A momentous week for Jewish education in the GTA

The Anne & Max Tanenbaum Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto (TanenbaumCHAT) and UJA Federation of Greater Toronto this week jointly announced a reduction in next year’s annual tuition from its present level of nearly $28,000 to $18,500, beginning in the upcoming 2017-18 school year. Annual tuition will remain under $19,000 for the next five years.

The reduction in next year’s tuition was made possible by the remarkable generosity by the Jesin-Neuberger Foundation, which spearheaded the tuition reduction initiative with a gift of $10 million and by an anonymous donor who provided $5 million to the initiative.

The reduction in CHAT’s annual tuition is profoundly significant. It promises to bring more students into the high school. The donors, the school and UJA Federation are to be commended. The deep cut in the tuition is to be celebrated.

But, as with the breaking of a glass under the chupah, we must note that our celebration is tempered somewhat by the closing of the north branch of CHAT, by the resulting disruption in the lives of Thornhill CHAT families, by the loss of livelihoods among teaching and other staff and by the feeling that the overall mission is not yet accomplished.

Far from it.

Indeed, tuitions at the high school and the elementary school levels are still oppressively onerous for most of the middle class families in our day school system. If we do not find a way to urgently and significantly reduce the tuitions in the elementary schools, far fewer children will be moving up the Jewish educational ladder to ultimately reach high school.

And yet, we must not lose sight of the importance of the developments. It was a momentous week. The announcements were a watershed, giving heart and hope to the community’s efforts to make Jewish education affordable.

It is our fervent hope that other like-minded individuals will be inspired by the far-seeing generosity of the Jesin-Neuberger Foundation and the anonymous donor. Perhaps others, who have the financial ability to do so, will find it equally compelling to help guarantee the right to a Jewish education to the children of our community? Perhaps some parents will be more inclined now to enroll their children next year at TanenbaumCHAT?

Let us hope.

The drastic reduction in CHAT’s tuition makes Jewish education more affordable next year. But it is not yet actually affordable to the vast majority. It is however a good beginning.

We should all be heartened by the major developments last week and especially by the fact that, clearly, there are people in the community, such as the Jesin-Neuberger Foundation and the anonymous donor, who are mobilizing to make Jewish education affordable. We thank them and say Kol Hakavod.

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Reminder: Limmud Conference!

The annual Limmud Toronto conference takes place next week on March 19 at St. Andrews Club & Conference Centre in downtown Toronto. The program includes a number of key sessions that relate to the subject of Jewish education including:

  • Jewish Education: Do We Want it? Can We Afford It? – Jeffrey Stutz
  • A Viable Alternative to the Financial Crisis in Jewish Education – Sholom Eisenstat

Other sessions also focus on Jewish education but from different perspectives. We encourage you to consult the website at limmud.ca for the full schedule of events and register for the conference.

•••

Shabbat shalom.

GAJE

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