Intern from Down Under Bowled Over by Ramaz

Samantha Sinensky ’21 and Rebecca Massel ’21

Ramaz prides itself on hosting a plethora of interesting guests—YU/Stern students in the Kollel program, Israeli soldiers, and interns hoping to major in education. While most interns are local residents, for three weeks, Ramaz had the privilege to host Australian student Asher Klein. Klein studies at the University of Sydney and is majoring in English and drama. He is working toward a bachelor’s degree in education. During Klein’s visit to New York, he observed various English classes and witnessed the Ramaz classroom and extracurricular environment.

Klein came to Ramaz through the Brownstone Internship Program, a program that sends Australian University students to New York and pairs them with an internship in line with their field of study. “I was eager to experience firsthand how an American high school class was run and operated, especially in a Jewish setting,” said Klein. 

Klein started each day with a meaningful tefillah in the Sephardic Minyan. Next, he was able to observe a large sampling of classes of various subjects with different educators and teaching styles. Initially, Ms. Benel helped Klein set up his schedule. Over time, Klein directed his attention towards English classes, as this is his major. He observed classes taught by Dr. Milowitz, Dr. Gaylord, Ms. Litwack, and various other teachers. “I was able to see how a teacher fosters class discussion in a productive and meaningful manner,” said Klein. 

Klien expected Ramaz students to be apprehensive towards him. However, he was pleasantly surprised. The Australian guest felt welcomed from day one, as students approached him in the hallways and introduced themselves. “I did not feel like a fish out of water,” he exclaimed.

Klein was most impressed with the engagement of the teachers. In Australia, high school teachers are restricted to the curriculum designed by the state. According to Klein, it can be “stale and boring.” Ramaz differs because “the curriculum is created by teachers, so they focus on their interests and what they are excited to teach. [At Ramaz], there is more passion.” Klein found this especially true in Ms. Dashiff’s infectious diseases senior class. He sat in on the students’ final presentations and witnessed the engagement of the teacher and the interest of the students.

However, Klein was surprised by the leniency of American teachers with regard to deadlines and grading. “I was shocked when I heard teachers telling students to hand in essays that were due weeks ago. In Australia, if you miss a deadline, you get a zero,” he said. Klein felt these flexible deadlines and tests lead to less stress for Ramaz students than Australian high schoolers’ experience. In Australia, four years of high school culminate in the HSC exam, a test covering all subjects taught in high school. “This exam counts for half of your grade, and if you botch it, that can really negatively affect which universities will accept you.”

In addition to witnessing the excellent classes Ramaz has to offer, Klein participated in stimulating extra-curricular activities. He was astounded by the chesed, and said, “I have never seen a school on this level of commitment to chesed. The incredible amount of time and effort that students give is really special.” He was especially impressed by the weekly sandwich packaging program run by Ms. Benel, and the students’ willingness to dedicate their time, even those who live out of the city. He also attended the popular Sephardic tisch during Friday homeroom, and “felt the high energy in the atmosphere.” 

Another difference that Klein found between Ramaz and his high school was the amount of “silliness.” In Australia, students and faculty were constantly running programs like pajama day, crazy hat day, dance parties, or fundraisers. However, he felt that at Ramaz, there is less goofiness. Klein did acknowledge that his visit overlapped with finals and the weeks leading up to it, a time when much school spirit is not expected. 

It was especially important for Klein to intern at a Jewish day school, as there are few in Australia. There are only four Jewish day schools in Sydney, the largest city in Australia. “It’s remarkable how every student is engaged with and knowledgeable about all aspects of Jewish learning, including Talmud, Tanach, and Hebrew,” he said. 

Reflecting on his past three weeks at Ramaz, Klein felt that he learned how to capture the attention of the class. “Watching the Ramaz teachers, I learned that engagement is key,” he said. “This school is such a special place. I wish I could spend more time here.” He is grateful to the school for this opportunity and looks forward to utilizing the skills he learned at Ramaz in his classroom one day.