The problem is well known: declining numbers of non-Orthodox Jews, an increase in intermarriage and eroding interest, especially among young Jews, in affiliation with traditional Jewish institutions.
And the solution for countering these trends is also fairly clear, according to studies: children who go to Jewish day schools, attend Jewish camp and have an Israel program experience while they are young are much more likely to marry other Jews and maintain their affiliation within the Jewish community.
In conversation with Erica Leventhal, executive director of Beth El Synagogue Center, where Levy belongs, Leventhal suggested something along the lines of a college fair, which offers an efficient way for students and parents to meet with a variety of educational institutions.
The result is the first collaborative community Jewish Day School Fair, which will take place Sunday, April 6, from noon to 2 p.m. at Beth El Synagogue Center in New Rochelle. Nineteen Jewish day schools and 13 Jewish camps from the tri-state area will participate; the event is co-sponsored by UJA-Federation of New York, Beth El Synagogue Center, the Jewish Education Project, The Jewish Week media group, and the Westchester Jewish Council.
Levy said the school/camp fair has the potential to be a “game changer.”
“How do you highlight the diversity of educational choices, and how do you look for ways to expand the day school population?,” Levy asked. “This is a way to highlight education by putting it in one place to be accessible. This is a way for day schools to work collaboratively with one another and to celebrate the diversity.”
Including Jewish camps with Jewish day schools is also a key element.
“With Passover approaching, how is this fair different from all other fairs?,” quipped Elliot Forchheimer of the Westchester Jewish Council. “This fair will bring together the triple crown of Jewish identity: Jewish day schools, Jewish camps, and Israel programs to inform the Westchester Jewish community and beyond of the myriad opportunities, spanning Jewish expression, available to help develop and deepen the Jewish identity of their children and in turn their grandchildren.”
Beth El Synagogue Center is located at 1324 North Ave., New Rochelle. (914) 235-2700.
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