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Jewish Day School?

Jewish Day School?


Dear Rachel,

Recently my husband and I have begun to increase our Jewish observance. From learning in our local Chabad house, we have begun trying to keep Shabbat and have started to eat only kosher food. We are hoping to very soon make our entire kitchen kosher as well. Our dilemma though pertains to schooling for our children. Our kids are enrolled in the local elementary public school, yet there are very few Jewish kids there. We have been debating whether to send our children to the Jewish day school, but it is Orthodox and we are not. I am concerned that if we keep our children in public school it will be hard for them to eat kosher food and not go to birthday parties on Saturdays, yet if we send them to the Orthodox school that they will not fit in as they are so new to anything Jewish. What do you suggest?


Dear Torn,

Firstly, mazal tov on your increased Jewish observance and the many incredible steps you with your family have taken in such a positive direction. You are fortunate that your children are young as you embark on this path of spiritual growth, as the older children are, the harder such changes are for them to incorporate in their lives. Young children are, for the most part, very flexible and can more easily adapt to new circumstances and situations.

There is no question that the longer your children remain in the public school setting, the harder it will be to switch them to a Jewish day school. Every year their friendships will only get stronger as well as their desire to remain where they are (unless of course they hate their school, but I imagine if that was the case this wouldn't be an issue for you at all!).

You will be able to say "yes" to their outings, friends, and events Transferring your children to a Jewish day school will have an incredible number of benefits, though it will not be without difficulties as well. The advantages are that your children will be surrounded by other Jewish children, will be learning about their heritage, will not need to worry about missing school for Jewish holidays, will have no issues with events or parties on Shabbat or kosher food at homes or gatherings, etc. Basically, your children will be in a situation where their Judaism will not be a detriment to their social and academic lives and where you will be able to say "yes" to their outings, friends, and events.

This is of monumental importance, because having children in an environment where you keep telling them "no" is very unfair and hurtful. It is hard, if not impossible, to put your children in a school where you are basically saying, "No, you can't go to that sports game; no, you can't eat that food; no, you can't go to the birthday party; no, you have to miss the play because it is on a Jewish holiday; no, no, no." You do not want Judaism to become a bunch of "no's" for your children or they will naturally come to resent their Judaism.

Speak to the school and explain At the same time, taking children out of a public school and putting them in an Orthodox day school will be quite a culture shock for them. Again, the younger the child, the easier the transition will be. However, I would highly suggest speaking to the school and explaining exactly your background and your situation, so that they can work with your children to help them adapt and feel comfortable. You children may also likely need additional help or tutoring in terms of Hebrew or their Jewish studies. The earlier you start this the better. From a social perspective, I would immediately start contacting other families in your children's classes and try to arrange play dates so your children can meet other kids and form friendships before school starts. Speak to the parents though and explain where your children are coming from so that they understand and are aware of how new this is for your entire family.

The Midrash teaches that kol ha'hatchalot kashot (cited in Rashi on Exodus 19:6): "all beginnings are hard." Yet we know that the greatest rewards come from our biggest challenges. This is a huge move on your part, but I have no doubt that by putting your children in a Jewish day school you will reap the rewards not only for years to come, but for generations to come. May you be blessed with an easy transition and continued strength as you grow in your Judaism!


"Dear Rachel" is a bi-weekly column that is answered by a rotating group of experts. This question was answered by Sara Esther Crispe.

Sara Esther Crispe, a writer, inspirational speaker and mother of four, is the Co-Director of Interinclusion, a non-profit multi-layered educational initiative celebrating the convergence between contemporary arts and sciences and timeless Jewish wisdom. Prior to that she was the editor of and wrote the popular weekly blog, Musing for Meaning. To book Sara Esther for a speaking engagement, please click here.
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Naomi brooklyn, ny August 9, 2011

i have been the child I am writing as a young jew who has lived a similar life that might make you change your decision. I am 23 years old and my parents were never really orthodox/religious but only kept some mitzvot. they sent me to a religious hebrew school for 23 years and i have them to thank and repay them for. my cousin on the other hand went to public school and has no connection to religion. Please!... Do whatever you can to send your kids to any type of yeshivah for they will greatly thank you in the end when their connected to their Judaism in a vibrant and active way.

