Beth Rivkah Ladies College
|Beth Rivkah Ladies College|
|East St Kilda, Victoria, Australia|
|Type||Independent, Single-gender, Day school|
|Slogan||"Educating for life"|
Beth Rivkah Ladies College or Beth Rivkah Lubavitch is a single-gender girls' K-12 Orthodox Jewish day-school on Balaclava Road, East St Kilda in Melbourne, Australia run by the Chabad-Lubavitch movement's Yeshivah Centre. The school runs from kinder through to Year 12. By including a comprehensive secular curriculum it is geared in its approach to accommodating children from a non-religious background whose parents would otherwise not agree to enrol their children there. It also serves the purpose of providing an Orthodox Jewish day-school to Orthodox parents who also value a secular education. Most of its students come from non-Chabad families. It is known for its academic excellence, and its matriculants regularly score high in the VCE.
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The school was founded in 1956 by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe (with the assistance of Moshe Zalman Feiglin, Yehoshua Shneur Zalman Serebryanski, and others) and is officially under his auspices.
In mid-1956 Rabbi Schneerson sent a letter “To Chabad activists in Melbourne,” urging:
- “A girls’ school is extremely crucial. It is surprising that that there are doubts about this among those who contemplate the talks of my father-in-law, the Rebbe, and several of his letters. He emphasised the vital need to educate girls tens of times, and at least no less than [he emphasised] educating boys.”
Two days later, on 20 Av 5716 , Moshe Zalman Feiglin and his son, Dovid, attended a Farbrengen, a Chassidic gathering, in the court of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. The Rebbe addressed them, saying:
- “The [Previous] Rebbe established an institution to educate boys in Australia, and through his prayers for abundant divine mercy it is led with enormous success, and Reb Moshe Zalman Feiglin and his son Reb Dovid Feiglin, along with the entire family, are among those at the head. Since we have discussed that educating girls is no less important than educating boys, and even more [important], they should establish an institution to educate girls as well, and the Feiglin family should be among those at the head.”
Afterwards the Rebbe wrote to Ya’akov Eliezer Herzog:
- “You are surely aware that the Chossid who has accomplished much, Reb Moshe Zalman Feiglin and his son Reb Dovid Feiglin are now here. I have received the impression from my conversation with them that it is crucial to immediately establish a girls’ school according to the Chabad approach (with the name Beis Rivkah or Beis Sara) ... I have even told them that they should not wait to found a girls’ school until they find a building or a house—and certainly not until they build a building. Rather, since rumour has it that there is an empty room in the Yeshiva building, in the woman’s section, or the like, they should make a separate opening for entry and departure for the girls (and also a fence in the courtyard, to prevent mixing) and as soon as they [the Feiglins] return to Melbourne successfully, studies should commence.” 
The Rebbe made clear what the philosophy of the school was to be. In a letter to Mendel New he wrote of “the vital necessity not only to expand the Yeshivas Oholei Yosef Yitzchok Lubavitch in Melbourne, but also to found, open up, and expand a girls’ school, Beth Rivkah, according to the philosophy of Chabad education.”
The Rebbe regarded himself as a direct partner in this enterprise:
- “Since I too am entering into a partnership ... I wish to take part in the financial side as well. I hereby enclose a check as participation in the founding and bolstering of the Lubavitcher Beth Rivkah School of Australia.”
The Rebbe allayed the concerns of those who thought the financial burden of maintaining the school too great:
- “As for what you write concerning the founding of the Beth Rivkah, and the concern that it not harm the Yeshiva [financially] ... [you should remember the words of the Previous Rebbe regarding the] importance of educating girls, of Jewish education in general, and of Chasidic education in particular. ... No room remains for doubt as to whether there should be a Beth Rivkah, or not, G-d forbid. ... The doubt is only how to establish the income such that it will be independent. In fact, the situation in this respect is better [for Beth Rivkah] than for the Yeshivas Oholei Yosef Yitzchok Lubavitch.”
Mrs. Susan Herz had founded the Herz kindergarten and primary school in 1950. When Rabbi Schneerson called for a girls' school, Zalman Serebryanski and Moshe Feiglin approached Mrs. Herz, and offered to join forces, expanding her school and dubbing it Beth Rivkah, with Mrs. Herz as its headmistress. She accepted the offer, and remained headmistress until she immigrated to the Land of Israel in 1971.
Current administration and policies
The school, as a branch of the Yeshiva Centre umbrella, is under the administration of Rabbi Yitzchok Dovid Groner, and Mr. Shmuel Gurevitch is the principal of the high school. However in 2013 Rabbi Smukler will be taking over as principal of the college as Mr Gurevitch is resigning after 42 years of principal-ship.
Although the students at the school are mostly Ashkenazi Jews, with a large element of Hasidim and other Haredim, Mr. Gurevitch introduced that when Hebrew is spoken it should follow the Modern Hebrew pronunciation. He claimed that this would make the school more attractive to as yet non-observant or minimally-observant Jews, whom he argued would identify more with that form of pronunciation. He claimed that he told this to Rabbi Schneerson, who consented to this.
The school is part of the larger network of facilities of the Yeshivah Centre, which include a youth movement, Jewish studies classes, day camps, and many other initiatives that benefit Melbourne's wider Jewish community.
- From a letter of 18 Av, 5716 
- Sichos Kodesh 5716, p. 338
- From a letter of 29 Av, 5716 .
- From a letter of 7 Tishrei, 5717 , to Moshe Zalman Feiglin.
- From a letter of 7 Kislev, 5717 , to Shmuel Betzalel Althaus.
- See transcript of Gurevitch's private audience with the Rebbe.