Weekly Update: January 13, 2017 — 15 Tevet 5777

Day School education a proven secret

In a wide-ranging exchange of worry and resolve last April in Mosaic Magazine with Daniel Gordis, Martin Kramer and Jack Wertheimer concerning the future of the American Jewish community, former American diplomat Eliott Abrams reflected upon the essential place for Jews of day school education in an essay entitled American Jewry Will No Longer Be the Center of the Jewish World.

Abrams examined the present; drew lessons from the past; and conveyed his hopes for the future. Like everyone else, Abrams does not know the future. However, he is trying to influence it. So should we.

“[S]taring the American non-Orthodox in the face is the prospect of Jewish assimilation leading to Jewish extinction. That being the reality, is it possible that day schools might be re-examined?

“One critical barrier here, even for the moderately affluent, is financial: on top of the other burdens of engaged Jewish life—synagogue dues, summer camps, kosher food, and so forth—day schools are an expensive proposition. Especially in localities boasting excellent public schools, they may seem either beyond reach or unnecessary, or both. And here, to make things worse, the organized community’s priorities are upside-down. Rather than making sure that a day-school education is affordable and available to all who want it—as Jack Wertheimer has tirelessly advocated—Jewish agencies have not only undervalued the relative worth of such an education but have often led the fight against extending any help at all to religious schools in general, even in the form of vouchers, tuition tax credits, or other tax breaks that are clearly constitutional.

“The day-school movement in America is one of the proven secrets of continuing Orthodox strength and solidarity. As Wertheimer has written, a day-school education “greatly increases the chances of children learning the skills necessary for participation in religious life, for living active Jewish lives, and for identifying strongly with other Jews.” One can only hope that non-Orthodox Jews and Jewish organizations seeking to survive in America will reconsider its benefits and relax their visceral and ideological opposition to communal and other forms of support for non-public schools.”

Abrams observations are germane for our effort, worthy of study and of constant reiteration.

•••

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) has announced that its next round of community consultations in Toronto will take place on January 22 at 9:00 a.m. at the Lipa Green Building, 4600 Bathurst Street. CIJA invites any individuals interested in taking part in this “grassroots community consultation” to sign up and join the discussion.

We urge GAJE members and all others committed to making Jewish education more affordable to take part. We urge individuals to make their voices heard on the subject. The more that we talk publicly about the crisis in affordable Jewish education the more we help to keep it on the community’s agenda as a high priority issue requiring urgent attention.

Registration for the January 22 consultation is available on the CIJA website.

•••

Shabbat shalom.

GAJE

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