Full Time Educational Options for Reform Jewish Children

This Biennial Assembly is concerned about the future educational needs of our children. These needs demand that alternatives of quality public and Reform Jewish full-time education be among the legitimate educational options open to our children.

The UAHC is and always has been supportive of our unique public school systems, which have been a vital force for the enhancement of democracy, the improvement of the educational standards of the general populace, and the amelioration of prejudice and discrimination. These schools have given to all Americans and Canadians (including millions of Jewish children), regardless of race, creed, sex, religion, or economic background, opportunities to become literate participants in our democracies. Today, many public schools are plagued by economic, educational, and social problems. It is incumbent upon the Jewish community to be deeply involved in the struggle to strengthen and reinvigorate our public school systems. In helping to address these problems, the UAHC should raise as a priority the need for our congregants and congregations to:

  1. Support policies that would provide adequate tax resources for public school systems while opposing efforts to implement tuition tax credits for private schools.
  2. Support increased federal funding of local educational programs, particularly those designed to help minority, disadvantaged, and disabled students.
  3. Support improved teacher training and evaluation programs.
  4. Support teacher salaries commensurate with those in comparable professions.
  5. Support the continuation of effective school integration programs.
  6. Oppose efforts to incorporate prayer into public schools.
  7. Oppose efforts to dismantle the United States Department of Education and to undercut its basic purpose.

While the significant majority of Jewish children will continue to be educated in our public schools and Jewish supplementary schools, there are many Reform Jewish families today who, for a variety of reasons, desire the option of liberal Jewish day schools. There are those parents who, regardless of the quality of the public schools available, would prefer a more intensive full-time Jewish education for their children. They should have more than a choice between Orthodox and Conservative Jewish schools. There are other parents who, for academic reasons, have already made the decision to place their children in private schools. They should no longer be forced to choose between nonsectarian, Christian, Orthodox Jewish, or Conservative Jewish private schools.

We note with pride and appreciation that to meet these needs, approximately one dozen Reform Jewish day schools today serve the liberal Jewish community. Other congregations, individually and cooperatively, are currently exploring the possibility of establishing such schools, an alternative that integrates secular and Jewish studies while reflecting the social, pedagogic, and religious values of our movement. These schools will strengthen the Jewish community by producing a cadre of Jewishly informed and motivated young people whose influence will be felt in the movement and in the entire Jewish community.

The UAHC is particularly equipped to meet the specific needs of Reform Jewish day schools. Among the ways the UAHC can help congregations develop day schools which uniquely reflect the values and goals of the Reform Jewish tradition and community are:

  1. To create, through its Department of Education, Jewish educational standards and goals and to prepare curricula and materials reflecting a distinctly liberal Jewish perspective for use in full-time Reform Jewish educational institutions. One focus of such materials should be to integrate the secular and Jewish components of the curricula.
  2. To coordinate an exchange of curricular ideas and integration strategies; to organize conferences and seminars for teachers, administrators, and lay leaders of the existing schools; and to work with HUC-JIR through its School of Education to develop a cadre of teachers and administrators to serve full-time schools.
  3. To provide information and guidance based on the experience of existing schools (and, where appropriate, personnel from those schools) to those congregations or communities that are considering the establishment of a full-time Reform Jewish school. This guidance would include such areas as curriculum development, pedagogic standards, school administration and organization, finances, physical plant needs, possibilities for community schools sponsored jointly by several Reform congregations, and the impact of day schools on other aspects of congregational life.
  4. To assist these schools in developing admissions and financial aid policies aimed at ensuring the enrollment of qualified students regardless of their income or disability.
  5. To develop programs that monitor the ability of our children to integrate into the general environment of the synagogue and the community and, based on those findings, to recommend curricular adjustments aimed at strengthening the socialization skills of our students.
  6. To urge Jewish Federations to apply equal and fair standards in providing subventions for Jewish educational institutions of all ideologies.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Union of American Hebrew Congregations:

  1. Reaffirms its commitment to the principles of public education in the United States and Canada and calls upon our congregations and the Commission on Social Action to develop programs aimed at encouraging our congregants to involve themselves actively and directly in efforts to strengthen their local public school systems.
  2. Endorses at the same time the concept of autonomous, self-supporting Reform Jewish day schools as a valid educational option.
  3. Authorizes its Department of Education to develop curricula and materials for full-time Reform Jewish schools; to prepare training programs for teachers and administrators of such schools; to facilitate the exchange of ideas between existing schools; and to provide guidance and counsel to those congregations and communities that are considering the establishment of such schools.
  4. Calls upon the Commission on Social Action and the Commission on Jewish Education to work together to enhance the social justice component in the education of our Reform Jewish youth, whether they attend public schools or Reform Jewish day schools, and to encourage their involvement in the community at large.