The first weekly update of the new calendar year is an appropriate observation post from which, briefly, to look back to where we have been and to scan the horizon for the hopeful sunrise of fair educational funding.
In three months, at Pesach, we will mark the eighth year since the founding of GAJE. Our mission was, and remains, to help make Jewish education in our community affordable for every family that wishes to send its children to a Jewish day school. It was our view then – and remains our view today – that “the affordability of Jewish education is the most important immediate and long-term priority for our community leaders…. By striving to make Jewish education more affordable, we fulfill a moral obligation to our community and a historic obligation to the wider Jewish people.”
Those words, written some eight years ago, attempted to encapsulate what it means to belong to the Jewish people: we link hands and hearts, so to speak, with all generations from one to the next, forever. In his elegant commentary on this week’s Torah portion, Vayehi, Rabbi Marc D. Angel, paints the portrait of inter-generational connection with sharply clarifying and emotion-evoking colours. The following statements are excerpted from his dvar Torah.
“Children are not born into a historical vacuum. They are heirs to the generations of their family going back through the centuries and millennia. In the case of Jewish children (and grandchildren), they are not only heirs to their particular family’s traditions, but “inherit” all the previous generations of the Jewish people going back to the time of Abraham and Sarah.
“The challenge to the older generations is to transmit to the new generations a feeling of connectedness with the past.
“We want our children and grandchildren to understand that they are engaged in a life-long dialogue among all the generations of their family and of their people. What a wonderful gift to give children! And what a tragedy when this gift is not conveyed!”
It is widely agreed among all expert and lay observers that the best – though not the only – means by which to convey that feeling of connectedness to children and grandchildren is through comprehensive, intense Jewish education as modeled and reinforced at home and among peers.
Yet, if that education is not affordable, it is merely a theoretical possibility and not an actual experience. The founding of GAJE was intended to help bring about true affordability of day school education. “The status quo is an affront to conscience. Inaction is not an option. Nor is failure,” GAJE wrote in 2015.
We are happy to be able to write that the status quo in 2023 is decidedly different than it was in 2015. Dan Held, UJA’s Chief Program Officer, has noted that “affordability and enrollment are intrinsically linked.” And so, the community acted upon that link. To achieve higher enrollment, UJA facilitated the reduction of tuition at the community high school (Tanenbaum CHAT). The result has been higher enrollment in the high school. Higher enrollment is now also rippling encouragingly through elementary day schools.
But the task of helping achieve true affordability for all young families is far from complete.
Ontario’s educational funding supports and prefers one religion to the exclusion of the others. Indeed, to the ongoing perplexity and frustration of most knowledgeable observers, Ontario gives nothing toward the cost of running independent schools – unlike the educational funding practices of the next five most populous provinces in the country.
As readers of this weekly update know, GAJE has launched an application in court to compel Ontario to change its unfair, unjust, discriminatory, anachronistic, regressive policies. Our next day in court is April 20 defending against the aggressive effort by the government to strike our application before we have had an opportunity to plead our case.
What GAJE wrote in 2015 in relation to the larger issue of educational affordability, applies with equal meaning and force to Ontario’s educational funding. “The status quo is an affront to conscience. Inaction is not an option. Nor is failure.”
If you wish to contribute to GAJE’s lawsuit for fairness in educational funding, please click here.
For further information, please contact Israel Mida at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Charitable receipts for donations for income tax purposes will be issued by Mizrachi Canada. Your donations will be used for the sole purpose of underwriting the costs of the lawsuit.
Grassroots for Affordable Jewish Education (GAJE)
January 6, 2023