High hopes for Jewish high schools

More and more parents in the Bay Area are discovering the benefits of a Jewish day school education for their children.

However, after their child completes the eighth grade, the Jewish schooling generally ends.

So what's a parent to do about high school?

Public school? Private school? Heck, some Jewish parents are even resorting to sending their kids to Catholic high schools — and that's sad.

However, things will be different in two years.

Scheduled to open in September 2001 are two local Jewish community high schools: Kehillah Jewish High School and the Jewish Community High School of the Bay.

One will be located on the Peninsula and the other will be in either San Francisco, the East Bay or Marin County.

The Bay Area already has one Jewish high school, Hebrew Academy of San Francisco. However, many Jewish parents don't want to send their children to an Orthodox high school.

Rather, pluralistic Jewish high schools are the hot new trend in the Jewish community.

Five years ago, there were fewer than 10 non-Orthodox Jewish high schools across the country. Now, there are a dozen, with eight more around the corner and at least three more in the early planning stages.

The community schools accept Jews from all movements and provide a value-based education with a strong emphasis on academics. Generally, those schools are able to put together outstanding faculties; their graduates wind up at excellent colleges.

Perhaps 20 to 30 percent of the school day is devoted to Judaic studies, Hebrew or prayer. And the schools generally take an egalitarian approach to religious and secular studies, in keeping with the philosophy of many liberal parents.

There are more than enough good reasons for parents to make the decision to send their child to a Jewish community high school.

The deeper ties to Judaism and the Jewish community supported by studies are an added bonus.