In February of 1996 – 20 years and four months ago – the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto published the report of its Commission on Jewish Education. The commission had been struck some four years earlier in March 1992. It was part of a broad “mobilization” within the organized Jewish world of North America to assess the state of the delivery of formal Jewish establish within respective local communities. The Report of the Commission on Jewish Education in North America, called A Time to Act, was the tripwire for local studies.
Some two decades have elapsed since then.
The key statement of hope and purpose was succinctly articulated in the letter of presentation to the UJA Federation’s Board of Governors. The diverse members of the commission were of the view “that our community, Am Yisroel, can only survive if its members are Jewish because of knowledge and commitment not merely as a result of an accident of birth.”
But the report acknowledged a worrisome reality then that has evolved since then into a full-blown, dire threat to the viability of diverse, creatively rich and fulfilling Jewish communal life in the near future.
“Declining UJA campaigns and the resultant limitation on funds available for education, combined with rising tuition fees and lower family incomes, have placed significant pressure on the educational system and widened the gap between funds available and funds needed. Despite the limitation on financial resources, the educational system must continue to ensure and enhance the quality of education, to maintain access to Jewish education for school aged children while improving accessibility beyond childhood and to generally enrich educational opportunities for all members of the community.”
Despite the best intentions and myriad efforts of the individuals who labored two decades ago to resolve the issues that lay at the heart of their worries, those issues remain. Today they menace the future of the community in far larger dimension of worry and threat.
It has fallen to us – the next generation – to finally, permanently find a way to ensure the affordability of and accessibility to a Jewish educational system that is excellent and accountable and once again the diadem in the crown of the Jewish community.