I ran out of Herzlia High School in December 1976, singing Alice Cooper’s “School’s out”. It was the greatest day of my life. I was finally free of the demands attached to the daily, regimented task called: ‘attending school’. I did not look back. I did not turn around even once. Instead, I ran as fast as I could, in complete and utter joy and relief, down Deerpark Drive and onto my newfound freedom.
It never occurred to me just how important my Herzlia experience had been, or the impact it would continue to have throughout my life. I was not grateful for the education, the community, the friends, the environment, the belonging or the support I received because – while struggling with my own insecurities and the self-absorption of being a teen – I never even saw it.
I attended Weizmann pre-primary and primary from 1962 to 1970. Those were the most wonder-filled, fun, sheltered, and nurturing years of my life. I was a good student but my passion lay in the arts and sport. I was, and still am, the consummate free spirit. Boundaries made me want to run away, but my parents and teachers recognized that giving me responsibility always grounded me. So, in Standard Five, when I was selected as a prefect by the teachers and Gideon’s House Captain by my peers, I thrived.
Graduating to high school, my world quickly spiraled from one of balance and happiness into one of uncertainty and insecurity. Adolescence did not work for me. I gained weight; lost my confidence; my home life took a turn for the worse; I could not relate to the academically-inclined Herzlian environment and most of my friends went to other schools. I felt isolated and begged my father to enroll me at Camps Bay High, the school of my dreams, where most of my friends were; where the view from the classrooms was breathtaking; where the guys were cute; and where you got to go to the beach every second break – I mean really, what more could a teenage girl want?
My father refused. Instead, he placed me in the Herzlia hostel (now our junior school) under Eleanor Goldin in Grade 9. It was an amazing space with wonderful counselors and a great bunch of kids, but every Sunday after a weekend spent at home, it was a struggle to return to the hostel. I would chase my dad’s car down the road, screaming and cursing him for leaving me there. It was bizarre that a girl from Sea Point would attend the hostel. Most kids who boarded at the hostel would come from up-country. In hindsight, my home environment was the reason he did this. It was the only way he could cope, as well as hope that I was able to focus on school and become more balanced.
At school, I had a select few friends. There were three kids in particulars who sat with me at the back of the class (when I was in class). One of those boys, is still a good friend after all these years – Geoff Cohen.
After two years at the hostel, my dad brought me home for the final stretch, Grade 11 and Grade 12. This was probably not his best call as I would bunk many a school day; feign illness and sleep in the sick room; or spend the whole day in the art room, tucked away in a little corner where I could not be found, and paint the day away.
I realize that if I were growing up in today’s age, things would have been different: probably therapy instead of the hostel, but strangely enough the teachers seemed to understand me more than I realized. My history teacher, Mr. Shane, was always kind and understanding, and would chat freely to me. The art teacher, Nathan Margalit, allowed me to stay in the art room, acknowledging my need for creative therapy. Vice Principal Michael Cohen would see me in the sickroom, smile, and tell me to feel better. And my English teacher, Judith Cohen, instilled in me a deep love for literature and the English language. These were the key teachers who helped me remain focused on what I truly loved, and after school I went on to attend Montclair State College (New Jersey, USA) where I did a double major in English and Fine Arts.
Despite my bunking, less-than-perfect attitude, and the insecurities I seemed to nurture rather than overcome, I realized while at college that Herzlia had actually given me an excellent education. I was able to maintain a 3.8 grade average (out of 4.0) throughout my degree. My poor father must have let out the hugest sigh of relief! I managed to find the person within me that I had no idea existed. With a huge extended family in the United States who graciously took me in, I developed a love for my Jewish identity. Moreover, I gained an immense sense of pride in being both a Herzlian graduate and a South African.
On my return to South Africa in 1981, I furthered my education with a diploma from Stellenbosch University in Graphic Art. A few years later, I decided to take a huge step and audition for a cabaret group and got the gig! Music, the creation of angels, bringing joy to the person performing and to the people being performed for. Finally, I had found my place on this earth.
