Behind the 2009 Avi Chai Foundation Sponsored Day School Census

From the HUC-JIR e-Newsletter 12-10-09

Behind the day school census - JTA
Dr. Steven M. Cohen comments on the The Avi Chai Foundation's recently released 2008-2009 census of Jewish day schools, a follow-up to the same survey it conducted in 1998 and 2003: "The large increase in Orthodox enrollment, coupled with stagnation in non-Orthodox enrollment, reflects several ongoing patterns. For years the Orthodox have been growing, through increased fertility and increased retention. Their numbers are significantly reduced only by way of massive aliyah. In contrast, the number of Reform and Conservative Jews has been shrinking with growth of the least engaged, most marginal, and most episodic Jews. The middle of the Jewish identity spectrum has been giving way to the two poles of most traditional and fervent and most post-modern and tentative." Cohen essentially is saying that it's no longer the Orthodox on one end and the Reform on the other. The Reform are the middle ground, and that they are committing huge dollars to day schools provides the evidence. It is the Jews with no affiliation that are the other pole, and perhaps the most important policy wise, as so many dollars are being spent on trying to figure out how to bring them back into the fold on their terms. In the end, Cohen said, these trends will lead to greater diversity and choice within the Jewish community.

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