I still have issues with my parents on religion, but we're working on it. I've learned so much. Reply

Anonymous August 9, 2011

Our Children Please send your children to a Hebrew Day School. Find one that is not Orthodox if need be, but for all your sakes, please put them in a Hebrew Day School starting this Fall. You can't ever know just how important that is to do for your children. The ramifications for good are endless and ever unfolding as they grow up. Take it from me. I know. Reply

Shulamit Melbourne, Australia August 9, 2011

To Anonymous,Far Rockaway That was beautiful! I shall always keep this in mind for my own life. Thank you so much! Reply

AZ MD August 9, 2011

another option It's not too easy to define our family. We keep Shabat and eat kosher in our house and out too. Yet our 4 boys (ages 5 to 14) are in public schools (elementary through high). All of their friends and teachers are aware about Shabat, kashrut, and holidays, the kids wear their kipas to school (most of the time :), and participate in sporting events and plays on weekdays. We chose this life, and our kids were a big part of the decision. The only downside is we spend our Sundays and afternoons doing Jewish studies, that the day school students do in school. Yet my kids do sports and play musical instruments, so, no loss here, either :) Reply

sue australia August 8, 2011

being a jew remember ones greatest rewards come from ones biggest challenges! never say I can't do this or that! always say I can and then you will! never give up on a good thing . good luck! Reply

Andrea Hershman hundingdon valley , pa August 8, 2011

Jewish Day School Our daughter went to a Jewish Day School and it was one of the best gifts we could have given to her. No matter how great the public scholol is (and ours is #1 inour area) Jewish Day School teaches children critical thinking. They will take that with them no matter where they or what they do in life. It sounds like a community day school is more for you, but you can make this work if you want to. Walk down the hall in public school you can hera a pin drop. In Jewish Day School the kids are talking and learning through languague. They learn to question and think for themselves the way our Rabbis questioned the Torah they learn to question with respect and thought. Then they will make up their own mind.

Yes I think a gift of Ethics and Critical thinking are wonderful things to give to your children. Think no more. Reply

Anonymous Far Rockaway, NY August 7, 2011

Reply to Tuvia So don't be Orthodox.

Be the best Jew you can be.

Keep Shabbos to the best of your ability.

Keep Kosher to the best of your ability.

Try to pray to G-d, with a minyan if possible, from your heart, daily.

Serve G-d with love.

Perform His Mitzvos with joy.

Don't stick a label on it, just go with the flow.

You will see that any barriers you may have felt stood in your way have evaporated into thin air.

As the saying goes, "Make G-d a space as small as the eye of a needle, and it will eventually be big enough to drive camels through." Reply

tuvia brooklyn, ny March 20, 2011

conundrums... I spend time with Chabad. I enjoy it. But I am not that typical a person -- while I feel very Jewish, and feel most comfortable with Jews, I can easily feel I am ODing on Yiddishkeit.

There is a big part of me that knows I don't have what it takes to live an orthodox life. It makes me feel bad -- why can't I do it? I always feel like I cannot.

So what to do? It is a bad feeling. I can't be orthodox. Now what?

Tuvia Reply

Lisa Providence, RI January 9, 2011

Jewish Day School You can send your children to an Orthodox Jewish Day School, but they may or may not like it or be able to adjust to it. Becoming Orthodox Jewish means making sacrifices, but are they the sacrifices you want for your children? What if they can't handle it and want their "old" lives back?

I'm sorry, but Orthodox Jews can't live "normal" lives like everyone else because it's a life with more restrictions than necessary placed on them. Some people can't handle living that way, whether they're born into it or not.

You have to talk to your children about this. Sometimes, people try new lives and and it doesn't work out.


Ezza Amitai Melbourne, Australia August 24, 2009

Jewish day School Great advice Sara!

Thanks for sharing in such a concise yet in-depth way - I'll remember your advice for when I B"H have kids.

V'Chodesh Tov Reply