Queensland was, for many years, the last major centre of Australian Jewish life without a day school. Interest was always high, especially post-War, but in a small community, finding the funds for such an institution proved problematic. Attempts were made first in 1951 to get funds from the Claims Conference, the German governmental arm responsible for material compensation to Jewish victims of Nazi persecution, but while Sydney and Melbourne’s Jewish communities were successful in obtaining funds from this initiative, Queensland was not. On 31 July 1988, as a result of canvassing by 3 relative newcomers to the Queensland Jewish community, Mark Dindas, Len Friedland and Stan Been, the Queensland Jewish Board of Deputies, led by President Laurie Rosenbloom, held a communal meeting to discuss the concept of establishing a Jewish Day school in Queensland.
A steering committee was established that night and research and planning commenced immediately. Fund raising activities commenced later in the year and major initial benefactors were the late Sonny and Pearl Davis and Joe and Pearl Saragossi. Sinai College was incorporated in April 1989.
The School’s steering committee decided in early discussions to locate the school at the Jewish Communal Centre in Burbank, which allowed the school to make use of the site’s existing communal facilities and accessibility. Work on the school site began in late-1989, and the foundation stone for the buildings was laid on November 5, 1989 by Premier Russell Cooper.
Sinai College commenced tuition as a Jewish Day School at the beginning of 1990, opening with 14 children enrolled in grades 1 to 5. First-year enrolments grew to 20 within seven months.
With the opening of the preschool and the extension of the primary school to year 6, enrolments increased to 53 during 1991.
The school grew larger over the next five years, requiring a significant extension of the campus in 1995.
The educational and cultural program offered by the school blossomed, and by 1999 could even boast an annual Israel study tour for senior primary students. In 2006, the school won the Premier’s Reading Challenge, a significant achievement for the tiny cohort of only 40 students, and in 2012 teacher Samantha Muir was nominated for a QTC Teaching Excellence Award, ranking her in the top 25 teachers in the state.
2015 We celebrated our 25th year anniversary, see the article below by Myna Freed “In the Beginning ”
2017 saw the implementation of our school’s curriculum to the International Primary Curriculum (IPC) We have been very successful in cross pollinating the Jewish Values into the syllabus and making sure that all chagim are part of the everyday teaching plan.
2019 Saw the establishment of the purpose-built library room, Music room and Jewish Studies room and the newly restored Olympic sized swimming pool as well as our new website.
2020 Our new school bus has arrived as well as our 30th Year anniversary celebration on the 16th August. This year we will be hosting our pre-prep programme in the fourth term. We currently average 35 students per year.
Sinai College is housed in modern, purpose-built buildings situated in a bush-land setting alongside the Jewish Communal Centre in the Southern Brisbane suburb of Burbank. The facilities include a number of classroom blocks, a newly restored swimming pool, tennis courts, playground, sports oval and the facilities of the community centre.
SINAI COLLEGE ” In the Beginning ” Myna Freed
On Yom Ha’atzmaut in 1989 I (Myna Freed), together with most of the Jewish community of Queensland, was at the Communal Centre, celebrating the anniversary of the beginning of Israel.
The crowd was buzzing with excitement, pride in Israel and our links with it and pride in the prospect of a Jewish School in Queensland. While I was talking to two of the inaugural Board Members, the subject of the difficulty in finding the correct person to be the founding Principal was mentioned. I don’t know what happened next but I found myself appointed as the first Principal of Sinai College.
From that Yom Ha’atzmaut to the end of the 1989 school year I had a second job (honorary) to add to my Department of Education job, which thankfully paid me.
In that time I had to write a Sinai College prospectus and formulate a curriculum that was acceptable by the Department of Education. I had to choose a uniform that could be made by the beginning of the school year. I had to buy pencils, rulers, mathematics workbooks and select an appropriate reading scheme. I had to learn how to drive the bus (one of my additional functions) and to appoint a teacher. All of these, and many more tasks, had to be done while I was still working as Teacher-in-Charge of a special education program.
Natalie Smith was appointed as the second teacher – she was the perfect choice. She was young, musical and artistic – all the things I wasn’t – and she was an inspiring teacher. She taught Years 3-5 and I taught Years 1-2.
We were very fortunate in that an Israeli teacher, Ilana Shani, approached me to teach Hebrew as a volunteer.
Through individual and group meetings a number of parents were persuaded to send their children to the new fledgling school.
By the beginning of the 1990 school year we opened Sinai College with 14 pupils.
Our building was not completely ready but the enthusiasm for the school and the goodwill of the parents and the excitement of the children made the first day of Sinai College a great success.
We moved into our new building within a week. Our building had been based on a Departmental building but was a vast improvement on the original. In fact, a Departmental Inspector and Architect came to look at Sinai College and went away inspired by the improvements.
Teaching was fun and the children all had a sense of ownership of the school, in fact, one boy leaned over my shoulder as I was reading an official letter and said “What does it say Myrna?” and I told him that when he had finished school and university he could then read official letters.
Isabel Gottheiner gave up her job to teach Years 1 & 2 when I had to fly to Israel after my daughters were in a serious pedestrian accident.
The children worked hard and blossomed in the small, supportive class environment.
We began each day saying the Shema and included Jewish studies into many aspects of our secular curriculum. It was a truly Jewish school with some non-Jewish students. One English project, for example, by Natalie’s class, was writing a Biblical Newspaper with news, gossip and even advertisements.
We celebrated all the Chagim and all our art, baking, writing and literature was based on the appropriate festival.
On Purim we read the Megillah Esther and stamped our feet and booed at the name of Haman. We celebrated all the festivals.
It was all wonderful fun and great education. The children worked hard and played hard – they did extremely well and I am very proud of them.
After the school inspection, the inspector actually suggested to a non-Jewish child’s parents that Sinai College would be the best school for her and she was duly enrolled.
One of our pupils suffered from a medical condition. A guidance officer advised me that the school’s main efforts with the child was to support his parents in accepting that he would never learn to read or write. We ignored that advice and of course he learned to read and write.
On every Shabbat we had a Kabbalat Shabbat service. On one occasion the service was interrupted with the news that there were Koalas in our tree. We all rushed out to see them. It might have been my imagination but I think they also enjoyed our Shabbat.
On Yom HaSho’ah I sat on the floor with the children and read appropriate children’s stories of the Holocaust – the naughtiest boy in the school stood up and went to get me a tissue for my tears. He was never naughty again.
We went on wonderful camps and every day teaching was a pleasure.
I haven’t listed the marvelous team of teachers that we acquired as our school grew. I haven’t talked about our caring Board of Education or supportive parents. To list all the wonderful and amazing things that these people did would take up too many pages.
I thank the Jewish Community for their support and I consider having been the inaugural Principal of Sinai College and honour and privilege. I congratulate the School on its Anniversary and wish it continuing success in the future.