Study finds growing interest in Jewish day schools after Oct. 7

Over 1,000 temporary Israeli students have enrolled in North American Jewish schools since the start of the war, according to Prizmah

More than a third of Jewish day schools and yeshivas in North America have seen a rise in inquiries from parents considering moving their children from public schools or non-Jewish private schools since the Oct. 7 terror attacks in Israel and a subsequent global rise in antisemitism, according to a new survey by the Jewish day school network Prizmah.

The organization also found that many Israelis who have moved to North America temporarily because of the war are interested in sending their children to Jewish schools. More than 1,000 such students have enrolled in Jewish day schools so far, and interest is growing, the survey found.

“Parents of public and private school students are turning towards Jewish day schools out of a desire for their children to benefit from all that makes Jewish day schools great — an excellent education, a warm, nurturing Jewish environment, and protection from antisemitism they might experience elsewhere,” Paul Bernstein, CEO of Prizmah, said in a statement. “The best defense against antisemitism and hostility to Israel is to nurture strong, confident, knowledgeable Jewish youth and Jewish day schools answer that need.”

The pollsters surveyed 110 Jewish day schools of various denominations — 99 schools in the U.S. and 11 in Canada — from Nov. 27 to Dec. 8. The report was written by Amy Adler, Odelia Epstein and Beth Rivkind. This was the second “Enrollment Trend Report” that Prizmah has released since the start of the war.

The survey found that there have been nearly 200 inquiries to Jewish schools from parents about transferring their children — 146 from parents of public school students and 51 from private school students.

More than a third — 35% — of schools said they have seen an increase in the number of enrollment inquiries compared to last year, while 14% reported that inquiries are down compared to this time last year.

“While the sample is not fully representative of the field of Jewish day schools and yeshivas, it clearly depicts that the trends reported herein are happening amongst one-third of the Prizmah network of schools,” the report’s authors noted.

Since Oct. 7, 24 public school students have transferred to 13 Jewish day schools, as have eight private school students, according to Prizmah.

While this marks a notable increase for public and private school transfer students, the survey found that the far more dramatic influx of students to Jewish day schools have been Israeli children moving to North America temporarily because of the war.

Prizmah found that nearly all of the schools surveyed — 95% — had received inquiries about temporary Israeli students or enrollments; over 2,000 inquiries were made from October to December.

Since the start of the war, at least 1,037 temporary Israeli students have enrolled in Jewish day schools and yeshivas, the survey found.

Roughly half of the schools surveyed — 49% — have not charged tuition for the temporary Israeli students. Just over half — 56% — said they were getting outside funding to cover the costs of the students, with 35% saying they secured funds from their local federation, 21% from donors and 3% from a foundation. Another 11% of schools reported “other” as the source and “indicated they are still working on securing funding,” according to the Prizmah report.

This sudden enrollment of over 1,000 Israeli students has required additional teachers and mental health support staff at many schools.

More than two-thirds of respondents — 68% — said there was additional need for English Language Learning or English as a Second Language classes. Of these, 37% said their existing staff was able to cover the additional load, 20% said they had already hired staff and 17% said that volunteers were filling that role. Another 26% said they needed additional workers but hadn’t yet hired anyone.

Almost half of the schools — 46% — said their existing mental health care teams have been able to provide support to the temporary Israeli students, while 6% said they had hired new staff and 7% said volunteers were filling in.

“Jewish day schools and yeshivas have exhibited remarkable adaptability by warmly embracing temporary Israeli students,” the report’s authors wrote. “These schools, with a strong emphasis on fostering a connection to Israel, play a pivotal role in the development of the culture and identity of the broader Jewish community.”