Saying “No” to Hebrew Day School

My kids attend a Jewish daycare/preschool program full-time, and they’ve blossomed under the Jewish instruction. Also, I’ve come to appreciate the support it gives me as a parent trying to raise Jewish children. There are Shabbat songs and Israeli folk dances and Shavuot art projects that are unknown to me because I converted as an adult. I like that my kids have something to add to our observance; when we sing songs for Friday night dinner, I love that they teach me about a shabbat dinosaur knocking on the door.

Since Eli will begin Kindergarten in the fall, our local Hebrew day school has started its sell on why our son would be a great fit for their school. In many ways, he is a perfect fit. But we won’t be sending him to the Hebrew day school, and instead he will attend a secular private day school. One that doesn’t teach about Shabbat dinosaurs knocking on the door.

I hadn’t really thought about how public our decision would be, until friends, day school staff, and congregants began to call us on the phone or cornered us in hallways and asked us to consider the Hebrew day school. Suddenly I’ve felt defensive about my decision, and I didn’t know how to respond without it sounding like I was saying, “My child is too good for this school.”

So my husband and I put our heads together and formulated a response that focuses on Eli’s best interests and stays far away from discussing why the Hebrew day school is NOT in his best interests. Hopefully people won’t believe that this is an indictment of the Hebrew day school. I don’t know if it will work. People are sensitive to these issues.

We are not turning our backs on Judaism or our local community, nor do we discount all we have learned from the past 3 years at a Jewish daycare. Still… I know it feels like a betrayal to some people, even though our decision was never meant to be.

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2 thoughts on “Saying “No” to Hebrew Day School

  1. I am the editor of a Jewish weekly newspaper. I’d like to talk to you more about your post. Could you be in touch with me at the above address?

    Thanks

  2. Hi Sarah,
    We followed the Jewish preschool and secular school path for our two girls (K-5 and K-3 respectively). While I am glad that they had exposure to other cultures and partook in American school culture in general (my husband and I both grew up in public education straight through college), I can’t help but wish I had enrolled my girls in our Jewish Day School from the beginning.
    We moved our eldest to the JDS experience for middle school, and quickly saw the benefits and moved our daughter the following year (despite her plea to change mid-year).
    It’s not about the improved Jewish education beyond the two hours in Sunday school ~ for us it was about the “whole child.” At our school the emphasis is on who each child truly is, helping them blossom into a caring, independent and critically thinking person who thinks about not just their community but the world. In addition to that (at which some secular schools excel), it was about values, ethics and personal relationships that in many ways cannot be compared at a secular school. We loved our elementary school but until we came to our JDS, we didn’t realize what was missing (not just that I was the only mom bringing in a menorah and latkes for Chanuka). There is a deeper connection not just for our girls but for our family – we talk about life and how our beliefs compare in everything from politics to the lunch table.
    Even though my husband is the ‘convert’ in the family (though his family fully supports his decision), we have both converted the way we think about education. You only have one opportunity to educate your children and sadly we cannot turn back the clock.
    You are right Sarah, everyone does get sensitive about these issues… only because we are passionate about what we hope to give our children and what we want to instill in them before they leave our nests. My only request is to leave your options open – I wish I had earlier.

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