I was recently asked why I am such a strong advocate of Jewish day high schools, even though I run an infant-through-eighth grade Jewish day school. As a former Head of School at a Jewish day high school, I’d like to share the three most important lessons about the value of a serious Jewish secondary education.
First, the main reason to enroll your child in a Jewish day high school is that adolescence is a turbulent time, and such schools provides a Jewish context for your child to go through adolescence.
Teenagers reject, challenge, question and doubt their Jewish identity (and their identity in general). A week of adolescence can wipe out a lot of elementary school tuition dollars. Jewish day high schools maximize the investment that you and your children’s teachers have made and help students to emerge Jewishly whole and strong.
Second, children who don’t want to continue in a day high school often say that they already know “enough” Hebrew and Judaics. We don’t accept that argument when it comes to math or English; would you believe the child who said, “As an eighth-grader, I know enough math already”?
You wouldn’t, and so we shouldn’t accept it when it comes to Hebrew and Judaics. We provide the foundation when the children are younger; the deeper questions lie ahead, and students will be unequipped to address them unless they continue their Jewish learning in a sophisticated way appropriate for their age.
Third, you will hear critics say that if you send your child to a Jewish day high school, he or she will never survive in the “real world.” The argument often sounds like this:
“How will he or she ever be able to deal with the open, diverse world of the university if he or she is sheltered in a day school all his or her life?”
The most perceptive insight that I’ve ever heard in response to this question was uttered by a 10th-grader at my former school:
“When I get to the university, I will have developed such a strong sense of who I am as a Jew that I will be able to contribute to that diversity,” he said. “And that’s only because of my Jewish day school education.”
Out of the mouths of babes comes the most powerful advice to us adults.
Remember, the choice of a high school is your decision. It’s simply too important an issue to leave to a child. We don’t ask our children whether or not they want an immunization or a dental appointment; if our children were to say that they don’t want to go to the doctor, we’d say either, “I didn’t ask you,” or “There’s no choice.”
Parenting decisions are a serious matter. You should make the decision on where to send your child.
I love our school, the Greenfield Hebrew Academy. I want to see not just our children, but all Jewish children, develop into passionate and committed adult Jews who are in love with their Judaism.
When I was Head of School of a Jewish day high school, I saw firsthand how a day high school solidifies a child’s path to Jewish adulthood. Atlanta is blessed with vibrant Jewish day high school options that can help pave that path.
BY RABBI LEE BUCKMAN / For the Atlanta Jewish Times
Editor’s note: Rabbi Lee Buckman is Head of School at the Katherine and Jacob Greenfield Hebrew Academy.