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Jewish Education without Jewish Day School

Following my 3-part post about why my children aren’t in Jewish day school (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3), readers may be wondering how we manage their Jewish education. In many ways, life in our home provides an immersive, informal Jewish education — reciting Shema before going to sleep, giving tzedakah (charity), preparing for and celebrating Shabbat and holidays, and so forth. As for academic knowledge and peer experiences, we have 3 strategies.

  1. Private Judaics tutoring.

For the past 4+ years, David and Elizabeth have worked one-on-one with a private Judaics tutor named Deborah Klapper. Deborah is a terrific educator. She respects the kids as people with knowledge, interests, feelings, and moral sentiments of their own. Her knowledge of her subject matter is deep and wide. And she’s a great role model: patient, kind, and devoted.

Deborah used to come to our house every weekday morning to teach the kids for an hour before they left for public school. The coronavirus pandemic pushed us to virtual lessons, but the kids are still learning with her 2 ½ hours per week. Deborah and I share a commitment to skill development, and she focuses on teaching my kids Hebrew literacy: the ability to read and the Hebrew Bible and other Jewish texts independently. A few years ago, she wrote a great blog post about how she teaches them: “A Better Pesach Project.”

  1. Jewish overnight camp.

Starting the summer after 2nd grade, David and Elizabeth went to Camp Yavneh. Jewish summer camp is a powerful Jewish “socializing agent,” a place where kids gain Jewish knowledge and skills, as well as lasting friendships and spiritual experiences. (See this book and the follow-up study.) It was heartbreaking when camp was cancelled in Summer 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic, but we’ve already registered for Summer 2021! 🤞

  1. Israel experience.

Adam and I are Zionists, and we want our kids to learn modern Israeli Hebrew and to understand Israeli society and culture. To that end, we’re trying to spend several weeks in Israel every summer. We had great success in Summer 2019, but plans for Summer 2020 were derailed by the coronavirus pandemic. Next year in Jerusalem?

Western Wall, Jerusalem (July 2019)

Categories: Curriculum Hebrew & Judaics

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Michelle

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