Jewish day school or public school? The decision is one that many of us faced or will face as we invest in our children’s future. Which is the Reform Jewish decision?
Every evening and morning we remind ourselves that we must ושננתם לבניך V’shi-nan-tam l’va-nei-cha make Judaism a living and breathing part of our children’s lives. Therefore we can be excited about Jewish day school (partnered with synagogue life and summer camp) to integrate Judaism into the core of identity. And too we can be excited about the opportunity of public schooling (partnered with synagogue schooling, synagogue life, and summer camp) to highlight Judaism’s call as a life-path through our diverse world.
I had not seriously considered day-school as an option until I arrived in Toronto. But in a recent visit to Leo Baeck Day School the Head of School, Eric Petersiel, did his job in reminding me of the many wonderful young adult graduates of LBDS that I meet every day. These are individuals that integrate Reform Jewish teaching and values – Hebrew, Zionism, and Social Justice to name a few – into their being. These fantastic young adults are actively involved in informed decision-making rooted in Reform Judaism. In partnership with parental modeling, synagogue life, and summer camping, Jewish day school creates a worldview where Judaism is normative and Jewish-living natural.
Yet I recently applauded the family in my Saginaw, Michigan congregation that moved into a lower-income school zone because they were distressed with the inequality they saw around them. For them supporting the public school system financially and through parent volunteer time is a statement of living Reform Judaism that they want to model for their children. And I know many students whose primary Jewish education took place in our services and in our Religious and Hebrew School at Holy Blossom Temple who are making informed Jewish decisions based on their life experiences. Bolstered both by a Jewish identity shaped by seeing what is unique in Judaism and how special it is to be a member of the Jewish People, these young adults are also fantastic Reform Jews.
ושננתם לבניך And you shall teach Judaism to your children. School provides an important foundation, but Judaism lives only in community. Regardless of which schools we all choose, I know that living an actively engaged Jewish life at Holy Blossom and URJ Camp George will go a long way towards developing all of our children’s Jewish skills, Jewish knowledge, and most importantly their attitudes towards Judaism, Israel, and the Jewish People.