In 1944, Jewish day schools in America got a major boost when Rabbi Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz founded Torah Umesorah, the National Society for Hebrew Day Schools. Though Jewish day schools existed at the time (the first full-time day schools were Etz Chaim, founded in 1888, and Rabbi Jacob Joseph School in 1900), the idea was generally rejected by American Jews who saw it as 'parochial' and a step back to the European shtetl. Rabbi Mendlowitz, however, felt that "afternoon Hebrew schools" were failing to transmit Judaism in a compelling manner to students who arrived tired in the afternoons, and who were subjected to assimilationist influences in American culture. He set out to create schools that emphasized Jewish studies, without compromising its secular studies program. In recent decades, enrollment in Jewish day schools has thrived: Of the estimated 850,000 Jewish school-age children in America, about 200,000 are presently enrolled in some 900 Jewish day schools -- more than triple since the 1960s. Many recent studies have shown that giving a child a Jewish day school education is the single greatest hedge against assimilation.
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