Bialik College is Melbourne’s oldest Jewish school. It began modestly in North Carlton as a Zionist Sunday school and kindergarten in 1942. The kindergarten was the first educational establishment in Australia to use Hebrew as the language of instruction. As the local Jewish population grew and developed, Bialik transformed into a modern and vibrant kindergarten, primary and secondary school.
In 2012 Bialik College proudly celebrated its 70th anniversary. To commemorate this impressive milestone, an exhibition exploring the school’s history was produced and displayed as part of the celebration day on 3 June 2012. The exhibition has been updated and produced in this digital format, in honour of the school’s 75th anniversary in 2017. This ebook traces the proud history of Bialik and celebrates 75 years of educational excellence.
1920s: The Ivriah is established in Melbourne. Initially operating out of the home of Anya and Yosef Ginsburg in Carlton, the education centre promotes Zionism, Jewish culture and Ivrit (Hebrew).
1930s: The Ivriah takes up residence in Neill Street, and establishes a Hebrew School that provides the foundations for Bialik. Later in the decade it expands to the Scout Hall in Shakespeare Lane, Carlton.
1942: 973 Drummond Street, Carlton is purchased, and Bialik Hebrew School and Kindergarten officially opens. Sholem Marantz is the first Principal of the new school.
1950s: Plans made for the transition of Bialik from a kindergarten and Sunday Hebrew school to a Jewish day school, teaching students from Kindergarten to early primary school, with the hope of eventually providing a complete educational experience through to Year 12. Adam Klug takes up the role of Principal of Bialik, followed by Y. Taub.
1962: 6 Shakespeare Grove, Hawthorn is purchased, to be transformed into the new Bialik College. The Friends of Bialik College committee is formed. Its inaugural meeting is held on 17 May 1962. Isaac ‘Pixie’ Ernest takes up the role of Principal for the new school.
1963: On 5 February, classes officially start at Bialik’s new Shakespeare Grove location. On 17 February, an official opening takes place. The Bialik Parents’ Association forms and holds its first Annual Ball. Abraham Chowers becomes Principal, the first Principal to arrive from Israel.
1966: On 13 March the new Dora Sukiert Memorial Kindergarten officially opens in the recently purchased neighbouring property 4 Shakespeare Grove. Principal Abraham Chowers returns to Israel and Moshe Meretz becomes the new Principal.
1967: The 1st Annual Appeal, to raise funds for the College, is conducted by Lily Solvey.
1968: A new block of four additional classrooms is completed on campus and the popular I Love to Eat Jewish cookbook, a fundraiser for Bialik College, is published and launched.
1969: Bialik’s first Year 7 class starts.
1970: Bialik College expands to offer the first two years of secondary education Years 7 and 8. In order for students to continue their Jewish secondary education an arrangement is made with Mount Scopus to allow Bialik students entry from Year 9 onwards. Bialik College’s first Bat Mitzvah celebration takes place, with seven girls attending a ceremony at Kew Synagogue on 25 November.
1971: Principal Moshe Meretz returns to Israel and Shlomo Uni becomes the new Principal.
1973: Bialik is forced to cap new enrolments, as it does not have the facilities to accommodate the number of students who want to attend. Despite opposition from the school community, ten acres of rural land in Wantirna is purchased in February 1973, to be developed as the new site for Bialik College.
1974: Shlomo Uni returns to Israel and Yehezkiel Meiri takes up the role of Principal.
1976: Bialik College opens its Wantirna campus. The new campus is home to students from Years 3 to 8. The official opening takes place on 28 November. Moshe Dayan, Israel’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, visits Bialik. By December, 40 students have left the school due to tensions around the rural location of the Wantirna campus.
1977: Bialik College Choir produces a record called ‘Hear Our Voices’, with the assistance of the Parents’ Association.
1978: Bialik College realises that the distance of the Wantirna campus is a major issue for the school community and the school will not survive if it remains there. In September, Bialik purchases the former Nubrick brickworks site on Auburn Road, Hawthorn and develops plans for a new school campus.
1979: Work begins on the Auburn Road, Hawthorn site, with the construction of the Smorgon Family House building. David Goldsmith becomes the new Principal and the College’s first Principal in over 15 years who is not from Israel.
1981: Teaching begins at the Auburn Road campus. The Smorgon Family House is officially opened by Sir Zelman Cowen and Lady Cowen on 16 August.