Fast forward…I moved to Johannesburg and after six years there, immigrated to the United States with my husband in 1993. We had two children and fourteen years later, I returned to South Africa as a single mother with two young children: Dara Beth, 14, and Jakob, 5.
Back in South Africa I now needed to make sure my kids would get the stability they so desperately needed. Jakob was too young to be affected by our move, but he had anaphylactic food allergies that needed to be taken into account at whichever school he would attend, and Dara was a displaced 14-year old academic who needed intellectual stimulation. It was a no-brainer. They had to be enrolled in Herzlia. Jake’s allergies were covered. Alon Ashel was a peanut-free school. And I knew that academically Dara would thrive.
I made an appointment with Geoff Cohen, to see if there was a place for Dara in the Middle School. While we were waiting in the office, Jason Cohen (Geoff’s son) walked in. I did not know him but immediately started crying at the sight of this young boy who looked exactly like his dad did thirty years before. With the tears came the memories. This was my affirmation. Both my children would graduate from the Herzlia school system: a place for education; a place where the importance of the arts had grown immensely; a place to be comfortable with your Jewish roots (irrespective of the level to which you take on religion); a place to grow, to shine and to make sure they acquire all the tools they would need for their futures; and most importantly, a place where they would be able to find the support of a community like no other.
And so it was that we were back at Herzlia. I cannot explain the joy and relief I felt in knowing that my kids were in a place I could trust. Surrounded by friends and families of friends I had known forever, being gone from Cape Town for more than twenty years seemed to have made no difference at all.
Unfortunately, I had returned to South Africa in a hurry and did not have a job, so the school fees were too high for me. We applied and were granted a bursary which lasted until Dara graduated in 2011. Thankfully, by that time I had become more stable and immediately wrote to the school to let them know that I would not be needing the bursary any longer, and that I would be paying regular school fees for Jake. I will always be so grateful to The Herzlia Foundation Trust and the donors who give so generously to the Bursary Fund enabling parents like myself to give our children the most wonderful education and experience.
Thank you to my father who stood his ground whilst rolling his eyes (I jest).
To Geoff Cohen then and now.
And to the school that helped me become the artist, musician, mother and person I am today.
Thank you Herzlia,
If the Herzlia halls could speak what would they say? Lisa Cohen MY 1995
They would speak of generations of Jewish children whispering in each other’s ears during assemblies, songs joyfully being sung from the Haggadah at another annual Seder, raised voices healthily debating contentious topics, toes tapping at school plays, balls bouncing during PE, candles flickering at Batmitzvah ceremonies, parents watching their children full of pride and dreams and of the life lessons continuously playing out.
Last Friday saw me sitting within the safety and familiarity of the Weizmann school hall walls through another heartwarming and memorable school concert as my daughter happily sang some tunes in Yiddush about potatoes. Every time I sit in that hall I cannot help but reflect on my own school memories and experiences and on how much my diverse Herzlia education taught and shaped me. Those concerts, seders, prayers, merit pencils, plays, debates and water polo matches were each full of life lessons and are each a brick in my solid foundation.
Like many Jewish children in Cape Town I began school at Alon Ashel and completed it at Herzlia High School, 14 years later. As a child, one is blissfully unaware that going to school is a privilege rather than the right it should be. Going to a top private school like Herzlia is an even greater privilege. I was one such child. Each morning I got up, put on my uniform, got my hair ponied or plaited, picked up my sparkly school bags and was then delivered by my loving parents to a school where the facilities were fantastic and the teachers carefully selected to teach a variety of information and skill to challenge my mind, stretch my intellect and most importantly develop my soul. Journeying through my memories, my Herzlia school days are a rich tapestry of sound, colour, taste and knowledge. I loved school and happily took whatever it had to offer me.
When I was about 11 my father lost his business and things were financially tough for my parents. Naively my greatest concerns were that I would be unable to have an elaborate Batmitzvah or don the latest fashionable jeans. My parent’ concerns were much more primal, they worried about putting food on the table and paying bills, one such bill being the fees that facilitated my continued attendance of a private school which they felt was vital for paving the way to a successful future. My Herzlia education may have ended abruptly had some generous donors within the Jewish community not come to my family’s aid via the Herzlia Bursary Program. I was one of the many Jewish children who was not denied a Jewish private school education.
