For Charters’ Jewish Cousins, So Near, So Far: The Tricky Relationship Between Hebrew Charter Schools and Their Religious After-School Programs

December 28, 2010

Source: The Jewish Week


Julie Wiener, associate editor of The Jewish Week writes about the development of after-school Judaic studies programs for students from the new Hebrew charter school movement. These private, optional programs offer a chance to engage unaffiliated Jewish children while also compensating for what is, from the Jewish community’s perspective, a major shortcoming of Hebrew charter schools: their inability to teach Bible, prayer or other religious content.


The new charter schools around the country provide a curriculum including Hebrew language and culture but may not provide any Jewish identity or religious component to stay within the legal guidelines of the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The New York-based Hebrew Charter School Center (HCSC), which provides grants and other support to the NY area charter school also provides funds to establish an after school Jewish program to make sure Jewish students would have opportunities outside the charter schools to build on the platform of the Hebrew fluency and Israel education they get during the day and get a deeper education.


Other after school programs serving charter school students also exist around the country. There is the Jewish Upbringing Matters Program (JUMP), whose three sites together serve approximately 300 students — slightly under 30 percent of the total enrollment from the three Hebrew charter schools in South Florida. Twenty-one students from the Hatikvah International Academy Charter School in East Brunswick, N.J. (about 20 percent of the student body), attend Chai Central, an after-school program run by the local Chabad house.


The hope in the HCSC, which aims to help open 20 Hebrew charter schools by 2015, is that the Brooklyn emerging afternoon program, which includes a camp-like track called Chavaya and a more traditional one called Omek, will serve as a model that can be replicated around the country. 

Updated: Mar. 09, 2011