Are Jewish Day Schools the Answer?

The Great Debates of 2013

Necessary?: Is a day school education the only way to ensure Jewish continuity?
Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy
Necessary?: Is a day school education the only way to ensure Jewish continuity?

By Helene Wingens and Jordana Horn

Published December 30, 2013, issue of December 27, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

For non-Orthodox Jews in America, sending one’s child to a Jewish day school has long been considered the best defense against assimilation. So consistently have studies proven this point that it is a mystery why more money isn’t spent on subsidizing those parents who can’t afford to send their children. These schools have become overwhelmingly expensive and the education they offer is in limited supply. As American Jews struggle to figure out how best to ensure the Jewish identity of the next generation against dismal trend lines, some still think Jewish day schools are the only answer, while others are searching for a new paradigm.

Jordana Horn:

I’m not against day school, per se. I just don’t think that day school is essential in order to raise children who are Jewish and proud to be Jewish.

How can I be so sure, you might ask, that my kids will be happily active Jews in the future? That’s easy: Because these kids are being raised to know that Judaism is such a central part of their existence that to take it away would be to take out a structural component of their life’s scaffolding. We were never threatened to marry only Jews; instead, it was taken for granted by me and my siblings that we wouldn’t want to marry someone with whom we could not build a Jewish life and family. The “secret” to a successful Jewish life and future is not the “magic bullet” of day school attendance. The real secret lies in what could be called “Jewish homeschooling” — supplementing after-school Hebrew school (a necessity) with real and vibrant Jewish family life.

—“Who Says You Need Day School?,” August 2

Helene Wingens:

While I’m not arguing that day school is the panacea for everyone and I understand that there are a multitude of difficult issues surrounding affordability and accessibility, the bottom line is that Jewish day schools churn out future Jewish leaders in large numbers.

They produce kids who have strong Jewish identities, who are connected both to their local communities and to Israel, who speak Hebrew and who in-marry in greater percentages than their public school peers. Day school attendance together with “Jewish home-schooling” should be the ideal and aspirational model.

While informed “Jewish home-schooling” alone is laudable, at the end of the day, it is neither realistic nor scalable. A brief look at the data shows that a minimum of six years of day school attendance is the most predictive factor of future Jewish engagement.

—“Our Future Depends on Them,” August 5


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 thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • 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.