Volume 1 Edition 1 - 24 Jun 2020

From the Principal

Andrew Watt – Principal

Staff reflections: lessons learned during COVID-19

Whilst we are still in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the experience of remote online learning has been profound. I have shared a selection of staff reflections below, which will provide an insight into the experience from an educator’s perspective:

“I have learnt how it feels being in a big messy sea storm but sitting in a very strong ship. The Emanuel School ship has sailed with calmness and strong leadership in what has felt like treacherous seas and this has had a very stabilising feeling at a very messy time! On a personal note, I have discovered, as a keen sea swimmer, a whole new swimming area near me. Just after 6.00 am, I have seen more schools of fish than a David Attenborough documentary, and that has made my heart sing with joy!” Claire Pech, Careers Adviser

“I think if I have learned anything – actually not learnt but reinforced to me at this unprecedented time – is how proud I am to be part of the Emanuel Family. The way everyone has come together to support each other and put the wellbeing of our students and families first and foremost is incredible. You never realise what you are capable of and how strong you can be until you are thrust into a situation like we have been. It is truly amazing what we have achieved.” Nicole Esra, Primary School Teacher

“I think that, as humans, it is interesting that it takes something as small and seemingly insignificant as a virus to teach us what it truly means to be tolerant of all people, regardless of race, age, skin colour, beliefs, gender or eating habits: the virus treats us all as equals and, may perhaps, encourage us all to think of ourselves as simply one race, perhaps for the first time ever. Who knows if, on the other side of the Corona experience, we end up more peaceful, more kind, more gracious and, as a species, significantly humbler than before.” Joseph Peacock, High School Teacher

National survey on home-based learning

Year 12 Extension Maths Zoom lesson

In May, MMG in collaboration with the Australian Heads of Independent Schools Association (AHISA), conducted an online survey of parents, teachers and students in relation to home-based learning during the school shutdown period across Australia. Some of the key insights and learnings that have emerged from the national survey include:

  1. The identification of two distinct student groups and the need to tailor engagement and strategies accordingly. Some students struggled to remain on task and work without direct supervision whilst others thrived with working at their own pace;
  2. Many students developed independence, time management and organisational skills over this remote learning period, whilst others struggled to work online each day;
  3. Teachers quickly learned many new skills that could be integrated into their classroom teaching environment. The importance of using different teaching techniques and activities to keep the range of students (ability levels and motivation) engaged, was recognised;
  4. The significant reduction of duties, meetings and administrative tasks enabled teachers to focus on their core responsibility of the academic progress and wellbeing of their students; and
  5. Challenges with fatigue and boredom associated extended screen time, lack of face-to-face contact, stress and anxiety related to the changed circumstances required creative online support and encouragement.

With over 13 000 respondents, the key findings that have emerged are broadly consistent with our experience. As we continue to reflect on our E-manuel remote learning platform, there are many ‘positives’ that we hope to embed into our classroom practices, academic and wellbeing programs. These outcomes will be the ‘silver linings’ of what has otherwise been a challenging and steep learning curve. Our hope is that we will emerge back into our ‘normal’ way of life a little wiser, more appreciative of the small things and mindful of the value of our wonderful Emanuel School community.

Take a virtual tour

It’s going to be a while until you’ll be able to visit us on campus so we’ve prepared a short tour for you. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself ‘lost’ – just enjoy the ride.

Thank you to the JCA

Emanuel School is one of 23 members of the JCA family of organisations. We are grateful to the JCA for the generous funding assistance they provide to the School and essential role that the organisation plays in so many aspects of the Jewish communal life. The JCA leadership, in partnership with Jewish Care, acted quickly and decisively at the start of the Coronavirus pandemic. The launch of the Jewish Emergency Relief Fund meant that members of the community who found themselves in financial crisis, as a direct result of the Coronavirus pandemic, were able to access financial assistance quickly and directly. I thank the JCA for their strong leadership and foresight during this difficult and confronting time.

This year in view

Sonia Newell – Development Officer – Alumni and Community Relations

I hope this latest newsletter finds you and your family well and safe.