1983: The second building is completed at Auburn Road, consisting of 10 classrooms, along with the gymnasium, assembly hall, indoor basketball court, showers, change rooms, music facilities and art room. In March, changes to Commonwealth funding allocated to private schools adversely affect Bialik College. Michael Pincus replaces David Goldsmith as Principal.
1984-1985: With mounting debt, Bialik faces closure or amalgamation with Mount Scopus College. The Bialik community rallies and raises $1.2 million in a matter of months. Amalgamation plans are discarded and the school is saved.
1986: Despite substantial opposition, a difficult debate is resolved with the transformational decision to grow Bialik to Year 12.
1987: Ben Ami-Shemer takes up the role of Principal of Bialik College and establishes a relationship with the Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning. Bialik becomes a centre for Jewish adult education in addition to a Jewish day school.
1989: Genia Janover becomes Principal and remains at the helm for the next 19 years.
1990: The first Year 12 class to graduate consists of eight students, out of a total school enrolment of 400 students.
1993: Bialik commences a partnership with the Melton Centre, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
1994: Bialik College purchases 3.1 acres of land on Tooronga Road adjacent to the Auburn Road campus.
1995: The Isaac Fraid VCE Centre opens at Bialik with new classrooms for Years 11 and 12, a music centre, drama room and hall. For the first time, a group of Year 12 students study tertiary level Hebrew at the University of Melbourne.
1996: The Sam and Minnie Smorgon campus is completed. It includes a large multipurpose hall, music and drama teaching spaces, rehearsal space, tuition rooms and a VCE centre. It is officially opened on 27 October by the Hon. Peter Costello MP. The first ‘League Tables’ of Year 12 results are published and Bialik comes in first. Reluctantly, it is decided that the school can no longer afford to keep the Shakespeare Grove campus and it is sold.
1991 – 1996: Almost $8 million is spent on developing the Auburn Road campus.
1997: Construction begins on the Early Learning Centre at the Auburn Road campus. The Rosenkranz Centre for Excellence and Achievement is established and the first Year 10 trip to Israel takes place. At the end of 1997, the kindergarten and junior school are relocated to Auburn Road.
1999: The new state-of-the-art Early Learning Centre is opened, inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education. Enrolments at the College reach 1003 students, from three-year-old kindergarten through to Year 12. The Bialik Parents’ Association produces the cookbook With a Passion: a celebration of food Bialik style.
2001: The Besen Family Art and Technology Centre is opened at Bialik College. The first child of a Bialik VCE graduate enrols at the College.
2003: The class of 1998 produces Bialik’s first Rhodes Scholar, Sarah Meyer.
2005: Bialik College partners with Project Zero, an educational research group at the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University, to develop The Cultures of Thinking project.
2007: The Gringlas Sports Centre is officially opened by the Hon. Peter Costello MP on 25 February.
2008: Genia Janover, long-standing Principal, retires and is replaced by Joseph Gerassi.
2010: A middle school is established for Years 6 to 9. The Esther Goldman Bialik Orchestra is founded.
2011: The Shuk, Bialik’s new canteen, opens on 10 February. The new Library and Mifgash (Centre of Jewish Life) also open. Joseph Gerassi leaves Bialik College and Garry Velleman takes up the role of acting Principal.
2012: Bialik celebrates its 70th anniversary with an exhibition commemorating this milestone and the first official performance of the new school song ‘Stepping Forth’. The Laura Kipen Memorial Archive is established and the I Love to Eat Jewish cookbook is reprinted in honour of the 70th anniversary. Jeremy Stowe-Lindner becomes Principal of Bialik College.
2013: The current school campus is extensively landscaped and a new kitchen garden established for the primary school students.
2014: B’Yachad – The Bialik Foundation is launched. Bialik becomes the first Jewish school worldwide to send an entire year level to China and Israel as part of Chavayah - the Israel Experience program.
2015: The primary school is rebuilt with new classrooms, shared spaces for all year levels and a play deck. The middle school and parts of the ELC are also refurbished.
2016: Bialik comes first in Victoria State for VCE results and wins more sports medals in the EISM championships than ever before in the history of the school. The administration block, tennis courts and Mifgash are refurbished.
2017: Bialik reflects on 75 years of educational excellence, having been in the top 5 schools in the State for 19 of the past 20 years. The College has waiting lists for enrolment in the Middle School.