LAUNCH OF THE CHABAD GIRLS SCHOOL IN MELBOURNE
February 24, 2016
Avremele Rainitz in #1010, Australia, Chabad History

From the life of R’ Yehoshua Shneur Zalman Serebryanski a”h

In Australia the school year begins in February, so right after Tishrei 5717 R’ Zalman began preparing for the new school year, and also began thinking ahead about a suitable building for Beis Rivka two years down the road.

As mentioned earlier, the Rebbe asked R’ Zalman to hurry and open a school for girls and when it seemed that due to a lack of an appropriate place the opening of the school would be delayed, the Rebbe wrote, “not to wait in founding a school for girls until they find a building and house and obviously not until they build a building, but since I hear that there is an empty room in the yeshiva or women’s section and the like, they should make a separate door for coming and going for the girls (and also a fence in the yard so they won’t be mixed).

R’ Zalman was able to arrange with Mrs. Hertz that the school would operate in her home the first year and then would move to another building. He announced the opening of the school before Rosh HaShana, as the Rebbe instructed.

As told in earlier chapters, R’ Zalman at first thought the Rebbe preferred that the school open on the yeshiva grounds and he was sorry that he was unable to completely carry out the Rebbe’s wishes. However, the Rebbe made it clear that “although at first I wrote that Beis Rivka should be in the yard of Yeshivas Oholei Yosef Yitzchok, apparently those who showed me a diagram of the yard and the house did not do so accurately, and based on information I received now, this arrangement would lend itself to mingling which is completely undesirable (in addition to which, this arrangement would require postponing the opening for a while which is out of the question). Obviously, all the above does not negate consideration regarding a suitable building of your own near the yeshiva and not in a rented house.”

R’ Zalman understood from this answer that although a girls’ school could not be opened in the same building as the school for boys, a separate building could still be built in the yeshiva’s yard with a high wall between the two buildings and a separate entrance/exit to the street.

He wrote to the Rebbe (16 Cheshvan 5717) that the yard of the yeshiva was very large, about an acre and a half (close to 6000 square meters), and therefore it would be possible in the course of the year to build a large building and move the boys’ school there. In the middle of the yard a high wall would be built and the entrances would be separate.

The advantage of this plan was that it would be unnecessary to buy a new house and property; they would just need to finance the cost of the building which was relatively cheap. But this plan also had a drawback because based on the rate of expansion of the boys’ school, it looked as though, before very long, there would be no room in one building and they would have to build another building in the yard for the boys.

Since, from the Rebbe’s answer, “all of this does not negate consideration regarding a suitable building of your own near the yeshiva and not in a rented house,” R’ Zalman understood that in any case it was preferable that the school operate in a building that belonged to the yeshiva, he wrote of another option in his letter, that Mrs. Hertz agree to sell her house to the yeshiva. He asked the Rebbe about this and pointed out that her house was a half hour walk from the yeshiva.

The Rebbe responded to this in a letter dated 26 Cheshvan 5717:

After a long break I received your letter from 16 Cheshvan. Regarding your question about what I meant regarding new buildings and buying houses, particularly the house of Mrs. Hertz which is about half an hour’s walk from the yeshiva Oholei Yosef Yitzchok Lubavitch building in Melbourne.

Obviously, in general, it would be appropriate for the school for girls to be in closer proximity to the school for boys (but not in the same building, for even if there was a special entrance it could only be permitted with difficulty, for ultimately even then there would be mingling before school began and when it is over, but in difficult circumstances it can be permitted. Whereas if it would be on another street, so they do not see one another during those hours, that would be optimum).

The advantage of being close by is that there are a number of matters that would fall under the category of “a light for one is a light for a hundred,” such as office work, tests, supervision etc. etc. Although of course, in difficult circumstances this too can be passed up on, especially when surely there is a telephone and then the distance is not such a hindrance.

The Rebbe was saying that the two possibilities that R’ Zalman put forth were not optimal since each one had a disadvantage; the yeshiva yard was not acceptable since before and after school the students were likely to meet, and in Mrs. Hertz’s home it was not worthwhile since it was too far and did not allow for a shared workload for the employees of the hanhala and the secretaries of the two schools.

AN ELEMENTARY
SCHOOL ONLY OR
A HIGH SCHOOL TOO?

Another question that came up along with plans for the new building was how much they should expand the boys’ school. Should they stick to an elementary school, until sixth grade, or should they consider continuing the school into the upper grades?

In Sydney, for example, a school was started by Rabbi Asher Abramson and Mr. Rabinowitz which was only an elementary school. Money was the primary consideration - a high school needed more professional teachers whose salaries were double the salaries of regular teachers.

R’ Zalman thought it worthwhile to expand the school, at least till grade eight, even though in those classes he would have to add professional teachers, but not as many as in ninth to twelfth grades. He wrote to the Rebbe saying that although this question would be practical three years down the road, since he wanted to actualize the building plans for the boys’ school over the following year, he had to know how many classrooms to have in the building.

The Rebbe responded in that letter cited from 26 Cheshvan:

Regarding what you write about additional classes for a high school, you yourself conclude that this will be relevant in three years. In general, your approach is correct, i.e., to add only those grades which are required by law, as opposed to the grades beyond that, and as you wrote, this entails great expenses. Especially when you don’t know how many will want to continue such studies when the law does not require it.

Surely you are making a program for how to utilize the month of Kislev, and the holidays therein, properly, to strengthen and spread inyanei Chabad in Melbourne and in the Chabad schools in particular.

With blessings for good news,

M Schneersohn

Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (http://beismoshiachmagazine.org/).
See website for complete article licensing information.