“Weekend Times are Crucial”: Court Chooses Hebrew School Option That Leaves Child’s Sundays Free
In a recent decision about where a 4-year-old child would attend school, the court chose the option that incorporated weekday in-school religious instruction – rather than Sunday lessons – thus freeing up the child’s weekend for socializing and extra-curricular activities.
The facts involved separated parents who were unable to agree on the kindergarten that their son Joshua was to attend in the Fall of 2020. (The parents, who were both Jewish, did agree that their child should be raised as a member of the Hebrew faith, and that he should attend school in-person, despite the risks of COVID-19).
The mother was steadfast in her belief that it was best for the boy to attend a private Hebrew School, which would provide a Jewish education as part of its weekday curriculum, and was close to both parents’ homes.
In contrast, the father wanted Joshua to resume attending a secular Nursery School he had gone to for a few months in early 2020, until the COVID-19 pandemic forced the entire school to close. He claimed the boy would thrive there due to his familiarity with the teachers, other students, and building – especially against the tumultuous backdrop of the parents’ separation and the recent sale of the family home. That school also had small class sizes, lower tuition costs, and was close to both parents’ now-separate homes. The father suggested that the boy could obtain his Jewish education separately, on weekends.
As always, in resolving the parents’ dispute the court’s prime guiding factor was the best interests of the boy, as assessed against the child’s needs and the various circumstances. The court was satisfied that both proposed schools had adequate educational facilities, had suitable proximity, and had adequately addressed COVID-19 risks.
But after reviewing the other factors, the court ordered that the boy was to be enrolled in the mother’s chosen Hebrew School, and that he would attend half-days only at the beginning, and full days starting in November 2020.
The court reasoned that the boy would have very little memory of attending Nursery school, since he was only three at the time and spent only a few mornings a week there, and had stopped attending six months ago due to COVID-19. Essentially, the boy would experience change regardless of which of the two proposed schools he attended. The court added:
I have chosen [the Hebrew School] as being in Joshua’s best interest because it offers an academic education, religious instruction and Hebrew during the week. I find this preferable to the plan offered by the [father] who proposes that Joshua be enrolled in a supplemental Jewish Program in addition to his education at [the Nursery School]. The supplemental Jewish Program he proposes would occur for approximately two and a half hours on Sundays. For many separated couples with young children, parenting time is precious. When considering parenting plans, weekend times are crucial. Children are at school during the week and parents are, generally, working during the week. Having Joshua attend a program every Sunday will, potentially, interfere with available parenting time unnecessarily and expose Joshua to an educational regime 6 days a week. It will also limit his time for socialization with friends on Sundays and limit his ability to attend extra-curricular activities as he matures on Sundays.
The court concluded that the roughly $5,000 in yearly additional costs for the mother’s chosen Hebrew school was not significant in the bigger picture; moreover the difference would be offset by the cost of the weekend supplemental Jewish program needed under the father’s plan. Plus, the Hebrew school offered a charitable tax receipt for a significant part of the tuition, which the parents could divide up at tax-time.
For the full text of the decision, see:
Ben-Shlomo v. Zaretsky, 2020 ONSC 5027