The world has changed so much since the last edition of this newsletter just six months ago, when Coronavirus and COVID-19, were not words in our vocabulary. Australia really is ‘the Lucky Country’ compared to the impact Coronavirus has had in other countries around the world. We have many alumni living abroad and for some the impact of this virus has been much greater than for us here in Australia. We thank the healthcare workers, teachers and all those working in essential services who continued their vital work whilst others of us had to spend time in social isolation.

This newsletter is filled with details about many wonderful simchas celebrated, interviews with three alumni and school-related news.

“Although we cannot see one another as we normally would – there are other ways for us to connect. We’re planning a number of online events with our alumni in mind.” Natalie Ranki-Goldman, Chair of the Gesher Committee

We are so grateful for modern digital technology such as Zoom, FaceTime, WhatsApp and other online communications, which have enabled us to stay connected with loved ones and others, no matter whether they live next door, in the next suburb or on the other side of the world.

You may have seen a recent ABC 7.30 interview Meet the coronavirus pivoters – workers changing careers to help on the health front line. Dr Michael Krasovitsky (Class of 2005) who helped set up the Prince of Wales Hospital’s COVID-19 clinic in March, was one of those interviewed. He was also photographed in a series in the Sydney Morning Herald’s Testing Times – NSW Health Pathology at the Prince of Wales Hospital, documenting the Coronavirus testing process at the hospital. As an oncology advanced trainee, Michael had planned to take time off in 2020 to travel, do some medical research and attend conferences overseas, before finishing off the last year of training required to become a cancer specialist. Instead, he now works as a senior doctor at the clinic he helped set up.

Michael Krasovitsky at POW Hospital

School has changed so much these past weeks and months. Term 1 started as normal but quickly changed, with the majority of our students staying at home from late March, attending school via online lessons. Our teaching staff were amazing, as were parents and the children, as they adapted to new ways of teaching and learning. Term 2 saw a staggered return of our students to campus, as well as our fabulous teachers, administration and support staff. We have now welcomed back all Emanuel students and staff who have adapted well to the new reality of physical distancing, washing hands and closed water bubblers.

All face-to-face events we had planned for this year, have at this stage, been cancelled. Thank you to the 30+ alumni who were to be part of our 2020 Careers Space event for Year 11 and 12 students last month. We hope to reschedule this event for Term 4 if the school timetable allows, but if not, watch this space for 2021, and we’d love you to be involved then.

No dates have yet been set for this year’s alumni reunions, but we hope these events will still go ahead towards the end of the year, providing a wonderful opportunity to catch up with your peers and some of your teachers too. Please refer to upcoming events, in this newsletter, for a schedule of Year Group reunions for 2020.

COVID-19 has not and will not stop us wanting to share our news and yours. Let us know what you have been doing since leaving school, and anything else you would like to share. If you haven’t been back to the School for a while and would like a tour of the campus, please enjoy our virtual tour. Also don’t forget to keep us updated if you have moved or changed your email: snewell@emanuelschool.nsw.edu.au

If you did not receive the last newsletter from December 2019, you can catch up and see all past alumni newsletters.

Where are our Alumni now?

Three amazing alumni

Lirun Rabinowitz – Class of 1993

No matter where in the world one lives, modern technology is amazing. Maintaining a connection with your old school and school-mates is so much easier than it used to be, and for Lirun, who now lives in Gibralta, this is no exception. He started his schooling at Emanuel as a Year 2 student in 1983 – the year the School opened and was then at Emanuel on and off over the ensuing years until Year 10. When not living in Sydney attending Emanuel School, Lirun was living in either Canada or Israel.

It really was an amazing experience – I am very fond of my Emanuel School memories. Travelling the world and living in Canada and Israel was amazing but I often found myself envying those who got to go through the whole program at Emanuel. It was progressive even by today’s standards, with a huge emphasis on experience and community culture and I attribute much of who I am today to the upbringing and nurturing that I received from the School.

I finished Year 12 in Israel in June 1994. It was amazing. My mother had rented me an apartment in Tel-Aviv and all of my Sydney friends came to spend their gap year in Israel, having finished their studies at the end of 1993. I was enjoying the best of both worlds. After graduating, I wanted a broad education, so I went back to Australia and to Bond University where I studied Law while also completing a Communications (Business) degree majoring in Journalism and Marketing. I finished my studies just before turning 21.