University was another financial challenge and again, the Jewish community supported me, and I was lucky enough to have been offered a scholarship.
Fast forward a few years and I have a beautiful family and have been working within a large corporate for many years managing an ever-growing global team that delivers technology solutions to the business. The foundation that Herzlia provided me with has equipped me for my life. At work I stand confidently and deliver talks to auditoriums of 100s of people, passionately sell my points of view in meeting rooms, creatively attack and solve problems, drive a thirst for self-improvement and growth in my team and treat my colleagues with respect and humility. To my home and family I bring love, warmth, dependability, respect for each other as well as for our neighbours and yiddushkite.
Every now and again I take stock of my life and wonder how my life may have taken a different turn. If I knew who each donor was that facilitated my education and helped my parents, I would thank each of them personally as I am eternally grateful.
Their identities will always remain unknown to me however I choose to honour their kindness and contribution by paying it forward. I do what I can to financially assist a new generation of Jewish children in the hope that they will grow into valuable members of our community and society and that they in turn will do what they can to come to the aid of future generations of Jewish parents and children enabling them to sit in those Herzlia halls and experience the magic.
LETTER OF THANKS
I am a former Herzlia pupil. I write this letter to tell of Herzlia’s greatest gift to me: an Israeli and Jewish identity.
Besides academics and sport (together with a pleasant community and social life), Herzlia puts an incredibly strong emphasis on the teaching of Zionism and the cultivation of Judaism in its students.
What does it mean, to be a Jew? What does Israel stand for and how am I connected to it? These were questions that had I not gone to Herzlia, they would have most likely remained unanswered. Coming from a family of founding kibbutzniks, Haggana fighters, Israeli Defence Force Soldiers, WWII anti-Hitler partizans and early Pioneers of Israel, Judaism and Israel are now fundamental to my identity and to who I am.
Out of nothing but sheer will, the modern Jewish State was created. Through my Jewishness and Israeli heritage, I am part of that State. I was an Israeli citizen since age three, but now I am an Israeli citizen consciously and by choice. That I owe to my time at Herzlia.
Herzlia awakened that identity within me. I shall carry it for the rest of my life. Herzlia made me aware of that for which my family fought and I am proudly Jewish and Israeli because I know what the Israeli flag represents, which is a direct accomplishment of United Herzlia Schools. I completely agree with the statement displayed on our main entrance, “We know who we are,” because I do.
I thank Herzlia very much for this identity. I thank Herzlia too for helping my parents with financial aid which was there to secure that I, as a Jewish child, know about my Judaism. This service of financial aid is provided to many Jewish families who need it. Of course, I am also deeply grateful for the academic standards Herzlia challenged me with, the fine teachers, the community atmosphere and the school’s home-like feeling.
I thank Herzlia greatly and encourage it to enhance the emphasis on Judaism and Zionism, particularly the latter. It is a heritage that needs to be continued.
I intend to stay in touch with my friends and the school despite my leaving it. I also intend to create new Jewish, Zionist and Israel connections while I study in Europe.
© The Herzlia Foundation Trust. Written in 2018.
At the age of 13, shortly after my Barmitzvah, my father passed away suddenly and this led to circumstances where my mother, sister and I were practically destitute. This was an incredibly difficult time for many reasons but there were a few factors that helped to pull us through the struggle. Besides the strength, hard work and resourcefulness of my amazing mother, Jenny, one of the most important of these factors was the incredible kindness of strangers that allowed my sister and I to continue our studies at Herzlia and to both go on to matriculate with distinction.
I loved my school years. I had the privilege of being taught by some life defining teachers that I still think about today, and who still teach to this day! I also made friends, some of whom I met in 1st grade, that I remain extremely close with.
