If you’re beginning your search for the perfect school for your child, you probably have a hundred questions running through you head: Do I want a public or private education? Should it be Jewish or secular? How much Jewish instruction am I comfortable with? Which is better—a smaller school or a larger one?
At Akiba, we believe that every Jewish child deserves a Jewish day school education. Why? Because Jewish day school yields lifelong benefits both tangible and intangible. We have tried to highlight some of these below, but encourage you to come see the school in action and find out for yourself. To arrange a visit or receive an info packet, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Most day schools offer a rigorous dual curriculum that stresses critical thinking and individualized attention in small class sizes. Hebrew immersion ensures that students learn a second language even from the earliest age. Studies show that learning a second language—and often, in day schools, a third language—improves learning in other disciplines too. Most graduates find that after the rigor of day school, college is far easier for them than for their peers. Learn more about Jewish day school graduates’ performance and activities in university, as shown in a recent PEJE study.
“Akiba made me a very active learner. It created an environment where students were allowed to shape their own development around questions they had. We were active in the trajectory of our education. In a lot of elementary school settings, you’re given, at most, the opportunity to discuss what’s being taught. But what’s important is learning how to learn. Akiba taught me how to learn.” Jonah Parzen Johnson, alumnus (’02)
“The focus at Akiba is on independent learning and thinking. Not only being critical, but the ability to have independent perspective on everything. Now, more than ever, that’s incredibly important.” Daniel Blumenthal, alumnus (’02)
“A day school education makes you a richer and deeper human being. Intellectually, of course, because it means you’ve had to learn at least two but probably three languages, juggle a demanding dual course load, and decipher thousand-year old texts whose highly complex arguments stretch your critical thinking muscles. The other thing, though, is when you have a certain database of knowledge and skills in your head, you appreciate so much more in life. I can find so much more meaning in a poem that makes reference to the Bible if I actually know the bible and have read it in its own language – and can understand the nuances of the language.” Mindy Schiller, alumna (‘97)
Jewish day schools foster a values system and develop identity in their students. By living Jewish concepts such as gemilut hasadim or tikun olam, day school students become ethical individuals with a moral compass . For instance, Akiba-Schechter students pack food boxes for the needy multiple times throughout the year. Day school graduates are usually more resistant to social pressures than their public and private school peers.
In a study conducted by Hebrew University’s Steven M. Cohen , in conjunction with the United Jewish Communities report on the 2001 National Jewish Population Survey, Cohen found that attendance at a Jewish day school for seven or more years exerted the most powerful impact on adults’ Jewish identity. For instance, 64% of Jewish adults said being Jewish was “very Important,” to them, versus 40% of those adults who attended Supplementary Hebrew School (Sunday School). Likewise, 73% of Jewish adults who attended day school married Jewish spouses, versus 55% of those who attended Sunday School.
“At Akiba it wasn’t just about teaching the student, but the entire person. Giving us a background for life. Giving us the knowledge, passion and experience to lead a Jewish life on our own and be involved in the Jewish and larger world community.” Jason Loeb, alumnus (’97)
Day schools often serve as a gateway to the broader Jewish community, but they are also communities in and of themselves. The support network of peer families and the sense of community at Akiba-Schechter is appreciated by families who seek to preserve that connection even after their children graduate.
“I feel like my sons are going to a prep school, but with a family atmosphere. Where can you find that?” Rebecca Kirstein, alumna and former parent
“I love being around the school; I wish I could have gone there when I was young. The feeling of love and community that I experience there is honest, never contrived and all too rare.” John Sefner, parent
Day schools foster leadership skills and traits within their students. At the same time, day schools themselves depend on dedicated volunteer and professional leaders to oversee and implement the vision of the school. Connecting leadership with Jewish literacy is a key for Jewish survival.
Twenty-eight percent of the 2003 Young Leadership Division of the Jewish United Fund-Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago attended Jewish day school, and they credit their day school education as part of their motivation for volunteering. Ninety percent of the 1964-1992 graduates of Buffalo, NY’s Kadimah School contribute to federation and other Jewish charitable organizations.
By providing serious educational connections to Jewish history and texts and the Hebrew language, and by nurturing relationships to Jewish tradition, beliefs, and practices, day schools make Judaism second nature, instead of second best. Jewish identity is not inevitable. It requires an education that is meaningful and joyful.