A Call to Have Children – What is the Jewish Education System doing to us?
By Jonny Schauder
The Glen Eira College initiative (see previous articles on Galus Australis) has of course prompted many conversations about the role and value of faith based private Jewish educational schools. And more specifically, the reality that most in the community cannot afford school fees of the magnitude required.
One particular aspect of discussions I’ve been involved in are genuinely worrying. It focused on a young Jewish couple’s decision about whether to have more children or less. In brief the discussion went:
– Well should a young couple have more Jewish children but realise they will need to go to public schools? or;
– Should the young couple stop at one or two children in order to afford Jewish Day schooling?
To my astonishment there was even some positive support for the idea of having less children in order to stay in the Jewish School System by the people involved. That somehow having less, “more educated” children would be good for the child, couple, family, or community in any way?
Is this really what has happened to us, Generation X? Seriously? I’d like to hear the views of others.
Have we come to believe that we’d rather not have children at all than fear stepping one foot outside the Jewish Day School system? What are we scared of? If that is the case, then isn’t the Private School system a real danger to continuity?
In other words, if rather than having Jewish kids, we want to give birth to “Jewish educations”, have we lost the plot as a community?
If you are fortunate enough that you can have children, then the first commandment is go forth and multiply! If you yourself can physically, emotionally and spiritually cope with having one more child, then Jewish continuity is that much more likely. I’m not preaching a “populate or perish” vision but continuity starts with having kids … no?
If the goal is continuity, a parent who limits the number of children they have just to ensure they can afford Private Jewish Schooling is making some interesting assumptions:
- Motivate them to be better Jews themselves;
- To marry Jewish;
- Be lucky enough to reproduce;
- That they bring up their children in a Jewish based home;
- Grow the community…achieve continuity
- Be able to afford the fees to send their kids to Jewish Schools…
… well as far as I can see you are completely disempowered and the community must diminish.
By last count, there are only about 13 and a half million Jews in the entire world (Wikipedia has a breakdown of numbers. I don’t know where that figure originates or what defines a Jew in that number but it sounds about right). If it is true, then suffice it to say every soul counts! I’m not Charedi or Ultra-Orthodox, but I can do the maths on how generations work.
The answer: Believe in ourselves again! If you want your kids to care about being Jewish, then you have to care. If you want them to celebrate festivals, then you have to celebrate festivals. If you want them to have a strong Jewish identity, then have one yourself! You want continuity? Have more kids.
If you want them “deeply” educated, then educate them as best you can, in all manner of methods available. If you want them to know other Jews, then get active. But for G-d’s sake, don’t think that having fewer children, in the JDS, can do anything for the community except reduce our possibilities and threaten long term propserity!
If you want to know more about the Glen Eira College free Jewish education movement that we are working on to fill gaps in educational areas, then please read the series.