A study of the attitudes of the Jewish community towards an educational transition in a Jewish day school.
Carmel College, a Jewish Day School, was established to provide Jewish education for the children of the Durban Jewish community. Inasmuch as the school has always had a small contingent of non-Jewish students, a decision was made in 1994 to fill the school to capacity with non-Jewish students. Although, Carmel is in essence, a multi-cultural school in that it has a nearly fifty per cent non-Jewish population, implementing a multi-cultural education programme would be counter-productive to the goals of Jewish education. In that Orthodox Judaism is not assimilatory, it can be conjectured that Jewish education is incompatible with multi-cultural education. This study investigates the attitudes of the Jewish community towards the educational transition taking place in Carmel College, as a result of the change in the student population ratio. The study commenced with a generative phase which comprised of a review of relevant literature, document analysis, semi-structured interviews and a situational analysis. Issues that emerged from this phase of the research became the focus of further investigation using questionnaires. Findings have revealed the dilemma of managing a Jewish school in a multicultural environment. Whilst parents believe in the importance of Jewish education many are unaware of its unique and separate nature. The filling of the school with non-Jewish students has raised important issues. The findings indicated that Jewish studies teachers feel inhibited in their classes and are unable to deal with sensitive issues. The increased enrolment of non-Jewish students has not only created greater potential for assimilation but undertones of cultural dissension within the student body were also evident. As there is little provision made for multi-culturalism, non-Jewish students are recipients of a curriculum which lacks relevance and is foreign to their needs. If Carmel is to continue to provide Jewish education for its community it will have to re-structure the curriculum in order to provide a more intense Judaica programme for Jewish students and at the same time cater more effectively for non-Jewish students. To this end, parents and other stakeholders will have to be enlightened about the purpose of Jewish education and the need for change.