Littman Library of Jewish Civilization

Jewish Day Schools, Jewish Communities

A Reconsideration
Edited by Alex Pomson and Howard Deitcher

This is the first book-length consideration of Jewish day-schools around the world and of their relationship both to the Jewish community and to society as a whole. Its cross-cultural and genuinely comparative approach reframes day-school research in a number of important ways. In consequence it reveals conflicting conceptions of the social functions of schooling, a new understanding of the capacity of schools to build community, and original insights into faith-based schooling and the public good.

Published for the Melton Centre for Jewish Education, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

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About 350,000 Jewish children are currently enrolled in Jewish day-schools, in every continent other than Antarctica. This is the first book-length consideration of life in such schools and of their relationship both to the Jewish community and to society as a whole. It provides a rich sense of how community is constructed within Jewish schools, and of how they contribute to or complicate the construction of community in the wider society.

The volume reframes day-school research in three ways. First, it focuses not just on the learner in the day-school classroom but sees schools as agents of and for the community. Second, it brings a truly international perspective to the study of day-schools, viewing them in relation to the socio-cultural contexts from which they emerge and where they have impact. Third, it considers day-school education in relation to insights derived from the study and practice of non-parochial education.

This cross-cultural and genuinely comparative approach to the study of Jewish schooling draws on research from the United States, the former Soviet Union, South America, and Europe, making it possible to arrive at important and original insights into parochial Jewish schooling. With contributions from outstanding scholars as well as practitioners of public education and of Jewish parochial schooling, the volume reveals conflicting conceptions of the social functions of schooling and also produces original insights into the capacity of schools to build community.

The book is timely in that it studies questions about faith-based schooling and the public good that today are as much questions of public policy as they are of academic inquiry. It will appeal first and foremost to those with a particular interest in Jewish schooling but will also attract the attention of academics and professionals concerned with the place of parochial education in contemporary society.

Published for the Melton Centre for Jewish Education, Hebrew University of Jerusalem


About the authors

Alex Pomson is a senior lecturer at the Melton Centre for Jewish Education at the Hebrew University. He trained in History at the University of Cambridge, and received his PhD in Religious Education from the University of London in 1994. He was founding Head of Jewish Studies at the King Solomon High School. From 1996 to 2004, he served as Associate Professor of Jewish Teacher Education at York University, Toronto where he coordinated York¹s Jewish Teacher Education Programme. He is past chair of the Network for Research in Jewish Education. He completed a longitudinal study funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of the Canadian Government, to be published in 2008, as a book Back to School: Jewish Day School as a Source of Meaning in the Lives of Adult Jews. His work has been published in numerous academic journals, including Teachers College Record, Educational Research, Reflective Practice, the Canadian Journal of Education, and Journal of Curriculum Studies.

Howard Deitcher is the director of the Melton Centre for Jewish Education and a senior lecturer at the School of Education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He completed his rabbinic ordination at the Chief Rabbinate of Canada and his doctorate in education from Yeshiva University in New York. In 1990-91 he was awarded a post-doctoral fellowhip at the Philosophy of Education Research Centre at Harvard University. He is past director of the Jerusalem Fellows Program as well as director of Intensive Development Programs at the Mandel Leadership Institute. He was the founding principal of the Efrata Experimental School in Jerusalem, and has served as a consultant for Jewish schools around the world. He has edited two books Educational Issues and Classical Jewish Texts (1990), which was awarded the National Jewish Book Award, as well as Understanding the Bible in Our Times (2003).


Ami Bouganim, Erik H. Cohen, Ira Dashefsky, Howard Deitcher, Jay Dewey, Joshua Elkin, Yoel Finkelman, Zvi Gitelman, Scott J. Goldberg, Ellen B. Goldring, Yossi J. Goldstein, Eli Kohn, Jeffrey S. Kress, Binyamin Krohn, Jon A. Levisohn, Ilana Maryles Sztokman, Deborah Meier, Helena Miller, Christine Müller, Michal Muszkat Barkan, Alex Pomson, Joseph Reimer, Randal Schnoor, Susan L. Shevitz, Asher Shkedi, Claire Smrekar, Uriel Ta’ir, Michael Turetsky, Rahel Wasserfall


Ami Bouganim is an educator involved in research, planning, and professional development. He received his Ph.D. from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and for the past seven years has served as director of the Research and Development Unit of the Department for Jewish Zionist Education of the Jewish Agency for Israel. He is active in the academic community exploring the nature of Jewish spirituality.

Erik H. Cohen is senior lecturer at the School of Education, Bar-Ilan University, Israel. His research interests include philosophy, cross-cultural studies, tourism, adolescence, educational evaluation, and data analysis. He has published four books and more than 100 scientific articles and reports. Two new books, Identity, Values and Social Pursuits: Israeli Youth in the Year 2000 and Educational Tourism in Israel: Diasporic Experiences, are to appear in 2008.

