Last month, Tablet magazine published an essay entitled The Case for Free Jewish Day School.
It was written by Mark Oppenheimer, a senior editor at Tablet and the host of the podcast,
The piece is compelling for a number of reasons. It contains an impassioned restatement of the
first principle of the importance of day school education. Its tone is pleading without being
cloying. The author cites the Day School situation in Toronto as an important point of reference
for his advocacy. And finally, the author himself writes as a parent of children relatively recently
enrolled in day schools. He is not an expert in Education or in Pedagogy. Nor is he a community
activist or organizational planner. His suggestions are broad and deliberately not detailed. He
brings an honest, guile-less, refreshing naivete to his essay. He tries to appeal to the heart of the
reader as much as, if not more than, to his or her mind.
Oppenheimer’s essay is worthy of reading. Over the next two weeks, we will excerpt some of its
key points. In this update, we reproduce his thoughts about the importance of day school
education. Next week, we will feature his ideas on why (and how) such education should be free
to those who seek it for their children.
The case for day school education
“Now that I’ve had an intensive immersion experience in the day-school world for six years, I
have come to this conclusion: Sending your child to a Jewish day school is one of those human
endeavors, like parenthood itself, or Ted Lasso, that you might not think is for you, but almost
surely is, if only you’ll give it a try. Once you’re in, you’re in, and the occasional gripes…. pale
next to the obvious advantages. Pretty soon, you’ve forgotten why you resisted, and you wonder
what took you so long.
“Every parent, and child, will have her or his own reasons for embracing a Jewish education,
which may include the schools’ effects on students’ long-term Jewish engagement, on their
Zionism, or on what scholar Alex Pomson, author of Inside Jewish Day Schools, calls “cultural
virtuosity.” As for me, I am impressed by Jewish schools’ obvious sense of purpose, which
astounded me when I saw it from the inside. … in Jewish schools the sense of mission is front
and center: to be knowledgeable about, custodians of, and practitioners of a glorious inherited
tradition. Jewish schools offer a reason for school beyond the college-obsession, or self-centered
careerism, now preached by many public and private schools.
Oppenheimer offers his suggestions for why day school education should be free (or almost free)
after the following segue: “If we are the people of the book; if we hope for Jewish continuity; if
we believe Judaism is life-enhancing and promotes human flourishing; if we believe Jewish
knowledge is as important as secular knowledge; if we believe our children have a right to know
this stuff; if we feel called, or even commanded, to do this; and if there is extraordinary wealth in
the Jewish community, then why do we only manage to fund most of these schools a little, or a
good amount, but not all the way?”
Oppenheimer’s question resonates in all Jewish communities in North America. He raises it, as
so many do and have in the past, with humility and with gratitude for the exceptional
philanthropy which we know and appreciate sustains all of Jewish communal life.
The Oppenheimer article is available at:
If you wish to contribute to GAJE’s lawsuit for fairness in educational funding, please click here.
For further information, please contact Israel Mida at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Grassroots for Affordable Jewish Education (GAJE)
May 5, 2023