Dreaming of an international career, technology seemed like my ticket and so I constantly sought out technology-related legal work and positions that exposed me to technology dealings. It was a process but, ultimately, I was able to secure the positions I wanted and decided to further enhance my skills with a Masters degree in International Law from Sydney University and extensive training in mediation for technology disputes.

In 2002 I enrolled in a mentor program for mock trial competitions and luckily the school I was given to mentor was Emanuel. I got to once again feel like an active part of the community for a few good months and I loved it. The kids were bright and fun and even just being in the buildings felt like home.

I was on holidays in Israel in 2005, when suddenly a wonderful opportunity opened up with an Israeli technology giant that was thirsty for native English speaking lawyers with a technology focus. So, when I got back to Sydney, I immediately prepared to move to Israel and was all set up in Tel-Aviv in my new job within a few weeks. It was quite amazing. My employers in Israel believed very strongly in the value of face-to-face interactions and encouraged us to fly to meetings all over the world, so I was spending a lot of time in Paris and Geneva. They were equally happy for me to travel as much as I wanted and work remotely as long as I kept on top of things, so I did exactly that from New York, Madrid, Casablanca, Reykjavik, Costa Rica and Rio, just to name a few.

I have so many fond memories of my time at Emanuel School, and my kids love to hear the stories – Tuesday afternoon choir trips from Woollahra to the Watsons Bay campus, swimming classes at UNSW

Lirun and Jack Malki in Spain 2019

and the bus rides from Randwick, chatting away with friends in the playground next to Temple Emanuel on High Holidays and playing tennis with friends in Year 10…. Ms Wilson was my favourite teacher.

I try my best to stay in touch with my friends from school. One friend, Jack Malki, came to visit me in the south of Spain last year, while touring the region. It was very cool. I am in quite frequent contact with Simon Palmer as well.

I am a lawyer for an Israeli gaming company that has offices here in Gibraltar (essentially a rock between Europe and Africa). My wife and I have four girls Emanuelle (7), Natalie (5), Leona (3) and Olivia-Claire (born last October) who keep us really busy. We all swim a lot and spend most of the summer at the beach catching waves and making music. We feel very much at home here in Gibraltar but we are also very addicted to travel and learning languages.

We have been in Gibraltar for just over three years. At some point we are hoping to relocate again.

My 11th Birthday party in Year 6

This is a photo from my 11th birthday (Year 6). We had spent the day at a circus and as mum owned Savion, it somehow was a part of every birthday party.

Lockdown during COVID-19 has been an incredible period to experience. Since the Coronavirus outbreak the cars have largely come off our narrow windy roads and the cruise ships have stopped visiting the Gibraltar port. We no longer hear the planes land at our tiny airport or hear them flying overhead and everything has become very quiet and still. The decreased air pollution means we can now see far more distant shores of North Africa from our living room (left side of the horizon in the picture).

At the time of doing this interview, there have been no confirmed deaths on the rock due to Coronavirus and less than 150 confirmed cases of the disease – I think overall there has been an overwhelming sense of gratitude and compliance here. Every night at 8.00 pm sharp you can hear a sea of trumpets playing from the flat roof tops in honour of all the first line responders out there who are doing an excellent job.

Maya Pollak (Greenberg) – Class of 2001

I was very diligent and went straight into a Commerce/Law degree at UNSW at the start of 2002 after finishing school in 2001. I did manage to take a semester off and travel with Noa Ries (Olian) and Mandi Binder (Spero) from Emanuel. I also spent the last semester on exchange in Copenhagen, Denmark and travelling in Asia, followed by Central America with Tara Browne (Shillan) and Mandi again from school. I have great memories from University and made new friends although the degree was certainly dry at times!

I did follow my field of study and started out at a large law firm in Sydney as a summer clerk and continued for many years as a lawyer. I made a great network of friends there, many of whom I still see regularly today. From private practice, I made a move in-house into a private investment company where I was able to work on domestic and cross border Mergers and Acquisitions and travel to some interesting places. The highlight was a project that took me to a quaint little town in Switzerland where the office had a magnificent view over the Rhine waterfalls. Since then, I’ve worked in-house at an energy company, getting involved in some strategic investments including building renewables and ongoing corporate law work.

