Does Jewish education make a difference? : Jewish identity of pupils at Carmel College, Durban.
The trend towards assimilation which has characterised the Jewish People has highlighted the importance of Jewish education as one of the primary means of dealing with this process which foreshadows the disappearance of the Jewish People as a distinct national and religious entity. The overt purpose of the syllabus of the Jewish Day School movement in South Africa is to inculcate a Jewish identity based on a traditional religious orientation and Jewish national pride expressed by a commitment to the Jewish People and to the State of Israel. The purpose of this study was to examine the efficacy of the school in fulfilling these aims. A questionnaire study was conducted at the Jewish Day School in Durban, Carmel College in May 1990. Eight dimensions of Jewish Identity were defined and multiple regression analysis was used to test whether they were statistically associated with each other. Two additional tools were used: an open-ended question designed to elicit from whom the pupils demarcate themselves when they define themselves as Jews and a delineation of the attributes of a “good Jew”. In 1991 an additional questionnaire on the family background and its relation to the specifically Jewish dimensions was administered to a sample of Carmel pupils. The findings revealed that the pupils manifested a strong Jewish identity expressed in the importance they attributed to Mitzvot, and Jewish credo in the desire that their children be Jews, in the instinct to associate with other Jews. Moreover, the results suggest that their sense of commitment to the welfare of other Jews does not preclude a concern for non-Jewish society as well. The pupils stressed the importance of being proud to be Jewish and being knowledgeable about Judaism. These findings were true of all categories examined: gender, denomination, standard at school and years of study at Carmel College. The study indicated that Jewish education had a positive impact on identity, but the magnitude of the impact was mediated by family background. No marked differences were found in the intensity of Jewish identity between Caramel pupils and the Jewish pupils attending government schools, although the latter tended to manifest a lesser commitment to the Jewish People and the State of Israel.