Can Hebrew School Be Saved?
By making it more like other parts of teens’ lives?
Breaking news: the point of Jewish education is not to bore kids into confusion about their Jewish identities, leading them to, at best, channel their ambivalence into postmodern indie rock projects like David Griffin’s Hebrew School and/or later force their own kids into the same fate out of some resentful sense of “tradition,” while their parents bemoan their lack of engagement.
Argues Adam Gaynor, “Jewish education is almost always based upon the needs and desires of adults rather than kids…. Adult fears about Jewish continuity also lead to the misguided notion that Jewish learning can only happen in exclusively Jewish environments,” despite the fact that “most American Jews choose to live, work and play in multicultural communities.” This isolation tells kids that “a fundamental rift exists between their Jewish selves and the rest of who they are and what they experience. This dichotomy is false.”
Gaynor’s organization, The Curriculum Initiative, is trying to meet teens on their own terms, with projects such as a boarding school seder held in partnership with a gay student group. But would the “multicultural” brand of Jewish education Gaynor advocates be safe from the de-cool-ifying effect of parental pressure? Or is this yet another attempt by adults to turn something kids are already doing into something Jewish in order to reassure themselves of continuity?
Jewish Education Should Be Multicultural, Like Us [JTA]