Under the Strain of the Coronavirus, American Jewish Day Schools Prove Their Mettle

During the past twenty years, non-Orthodox day schools in the U.S., have declined in number and enrollment, while their Orthodox equivalents have faced a burgeoning “tuition crisis” that has become an increasing cause of communal concern. Yet, during the pandemic, these institutions have shown surprising resilience. Alex Pomson and Jack Wertheimer write:

[N]ew evidence is emerging during the COVID-19 crisis of a modest though perceptible reversal in the fortunes of non-Orthodox day schools. Enrollments have risen in many of them; some, in fact, now have waiting lists. The influx of new students is largely due to transfers arriving from public schools, and in smaller numbers from nonsectarian private schools. It has taken the terrible COVID-19 crisis to draw attention to the many ways day schools have transformed themselves over the past two decades.

Looking at both Modern Orthodox and non-Orthodox day schools (but excluding the numerous ḥaredi schools), Wertheimer and Pomson document some of these transformations. Take, for instance, the way schools have addressed the new trend of including “social and emotional learning” (SEL) in school curricula:

Class time, [as part of any SEL program], is devoted to aiding students to develop empathy for one another, learn how to listen to what really is being said by their classmates, encourage self-awareness and emotional self-regulation, develop a moral compass, and incorporate ethical responsibilities into their lives. Day schools filter these discussions through a Jewish lens. At a [Conservative] Solomon Schechter school, for example, younger children explore Jewish teachings about honoring one’s parents and avoiding embarrassing a peer. In the higher grades, students are paired to study texts with an SEL focus, ḥevruta-style—that is, in the manner of study at traditional yeshivas, even as the subject matter couldn’t be more au courant. Discussions about developing resilience in the face of frustrations are partially based on Jewish texts. Here, as in many other classes, day schools integrate Jewish and general-studies perspectives.

To explain day schools’ coronavirus-era success, Wertheimer and Pomson cite one factor above all others:

When schools are mission-driven, as Jewish day schools are, their leaders will do what is necessary to provide the type of education and social connection they take so much pride in delivering. Schools did this during the spring lockdowns online, and they are determined to do the same in the present school year, preferably by opening for in-class learning and retreating to remote learning only if necessary. [The teachers’] dedication did not go unnoticed by their students. A survey of day-school students conducted during the summer found that fewer than 5 percent felt their schools had let them down last spring. It’s no wonder that parents, too, have rallied around their day schools.

Read more at Commentary

More about: American Judaism, Coronavirus, Day schools, Jewish education

Why the White House’s Plan to Prevent an Israel-Hizballah War Won’t Work

On Monday, Hizballah downed an Israeli drone, leading the IDF to retaliate with airstrikes that killed one of the terrorist group’s commanders in southern Lebanon, and two more of its members in the northeast. The latter strike marks an escalation by the IDF, which normally confines its activities to the southern part of the country. Hizballah responded by firing two barrages of rockets into northern Israel on Tuesday, while Hamas operatives in Lebanon fired another barrage yesterday.

According to the Iran-backed militia, 219 of its fighters have been killed since October; six Israeli civilians and ten soldiers have lost their lives in the north. The Biden administration has meanwhile been involved in ongoing negotiations to prevent these skirmishes from turning into an all-out war. The administration’s plan, however, requires carrots for Hizballah in exchange for unenforceable guarantees, as Richard Goldberg explains:

Israel and Hizballah last went to war in 2006. That summer, Hizballah crossed the border, killed three Israeli soldiers, and kidnapped two others. Israel responded with furious airstrikes, a naval blockade, and eventually a ground operation that met stiff resistance and mixed results. A UN-endorsed ceasefire went into effect after 34 days of war, accompanied by a Security Council Resolution that ordered the UN Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to assist the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) in disarming Hizballah in southern Lebanon—from the Israeli border up to the Litani River, some 30 kilometers away.

Despite billions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer support over the last seventeen years, the LAF made no requests to UNIFIL, which then never disarmed Hizballah. Instead, Iran accelerated delivering weapons to the terrorist group—building up its forces to a threat level that dwarfs the one Israel faced in 2006. The politics of Lebanon shifted over time as well, with Hizballah taking effective control of the Lebanese government and exerting its influence (and sometimes even control) over the LAF and its U.S.-funded systems.

Now the U.S. is offering Lebanon an economic bailout in exchange for a promise to keep Hizballah forces from coming within a mere ten kilometers of the border, essentially abrogating the Security Council resolution. Goldberg continues:

Who would be responsible for keeping the peace? The LAF and UNIFIL—the same pair that has spent seventeen years helping Hizballah become the threat it is today. That would guarantee that Hizballah’s commitments will never be verified or enforced.

It’s a win-win for [Hizballah’s chief Hassan] Nasrallah. Many of his fighters live and keep their missiles hidden within ten kilometers of Israel’s border. They will blend into the civilian population without any mechanism to force their departure. And even if the U.S. or France could verify a movement of weapons to the north, Nasrallah’s arsenal is more than capable of terrorizing Israeli cities from ten kilometers away. Meanwhile, a bailout of Lebanon will increase Hizballah’s popularity—demonstrating its tactics against Israel work.

Read more at The Dispatch

More about: Hizballah, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden