The Latest on Conservative Day Schools, and December Holidays Fun


The Solomon Schechter Day School Association made no decision on whether to change their admission policies to allow the children of non-Jewish mothers, according to Sue Fishkoff’s update of last Thursday’s JTA story. Instead, Fishkoff says, the association’s board of directors “will continue the discussion” after the conference.

That’s not surprising; these kinds of decisions often take a lot of time and a lot of controversy. But it was nice to see that Rabbi Jerome Epstein continues to argue for a more welcoming attitude in the movement:

Speaking to conference delegates Monday in Boca Raton, Epstein made an impassioned plea to Schechter school directors and rabbis to be more welcoming to children of non-Jewish mothers, suggesting that the system “make a special effort to enroll the children of intermarried Jews even if they are not halachically Jewish,” and then engage in concerted outreach efforts to encourage the children and their non-Jewish mother to convert “as part of their Jewish journey.”

Fishkoff’s story also noted that some of the more conservative-leaning Conservative day school heads were uneasy with the discussion:

Reaction to Epstein’s suggestion drew mixed reviews at the conference.

Rabbi Scott Bolton, head of the Reuben Gittelman Hebrew Day School in New City, N.Y. — which admits only children who are halachically Jewish — was one of several rabbis who believed that such a change should not be made to Schechter admissions practice ahead of more wide-ranging infrastructure changes in the movement “to share our passion about becoming Jewish.”

Fishkoff also quoted an anonymous education expert outside of the Conservative movement, who predicted a “big backlash” if the schools change their admissions policy.

In other news, our December Holidays Survey has been getting some good press. The JTA did a brief on the survey, which has been reprinted in a handful of papers, and Beliefnet wrote about the survey in a brief titled “Report: No ‘Chrismukkah’ This Year” in its ongoing coverage of the so-called “War on Christmas.”

Also, I recently spoke with Cassandra Spratling of the Detroit Free Press, who did a nice piece for the Sunday edition on interfaith families and celebrating the holidays.

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