web analytics
April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Spa 1.2 Combining Modern Living in Traditional Jerusalem

A unique and prestigious residential project in now being built in Mekor Haim Street in Jerusalem.



The Alternate World Of Jewish Education

Marvin Schick

Marvin Schick

Share Button

Much has changed over the past twenty years in the day school and yeshiva world. Enrollment has risen sharply in the haredi sectors (chassidic and yeshiva world schools), almost entirely due to high fertility in those communities. Enrollment in these schools goes up steadily, despite their accepting far fewer non-haredi students and certainly children from marginally religious homes. This is a departure from policies that prevailed in the first decades of day school development.

A companion development, in a sense, is the remarkable concentration of Orthodox day schools and yeshivas in the New York and New Jersey area, a pattern that suggests a corresponding decline in Orthodox enrollment in many North American communities. What is happening regarding religious Jewish life in many smaller and mid-size Orthodox communities away from the Northeast is a critical development that deserves greater attention.

Chabad is now active in the day school field, which was not the case during most of the late Rebbe’s long tenure. Although his father-in-law and predecessor established Chabad yeshivas in the Northeast and industrial Midwest, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson seemed to consciously avoid yeshiva and day school building until his final years when he did encourage Chabad personnel to establish schools that primarily have a kiruv or outreach mission.

Also, beginning in the 1980s and continuing throughout much of the 1990s, there was heightened interest among the Orthodox in promoting schools that served immigrant populations, mainly from Russia, or had an outreach orientation. In recent years, however, there has been a sharp decline in interest and support and enrollment in these schools has plunged. This, too, is a development that gets far too little attention. We seem to consciously avert our eyes from the reality that kiruv is in trouble because there are too few yeshivas and day schools for families that fit into a kiruv mold.

Over the past twenty years, as well, there has been a jump in enrollment in non-Orthodox schools, including at the high school level. There seemed to be expanded communal interest in promoting day school education as a means of ensuring Jewish continuity. Here, too, there apparently is now a reversal of the previous trend. Since the economic downturn, there has been a steady and continuing decline in enrollment in non-Orthodox day schools. Modern Orthodox schools have also been adversely affected, as many have lost students.

* * * * *

In addition to the enrollment decline in non-Orthodox schools, there has been a disturbing change in the curriculum of many of these schools. The Judaic component is being downplayed and downsized and it is questionable whether these institutions sufficiently recognize that a minimalistic Judaic curriculum and ambience will result in minimalistic Judaic outcomes. Too many in vital sectors of American Jewish life naively believe that irrespective of the Judaic curriculum and ambience, day school education alone is a reliable guarantor of a bright Jewish future. That just isn’t so.

What is remarkable about the Judaic dilution occurring in more than a small number of non-Orthodox schools is that it comes at a time when philanthropic funding aimed at elevating the religious character of these institutions has been significantly expanded. There is a sad disconnect between what is occurring on the ground level in schools and what funders want to believe is happening. This is another aspect of day school education that isn’t being addressed.

Another recent development that bears watching is the emerging and expanding Hebrew charter school movement. If these schools continue to grow in enrollment, as is certain to be the case, they will take more students away from day schools, including some from Orthodox day schools. As this article is being written, several day school leaders across the country have been in touch with me about how the local charters are drawing away an escalating number of day school enrollees. The educational and economic viability of more than a few day schools is being undermined by the charter school movement.

What also seems certain, at least to this writer, is that for all of the hype accompanying Hebrew charter schools, they are minimalistic in their Judaics and their growth does not bode well for Jewish continuity. The encouragement being given to charters, including by some in the Orthodox community, is cause for concern.

Share Button

About the Author: Dr. Marvin Schick is president of the Rabbi Jacob Joseph School. He has been actively engaged in Jewish communal life for more than sixty years.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

Leave a comment (Select your commenting platform)

One Response to “The Alternate World Of Jewish Education”

  1. cloojew says:

    So, in a nutshell, Dr. Schick is saying that donations to organizations should instead go to the schools themselves. But I’m not sure how he arrives at this. He refuses to “name names.” Who are the culprits here? Torah Umesorah? The OU? Is there a “Jews United for the Reduction of Yeshiva Tuition” that I should know about and from which I should withhold all donations?

