The festival of Shavuot begins tonight, May 28. It was at this history-changing assembly at the foot of humble Mount Sinai that the obligation to educate our children found its origin and thus too, ultimately, the obligation to establish universal childhood education.
Our ancestors were commanded to “teach your children.” Teaching, therefore, became the core, seminal enterprise by which the traditions, laws, folkways and literature were to be transmitted and carried forward from one generation to the next.
The festival of Shavuot therefore is an excellent opportunity to acknowledge the outstanding achievements of our Jewish day schools in navigating with creativity and excellence through the pandemic troubles. They are to be commended for the swiftly and collectively swinging into action to salvage a terrible situation and converting it into the seeds of an undoubtedly, new hybrid, educational future.
Kol hakavod to our schools.
In a statement issued on May 12, UJA Federation paid tribute to the community’s schools.
“In the current crisis, Jewish day schools have, again, demonstrated their resilience as they pivoted from bricks and mortar to distance learning. Within a few short days of the impact of the pandemic in Ontario, Jewish day schools had developed distance learning programs, providing educational, social and emotional support for their students and families.”
UJA also pointed out that at least three major media outlets reported on the successful pivot of the schools.
As all of us understand, the financial havoc wrought by the pandemic upon individuals, families, businesses and institutions threatens the future of our educational system. Even before Covid-19, tuition was beyond the reach of many families. Now, that threat is palpably more ominous. Not only might the crisis prevent new children from enrolling in the schools, but children already enrolled might have to leave.
UJA is fully focused on the situation trying to prevent the pandemic from pouring a new form of wreckage onto our schools.
“Any attrition to the school system due to the financial crisis,” they write, “would not only have a long-term impact on the children themselves and on the future strength of our community, it would also have a disastrous impact on the financial strength of the day schools. If these families were to pull their children from the day school system, day schools would be thrown into a vicious cycle with lower enrollment resulting in a higher cost to educate, leading to higher tuition and lower enrolment.”
To try to help families keep their children in the schools through the Covid crisis, UJA Federation announced three specific affordability programs: Interest-free loans, emergency scholarships and a tuition assistance program.
To be sure, a great deal needs to be done to achieve true and full affordability of Jewish education. Covid-19 aggravated an already problematic dilemma and made it more urgent and more compelling.
UJA and the Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Education are to be commended for reacting forcefully, unequivocally, thoughtfully – based upon the values that were first taught at the foot of humble Mount Sinai some 3,500 years ago – in trying to prevent a breach in the infrastructure of our community.
Information about the affordability programs is available at UJA Federation 416.635.2883 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. It will also be available shortly on our website (gaje.ca).
Be safe. Stay safe. Be well. Stay well. Be strong. Stay strong.
Chag samayach. Shabbat shalom