Monday, March 5, 2007

Guess who's coming to dinner?

So you are running a Jewish day school and the community begins to change. More Jews moving out; more Moslems moving in. What do you do?

Well, for the King David School in Birmingham, England there was one obvious solution – encourage non-Jewish children to join. According to news reports half of the students in the school today are Muslims (35% of them are Jewish). So what makes it a Jewish school? Well, everything but the student body. They learn Hebrew, celebrate Yom ha-Atzma'ut and say Keri'at Shema in unison every morning.

From the story in the paper it does not sound as if intermarriage is a problem, although the students are said to stay in close touch and attend each others' weddings. In fact, it seems as though everyone – especially the Moslems – are excited about the opportunities for intercultural interaction. One Moslem parent is quoted as saying "We were attracted by the high moral values of the school, and that's what we wanted our kids to have. None of us has any problem with it being a Jewish school. Why on earth should we? Our similarities as religions and cultures are far greater and more important than our differences. It's not even an issue."

So I am torn. I really believe that in school – certainly in primary school – Jewish children should be surrounded by Jewish friends who share their basic value system. On the other hand, is it better that the Jewish school should close down and stop servicing the local children? And wouldn't it be a great thing if all of us grown-ups would decide that "our similarities as religions and cultures are far greater and more important than our differences" and get along a little better with our neighbors?


  1. Our Jewish liberalism will be our end. Since when is it in the interest of our children to be assimilated with non Jews? It says Kedoshim Tihiyu, which means we should separate ourselves, for we are Holy. Did we not learn over and over again that if we don't separate ourselves Hashem sends us enemies who do it for us??

  2. Liberalism?! The neighborhood changed and there were not enough Jewish kids, so the place would have closed down. Even the Yeshiva in Volozhin introduced secular studies rather than close (contrary to popular legend).

  3. Even more than the place would hav closed down, the Jewish Kids would not have received a proper Jewish Education. The quality of the Jewish Education was not watered down, according to the article, non Jews learned something about Judaism, and a Jewish School is kept going. This type of thing should happen more often, not only when forced to by economics.