Maya Pollak and family

On a personal note, I married a wonderful man in 2011 and have three kids – a boy aged six and two girls aged four, and 10 months. I am on parental leave at the moment and there is never a dull moment particularly with the whole family home at present as we “live through Coronavirus”.

As mentioned above, I was lucky to be able to travel around the world twice while at University through the Americas, Europe and Asia with a backpack and a very tight budget! There were some memorable experiences such as travelling through India on my own for two months. There is nowhere else quite like it and I’d love to take my kids back there one day when they are older. I am so grateful to have had these formative experiences and feel very sad for kids finishing school who will likely miss out on such trips but, in the scheme of things, there is such tragedy unfolding around the world that they may just be happy to explore their own backyard as the COVID-19 restrictions ease. There have been many other trips along the way with my husband including honeymooning in Sri Lanka and, of course, most recently and far less intrepid, with our young kids in tow, although the folks at Club Med sure know how to throw a good party!

As for my fondest memories of Emanuel School, there are so many! It was such a warm, close-knit school when I arrived in the later years of High School from Israel. There were 40 of us in the class of 2001 and it was very inclusive – I feel as though I really got to know every one of us in the Year very well. There were always fun adventures and it was the kind of school where you could get ideas off the ground and run with them. I remember organising a round-robin table tennis competition, doing lots of writing and helping Noa Ries choreograph the fashion parade in Year 12. It was very empowering. I think we got away with a bit more then we should have in those days – some things the teachers would rather forget – like prefects in Ugg boots and the occasional pet at school. There was one hilarious time where Benko Ure climbed onto the Year 12 common room to free the pigeons that the School had captured, as they were terrible pests.

I had some great teachers at Emanuel – Ms Batista for English and Mr Fischer for Maths (who has since sadly passed away). They were really inspirational. They only arrived when I was in Year 11 and in those two short years they were able to yield some impressive results for our Year Group. We were an easy cohort in this respect – chess had its many moments in our lunch breaks and we were always trying to solve Mr Fischer’s math teasers. Now that I think about it, it was a bit dorky but it was the kind of environment where getting involved and doing well was respected.

I am still in touch with my group of friends from school. Some live far away and with the benefits of technology thankfully we are able to stay in touch. There are the girls I mentioned above and many others – they know who they are and I’m very grateful to have them in my life!

Camp Sababa

My current occupation is finishing up my last stint of parental leave before returning to corporate law. It’s been a turbulent but very special period with the kids exploring some quieter walks in the area and also keeping busy at home making and baking. My eldest is set on making a diorama of Cooper Park and we just made papier-mâché. We seem to have hit onto a retro 90s crafting theme at the moment. There have been lots of puzzles and I keep getting creamed at Monopoly. Young children are so resilient and happy in the present which has helped me see the current situation in a more positive light.

For the last few years, I have also been involved in organising Camp Sababa which is a four-day recreational camp for children with special needs. We run a junior and senior camp and host around 50 campers each year.

We always have a great bunch of Emanuel Year 12s – they did an awesome dance last year that left everyone wanting more, so we would love to teach it to everyone next camp. It’s a really special community of volunteers and families that come back each year and I am really missing our face-to-face committee meetings. Hopefully we can get back to planning our next camp soon.

As for future plans? Like most people, I am just taking it day-by-day at the moment. These are very uncertain times and all I can hope for is that we all stay healthy and can transition back to normal life safely when the time comes.

Hannah Beder – Class of 2012

After finishing Year 12 at the end of 2012, I went overseas straight away with a friend from school. We travelled around Europe for a couple of months before we were both due to start university the following February.

When I finished High School, I looked at what subjects I had taken and was stumped as to what to pursue… I had studied Advanced English, four units of Maths, Hebrew, Music II and Music Extension, Physics… it was hard to find cohesion or a clear path.