Ira Dashevsky has been at the forefront of dozens of national and international Jewish education programmes for Russian immigrants to Israel over the past 20 years. She currently works as chief trainer of teachers in the Israeli Ministry of Education’s FSU Jewish Heritage school programmes and as a researcher in the field of Jewish education and conversion.

Howard Deitcher currently serves as the director of the Melton Centre for Jewish Education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Since 1981 he has been teaching courses at the Melton Centre in the following areas: the child’s understanding of the biblical story, philosophy for children, and models of educational leadership. He continues to lecture on these topics around the world, and has also published several articles and edited two books.

Jay Dewey, a founding headmaster of Schechter Regional High School, has pioneered leadership education for adolescents and is an active member of the Association for Leadership Education and the International Leadership Association.

Joshua Elkin is the executive director of the Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education (PEJE). Prior to the founding of PEJE he was head of the Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Boston for twenty years. Rabbi Elkin was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and went on to complete a doctorate at Columbia Teachers’ College in the field of curriculum and teaching.

Yoel Finkelman teaches Talmud and Jewish thought at Midreshet Lindenbaum, a women’s beit midrash in Jerusalem, and is Co-ordinator of Research and Projects at ATID, a foundation that provides training and resources for Jewish educational leadership. He received his Ph.D. from the Department of Jewish Thought at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Zvi Gitelman is professor of political science and Tisch Professor of Judaic studies at the University of Michigan. He is the author or editor of fourteen books and many articles. His current research is on Jewish identities in Russia and Ukraine and on the Holocaust in the Soviet Union.

Scott Goldberg is director of the Institute for Educational Partnership and Applied Research, and director of the Fanya Gottesfeld Heller Division of Doctoral Studies, at Yeshiva University’s Azrieli Graduate School. He holds a Ph.D. in applied psychology from New York University and an M.S.Ed. in special education from Bank Street College of Education.

Ellen B. Goldring is a professor of education policy and leadership at Peabody College of Vanderbilt University. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. Before coming to Vanderbilt, Professor Goldring was chair of the Department of Educational Administration at Tel Aviv University, Israel. Her areas of expertise and research focus on improving schools, with particular attention to educational leadership, community, access, and equity in schools of choice.

Yossi J. Goldstein is head of the long-term training and professional development academic unit in the Department of Jewish Zionist Education at the Jewish Agency. He gained his Ph.D. in contemporary Jewry from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His research concerns South American Jewry, Jewish communities in a globalized world, and Holocaust studies and Jewish education. He is co-editor of Judaica Latinoamericana, a research periodical focused on Latin American Jewry.

Eli Kohn is director of curriculum development projects at the Lookstein Center of Jewish Education in the Diaspora at Bar-Ilan University. In this role he specializes in the development of curriculum in Jewish studies for Diaspora Jewish day schools and has lectured to teachers in numerous countries. In 2007 he was appointed educational director of the Jewish Curriculum Partnership in the UK.

Jeffrey S. Kress is assistant professor and chair of the Department of Jewish Education at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. Dr Kress received his doctorate in clinical psychology from Rutgers University and previously worked as a programme development specialist at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey--Community Mental Health Center’s Social Decision Making/Social Problem Solving programme.

Jon A. Levisohn is assistant professor of Jewish Education, and assistant director of the Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education, at Brandeis University. His research in philosophy of education and philosophy of Jewish education focuses on the teaching and learning of historical and sacred texts, and he directs a project that promotes research on the teaching of classical Jewish studies.

Deborah Meier began her career as a kindergarten teacher in 1963. Subsequently she founded a network of public elementary and secondary schools in East Harlem and Boston. She was the recipient of the MacArthur Award for innovative practice in 1987; she is the author of many books, including The Power of their Ideas, and a board member and writer for Dissent and The Nation magazines. She is currently a senior scholar at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Education.

Helena Miller was until recently the Director of Education and Professional Development at Leo Baeck College, London. She is now the Director of Research and Evaluation at the UJIA, London. Her doctorate is in Jewish education and she has written widely on aspects of Jewish education in the UK.

Christine Müller studied education at the University of Hamburg and Harvard University, with particular emphasis on history and religion. Her doctoral thesis, published in 2007, was concerned with the relevance of religion to Jewish pupils in Germany. Additional research areas are the scientific study of religion, empirical research, and inter-religious and intercultural education.

Michal Muszkat-Barkan is the director of the Department of Education and Professional Development at Hebrew Union College, Jerusalem. She heads a specialization in pluralistic Jewish education as part of an MA programme at the Melton Centre for Jewish Education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Her Ph.D., from the Hebrew University, concerned the role of mentors’ and teachers’ personal ideologies in Jewish education.

Alex Pomson is a senior lecturer at the Melton Centre for Jewish Education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Fomerly chair of the Network for Research in Jewish Education, he received his Ph.D. in religious education from the University of London. He is co-author with Randal Schnoor of Back to School: Jewish Day School in the Lives of Adult Jews.

