Orthodox Education: A Holy Mess

Many withstand undue financial hardships in order to give their children a Jewish education and hope they will stay within the fold. But are Jewish children in the U.S. being taught what they need to know? With rates of assimilation at all time highs, we need to work on strengthening how we educate our youth:

They should review at least once, the entire Ta”Nach: Torah, Prophets and Writings. How can they become thoughtful adults if they aren’t taught the primary Jewish texts?

There are those that will argue that boys’ study of Talmud includes all. It doesn’t. It’s a shanda that the average yeshiva boy has little knowledge of who Ehud or Shimi or Yiftach were and why they should care.

Do they learn Hebrew grammar and language? How can they become life-long learners if they don’t know how to deconstruct what they are reading?

How comprehensive is their knowledge of Jewish History? Can they observe the world around them and draw on historical references and think critically about current events?

Have they learned any Jewish philosophy or only one dogmatic approach, which leaves no room for questioning or finding one’s own path within a Jewish framework?

How are they learning about modesty and sexuality? Is the school giving the children messages that parents are comfortable with? Should these matters be left for the home?

When teaching Jewish Law, do teachers explain a range of opinions?

Have they been exposed to any Jewish literature, music, poetry, cinema, arts or do they assume all of Orthodox culture begins with Lippa and ends with the Maccabeats?

Parents are often too harried working to pay tuitions to recognize that schools are not necessarily teaching children what they need to know. However, we cannot give children an Orthodox Jewish culture and expect them to stay committed out of a sense of guilt or community. We must review what they are learning and work to create strong modes of education.

This article is not criticizing any specific school, nor intended to insult anyone. We need to analyze the general direction of Jewish education in America today, and come up with solutions to help our children.

About the Author
Yael Levy holds a J.M. in Law & Religion from Emory University School of Law. She is the author of Brooklyn Love.
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