Seth Goldsweig, an administrator at The Leo Baeck Day School, recently posted an article on the eJewishphilanthropy website that relates directly upon the GAJE’s mission to help make Jewish education affordable. Drawing upon his doctoral study on the leadership perspectives of the financial sustainability of non-Orthodox Jewish day schools in Toronto, Goldsweig offers three ideas to ensure the permanent viability of our day schools: the importance of perceived value and commitment, collaboration, and the need for adaptive solutions.
We provide a very brief summary of the main points Goldsweig makes.
It is time to tackle with greater ferocity the idea of increasing the level of perceived value for families that are on the fence. There are many studies and articles that can be used to to highlight greater student success in university by day school graduates, the long-term value of Jewish day school, and the impact on Jewish identity formation, to name a few. It’s a start, but we need more empirical and anecdotal evidence, word of mouth, and positive publicity that can be used to convince families that the value of Jewish day school education is worth the cost.
Due to its complex nature and far-reaching impact, the only effective way to solve the Jewish day school sustainability crisis involves schools working together. In Toronto, the heads of all the Jewish day schools – Orthodox and non-Orthodox – meet monthly to discuss issues and share best practices. The Toronto Jewish Federation (UJA) is currently working on securing funding for a multi-million dollar endowment to support middle-income families with tuition assistance for all schools. All of these are examples of communal collaboration. There is reason to be hopeful as the enrolment at the community high school is steadily increasing. However, the high school in Toronto will only continue to thrive if the elementary schools are also flourishing. The elementary schools also need the full support of the community. It is in everyone’s best interest to work together.
The need for adaptive solutions
The solution will require out-of-the-box thinking and bold ideas as we work to create something that has yet to be even imagined. Many of the leaders that answered my survey and others that I interviewed acknowledged that the issue is too complex to solve it alone. The solution will be best achieved when working collaboratively, not in separate silos, to innovate new adaptive solutions.
Goldsweig concludes the article by writing: “It will take new learning and fresh ideas to solve the issue, and a recognition that the community must work together to improve the perceived value and ensure the viability of Jewish day school education.”
We commend the article to all readers for all us, as Goldsweig suggests, have a role to play to finally helping make Jewish education truly affordable.