The official opening of two new Jewish schools saw both the previous and current chief rabbis come together in Finchley.
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, the Honorary Founding Principal of Sacks Morasha Jewish Primary School, joined his predecessor to officially open the school’s new permanent site.
Meanwhile across town, Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove was helping Mirvis open Etz Chaim, one of the country’s first free schools.
But it was at Morasha that Mirvis had the chance to pay tribute to Lord Sacks who, in the words of his successor, had “led a generation of dedication to education”.
After several years of temporary homes, staff and pupils at Morasha were relieved to be finally moving into a permanent site, a journey Mirvis has been closely involved with since his time as rabbi at Finchley United Synagogue.
“It has been an honour to be involved since the birth of the school and watch it grow from a small beginning and become something great,” Mirvis said.
The North Finchley establishment was named after the recently retired chief, who officially opened the school to the sound of pupils singing songs in English and Hebrew.
He spoke of the “tears running down my face in this wonderful moment – seeing a new generation of Jewish children, free to live and practise as Jews. Anglo-Jewry has a great past, but it also now has a great future”.
In Mill Hill, the Chief Rabbi was joined by Michael Gove and Lord Levy for the official opening of Etz Chaim Jewish Primary School.Head-teacher Yvonne Baron spoke of her “privilege to be able to lead the country’s first free school” and of her pride at getting good Ofsted and Pikuach inspections.
Mirvis, a regular teacher and visitor since its inception in 2008, spoke of the Daws Lane institution as “a joyous and happy school, uplifted and inspired by the values of the Jewish community”.
Chair of Governors, Jason Marantz, said: “The school strives to be value-led in its educational ethos, integrating Jewish traditions with high academic standards and a belief in life-long learning”.
Similarly, Gove praised the school’s founders as “pioneers striving for the very best in education”. Adam Dawson, who together with his wife Debbie came up with the idea for the new free school, said the “physical journey of Etz Chaim had been very short and emotional… At times I felt it would never end.”
Gove confided with the audience that, as one of the first wave of free schools, he had watched Etz Chaim’s progress “holding my breath”.