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A School for D.C.’s Jewish Elite

The Jewish Primary Day School is now the place to be for the kids of Washington’s politically connected Jews

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JPDS parent and political media strategist Steve Rabinowitz discusses the presidential election with students. (Courtesy JPDS)
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Hebrew School

The Hebrew Language Academy, New York City’s first Hebrew-language charter school, opened two years ago. Now its backers—including financier Michael Steinhardt—want to replicate the model nationwide.

But part of the school’s charm, parents say, is that it remains a uniquely egalitarian place by Washington standards. “Importing the Washington power hierarchy into the school would not be socially acceptable the way it would be at some of the other schools,” said New York Times columnist David Brooks, whose children attended JPDS and who continues to help with fundraising efforts. As at similar private schools elsewhere in Washington, or in Los Angeles or New York, the kids don’t really care who their friends’ parents are. “They’re not afraid of them,” said Steve Rabinowitz, a parent and former Clinton White House staffer who helped run Jewish outreach for Obama’s 2012 campaign. “They have play dates, they carpool.”

And while the list of parents who have sent their kids to JPDS is indeed impressive, oftentimes their connection to the school precedes their climb up Washington’s political ladder; in many cases, young parents emerge as power players as their children progress through the school, not before. Daniel Shapiro—whose wife, Julie Fisher, taught at JPDS for many years—was a staffer for Sen. Bill Nelson when his oldest daughter started kindergarten there. “Dan was just Julie’s husband, because she was much more important around here than he was,” said Adina Kanefield, the school’s development director. “Dan and Norm [Eisen] were both parents here first, when they were just a Hill staffer and a lawyer, before they were ambassadors.”

Fisher, for her part, remembers being anxious during her first parent-teacher conferences with Joe Lieberman and his wife, Hadassah, when she taught their daughter Hani. “For us at JPDS they were important not because they’re famous, but because they’re parents,” said Fisher, who said she expects her two younger children, who are in first and second grade, to return to JPDS once the family’s time in Tel Aviv is up. “Now that I’m in this crazy world I understand what they were looking for, that they could come in and people didn’t care what they did for a living.”

Next fall’s new incoming parents include a senior Department of Justice appointee and an aide to Vice President Joe Biden. “We know with some of the parents coming in that they’ll be those people in a few years,” said Naomi Reem, JPDS’s head of school. “But they’re not there yet.”


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‘Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman is also an alumna’ – Is that a typo, or are you being intentionally juvenile, or do you just not know Latin?

This article is Hello! meets The Washington Jewish Week. Many parents at JPDS struggle to pay the $20k fees and are not members of the self-important group that the writer met (Jack “Offshore” Lew, Steve “JStreet consultant” Rabinowitz, Norm “Bundler” Eisen). Jewish school options in DC are limited. JDS in Maryland is $30k, the Hebrew Academy is cheaper but does not like girls singing or wearing shorts when playing sports. The DC Federation, whose CEO makes close to $500k (you need to read The Forward to find that out), offers limited support to the day schools. Still, Leon will be thrilled to be quoted.

Lisa Liel says:

Wait, Lieberman is an “alumna”? Is there something we should know?

PhillipNagle says:

It is typical liberal hypocracy, not just Jewish liberals, that they send their send children to privated schools while fighting school choice for poor children. They give their own children a head start while subjecting the poor to the terrible education so often provided by the nations public schools, specially those in large cities.

Wendy Leibowitz says:

This is a nice article about where some rich, privileged Jews send their kids to get a Jewish education. It’s a shame the reporter didn’t ask about where a special needs child who wants a Jewish education can attend–and it sure ain’t JDPS! You have to read the Forward to find that out. The link is below:

whoffman says:

Read the sentence again: “the **younger daughter** of former vice-presidential candidate and Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman is also an alumna.”

whoffman says:

It’s Lieberman’s daughter.

Guest says:

It’s great, but not surprising that high-achieving Jews send their kids to JPDS. What’s sad is that equally committed Jews — with slimmer paychecks or less impressive credentials–have been priced out of area day schools.

JPDS does provide special needs education, as does DC’s Hebrew Academy. I know of special needs children in both schools. The additional cost sometimes falls on the parents, sometimes on the government.

These parents are freeing up resources in public schools because they pay their taxes and send their children to parochial schools at their own expense. This is not hypocrisy.

bostonblah says:

elite jews=scum of the earth

How do I put this politely? Go to hell you piece of anti-Semitic trash. And then flush yourself away to be on the safe side.

neils60 says:

Joe Lieberman is a liberal? The FOX News Channel’s, Dr. Charles Krauthammer is a liberal? Since when? (By the way, I’m glad that neither of them aren’t.)

steve kay says:

I hope that Brooks’s kids are not as clueless as he is!

PhillipNagle says:

Yes, Joe Lieberman is a liberal who among things voted for Obamacare.

PhillipNagle says:

The hypocracy is not sending their children to private schools, it is sending their children private schools while opposing school choice for poor children. By the way per student cost for school choice is normally less than per student cost public schools. Of course since the school teacher unions are big supporters of the Dems finacially and with manpower, it is clear this is not an education decision.

The assumption that all parents at JPDS are self-important Democrats of the kind quoted in the article is nonsense. It is also nonsense to believe all of them oppose school choice. The chair of the committee on trustees at JPDS is Ken Weinstein, president and CEO of the right-wing Hudson Institute.

“Hypocracy” means rule of the underlings. You mean “hypocrisy.”

Oops, sorry, I see it now.

mouskatel says:

Clearly that was a crappily constructed sentence, unhelped by the page layout.

Ramona says:

Egalitarian is a nice adjective, but putting donor plaques on every surface of this school only fosters awareness of the socio-economic hierarchy – diametrically opposed to any true sense of community. These are not the Jewish values I was raised on. It’s probably like this at most private schools…

PhillipNagle says:

I appologize for the misspelling. I believe I did limit the htpocrisy charge to those who send their children to private schools while opposing vouchers for poor children. A case in point is Obama who killed a popular DC voucher program for poor children while sending his own daughters to private schools in Washington and before that in Chicago.

Please repost bostonblah’s comment. People should see it.

saraannbrewin says:

my buddy’s sister makes $87/hour on the laptop. She has been fired from work for eight months but last month her income was $16872 just working on the laptop for a few hours. Read more on  Fab99.c­om

neils60 says:

Phil, Are you speaking about the former top supporter of John McCain, who also spoke at the Republican National Convention in 2008. The close friend, and supporter, and the equally supportive Pastor John Hagee who honored Lieberman, like no one else has ever done, at a church in Bloomfield, Connecticut last year, Joe Lieberman?

neils60 says:

Phil, What’s your source for the per pupil cost for school choice is normally less than per pupil cost of public schools?

PhillipNagle says:

You mean the VP candidate for Al Gore and the deciding vote on Obamcare (ie the 60th vote which was needed in the Senate). Anyone who would vote for Obacare was a liberal and as we learn more, very stupid.

herbcaen says:

What about the Saul Alinsky day school?

Natan79 says:

If you’re a conservative, I’m proud to be a liberal.

Natan79 says:

It’s hypocrisy, not hypocracy. Being a conservative doesn’t give you the right to mangle English. What are you, W. Bush?

PhillipNagle says:

If it depends whether or not I’m a conservative to determine whether or not you’re proud to be a liberal then that makes one wonder about you. If I were a liberal would you then be ashamed of yourself.

Binyamin the Prophet says:

How very telling that the maps of Israel don’t show the West Bank (or Gaza?) as a separate entity.

These same people are no doubt the ones writing the U.S. State Dept.’s denunciations of “incitement” in the Palestinian school system as evidenced by text books that show ’67 Israel as part of Palestine.


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A School for D.C.’s Jewish Elite

The Jewish Primary Day School is now the place to be for the kids of Washington’s politically connected Jews

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