July 24, 2024
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The Solution to Antisemitism In Public Schools

Buried in the article “Erasure of Jewish Students Will Not Be Tolerated” by Devora Simon and Rabbi Micah Greenland (June 24, 2024) is the authors’ observation that “this year has been exceptionally challenging for Jewish students in public schools.” I couldn’t agree more—but it’s not only because of antisemitic incidents.

As a public school teacher myself, I hear featured in the morning announcements, among other things, comments about how wonderful LGBTQ students are and how others should respect and, perhaps, copy them. Then, of course, there’s the promotion of Christian holidays, which is contrary to the doctrine of separation of church and state, but that is widely ignored.

Do you know how Jewish students can avoid antisemitic harassment, LGBTQ-friendly announcements and learning about gentile holidays? By attending a yeshiva, a Jewish day school. Yeshivot teach morals and ethics based on the Torah, the only document to espouse morals, ethics and rituals to the Jewish people. The Torah has been studied and transmitted from one generation to the next for thousands of years. For something to endure for that length of time, it must be special. And indeed the Torah is.

Attempting to suppress antisemitism is futile. Jews have been subjected to antisemitic harassment ever since the Jewish nation was founded. (The first major incident of antisemitism was Amalek attacking the Jews after they left Egypt.)

A major obstacle cited by parents to enrolling their kids in yeshivot is the high cost of tuition. Yeshivot have many expenses not shared with public schools. They need two sets of teachers: for Judaic studies and secular studies. The food they serve must be kosher which is often more expensive than non-kosher food. The Jewish school day is usually much longer than public schools, so the teachers are paid more.

In order to meet expenses, yeshivot must collect tuition and donations from private donors. Only about 70% of expenses are covered by tuition; the rest is covered by generous donations.

Instead of attempting to change antisemitic attitudes among the gentiles, you should be encouraging Jewish parents to enroll their children in yeshivot. And you should strongly encourage yeshivot to accept students, regardless of parent’s ability to pay full tuition. We need our precious Jewish students in Jewish schools now!

Stephen Sternfeld
New Jersey
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