The Latest on Conservative Day Schools, and December Holidays Fun

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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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