September 26, 2018

Letters

After reading your interesting July 18 story “Beyond Their Means?” we are writing to share an exciting, quality and low-cost alternative to pricey Jewish day schools: Jewish homeschooling.

We are two Jewish families that have chosen homeschooling for the past two years. We each started out wanting our children to go to Jewish day schools. While we’re at different places on the level-of-observance continuum, both families are deeply committed to raising Jewish kids in Jewish homes while providing a wonderfully rich and rewarding homeschooling lifestyle.

Homeschooling isn’t something just Christian fundamentalists do. More than 2.5 million people in the U.S. are homeschooling, which includes many Jewish families. Jewish homeschoolers even have their own print and on-line publications.

We regularly see many Jewish families in the Los Angeles area who homeschool. We know many more who are seriously considering this alternative for educational, spiritual and, in some cases, financial reasons. These are all concerned parents who recognize the importance of the Jewish family and the primary responsibility that parents have in transmitting Jewish values directly to their children.

With kids spending 6 to 8 hours a day at private or public school, plus commuting time and extracurricular activities, a parent’s role has become secondary in many cases. By contrast, homeschooling offers the opportunity for parents to be a central part of a child’s life.

Jewish homeschooling at its best provides a quality education with real-life, hands-on experiences on a daily basis and a rich diversity of learning opportunities (especially here in Los Angeles).

Homeschoolers in Los Angeles have access to a dynamic homeschooling community that provides many opportunities for kids and their parents to socialize and learn from one another on a nearly daily basis if desired. Some homeschoolers take classes together or receive instruction in small groups with parents or tutors.

Ideally, homeschooling isn’t just taking the school model a nd bringing it home–it’s really “lifeschooling,” which utilizes every life opportunity as a learning opportunity.

For those parents who feel they cannot give up a second income by homeschooling, take another look at how little you really have left financially from a second income after deducting federal and state income tax, Social Security and Medicare taxes, private day school costs and work-related expenses. Also consider how much of your energy and life force is used up at work each day rather than having these resources available for your children.

Susan and Don Silver

Martine and Marc Porter-Zasada

Los Angeles

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I enjoyed your article about the costs of Jewish day schools in Los Angeles. Clearly we all seek an excellent education for our children, and are willing to sacrifice whatever we must in order to achieve that.

There is a small number of Jewish families who have discovered homeschooling. I know that when I first met someone who homeschooled their children, I thought she was a certifiable nut, but when my family later met another homeschooling family on vacation, I must say, I was impressed. The children were happy, the relationships between the parents, children and siblings, were enviable. These children were clearly well educated and well socialized.

My children immediately decided this was for them, and after I stopped laughing hysterically, I calmly listened to their arguments of why I should let them homeschool.

Up to that point I had worked four days a week, and spent the fifth volunteering at their school. Mornings were usually spent yelling as we all tried to get ready for work or school, afternoons at sports, music lessons, etc., followed by an evening of more yelling about homework. No one was happy, but we were too stressed to realize it. Free moments were spent mesmerized by TV or Nintendo, and unscheduled time meant a litany of “I’m bored!”

I agreed to let the kids try this experiment in education. That was four years ago, and we’re still homeschooling. It’s been great, and I have no regrets.

Being with my children has been irreplaceable. I’ve gotten to know them, and they know me, and our relationship is so much better. It’s painful to remember all those angry words, and even angrier thoughts. My children have had an opportunity to develop a friendship with each other that I envy. Yes, they fight, but still beyond our walls, they are each others’ protector and friend.

No longer are we restricted to a timetable. If my son decides to build a rocket one day, great! I even help him find paints and brushes. If my daughter decides to bake, we learn about fractions by making half a recipe. Their schooling has become individualized: my son enjoys learning on the computer, my daughter doesn’t.

Academically my children have tested well. As weaknesses have appeared, they’ve been confronted. At this point, my children are the most important thing in my life. If my kids aren’t understanding something, there is no limit to what I would do until it is mastered.

My children may well go back to school. We’re approaching the age of team sports, school yearbook committees, dances, elections and other things homeschoolers have difficulty finding. I get sad to think about not seeing them everyday. They are strong, happy, confident, wonderful people, it’s been wonderful to spend this time with them, and I truly wish that every parent could spend this kind of time with their children.

Jennifer Holtzman, DDS

Member of Family Centered Education of Los Angeles, a homeschooling support group

Lessons from Tragedy

In response to “Lessons from the Mahane Yehuda Tragedy,” by Rabbi Marvin Hier (Aug. 8):

Those who believe that to divide Jerusalem into East and West would solve the problem are as wrong as those who advocate a solely Jewish Jerusalem. Walls, whether dividing a city or around a city, do not good neighbors make.

When peace will come — as it must — Jerusalem, as Israel’s capital, must be open to all its inhabitants, and the holy places of Moslems, Christians, and Jews must be equally open and equally protected.

This part of Herzl’s vision, while still a dream, ought to be remembered at the beginning of this centennial year of the first World Zionist Congress.

The lesson to be learned is that the only ultimate protection from terrorism is peace.

Ruth Nussbaum

Sherman Oaks

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One need not be an apologist for Yasser Arafat to question Rabbi Marvin Hier’s list of “important lessons that Israel must learn” from the suicide bombing in Mahane Yehuda.

Rabbi Hier warns that ceding a portion of Jerusalem to be the capital of a Palestinian state would enable a terrorist to “leave his bombs at the King David Hotel, walk a few blocks and enter another country which has shown little inclination to apprehend terrorists or bring them to justice.”

Israel has had complete control over Jerusalem and almost all of the West Bank since June 1967, and it has every inclination to apprehend terrorists, but it was also unable to prevent all suicide bombings, many of which took place in parts of Israel other than Jerusalem.

In the second of Rabbi Hier’s two “lessons,” he warns us that “. . .a significant minority of Palestinians hold fundamentalist views that teach them that Israel is a cancer which must be expunged. They hold such views now, and they will hold such views after a treaty has been concluded.”

By what right does the rabbi assume that his undefined “significant minority” will retain its views after there is peace with Israel? Would he dare to make such unthinking generalizations about Jews, even our own fundamentalists who sit in Hebron and elsewhere, including Los Angeles?

Rabbi Hier has drawn on stereotypes of Arabs, Palestinians and Islam in a way that the Museum of Tolerance, which he heads, decries as the first step on the road to racism and intolerance. Perhaps he might benefit from a walk through his own institution.

Yehuda Lev

Providence, R.I.

The Other Side of Judaism

Rabbi Abner Weiss, writing in the Jewish Journal (“Refusing To Be Walled In,” July 18), states the following:

“I could not [support the notion of pluralism], but I passionately believe in respect for diversity.” It was an attempt to clothe the fierce antagonism of the Orthodox toward the Reform and Conservative sectors in a seemingly benign and reasonable posture. I call this one side of Judaism.

But the rest of the article made it very clear that the Orthodox are convinced that Judaism cannot be properly practiced without embracing every aspect of ritual tradition. They claim that the Torah is the immutable word of God and any deviation negates the Judaic concept. I may be naive and I am sure that what I propose here has been submitted countless times over the ages.

Very simply, I have been proud to be considered a Jew because a very long time ago, I was taught that Judaism supported the following tenets:

Jews should be just. Jews should be compassionate. Jews should be charitable. Jews should be ethical. Jews should be spiritually oriented.

Jews should believe that the world can become a better place in which all people can live.

It has been suggested that unless Jews observe halacha, all of the above principles will be undermined. The Orthodox Jews do, in fact, observe halacha. Can we honestly say in the light of their recent behavior that their observance has supported “the other side” of Judaism?

Who are the non-Jews?

Hy Bregar

Los Angeles

Correction

The Jewish Journal neglected to credit photographer Peter Halmagyi for photographs in past weeks issues. Halmagyi took the photos for “Tisha B’Av Times 4,” (Aug. 8); “A Sephardic Celebration,” (Aug. 1); and “Israel’s Ethiopian Challenge,” (July 11). We regret the omission.


THE JEWISH JOURNAL welcomes letters from all readers. Letters should be no more than 250 words and we reserve the right to edit for space. All letters must include a signature, valid address and phone number. Pseudonyms and initials will not be used, but names will be withheld on request. Unsolicited manuscripts and other materials should include a self-addressed, stamped envelope in order to be returned.