I now run a successful music school that strives to provide high quality holistic private music tuition to as many people as we can. Funnily enough, a number of the students who walk through our doors arrive brandishing the Herzlia uniform, which is always a pleasant discovery. We also put emphasis on community outreach as well as finding ways to subsidize students who may not be able to afford our music tuition.
It is thanks to the generous people who make bursaries possible through the commitment of The Herzlia Foundation Trust that children like myself are able get a strong start in life, regardless of our financial situation.
If you already donate to The Herzlia Foundation Trust, I thank you on behalf of my sister, myself and the countless other children you have helped to support in the past, and will continue to support in the future. I do not know what we would do without you.
If you have yet to make a contribution, I urge you to do so. It helps more than you could imagine!
© The Herzlia Foundation Trust. Written in 2018.
I was both fortunate and privileged to be a recipient of a bursary from The Herzlia Foundation Trust throughout my 12 years of schooling at Herzlia. Based on my experiences at Herzlia, I really believe that receiving a Herzlia education is par excellence in so many aspects – be it in academics, sports, religion etc.
The superior method of teaching at Herzlia, together with the extra nurturing and care shown by the Herzlia staff, enabled me to achieve exceptionally high marks in matric. This enabled me to gain easy access to an Actuarial Science degree at UCT (despite it being usually so difficult – particularly in the early 1990’s where South Africa was experiencing so many economic and political changes due to the transformations from Apartheid). I really believe that the stability, comfort and challenges that I experience working as an actuary today is a direct result of the education that I received at Herzlia.
Furthermore, the Jewish education that I received at Herzlia really gave me a strong sense of Jewish identity. It sparked in me the interest and love of and for the Jewish religion. It was the catalyst for my going on to pursue many years of further religious studies which I continued to pursue right up until today particularly in Gemarah (i.e. the analytical section of study of Talmud).
A Herzlia education has enabled me to integrate socially with other Jews which I think is so important. When one enters university or the workplace one is exposed to people from so many different backgrounds and religions. If one doesn’t have the experience of growing up within one’s cultural environment, then it’s so easy to get lost within the wider community. So many times I have seen people who were not fortunate enough to receive a Herzlia education forsake their Judaism and love of Israel.
I often wonder where I would have landed up without an education at Herzlia – I doubt I would have been as successful professionally, nor as connected to my Judaism as intensely as I am or as emotionally equipped to handle the challenges of parenting without the solid and well-rounded education that I received at Herzlia.
The Herzlia Foundation Trust is really such a wonderful, worthy and commendable organisation to contribute to. It’s really life changing and life enriching to all the hundreds of pupils that have benefited from it in the past and certainly for all of those pupils who will benefit from it in the future as well.
© The Herzlia Foundation Trust. Written in 2018.
Since the inception of The Herzlia Foundation Trust in 2010, over 1 000 pupils have received financial support. The most recent figure shows the Foundation having provided bursaries and financial support to over 230 Jewish children totalling R12 500 000 in 2015.
Many past pupils remain unaware of being recipients of a bursary, or discounted fees. One who has always been aware is Lee Lobel, with Lee’s family coming forward to share their experience with you.
When Trevor Lobel moved his family from Zimbabwe to Cape Town in 2002, there was no question in their minds – Lee would attend Herzlia. All went well until Trevor’s business experienced difficult times, and Lee’s Herzlia fees became unaffordable.
Trevor approached the school, and after the comprehensive financial assessment, the Foundation subsidised Lee’s schooling for 5 years. Without the help of the Foundation, Lee wouldn’t have received her Jewish education; nor returned to Herzlia at a later date to work as a facilitator in the academic support programme. Trevor continues to honour the support his family received by working probono for the Foundation as our database advisor.
© The Herzlia Foundation Trust. Written in 2016.
My early childhood was as a barefoot kid on a sheep farm in the Karoo, with the farm workers’ children as my friends, and being home schooled by my mother who was a teacher.
I didn’t really know what being Jewish was all about until we moved to Cape Town and I was sent to the Hebrew Academy. For two years I studied there with five Rabbi’s daughters as my classmates.
