When GAJE was formed nearly three years ago, we were among the first concerned individuals to attempt to focus community discussion on the utter lack of affordability of the cost of Jewish education. Today that discussion has been joined from all points in North America.
From time to time we showcase other voices that are raising the same concern about affordability. We do so again in this week’s update.
Alisha Abboudi is the Director of Philanthropy at Politz Day School in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. She published an article that appeared earlier this week on the jEducation website, entitled The High Cost of Jewish Continuity: Affording a Jewish Day School Education. Abboudi brings her New Jersey perspective to the affordability discussion. Not surprisingly, her perspective shares many sight lines with the perspective from the GTA.
Below are excerpts of her article.
“Population surveys and demographic studies of the past thirty years show that effective Jewish education is the single best vehicle to ensure Jewish continuity – the idea that Judaism’s values and heritage will continue to pass from generation to generation by those identifying as Jewish, regardless of denomination. As the great Talmudist Adin Steinsaltz said, “a Jew is not someone whose grandparents are Jewish but someone who wants his or her grandchildren to be Jewish.”
The good news: population surveys and demographic studies have identified Jewish education as the key to Jewish continuity. The bad news? Just as many studies have shown that mounting day school tuition costs are not sustainable. Combined with a low value proposition, high tuition has made day school the least likely choice for most American Jews….
“Regardless of size or denomination, all day schools today share ongoing financial worries. Most experience shortfalls due to the added expenses of a dual curriculum, longer school day, larger faculty, security expenses, and higher administrative costs, to name just a few…
So, what happens now? With the very real threats facing day schools, communal organizations have mobilized once again, with an eye on creating viable and long-term structural changes. Several interventions have recently emerged: a focus on enrolment growth, tuition pricing and middle income affordability initiatives, fundraising and endowment building, advocacy for government funding, cost cutting via school collaborations and communal funding initiatives, and new education models such as blended learning.
“While compelling arguments can be made for all of these initiatives, I firmly believe that a focus on securing government funding should be at the forefront. At the very least, we should be having a more intentional and meaningful conversation within the greater Jewish community regarding public funding for private schools.
“… A solution can and must be found to keep day schools not only open but accessible to middle income families and those who are ambivalent about their Judaism. Otherwise, this effective, transformative, and necessary tool in perpetuating Jewish continuity will only be available to the most dedicated or most wealthy families.”
We share Ms. Abboudi’s resolve to find a solution to ensure day schools are truly accessible to middle income families. And we also share her resolve that government – in this case, Ontario – should fund some of the cost the education in the day schools, at least a portion of the general studies curriculum. Five other provinces in Canada do precisely that. Why cannot Ontario do the same?