Rating Religious Education In Jewish Schools

Most(?) Orthodox schools have classes on Sunday.

Shalhevet does not have classes on Sunday. That’s something that Jerry Friedman, the founder, never wanted. I don’t expect there’s any enthusiasm for Sunday schooling among the parents who send their children to Shalhevet.

Students in the advanced Gemara track (AGT) at YULA boys high school get 24 hours of religious education a week. The least number of hours of weekly religious education you can get at YULA is 16.

(I believe only the AGTers at YULA have to go to school on Sundays.)

Not including Hebrew, Shalhevet high schoolers get 8-12 hours per week of Judaic education.

A Shalhevet teacher says: “It’s basically 50/50 (with art and music not counting as either). In a perfect world, I would definitely love Torah study to increase in all schools like Shalhevet that also offer a rigorous general studies academic program. But they days are so long as it is, and when you take into account (I’m talking high school now) that they have several fantastic extra-curricular activities as well (drama, model UN, choir, sports teams, etc), there’s simply not enough time in the day for more Torah study. I think it would overwhelm most kids to have such full schedules.”

Shalhevet class periods run from 48-55 minutes. The Shalhevet school day is 30 minutes shorter each week day than YULA’s.

Davening begins at 8:40 am at Shalhevet. There are five different davening tracks and all students are required to show up to one of them.

In YULA’s AGT track, the boys learn the Torah portion of the week with Rashi and get tested on it every Sunday morning.

I’d estimate that 30% of Shalhevet parents are not practicing Orthodox Jews (about 70% of the Shalhevet parents affiliate Orthodox). A similar ratio would hold for the co-ed Modern Orthodox Ramaz school in Manhattan.

Though YULA requires parents to sign a pledge (a development of this decade as the school turns to the right and more of the teachers are charedi) that they observe Orthodox Judaism, probably a third don’t (including most of the Persians). They will drive on Shabbos, etc.

Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy will take the children of parents who are not Orthodox. Yavneh has a policy to only take Orthodox parents, but they only have this because other Orthodox schools such as Hillel will take the non-Orthodox.

Los Angeles Judaism has little culture of learning.

The Yeshiva of Flatbush has the strongest religious education of any Orthodox co-ed school. It is stronger than many same-sex schools. Its graduates tend to be about as proficient in Hebrew as in English. They teach some secular subjects in Hebrew.

Over the past 20 years, Flatbush has had an increasing percentage of same-sex classes.

Ramaz doesn’t measure up to Flatbush in religious education. Most Flatbush parents are leading an Orthodox life. Most Ramaz parents aren’t living Orthodox lives. They have no culture of learning. Ramaz doesn’t teach Talmudic tractates. They pull out sugiyot (sections) and teach it as entertainment.

It’s the Lincoln Square social crowd. Judaism is primarily social rather than intellectual.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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