(Those reports, incidentally, were far from hostile to the man and his message. Obviously, had I spoken to certain writers and commenters on the Jews Down Under online magazine, assuming they were there, I would have received reports of a different kind.)
But, love Beinart or hate him, he has contributed an article to Ha'aretz (a newspaper for which I generally harbour a robust contempt) on the contrast between the state of Jewish education in the United States and in Australia that arguably deserves attention.
Inter alia, he observes:
'.... I’m writing this column from Melbourne, Australia, where last Tuesday I watched hundreds of teenagers from various Jewish youth movements—most of them not strictly observant--stay up deep into the night on Shavuot learning and arguing. They had named the rooms in which they held their study sessions after Jewish thinkers: Rosenzweig, Buber, Spinoza. Watching it all, I kept thinking: How many American Jewish eighteen year olds could identify those names, or, for that matter, identify Shavuot? What is Australia doing right that we’re doing wrong?
Some of it is historical circumstance. Most American Jews arrived between 1880 and 1920. Most Australian Jews, by contrast, arrived after World War II. (Jewish Melbourne is a city of Holocaust survivors and their descendants). Almost all the teenagers I spoke to on Shavuot had grandparents born in Europe; in the U.S. few would. In Australia, in other words, assimilation has had less time to set in.
But it’s not only that. Students who attend full-time Jewish schools are far more likely to live meaningfully Jewish adult lives than those who don’t. (Jewish schools also usher kids into Jewish youth movements, which are far stronger in Australia than in the U.S.) Roughly two-thirds of Australian Jewish students attend Jewish schools. In the United States, it’s about one in four, and among the non-Orthodox, roughly one in ten. That difference can’t be explained by the fact that Jews have been in America longer because American Jews have never sent their children to Jewish schools at anything like the rate in Australia....'Read the entire article here