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More Jewish Children Are Getting a Jewish Education, Census Shows

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A census of Jewish schools in the Diaspora has disclosed a sharp increase in recent years in the number of Jewish children getting a Jewish education.

The gains exceeded the overall increase in the school-age Jewish population, according to the second international census of Diaspora Jewish schools, conducted in 40 countries between 1987 and 1989. The results were compared with the first census, taken between 1981 and 1983.

The sharpest rise was in places with large concentrations of Orthodox Jews.

The census was conducted under the auspices of the Project for Jewish Educational Statistics at the Hebrew University’s institute of Contemporary Judaism.

The head of the institute, Professor Sergio DellaPergola, made the results public at a conference on Diaspora Jewish education convened in Jerusalem.

The conference was co-sponsored by the Jewish Agency’s Louis Pincus Fund for Diaspora Jewish Education and the Joint Program for Jewish Education of the Israeli Ministry of Education and Culture. The World Zionist Organization also participated.

Gains in enrollment over the last census were as high as 25.6 percent in the United States and 23.3 percent in France.

In the United States, the increase was due almost entirely to enrollment in Jewish day schools, whereas in France the gain was about equal between day schools and supplementary schools, the census showed.

Canada, Argentina and Brazil experienced little gain in the same period.

Orthodox day schools made the strongest showing in the New York metropolitan area. About 52 percent of the enrollment is under strict Orthodox sponsorship and 42 percent under mainstream Orthodox auspices.

Outside the New York area however, strictly Orthodox schools accounted for only 1.5 percent of the total and mainstream Orthodox schools 66 percent.

Schools of the Conservative movement amounted to 15 percent and another 15 percent were community schools.

In France, 25.9 percent of the day schools are under strict Orthodox sponsorship and 30 percent are mainstream Orthodox. Community schools account for most of the rest.

DellaPergola explained the increase of Jewish education in the United States at least in part by the “echo effect” of the American “baby boom,” which began after World War II and continued until the early 1960s.

Despite a high rate of intermarriage, there is a larger pool of school-age Jewish children than in previous years, he said.

DellaPergola also cited the higher birth rate in the strictly Orthodox sector and the trend away from public to private schools.

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