Somewhere along the way I think I began believing that a Jewish education for my child was my entitlement. I believed that listening to the rabbis and committing without reservation to sending my child to day school was enough. The rest would take care of itself.
Then I began the day school application process.
There are about 34 children applying for no more than 18 slots in our community day school. Now I know that by New York standards these are great odds, but New York also has a day school about every 10 blocks. Washington has exactly one.
Fortunately, it’s a wonderful place. After we took the tour we were positively aglow.
Yes! This school embodies who we are as a family! As Jews! Who we want our child to be! Look at how the children love Judaism! Speak Hebrew! Hey! A giant paper boat!
It’s love. But as with all love, the most important question is: will they love us too? Or will it end in heartbreak?
So far we’ve done the application and the screening “playdate.” I tried hard not to stress my son out about the screening, while hinting ever so subtly that this might not be a great day to turn into Mr. Hyde. They kept us apart from the kids—so God only knows what happened in there—but we hoped that our boy had shown them what a bright, loving kid he can be.
Next came the follow-up “observation” at his school. The school only does this when they haven’t gotten enough information, or they suspect that the child was not his “best self” at the screening. I assumed the former—my son can be shy in new settings—but feared the latter.
On Tuesday, we face the final piece of the application process: the parent interview. This is my chance to show that we’re a good fit for the school and an asset to the community. Now, we’re an interdenominational family—my husband’s squarely modern Orthodox while I am an observant Conservative Jew. And we’re nested in an even more interdenominational extended family, where questions of kashrut, Shabbat and even intermarriage need to be handled with sensitivity and grace. So we live and breathe the kind of tolerance, compromise, and commitment to fundamental Jewish values that this pluralistic school embraces.
But will that come through? And more importantly, will it be enough? Or will we find ourselves facing an unplanned public school education and a pieced together Jewish one?
I’ve put all my eggs in this one basket. But it just might be the perfect basket for us.
Ain’t love grand?