Source: Wayne State University Press
In Back to School, authors Alex Pomson and Randal F. Schnoor argue that the Jewish day school serves as an unconventional site for creating religious meaning in new ways by bringing adults and children together for education, meeting, study, and worship-like ceremonies. They suggest that day school functions as a locus of Jewish identity akin to the Jewish streets or neighborhoods that existed in many major North American cities in the first half of the twentieth century.
Back to School began as an ethnographic study of the Paul Penna Downtown Jewish Day School (DJDS) in Toronto, a private, religiously pluralistic day school that balances its Jewish curriculum with general studies. Drawing on a longitudinal study at DJDS, and against the backdrop of a comparative study of two other Toronto day schools as well as four day schools from the U.S. Midwest, Pomson and Schnoor argue that when parents choose Jewish schools for their children they look for institutions that satisfy not only their children’s academic and emotional needs but also their own social and personal concerns as Jewish adults.
The authors found an uncommon degree of involvement and engagement on the part of the parents, as genuine friendships and camaraderie blossomed between parents, faculty, and administrators. In addition, the authors discovered that parents who considered themselves secular Jews were introduced to or reacquainted with the depth and meaning of Jewish tradition and rituals through observing or taking part in school activities.