Our Two Cents: Is switching from Jewish to public school a mistake

Dr. Sharon Ufberg and her three children offer advice about family, love and life. Send your questions to ourtwocents@jweekly.com.

I am a single mom raising an eighth-grade daughter. My daughter has always gone to Jewish day school but has recently decided that she wants to go to a local public school for high school. I love our Jewish day school community, I feel comfortable with the teachers, the other kids and their families, and the Jewish identity the school gives my daughter. Frankly, I’m not sure about sending her to a public high school. You all seem like well-adjusted, Jewish-identifying kids — did you go to Jewish day school? What do you each think about my daughter wanting to leave her Jewish school just as the teen years begin? K.Y., Oakland

Alexis: If your daughter is ready to explore the world outside of the Jewish day school community, support her decision. You can nurture and nourish your daughter’s Jewish identity in many special ways — she can attend Jewish summer camp, and there are lots of fun activities and opportunities for Jewish teens in the Bay Area. Your daughter will have her old Jewish friends from day school, and it’s likely she will find new Jewish friends at her new school, too. Given your obvious commitment to your daughter’s Jewish identity and her years at Jewish day school, I wouldn’t be worried that public school will detrimentally diminish her identity.

Sharon: I totally understand your concern about letting go of a school community that you feel has been nurturing, safe and comfortable for you and your daughter. As a single mom, I imagine this close-knit Jewish day school was an important support over the years of your daughter’s education. Having said that, I do believe it is important to at least explore the other options available for your daughter’s high school years with her, especially if she is the one requesting a change. You may want to discuss what is making her feel the need to look elsewhere for high school and also share with her your feelings about why a change feels less comfortable for you. You can also agree on how she will hold onto the Jewish network that was a given going to a Jewish school and how she will stay close to those friends she made there.

Saul: I have to be honest, I remember trying to convince my friend’s parents to let him come to my public high school rather than continue on to Jewish high school. A new school is a chance to experience a larger and more diverse group of friends. I say, let your daughter try out a new school — if she doesn’t like it, I am sure she could go back to her old school.

Jessica: My siblings and I did not go to Jewish day school, but we all went to Hebrew school three days a week through eighth grade and then once a week in high school. While I often complained about going to Hebrew school, I can wholeheartedly say I appreciate the experience now. I think sending your daughter both to public high school and an afterschool or weekend Hebrew high school can be a good and happy middle ground for you two. I don’t think you should worry so much. I loved all my Jewish friends in public high school. Jews bond and stick together no matter where they are!

Dr. Sharon Ufberg is a Napa-based radio host, journalist, consultant and integrative health practitioner. Her daughters live in San Francisco: Lawyer-turned-writer Alexis Sclamberg, 28 and married; and hair colorist Jessica Sclamberg, 26 and single. Saul Sclamberg, 24 and single, studies chiropractic in Los Angeles. Read more at http://r-2-cents.com.

Ufberg/Sclamberg Family