Parents in the metropolitan area say that Jewish day schools in New York have an opportunity for better outreach, according to a new study funded by UJA-Federation of New York.
Parents looking for schools that offer their children high academic standards, an engaging learning environment, and economic diversity often overlook Jewish day schools, the report says. In general, it says, parents are familiar with public schools and secular private schools but have a low awareness of Jewish day schools. Parents also currently group together all types of day schools.
While numerous studies have found higher levels of Jewish connection and identity linked to adults who attended day schools as children, this new one says Jewish day schools can take steps to figure more largely in parents’ decision-making process. These include:

  • Teachers and parents of current students acting as ambassadors for Jewish day schools and helping to spread the word about the enriching education schools offer
  • More contemporary websites positioning schools in a new light
  • Inclusion in listings that rank academic performance to show parents that schools are competitive with others in the area

The study, To Go or Not to Go: Perceptions of Jewish Day Schools Among Non-Orthodox Parents in Manhattan and Long Island, was completed by Insight Research Group and released by UJA-Federation on December 18.
The report also found that when parents with secular, Reform, or Conservative backgrounds hear the term “Jewish day school,” they often think of a yeshiva, an Orthodox religious-based school. This misconception, researchers say, can prevent parents from understanding that a Jewish day school offers a strong secular education, along with instruction in Jewish culture, prayer, and Hebrew language classes.

“The perceived religiosity, scholastic singularity, and social structure of Jewish day schools are leading non-Orthodox parents to believe that, Jewishly and academically, day school education ‘isn’t for people like me,’ ” the study notes.
Another barrier to fully considering Jewish day schools as an option, the study reports, is tuition cost. This was found to be especially true for Long Island parents, where the public school system is highly regarded.
To see the report online, go to www.ujafedny.org/publications