I read your article “Home Is Where The Hebrew School Is” (Dec. 18) with great interest. I agree with the idea that children with special needs require individual and more personal attention while engaged in studies leading up to their bar/bat mitzvah.
As a Jewish educator for 30 years I have seen very positive changes occurring in Hebrew schools. Books, for example, have become more stimulating and attractive, and teachers today are expected to be qualified — not simply hired because they are Israelis fluent in Hebrew or yeshiva students en route to becoming clergy.
I have also witnessed the private tutoring wave that appears in some cases to be popular for the convenience and control it offers the parents. On one hand, while tutoring may be good on some level, we seem to forget that as Jews we are required to pray and learn together in a community because community gives us more perspectives and points of view. Students in Hebrew schools master confidence to lead prayers, thus becoming part of the Jewish community and fulfilling the promise of l’dor va’dor [from generation to generation].
In school a child studies a great variety of subjects and not only those chosen by his or her parents. The philosophy of developing a love of Judaism, a yearning to know more about one’s heritage and a thirst for knowledge are enhanced immeasurably by the communal classroom experience.
If parents want more control of the Hebrew school curriculum they should join the education committee and work to improve the institution as a whole.
Dividing the community by not belonging to a Jewish educational institution is not the solution, and I believe this will lead to more assimilation and greater identity problems in the future.