Teachers from San Diego Jewish pioneer’s home town inaugurate program with Cabrillo Elementary School
Story and photos by Donald H. Harrison
SAN DIEGO–A German school principal and teacher bearing gifts from their K-4 students in the elementary school of the small town of Neuhaus-an-der-Oste in the far north of Germany helped on Monday, Oct. 22, to formally inaugurate a sister-school relationship at Cabrillo Elementary School that is based, in large measure, on the life of San Diego’s first Jewish settler Louis Rose.
Neuhaus-an-der-Oste is the town in which Rose was born in 1807 and where he lived “in the ninth house on the left” on the street facing a dike which was built to prevent flooding from the Oste River. That waterway flows into the larger Elbe River close to Germany’s shoreline with the North Sea.
As Cabrillo Elementary School principal Nestor Suarez beamed during a morning assembly, his counterpart from Neuhaus, principal Doris Henningson, and her colleague, elementary school teacher Dorothee Fetz, presented a wide assortment of presents from her pupils in the sister school.
These included a ship in a bottle made by the Neuhaus school’s woodworking class; a poster of a ship of Neuhaus sailing toward a ship of Cabrillo Elementary School; a T-shirt with the school’s name and its logo ship upon it, and drawings by the pupils of themselves in a boat as well as one showing them with the school’s buses.
Additionally, the gift bag included drawings of the lighthouses near Neuhaus, and the old houses dating back 600 years inside the town itself ; cutouts of shore birds from the area; a CD of songs performed by the Neuhaus children; a book of photos about Neuhaus and its school, and even a proclamation from Georg Martens, the burgermeister (mayor) of Neuhaus, expressing the hope that the sister school relationship will be long and successful.
However, it was three songs in German sung in greeting by the Cabrillo Elementary School pupils, and a balloon from Neuhaus that created the most excitement during the morning assembly. As children stared up at the stage from the floor of the school’s auditorium., Henningson blew the balloon up, and up, to show that on one side it had the ship’s logo and on the other the name of the school –”Grundschule Neuhaus-an-der-Oste. ”
The German principal then purposely let go of the stem, causing the balloon to fly, sputtering, into the audience. The children laughed with delight, and so did the teachers and members of the Louis Rose Society who were sitting on the stage.
When Rose came to San Diego in 1850, he found that the city had been built far from the water’s edge, under the Presidio at Old Town. Believing that San Diego, like Neuhaus, should be built next to the bay in order to encourage more shipping and commerce, he purchased large tracts of land and created the Roseville township, which today is part of Point Loma, where Cabrillo Elementary School is located.
San Diego’s Board of Education formally approved the sister school relationship between Neuhaus’s grundschule and San Diego’s Cabrillo Elementary School on March 29, 2011. The pupils at Cabrillo–with the help of volunteers from the University of San Diego–have been learning the German language, while meanwhile German students have been studying English. The trip of Henningson and Fetz, partially funded by the Louis Rose Society for the Preservation of Jewish History, is intended to familiarize the German teachers with the San Diego school and to begin the process of developing a joint curriculum that, in part, will deal with Rose’s legacy. As a start on this, Henningson brought from her pupils invitations to students at Cabrillo to become pen pals.
The two educators arrived in San Diego on Friday evening, Oct. 19, after flights and transfers that had kept them on the go for 24 hours. When they disembarked from the last leg of their trip–a commuter flight from Los Angeles — they were surprised to see a small group of students, teachers, administrators and Louis Rose Society members with unfurled signs saying “Willkommen” (Welcome) to “Doris” and to “Dorothee.” Before they could recover from their surprise, they were presented with flowers by twins Robert and Savannah Bloom, who are 4th graders at Cabrillo Elementary School. A documentary film crew from Grossmont College recorded the proceedings.
Over the weekend, the teachers familiarized themselves with San Diego, which neither had ever visited before. Louis Rose Society members Norman Greene and I, along with principal Suarez and Cabrillo’s language program coordinator Skye Oluwa and their families, conducted the educators on a tour that included Cabrillo National Monument, Louis Rose Point at Liberty Station, the Presidio, Old Town San Diego State Park, Heritage Park, Mission Hills, Hillcrest, Balboa Park, East Village, Petco Park and Convention Center, Gaslamp Quarter, and the Embarcadero.
The two teachers will be in San Diego through November 1. During the week they will give lessons in German to some of the students in addition to attending planning sessions for the sister-school program with staff. In the evenings and over the weekend, they will be hosted by members of the faculty as well as by the Louis Rose Society.
Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World. He may be contacted at email@example.com
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