my sense of Jewish identity. As our demographic moves further and further north, the closure will have a huge impact on the future of the northern Jewish community at large. The questions we must ask loom much larger than the now, to the future education, leadership and strength of the Jewish community in the north. We fear that we will be our own worst enemy in assimilating Toronto’s fastest growing Jewish population, in the north.
TanenbaumCHAT’s Kimel campus has been so much more than a school. It’s a home. We have been able to develop a strong sense of Jewish identity, community and everlasting friendships. We have formed bonds with our teachers, who nurture us, support us, help us grow and have positively impacted me and many other students. It is our incredible mentors and educators who teach us that when one encounters an obstacle, they need to work toward a solution that is well communicated and well developed.
We will not let this go without a fight, and it’s heartbreaking to see such an incredible place crumble.
As Passover draws near, I am mindful of a passage that we read in the Haggadah from the perspective of Moses: “Anything worth fighting for cannot be destroyed.”
To us, TanenbaumCHAT’s Kimel campus and the future of Jewish education for an ever-growing Jewish community in the north is worth fighting for. n
Kayla Saul is a Grade 11 student at the Anne and Max Tanenbaum Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto’s Kimel campus in Vaughan. She delivered these remarks to a March 14 town hall meeting there.