Alex Pomson and Jack Wertheimer have written a fascinating, informative work entitled Inside Jewish Day Schools. The authorsare uniquely qualified to have undertaken the study. Both are internationally recognized scholars of Jewish life and Jewish education. Pomson is Principal & Managing Director of Rosov Consulting Israel. Wertheimer is the Joseph and Martha Mendelson Professor of American Jewish History at the Jewish Theological Seminary.
Published by Brandeis University Press, the book examines the day-to-day operations of nine Jewish day schools in North America. One of the schools is Tanenbaum CHAT of our own community in Toronto. The authors acknowledge that these nine schools are not representative of the entirety of the day school sector in North America. However, they do believe that “taken together, our sample of nine schools is sufficiently diverse organizationally and ideologically to support a series of conclusions about what Jewish day schools in North America today are able to offer students, families and communities and what constrains them at times from doing so.”
Pomson and Wertheimer intend their book to be a guide to those wishing to understand the contemporary Jewish day school. And there is no doubt, according to the authors, that for many young Jewish families deciding upon the education of their children, it could be worthwhile to understand these schools. For, in the authors’ views, “day schools offer an unparalleled Jewish education to young people: no other educational vehicles can match day schools as providers of skills and content learning in Jewish studies. Day schools therefore serve a critical role in preparing the next generation of Jewish leaders and active participants.”
Of course, GAJE agrees with the authors’ proposition about day schools. We also believe, as do most observers of the benefits of a day school education, including Pomson and Wertheimer, that day schools provide to so many of their graduates the skills, abilities and strength of character required to contend with and thrive amid the unceasing challenges of life in its wide unpredictable sweep.
At the end of the work, the authors summarize the day schools’ contributions to the lives of the children who attend the schools, to the families of the students and to the respective communities of the schools and the families live. Not surprisingly, indeed quite essentially, the heart of their conclusions about the unique contributions of the schools is the poignant, incisive depiction of the far-reaching, life-sustaining place day schools reach but that public schools cannot.
In next week’s update, we will look at some of the authors’ observations about the daily Tananbaum CHAT experience.
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Grassroots for Affordable Jewish Education (GAJE)
December 16, 2022