Just over a year ago I wrote on this blog about my daughter, Lucy, who was leaving our local Jewish community day school after first grade. I have been planning this “one year later” blog post for quite some time – and yet, when I go to put pen to paper, I don’t know where to begin.
So I’ll start with this: Lucy is doing great. She adjusted quickly and easily to public school. She is happy and confident and more than a few adults who know her have commented that “she is a different kid”.
For the first time in 115 years, Rosh HaShanah occurs just after Labor Day and coincides with the beginning of school for children and teachers in many states across the country. While Rosh Hashanah is always a time for reflection, this Jewish New Year provides us with a unique opportunity.
Editor's Note: Yesterday, we highlighted a response to regular blogger Meredith Englander Polsky's piece about how she pulled her daughter out of Jewish day school. Click here for the original post and here for the comment; below is Meredith's response to the comment.
Thank you - I appreciate your response. I agree that this school (and probably Jewish Day Schools in general) face a real challenge as pressure grows to be as academically challenging as a Sidwell Friends or a Georgetown Prep. I would argue, though, that a day school's mission, then, needs to be clear. If that's the goal - to attract and retain families who would otherwise choose a Georgetown Prep - then make that explicit. Then parents know what they are choosing, and the school rejects students who will not rise to those academic challenges - probably (statistically speaking) 20 percent of currently enrolled students. (Clearly, this is not something I'm advocating.)
Editor's Note: An anonymous commentor wrote this in response to Meredith Englander Polsky's piece, about how even she, the founder of an organization that fights for the right to a Jewish education for every child, had to pull her own daughter out of Jewish day school. Tomorrow, we'll post her answer to this comment.
As a parent with children in the Jewish day school Meredith is referring to, CESJDS, we have had a very positive experience, even though our kids are also not round pegs going into round holes either. Each parent knows their own child best and I have no doubt about that the frustrations many have expressed here are real.
In 19 days, my daughter will complete her last year of Jewish day school. I had many visions in my mind for this moment: Seeing her in a cap and gown with friends she’s known since kindergarten; finding the picture of her eating ice cream with a little boy in first grade and placing it next to their prom picture; feeling pride that although we made sacrifices, my husband and I provided a solid Jewish education to our child.
And some of those visions may have become reality, if not for the fact that Lucy will turn seven just before her last day at Jewish day school. She is completing first grade, not 12th.
I always assumed I would raise my children as Reform Jews, just as I had been raised. Actually, when I was growing up, I considered our family "observant Reform." We went to temple every Shabbat and holiday. My father was president of our congregation; my mother chaired innumerable committees and my sister and I served as youth group presidents. We were proud Jews, but liberal ones. Few people in our synagogue (ourselves included) kept kosher or wore kippot. In college, I was one of the few Hillel regulars who needed to learn the Birkat Hamazon. Some years after college, when my husband and I married, we joined a Reform congregation, fully expecting our own new family to follow a similar path.