The story of the Ben Sorer U’Moreh (Wayward Child) which can be found in Parshat Ki Tetze (Dvarim 21:18-21) is every parent’s worst nightmare. A child who won’t listen to his father or his mother, is removed from the city, judged to be guilty and stoned to death. Although the Talmud (Sanhedrin 71a) states that there was never a case that was so bad that the child had to be stoned, the fact that this is in the Torah reminds us that we have to do our best to educate our children on the right path.
The right path does not have to be the expensive path.
With the start of the back to school season, there has been a lot of talk about the high tuition prices of Jewish day schools in the United States.
Twelve and a half years ago, my husband, Josh and I decided that we didn’t want to pay sky high prices for the same education that we had growing up in New York and Montreal. We wanted to fulfill the values that we were taught in day school by moving to Israel.
We packed up our 4-and-a-half-year-old and a new baby and started anew in Jerusalem with a large choice of schools. At that time, kindergarten was free. Now 3- and 4-year nursery schools are free as well.
For first grade, we chose Efrata, the local Dati Leumi (national religious) public school. Although it is a public school, there are still some fees which amount to a few hundred dollars a year.
In addition to the national religious school, there is also a secular public school as well as a TALI school which brings Jewish culture into the school without officially being religious. For those who are looking for something out of the box there are schools where religious and secular students study together as well as a school which integrates Jewish and Arab children. There are also Chardal (Charedi Dati-Leumi) and Charedi schools. Special education and special needs integration programs are also available for those who qualify.
Once the children hit junior high and high school, the fees go up in the religious schools (as they increase the hours) to about $2000 a year per child.
The classes in Israeli schools are large, with thirty-something students per class yet the students have all kinds of special classes and enrichment programs including music lessons where students learn to play the instrument of their choice for a nominal fee. Students who speak, read and write English study in advanced English for English speakers classes. There are even high schools for students who have just made aliya to help them slowly adjust.
For families who are willing to move to Israel, I suggest researching the schools in the city that you are considering moving to. Not every community has such a wide range of choices as Jerusalem but all you need is the school that is right for your child.
The future of the Jewish people is in Israel. The more people make aliya from the United States and Canada, the more North American values will be introduced. Israel is especially looking for English teachers so if you are looking for a career move you could really help Israelis of all ages brush up on their English.
In Mishlei, Proverbs 22:6 we are taught: “Chanoch lanaar al pi darko”, “educate your child in the way that suits his or her own unique nature”. There is no better place to do that than in Jerusalem.