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Why You Should Consider Jewish Day School For Your Children

By Joel Hoffman

A Jewish day school is a full-time private school that ranges from grades K through 8 where students receive a high quality education in language arts, mathematics, social studies, science, etc. – not only on par with the best private schools in the area, but also receive instruction in Jewish subjects such as Hebrew, Jewish history, Jewish texts, and Jewish values.

In North America there are approximately 500 Orthodox day schools, over 100 Community (i.e., pluralistic) day schools, 76 Conservative day schools, and 19 Reform day schools. Many Jewish day schools also have a pre-school, and more and more communities are opening pluralistic Jewish high schools.

There is an overwhelming amount of statistical evidence that shows the value of a Jewish day school education1. For example, Jewish day school students score in the top percentiles on all the various national standardized exams; and in a recent survey of the 60 valedictorians of public and private high schools in greater Detroit, it was discovered that 23 of them were graduates of a Jewish day school.

A reason given for the above phenomena is that during one's elementary years Jewish day school students are challenged to handle a "dual curriculum" of secular studies, plus 10 to 15 additional hours per week of Jewish studies. These extra hours of Jewish studies means that students in Jewish day schools receive extra mental stimulation, including using one's brain in a variety of additional ways such as analyzing texts, discussing ethics, studying a second or third language, and developing organizational skills.

Another advantage of a Jewish day school education is that Jewish day school students learn numerous values and expectations of proper behavior that are not a part of the curriculum at public and private schools. Returning lost objects, respect for parents and elders, visiting the sick, not gossiping, charity, wonder, spirituality, repairing the world, hospitality, humility, and appreciation are values taught in a Jewish day school.

In the middle school years Jewish day school students study ancient rabbinic texts in Hebrew which surprisingly address contemporary ethics such as copyrights, deception, harmful behaviors, the environment and social issues.

Attending a Jewish day school doesn't mean that a child misses out on American culture. A personal example, my four year old twins were in a Thanksgiving play at their Jewish day school and made a Flag Day (June 14th) art project. They also watch Sponge Bob and Dora on TV at home, and are currently taking Karate and soccer lessons.

Children who attend a Jewish day school, unlike their Hebrew school peers, are able to participate in all the area sports leagues and/or activities they desire (or their parents allow) because Hebrew school is not a conflict.

Numerous studies have shown that Jewish day school graduates are more likely to be Jewishly active as adults than Hebrew school graduates. For example, a recent survey of participants at Hillel events at Northwestern University found that 70% of the participants were graduates of Jewish day schools. And when Jewish day school graduates become adults they are also more likely to celebrate the Jewish holidays, join a synagogue, visit Israel, donate money to Jewish causes, volunteer their time to Jewish institutions, and marry another Jew.

Whereas some demographers place the current intermarriage rate upwards of 60-70%, the intermarriage rate among those who have attended at least six years of a Jewish day school is 20%. There is also a significantly lower intermarriage rate for those who also participated a Jewish summer camp, and in high school attended a "Hebrew High" and was involved in a Jewish youth group.

In sum, as the statistical data has shown, if parents want their children to develop a strong attachment to Judaism, while also having their children be well prepared for future academic challenges, and be inculcated with good values, then they should at least explore the possibility of sending their children to a Jewish day school.

Joel Hoffman, M.A.Ed., worked in Jewish education for several years. He is now pursuing a career in Israel advocacy, leadership training and consulting, while simultaneously studying for a M.B.A.

1 All the statistics in this essay have been taken from essays on the PEJE website.


from the December 2007 Chanukah Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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