My wife, Danielle, and I made the commitment to send our kids to Jewish Day School for one reason, and one reason only. But before I detail that reason, I’ll tell you other reasons that actually have no bearing at all on our decision.
- Judaic Studies. We didn’t make the decision to send our kids to day school because they would learn Judaics. Sure, it’s a nice benefit that during the school day they are taught the foundational scriptures of our religion. And of course it’s great that they learn in-depth the weekly Torah portion, they learn the customs of our holidays, and they learn not only how to pray, but the value of prayer. Those are all great things. But ultimately, if that’s what we wanted, we could get that through before-school, after-school, or Sunday-school programs.
- Hebrew Studies. We didn’t select our school because our kids would learn Hebrew as a foreign language. We could very well have exposed them to Hebrew at home, online, or with a tutor. We could have given them a Rosetta Stone Hebrew education, but that’s not what we wanted. Our goal is not to have them speak Hebrew as native Israelis…simply because they are not native Israelis; that standard is too high for anyone living outside of Israel. Our goal is for them to have a foundational understanding of Hebrew that they can choose to build upon throughout their lives.
- General / Secular Studies. Despite the Shmuel Bass Torah Academy recently receiving unprecedented high scores in their accreditation, we also didn’t select a Jewish Day School for its strong secular studies program. If all we wanted for our girls was for them to receive a strong general studies education, we would have elected to send them to any number of top public, charter, or private schools across the city where they would have been exposed to much more esoteric concepts than are currently offered at TASA. Yes, the level of general studies at TASA is exceedingly high (proven by both the test scores and the accreditation results) and yes, more and more programs will be added in the coming years. But despite the individualized instruction and care given by the teachers of TASA to each student to uniquely prepare them, general studies were not the reason we selected our school.
No. The reason we have worked tirelessly for the last four years to ensure the existence and sustainability of San Antonio’s Jewish Day School that our girls love is because it is the only place in San Antonio where our girls are exposed to a balanced fusion of General Studies, Hebrew, and Judaics that will prepare them to enter the real world rooted in who they are while equipped with the 21st century skills they will need to succeed. Studies routinely prove Jewish Day Schools to be the most effective, long-term solution for ensuring the continuity of the Jewish people while excelling in the real-world – that’s exactly what we want for our girls.
The mixture of real-world skills with Jewish values, ethics, and morals is impossible to get at any public, charter, non-Jewish private, or homeschool, even with supplemental Jewish programs. Why? The answer is simple: TASA’s environment reinforces that you can be Jewish AND live in the secular world at the same time whereas the other options create silos. In one environment, you are only focused on secular topics while not reinforcing your “Jewishness”, while in the other environment, you are only focused on the Jewish part while ignoring the secular world around you.
I am confident that my girls, as well as the other students at TASA, will not find that duality of existence – they are firmly proud of living as Jews while learning the real-world skills and applications to succeed in the path of their choosing. In a world with both increasing anti-Semitism and intermarriage, we want to give our girls the best chance to continue our Jewish lineage into the next generations – that is why we choose Jewish day school.
-Aaron Sarfati, President of the Shmuel Bass Torah Academy of San Antonio