Israel via China

March 6, 2014 by Heidi Meyerson
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In another innovation for Jewish schools in Australia, Bialik has answered the Australian Government’s challenging White Paper on Australia in the Asian Century, by introducing a China component to the Year 10 students Chavayah trip to Israel.

Gary Velleman, Vice Principal and Head of Senior School and Dan Sztrajt, Director of Informal Jewish Studies at Bialik College  in China researching the new program.

Gary Velleman, Vice Principal and Head of Senior School and Dan Sztrajt, Director of Informal Jewish Studies at Bialik College in China researching the new program.

Each year, Bialik ensures that its entire Year 10 cohort, regardless of ability to pay, can travel to Israel for a 6-week immersion experience in Israeli society. There they attend Alexander Muss High School which is chosen because of its healthy pluralist approach which mirrors Bialik’s inclusive cross-communality. “We have a highly successful model for engaging with modern Israel whereby our students get to experience the daily lives of normal Israelis whilst of course appreciating the historical and biblical connections to Israel”, remarked Dan Sztrajt, Director of Informal Jewish Studies at Bialik College, “now we’ve taken this one step further by introducing a connection with China”.

Students will spend a week in China en route to Israel, where they will explore connections between Israel, China and Australia from many perspectives including international business, economic partnerships, and technological cooperation. They will have the opportunity of interacting with ordinary Chinese workers and students “from the factory to the boardroom” as well as meet modern-day entrepreneurs. They will gain an understanding not only of the possibilities offered by a more prosperous, sustainable and interconnected world, but also the profoundly Jewish connection which explores Shanghai’s distinctive Jewish past, including its role in providing a sanctuary for Jews escaping the Shoah – many of whom finally found refuge in Melbourne.

“Bialik students appreciate that true engagement with other cultures and peoples, as well as with Israel, is an important part of being a modern Australian Jew” said Principal Jeremy Stowe-Lindner, “but the challenge for Jews in today’s modern world is how to hold onto your Jewish identity whilst travelling or doing business in foreign countries; how to conduct oneself with due regard to cultural sensitivities – our own and others; even how to cope with simpler challenges like finding kosher food in Beijing. We view this program as a very exciting opportunity to broaden our students’ minds and experiences and help prepare them for a future in which China and Asia, the fastest growing region on earth, play a central role.”

Local Member for Kooyong and Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, The Hon Josh Frydenberg MP, applauded Bialik’s initiative in engaging with China and said “Congratulations to Bialik College on taking the initiative to ensure its students get exposure to the ‘China Story’. Australia’s future is intimately tied to development in the region and no country will play a more important role over the coming years than China. The students will be great beneficiaries from this experience.”

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