Jewish day schools should be bursting at the seams!
August 4, 2017
Jewish identity is one of the most important qualities we can help our young to develop. Study after study shows that as Jewish identity slips because of intermarriage, the Jewish community in the United States suffers. So too does the connection between young Americans and the state of Israel. If we hope to see a continued Jewish future including continued support of Israel, we must take positive steps to assure it.
Significant research on the American Jewish community shows that Jewish day schools, (in Orlando that would be the Jewish Academy) contribute positively toward strengthening Jewish identity and assuring the transmission of Jewish values. These values include the concepts of tikkun olam—making this world better for all, tzdakah—acts of righteousness, and ahavat Yisrael—love for the Jewish peoplehood.
These reasons alone should suffice to have the JAO bursting at the seams with children, but sadly, that is not the case. Perhaps parents also need to consider the other advantages to a comprehensive Jewish education. These include the critical thinking skills children develop through the study of Torah while examining ancient texts and stories in critical ways to learn what they impart to us for our daily lives. Perhaps it is the intensive leadership skills that are ingrained in students as they involve themselves in communal activities, Jewish and secular. Or perhaps it is the enhanced brain development that comes from foreign language acquisition during a child’s formative years, a benefit of learning a Tier III language such as Hebrew.
Over the past several years I have had the pleasure of watching the JAO enhance its educational offerings, both secular and Judaic. It is impressive to see children who are eager to learn and thrive in this Jewish educational environment. These gains are due to the dedication of Alan Rusonik, head of school of the JAO, whose clarity and vision are making a difference and to the highly professional staff of teachers who bring love and warmth along with their expertise to the JAO students. Much credit also goes to the officers and board members who have continued to support the school despite the financial obstacles the school has faced.
As a former director (1981-84) of what was then the Hebrew Day School, I am thrilled to see the accomplishments and progress the school has made in the past and continues to make on a regular basis. I most strongly encourage our Jewish community to ensure the JAOs continuation by enrolling pupils in this most deserving institution.
Rabbi Maurice S. Kaprow
Editor’s Note: There are two other Jewish day schools in Central Florida not mentioned in this article, but worthy of noting: The Orlando Jewish Day School, and The Orlando Torah Academy, both located in Southwest Orlando.