Two weeks ago, we directed attention to the “remarkable achievement”, that despite — and in some way, on account of — the Covid pandemic, enrollment in our day schools had actually increased for the first time in 17 years.
Adam Minsky, the President & CEO of UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, reflected upon this increase in enrolment in a short essay published this week by eJewish Philanthropy.
“Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, we quickly realized that (the financial hardship of middle class families sending their children to day school) would only accelerate this year due to the financial crisis. Here in Canada, nearly half of all households were impacted by job loss or reduced working hours – and the Jewish community was no exception. Without a rapid intervention, many would end up being permanently disconnected from day school and other key Jewish experiences.
“…The pandemic forced us to temporarily shift our focus from a long-term, systemic challenge in day school affordability to a short-term, situational crisis. While an endowment was right in the first instance, an emergency infusion of tuition assistance funds was now needed. Without rapid tuition relief, many who would leave day school due to the economic crisis would be unlikely to re-enrol in the future, even when restored to financial stability…
“This year, more than 350 students who previously paid full tuition are receiving emergency tuition assistance or interest-free loans, offered through a simplified application for families hit financially by the pandemic. Additionally, hundreds of students who previously received tuition assistance have qualified for an even greater subsidy this year, again due to the financial fallout of COVID-19.
“As a result, an entire cohort of students who were at risk of leaving the day school system have been able to remain enrolled. Retaining these students is not only invaluable in strengthening their individual Jewish journeys. It also helps ensure the stability and continued vibrancy of our day schools.
“…No less important, we will redouble our efforts to provide a long-term solution to day school affordability, so that the progress we have made this year marks a turning point, not a one-time initiative.”
The significance of the community’s emergency initiative and of Minsky’s explanation cannot be overstated. It is practical, dramatic evidence of the actual full-bodied embrace of the priorities that were always the supportive backbone ensuring the strength and permanent viability of our unique, diverse, Jewishly literate, caring community.
As Minsky points out, the response to the experience also shows us a path to help sustain the Jewish future.
Be safe. Stay safe. Be well. Stay well. Be strong. Stay strong.
Shabbat shalom. Chag Succot Samayach.