A recent conference held in St Louis Missouri concluded with great concern regarding the future of Jewish education in America, as well the community as a whole. The conference, composed of Jewish educators from all over the U.S.A., came to the conclusion that due to the high price of private Jewish day schools, and lack of direct parental involvement in their children’s Jewish education, it would only be matter of time until this would affect the ability of the Jewish Community as a whole to survive.
The conference, known as the Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education, and composed of more than 1,200 educators and administrative professionals noted that the high annual costs of day schools, running an average of $15,000 or more, was preventing all but the most affluent from seeking a Jewish education for their children. Scholarship programs for families in middle class income stratum were often not being accepted by many families simply because they felt uncomfortable in receiving them. As far as Hebrew School programs after regular public school hours, it has reached the point where parents only drop their kids off to them “on the way to the gym” or other secular activities. The parents, for the most part, do not even assist their children with their studies, including homework.
The main problem appears in establish a sense of purpose in providing educational goals in both day schools and afternoon Hebrew schools. Hebrew schools were singled out as having a number of problems including intense competition with extracurricular school activities, particularly sports. Many Jewish children who attend public schools, are involved in either school team sports activities afterwards, which require at lest two or hour hours of practice on a daily basis. Jewish community centers also have many non-educational activities in which children participate, with less time available for attending Hebrew School. In many communities, most Hebrew school attendance drops off considerably once a child has reached Bar or Mat Mitzvah age.
The main focus of the conference was to find ways to attract younger people into Jewish education. Current realities indicate an older group of Jewish educators, coupled with a community in which people are having fewer children and at an older age â€“ usually mid to late thirties. In light of this, the conference made efforts to attract younger participants, and to integrate modern technology, including Blogging and ‘virtual’ means of making Jewish education more interesting for students who are well versed in modern technology, as this may be one of the best ways to ensure the survival of Jewish education in the today’s information technology influence world.