Important call to action

The Ontario government is currently holding public consultations into education reform in the province. The scope of the consultation is potentially quite broad. Eight questions have been put to the public for response. The questions suggest a narrow scope of possible reform. However the last (eighth) question asks for broad feedback or a sharing of ideas regarding the education system.

This is an opportunity for all members of our community who seek justice in educational funding to make their opinions known to the government. It is very important that as many members of our community as possible participate in the survey.

We have included some possible ideas to mention in your responses to Question 8. We discourage simply copying and pasting the words. The greater the number of individually written responses, the greater the effect will be upon policy planners. An obviously orchestrated campaign of the exact same submissions will have a diminished impact, if any, on the government.

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Possible ideas to include in the response to Question 8

• The funding formula for Ontario’s schools was established in the late 19th century. It is an archaic formula and must be brought into the 21st century to better reflect the province’s diverse population and realities of today. Recognize and give status to Independent schools in Ontario. Update the definition of private school in the Education Act.

• Support the educational needs of all students with Special Needs in Independent schools. This means accommodating all disabilities of children in independent schools as opposed to the current policy of only supporting a select number of disabilities.

• On balance, Ontario’s private schools produce an excellent “product”–solid citizens that contribute to the future tax base of the province. It makes sense to support these schools and their parents in the educational journey of their children.

• Property taxes paid by landowners is a significant contribution to Ontario’s revenue stream. It is important for taxpayers to see an ROI (return on investment) by expanding the funded school boards to include private/ independent schools. Landowners can then direct their property taxes to the school board of their choosing in a more equitable way.

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To participate in the consultation please click:

https://www.ontario.ca/form/open-submissions-education-ontario

Consultations end December 15, 2018. 2018. Please respond soon.

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Shabbat Shalom. Chag Chanukah samayach.

GAJE

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An extraordinary gift

Earlier this month, Mem Bernstein, Chairman of The AVI CHAI Foundation delivered a keynote address at the Day School Investor Summit, convened by Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools. More than 100 philanthropists dedicated involved in day school development attended.

As the AVI CHAI Foundation is set to wind down its work, Bernstein spoke about the founding of the Foundation, its mission, and her involvement in the Foundation specifically and in educational philanthropy generally.

In explaining why she sent her children to day school, she said:

“This was about my children, and their Jewish futures, a future that would hopefully offer them social, academic, professional, and religious success. I was committed to making their experience as good as I possibly could.”

“I wanted my children – and everyone’s children – to know that they are part of an incredible people, with an extraordinary past, present, and future…

“Day schools can be one of the most effective ways to ensure children know who they are as individuals and as Jews. Day schools can give them a strong sense of community, a deep awareness that they are part of something so much bigger than themselves.”

She readily acknowledged that not everything was perfect at the school in which she enrolled her children. It wasn’t. Nor could it be. Nor is it at any school anywhere.

In describing the education she provided to her children, she spoke this memorable statement: “I could not have given my children or my family a more extraordinary gift.”

Knowing who they are as individuals and as Jews along with a sense of belonging to our remarkable people is indeed an extraordinary gift we can give our children. These days however, it cannot be done without the full commitment of the community.

In two days we begin lighting the candles of Chanukah. In addition to focusing the ambience and family involvement of the occasion, the candles also illuminate the darker spaces of sunlight-deprived, shortened daylight hours. In the same vein, it is no stretch to add that Jewish education illuminates the darker personal and communal spaces created when young Jews do not know who they are or who they could be as Jews.

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You can read Bernstein’s full remarks at:
https://ejewishphilanthropy.com/mem-bernstein-on-passing-the-baton/

Shabbat Shalom. Chag Chanukah samayach.

GAJE

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A Significant Impact

The remarkable gift almost two years ago by the Jesin-Neuberger families and by an anonymous donor family — that reduced for a period of five years the tuition at CHAT by almost one third — has empirically proven that enrolment is indeed tied to affordable tuition. The enrolment this year in Grade Nine has skyrocketed by an astounding 68 percent. This figure is unprecedented anywhere in North America.

Last week, UJA Federation posted on its weekly snapshot, a short three-minute video in which the sense of gratitude to the donors for this potentially revolutionary, history-setting gift that so generously benefits parents, students, the school and the community is poignantly expressed by students and parents alike.

