The discussion reimagining Jewish day schools continues in the wide educational community with pointed debate. Ideas and counter-ideas fill digital screens and travel through the invisible fibre-miraculous pathways of cyberspace with unabating frequency.
We are monitoring this discussion only insofar as it reinforces the essential core principles of the key importance of intense Jewish education for maintaining a diverse, knowledgeable committed Jewish life. We are not commenting on the different design speculations for schools of the future.
Thus, we wish readers to a succinct restatement of core principles by Lindsey Bodner, the executive director of the Naomi Foundation whose mission is to support innovation in education in the US and Israel and the academic study of Yiddish.
In an essay posted on eJewishPhilanthropy, Bodner commented positively on a redesign proposal for Jewish day schools by Hillel Rapp, Director of Education of the Bnei Akiva schools in Toronto. Rapp’s suggestion is indeed innovative. Bodner endorses it. In the course off providing her stamp of approval on Rapp’s blueprint, Bodner reiterates the following three principles of wide agreement among all the discussants on the subject of modern day-school education.
• The importance of day school education for Jewish continuity – Even controlling for other factors like the religiosity of the family, the most reliable way to ensure long-term engagement with Judaism is sending children to Jewish schools.
•The unaffordability of most Jewish day schools – The burden is particularly acute for middle and upper middle-class families (as opposed to those in financial distress who receive full tuition coverage or the very wealthy who don’t need it).
• The Jewish community has a responsibility to make education more accessible to families who are interested in sending children to Jewish day schools and greatly benefits from doing so.
Thankfully, we can confidently say that the lay and professional leadership of the Jewish community of the GTA also agree with these principles.
The struggle for true affordability is not yet won. But with the above principles as an agreed-upon community-wide foundation, the path to true affordability is steadier, if not yet certain.
Bodner’s article is available at:
Be safe. Be well. Shabbat shalom.
GAJE, May 7, 2021