Some two and a half years ago, our volunteer, grassroots organization (GAJE) was formed out of a deeply held conviction that it was finally time to solve the crisis of increasingly unaffordable day school tuitions.
As much as the group that formed GAJE chose to take action, it appears that the times may have also chosen the group. For it is now plainly evident that around the same time as GAJE formed in the GTA, the subject of day school affordability became a first-order priority for volunteers and professionals in Jewish communities throughout North America.
Last week an article entitled Five Things Jewish Day Schools Are Doing To Lower Tuition Costs, written by E.J. Kessler and sponsored by the Avi Chai Foundation, was published by the JTA. The information in the article is instructive. It bears noting however that all of the approaches Kessler lists are currently being considered, in one form or another, in the GTA.
The large subsidiary point of the article however is that Jewish communities in North America are finally tackling the problem. Individually and collectively they are effectively declaring: “The situation is at a crisis level. Because it is, we must find answers. The view that there are no answers has no precedent in Jewish history. Thus, we will find a way or multiple ways to make Jewish education affordable.”
This is the key message of the article to be celebrated.
But there are some important nuggets of reason and purpose in Kessler’s story. For example:
“Schools understand that if families can’t afford to pay, they will lose them or they won’t get them to begin with,” said Daniel Perla, senior director for financial vitality at Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools, which works with schools across North America to promote educational excellence and financial stability.
“Knowledgeable community leaders understand the high return that Jewish day schools provide by graduating Jewishly literate, passionate, proud, highly educated, socially conscious Jews,” wrote Harry Bloom, senior vice president of Measuring Success, which helps independent schools, foundations and not-for-profits with quantitative research.
“Easing the financial burden of those choosing a Jewish day school education,” said Jay Tcath, Executive Vice-President of Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, “is a priority for our federation and the best long-term investment we can make for an educated Jewish future.”
Kessler will have the last word here: “Ultimately, say those working to support Jewish day schools, reducing the financial burden of tuition is a Jewish imperative.”