School Vouchers, Day Schools, and Fun Holidays Can Get Children Excited about Judaism

For many American Jewish children, the first taste of Judaism comes at High Holy Day services—which are long and, to most children and many adults, boring. It would be much better, argued Peter Beinart in a recent essay, to introduce children to such holidays as Sukkot and Purim, whose practices include, respectively, eating outdoors and dressing in costumes. Evelyn Gordon deems this analysis “unfeasible”:

Beinart’s proposal is impractical because only parents who are already very committed to Judaism are likely to be willing to celebrate such holidays. Those who aren’t generally know next to nothing about these holidays, not even when they occur. Moreover, observing any Jewish holiday in America often means taking a day off from work and school, which [most] parents . . . won’t be willing to do more than once or twice a year. . . .

If you could somehow eliminate these obstacles, getting Jews to observe other holidays would be much easier, as the Israeli experience shows. Though only around 20 percent of Israeli Jews self-identify as Orthodox, a whopping 85 percent attribute importance to celebrating Jewish holidays “in the traditional manner,” i.e. by doing some traditional activity associated with the holiday. . . .

But that’s precisely because, in Israel, celebrating holidays like Purim and Sukkot is easy. First, all Jewish holidays are automatically days off from work and school. Second, kindergartens and primary schools (and sometimes higher grades) all teach about and have activities relating to the holidays before they occur—for instance, kids always come to school in costume before Purim. . . .

There is, of course, a way to replicate all of these conditions, aside from the days off work: sending children to a Jewish day school. And that solution works in Europe, where many nonobservant Jews do send their kids to Jewish schools, because they like the combination of Jewish content with excellent secular studies. But in America, that, too, is unfeasible: most American parents can’t afford the sky-high day-school tuition, and therefore, there isn’t enough demand even to justify starting such a school in many non-Orthodox communities. . . .

[T]he only way to make Jewish schools widely available and affordable is through vouchers that can be used at parochial schools. Consequently, school choice is literally a matter of life and death for American Jewry. . . . Yet rather than supporting vouchers, American Jewish organizations have consistently opposed them. . . . So let’s hope the new Jewish year that began this month will finally be the one in which American Jewish leaders stop trying to make Judaism hard and instead start lobbying for the one policy that would make it easier.

Read more at Evelyn Gordon

More about: Day schools, High Holidays, Jewish education, Peter Beinart, Purim, Religion & Holidays, Sukkot

While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy