Oy Bay!

"My heart is in the east, and I in the uttermost west." — Yehudah Ha-Levi

Where do we foster the future?

Posted by lchaimlover on July 26, 2007

 Disclaimer: This article was written based on the sources of parents and community members. I did not actually speak to anyone at the schools, so please contact them for more information, do not take this as the absolute word. 

Granted most of us don’t have kids, yet, but it’s never too early to start thinking about the future. While we may not have kids, our demographic of Jews may prove to be quite influential, the question of where we will put our children is all ready very important to the educators of the Silicon Valley. Want to raise your kids Jewish? Great, so where are you going to send them?

I recently had a conversation with someone who asked me just that question. I did a little research, and even went digging among the parents of the community.

purim.jpg

Jewish children putting on a Purim play

If you want to raise your kids more traditionally, the obvious answer is South Peninsula Hebrew Day School, but critics of the school say that not only do the classes get smaller as the kids get older, but it’s not very diverse. And supposedly, the emphasis on secular education is also not top priority. While proponents of the school claim that the Judaica and Hebrew program is phenomenal. One parent said, “It is a very warm environment and the families are wide mixture of Israeli’s, Americans, Religious and non-religious.”

Now if you want a little less religion and a lot more school, Yavneh Day School may be the way to go. As a former employee, I can say that the educational aspect of Yavneh is very good. But if you are looking for more traditional fare, the strictly egalitarian Yavneh, from kippahs to teffilin folks, may not be for you.  Another drawback of Yavneh, is that while it is settling into a solid school, the staff is not as stable as one would like to see. Despite that, parents and kids love the place. One parent said, “We feel as we belong to a warm community, provided with excellent teachers and academics, and a wonderful Hebrew / Judaic program.”

And then a friend asked me, where can my kid just be Jewish and learn about being Jewish. I’m still not sure what that meant, but if you do, then maybe Gideon Hausner is the place for you. It is condemned by critics as being “Jew-lite” but it is said to be a great private day school.  One parent said, “…the resources are amazing and it has more of a school feel to it, with sports teams and an amazing library, music room, art room, computer lab etc.”

Think that Jewish school isn’t necessary? Think that you can do all the Jewish at home, and send your kid to public school. 10 years ago, 80% of Jewish children were in public schools, and while the JCRC advocates this, in order for Jews to keep a strong relationship with the non-Jewish community, is that the best choice? Some critics of public school for Jewish children say that this weakens the child’s bond with the Jewish community, and if Judaism isn’t taught at home, will the child get enough at synagogue (assuming the child goes to shul).

Fortunately, as one blogger put it, we can choose to vary our child’s education, choosing both Jewish and public schools if we wish. But all agree, that choice is definitely an important one.

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3 Responses to “Where do we foster the future?”

  1. FriarYid said

    SPHDS’ two big issues are related. While they have a big bump in population in their kindergarten, it will take a while for this group to advance through the ranks. In the meantime, it’s hard for them to attract students from elsewhere until they improve their secular curriculum. I know they’re committed to doing this, but I’d definitely agree that in comparison to Hebrew and Jewish studies, it seems to get short shrift. Supposedly the last time their secular curriculum was overhauled was in the mid-90s.

    I have some theories about this. One includes the fact that, in addition to the primary concern of the parents is on the kids going to Jewish school, most of the top administrators, including the principal, come from a Jewish studies background, not a secular one, which means they’re probably in a much better position to judge things like Hebrew or Talmud curriculum or progress than say, civics. (Just as a science-focused school whose top people come from the hard sciences might not be entirely on top of English or History curriculum.) It’s not so much a religious thing as what your educational background is. The makeup of SPHDS’ staff and admins is obviously going to both reflect and impact the direction of the school and the evolution of its curriculum.

  2. minsky said

    The JCRC position mentioned speaks of vouchers, and the necessity of separating church from state:

    “A strong public education system is essential for citizens to learn common societal values and respect for those who come from different backgrounds in our pluralistic society.”

    This position, may be outdated. The greatest threat to the veil between church and organized religion, is ignorance. California public schools are the worst in the nation, and if attending them is essential for the cultivation of common societal values, this means attending them is value-less. The “different backgrounds” are generally taken to mean indoctrinating children with watered down common-denominator polically-correct positions of general ignorance.

    With the dropping quality and questionable politics of public schools, it can no longer be inferred, that they produce responsible and literate citizens. Sending your child to a Jewish school may do just that. As the best separation against church and state is education, the JCRC position is no longer tenable.

  3. Oyster said

    You read it here first, folks. LchaimLover is advocating that we give our children up for Foster care. In fact, I’m sure that an average non-Jew could raise a child Jewish better than most Jewish parents.

    Wait a minute… that *IS* what’s going on! Thank you, intermarriage! 😉

    Okay, before y’all self-righteous dudes jump down my neck (wawawewa!), just take a chill-pill.

    As many more eloquent a J-blogger has said before me, we need to start investing all our money towards heavily subsidizing Jewish day-school education. Nothing is more effective at raising Jewish kids who have ‘Yiddishekeit’. Care about the future of the Jewish people? Aside from Israel, giving money to the ADL and additional Holocaust museums is nice & all, but they are second-fiddle to Jewish education. The generation of Jews who stop making Jewish education a top-priority is the generation of Jews who decided to commit societal suicide.

    The SF JCRC is dead wrong. As Minsky very clearly pointed out, having Jews go to public school on principle is a waste of time. I went to a California public school, and I can tell you that to get a quality education I had to fight to get out! If we can just make the cost affordable for the average Jewish household, then we can encourage Jewish kids to be proud of their heritage and foster life-long friends & contacts that will help keep Judaism relevant to their lives.

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