Joseph Reimer is director of the Institute for Informal Jewish Education at Brandeis University, where he also serves as a professor in the Hornstein Program in Jewish Communal Service. He received his Ph.D. in developmental psychology from Harvard University and has worked in the field of Jewish education for more than twenty years. In 1997 his book Succeeding at Jewish Education was awarded the National Jewish Book Award for Jewish education.

Randal Schnoor is a sociologist specializing in contemporary Jewish life in North America. He teaches at York University in Toronto and has published on a wide range of subjects, including Jewish schools, hasidic Jews, and gay Jewish identity. He currently serves as president of the Association for Canadian Jewish Studies.

Susan L. Shevitz is on the faculty of Brandeis University, where she has taught in and directed the Hornstein Program for Jewish Professional Leadership and is associated with the Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education. Her current work focuses on organizational culture and change in Jewish schools and congregations, religious pluralism, and educational and rabbinic leadership. She holds an Ed.D. from Harvard University in administration, planning, and social policy.

Asher Shkedi is head of the Teacher Education Department in the School of Education, and a faculty member of the Melton Centre for Jewish Education, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His areas of specialist interest are teacher education, curriculum development, and qualitative research.

Claire Smrekar is associate professor of Public Policy and Education at Vanderbilt University and an investigator with the National Center on School Choice. She received her doctorate in educational administration and policy analysis from Stanford University in 1991. She conducts qualitative research studies related to the social context of education and public policy.

Elana Maryles Sztokman lectures in education, gender, and society at the Schechter Institute for Jewish Studies and at the Efrata Teacher Training College for Religious Women. She has taught and written widely on these subjects in Israel, Melbourne, and New York. Her doctorate examines the identity development of adolescent religious girls.

Uriel Ta’ir is an expert on the development of school curricula and educational materials. He has a Ph.D. in the sociology of Judaism and education from the Melton Centre for Jewish Education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He consults and provides in-service training and professional development seminars for educators in Israel and the former Soviet Union.

Rahel Wasserfall is senior research associate at Education Matters Inc. and scholar in residence with the Women’s Studies Research Center at Brandeis University. She received her Ph.D. in anthropology from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Her work has focused on gender and ethnic studies in Israel and in the Jewish world, fields in which she has published widely.



Note on Transliteration

Introduction. Jewish Schools, Jewish Communities: A Reconsideration

Part I  Insights from Public and General Education

1. Building Community Within and Around Schools: Can Jewish Days Schools Measure Up?
2. From Control to Collaboration: Mapping School Communities across Diverse Contexts
3. Corporate Conservatism: On School, Community and Democracy
4. A Response to Deborah Meier
5. Community as a Means and an End in Jewish Education

Part II  Cross-Cultural Insights

6. Do Jewish Schools Make a Difference in the Former Soviet Union?
7. Jewish Pupils’ Perspectives on Religious Education and Expectations of a Religious Community: A Case Study of the Jewish High School in Berlin
8. Mutual Relations between Shli{h.}im and Local Teachers at Jewish Schools in the Former Soviet Union
9    Community School versus School-as-Community: The Case of Bet El Community in Buenos Aires
10   Beyond the Community: Jewish Day School Education in Britain
11   Comparison of Attitudes, Behaviours and Values of French Jewish Families with Children Enrolled in Jewish Day Schools and Other School Systems
12   The School Ghetto

Part III  Insights through the Prism of Community

13   Relationships between Schools and Parents in {H.}aredi Popular Literature in the United States
14   The Impact of Community on Curriculum Decision-Making: A Case Study from a North American Jewish Day School 
15   Ideological Commitment in the Supervision of Jewish Studies Teachers: Which Community is Represented and Who Represents It?
16   Schooling for Change in the Religious World: An Educational Experiment amid Ethnic, Class, and Academic Hierarchies in a Religious Junior High School in Israel
17   Home-Made Jewish Culture at the Intersection of Family Life and School
18   Teacher Perspectives on Behaviour Problems: Background Influences on Behavioural Referral Criteria and Definitions of Rebellious Behaviour
19   Shabbatonim as Experiential Education in the North American Community Day High School
20   Teaching Leadership through Town Meeting
21   Building Community in a Pluralist Jewish High School; Balancing Risk and Safety, Group and Individual, in the Life of a School




'Particularly relevant at this time when more Jewish children than ever, around the globe, attend Jewish day schools . . . comprehensive in its exploration of how schools and communities can be mutually influential in strengthening and developing Jewish identity . . . The book is optimistic about the future of Jewish day schooling and inspires belief in the breadth of opportunities to strengthen and develop Jewish communities and Jewish education . . . thorough and articulate . . . critically important as a reminder that when moulded the right way schools have a unique opportunity to breathe freshness, dynamism, and life into Jewish communities.'
Adele Stowe-Linder, Manna

'Its cross-cultural and comparative approach reveals conflicting conceptions of the social functions of schooling, a new understanding of the capacity of schools to build community, and insights into faith-based schooling and the public good.'