In response to David Jacobowitz’s May 29 letter, I did not state that Jewish day schools were formed to prevent integration. I was referring to the divisiveness within the Jewish community that has created barriers between secular and Orthodox Jewry. And I thank Yonah Hirshman for validating the success of public schools mixed with Jewish education.
I was an observant child who lived in Teaneck during the early years of integration. We were then quite a large group of Jewish children in these very public schools, which were fine if not superior in education. After school we did participate in Hebrew/Jewish programs, we attended synagogue on Shabbat and chaggim, and also belonged to Zionist youth groups. Our immersion was fairly generous without expending huge amounts of money that our families did not possess to construct a yeshiva in our neighborhood.
We played with children who were our school friends, regardless of their ethnicity or religiosity. If anything, my Jewish feelings were strengthened by the mix, not diluted, nor did I, or any of my friends, become “immersed in a hedonistic secular culture.” I was one of the few who made a life for myself in Israel after graduation, because this is how strong my feelings towards Judaism were. Yes, I wanted total immersion in a Jewish culture.
Ultimately, one cannot live in a secular nation and then expect everyone in one’s little world to be pervaded with this “utopian” (to use Mr. Jacobowitz’s word) Orthodox immersion. This is what he means: Orthodoxy. Not immersion in Judaism.
Public school’s diversity works toward eliminating walls, while private schools’ exclusivity creates barriers in an ethnically and religiously comingled town.
It’s important to see the point of view of our community, Jewish and otherwise, with all of its diversity.