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‘Wake-Up Call’: Hebrew School Enrollment in the US has Tanked, New Study Finds

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By Ben Rappaport, United with Israel

new study released Wednesday finds that Hebrew school enrollment in the US has decreased dramatically in recent years, ynet reported.

According to the study, released by The Jewish Education Project, US “Hebrew schools” – after-school or weekend programs that supplement formal education with Jewish or Hebrew studies – have seen a 41% decline in enrollment form 2006 to 2020.

In the 2006-2007 academic year, 230,000 students were enrolled in Hebrew school, but that number dropped to 135,000 by the 2019-2020 school year. The number of Hebrew schools in that same period declined from  2,000 to 1,398.

“We have to look at the negative trend in these schools as a wake-up call,” The Jewish Education Project’s CEO, Dr. David Bryfman, said, according to ynet.“As a community, we’re responsible for it. We can’t ignore it, and therefore our commitment should be to fund and nurture this important resource.”

The study also found a correlation between the decline for Hebrew schools and other factors, such as decreased synagogue attendance and a rise in Jewish assimilation and Jews who identify as atheists.

In addition, the study noted increased enrollment in private Jewish schools, where Jewish or Hebrew studies are built into the formal curriculum. The authors attributed a significant part of this growth to the growing haredi Jewish population, the majority of whose students learn in private Jewish institutions.

While overall Hebrew school enrollment declined, the study noted that Hebrew schools managed by Chabad actually saw an increase of over 100% in enrollment.

Furthermore, the percentage of Hebrew school students learning at Chabad-managed Hebrew schools increased from 4% in the 2006-2007 year to 10% in 2019-2020, while the percentage of Chabad-managed Hebrew schools increased from 13% to 21%.

Commenting on the success of Chabad Hebrew schools, Bryfman concluded, “One of the things that Chabad is really good at is developing a relationship between children, their teachers, and families.”

“And if there’s one lesson we should take from this, it’s that Hebrew schools don’t need to be one-way roads,” he added, according to ynet. “We don’t need to tell students what they ‘need to know’ and ‘need to do’ to be ‘good Jewish people.’ Schools need to cultivate positive connections within the whole community.”

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