The Future for Jewish Day Schools
Our Jewish day schools are at a crossroads. On the one hand, we know that a day school education is one of the most effective forms of Jewish education: our alumni largely graduate with both deep Jewish knowledge and strong positive engagement that results in an active and engaged Jewish adult life.
On the other hand, day schools are struggling to be sustainable. Tuition feels unaffordable to an increasing amount of potential families, and perhaps equally as important, the value isn’t clear to most Jewish families today. Put another way, more and more Jews, despite wanting their children to be Jewishly knowledgeable and engaged, just do not feel day school speaks to them or is right for their family.
For this issue of Gleanings, we asked the top thinkers, leaders, and doers in the Jewish day school sector today to respond to three basic questions:
1. What does Jewish day school education look like today and what could it look like in the future?
2. Why is this important for our collective Jewish future?
3. What should day school leaders do to help us achieve the results we want?
What follows are their insightful responses that include how the value of day schools can be re-imagined to appeal to new and more families. The authors’ frank and direct arguments ask us to think more critically and optimistically about the power of effective leadership and how we can amplify what we already do well. They challenge us to get out of our comfort zones and more honestly and completely live our Jewish values. Our authors include Jane Tabuenfeld Cohen and Yossi Prager, who offer a view of the field from a national perspective, to many day school leaders in the thick of this work: Dr. Michael Kay, Nora Anderson, Dr. Bruce Powell, Benjamin Mann, Dr. Susie Tanchel, Rabbi Mitch Malkus, and Jerry D. Isaak-Shapiro. Dr. Ray Levi, the director of our Day School Leadership Training Institute (DSLTI) offers concluding thoughts, urging us to embrace and act on the critical conversations we need to have going forward.
Mark S. Young
Managing Director, the Leadership Commons