Meir Panim’s Tiberias Free Restaurant not only provides warm meals, but the opportunity to socialize as well.
If I am granted the years and strength, in three years (and during my eightieth year) I will conduct another census of Jewish day schools in the United States, following up on my previous research conducted at five-year intervals.
While of course the precise data are not yet known, much of what will be learned is already apparent. Enrollment from kindergarten through grade twelve will grow by about ten percent over the 2008-09 statistic, so that there will be about 250,000 day school students, an impressive figure when we reflect on the modest number of dayschoolers just several decades ago. There is a lot to be proud of.
Unfortunately, the overall numbers do not tell the entire story. The record is mixed. Nearly all the enrollment growth – in fact, all the growth – will be in the two haredi sectors, comprising yeshiva world and chassidic schools, and this growth will entirely be the result of high haredi fertility. Elsewhere in the day-school world, the story is one of stagnation and – what may be surprising to many – enrollment decline in many schools, including in quite a few Orthodox institutions.
Non-Orthodox schools are losing students, with the Solomon Schechters (Conservative) leading the way down. By 2013, they shall have lost at least one third of the nearly 18,000 students enrolled a decade earlier, reflecting in large measure the remarkable downward spiral of the Conservative movement. There are some Orthodox who welcome this development. I do not because I know these schools once provided many recruits for the Orthodox Union’s National Conference of Synagogue Youth.
When a Solomon Schechter school closes, often there is no substitute day school for its students. The reality is that children from even more traditional Conservative homes are increasingly being enrolled in public schools. High tuition, in addition to the atrophying of Conservatism, is taking an ever-expanding toll.
For years there was enrollment growth in Community day schools, the so-called trans-denominational institutions that invariably are light on Judaics. The trend is now being reversed, as Community schools are reporting enrollment decline and some have closed. Here, too, high tuition is part of the explanation and this has produced a spreading climate of opinion in what once may have been regarded as day school families that this form of education is not mandatory.
Although still tiny in numbers, Hebrew-language charter schools are beginning to have an impact. This is certain to expand despite the prospect that severe budgetary problems confronting nearly all of the states will restrain the willingness of public officials to authorize additional charters. The Jess Schwartz Jewish Community Day School in Phoenix, which less than a year ago merged with another Community school and now enrolls about 200 students, has just applied for charter status.
Outside of New York and New Jersey, nearly half of all U.S. day school students are in non-Orthodox schools, a statistic that may seem surprising in view of significant pockets of Orthodox enrollment in Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Dallas and Atlanta. The sociological reality is that younger Orthodox families are gravitating to the New York metropolitan area.
With the limited exception of Chabad schools, themselves now encountering severe financial stress, there are few Orthodox schools with anything close to a kiruv or outreach mission or orientation. There are reasons for this, some perhaps acceptable, others not.
The day school movement which once was imbued with a spirit of kiruv has substantially shed that commitment and the results are not welcome. This development reflects the strange mindset in nearly all of Orthodox life that kiruv and chinuch are distinct obligations and activities and that it is possible to have a viable kiruv movement without a strong focus on the education of children. This attitude is sharply in contrast to what occurs in Israel where under the guidance of Torah leaders enormous energy and resources are poured into basic Torah education aimed at ensuring a meaningful religious future for children from marginal families.
There is no justification for the tragic division between kiruv and chinuch, a division that explains why for all the public relations efforts, kiruv is in the doldrums. It does not have to be this way, witness the major exception in all of North America: Dallas, where an extraordinary Torah community has emerged because of the organic relationship between outreach and basic Torah education.
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.
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Yossi Klein Halevi’s Like Dreamers (Harper) explores the lives of seven Israeli paratroopers in the Six-Day War who, his subtitle suggests, “Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a Nation.” It offers a fascinating variation on the theme of Israel at a fateful crossroads, in search of itself, following the wondrously unifying moment at the Western Wall in June 1967 when Jewish national sovereignty in Jerusalem was restored for the first time in nineteen centuries.
Although she survived the attack, she was demonized on Egypt’s talk shows for the violence she endured.
With the conclusion of the Syrian fiasco, the Obama administration had to turn it’s attention to a more imminent threat.
The Saudis are signaling that they will unleash a pre-emptive war in the Middle East.
The less you know about Islam, the better. Ignorance is strength.
The topics are “The Reagan Strategy,” and the “Iran Time Bomb.”
The fact that ObamaCare was sold with lies multiplies the political resonance tenfold.
Like his father, Lapid believed that the Hareidim, together with the Palestinians, are parasites.
Terrorists are not folks and Americans were not attacked but murdered in a despicable and cold-blooded act of terrorism.
Released prisoner: “[In prison] we’d chat, talk, eat, drink, joke and play throughout the day.”
It would still be too hazardous for an Arab government to accept Israel’s nationhood.
Ignoring the wages of “forgiveness” in South Africa and Gush Katif, Rabbi John L. Rosove usurps the Genesis story of Joseph and his brothers.
Singling out Israel is not only malevolent, it is absurd.
The term “apartheid” is often used by advocates determined to achieve their own goals for their own purposes.
The arrest of a businessman is part of a campaign by the PA to intimidate and extort money.
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 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.
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