Abstract: This chapter explores some of the challenges faced by Jewish pupils pertaining to mental health – specifically regarding questions of identity, antisemitism, and educational pressure – and presents some strategies for teachers to cater to their distinctive needs. In particular, the chapter encourages teachers to familiarise themselves with some of the (often overlooked) diversity of the British Jewish community in order to help recognise their assorted experiences and concerns. Indeed, by remaining attentive to the various potential causes of distress among Jewish pupils, teachers can play an important role in enabling them to negotiate their highs and lows and ultimately feel part of inclusive classrooms.
‘Marching at the Speed of the Slowest Man’: The Facilitation and Regulation of Student Autonomy in a Pluralist Jewish Day School
Abstract: Faith schools are often perceived as restricting students’ autonomy through inculcating a single religious ideology and compelling participation in collective worship. Based on interviews and focus groups with parents, students and senior staff, this article investigates how England’s one pluralist Jewish secondary school has, in contrast, attempted to accommodate various forms of Jewish practice and facilitate students’ agency to determine their Jewish identities as desired. It reveals that students enjoy opportunities to actively negotiate Judaism, but that their autonomy is not without limits, and issues inherent to pluralism exist in executing an ethos accommodative of diverse, personalized expressions of Jewishness.
Topics: Main Topic: Education, Jewish Schools, Jewish Identity, Religious Belief, Religious Observance and Practice, Schools: Seconday / High Schools
Abstract: Faith schools may play an important role in reproducing ethnoreligious identities, yet research into Jewish schools has tended to overlook students’ personalised conceptualisations of faith. Instead, it has regularly utilised restrictive ‘indicators’ of ethnoreligious practice in order to gauge these institutions’ effectiveness in ‘strengthening’ Jewish identity and thus mitigating assimilation. In response, this article explores the ways in which students at a pluralist Jewish school negotiated and (re)shaped their Jewishness, and thus lived their identities in personally meaningful ways. Students articulated ‘symbolic’ forms of Jewishness, rooted in inclusive and often stereotypical cultural symbols rather than regular religious practice, and personalised their identities through the school’s amenability to diverse manifestations of faith. Consequently, the research illustrates the value of including young people’s perspectives of faith and faith schooling, with implications for understandings of ethnoreligious identity and practice in spaces beyond traditional religious sites such as places of worship.
Abstract: Intra-faith contestation in educational spaces such as religious schools constitutes an issue that has received relatively little academic attention. In response, this article explores the ways in which England’s Jewish day schools have become bound up in broader debates regarding competing conceptualizations of Judaism and Jewish identity in a context of significant polarization in the Jewish community. The situation is centered on two recent developments within the Anglo-Jewish educational landscape: A Supreme Court ruling that has obligated oversubscribed Jewish schools to avoid selecting pupils based on matrilineal descent, and the establishment of a Jewish secondary school whose pluralistic approach to Judaism has been deemed antithetical to the Orthodox movement. The article argues that this pluralist school’s relative inclusiveness has been accompanied by growing exclusivity amongst many Orthodox Jewish schools, in spite of the fact that the Supreme Court ruling theoretically facilitated greater access to pupils whose self-identification as Jews had historically been denied. Furthermore, although the relationship is evolving, much of the Orthodox community remains reluctant to validate the school’s Jewish ethos. Consequently, although the school has sought to help reduce inter-denominational tensions within Anglo-Jewry, notions of Jewish ethnoreligious authenticity and perceptions of Jewish community boundaries remain highly contested.
Jewish schools rather than Jewish education? School choice and community dynamics in multicultural society
Translated Title: Des écoles juives plutôt qu’une éducation juive ? Choix d’école et dynamique de communauté dans une société multiculturelle / ¿Escuelas judías en lugar de educación judía? La elección de la escuela y la dinámica de la comunidad en la sociedad multicultural
Topics: Main Topic: Education, Jewish Education, Jewish Identity, Jewish Schools, Synagogues, Parenthood, Multiculturalism
Abstract: The expansion of faith schooling in countries such as England raises important questions about their appeal in multicultural societies. Through a case study approach, this article aims to understand the influences behind parents’ decisions to send their children to Jewish schools. It illustrates a tension experienced by Jewish parents between a desire for their children to be educated as a community of ‘similar’ peers, and the segregation that might result as a consequence. In order to ‘justify’ their choice of separate schooling, parents constructed a desirable, essentialized notion of Jewishness that coalesced their two main selection criteria, academic standards and the presence of other Jewish students. By operationalizing their Jewishness for ‘secular’ purposes in such a way, they were able to secure a perceived superior academic education whilst avoiding disfavoured ‘others’ in multicultural comprehensive schools, and in the process defined multiculturalism on their own terms. Consequently, the article foregrounds the broader dynamics of multiculturalism and community that are implicated in questions of (faith) school choice, and the complex intertwinement of parents’ school selection criteria.
