The meaning behind our motto

A school’s motto embodies its raison d’etre; it encompasses what the school stands for and attempts to instill in its students.

To learn, to heed, to act לִלְמוֹד, לִשְמוֹר וְלַעֲשֹוֹת the motto of our College, was chosen by its founder Abraham Rabinovitch when the College was instituted in 1942 with a single class in Glenayr Avenue, North Bondi.

I wonder, though, how many members of our school’s family really take the motto to heart, or even understand its relevance in everything they do?

To learn

Of course, our students come to school to learn. However, their education at Moriah cannot be categorised simply into ‘academic’ or ‘religious’. Our students learn much more than that. They learn how to be part of a team, how to contribute to the common good of that team or house. They learn that it is not about winning, it is not about honours or trophies and ribbons. It is about personal diginity.

Aristotle said that “Dignity does not consist of possessing honours, but in deserving them.”

So, how then does one learn about and then incorporate that notion into their spirit and actively demonstrate that growth of personal dignity? Well, that leads us nicely on to the next part of our motto…

To heed

By paying careful attention to our educators and heeding what they say, we learn that personal growth is about putting yourself out, it is about noticing when others are hurting, and supporting your house by participating in every event you can. It’s about taking part in the next athletics or swimming carnival, even if you are not an elite sportsperson. Your participation gains points for your house – it shows that you understand how to be a team player.

I understand that some may say, “Oh but I am no good at this or that!” and therefore don’t want to let their team or house down. I quote Henry Ward Beecher, “Do not be afraid of defeat. You are never so near to victory as when defeated in a good cause.” Supporting your peers and your house is a good cause.

To act

Ideas without action aren’t worth much. If you hold yourself to an ideal of conduct even if it is inconvenient, or you know that you are not going to win the race, or your’re not the athlete that others are, yet you still participate and give it your all, you have honour; the honour of having tried, the honour of having given it your best.

Current Moriah Students will be too young to have heard of Eric Moussambani who competed for Equatorial Guinea at the 2000 Summer Olympics.

Nicknamed “Eric the Eel” by the media, Moussambani, who had never seen an Olympic-sized swimming pool before, swam his heat of the 100m freestyle in the unprecendently slow time of 1:52.72. This was the slowest time in Olympic history by far. While Moussambani’s time was still too slow to advance to the next round, he set a new personal best and an Equatoguinean national record.

He competed with honour because although he was not likely to win, neither was he afraid of defeat. He demonstrated personal dignity in full measure and gained the respect of all.

Ultimately, our College motto is about participation and actively belonging to a collective, a family in which we all have our role to play. We know, as Abraham Rabbinovitch knew, that as a school, as a people, we are stronger when we learn together, when we listen to one another, and when we take positive action together – even in the face of defeat.

About the Author

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Donna Delbaere is Co-acting College Principal at Moriah College in Queens Park, NSW.

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