“Having Jewish education really adds a lot to your life. You discover who you are,” says one of the students.

“Being involved in Jewish community and being part of it has really shaped me,” says another student.

“I really hope that the people who made this incredible donation understand the value that they have contributed to the community, that the impact they are having is really a significant one. Ultimately it inspires other people to do the same. What they are doing is they are investing in a whole generation of kids who will ultimately step up in their own right and help the Jewish community.” (A grateful parent)

We must view the overwhelming success of the CHAT initiative as a beginning only. The reduced tuition must become the permanent norm at the school. Moreover, it must also become a reality at all the feeder elementary schools. For this to happen, other generously inclined families and donors need to follow the Jesin-Neuberger example. Please.

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You can view the “Creating Affordability and Increasing Enrolment – the TanenbaumCHAT Success Story” video at: https://jewishtoronto.com/news-media/what-we-do/the-tanenbaumchat-success-story?

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Shabbat Shalom.

GAJE

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Strong day schools, strong communities

From time to time, GAJE points out that communities across North America are mobilizing to strengthen the Jewish educational and day school system. We do so again with this update.

Paul Bernstein, the founding CEO of Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools, published an article on the eJewishPhilanthropy site entitled, Unlocking the Potential of Jewish Day Schools.

Bernstein restates the proposition that is at the heart of the campaign to make Jewish education affordable. “Strong Jewish day schools create strong Jewish communities.”

He then logically asks the vital question: “How can we unlock the potential of the inherent link between communities and Jewish day schools to secure a strong Jewish future?”

The article introduces a five-year strategic plan by Prizmah entitled B’Yachad/Together: Towards a Vibrant Future for Jewish Day Schools.

Bernstein points out that the “blueprint is built from an understanding of that deep and powerful school-community connection – the stronger our schools are, the stronger our communities, and vice-versa. Today’s Jewish day school students, and those who follow in their footsteps, are precious resources.”

The lay and professional leaders of the Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Education (in the GTA) are fully engaged in the effort to strengthen our educational system by making it affordable to all families that seek it for their children and then by making the system permanently sustainable.

We will all have a role to play in this. When the wide Jewish community is asked to participate in and assist in the essential task of ensuring the Jewish future, we hope members of the community will respond wholeheartedly and purposefully by plunging, so to speak, into the deep end of “rescue” rather than by merely dipping our toes tentatively along the stony, shallow shoreline of indifference.•••

Shabbat Shalom.

GAJE

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The human quality is the centre of our schools

The reason GAJE was formed some three years ago was to help the community make Jewish education affordable to the many families in our community for whom it has become increasingly out of reach financially. In the process, we have also commented from time to time that the companion issue to the affordability of the education is its overall excellence.

An article appeared this week on the eJewish Philanthropy website that focuses the discussion about Jewish day school education on this very subject. Entitled, CAJE-Miami: A Decade of Lessons Learned, the authors Valerie Mitrani and Julie Lambert ask the question: “What is the point of sustainability and affordability if Jewish day schools aren’t at the forefront of education, providing learning environments that offer leading pedagogies and opportunities that meet the needs of our students and families?”

Of course, GAJE agrees with this proposition.

Mitrani and Lambert state “in a world full of options, we have a moral obligation as a Jewish community to ensure that Jewish day school students experience a high quality education.” And they add: “the single most important school-based factor impacting student learning is the teacher. The second most important factor is the principal.”

GAJE also agrees with these statements.

Thankfully, in the GTA, we are indeed able to say that the schools do provide excellent education in general studies and in Jewish studies, within of course, their particular respective philosophical Judaic outlooks. Of course, behavioural and pedagogical issues do arise in each school that are particular to individual students and that may make a child’s experience in the school difficult. We would never deny things we know to be true.

But on balance, the evidence persists that the day schools do offer a high quality educational experience. We must emphasize and re-emphasize this fact to the Jewish public. The teachers and the principals understand that they – the human factor – are the irreplaceable centers of each school.

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Some weeks ago, we helped announce in this space the opening of a new pedagogically blended learning high school slated to open in the GTA in September 2019. The school organizers are holding an Open House on Nov 25, 7 pm in the Lipa Green Building, 4600 Bathurst Street.

