For parents of Jewish children considering a day school in the Charleston area, a Jewish education offers a unique opportunity. According to Golda Meir, the Israeli prime minister and stateswoman, every Jewish child “is born with the right to grow up knowing the history of their people and the intricate details of their heritage. What each child chooses to do with that knowledge is up to each child. […] The goal is to guarantee they have the ability to make choices because they have the knowledge.”
Here are 6 reasons why a Jewish education makes sense:
1. It builds a strong academic foundation
“Jewish education is not just about rote memorization of material,” says Abby Levine, head of school at Addlestone Hebrew Academy, Charleston’s only Jewish day school. “Instead, it’s about teaching experientially and engaging the whole child.” Addlestone uses a STEAM curriculum (that’s science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics) to create a fully rounded, project-based education that engages student interest.
2. It instills a moral compass
“Within Judaism there is a strong emphasis on respect for others, specifically parents, teachers, elders, and peers, as the Torah teaches ‘love others like you love yourself,’” says Ariela Davis, Addlestone’s director of Judaics.
At Addlestone, students participate in regular activities and programs that teach them how to care for others in the community. “For example, for the holiday of Simchat Torah the children are going to visit a home for the elderly next to the school called the Sherman House,” Davis says. “The students will sing and dance for the residents in celebration of the holiday and plant flowers and other plants around the building.”
3. It teaches reasoning and the ability to make choices
Students at Addlestone spend time studying and discussing foundational texts like the Talmud, an ancient document that records back-and-forth discussions of the meaning of Jewish law.
“The Talmud is all based on logic and rational discussion,” Davis says. “Our students learn to understand the reasoning behind Jewish law, which teaches how to think critically about any subject.”
Davis points out that in South Korea the Talmud is a best-selling book because of widespread belief that it teaches children how to reason and think. By teaching students how to question, challenge and reason, a Jewish education helps equip them to discover their own values and build their identity.
4. It emphasizes small classes and a feeling of family
In Addlestone’s lower school, the average class has only eight students. “That means no students fall through the cracks,” Levine says. If a student doesn’t bring in their homework assignment or is having a bad day, teachers can notice and contact the student’s parents.
5. It enables students to learn a new language
Students at Addlestone learn to read, write and speak Hebrew, giving them knowledge that connects them to past generations in history. “There’s something really powerful in learning in the same language your grandparents and great-grandparents learned, all the way back to Moses,” Davis says.
Because all the classic Jewish texts are written in Hebrew, students can fully understand the language that they’re written in. An annual 8th grade trip to Israel even allows students to meet fellow Hebrew speakers from many different national origins and backgrounds, and communicate with them using a common language.
6. It introduces Jewish heritage and history
Students at Addlestone take classes on the Bible, Jewish holidays and Jewish history. The curriculum also includes classes on the modern state of Israel and the Holocaust. “Learning the Bible connects them to the very beginning of their heritage,” Davis says. “The modern history lets them connect to their Judaism in a whole different way that’s tangible and meaningful.”