Yossi Prager (oped, Jan. 28) correctly identifies many of the issues facing Jewish education and the tremendous success day schools have had in instilling lasting Jewish identity. However, he incorrectly concludes that the approval of the Hebrew charter school in Englewood will decrease Jewish identity and possibly cause the demise of day schools.
The conclusion is incorrect because he is comparing the Hebrew charter school to a Jewish day school based solely on the “Jewishness” of the content. However, what he fails to understand is that the charter school represents another opportunity for parents to provide their children with a Jewish education. It is also clear that due to the additional hours spent on Hebrew and Judaic studies, this type of Jewish education will be vastly superior to the synagogue schools chosen by the majority of non-Orthodox Jews. For these students, their Jewish identity will be greatly enhanced. Moreover, there are many Conservative Jews who would gladly send their children to this type of Jewish school if it were available but are not willing or able to part with $10k to $20k per year, per child, for their children to attend day schools.
Though Orthodox families will always send their children to a Jewish school of some type, many of them cannot afford a day-school education. With an average of $12k per year for an Orthodox day school and a minimum of three children per family, this is a $36k per year post-tax (or $50k pre-tax) tuition bill. As a result, many families are (literally) mortgaging their homes and jeopardizing their retirements to pay for children’s pre-college education. To suggest that they should continue to make these financially precarious choices when another alternative, even if not quite as good, is available is the ultimate in hubris. Maybe Mr. Prager also believes that if accepted to an elite private school no student should forgo this and choose to attend Rutgers or Binghamton to save tens of thousands of dollars.
As in life, different choices are right for different families. These can be based on religious, political, financial, or social reasons. So too with this charter school. It is certainly not right for everybody, but it may be perfect for many.