Why I send my children to Jewish day school, part I’ve-lost-count

zoesyrup.jpgI teach Kindergarten at the day school in our town, where my children attend Kindergarten and Second grade. On Tu B’shevat, we began a science unit about trees. As a culminating activity, this week we tapped two sugar maple trees, and have been gathering gallons of sap to boil down for maple syrup. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen my students more excited than the moment when we tapped the first tree and the sap literally burst out of the hole, like a horizontal Old Faithful.

The trees are on the periphery of the parking lot we share with the synagogue. I showed  the Religious School director, the tapped trees, which are gushing with more sap than we can possibly use in the Gan. 
“I wish we could do something with these in our school,” she sighed. “But what’s Jewish about it?”
As a day school educator, almost everything is Jewish about this experience. Reciting a shehecheyanu when we have our first syrup of the season, using the syrup to make treats for our Purim baskets, and just the sheer wonder of God’s creation. But that’s because I have the luxury (and I do mean luxury) of spending 35 hours a week with my students. We can weave Judaism into almost everything we do, if we choose to.
For our supplementary school director, who is a fine educator, it’s not so simple. If her teachers see children for only four hours a week, can she justify spending an hour of that time collecting and boiling down sap? Even if it’s one of the high points of a child’s year? Probably not.
Just another reason I’m sold on Jewish day school for my children’s elementary school years. I’ve written about some others here, and here, and here.
Which is not to say that we only do Jewish…
(although we did compare Chinese New Year celebrations to Jewish New year celebrations.)
Have you chosen Jewish day school for your children? Or have you chosen another route? I’d love to hear about your choices, and why/how you made them. Leave a comment, why don’t you?
Comments read comments(11)
post a comment

posted March 4, 2011 at 7:04 am

If I could teach at your school I would be unable to resist sending Froggy there as well

report abuse

Sarah Buttenwieser

posted March 4, 2011 at 7:05 am

Everything is Jewish, huh, Amy?
I loved this, especially the idea that everything is really, everything. Time is the gift that allows you to figure it out for yourself rather than have something jammed into you/told to you/deemed important. Lovely.

report abuse


posted March 4, 2011 at 8:01 am

We’ve chosen to send our children to Jewish day school (my son is in second grade and my daughter will start kindergarten there next year), and although we make a lot of financial sacrifices to do it, my husband and I have never regretted our decision.

report abuse

Kat Johnson

posted March 4, 2011 at 8:18 am

I would love LOVE to send my kids to Jewish Day school…but our Eliahu academy closed just as my oldest was starting kindergarten. It was a huge blow to our community, and has left a gaping, Gan-sized hole. Unfortunately, not many Jewish families here wish their children to attend full-time Jewish school. Its left us without much choice.

report abuse


posted March 4, 2011 at 8:20 am

I wish there was a Day school where a live.

report abuse

Amy Gutman

posted March 4, 2011 at 8:48 am

What Sarah said. :-)

report abuse


posted March 4, 2011 at 9:31 am

Excerpted from this post (
The high point of Simchat Torah came, for me, before the big song and dance number. Just before the ark is opened, many congregations participate in what I can only describe as a prayer version of “button button, who’s got the button.” A series of blessing “soundbites” – single lines from various prayers – are sung by various individuals around the room, and then rest of congregation sings the same line back. There’s no pre-arranged selection of readers. People just shout it out when the mood strikes.
In the middle of listening to our skilled congregants, I heard a young voice call out one of the lines. It was only halfway through this that I realized the singer was my 9 year old son. “Who’s been teaching this kid?!?” I joked out loud, to nobody in particular. Confident and proud, he sang a phrase I had never heard before in a tune that was unique to this particular day in the Jewish calendar.
So who’s been teaching this kid? These folks:
Just one year ago my two youngest kids started at a Jewish day school program with little more than public school education and a few sporadic visits to Junior Congregation during Shabbat morning services. In one short year, they have gained confidence, experience and fluency in both Judaics and general studies. My older son takes every opportunity to lead tefillah (prayer) both in and out of school. On his way down to Junior Congregation now, more often than not I hear him asking “Can I be the Rabbi this week?”. Each week at oneg, as the “old war horses of the shul” lead the the kiddush blessings, you will find my son standing along side them, cup of grape juice in hand, belting out “V’shamru”.
Abraham Joshua Heschel famously said that Jews build cathedrals in time where other religions build cathedrals in space. To that I would like to add that Jewish day school programs nurture souls who will feel at home in their Judaism, not just in a particular synagogue, community or movement.