    Furthermore, some of these projects are cost-effective. The work being done by Harry Bloom for YU appears to be saving yeshivos millions. I doubt his and his staff’s combined salary comes to a fraction of that.

    If Dr. Schick is unhappy with the charitable choices of the non-Orthodox, what are we to do? I’m sure we are all unhappy with many of their choices – charitable and otherwise.

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Loading Facebook Comments ...
Loading Disqus Comments ...
Current Top Story
Unit 9900 is an intelligence unit that utilizes the unique capabilities of soldiers on the autism spectrum.
Autism in the IDF: Uniquely Talented Soldiers
Latest Indepth Stories
Haredim riot after draft-dodger is arrested.

The reporter simply reports the news, but it is greater to be inspired to better the situation.

Bitton-041814

The Big Bang theory marked the scientific community’s first sense of the universe having a beginning.

MK Moshe-Feiglin

Freeing convicted murderers returns the status of Jewish existence to something less than sanctified.

Dov Shurin

“The bigger they are the harder they fall” describes what God had in mind for Olmert.

We, soldiers of the IDF, who stand guard over the people and the land, fulfill the hopes of the millions of Jewish people across the generations who sought freedom.

How much is the human mind able to grasp of the Divine?

Jews have brought the baggage of the galut (exile) mentality to the modern state of Israel.

The Haggadah is an instruction manual on how to survive as strangers in strange lands.

It’s finally happened. New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan reported on her blog that “many readers…wrote to object to an [April 2] article…on the breakdown in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians,” claiming “[they] found the headline misleading and the article itself lacking in context.” Ms. Sullivan provided one such letter, quoted the […]

Nor did it seem relevant that according to widely circulated media reports, Rev. Sharpton was caught on an FBI surveillance video discussing possible drug sales with an FBI agent.

Jewish soldiers in the Polish forces often encountered anti-Semitic prejudice.

When the state was established, gedolim went to Ben-Gurion and asked him not to draft women and, later, yeshiva bachrim.

Perhaps worse than all the above is the acute lack of unity among Jews

At our seder we emulate the way it was celebrated in Temple times, as if the Temple still stood.

More Articles from Marvin Schick
Front-Page-040414

We now are in the season of advocacy of preschool, referring specifically to the education of children who are four years old.

Front-Page-112213

Two months ago, the Pew Research Center issued a comprehensive study of American Jews and ever since the American Jewish community has been debating the findings. I have contributed my share to this debate, which concerns matters of critical importance.

As the Torah teaches, poverty will never be eradicated, nor will our obligation to assist those in need.

As we commemorate the fiftieth yahrzeit this Friday, the second day of Kislev, of Rav Aaron Kotler – the greatest Jew, in the opinion of even many of his fellow Torah luminaries, ever to set foot on North American soil – we are obligated to reflect on his achievements and the lessons he taught.

A major sociological characteristic and consequence of modernity is the tendency for people to join together in associations that express a common goal or interest or a shared experience. The United States has been a nation of joiners from day one and perhaps even before independence was declared. Alexis de Tocqueville described this tendency in Democracy in America, the epic prophetic work published a century and three-quarters ago.

There is constant talk of a tuition crisis, of the growing number of yeshiva and day school parents – and potential parents – who say that full tuition or anything close to it is beyond their financial reach.

It often seems that it’s always open season on teachers, that they are available for target practice in the form of harsh criticism or verbal and written abuse from current parents, former parents, current students, former students, administrators, lay leaders and, in the case of public education, public officials and the media.

My first visit to Israel in the summer of 1959 coincided to an extent with the trip by Rabbi Aharon Kotler, the great rosh yeshiva of Lakewood, who came to give shiurim at Yeshiva Eitz Chaim in Jerusalem and to campaign for Agudath Israel in the Knesset elections, as he had done previously in the decade.

    Latest Poll

    Now that Kerry's "Peace Talks" are apparently over, are you...?







    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/front-page/the-alternate-world-of-jewish-education/2012/08/08/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: