Operating Jewish schools in seven cities in the U.S. and Canada, and planning to open five more at the start of the upcoming academic year, Tamim Academy presents itself as a new model of Jewish elementary school. Affiliated with the Chabad movement, these schools are usually run by local Lubavitch emissaries, and cater to a mixed student body coming from Orthodox and non-Orthodox families. Ray Domanico explains what makes these schools unusual, and where they fit into the broader American educational landscape:
The Tamim model combines progressive education principles such as the whole-child and child-centered emphases with elements associated with modern school-reform policies, such as the use of a learning-management platform to track student progress and the work that the students do on their school-supplied iPads. . . . A unique aspect of Tamim’s program is the infusion of Judaic studies into all aspects of the curriculum, rather than the traditional allotment of having some hours of the school day assigned to religious training.
In [a Tamim] promotional video, parents noted that “what public schools didn’t teach was really character” and that the public system failed them in the past and “took away our innocence.” “Kids are losing their childhood these days,” one mother remarks. . . . This is the power of school choice—parents being free to choose a school that not only provides academic rigor but also respects their child’s individuality in ways that enforce the family’s culture and values.
Tamim’s model explicitly merges Jewish studies with secular studies. Embedded in the Tamim model is a belief that, for some families, the religious and secular aspects of education cannot be relegated to separate boxes; they are intertwined. In the recently decided Carson v. Makin, the Supreme Court ruled that Maine’s policy of excluding schools that “do religion” from participating in a school-choice program, while including other private schools, violates the free exercise clause. As a result of this ruling, schools like Tamim should be free to participate in state school-choice programs in states where such programs exist and at their discretion.