A Barometer of the Jewish Community’s Viability

We draw our followers’ attention to two items that appeared in The Canadian Jewish News this week (Feb. 2, 2017). They can be read in tandem. Indeed perhaps they should be read in tandem for together they describe a perfect storm of converging developments within the Jewish community that portend very worrisome developments for our community.

Lila Sarick wrote an excellent story about the future of the day schools. Under the headline “Dwindling Affordability Puts Day Schools at Crossroads”, Sarick neatly and powerfully explored the far-reaching implications of the dilemma of steeply rising tuition costs. She described day school education as a barometer of the Jewish community’s viability. Of course she is correct. It alarms us to report that the barometer is pointing to a distressing conclusion about the community.

Sarick quotes Rabbi Lee Buckman, head of CHAT, who framed the cost issue quite starkly: “I think the challenge all the day schools are going to face is day school affordability, which is tied to enrolment… That’s a long-term strategic challenge.”

In the page immediately preceding Sarick’s article, Ari Blaff, a master’s student at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs, wrote an op-ed essay in which he laments the increasingly radically negative and hostile attitudes towards Israel that are proliferating from many quarters – including from Jews – on campus. Apart from or in addition to the social and academic atmosphere so heavily poisoned against Israel, Blaff points out with painful realization that a great many Jews of North America cannot be counted upon to defend the Jewish case, let alone Israel’s case.

“The relationship between a fading Jewish identity and disinterest in Israel has indelibly framed my view of North American Jewry. Few of my Jewish friends have the conviction or passion to engage in what is perceived to be tendentious politicking. Few will write columns in student newspapers, participate in Israel-related campus activities, or voice their concerns publicly regarding anti-Semitism or anti-Israel incidents. Few are informed… They are fearful of speaking up on campuses, partaking in pro-Israel events or outing themselves with such a cause.”

Blaff concludes ominously that the lack of Jewish knowledge among so many of our youth on campus “portends poorly for the future of liberal Jews in North America.”

As most of us know, the surest, most long-lasting response to this alarming lack of Jewish knowledge and fading Jewish identity among North American Jewish youth is impactful Jewish education.

And so, on this very point, we give the final word on the subject to Jeff Stutz, chair of GAJE’s funding committee, who told Sarick “We can’t give up. [The tuition issue] is too important and we have a community responsibility to fix it the system.”



The annual Limmud Toronto conference takes place this year on March 19 at St. Andrews Club & Conference Centre in downtown Toronto. We urge GAJE members to register for the conference. GAJE will once again be joining the discussion.

Registration details are available at the Limmud Toronto website.


Shabbat shalom.


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