In 1911 an initiative was undertaken by a group of young intellectuals, for the most part recently arrived immigrants from Eastern Europe, who were dissatisfied with the low state of Jewish education in Montreal, to organize a modern and progressive educational system which would, more meaningfully and positively, link the Jewish child with his people.
The founders, a large number of whom were inspired by the social and national ideals of Labour Zionism, opened a school in 1913 and sought to transmit the cultural heritage of the Jewish people through a creative and positive presentation of the age-old national-religious traditions to students; and thus to ensure Jewish survival and continuity in their new land. They named this new educational institution the "National Radical School".
By 1914, a splinter group, headed by Dr. Yehuda Kaufman, Moishe Dickstein, Abraham Parnass and others had become disenchanted with some aspects of the educational program, and organized the "Yiddishe Folks Shulen", i.e. "The Jewish People's Schools". The new school continued to foster the progressive and modern pedagogical approaches that had been established earlier, but introduced a number of fundamental changes in program and curriculum which moved away from the "Yiddishist" tendencies of the National Radical School. The new school system believed in full equality of Hebrew and Yiddish, the strengthening of Jewish consciousness, a greater emphasis of Jewish national aspirations, Zionism as an essential cornerstone of the curriculum, greater stress on Jewish tradition, customs and ceremonies, Bible study in Hebrew, and the study of excerpts from classical literature, as vital components of Judaism in its historical development.
In 1923, the National Radical School changed its name to "Yiddishe Peretz Shulen", or the "Jewish Peretz Schools". The name change signaled that significant changes had also occurred in the educational program of the school. Except for the Peretz Schools' continued stress of Yiddish over Hebrew, the overall philosophy, educational objectives and pedagogical approaches of Peretz and Folks Shulen were essentially the same. At the heart of both schools' programs were the ideals of social justice, the sanctity of the individual, of national renaissance through the upbuilding of a Jewish commonwealth in the land of Israel, and of a sound and creative Jewish life in all countries where Jews live. Nevertheless, for various "historical" reasons, the schools continued to operate as separate physical entities.
The Jewish People's Schools organized the first Jewish Day School in Montreal in 1927. The Jewish Peretz Schools organized a day school in 1942.
In 1971 a merger of the schools occurred. Today we are one educational system that retains the names of both original schools for historical purposes, but with one unified philosophy and one set of educational goals.
Furthermore, the merger made it possible for the strengthened and unified Jewish People's Schools & Peretz Schools to realize the long-held dream of both institutions to establish a day high school which would enable our pupils to continue with their Jewish and general studies as mature young people until matriculation in Secondary V (Grade 11).
Bialik High School, created in 1972, and since 1984, situated in a beautiful and very well equipped school building at 6500 Kildare Avenue in Cote St. Luc, has developed a program of studies and extracurricular events that have enabled the students to live comfortably in the open, democratic society of which they are a part, to become more deeply rooted in Jewish folkways and mores, to display civic responsibility by actively participating in the Jewish and general community life, and to make their significant contribution to positive Jewish survival and continuity in a world of peace and brotherhood.
While recognizing that the Jewish studies program is the raison d'être of our schools, our program of general studies in the area of language arts, mathematics, social studies, science, theatre, the arts, etc., as well as our very extensive program in French studies, are of a primary concern to us. In our attempt to provide our pupils with the necessary tools for a lifetime of learning, our overall educational program of Jewish and general studies is designed as an integrated whole, with the goal for our pupils to receive mastery and erudition in all areas of their educational endeavours.