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!
  • “I don’t want to say, ‘Oh oh, I’m not Jewish,’ because when you say that, you sound like someone trying to get into a 1950s country club, “and I love the idea of being Jewish." Are you a fan of Seth Meyers?
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • 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.