As the number of days before back-to-school diminish, anxieties heighten. We want our children to be in the classroom. That is where they belong. We want them, first and foremost however, to be safe. Every school has a plan to ensure the children’s safety. We hope and pray no child’s safety will be compromised.
The pandemic has understandably and justifiably occasioned a great many anxieties. One of the overarching anxieties related to the return-to-school, is an abiding concern for the very future of our schools.
The lay and professional leaders of our community share this concern and understand the threat wrought by the pandemic to our schools. They have promised to place the security of the future of the Jewish school system at the top of their priorities. But it is not an easy task. Nor is the outcome assured.
It falls to all of us – who care about our Jewish future and the indispensable role that Jewish schools play in ensuring that future – to help assure that outcome.
Rabbi Chaim Perkal, the founder and director of Alei Siach, a Jerusalem-based non-profit providing all-inclusive solutions for people living with special needs and their families, recently published a cry-of-the-heart expressing deep worry for day schools in the United States and for the parents who may be unable to afford to send their children to those schools.
The article is entitled “The impending day-school crisis is a golden opportunity.”
Rabbi Perkal’s essential argument is the following:
“This fall, we can expect a significant drop in the number of children enrolled in Jewish day schools. Due to the financial crisis caused by the pandemic, many families are in dire straits and cannot afford to spend tens of thousands of dollars for their children’s education. That’s without factoring in families who will choose not to send their children to school due to the health risks.
“We must use this moment of crisis as an opportunity to make a meaningful change in the day-school system. With rapidly declining enrollment numbers, and more parents than ever who can’t afford tuition, we must come up with a plan to make sure day schools don’t die out.
Our priority should be getting as many Jewish students as possible enrolled in day schools, period.”
Some of Rabbi Perkal’s suggestions are not appropriate or even implementable in our community. But the fervour and sincerity of his argument deserve attention. His views are illustrative of the anxiety that has risen to the top of inter-communal discussion.
Be safe. Stay safe. Be well. Stay well. Be strong. Stay strong.