I applied to study music at the International Conservatorium of Music, but despite being awarded a scholarship to study there, I decided I didn’t want to pursue music full-time. I had selected all of my university admission preferences to the different disciplines of engineering, and when I was accepted, I could choose whichever I wanted! I picked Electrical Engineering for no good reason and landed up transferring into Computer Science after one year in Electrical. I completed my Computer Science degree with an Honours thesis in Human Computer Interaction.

During university I was fortunate to have a few jobs which put me in good stead to travel. I visited the USA and Canada frequently to visit friends and family and I lived in Seattle for six months after accepting an internship with Google. I also travelled with my family to Indonesia, the USA and the UK. Australia has so much to offer too — I love road trips and have visited most of the major cities on driving holidays. Adelaide to Melbourne, Sydney to Melbourne, Brisbane to Cairns…

Hannah Beder

What are your fondest memories of Emanuel School you ask? I loved the Swimming Carnivals! I’ve always loved swimming and wasn’t particularly good at athletics, so it always felt like I was able to help my House out by doing well. Music Camps were a highlight as well – it’s awesome how much you can learn and improve when focusing that hard for a week. I also enjoyed learning Maths with Ms Laumberg – she always knew how to build students up and make them feel confident in their skills. Something that has really stuck with me is Ms Selinger teaching us how to draw a really really straight line. I don’t know if she remembers it, but it has stuck with me! You’ve got to draw two dots and join them, while keeping your eye on where you want the pen to go rather than looking at your hand.

I am absolutely still in touch with my group of friends from school. I see them regularly – it’s such a nourishing part of my social life to have people around me who have known me for so long. Many of my graduating cohort landed up studying at UNSW (with many of them in STEM degrees!) so I feel lucky to have had four extra years of studying together, and familiar faces on university campus. I’ve had many wonderful holidays visiting school friends who live interstate and overseas as well.

I currently work as a Creative Technologist at a tech education company called Creatable. It is a recent move from the straight and narrow Software Engineering path I’ve been treading since leaving university. I’m so pleased I made the move as it combines my passion for programming, technology, creativity, and education. I feel like I’m doing my best work and being most true to myself. My day-to-day is content development for technical projects and a whole lot of teaching. The projects are based in software, mechatronics, robotics and electrical engineering – how cool is that!

Editor’s note: Late last year, Hannah won the 2019 Young Urban Inspirational Women’s Award “established to recognise women and young women who best exemplify Rotary’s motto of Service Above Self (ie the community service the individual performs above and beyond their normal role”. In February this year, Hannah won the 2020 NSW Young Woman of the Year. We are so proud of Hannah and the work she has done to promote helping young women and STEM. Watch this inspiring interview with Hannah following the announcement of her 2020 award.

Now that I’m working in education I still try and stay on top of software engineering best practices and keep my programming skills sharp. As far as hobbies go, I’m a big reader… if you ever see me on public transport to and from work, I’ll have my nose in a book. I still swim too! I completed the Laps for Life challenge in March, and in the summer months I love doing ocean swims like the North Bondi Classic and the Cole Classic.

I took on my new role at the beginning of March in the tech education space. I had one week in the office before we were all asked to work from home! It’s been an interesting time to be involved in the big upheaval of the education system which has been underway since schools closed as a consequence of COVID-19. I’ve been teaching via online video calls instead of in person and creating content that is fit for online teaching — hard to do when you’re trying to teach soldering, circuitry, and 3D printing. Luckily, I am used to working from home as Software Engineering is a fairly flexible industry, so the change has been less challenging for me than it has been for others.


A history lesson

Our amazing School opened its doors in February 1983, with just 53 students and by the time the first official school photograph was taken later that year, we had 74 students and nine staff members including Linda Zurnamer, now the grandmother of Year K student Stevie Zurnamer and her brother Finn, in Kornmehl Pre-school.

1983 – first official School photo

A number of students who were part of our first intake in 1983 have had their children as students at the School for some years already, and joining them this year we welcomed Jonah Symonds, great grandson of Co-Founder and first President of the School Board, the late Ted Waxman OAM. Jonah’s mother, Ilana Symonds (Waxman), and father, Adam Symonds, are both Emanuel alumni, Class of 2004 and 1999 respectively. Ilana’s parents, Tracey and Leon Waxman, have been part of this School for what they describe as a lifetime. Their son, Asher, finished Year 12 in 2009 whist their youngest child, Aliza, finished Year 12 in 2012.