report abuse

Jennifer in MamaLand

posted March 4, 2011 at 9:53 am

I had SO MANY of these moments while my kids were in Jewish day school. Two still are, though in high school, it gets way more academic.
Nevertheless, as religious day schools shift to the right, I’m sure there are quite a few that wouldn’t include Chinese New Year, or would consider time spent looking at trees to be just as silly, un-Jewish, and a waste of time as that afternoon-school principal did. That is one reason I’ve chosen to homeschool, rather than think about all the things I value that the school might not.
Apropos of Edible Torah’s comment, one of my favourite programs my older kids’ Orthodox day school used to do was an annual mishloach manot exchange – with the Reform day school right next door. That’s what it means to be at home with your Judaism, not just a particular movement; setting aside the BS to build bridges.
The Board of Jewish Education here also hosts intramural sports among the various denominational schools, as well as an annual Zimriya songfest and writing contest. There are too few of us in the world for us to NOT kick each other’s butts on the basketball court!

report abuse


posted March 4, 2011 at 10:02 am

Jennifer, I just want to clarify that Rabbi Rembrandt didn’t think it was silly or un-Jewish. I think she genuinely “got it”, but couldn’t justify it as part of a limited religious school curriuclum.

report abuse

Joanna Brichetto

posted March 5, 2011 at 8:06 pm

Love this–especially your inspired decision to fit in Purim connection— and completely agree. One of my favorite books is Maxine Handelman’s “What’s Jewish About Butterflies?” It’s for Early Childhood Educators, but parents (and Supplementary School educators) can learn a lot, too. Everything is Jewish.

report abuse

Even in Australia

posted March 16, 2011 at 4:14 pm

I send/sent my daughters to Jewish preschool and then public elementary school. I chose the preschool knowing they’d go on to public school and wanting them to have some Jewish background.
I feel very strongly about public school – my daughter’s kindergarten class has celebrated or will celebrate St. Martin’s Day (German), Sukkot (courtesy of yours truly), Chinese New Year, St. Patrick’s Day, and Purim (me, again, and some others), all because of parents coming into the classroom. That’s what I love about public school! (And I don’t know any other day schools that celebrate Chinese New Year.) This weekend (on Shabbat) we enjoyed the school’s International Day – children and their parents set up booths with information and crafts from their country of origin, there was great food, and an international fashion show.
For me, day school is just too insular. When my now-kindergartener was 4, she was shocked (not in a bad way, just very surprised) when I told her that most people in the world are NOT Jewish. I think that’s an important lesson to learn – and to live, every day.
I do regret that their Jewish education will not be as deep as if they had gone to day school but for me, that is outweighed by the advantages of (NYC) public school.

report abuse

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to and may be used by in accordance with the agreements.

Previous Posts

More blogs to enjoy!!!
Thank you for visiting Homeshuling . This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here are some other blogs you may also enjoy: Truths You Can Use Inspiration Report Happy Reading!!! ...

posted 9:57:03am Jul. 06, 2012 | read full post »

Teaching the Four Questions to young children
One of the greatest privileges of being a kindergarten teacher in a Jewish day school is having the opportunity to teach children to recite the four questions. Unlike almost anything else I teach them about Jewish ritual, this is "real work." ...

posted 7:36:03am Apr. 01, 2012 | read full post »

Guess what's Kosher for Passover (this will change your life.)
I'm not exaggerating. The bane of my Passover existence has been pareve baking. I cook a lot more meat during the holiday than I do the rest of the year, which means a lot more pareve desserts. Which has, up until now, usually meant margarine ...

posted 5:02:27pm Mar. 22, 2012 | read full post »

Why I love the New American Haggadah (and it's not just because I got to have a martini with Nathan Englander.)
I'm not a haggadah junkie. I know many Jews whose shelves are overflowing with numerous versions of the Haggadah - from the traditional Maxwell House to the not-so-traditional Santa Cruz - and whose seders are an amalgam of commentaries, poems, ...

posted 9:25:37pm Mar. 14, 2012 | read full post »

Best Hamentashen Ever, even better. And, a Purim opera.
This time of year, I'm always excited when I look at my google analytics and see that people have landed at my blog by searching for "hamentashen recipe". I love the idea of people all over the world making my great-grandmother's fabulous ...

posted 7:13:38pm Mar. 05, 2012 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.