Competition or cooperation? Jewish day schools, synagogues and the (re)construction of young people’s Jewish identities in England
Abstract: Diasporic synagogues have historically provided a number of educational and social functions. However, the growing popularity of state-funded Jewish schools in England necessitates analysis of these institutions’ changing roles and their implications for performances of Jewishness. Drawing upon interviews with rabbis, and interviews and focus groups with parents and students at a Jewish school, this article demonstrates three challenges for synagogues associated with the recent growth in Jewish day schooling: the instigation of instrumental attendance at services in order to secure a school place; and the co-option of synagogues’ traditional functions as both education and social centres. In the process, it illustrates how conceptualisations of Jewish identity are contested, resulting in discrepant attitudes towards Jewish education. Consequently, the article contributes to understandings of the spaces in which young people practise their Jewishness, and highlights the challenges for community leaders in ensuring that Jewish schools and synagogues cooperate rather than compete.
The Geographies of Jewish Education: Jewish Schools, Synagogues, and the Construction of Young People’s Jewish Identities
Topics: Main Topic: Education, Jewish Education, Jewish Identity, Jewish Schools, Synagogues, Pluralism, Schools: Seconday / High Schools
Abstract: Faith schools represent controversial aspects of England’s educational politics, yet they have been largely overlooked as sites for geographical analysis. Moreover, although other social science disciplines have attended to a range of questions regarding faith schools, some important issues remain underexamined. In particular, contestation within ethnic and religious groups regarding notions of identity have generally been ignored in an educational context, whilst the majority of research into Jewish schools more specifically has failed to attend to the personal qualities of Jewishness. The interrelationships between faith schools (of all kinds) and places of worship have also received minimal attention. In response, this investigation draws upon a range of theoretical approaches to identity in order to illustrate how Jewish schools are implicated in the changing spatiality and performance of individuals’ Jewishness. Central to this research is a case study of the Jewish Community Secondary School (JCoSS), England’s only pluralist Jewish secondary school, with more extensive elements provided by interviews with other stakeholders in Anglo-Jewry. Parents often viewed Jewish schools as a means of attaining a highly-regarded ‘secular’ academic education in a Jewish school, whilst also enabling their children to socialise with other Jews. In the process, synagogues’ traditional functions of education and socialisation have been co-opted by Jewish schools, revealing a shift in the spatiality of young people’s Anglo-Jewish identity practices. Furthermore, JCoSS, as well as many synagogues, have come to represent spaces of contestation over ‘authentic’ Jewishness, given widely varying conceptualisations of ‘proper’ Jewish practice and identity amongst parents, pupils and rabbis. Yet, although JCoSS offers its pupils considerable autonomy to determine their practices, such choice is not limitless, revealing an inherent dilemma in inclusivity. The thesis thus explores how different manifestations of Jewishness are constructed, practised and problematised in a school space (which itself is dynamic and contested), and beyond.
Abstract: Jewish identities are becoming increasingly pluralised due to internal dynamics within Judaism and wider social processes such as secularisation, globalisation and individualisation. However, empirical research on contemporary Jewish identities often continues to adopt restrictive methodological and conceptual approaches that reify Jewish identity and portray it as a ‘product’ for educational providers and others to pass to younger generations. Moreover, these approaches typically impose identities upon individuals, often as a form of collective affiliation, without addressing their personal significance. In response, this article argues for increased recognition of the multiple and fluid nature of personal identities in order to investigate the diverse ways in which Jews live and perform their Jewishness. Paying greater attention to personal identities facilitates recognition of the intersections between different forms of identity, enabling more complex understandings of the ways in which individuals both define their own identities and contribute to redefining the boundaries of Jewishness.