A Response to Cousens

By Ana Robbins

In “Can We Disrupt Religious School?,” Beth Cousens argues poignantly that a revitalization of Jewish education in America will require more than a change in how we run our schools, it will require religious school to identify a new audience.

A new audience? Who could Hebrew schools serve?

The American Jewish community’s current model of religious schools within synagogues leaves an astonishing service gap. It does not serve Jewish kids whose families do not belong to synagogues … most Jewish kids!

What if religious school aimed to impact every Jewish child. What would it mean for the future of the Jewish people if we removed the barriers to accessing a Jewish education?
By only discussing the challenges of synagogue Hebrew schools, we are missing the larger challenge: We have to figure out a way to deliver Jewish experiences and learning to many more Jewish people. The “new market” we are seeking is right before our eyes – the majority of Jewish kids in America who don’t have access to a Jewish education. We must turn our focus to this market and create community Hebrew schools that are superb in content and quality and open to all Jewish kids.

Ana Robbins is Executive Director of Jewish Kids Groups.

Jewish Kids Groups – a community Hebrew school network piloting in Atlanta – is focused on dramatically increasing access to, and elevating the experience of, Jewish Sunday school.