Source: Jewish Daily Forward
Day schools don’t last forever, but they should. Here’s the typical pattern: Parents send their kids to a day school. The kids graduate. The parents become uninvolved. The kids, well, they grow up. They get married, have kids and, if everything goes as hoped, send their children to day school.
This is a flawed model. The huge gap in a family’s active day school engagement is one reason that schools face such serious sustainability issues, and why they serve only a small fraction of the population. The solution to this problem — and perhaps to the problem of Jewish day schools in general — is that the schools need to think bigger.
Jewish day schools could be, like synagogues themselves, for the entire Jewish community. They should be the place where people come to study, a home for everything from early childhood education to traditional day school study, b’nai mitzvah prep and adult education. Imagined this way, day schools would have a much larger base and a much greater opportunity to build lifetime relationships. Why shouldn’t day schools take the lead in lifetime learning?
The secret sauce here will be synagogue-averse Jews. For them, congregational life isn’t part of the equation. While they won’t be swayed by a religious appeal, they just might go for a cultural one. An intellectual one. If these people were keyed in to the close, warm learning communities that day schools embody, it just might change the way in which Jewish life in America constitutes itself.
What would it take to expand our day schools’ area of operation? It would take some smart, vigorous programming. It would take people who understand local social networks. And it would take visionary educators who see why daring to place learning at the heart of Jewish life is exactly what’s needed right now.
Read more at the Jewish Daily Forward.