In the marginally quieter days of the December holiday period, some members of our community may have missed an important news item that appeared in Dec. 20 edition of The Canadian Jewish News. Under the headline TanenbaumCHAT Day School sees increased enrolment after tuition cut, veteran CJN reporter Lila Sarick wrote that the high school has seen a major increase in Grade 9 enrolment applications from 200 this year to about 300 for the academic year 2018-19. This constitutes a 50 percent increase in one year!
There can be no doubt that the reason for this heartening jump was the intervention of community-minded, Jewish-future-caring, generous philanthropists whose $14 million gift to the school enabled the tuition to be reduced by nearly $10,000 per year per student for the next five years.
Not surprisingly, the school administration is excited about the enrolment development for next year. “All of North America is watching this and we think parents are responding, that they want a Jewish education for their children and this is making it more accessible for them. The response has been overwhelmingly positive,” Jonathan Levy, TanenbaumCHAT’s head of school said.
And we should be excited too. For the theory is no longer a theory. It is now proven. Tuition is indeed a determining factor in families’ sending their children to day school.
To be sure, the tuition per child per year – namely $18,500 – is still bitingly difficult and a severe hardship for many families, especially those with multiple children in the day school system. But the proof is in. Families will do their utmost to enable their children to receive a Jewish education if only the cost can be made bearable. Indeed when all the costs of running a Jewish household for a multiple-child family in our community are tallied, there can be no higher demonstration of a family’s commitment to a school or to our community. The resulting ongoing, tuition-anchored, financial struggle is their commitment to the community. It is foremost of course, their commitment to their children and to their forebears. It is not an overstatement to say that we owe these families a debt of gratitude for sending their children through Jewish education – despite the hardship.
If only we could now convince other community-minded, Jewish-future-caring, generous philanthropists to step forward to help radically reduce tuition for the community’s day schools, more children would become students there. A special fund – The Jewish Tuition Assistance Fund – has been established at the Jewish Foundation of Greater Toronto expressly for the purpose of making Jewish education affordable for the vast majority of families in our community. Can there be more poignant and compelling proof that donations to this fund will make a permanent, positive difference to the future of our community. Can one imagine the even further climb in enrolment in our schools if tuition costs for middle class families were lowered by an additional $10,000 in elementary and/or high school?
Not long ago, GAJE wrote about Eli Horn, a rare Jewish philanthropist in Brazil who decided to dedicate the bulk of his wealth to Jewish education there. Where is our community’s Eli Horn? Where is a consortium of philanthropists who together could achieve what Horn has done for his community in Brazil?
To paraphrase our Sages, “the work is great and the time short and the Master is knocking…” We have no time to lose. We know what works. Where are our philanthropists?