From the Wolf’s Mouth – From the Archives

A few weeks ago I received from a thoughtful colleague an article that she had come across in a monthly periodical called The South African TATLER in the school archives of Roedean School. The periodical is dated March 1963 and is priced at 25 cents! The article, found in the section of the periodical entitled Leading Schools of South Africa and written by Patricia Storrar, describes the early years of King David High School Linksfield.  For obvious reasons it proved riveting reading for me, and I think could be of interest to many of you.  It is charmingly written and so well described the early years of the school.

To give you an idea of the style of writing, let me quote from the second paragraph, which so elegantly describes the school’s setting: At the very entrance to the King David High School Linksfield, the visitor is struck by the first of unusual contrasts which makes this – a Jewish co-educational day school – different from any other in the country.  One enters first the walled courtyard of a magnificent old house, built in traditional Cape Dutch style, complete with gables and heavy teak shutters. The administrative offices of the school are housed in this beautiful building. Then one emerges on the north side of the house into an area surrounded by modern buildings, as streamlined and functional as any in the country, yet blending harmoniously with the traditional lines of the house. The house, which formerly belonged to Mrs Hilda Mark, (whom I had the privilege and pleasure of meeting in the early seventies) is perfect in every detail.

The article continues with a description of the school day, starting with shacharit prayers and a comment about the school uniform with the boys having to wear straw “bashers”! That amusing comment caught my attention, because I remember discussing this with Professor Robert Lawrence, head prefect in 1966, when I visited Boston last year.  Robert informed me that it was he who managed to convince Mr Norman Sandler, the pioneering headmaster of the school and my predecessor, to dispense with that symbol of British “colonialism”. Did Robert, perhaps, initiate the current, popular wave of protest?  Mention was made of Mr Eddie Tannenbaum, Vice Principal and Maths cognoscente, Lorna Behrman, Peewee Pearce, and Pearl Benater, early stalwarts who made their mark in various aspects of school organisation and sport.  I remember them all with great respect and admiration.  I enjoyed the mention of “Miss” Goss, daughter of the Rabbi Isaac Goss, Director of the SA Board of Jewish Education, who was the first alumna of this school to return as a teacher, a practice at the school that was followed, thankfully, by so many others in later years.

According to the article visitors to the school in those days were apparently curious about the unusually high proportion of “colours” blazers worn by the students. The explanation given was that such awards are not confined only to sport but are used for academic and cultural activities, such as drama, debating, public speaking, etc. I had not realised that this was not the general practice at other schools in those early days, and feel proud that King David proved the trend-setter for awards of this kind in other schools.

Let me conclude this nostalgic exercise with the idealistic prophecy towards the end of the article, which imaginatively describes the view from the top floor corridor of the West Wing, the view across the rugby field and the golf course towards Sandringham Gardens. This view has a particular significance for it reminds the staff and students of the school that the ideal of service to others, to the aged and the whole community, is kept constantly before them, both literally and figuratively. When I read this, I could not help but think of Michael Sieff, (matric class of 1989) and present CEO of the Chevra Kadisha Group, Gary Herbert (matric class 1986) and others, who epitomise this ideal in its highest form. I was reminded, too, of the community leadership in Sydney where former students, like Yair Miller (matric class 1994) is President of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies with many others in leading positions, of the amazing work of Jean Judes nee Epstein (matric 1972) in Israel at the Beit Issie Shapiro.  Forgive me for not mentioning the many others whose contribution to their communities is exceptional but the list is endless.  We can all certainly be very proud that our alumni have become leaders in their communities throughout the world, and I feel sure that their education at King David played a major part in heightening their civic consciences.

Best wishes.

Elliot Wolf


Miss M.L. Goss, an “old girl” of the school and now a teacher of Hebrew, watches Arta Zygielbaum at the blackboard

Senior girls playing netball