Mark Shinar, together with his wife Lauren and 4 boys made Aliyah this summer. Not only did they become clients of ours, they also became my friends. I wanted to share with our followers Mark’s words. Mark always writes beautifully, but the reason I wanted to share this particular blog is for two reasons. Firstly, I take my hat off to Mark for standing up in front of the Knesset and speaking in Hebrew (which is not his mother tongue). But more than that,I greatly respect Mark for choosing to speak about how to work together to build more exciting educational programs and how to continue the good work that has been done here. Mark was the General Principal of a very reputable high school in the NY area. He could have chosen to point out some of the weaker aspects of the Israeli school system, but instead he chose to speak of how together we as parents and educators can continue to improve our children’s education. As Olim we all have a choice. We can complain and point out the difficulties of Israeli society, or as another new client of ours told me last week, ” we can make Aliyah in the hopes of contributing to this wonderful country of ours.”
These are Mark’s words:
January 23, 2018
A few weeks back, I was invited by the Ministry of Education to speak at an event in the Knesset for government officials (including Naftali Bennett) and religious public school principals. Under the umbrella of the 70th year of the State of Israel, the theme of the program was “The Miracle of Aliyah as Reflected through the Educational System.” As far as I could tell, I was called because I am an oleh chadash, not because I, myself, am in education.
When the woman from the MoE called to check out my story, I was quite laudatory about the schools and their commitment to helping my kids integrate.
When she asked me what brought us here, I gave a pretty vague answer about the school that I’m working on. I didn’t say much, other than our school would focus more on English immersion, and ideally, we would maintain smaller class sizes.
She seemingly bristled because she advised me not to come off as overly critical of the Ministry of Education. I remained nonchalant about my work and added that what I think makes Israel so wonderful is that everyone has a place to contribute.
A few minutes later, I get this text from her: “I forgot to say that there is one more person that we are talking to, so I hope you understand if we choose him instead.”
Oh well, so much for my big day in Jerusalem.
Several days later, however, I received another phone call to review important details about the event, including the fact that my time was cut from three minutes to a minute and a half. What would I wear? (I went with a Burberry sweater and the Jimmy Choos.) But, I was excited by the honor and began working on my speech. Admittedly, for fear of conflict, my remarks remained pretty anesthetized. That bothered me, so last night, I edited and although I didn’t quite do an aggressive rewrite, I think my final version was a bit more meaningful and truthful. Carpe Diem! How many times will I get the chance to speak in the Knesset…in Hebrew?
Today was the day. For those interested, here is a (translated) version of what I said:
My name is Dr. Mark Shinar, and last August, my wife, Lauren, and our four sons, made aliyah to Modiin from New York.
There, I was the Director of General Studies of an Orthodox high school called SAR. As a principal and leader, I have always been very fulfilled, and more than that, I greatly valued having the opportunity to give my children an SAR education: a school that is excellent and creative, where students work hard and are genuinely happy to be there.
So why make aliyah?
Ideologically, despite some of the obvious difficulties that come with a transition to a new place and a new culture, we have always believed that both the history and the future of the Jewish people are in Israel. So when I was offered an opportunity to move, to open a new school and contribute my skills as an educator, I knew that this was not something I could simply ignore.
One of the reasons we chose to live in Modiin was because of the educational approach we knew the schools would take with our children. The schools have gone above and beyond to help them adapt and integrate, both socially and academically. True, Hebrew is certainly a challenge, but our children’s teachers treat them with respect and concern, showing them how important olim chadashim are and making them feel special because they have moved to Israel.
For better or for worse, in the United States, school tends to rest at the center of children’s lives. Here, school is an important part of the day, but the school also recognizes that learning takes place everywhere: in school, in extracurricular activities and on Shabbat, and indeed, even when walking the streets. In America, we lived on Amberson Avenue. Here, we live on Sarah Imanu. I don’t know who Amberson is, but I can tell you how meaningful it is to know that every street here is an opportunity for education and an affirmation of our Jewish identity.
These are wonderful things, but I know that our work together is not yet done. I also know that our greatest advantage as a nation rests in our ability to provide a quality education to our children. Therefore, I hope that we, as parents and educators, will work together to find ways to excite our children and help them find joy in learning. Let’s continue to build programs that educate towards creative and critical thinking, and let’s work even harder to help students find meaning and relevance in their learning process. Let’s work towards smaller classes with less emphasis on standardized exams in order to give our students a variety of possibilities to show us what they know. I am grateful for everything the schools have done for my children, and I believe in us and our ability to strengthen our system even more.
So, I went well past my allotted 90 seconds (I know because of the electronic clock they projected on the big screen in front of me). Luckily, they didn’t shut off my microphone or have an orchestra play me off stage. I received many wonderful and kind responses after the speech, and even more gratifying, I was invited to make meetings with some very interesting people in the field. All in all, I would say a very exciting day in the Knesset.
If you want to ready more blog posts from Mark, this is the link to his blog: