I strongly support Jewish day school education and offer some thoughts about the Hebrew-language charter school to be established in the Englewood-Teaneck area.
Having paid day-school tuition for 12 years (ending with Frisch in 2004 at $15,000 per year [$23,000+ now?]), with college thereafter, I can empathize with the financial and related stresses many parents struggle with.
A local Realtor recently commented to me on the number of homes on the market in the West Englewood section of Teaneck, plus those being added via foreclosures-in-progress, and those in pre-foreclosure (one+ months behind). This leads me to consider to what extent the burden of mounting day school tuition(s) contributes to this growing financially negative reality. With Bergen County already being an inordinately expensive area in which to live, perhaps only the better off will be able to afford a day-school education (which bothers me as counter to Jewish values).
Thus, I choose to consider the merits of the charter school as an option supporting Jewish values. The value of Hebrew as a primary tool for life-long Jewish learning and access to our sacred and literary texts cannot be denied. I recall carpooling from Frisch and hearing our daughter’s friends comment on how the Schechter graduates had an easier time with Talmud because of their Hebrew-language skills. Perhaps these combined good experiences (K-8 Schechter education followed by four years at Frisch) led to our daughter’s choosing a post-high school year in Israel, a leadership role in her college Orthodox community, choosing Hebrew literature for her language requirement, etc.
To ignore the need for alternatives, even if they do not provide all that one would prefer in a Jewish educational framework, would be shortsighted. We should be creative in our thinking and recognize the possibilities a new alternative can provide.
To insist on one option without regard to familial consequences does not seem to mesh with shalom bayit. On the other hand, I acknowledge the reluctance of many to consider this different educational path based on concerns of being marginalized by fellow Jews in our close-knit communities.
Our challenge is to embrace all who choose the charter school option and not insist on a one-size fits all approach. I think we’d be a better community for it.