When a Jewish Day School Closes Days Before Start of Classes

Chaos and Angst When N.J. Schechter School Abruptly Shut

Open and Shut: Seven-year-old Lucas Ludvig, left, and his friend Elan Ronen were forced to find new schools after the Solomon Schechter School of the Raritan Valley abruptly announced it would not reopen this fall.
courtesy of karen e.h. skinazi
Open and Shut: Seven-year-old Lucas Ludvig, left, and his friend Elan Ronen were forced to find new schools after the Solomon Schechter School of the Raritan Valley abruptly announced it would not reopen this fall.

By Karen E.H. Skinazi

Published August 23, 2013, issue of August 30, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 4 of 4)

But by now, the school supplies have been played with, the tzitzit have been bought.

Our school, which in 2012–13 had more than 120 students now had 40 students or so saying they’re coming back. The doors are opening, but — . We’re no longer an “if,” but a but —.

Or no but. The meeting ran long and late, and again, the optimism was heady. The next morning, emails and phone calls abounded: The doors will be open! We did it! We raised lots of money and ruach, spirit, and all’s a go. That was the message at 8 a.m.

And yet — the but: When pushed against the now-open door, my husband and I had to say what too many other parents had to say. We can’t do it. Because this Schechter is not the Schechter of 2012–2013. And we can’t send our kids to this Schechter — not without critical mass for our classes. Not without the teachers we were coming back for. Not without the bus that would save us three hours of driving each day. By the time the Sabbath rolled in — a mere 13 days before the first day of school — another message was delivered. Dear parents, our doors will not open, after all. Funding they got; loyalty they lost. Open and shut, open and shut, open and — because people could never be sure that the doors wouldn’t shut yet again — forever shut. Solomon Schechter of Raritan Valley is no more.

I’m a little jealous of those schools in Manhattan that have a supply of students creating so much demand that they can’t even meet it. That’s not the case in most of New Jersey, not so in Pennsylvania. And it’s probably even less so as you get farther away. Here, Jewish friends look at me with plain disdain in their faces as they ask why I am sending my kids to Jewish school. I want to say to them: “Don’t you want this, too? Don’t you want your children to know where they come from? To be able to pray with a minyan? To know to sing ‘Od Yishama’ at a wedding or say ‘Ha-Makom yenachem etchem betoch sh’ar aveilei Tziyon V’Yerushalayim’ at a shiva? To be able to read from the Torah at their bar and bat mitzvahs in Hebrew that hasn’t been transliterated? To dream through the stories of I. L. Peretz and S. Y. Agnon? To deftly explain the differences between the destruction of the two Temples?”

But I don’t say this, because I’m not really sure anyone cares about the Temples. This isn’t New York. There, the doors on the Jewish schools — heavy, solid, stable — open narrowly, admitting those who meet their criteria. Here, the doors fling open wildly, admitting everyone, but they are flimsy, with not enough will or belief or funding to give them strength. And with a gust of wind, the doors slam shut. For good.

*Karen E.H. Skinazi is a literary and cultural critic, a lecturer at Princeton University, the wife of a scientist and the mother of three boys.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • The real heroines of Passover prep aren't even Jewish. But the holiday couldn't happen without them.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.