Have you seen the new billboard next to I-95 northbound near the Thurbers Avenue curve in Providence?
“Too Jewish?” it says. Exactly what does that mean?
Go to the Web address on the billboard – TooJewish.info – and you’ll learn that it’s the work of the Jewish Community Day School of Rhode Island (JCDSRI). And it’s meant to, as the billboard says, “challenge your assumptions” about Judaism and the Jewish day school experience, according to Adam Tilove, head of the school.
High profile? Yes. Provocative? Yes. Controversial? Maybe.
Why choose a billboard? And why this particular question?
“We’ve been thinking about this for a long time,” Tilove said. “We hope it’s going to help the school.” He wants the message to be in the minds of everyone. “It’s easier to remember ‘Too Jewish’ than JCDSRI,” he says.
According to Tilove, a Jewish day school imparts values students can’t get anywhere else, with a joyous, innovative, creative and ethical curriculum. He hopes people will go to the website and consider learning more about day schools in general and JCDSRI in particular.
“We bring a lot to our community and a lot is based in Judaism,” he said. But many people assume that a day school is just “too Jewish,” as someone once said to him.
Tilove says he wants people to know that day schools have turned what some people perceive as a weakness – being “too Jewish” – into a strength. The curriculum is enriched by Jewish values, history, ethics and community. “Those things are critical to human values and life,” he said.
The billboard is not meant to be threatening and shouldn’t be misinterpreted. It’s a good conversation starter, not only about the JCDSRI, but about Judaism in general, Tilove said.
“We’re challenging Jewish sensibility,” he said. “We want people to think about the way our community lives Judaism. We want to use this to begin a meaningful conversation about the Jewish community.”
On Nov. 19, JCDSRI is sponsoring a community meeting at Brown RISD Hillel that Tilove said he hopes will open that meaningful conversation about Judaism and how it fits into everyone’s lives. The conversation starts at 7 p.m. All opinions are welcome.
The billboard was paid for by a designated gift. It will be up for four weeks.
FRAN OSTENDORF is editor of The Jewish Voice.