Then in Grade Five I had the privilege of attending Herzlia, thanks to a bursary from The Herzlia Foundation Trust.
The teachers were remarkable, and I felt particularly supported by several of them to follow my vision, have the courage to take risks, and not take ‘no’ for an answer.
Besides the world-class education I received, these lessons stayed with me through university, my travels in Europe, and in founding the still successful band, Freshlyground.
I still relate to Herzlia’s ‘Im Tirtzu’ motto – in my personal and family life, in my position as Deputy Director of The United Jewish Campaign, and as a community builder. I’m beyond grateful to have gone to Herzlia. Knowing how much my community cared about me – just another anonymous kid – runs deep, and isn’t something I take for granted. It’s what has made me care deeply about our precious community and its future – giving back wherever possible to ensure that these opportunities continue for others.
I believe that we, as Herzlia alumni, have a responsibility to ensure that every Jewish child receives the quality of education which will produce the type of leaders needed to strengthen our community, and make a positive impact on broader society.
My hope is that this belief is yours too, and that if you’re not already giving to The Herzlia Foundation Trust, you’ll consider doing so today.
© The Herzlia Foundation Trust. Written in 2016.
Due to family circumstances, I was not yet three years old when I was placed in the Jewish children’s home Oranjia where I spent my early childhood. Institutional living does not always bring out the best in a child, but the caring concern of the community certainly does. It was thanks to ‘the kindness of strangers’ that I was fortunate enough to attend Herzlia from Grade 1 to Grade 12.
The community and the Herzlia teachers changed my life. I wish that my nameless benefactors could really know the impact they made on me, or the depth of my gratitude. Of the many wonderful teachers, Miss Bernstein, my Grade 4 teacher in particular unlocked my potential to become a passionate teacher.
I have taught at Herzlia for 35 years, and hope that I have made some difference in the lives of those children entrusted to me. The most wonderful part is that I come to work with love and joy every day – and my own children are Herzlia alumni.
So many quality children would never make their mark without a Herzlia education and the generous people who make bursaries possible through the commitment of The Herzlia Foundation Trust. Those people who choose to use their money in education are very special.
As a community, we bind tightly and are always there for each other in situations of need – we also place great emphasis on education. If you already donate to The Herzlia Foundation Trust, I salute you.
If you’ve yet to make your contribution, I urge you to make it now. Who knows . . . your beneficiary could be another Albert Einstein.
© The Herzlia Foundation Trust. Written in 2017.
Lindy describes herself as a ‘typical teenager’ when she was enrolled at Herzlia. She was there thanks to a bursary, but had no real appreciation of the privilege of a Jewish community education. Lindy could also be described as a classic product of Herzlia – a young person encouraged to question and think for herself.
This thinking and questioning led her to meet with the Principal of the time, asking to drop Hebrew as a subject in favour of geography. Gently reminded that Hebrew was compulsory and that her grades were too high to consider exemption, Lindy was not giving up, and she laid down an ultimatum; “Either I drop Hebrew, or I’m leaving.” Lindy still remembers the day she went home to her mother to tell her that she had ‘left Herzlia’!
Two unhappy terms at another school followed, a time when Lindy realised what a treasure she had impulsively tossed away on a point of teenage pride. After some wise advice from her mother, she once again braved the Herzlia Principal’s office, and asked to be re-admitted. Fortunately, the Principal agreed that Lindy’s place was indeed at Herzlia and she re-joined the school.
Today Lindy is the editor of The Cape Town Jewish Chronicle, and is married to Stuart who was also a bursary recipient from Herzlia. All three of their daughters are pupils at Herzlia. Stuart and Lindy are grateful to be in a position to be able to pay full fees and know that in today’s financial environment, this can change in an instant.
The bursary fund ensures that no matter what, a Jewish education will always be possible for their girls – and this is an incredible security. They never forget that they are where they are today, thanks to the bursaries they received from The Herzlia Foundation Trust.
© The Herzlia Foundation Trust. Written in 2016.