Columns - 1998

    Welcome Back, Kinder

    by Doug Brook
    Southern Shofar Columnist

    Dear Religious School parent,

    This letter is to welcome you and your child(ren) back to the synagogue's Religious School for the 1998-1999 academic year. Both myself and our faculty look forward to another exciting and educational year enhancing your child's religious knowledge and experience.

    You will be pleased to learn that in preparing for this academic year we considered all of the feedback we have received from you, the parents, in recent years. We have worked hard to incorporate it all into our program as described in this letter. We hope this will provide your children with what you consider to be the ideal Religious School experience.


    Many parents have expressed concern about the standard for attendance we expect. As you know, our requirements have been that all students attend for two hours each on Sunday mornings and one afternoon during the week, and attend a minimum number of Saturday morning services. While this is below the national average, we have cut each session to 60 minutes to ensure your children have time to relax at home for a half hour before leisurely putting on their soccer uniforms, dancing shoes, karate outfits, or in any other way preparing for their other activities.

    Another concern about attendance has been that excused absences are too exclusive, especially since we do not count such things as baseball tournaments and play rehearsals (including last spring's high school production of "Jesus Christ, Superstar") as excused absences. Therefore, we have decided to waive all requirements for attendance. Our new Attend When You Want policy ensures not only that your child will only be here when he or she wants to, but also that our teachers will have classrooms filled only with interested students.

    Some parents have also expressed distaste for having to drive children to the synagogue for classes, and for having to wake up early on Saturday mornings to drop them off at services before their tee times. We estimate the loss of sleep has affected the handicap for our synagogue members by an average of three strokes. Confronted with such alarming statistics, our faculty will graciously pick up your child from school, home, or any of three friends whose addresses are provided to the school office at least two hours in advance.

    To further alleviate these difficulties, all faculty members will be available at the synagogue every weekday afternoon from 4 until 10, so your child can attend when it is most convenient. We have also asked the rabbi to consider rescheduling Saturday morning services to a more convenient time. This has not yet been resolved, but Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. is the most likely alternative. If this time is also inconvenient, please don't hesitate to call, send email, or threaten to withdraw your membership.

    Due to the anticipated success of our new flexible attendance policy, we will only open the rear entrance of the school wing. Please note this when you slow down to 30 miles per hour to drop off your child.


    Several of you have noted that the subjects we teach are not attracting the interest of your children. We have decided, therefore, to forego our traditional curriculum of teaching Hebrew, Jewish history, ethics, services, customs, and holidays. Instead we will provide courses such as "Jews in Modern Music", which will consist of watching recent videos from MTV and VH1 by stars who have been discovered to have a Jewish ancestor in their previous two generations.

    There have also been many complaints that our classes interfere with the time your children have to do their homework, especially for our high school students. Therefore, in our high school, we are piloting a program wherein students will be allowed to do their homework or learn lines for their theatre activities during class. Also, our teachers will be continually trained so they can answer any questions during class that your children might have about their homework. We have high expectations for this pilot program. If successful, we will implement it in the lower grades next spring.


    With the ever increasing cost of raising a child with all the comforts and luxuries we would have wanted for ourselves, the Religious School has enacted a Voluntary Tuition plan. This plan has two parts. First, you only have to pay tuition based on the amount of times your child voluntarily attends services in the first 10 years after graduation. (After much discussion, the synagogue board decided that attending Hillel services during college to meet a future spouse does not count.)

    Second, since synagogue dues are such a financial burden, we have made the new tuition structure voluntary. This way, people who cannot afford the extra tuition may still have their children attend the school free of the restriction of not being allowed to learn anything.

    Other Changes

    Many parents have expressed that their children want more break time to socialize and, in general, that you would like more focus on socializing since many of you believe it to be the primary function of the school. Therefore, in our new one-hour schedule, we will expand the break time from 15 minutes to 30 minutes, and make sure to start the break on time. Given the average class start time of five minutes late, this ensures that two-thirds of your child's time here will be spent socializing.

    The most frequent concern expressed by parents is that many children leave our school, whether it be two, three, or four years before they have completed the curriculum, without a complete working knowledge of conversational Hebrew, services, all the holidays, and traditions.

    At your request, we are abandoning our existing philosophy that our education of your children is best when augmented by activity in the home. However, we will continue our practice of not assigning homework or giving exams of any kind. While our colleagues in the public school systems do not agree, we believe you are correct in stating that such additional burdens are unfair and detrimental to your child's emotional development.

    We are currently researching practical, realistic means of providing complete knowledge of Judaism. While they might not be ready in time for the start of this school year, our faculty is investing countless hours and dollars (taken from a loan against our school wing's second mortgage) in researching such teaching techniques as osmosis, Learn In Your Sleep recordings, brain chip implants, and other cutting-edge methods for freeing you, the parent, from any responsibility or obligation toward fostering or participating in the Jewish education of your child.

    With this practice, we anticipate meeting our new goal of all students who have attended at least one month of our program being allowed to conduct the entire service for their bar or bat mitzvah without any extra study outside of our new school curriculum.

    We hope that these changes help the Religious School better meet your needs and interests. We thank you for your valuable input and your patience through all these years where we were grossly negligent in meeting your needs. If these changes do not answer all of your concerns, please continue to feel free to call me at the synagogue or home at any time of day or night to speak your mind as freely as you wish. If I ever do see any of you at services, I only ask that you refrain from providing your feedback during the sermon.

    I look forward to seeing all of you at the November board meeting where my contract renewal will be discussed.


    Your Synagogue Education Director

    Copyright Doug Brook. All rights reserved.