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Parents: The Reason Hebrew Schools Fail

In theory Hebrew schools are a great idea. A heavy dose of secular subjects in the morning and a nice light sprinkling of Jewish wisdom in afternoon sounds like a fine balance for the well-rounded Jewish child. But, as we know, theory and practice are two different things. On the ground Hebrew schools are not working.
But what’s not working isn’t the teachers, the curriculum, or the students, it’s the parents. The truth of the matter is that the parents themselves don’t want to spend the time taking their kids back and forth three times a week to a synagogue that they themselves show up to no more than five times a year. For a number of years, parents have been at the forefront of rolling back Hebrew school time for their children. More than the kids, the parents are the one’s who have pushed for Hebrew school to adopt a once-a-week schedule (down from three days a week). To be honest, I am at a loss for what will make Hebrew schools work, but I do know for certain that unless parents are behind them they will go nowhere.

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posted November 4, 2007 at 9:31 pm

Maybe the synagogue needs to change with the times. A lot of the religious organizations realized that with both parents working and pressing childrens scheuduales, that the way we used to worship and learn doesn’t work for todays familes.

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Adrian A. Durlester

posted November 4, 2007 at 10:03 pm

I posted this response on my blogs: or
While, as a religious school administrator, my first reflex upon seeing the title of this article was “yay, finally somebody who will say it out loud!”, upon further reflection, it’s a rather simplistic, perhaps even naive and dangerous view.
We do need the parents to be more active and enthusiastic, no doubt. and yes, I do believe that Jewish education in supplemental schools has gotten better. “We’re not your parents’ (or grandparents’) religious school” Yet to simply lay the blame solely at the feet of parents is to abrogate responsibility. We must involve all stakeholders in solving this problem. And we all do share some of the blame.
Parents must be involved, must be insistent, and willing if supplemental Jewish education is to work. If they are not, is it entirely their fault? Of that I am not sure.
Yes, I wish more parents would place greater emphasis on spiritual nourishment for their children than on soccer. If they are not, is that their failing, or ours?

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laura t mushkat

posted November 6, 2007 at 1:16 pm

You are obviously talking about Hebrew Day Schools-these are parochichial schools where if the price is right your child gets a great secualar anr religous education. The things that are in public schools, such as computers and other tech things kids use nowadays are there. What can be wrong with that.
The Sunday Hebrew School things are for those who want their kids to go to public schools or do not know many Day Schools have “scholarships” for those who can not pay. These kids are taken to Sunday School and attend during the week.
Both types are thriving where I live in upstate New York and expect that they are doing well elsewhere as well as long as the mothers and fathers care enoough.

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Marian Neudel

posted November 6, 2007 at 1:26 pm

Can people please stop using the word “parochial” to describe Jewish day schools? “Parochial” means of or related to a parish, and a parish is a geographic unit of a Catholic, Orthodox Christian, Anglican, or sometimes Lutheran church [or a county in Louisiana.} “Parochial” also, of course, means narrow-minded and provincial, but one hopes nobody who talks about “Jewish parochial schools” had that in mind.

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Leslie Cole

posted November 7, 2007 at 1:08 pm

The problem is that Hebrew schools don’t change with the times. As one of the posters so well put it, things have changed and the demands on the family are different than they were in the ’60’s and ’70’s, when I went to Hebrew school. Teaching the same curriculum in the same way, as many of them do, just doesn’t work. Like it or not, kids have a much heavier dose of homework at a much earlier age and many more academic pressures. It is time Hebrew schools made more of an effort to keep kids’ interest. I have seen a big difference with my daughter, who is now about 6 months away from her Bat Mitzvah, between teachers who are responsive and teachers who are not. Problem is,they are restrained by an old-fashioned curriculum. This is the main reason that after 10 years of membership in our temple, we are seriously thinking about a change.

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posted November 7, 2007 at 8:07 pm

The problem is that a hebrew school once a week for a couple of hours is not enough to raise a Jewish child. We as Jews need to realize how important a Jewish education is for our future generations. Assimilaton is one of the biggest problems we face. Most Jewish children (and for the most part their parents) have no idea what being Jewish is all about or why it is so special. If they have no background and no pride why would Judaism be important to them. A Jewish day school addresses this problem but the cost is a problem for most people. Even with schlorships the tuition is alot higher than other schools of other religions. This is due to the fact they get funds from various places, whereas Jewish schools get funds from few organizations. We as a community need to donate to our local Jewish Day School, if we care about our future.

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posted November 10, 2007 at 10:29 am

In my experience the problem with our synagogue’s religous after-school, three day a week, education, had little or nothing to do with its schedule or demands upon my son or my time. As a New Yorker, living in a multi-cultural neighborhood, my son has grown up with friends and classmates of all racial and ethnic backgrounds. As such, at age 10, he rebelled against the indoctrination of the Rabbi and the teachers who insisted he see Jews as better than Christians and certainly better than Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, etc… His best friend is a boy who is Roman Catholic. He came to me with this question: “Am I better than Johnnie, because I am a Jew?” Also, he was told that if he questioned the existence of G-d, he didn’t belong in a Jewish center–quite contrary to what he was being taught at home.
My son was told that every Paelstinian child has no other thought but to kill Jews. Every Palestinian parent has no other goal but to raise a Jew killer. And that every Jew wants nothing but Peace.
When I questioned their teachings and recriminations against a smart, thoughtful and inquiring ten-year-old boy I was told that all Jews believe in G-d. That’s what makes them Jews. we were told if he continued to question, he should no longer attend.
What to do? I left the congregation in anger when the High Holy Day sermon was directed at me and my son for questioning, which to me is the essence of learning and the soul of Judaism.

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