Jewish Day Schools in the US Open Doors for Israeli Students Amidst Conflict


As the deadly attacks unfold in Israel and Gaza, Jewish day schools in U.S. cities like Philadelphia and Dallas have become unexpected sanctuaries for worried families seeking refuge for their children. The question echoes through these institutions: can our children be taken away?

Jewish Day Schools in the U.S. Open Doors for Israeli Students Amidst Conflict
(Photo : UNSPLASH / Toa Heftiba)

Jewish Schools Step Up to the Challenge

In the face of this urgent plea, school leaders like Jay Leberman are answering the call. At Mandel Jewish Day School in Beachwood, Ohio, five Israeli students find a haven. Remarkably, the school has waived tuition fees, emphasizing the immediate need over financial considerations.

A survey conducted by the Prizmah Center for Jewish Day Schools sheds light on the widespread nature of this phenomenon. Approximately 92% of Jewish day schools in the U.S. and Canada report receiving inquiries about enrolling Israeli students since the October 7 Hamas attack. The outreach spans across different sects, with 80% of schools already having enrolled new students in the initial two-week period.

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Diverse Circumstances Fuel Inquiries

The aftermath of the October 7 attacks has created immense stress within the Jewish community, prompting families to explore educational alternatives for various reasons. Some are relocating from Israel, others find themselves stranded in the U.S. due to the conflict, and there are those seeking a deeper connection to their Jewish faith and heritage.

Mandel Jewish Day School's commitment goes beyond enrollment. Additional staff has been hired to provide social and emotional support services, along with Hebrew speakers and English as a Second Language (ESL) instructors. The school strives to create an environment where Israeli children can feel not just educated but safe and welcomed.

Prizmah's survey reveals the nuanced challenges faced by enrolled Israeli students. From language barriers to substantial differences in high school curricula between the U.S. and Israel, schools are navigating uncharted territory. The demand is not just for Hebrew-fluent teachers but also for counselors who understand the unique challenges these students bring.

Resilience in Crisis

Jewish day schools, having previously adapted rapidly to online instruction during the COVID-19 outbreak, now showcase their versatility in the face of unexpected challenges. The tragedy of the conflict adds another layer of uncertainty to an already tumultuous period.

Jay Leberman expresses concern not only for the students in his school but also for his grandchildren. His son, a member of an elite Israeli military unit, is on the frontlines, emphasizing the paradoxical desire for safety while being aware of the sacrifices made.
Schools like Akiba Yavneh Academy in Dallas have initiated programs to cater specifically to the needs of the new Israeli students. Partnerships with local agencies offer social, emotional, and academic support. Financial burdens are eased, with schools forgoing tuition or offering reduced rates.

As the conflict persists, these schools find themselves in a dynamic situation, reassessing their programs every two weeks to adapt to evolving needs. Amid the heavy burden of uncertainty, there is a collective effort within the Jewish community to provide structure, routine, and a sense of normalcy for the children caught in the midst of a tumultuous situation.

In the face of a seemingly intractable conflict thousands of miles away, the commitment of these schools to provide support and refuge stands as a testament to the resilience of communities. It transcends borders to offer solace and stability during challenging times, showcasing the enduring spirit of solidarity within the Jewish community.

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