The Leeds kids who go to King David, Manchester


To appreciate the importance Leeds parents attach to Jewish education, you need to take the bus - to Manchester.

With no Jewish high school in Leeds, secondary age pupils have traditionally gone to the fee-paying Leeds Grammar or local state schools. However, an increasing number of families are now opting to send their children to the King David High after attending Leeds' Brodetsky Jewish Primary. As well as the attraction of keeping their children within a Jewish environment, there is the appeal of King David's consistently high academic results.

Seventy pupils currently make the 90-mile daily round trip and in September, the number of young commuters is expected to swell to 80, filling two coaches. That is a four-fold rise from the group who shared a minibus when Leonie Jackson, 17, started at KD five years ago.

Now as one of the unofficial leaders of the travelling band on the ground of seniority, she loves life in what she calls "the KD bubble. All my friends are in Manchester."

After leaving Brodetsky, Leonie spent a year at Rossett School in Harrogate, where she was unhappy at the relative isolation of being one of 20 Jews in her year. She believes that some of the friends she left behind are losing their Jewishness, saying that one had who been through seven years' schooling at Brodetsky had recently asked her: "What's Shavuot?"

There is a mini-drama on the journey on the day the JC joins the Leeds contingent as the driver pulls over after the bus suffers an engine problem ascending a steep stretch of the M62. "Sit down, there's nothing wrong," passengers are assured by 18-year-old Jamie Rudette as the driver spends 15 minutes resolving the problem.

Jamie spent four years at Allerton High, the closest state school to the Leeds Jewish community, before transferring to King David. At Allerton High, he found that "95 per cent of Jews in my year started to mix with non-Jews and weren't fussed to be Jewish".

He had made "only acquaintances" with non-Jewish classmates at Allerton, whereas he made a best friend on his first day at King David. But he stressed that his new-found social life in Manchester would not alter his allegiance to Leeds, not least in football-supporting terms.

As the bus pulls back on to the carriageway, 15-year-old Josh Kleiman, the son of Leeds rabbi Jason Kleiman, admits to a preference for Manchester's bigger Jewish social scene. Josh attends Yavneh, King David's more religious schooling stream, where the sexes are taught separately and there is a greater focus on Jewish studies. He is something of a commuting veteran - having travelled to Manchester from the age of 10 when he was a Broughton Jewish Primary pupil - and credits the King David link with boosting Jewish commitment in Leeds. "It's nice to see more people involved."

Meanwhile, another member of the Yavneh stream, Sam Ross, 15, observes a gesticulating driver in the adjacent lane: "Some nutter saying I'm a dirty Jew."

Also from a religious family, Penina Myerson, 12, started at Yavneh after Leeds Grammar became open to both sexes following a merger.

"When we merged, everyone was boy obsessed," recalled Penina, the youngest of three sisters but the first to have Jewish secondary schooling. She now does not feel left out because her new friends understand her Shabbat observance.

And with the bus nearing its destination, 10-year-old King David junior pupil Ethan Judah offered a positive spin on what most would consider a transport negative. "I like the journey, although I puke sometimes," he confided. "But that gives me a good excuse not to do homework."

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