Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What is Jewish Education? and is it worth the price?

Is Jewish Education actually worth the huge price tag? What do our children get from going to a Jewish school?? I went to Jewish day schools as a child, and I am still not sure I have fully recovered from the experience. By Junior high we are in school almost the same number of hours then the average American spends at their job. (traditional jobs of 9-5 are approximately 40 hours, Most day schools start at about 8:30 and go until 5:30 Monday-Thursday and end slightly earlier on Fridays putting kids in school approximately 42 hours), and they get less time for lunch (and no recess). So children ages 11-17 are expected to sit in school all day and learn how to be good Jews, and have no time for extracurricular activities or socializing. This is a powder keg for discipline problems, nervous breakdowns, drug abuse and a host of other problems (which by the way do not exist in the Jewish community at all. note the sarcasm.). What would happen if we pared down the day school curriculum to basic? if we had to hire less teachers and operate the school for a shorter day, therefore using utilities for 2-3 hours less PER DAY. how much would we save in operating costs?
In addition to saving operating costs we would also have happier healthier children. Children who have time to be children. Children who might be able to see the glory of G-d and the beauty of Judaism instead of children who are burnt out by age 15 and hate being Jewish and learning. What the schools should focus on is HOW to learn instead or cramming in all the material, and on teaching children how to be menches rather then twelve prakim of Gemara every week. We need to embody our children with a love for G-d, Judaism and the Jewish people. We need to bring down tuition prices.  Doing the two together at the same time? PRICELESS!


  1. so..... what is your assessment of whether or not jewish education is worth the (financial and emotional) investment and sacrifice?

  2. Well I am choosing to send my oldest to Yeshiva Day School, but we will see how it goes.Thank God my husband is doing well at work and we are able to do it for the time being. i do however feel that the importance we place on Jewish schooling may be too high and I don't think parents should be borrowing against their home/retirement to pay for it. we need to fins dome sort of happy medium (not sure what that is yet) so that our kids get a good Jewish foundation without the parents having to go into major debt.

  3. Speaking as a mother of 4 kids (which puts us squarely in the "major debt" category, as well as the "borrowing against our home/retirement" category), I can say that the reason I pay for day school is there are no other options right now.

    We have tried public school. Our local public school is great, but basically my kids were learning to hate being observant jews. All the activities were on Shabbat. All the sports practices. All the class parties had non-kosher food. Birthday parties on Shabbat, or with ham/cheese sandwiches for lunch.

    Of course, we made accommodations, sent our own food, and did our best for our kids to participate, but it is harder than you realize, especially because your kids are still very young. For example, do I make my daughter stay home on Halloween? Or let her dress up in her princess costume, and go to school? Do I let her go to school, but not dress up (and be the ONLY kid without a costume)? Do I insist that she refrain from eating any of the candy at the classroom party, until I have scrutinized it for kashrut?

    Basically, at each and every turn, my kids felt singled out - not intentionally, and not by other kids, but simply by the very nature of their observance and the way it was constantly infringed upon by the normal course of events at a public school.

    So, that is why I send them to day school, despite the fact that we can't afford it. It's not the "mench" part... actually, our public school did a better job of that than any yeshiva I have seen yet. I am sending them to day school so they grow up to be proud of being observant jews, and feel confident in their identity. They will have many, many years "out there" in the broader world... for now, let them feel like fish IN water, rather than out.

  4. Lisa,
    I totally agree with your sentiments. We really thought about this as the public schools in our town are known to be pretty good (and as accommodating as possible), but you are right, no matter how accommodating the teacher/school/parents it really is difficult to be observant while in public school. My parents are basically broke because they sent us to Yeshiva and I hope we won't get into that situation (but most likely we will unless we make aliyah or something changes). It saddens me that living Jewishly means you essentially have to give up so much. I have no problem sacrificing for my Judaism, but the cost has gotten too high.