The Value of a Jewish Education

A fellow Head of School in Houston, Texas wrote a wonderful article about day school education. He made many wonderful points that give food for thought when considering the importance and value of a Jewish Day School education. I share one paragraph with you that answers the question that I am so often asked, “How do you make up for the time you spend or waste on Judaic subjects and the Hebrew language?”
If you are an admissions directors or head of school, do you find yourselves saying “We’re a fifty-fifty school”; or, “We’re a seventy-thirty school” [meaning, fifty percent general studies; fifty percent Judaics, etc.]. If you say those things, then stop saying it right now.

When you say those things, you are feeding a glass-half-full mindset. Why is it wrong to say we’re fifty-fifty? Because we’re not fifty-fifty; we’re one hundred—one hundred. We are 100% academic all the way through: studying Hebrew language? Studying Torah?

That’s all part of a 100-100 school. We are overwhelmingly and powerfully academic. I will submit that our Judaic component, when delivered effectively, offers a more penetrating academic strand of experience for our students than our other subjects, because in Torah studies we are learning foundational literature, and we are inculcating an approach to text and stories that highlights meaning, metaphor, theme, perspective and relevance. These are the ingredients of the best of critical thinking.

As for Hebrew language—the research is quite cogent about its brain development value. When you consider the nature of Judaic and Hebrew studies—when you factor in the community-wide environment of this branch of learning—and then you couple this with the depth-not-breadth mandate of our educational structure and mission, we are indeed taking positive steps to grow stamina in ways that render our sister, non-sectarian schools bereft.”

Tom Elieff, Head of School
Beth Yeshurun Day School
Houston, Texas

I’m actually a bit embarrassed that I am one of those that answers 65%/35% when asked how much time we spend on Judaic and Hebrew subjects. He is so right. The whole idea of a Jewish day school is to pervade the whole day with the spirit of Judaism.

On the other hand, all the time the students are immersed in Jewish discourse and the study of Hebrew promotes and sharpens all of the skills needed in general studies. For example, Morah Rochel from Kindergarten just came to tell me that the children are making their own Purim Megillah in a Writing Workshop model.

The very skills that Ms. Otte in the Kindergarten general studies room are learning, are being reinforced in the most meaningful way, through the learning of their Jewish history and heritage, the holiday of Purim. In the fifth grade, the bar or bat mitzvah speeches are written in the Judaica classroom, edited and revised in the general studies classroom, presented with the help of the art classroom, and to top it all off, public speaking skills are taught and supported in all of the classrooms. Integration, time utilization, and relevant learning can’t get much better than that.

There is no other school, other than a Jewish day school that can offer this type of breadth and depth of education. I thank G-d every day for giving me the opportunity to be a part of providing our students with the stellar education at CJDS in both in Jewish and General Studies.