A foundation that has surveyed American-Jewish education every five years for the past two decades has just released its latest report, which shows that there’s been growth in Jewish education, but only among the Orthodox.
The current census is based on data from the 2018-2019 school year and therefore does not take into account the major disruption the COVID-19 pandemic has had on education.
There are over than 100 more Jewish day schools than there were 10 years ago
That brings the current total to a little over 900; however, almost all of the growth is within what Avi Chai describes as “the fervently Orthodox sector,” also known as ultra-Orthodox.
Most day school students attend “fervently Orthodox” schools
Out of the nearly 300,000 Jewish day school students in the country, two-thirds of them went to ultra-Orthodox schools.
Non-Orthodox schools are stronger outside of the New York area
Some 87% of Jewish day school students attend an Orthodox school. Nationally, only 10.5% of schools identify as non-Orthodox. They are either pluralistic “community” schools or belong to the Conservative movement, such as the Solomon Schechter school system, or to the Reform movement.
The other 2.5% were in categories that don’t fall out on denominational lines such as special needs schools, or immigrant group and outreach schools.
However, outside of New York and New Jersey, non-Orthodox schools make up 35% of all students.
“This is a meaningful statistic” says the report, “indicating that non-Orthodox schools are maintaining a meaningful presence outside the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area.”
A majority of U.S. states have at least one Jewish day school
While the vast majority of Schools are in the New York area, there are Jewish schools in at least 37 states. Most of those states had an enrollment increase since the foundation’s last survey 5 years ago. The majority of those states had an enrollment of more than one hundred students in Jewish schools.
There are more classrooms, because they are smaller
The report documents a trend toward smaller schools and classrooms among one particular group; Avi Chai divides what they call the “fervently Orthodox” into a variety of groups, including Hasidic, and what they call the “Yeshiva World” which is a term for largely non-Hasidic Ultraorthodox Jews, whose schools follow the historically ‘Lithuanian’ yeshiva tradition of intensive Talmud study.
According to Avi Chai, Yeshiva World schools and Hasidic Schools have roughly the same number of overall students, however, The Yeshiva World has nearly double to the number of schools.
“These schools, usually called mesivtas, tend to be small because the preference of educators and parents is to have one class per grade.” the report said.
Takeaways from the latest Jewish day school census