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June 03, 1988 - Image 26

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-06-03

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

I CLOSE-UP

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26

FRIDAY, JUNE 3, 1988

A Jew In School

he Reform movement
has, from its inception,
championed the notion
that one should be a Jew at
home, but a person in the
outside world, that one's
Jewishness should not in-
terfere with integration in-
to the larger society.
That has long been the
guiding principle behind
Reform arguments against
Jewish day schools, which
would dilute support for the
public school system, the
common pool of American
society.
Now another Reform tenet
is being used to argue the
case for day schools — the
concept of choice.
"Reform Jewish children
should have the option of an
intense Jewish education,"
argues James Jonas, who
heads the committee draf-
ting plans for a local Reform
day school.
In an age when Jewish
culture and traditions are
no longer passed down in
the home, many Reform
Jews, like Jonas, see day
schools as the vehicle to
educate the next generation
and create a young cadre of
Reform leaders.
Members of his committee
are putting together a board
of directors for the school —
as yet unnamed — which
they hope to open in
September 1989.

Organizers hope the
school will attract secular
Jews as well as a Reform
constituency drawn from
Detroit's six temples. Jonas
says a critical mass of
families already exists to
form the school, which will
begin with younger grades
and grow year by year to
eventually include the sixth
or eighth grade.
The committee has leased
space at the Jewish Com-
munity Center in West
Bloomfield as an initial site
for the school, Jonas says.
Fund-raising is under way,
as are requests for seed
money and permanent fun-
ding from the Jewish
Welfare Federation.
The Reform school will dif-
fer from its Conservative
and Orthodox counterparts
in its approach to cur-
riculum. While the latter
two split the day between
secular and Hebrew studies,
the Reform school will offer
a secular education with an
"integrated" Jewish cur-
riculum, according to Dr.
Margaret Eichner, who will
be the school's headmaster.
Eichner also serves as Tem-
ple Emanu-El's director of
education and youth
activities.
History classes will reflect
how Jews affected the period
of time under study, she ex-
plains. A science class might

T

deal with Tu B'shevat and
the environment. Ethics and
values will be stressed and
there will be "an infusion of
Reform philosophy in the
curriculum," Eichner adds.
So strong was traditional
Reform antipathy to private
education that this en-
thusiastic push to open a
day school might seem like
an abrupt aboutface to the
casual observer. Not so, says
Jonas, who describes the
change as part of the evolu-
tion of Reform Judaism.
Not everyone favors a
Reform day school. Rabbi
Ernst Conrad, founding rab-
bi emeritus of Temple Kol
Ami, rails against the
school's inherent "elitism?'
"This school will be
discriminatory against
those of other religions,
races and creeds," he argues.
If parents wish to send their
children to private schools,
they should pay for it
themselves and not depend
on funding from private
sources such as the Jewish
Welfare Federation or on
public funds, he adds.
For Rabbi Conrad, timing
away from public education
is tantamount to losing the
Reform soul. "I do not think
the educational gains are
comparable to the spiritual
losses:'
— D.H.

4

Three Rs

Continued from preceding page

lassrooms full of kip-
pah-topped boys and
girls in skirts are a far
41.
11104%
cry from the masses of Jews
in earlier generations who
jammed public schools in
their race to become
Americanized. Not long ago,
litfrt
Jewish day schools were
almost universally viewed
as islands of parochialism in
an otherwise progressive
sea of public education. No
*it*
*
more, says Rabbi Abramson.
"People want to give their
kids a meaningful education.
Day schools
Many are beginning to see 41°°°
up 145%
day schools as a viable alter- Hebrew schools
native. Third- and fourth- down 48%
generation American Jews
have no hangups about sen-
ding their kids to a day
school," he says.
For Orthodox Jews, an
education without intensive
Hebrew and Torah study is in- Nationwide Enrollment in Day Schools
vs. Hebrew Schools, 1958-1983.
adequate in providing the

C

g

tools for study and observance
of mitzvot later in life.
For the less observant,
Americanization is no longer
the drive: to fit in; rather it is
the frightening spiral of
assimilation, alienation and
the rapid loss of Jewish
identity.
"Jewish home and at-
mosphere no longer exist. On-
ly the education now exists,"
explains Rabbi Samuel
Cohen, principal of the Sally
Allan Alexander Beth Jacob
School for Girls, the girls'
component of Yeshivath Beth
Yehudah in Beverly Hills.
"The only thing that's going
to stop assimilation is being
a knowledgeable Jew."
"Twelve years ago I believ-
ed in the concept of a public
school education, but public
schools have changed," ex-
plains Sonia Pone, whose two
children attend Hillel. "Kids



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