Single Sex Schools - A Brief Overview

Single Sex Schools in general

There has been a lot of buzz recently in the general media regarding single sex schools. There is a strong trend lately to introduce single gender schools in US public schools.

The following is a quote from an article in The Battalion Online: "Dr. Leonard Sax, a Maryland physician and psychologist, found in a study that girls tend to learn in a quiet and slower paced environment and liked to be called by their first names whereas boys like things energetic, fast paced and prefer to be called by their last names."

"This is a nationwide trend re-appearing with the number of single-sex public schools increasing from four to 140 over the last eight years, according to Sax. And the trend keeps growing. CNN reported at least 10 single-sex schools were to open this fall in Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and South Carolina."

Segregation in schools by Orthodox Jews

While there has been a lot of debates in the modern world over single gender schools (for an example of the pros and cons of segregation in schools click here), most Orthodox Jewish schools keep their old tradition of gender segregation in schools.

The Mishnah (Sukkah 5:2) states that a major correction was made in the Temple during the festive holiday of Sukkoth. The Talmud explains that the correction was building a balcony over the men's section so that the women could stand separate without mixing in the crowd with the men. The importance of the separation of sexes in Judaism is based on the verse in Deuteronomy 23:14: "Your camp must be holy, so that he will not see among you anything indecent and turn away from you". Keeping our camp holy is done by avoiding any mingling of sexes, which can develop to improper intimacy.

Single Sex Schools in elementary

Many Orthodox Jewish schools separate the sexes from elementary school and up, while having co-ed schools in preschool, as the preschool age does not suffice any reason for segregation. However, in some very ultra-Orthodox schools, gender segregation will start from the very early beginning.

Schools for boys and girls are not only segregated in their classrooms, in most cases there are different schools altogether for boys and girls. With the school for boys called Cheder, Talmud-Torah or Yeshiva and girls-school called Beth Yakov or Beth Jacob.

It is interesting to note that until approximately 100 hundred years ago, Jewish girls didn't attend school at all. Boys went to school while girls stayed at home to help their mothers with house work. It was a famous Jewish woman, Sara Schnirer, who implemented education and schools for Jewish women and girls.

In Hasidic communities the gender separation will be so strong, that boys will only have male teachers and girls will only have female teachers. In other Haredi communities, although the school is a single sex school there will be male teachers in female classrooms and vice versa.

Single sex schools in high school

In high school, as in elementary almost all Orthodox Jewish schools are single gender schools, with the exception of some modern orthodox schools.

There is a difference here between the boys' school and the girls' school. As explained above, in some schools there will be teachers of the opposite sex. In high school the situation is a little different. There will be no female teachers in any ultra-orthodox haredi boys' high school, but there may be male teachers in girls' Bet Yakov high schools (this does not apply to ultra-Orthodox Hasidic schools where there will be no opposite gender teachers even in elementary school).

Single sex schools in college

Most Hasidic and Yeshivish ultra-Orthodox Jews don't attend any secular colleges. They continue studying Torah after high school in same-sex segregated seminaries and colleges. These colleges are uniquely designed to meet the needs for Orthodox Jewish students.

In the USA there is one Orthodox Jewish university, Yeshiva University. It is geared to the modern orthodox crowd, but nevertheless accepts ultra-Orthodox and secular students. In Yeshiva University the undergraduate school classrooms are gender segregated, while the graduate school is co-ed.

So, now you know about Single-Sex Schools by Orthodox Jews! Browse our site and find out many more on customs and lifestyles of Orthodox Jews.

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