A Beit Midrash for the Whole Community: Jewish Day Schools as Centers of Adult Jewish Learning

Head of School Dr. Cindy Dolgin and Rabbi in Resident Joshua Rabin reflect on what success would look like in our model of Adult Torah learning at the day school:

1)      Student awareness – Our day school students pay attention and notice that adults study Torah.  Before work, during their lunch break, at night after dinner.  When adults are retired. When they are finished making dinner for their kids.  When they are single.

2)      Student action:

a.       It has not happened yet, but I the future, it is my hope that before the morning and lunchtime adult study sessions, a different student each month will give a short drash to the adults, then go on to their class.

b.       Our day school students decide to study Torah after they graduate, whether or not they continue on to a gap year, to study abroad in Israel or choose to study Judaic Studies as a major or minor.  Success would mean that they study Torah Lishma at their college and after college.

3)      Current Parent awareness – when parents are getting close to the end of being day school parents, as is the case with 50% of the parents of our current 12th grade class, they are aware that there is still something for them at the day school after their youngest child graduates.  They are aware that they do not need to say goodbye to the day school, but that they can have a new, different relationship with the day school that feeds their soul.

4)      Current Parent action – There is no greater role model for our students than their own parents. When our students know that their parents are going to study at the day school, it will change something in the parent-child conversation.  Around the Shabbat table, at bed time, and in unspoken ways.

5)      Former Parent awareness – Parents of former students find out about, hear about, read about the fact that adult Jewish study is taking place at the school that they and their children called home.  When they read about Shiur@Schechter in the synagogue tri-fold on Shabbat and find out that their rabbi is giving a class, or that their child’s favorite teacher is giving an adult class, it will make them happy and proud.

6)      Former Parent action:

a.       Former parents have a reason to cross the threshold of the day school, a reason to come back that is unrelated to being a mommy or daddy.

b.       Former parents stay friends and make friends with parents of different cohorts, building their identification with the day school and with the broader Jewish community outside their cozy circle.

c.        Former parents value the day school as worthy of being recipients of their philanthropic support after their children no longer attend.

d.       Former parents stay “friends” with the day school, feeling comfortable to attend the gala, other events and forums, in the school and at homes of Schechter people who are not in their immediate cozy circle.

e.       Former parents continue speaking well of the school, to their friends and to their children, who may even decide to return to the community and send their own kids to the day school.

7)      Community member awareness – Expand the circle of people who are aware of the day school.  Even if they never thought about sending their own children to the day school or thought about it and decided not to, it is good for members of the community to have a high opinion and to view the day school as the place that makes high quality Jewish learning available and accessible to them.

8)      Community member action:

a.       Community members come and study Torah at the day school, morning, noon or night, whenever it fits into their busy schedule.

b.       Community members understand that “No Jewish community has ever thrived without a great Beit Midrash at its center,” (Gerson Cohen) and therefore, give philanthropic support to the day school, and encourage others in their circle to do the same.

9)      Young Singles and Couples awareness – Ultimately, the stronger the day school, the stronger the future Jewish community in our area will be.  I often say, “as goes the day school, so goes the Jewish community of Long Island.”  Young people who did or did not attend day school but are thinking about where they will ultimately raise a family, and wish to do so with strong Jewish roots, should consider moving to this area, because the day school has a strong reputation.  Adult learning is like the pilot lamp that keeps the flame of awareness on low.

10)   Young Singles and Couples Actions – When they can no longer stay squeezed into their tiny apartment in the city, young families will move to our area and enroll their children in the day school.  Another generation of the most highly engaged Jews becomes educated in the day school, developing within their souls a unified sense of themselves as Jews who are loyal to their community, their country, and to Israel, and that they grow up to be responsible global citizens, strengthened by knowing who they are and where they come from.

To read the full article, in which they discuss their venture into quality Adult Jewish Learning at the day school, and outlines the benefits they have seen click here! To visit their website, click here.