Jonah Symonds and family

Having such love and commitment to the School beyond this time, Leon has continued on as part of our amazing Parent Safety Group and we hope he will continue to do so for many more years to come. Ilana said: “For me, I feel like I’ve come home! When I used to walk through the school gates as a child, I always felt very safe, happy and so nurtured. It’s a wonderful feeling to know Jonah will feel the same in his school experience. It’s so beautiful to look around the grounds and see my own memories of my childhood come to life! So incredibly special to relive those happy times through Jonah’s experiences now.”

Another family with a long association with the School who return this year are the Drexler family. Paul Drexler, whose two daughters Julie and Michelle are Emanuel alumni, is a Holocaust survivor and has donated prizes for High School Speech Night for many years for the Eugen Drexler Memorial Essays. I’m sure many of you will remember when, as a Year 10 student, you too prepared and wrote one of these essays.

The Eugen Drexler Memorial Prize was first awarded more than 25 years ago to a Year 10 student for proficiency in History. In 1998 it became the Eugen Drexler Memorial Prize for Excellence in Holocaust Studies. Some years ago the essays were expanded to include two further subjects to give Year 10 students a wider choice – not only could they interview a Holocaust survivor, they could interview someone who has immigrated to Australia under adverse circumstances or someone who has made a significant contribution to Jewish Community Life. Paul Drexler has now returned to the School as a grandparent and said: “It is wonderful to see my granddaughter Maya following in my daughter’s footsteps”. Paul’s daughter, Michelle Levitt (Class of 2000), said that “it is really great being back at Emanuel and seeing our daughter Maya absolutely love starting Year K. I think it is very unique how the feel of the School hasn’t changed since I graduated despite the School going through so much growth and development”.

Michelle Levitt with Maya and Paul Drexler

We welcome Claudia Sceats (’09) back to School this year as a Year 3 classroom teacher.

Claudia Sceats

During online learning many of our Primary students sent “thank you” wishes to their teachers – here are two lovely messages sent to “Ms Sceats” and “Ms Hynek” (’08):

2020 has seen many other children of alumni start as students here at the School – we welcome you all back to School, and we look forward to sharing some of your stories and photos too. 

An Artist amongst us

David Asher Brook (Class of 1998), Artist

Dame Marie Bashir with David Asher Brooke

If you have been back to school any time since August 2015, we hope you have had the opportunity to walk through the Kleinlehrer Family LINC Building and admire the amazing artwork on the stairwell heading down to the Angles Leadership and Learning Centre (LLC) and the Millie Phillips Theatre.

This collaborative canvas was the brainchild of David Asher Brook and his wife, Hanna. Every student and staff member who worked at the School at the time created a brushstroke or two on this canvas, which was a celebration of the School’s 30th anniversary and the opening of the LINC Building.

David has held numerous exhibitions at a variety of art galleries in Sydney over the years, with his most recent live exhibition taking place pre-COVID-19 lockdown. Topography at Artsite Galleries, Camperdown was officially opened on 8 March 2020 by Special Guest, Professor The Hon Dame Marie Bashir AD CVO.


Dunera Project

Dunera is an online hub where members of our community can access live events and participate in a range of cultural and communal activities from any device, at any time. An initiative of Emanuel Synagogue and created and curated by a group of dedicated volunteers, including Emanuel School parent, Daniel Grynberg, Dunera features a mix of community learning, cultural enrichment and good old-fashioned entertainment.


The Foundation

The Emanuel School Foundation

The Foundation‘s vision is to ensure the long-term viability and continued success of Emanuel School by securing funding for infrastructure, special projects, programs, bursaries and scholarships. This ensures that any Jewish child has the opportunity to learn and grow at school, including those who may not be able to afford a Jewish Day School education.

Your donation can change the lives of current and future Emanuel students and ensure that Emanuel School continues to be a school of choice for the community.

To make a donation please contact the School’s Director of Finance and Operations, Jillian McCormick (02) 8383 7333 or email.

All donations above $2 to the Emanuel School Foundation are tax deductible.