The Pew Research Center put out a study in 2013 entitled “A Portrait of Jewish Americans,” which looks at various aspects of Jewish identity in the United States including intermarriage, political beliefs, religious practice, and attitudes towards Israel. This study was a major undertaking and provides rich data that is still widely discussed today.
The first major section of the report, before getting to any of the findings, is a sidebar called “Who is a Jew?” This question has no simple answer with opinions varying in different situations, yet everyone, from Nazi Germany to Israeli immigration policy has an answer (incidentally, those two, intentionally have the same answer).
“One of the first decisions that had to be made in conducting this study and analyzing its results was to answer the question, ‘Who is a Jew?,’” the section begins. “ This is an ancient question with no single, timeless answer. On the one hand, being Jewish is a matter of religion – the traditional, matrilineal definition of Jewish identity is founded on halakha (Jewish religious law). On the other hand, being Jewish also may be a matter of ancestry, ethnicity and cultural background. Jews (and non-Jews) may disagree on where to draw the line. Is an adult who has Jewish parents but who considers herself an atheist nevertheless Jewish, by virtue of her lineage? What about someone who has Jewish parents and has converted to Christianity? Or someone who has no known Jewish ancestry but is married to a Jew and has come to think of himself as Jewish, though he has not formally converted to Judaism?” In the end, the researchers decided to cast a wide net and included various categories of Jews, including Jews by religion, Jews of no religion, non-Jewish people of Jewish background, and non-Jeiwsh people with a Jewish affinity.
Many Jewish day schools require that at least one parent be Jewish according to Jewish law, with more traditional schools requiring that the mother be Jewish. When considering the admissions policy at Einstein Academy, however, this policy just did not resonate with us. We want to make it clear that all parents are important members of our community (whether or not you are “the Jewish one”). We welcome those who have had exposure to Judaism (whether it’s through preschool or summer camp or some sort of meaningful experience) and want to learn more. We recognize Judaism has such a rich culture that includes universal values, a focus on character education, and a prioritization of strong academics and appreciate that a variety of families may be interested in engaging with that culture.
Additionally, we appreciate the value of diversity and believe that when diversity is present, everyone benefits. We aim to be a place where different opinions are fostered, and students are taught how to hear and understand each other, even if (especially if!) they don’t agree. We aim to be a place where individual identity is refined and strengthened through ongoing exploration and dialogue. We aim to be a place where students are proud of who they are, and we can all learn from each other.
Our admissions policy is as follows: “At Einstein Academy, we are looking for thoughtful, creative, and curious students who are interested in being part of our unique community. Einstein Academy is based on Jewish culture and values; students, however, need not be Jewish by any traditional definition to attend. We accept families from all faiths and affiliations, welcoming the diversity they bring, so long as they are interested in engaging in our program and exploring Judaism in their own way.”
Einstein Academy is a place that values both the individual and community, a place that puts students at the center of learning, a place that pushes everyone to grow in so many ways. And we are based on Jewish values and culture with a deep connection to Israel.
We are very clear about who we are and what we do, and we welcome anyone who is interested in being a part of that community.