Grassroots for Affordable Jewish Education
April 24, 2015
Our mission is to make Jewish education in our community affordable for every family that wishes to send its children to a Jewish day school.
The evidence is irrefutable and known to informed individuals:
• Day school education, more than any other formal or informal Jewish experience, is the strongest guarantor of lasting, positive Jewish identity in our children. It is the most important investment that a Jewish community can make in its future. Yet the Greater Toronto Jewish Community, like communities in many other cities in North America, is at a crossroads concerning the affordability of day school education. It calls into question the future of an excellent, diverse Jewish educational system in our city.
• Tuition for Jewish day school education in our community is unconscionably high. Elementary school tuition ranges around $15,000-plus per student per year. High school tuition approaches $30,000 per student per year. When added to the onerous costs of home ownership and maintaining a Jewish household and Jewish way of life in a Jewish neighbourhood, the additional burden of paying educational fees is breaking the economic backs of many of our young families.
• Enrollment in our schools is steadily declining.
• The implications for the Jewish future of our community – individually and collectively, in the short term and in the long term – are disastrous. They have been chronicled often and in many places and need not be reiterated here.
• The situation is urgent. Its scope outstrips the ability of one organization or one individual to resolve. It cuts across organizational loyalties since, eventually, all community institutions are at risk. The steady erosion in subsequent generations of strong Jewish identity, of a sense of shared Jewish peoplehood, will adversely affect all our communal agencies and organizations. Thus a solution to the affordability crisis must come from a fully representative cross section of individuals and organizations within the community.
• Ever since the Supreme Court of Canada confirmed the legality of the educational funding practices of the Ontario government and ever since the provincial government confirmed it would take no steps to ameliorate the effects of the discriminatory funding practices, a sense of helplessness and hopelessness has pervaded the attitude of Jewish communal leaders on the subject of Jewish school affordability.
• That attitude has become the response of community leaders to the funding crisis as perceived by parents whose children are enrolled in day schools and by parents who would send their children to day school but for the cost.
• Thus, the community must act to restore a sense of hope among our young families that they will be able to provide Jewish education for their children.
Who we are
We are a grassroots organization of concerned individuals, each with considerable professional and volunteer experience in Jewish communal life. It is our view that this is the most important immediate and long-term priority for our community leaders.
We will be the catalysts for placing the subject of day school affordability back onto the community’s agenda.
More importantly, we will be the catalysts for actually finding solutions.
We will plan and arrange public and private events, targeted discussions, community-wide debates, meetings, and published essays.
We will extend a hand to everyone who might want to be part of the solution. We will not point fingers at anyone. By widening the group of the solution-seekers, we increase the possibilities of finding new ideas and new thinking about funding and especially new people to become involved with their energy, commitment and resources.
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.
The status quo is an affront to conscience. Inaction is not an option. Nor is failure.
David W. Brown,
Rabbi Jay Kelman