Day schools aim to produce best Jewish students


Jewish day schools have much to celebrate. While in 1982 enrollment in day schools was 110,000, the latest figures put current enrollment at nearly double that. In May 2007, in collaboration with a team from Brandeis University’s Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies, the Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education (PEJE) released “The Impact of Day School,” the most comprehensive empirical study ever done on day school graduates. The statistics confirm what we have known anecdotally for some time: day school graduates are well-prepared and highly motivated, and they demonstrate levels of Judaic and civic engagement and strong Jewish identification that go well beyond their non-day school peers.

But what is it about day school education that creates successful, well-rounded graduates committed to Judaism?


Day schools offer a holistic educational experience which not only embraces general and Judaic studies, but which integrates the fullness that is Judaism into everyday living — encompassing culture, calendar, language, text, peoplehood, and traditional practices and skills. At day schools, students live a “whole picture” Jewish life in all its facets — religious, cultural, communal, intellectual, spiritual, and more.

Jewish day schools transmit lifelong values which are embedded in the very fabric of each school. Faculty and administration often serve as role models of these values in action. The values manifest themselves not only through the formal curriculum and daily routines, but also through co-curricular programs and often through the engagement of family around special milestone events and other celebrations.

The richness of Jewish day school education is helping to shape the Jewish neighborhood of the twenty-first century. Instead of mourning the end of the nostalgic Jewish neighborhood of the 1940s-50s, we are recasting it in the exciting learning and living communities that are unfolding regularly in day schools across the continent. Lasting childhood relationships and deep adult friendships are growing in the midst of the powerful sense of community found in day schools. Because day school graduates know the power of a community, they are prepared to help build them in the future. This point is underscored by research that shows higher levels of civic engagement among day school graduates.

Day schools are able to respond quickly to the unique and evolving needs and concerns of their stakeholders. Day schools are mission-driven and led by independent boards that are deeply invested in fulfilling their vision. Exempt from federal and local educational regulations and standardized testing, day schools are able to deliver educational excellence that fulfills their missions.

Finally, day schools have a powerful effect on students and families because, increasingly, they are accepted as an integral part of the landscape of communal Jewish organizations. Rather than islands unto themselves, day schools maintain and build strong connections with local synagogues, Jewish community centers, and other Jewish institutions. These synergies contribute powerfully to the overall influence of day schools.

As we return to our busy lives, of full weeks without holidays, let us take time to celebrate the uniqueness of Jewish day schools. Day schools are creating an educational environment that nurtures strong, involved, identified, and success-oriented graduates.