Relevant but not affordable
Launched in 2007 Jewish communal activists, eJewish Philanthropy attempts to assist communal organizations and professionals “adapt to the continuing changes and challenges of the 21st Century.” It is an independent, on-line publisher, indeed a global bulletin board, providing information, exchanges of ideas, debates and knowledge of current events, developments and innovations in the Jewish community.
Among the news items eJewish Philanthropy publishes are stories concerning Jewish education. In mid-September a story appeared entitled “ANNOUNCING … the Jewish School Census”.
The article tells of the launch of an initiative to collect data from as many Jewish schools in North America as possible. The aim is to collect baseline data about and of the schools that will help professionals advise the schools in their struggle for existence, let alone relevancy.
The purpose of the information gathering exercise is explained thus:
“It’s no secret that many American Jewish institutions are struggling to remain relevant to modern American Jews. We see this struggle in declining school enrollment and membership dues revenue, even while summer camps and early childhood centers continue to grow. Data can provide Jewish leaders with a baseline understanding of this struggle.
Currently there is no comprehensive census of Jewish schools in North America, though many individual communities do collect information from schools in their area. A baseline census of Jewish schools would be an invaluable starting point for quantifying the struggle for relevancy that we know is taking place. By quantifying the struggle we can better begin to understand and address declining enrollment and decreasing membership rolls. Without an understanding of where we are today, we cannot measure the success of our efforts to improve Jewish education in North America.
The project will initially focus on part-time, supplemental Jewish schools.
In our community, the struggle for affordability precedes the struggle for relevancy.
It is true, alas, that many Jewish parents do not consider any Jewish education relevant. Irrespective of the cost of Jewish education, they will not enroll their children. We can only hope that their children do not lose the feeling of belonging to the Jewish people.
But many Jewish parents who do view a Jewish education as relevant to their children’s futures cannot afford it.
Our task is to do our utmost to help make such an education affordable to all paretns who wish it for their children.