Lehmann argues that pluralism, which he defines as “the intersection and interaction of ideas, practices and values within our schools, Jewish community and American society,” is a conceptual category that may help Jewish day schools make a compelling case to prospective parents. He adduces an additional rationale for pluralism, beyond the pragmatic goal of increasing enrollment, namely that it will “help our students live with complexity, contradiction and ambiguity,” seemingly implying that its effectiveness as a marketing strategy is insufficient in itself to justify its use. I agree. In this response, I will argue that pluralism is an appropriate educational approach at the high school level, but not in elementary school. In addition, I will propose a stronger defense of pluralism as an approach to knowledge than Lehmann does.
In day schools, pluralism can signify everything from diversity in affiliation, tolerance, and representation to deep understanding of and engagement with conflicting Jewish perspectives. It is crucial for school leaders to understand and weigh different approaches to pluralism, to consider strategies and challenges of implementing pluralism, and to set policies and curriculum that align with the school’s vision and values.