Sad faces at JCoSS as ‘unique’ headteacher bids farewell today

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Sad faces at JCoSS as ‘unique’ headteacher bids farewell today

After 10 years, Christian minister Patrick Moriarty leaves the Jewish school, which under his expertise has become one of the most successful in the country.

Patrick Moriarty( with assistant Lara Samuels) in Superman tee or heels for Purim videos
Patrick Moriarty( with assistant Lara Samuels) in Superman tee or heels for Purim videos

Every day on his way to school for the past ten years Patrick Moriarty has said a prayer. He revealed this to staff in his farewell briefing this week -his last as Headteacher at JCoSS.

Tackling bad drivers en route to East Barnet each morning, Patrick recited the prayer: “May this school be a place where God’s name is known, God’s love is shown and God’s life is grown,” while thinking about the staff, the students, the governors, the trustees, the parents, the friends and the neighbours of the school.

“I don’t know if it works, but it helps,” he says, with conviction. “I think a school where prayers are said is unifying and in some weird, mysterious way it makes a difference. But a school can have religion without spirituality. At JCoSS the spirituality is deliberate and that’s what makes it special.”

Patrick Moriarty wore his clerical robes to school during Interfaith week

Many would argue that JCoSS is special because of Patrick Moriarty. He has certainly been a unique presence in the community as the non-Jewish head of a Jewish school, who is also a Christian minister. From the moment he was ordained, JCoSS parents revelled in the reaction of others to the Principal’s resume, but he has managed the dual role with aplomb and shown pupils the value of interfaith dialogue. That he  wore his clerical robes to school during Interfaith week was a bonus.

As for the parishioners at St Stephen and St Julian in St Albans, few church congregations know more about Judaism due to the sermons of their Associate Priest.“I bang on about Judaism all the time,” says Patrick. “My mission in the pulpit is to try to get them to understand Judaism, but I can see that sometimes they’re thinking ‘hang on, we’re Christian’. Still, as long as I rock up on a Sunday and do the service, they don’t necessarily know or care what I do the rest of the time.”

Many would argue that JCoSS is special because of Patrick Moriarty. He has certainly been a unique presence in the community as the non-Jewish head of a Jewish school, who is also a Christian minister.

What he has done the rest of the time defies belief unless you know any teachers and hear about the challenges of the job. “I know everyone says it, but the social impact of the past ten years has felt enormous,” says Patrick, who was Deputy Head when JCoSS opened. “We’ve had Brexit, a Pandemic, ,increasing mental health problems, ‘Everyone’s Invited’ the gender critical debate, more secretaries of state than I can remember and the education system introduced new marking systems.”

Patrick has been on the front line of that formidable list, which also includes the rise of a new phenomenon: “This is my reality and nobody else’s reality matters,” he jokes – and gender neutral toilets.

“You just go with the flow,” says Patrick wryly. “I may have a position on things and my own questions, but if the reality is in front of me and a child is wrestling with an aspect of their identity, if I can make things better for them, I will. We can’t accommodate everything, and sometimes we have to say no, but if we can, we should.”

Patrick taking part in Purim 2019

Before JCoSS, Patrick, a former Haberdashers’ pupil, was Head of Sixth Form at Habs Girls, where he loved teaching Religious Studies A-level. “What I loved was going into a room and introducing ideas to make students fizzle with excitement before leaving them with a million questions to think about. But that’s not the whole of what teaching is about. A teacher must be patient, consistent and calm, so everybody feels contained and safe. In that situation, pupils can take the risks they need to take in order to learn. I don’t think I was very good at that.”

According to his former Habs students this isn’t true, but he gave up lesson prep, marking and the angst of 30 pupils needing encouragement to take on 200 members of staff at JCoSS who “equally need encouraging, cajoling and guiding about their future.

“It’s a privilege and amazing, but as Headteacher one has to have the ability to shift from one really important thing to another several times a day or several times an hour.”

During Covid the enormity of this task, albeit in an empty building, would make any educator think about their job.“Decision fatigue set in during the pandemic, as there were just too many new things to think about every day. The best analogy I can give is one someone gave to me about holding a brick. The issue is not how heavy the brick is, but how long you can hold it before getting muscle fatigue. There’s probably some wonderful Jewish tale that says that better.”

In one of the many speeches he delivered this week, holding back tears, Patrick admitted he could have stayed at JCoSS another ten years –“but on balance a job which eats you and feeds you at the same time should only be done for a limited time.

“Fresh eyes are needed and one must pass the job on,” he said, hailing the upcoming arrival of new Head, Dr Melanie Lee. In a recent JN Leap of Faith column Rabbi Deborah Blausten praised Moriarty and noted that a communal leader “without personal Jewish baggage might have advantages in meeting the needs of a diverse Jewish community because it creates an imperative to listen, and to not assume to understand.”

Patrick Moriarty has not only listened and learned, but immersed himself in the community by joining interfaith trips to Auschwitz and becoming a Trustee of The Council of Christians and Jews.

“Everything good that has come my way in the past ten years, Jewish or not, has come about because of JCoSS. I’ve got the Habs thing, the Oxbridge thing and the Church of England thing, but the reason all these other things happened is because of a comprehensive school set up by the children of  refugee Jews from Nazi Europe. That’s the reality.”

As parishioners see Patrick St Stephen and St Julian in St Albans

The reality for the sad-faced staff and pupils at JCoSS is that they are saying goodbye to a Head teacher who knew them by more than their lanyards and didn’t mind donning a Superman tee or red heels to dance in the annual Purim videos. He even took the trouble to write his own exit anthem peppered with Hebrew.

As many rivers flow into one sea,                                                                         Calm waters, rushing rapids fierce and free,                                                        Let us lend heart and soul                                                                                         And blend our parts to make a whole,                                                                     A source of life and hope and jubilee 

Elu v’elu, elu v’elu                                                                                                  Divrei elohim chaim                                                                                                     Our tent is open wide                                                                                                 To welcome, not divide                                                                                              Kol tzameh l’chu hamayim

If there was a dry eye in the assembly hall after that song, there wasn’t when Patrick enacted his ritual at the school. Deeply affected by the Queen’s funeral in September, he got the idea from the ritual of the orb and sceptre and commissioned four canvasses symbolising the role of Headteacher.

“At the funeral those royal symbols were returned to the altar because a monarch’s power and authority is not their own. It comes from a different source. The canvasses depicting leadership, character, Judaism and learning are a mini version of that because the Ruach (spirit) of the school is bigger than any of us. I may be leaving, but the school, which – like all Jewish schools – punches above its weight and has incredible concentration on desire, achievement and passion, will continue without me. At JCoSS the show will go on.”

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: