Jewish day school enrollment in the United States is up 12 percent from five years ago, primarily due to growth in Haredi schools.
Then numbers present a scary picture of the future of non-Orthodox and non-Haredi-Hasidic American Jewry, who seem to be the only ones who seem to be able to attract parents to keep their children in a Jewish educational surrounding.
Nearly 255,000 students are enrolled in 861 Jewish day schools from the pre-K level through 12th grade, according to a new census of the schools conducted by the Avi Chai Foundation.
The day school survey, which has been conducted every five years since 1998-’99, found 59 more schools and 26,437 more students since the last study, in 2008-’09. Previous surveys found enrollment growth rates of about 11 percent in each five-year period.
The primary drivers of growth have been Hasidic students, whose enrollment has increased by 110 percent since the first census 15 years ago, and Haredi non-Hasidic yeshiva schools, which have grown by 60 percent since the 1998-’99 survey.
The challenge is “whether there will be sufficient resources to provide adequately for the growth in these two sectors,” said Marvin Schick, who conducted the survey for Avi Chai.
The Avi Chai survey counted the following approximately numbers:
— 82,000 students in 137 Hasidic schools;
— 76,000 students in 282 yeshivas;
— 46,000 students in 160 centrist or modern Orthodox day schools;
— 20,500 students in 97 community day schools;
— 12,600 students in 80 Chabad schools,
— 9,700 students in 39 Solomon Schechters;
— 3,700 students 13 Reform schools;
— 2,400 students in 19 immigrant/outreach schools;
— and about 2,100 students in 34 special education schools. A few of the schools counted in the survey include non-Jewish students.
Overall, 60 percent of all Jewish day school students in America are Haredi.
By contrast, enrollment in non-Orthodox schools is declining.
Reform day school enrollment is down 19 percent from five years ago, to 3,704 students nationwide; enrollment in the Conservative movement’s Solomon Schechter schools is down 27 percent from five years ago, to 9,718 students; and non-denominational community day school enrollment has slipped by 2 percent, down to 20,413 students, according to the census. Together, these non-Orthodox schools have just 13 percent of all day school students. In 1998, the proportion was 20 percent.
The number of centrist or modern Orthodox students has stayed flat since 1998, at about 46,000 students. The survey divided those schools into two groups: modern Orthodox schools, which are generally co-educational and have about 27,000 students across 83 schools, and centrist Orthodox, which are generally gender-segregated and have about 19,000 students spread out over 77 schools.
In the 15 years since Avi Chai’s surveys began, Conservative day schools have taken the largest tumble. The number of Solomon Schechter schools has dropped to 39 from 63 in 1998, and the number of students has shrunk 45 percent, to 9,700 from 17,700 in 1998.
Some of those departing students were lost to community day schools, which since 1998 have grown by 22 schools and increased enrollment by about 5,500 students.
The figures were self-reported by every known Jewish day school in the United States, according to Avi Chai. In all, 37 states and Washington, D.C., have Jewish day schools. The primary concentration of Jewish schools is in New York and New Jersey, where day school students number 190,195, roughly 75 percent of the nationwide total.
The states with the next-largest day school populations are California, with 15,270 students, Florida with 9,248, Maryland with 7,556 and Illinois with 5,248 students. No other state exceeds 3,200 day school students.