By Andrew Campanella with Savanna Buckner
On a blustery day in Rhode Island in mid-January, there’s a good chance you’ll find Providence Hebrew Day School students and staff headed to their state capitol to celebrate their choice of education. It’s part of what Rabbi Scheinerman, dean of Providence Hebrew Day School, calls the “way of the future.”
Providence Hebrew Day School is the oldest Jewish day school in Rhode Island: It’s been helping children find happiness since 1946, and it’s been celebrating National School Choice Week annually since 2016.
“It’s crucial for parents today to be able to pick where their kids go to school, and to be able to write the script for their own families,” said Rabbi Scheinerman, explaining that he sees increased choice as a defining mark of the future of education.
While Providence Hebrew Day School advocates the “way of the future,” its identity is also grounded in the roots of an ancient religion.The school is open to anyone, but most families choose Providence Hebrew Day School for its in-depth classes in the Torah, the Hebrew language, and Jewish heritage.
The unique classes and vibrant Jewish culture at Providence Hebrew Day School allow students to learn more about their cultural identity, and have even attracted students from neighboring states like Massachusetts.
At Providence Hebrew Day School, children can benefit from a unique moral formation in the Jewish tradition. Rabbi Scheinerman explained the school’s focus on character formation this way: “We’re not a school that looks to missionize people to become more religious. It’s a school where kids learn by example, and kids make choices in life based on the examples that they’ve witnessed and seen.”
One indicator that students are thriving at Providence Hebrew Day School is the school’s excellent academic performance. On recent New England Common Assessment Program tests, 95% of its students scored as proficient in reading and 97% as proficient in math.
Providence Hebrew Day School students have also earned a positive reputation in the community for their volunteer work. “The synagogues just call on them,” described Rabbi Scheinerman.
The school’s blend of Judaic studies and academic excellence creates a remarkable learning environment, but preserving the school’s legacy is no simple feat. The school’s ability to provide financial assistance to students is contingent on the funding of Rhode Island’s scholarship tax credit program, which is divvied up to schools via a lottery system.
That’s one reason why, come January, Providence Hebrew Day School will be rallying again for educational opportunity.
“My perspective is never on removing or taking away from the public schools, but much more just to highlight the strengths of a strong private school education and how the kids end up and where they go,” said Rabbi Scheinerman. “Every parent should be entitled to pick and choose the education that works best for their kids.”
In true rabbinical form, Rabbi Scheinerman even has a Jewish saying to share about the pursuit of education.
While the Bible frowns on jealousy, he said, it is allowed in just one case: It is okay to be “jealous” for true learning. In other words, students and their families should care passionately about finding the best educational fit!
“If other schools are upping the ante and the bar gets raised, then that bar is going to raise the culture of education statewide,” said Rabbi Scheinerman. “It just holds people more accountable rather than having people circle their wagons.”
Raising the culture of education is exactly what Hebrew Day School is doing with its record of academic excellence and its unique Jewish studies program. And that’s helping kids find happiness in Rhode Island!