A Census of Jewish Day Schools in the US 2018-9

Published: 
August 2020

Source: AVI CHAI Foundation 

 

The AVI CHAI Foundation has released the 2018–2019 census of Jewish day school enrollment in the United States. Conducted at five year intervals, this census represents the fifth and final AVI CHAI census report. This report presents enrollment data for the 2018-19 school year, as well as analysis of the major trends and changes in the Day School world since 1998.

The enrollment data featured in this report were provided by 906 Jewish day schools, reflecting the participation of every known Jewish day school in the U.S. As such, the data presented here are not extrapolations.

This report notes two leading challenges confronting day schools:

  • The challenge of addressing the long-term trend of a decline in Jewish day school enrollment in large sections of the Jewish community. 
     
  • The challenge of whether there will be sufficient communal resources to tackle the growing costs and declining affordability of quality education throughout the entire Jewish day school community, especially given the continuing growth in enrollment in the Yeshiva World and Chasidic sectors.

NUMBER OF SCHOOLS AND SCHOOL SIZE

The number of Jewish day schools indicated in this census (906) is considerably greater than the 861 reported five years ago and the 802 reported ten years ago. In the 1998–1999 school year, the number of schools was 676. The 34% increase in the number of schools over the past 20 years likely has important financial implications for both the day school world and Jewish philanthropy.

Nearly all the growth in the number of schools over the past five years has been in the fervently Orthodox sectors— primarily within the Yeshiva World sector, where for a host of reasons, there is a tendency toward smaller schools, especially those serving boys and those operating at the high school level.

Although there are large Jewish day schools, because of geographic dispersal and denominational diversity, most day schools are relatively small institutions, particularly by comparison to public schools and to most nonpublic schools, be they religious or private.

ENROLLMENT BY SCHOOL CATEGORY

The largest enrollment groups are Yeshiva and Chassidic institutions. Since approximately half of enrollment in Chabad schools can also be identified as fervently Orthodox (as is true of Chabad schools in Crown Heights, Brooklyn and several other communities), 68% of all day school enrollment can fairly be identified as fervently Orthodox. Most of these students come from homes where day school or yeshiva education is firmly embedded in the family’s belief system; few children from such homes will be found in public schools.

Enrollment in the three non-Orthodox school categories— Reform, Solomon Schechter/ Conservative and Community—amounts to 30,756 students, or approximately 10.5% of the total number of students in all Jewish day schools. This represents a small proportion of all school-age children in non-Orthodox homes. This is a matter of obvious concern, because the low number is indicative of what might be viewed as the significant changes occurring in much of American Jewish life outside the boundaries of the Orthodox.

Outside of New York and New Jersey, non-Orthodox school enrollment is 25,362 and total school enrollment is 71,859, meaning that 35% of students outside New York and New Jersey are in non-Orthodox schools. This is a meaningful statistic, indicating that non-Orthodox schools are maintaining a meaningful presence outside the New York/ New Jersey metropolitan area.

THE GEOGRAPHIC FACTOR

There are currently Jewish day schools in 37 states and the District of Columbia. Aside from New York and New Jersey, which are discussed next, in most states with major cities that have a significant number of Jews, the census found that enrollment has held up and has usually increased. This is true of California, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Texas.

A total of 26 states had enrollment increases from the 2013-2014 census, although in several cases, the number of students was quite small to begin with. In 6 states, total enrollment is under 50, in 2 other states, enrollment is below 100. In 18 states, enrollment declined from the 1998-1999 census.

New York and New Jersey have experienced spectacular growth in day school enrollment. Between 1998 and 2018, enrollment in New York day schools grew by more than 66,611 (a 64.1% increase). In New Jersey, the number grew by 31,839 (a 177.3% increase). Total enrollment in U.S. day schools has grown by almost 108,000 over the 20-year census period, with nearly all of this growth attributable to New York and New Jersey. Notably, nearly all of the growth in these two states is attributable to increased enrollment in Chassidic and Yeshiva World schools, although enrollment in New York City non-Orthodox schools has increased in every census. In addition, between the 20-year census period, Modern Orthodox day school enrollment has increased 21.5% in the New York City and Suburban New York City region.

In raw numbers, New York and New Jersey had 220,313 day school students in 2018. The financial challenges facing the geographic communities and also the religious communities that sustain these institutions is enormous, and the challenge is made even greater by the necessity to create additional facilities to accommodate the remarkable growth. Nearly all of the additional students over the past five years in New Jersey schools are attributable to the sensational growth of yeshivas and day schools in Lakewood, New Jersey. This relatively small municipality is home to Beth Medrash Govoha, the largest advanced yeshiva in the world, with an enrollment of 7,000 seminary students.

Read the entire report here.


 

Updated: Oct. 22, 2020
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