In lieu of this week’s dvar Torah, I wanted to share an article about the issue of choosing a Jewish High School. For many of elementary school parents with children in a Jewish day school, the decision about where to send your child for high school is far in the future. But for others, the decision is at “center ice”, or at least on the playing field. I know that the decision is one which is complex and must be tailored to the needs of the individual child. I am aware of the unique challenges in our Montreal community as well. What I ask is that you give this decision serious thought and careful consideration. The gift of Jewish education that you have decided is a priority for your children needs to be ongoing. As we begin our well-deserved holidays, please take the time to think about the tremendous educational basis that you are giving your kids here at Akiva. The love for Judaism, Jewish history, Hebrew Language and Jewish values is being instilled in your children daily. Bringing up a Jewish child involves three partners – the home, the school, and the community. A commitment to Jewish education will strengthen all of these.
“The Value of a Jewish Day High School Education” by Rabbi Lee Buckman, Headmaster Tannenbaum CHAT, Toronto
One of the frequently discussed topics in the Jewish community is day school affordability. The high price of day school education, it is argued, is the main reason why more families do not send their children to Jewish day school. Allow me to shift the conversation from price to value and explain why a Jewish day high school education, for example, is indispensable.
First, a Jewish day high school education demonstrates to teens how Judaism addresses complex issues. A Jewish day high school teaches Bible with the same level of sophistication as Biology. It teaches the laws of tsedakah with the same intellectual rigor that it teaches the laws of physics. A day high school education ensures that students are equally literate in two civilizations: western and Jewish.
I often hear students in Middle School say that they do not want to continue in a day high school because they already know enough Hebrew and Judaics. Jewish parents do not accept this argument when it comes to math or English and should not when it comes to Hebrew and Judaics too. A young child simply does not understand that deep questions lie ahead, and they need to be Jewishly equipped to grapple with them.
Second, a Jewish day high school education helps children create meaning. Adolescence is a turbulent time, and a Jewish day high school provides a Jewish context for children to travel through adolescence. Teenagers reject, challenge, question, and doubt their Jewish identity. A Jewish day high school education places them in an environment where peers are asking the same questions under the guidance of teachers who can help them find meaning.
Finally, a Jewish day high school education empowers students to contribute something unique and valuable to society around them. I sometimes hear critics say that if you send your child to Jewish day high school, he or she will never survive in the “real world.” The argument often sounds like this: “How will my child ever be able to deal with the open diverse world of the university if he/she is sheltered in a day school all his life?” A former high school student of mine once responded to this question saying, “when I get to the university, I will have developed such a strong sense of who I am as a Jew that I will be able to contribute to that diversity. And that is only because of my Jewish day school education.” What a profound insight!
Most children are not so perceptive, which is why the choice of a high school is a parenting decision. It is too important a decision to leave up to a child. We do not ask our children whether or not they want an immunization or a dental appointment. Likewise, we should not hand over to a 13 or 14 year old child the decision where to go to high school.
Yes, day school affordability is an issue. However, becoming a passionate and committed adult who loves his or her Judaism is priceless. That is where the discussion needs to focus.