One other example of the evolution, the process, of Reform Judaism is in the area of education. In terms of our history we, as opposed to other branches, were fabrente (“zealous”) devotees of everything pubic, especially public schools. After all, we were Americans first (and I’ll have more personal things to say about this down the pike). Nonetheless, late in the 1970s and into the next decade, we saw the growth of Reform Day Schools. Why?
First of all, there was a rebirth, as it were, of Jewish awareness. I believe the 1967 Six-Day War ushered in this positive direction. We were thankful that the Jewish State showed such incredible strength and survived; now American Jewry had to ramp up its spiritual strength. Jewish education was one way.
That’s not the only reason for the rise of the day schools…
The decline of public education didn’t fit into our worldview that our children can progress from pre-school through high school in what had been superior public schools. A URJ Biennial around that time included a resolution to support Day School education. Those in favor of the resolution and those opposed were adamant in their positions. It wasn’t easy, but the resolution passed. Quite a number of large Reform congregations established Day Schools. From what I understand, they reached a peak in enrollment but today they are not thriving at all. Many have folded, probably because private schools were attracting the parents of our youth and there weren’t enough children in any one Day School grade to support the financial burden inherent in such endeavors.
So please don’t call our movement ReformED. It’s not something that happened and is stagnant. It’s something that’s happening in more ways than one.