Half of Conservative Religious School Students Drop out After Bar Mitzvah, Survey Reveals

A comprehensive study, “Continuation and Dropout in Conservative Congregational Schools,” revealed that 47 percent of the 973 students who observed their Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah in Conservative congregational schools in Los Angeles between September, 1965, and August, 1966, dropped their Jewish education after the Bar Mitzvah year. The study, published by the Jewish Federation-Council’s Bureau of Jewish Education and the University of Judaism, was written by Dr. Emil Jacoby, director of education at Valley Jewish Community Center and Temple and instructor in education at the University of Judaism. It is based on his survey of nearly 1,000 students who attended 30 different schools affiliated with the United Synagogue of America. In this study, Dr. Jacoby reported the results of his research into the congregational school system. He investigated reasons for dropout after Bar Mitzvah, student reaction to educational programs, and parental background and involvement. Students’ dissatisfaction with the elementary school program, conflict with competing high school activities, and insufficient parental interest and support were major influences in the dropout rate, the study showed.

Regarding achievement, the study found that the schools are more effective in transmitting knowledge of religious practices than ethical values and that the schools place greater emphasis on the teaching of customs and history than on the American Jewish community and current events. The study confirmed a definite relationship between the child’s continuation after Bar Mitzvah, the “Jewishness” of the home, and parental involvement in Jewish organizational activities. The effect of extra-curricular activities on children’s continuation in secondary school was also considered significant. According to the survey, there are twice as many students continuing their Jewish education among those who have been active in a youth group or who have attended a summer camp during their elementary school years. The study was conducted under the auspices of the Institute of Jewish Social Research of the University of Judaism Graduate School, in cooperation with the BJE.

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