Curious parents of prospective students and of course, students themselves are invited to attend to hear more about ADRABA: meet with the school’s originators, ask questions, discuss their plans and aspirations and experience a sample lesson intended for incoming students.

More info about ADRABA is available at ADRABA.ca.

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Shabbat Shalom.

GAJE

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The task is clear. It is also urgent.

Earlier this week the Board of Directors of The Leo Baeck Day School announced its decision to close its campus in Thornhill at the end of this school year. The president of the school’s board, Dr. Lisa Dack, succinctly and accurately described the emotion that accompanied the decision. “Today is an incredibly sad day for Leo Baeck, as well as the entire Jewish community, which is losing another Jewish day school in York Region.”

The closing of Leo Baeck north is woefully unwelcome news.

The hopes and dreams of building in Thornhill a diverse, pluralistic Jewish Community where options for families to choose from a variety of day school offerings are slipping away. That “variety” today comprises three schools: Netivot, Eitz Chaim and Bialik.

But this is not the last word on Jewish education in Vaughan.

There are many reasons that explain the rise and fall of Jewish education in Thornhill. The pre-eminent one however, is the cost of tuition. This was confirmed not long ago in a poll conducted for the Federation.

GAJE is working hand in hand with UJA Federation and CIJA to create a lifeline for the schools and families. We must all do so.

We all recognize that for Jews in the Greater Toronto area saving our day schools is and will be the top priority. Federation has publicly stated that enabling more children to enrol in Jewish education is the compelling issue for our future as a vibrant, diverse Jewish community.

Combined with the effort to make education more affordable, we must now also speak directly and effusively about the excellence and importance of Jewish education. And so we shall.

The task for all of us is clear. It is also urgent.

We have the ability to reverse the trend of school closures and to create, instead, a new trend of having to accommodate an increasing demand for enrolment in our Jewish schools.

But first we must find the will.

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Shabbat Shalom.

GAJE

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Jewish identity is key to the Jewish future: PM Netanyahu

The General Assembly of Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) convened this year in Jerusalem. As part of the proceedings last week, JFNA Chairman Richard V. Sandler interviewed Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The interview covered a lot of ground, some of which, as we know at the moment, is a bit shaky between large swaths of North American Jews and the government of Israel. The prime minister wished to project the attitude that all problems between the largest Diaspora community and the Jewish state were resolvable. There was one key issue, however, that Prime Minister Netanyahu emphasized as being pre-eminent among his concerns for the future.

“What I’m concerned with when it comes to the Jewish people, is the loss of identity”, the prime minister said. “It’s not the question of the Western Wall or the question of conversion; we’ll overcome that. It’s the loss of identity.”

In responding to his interviewer, Prime Minister Netanyahu said the following:

“Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch wrote recently: “Those who are not concerned with Jewish survival will not survive as Jews.” There’s some basic truth to that.

“Jewish survival is guaranteed in the Jewish state if we defend our state, but we have to also work at the continuity of Jewish communities in the world by developing Jewish education, the study of Hebrew, having the contact of young Jews coming to Israel.

“We need an approach in the internet age to young Jewish men and women, to Jewish children around the world, so that they understand that their own future as Jews depends on continuous identity.

“It’s protecting Jewish identity and developing Jewish consciousness that is the most important thing. It transcends politics; it touches on the foundations of history. So I hope that we do this.

“This is what I think we’re here for. We are one people – let’s make sure that every Jewish child in the world knows how proud they should be to be Jews.”

In placing Jewish identity – i.e., Jewish education – as the core issue of the Jewish future, Prime Minister was echoing many other leading Jewish figures in Israel. The true strength of the Jewish people is in our embrace of who we are. Passing that embrace forward to the next generations can be achieved only through education.

But Jewish education must be available to as many Jewish children as possible. For that to happen, the education must be affordable. That is and has been GAJE’s message.

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Shabbat Shalom.

GAJE

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We would like to share personal stories about how the affordability issue has affected families in our community. We will post these stories anonymously on our Facebook page and on our website.

We will not include any personal information such as names, schools, other institutions, or any other identifying information. We reserve the right to edit all submissions.

To share your story, either send us a message on our Facebook page or email us @ info @ gaje.ca.

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