First Jewish high school graduation for hongkong

Elsa High School, part of Hong Kong’s Carmel School Association, held its first graduation on 21 May 2013. This was a first for Hong Kong Jewry, being home to the Far East’s only Jewish secondary school. The last time a Jewish school held a high school graduation in the greater China region was nearly 70 years ago in Shanghai.

The question inevitably is how big was this graduating class? While the answer to that is four, it is not only four. This is the first of many graduates in a school built on a community’s dreams.

Graduation keynote speaker Yotam Polizer, of IsraAID, gave a speech of particular relevance to question of the size of this class. He spoke of the relative size of Israel in comparison to other countries and the relative minute size of the number of Jewish people in the world, but the greatness in terms of capacity and the ability for Jews to make a difference irrespective of numbers. It was a message of the Jewish people’s ability to act as a positive force for change in the world, of tikkun olam. He spoke of his own passion for the field of humanitarian aid and the difference that one small act can make in another’s life.

The school is evidence of making the seemingly impossible into a reality. The founders see this as just a start and evidence of what even a small community can accomplish. The Carmel School Association, from its very start, made the decision to adopt an Orthodox ethos but to maintain a pluralistic admissions policy. While this can be seen as merely a sensible decision given the challenges of attracting a critical mass from a community of only 4000-5000 Jews total, it is also actually a statement as to how tightknit this community is.

With one Jewish community center and one school, this community that is diverse in terms of national identity, mother tongue, affiliation and observance levels has built a Jewish center for 21st learning that can boast an IB program, Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) accreditation, state-of-the-art technology and certainly not least of all Jewish education and very Jewish values in the Far East.

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