Bishop John Keenan is half of the religious authority for a unique education project in Scotland. There, two primary schools, one Catholic and one Jewish, share a purpose-built campus.
“I think,” jokes Bishop Keenan, “that the relationships here have gone beyond interfaith dialog. As far as I can see, the dialog is in the bricks.”
St. Clare’s Catholic Primary and its Jewish counterpart, Calderwood Lodge, are housed in a brand-new building in the Newton Mearns suburb in the south of Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city. Plans were in the works for four years to open what is thought to be an international first, where two religious schools share the same premises.
The two schools are halfway through their first term and will open formally on November 8, in a ceremony due to be attended by both Keenan, who is the bishop of the Diocese of Paisley, and Britain’s chief Orthodox rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis.
The project grew out of an educational and municipal coincidence: Calderwood Lodge, founded originally in 1962 by the Zionist Federation, switched school districts after a municipal boundary change, and came under the authority of East Renfrewshire Council.
The school, the only Jewish school in Scotland, was physically located in Glasgow, once its supervising authority; but most of its pupils lived in East Renfrewshire.
By 2013, two things were apparent to East Renfrewshire’s education authority: There was an urgent demand for a new Catholic primary school in the area, and a decision was needed about Calderwood, whose building, which also housed its nursery school, was becoming increasingly shabby and run-down.
East Renfrewshire, said to run the best schools in Scotland, had to choose between investing funds in a building no longer suitable, or to do something really different by inviting two faith communities to share an innovative school building.
And so, after prolonged consultations with both the Catholic and Jewish communities, parents, teachers — and, unusually, the children themselves — East Renfrewshire shelled out £17 million, ($22.36 million) bought land which had once been owned by a dairy farmer, and built a beautiful, state-of-the-art school campus. There is a planned capacity for 210 pupils at Calderwood and 444 at St. Clare’s, reflecting the different demographics of Jews and Catholics in the area.
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Source: Times of Israel.