These are the facts:
- There are no weekly Orthodox afternoon Hebrew schools for public school children in the MetroWest NJ area.
- Dozens of students left local yeshivas/Jewish day schools last year, and the number continues to spike. According to the 2017 study conducted by Nishma Research, 82% of Orthodox students in grades 1-8, and 70% of grades 9-12, attend Jewish day school/Yeshiva.
- In addition, there are a significant amount of Jewish children in public school in Essex County who are not receiving any formal Jewish education.
- Furthermore, the vast majority of Jewish children in public school do not continue any formal Jewish learning after their Bar/Bat Mitzvah.
- According to the 2013 Pew Report, only 48% of children growing up Orthodox will remain Orthodox into adulthood. Formal Jewish education can obviously play a major role in maintaining this connection.
The number of children leaving yeshiva or Jewish day schools is unfortunately growing and expected to significantly increase. The primary reasons are:
- Financial in nature (2017 Nishma Research Study indicated that the cost of Yeshiva tuition is major issue for 89% of Orthodox parents).
- Special learning needs or psychological issues that yeshiva or Jewish Day Schools are unable to meet.
- Decreasing spiritual engagement with Judaism, leading to lower value placed on yeshiva or Jewish Day School education.
As a result, these children will lose out on a formal yeshiva education. It is our communal responsibility to insure that these children continue to lead a Torah-observant lifestyle, which is only possible if we provide the social and educational infrastructure to do so.
We have selected the name Kulanu for our initiative from the phrase “Kulanu Kedoshim,” or “We are all holy.” Just like the federal “No Child Left Behind” act, we too are responsible for the academic and spiritual welfare and well being of each and every Jewish child.
- We envision offering separate tracks for elementary, middle school and high school grades. The classes will initially be held twice a week. We will also offer fun, social programming.
- We have hired a dynamic young educational leader who will be able to easily connect with the children and inspire them. In addition, we will work with an academic advisory committee to come up with curricula according to age groups and backgrounds.
- The social piece is critical as well, and this is why the JCC MetroWest will serve as the base for much of the programming. One of the major fallouts that children who leave yeshiva for public school experience, is a loss of connection to their yeshiva peers. The impact is particularly felt on Shabbos, when friends get together to socialize, and public school children become excluded from social interaction with their peers. Our programming will provide a forum of inclusion and social opportunities for these students.
ENROLLMENT & LAUNCH DATE
We will be launching the 2019-20 academic school year on September 9, 2019. We have already identified dozens of parents who are interested in having their kids participate and who are willing to serve on the Parent Liaison Committee.
OUR PARTNERS AND FUNDING
We have the support of local Orthodox Rabbis, yeshivas and Jewish day schools, NCSY, The Friendship Circle and Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest, who have all agreed to assist in our critical mission.
In addition, we have a number of individuals in the community who have pledged seed funding for the initiative. We will soon embark on a formal fundraising campaign.