Emily Kirschenbaum

Is a Better Education Worth Being Called a Spoiled Brat?

My husband makes fun of his sisters incessantly. But if anyone else were to say a bad word about them, he would defend them to the end. It’s called keeping it in the family and protecting your own.

I readily make fun of my son’s school. I mean — they are given a breakfast buffet that could rival just about any Israeli hotel. Their annual school trip is to England (as my older son likes to say — “He went to England and I went to Haifa…”). I could go on. 

But, when I saw an article that was published about the school in Ha’aretz, I was truly appalled. It’s abundantly clear that the purpose of the article was less to bash the school and more about the political leanings of the school’s founders, which is why I have no interest in writing a letter to the editor of Ha’aretz or in any way directly responding to the article.

I will be the first to say that I too wholeheartedly disagree with the founders’ politics. I will also say that until I read that article I had literally no idea what their politics were. It’s of zero relevance to me and it has never ever come up in the 10 years that my son has been in the school.

I’ve seen and heard countless comments – “oh, King Solomon? Isn’t that the rich kids’ school?” “Why would you send your kid to a school like that?” Again, I could go on.

The truth is, the school is not perfect. Far from it. But, it has been life-changing for my son. And I will defend it to the end (despite the occasional complaint that I may make;)). 

When my son entered our local public school, he was already labeled from kindergarten as “the bad kid.” He was constantly in trouble, everything he did was wrong, and no one ever took a minute to understand what might be the underlying causes of his behavior. 

My husband and I knew that he needed a fresh start and a few weeks before he began third grade, we heard that this new school had opened. Thus began a flurry of activity as we tried to figure out whether there was space, would he be accepted, and so on. 

Thinking back on that tiny little 8 year old who bravely left his best friends and the familiarity of his local school and headed into the unknown, I am filled with pride and thanks. Pride because my child was able to overcome his challenges and turn into the unbelievable person he is today and thanks to the school — and certain teachers and administrators in particular — who believed in him from day one and gave him the support and opportunities he needed to fulfill his potential. 

I will never forget the phone call from his fourth grade teacher who said: “Listen, today was a rough day, but I’m not punishing him. I know punishments don’t work with him — it’s much better to talk to him about what he did wrong and give him the chance to understand.” I was speechless. This was just so completely contrary to the experience we had in our local school (which, by the way, is in a city that is meant to have the top education in the country). A teacher who actually wanted to understand my kid, look at him as an individual and figure out the best way to help him? Something that SHOULD happen at any school, but just simply doesn’t. 

I’ve got three children and each has attended a different school so I feel somewhat qualified to make comparisons. There is no question in my mind that my middle son has gotten and continues to get an education that is just on a completely different level than my other two. Of course, it’s easy for a school with resources to make this happen. 

The thing that gets to me is this. In Jewish communities in the US (and I assume other countries), no one questions why someone would pay huge sums of money to send their kids to a particular school. In fact, in many communities in the US, the opposite is true and there is judgment around those who send their kids to public school instead of paying for Jewish school. 

Now, obviously I recognize that paying for Jewish school abroad of course comes from a place of wanting kids to have a Jewish education and in theory, we should be getting that for free (ish) in Israel. But the truth of the matter is that the state of public education in Israel is horrific. Huge class sizes, teachers who are not getting paid anywhere near their worth and consequently are always on the verge of (or are actually) striking. And while somehow so many Israeli kids end up successful adults, there are way too many kids who fall through the cracks and suffer through their formative years. 

I was not prepared to let that happen to my child and I will never apologize for that. I wish that education would be as much of a priority for the politicians as topics like security and judicial reform. But it isn’t. And I am so grateful that a school like King Solomon exists.

About the Author
Emily Kirschenbaum planned to spend one year in Israel 16 years ago...She now resides happily in Ra'anana with her husband, 3 Israeli-American kids and the cutest dog in the world. In her professional life, she runs a content marketing business ( with an awesome partner!
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