Stand up, stand tall

In his commentary on this week’s Torah portion, Va’era, Rabbi Marc D. Angel provides a very powerful insight into merely five words of the Hebrew text.

God instructs Moses: “Rise up early in the morning and stand [tall] before Pharaoh… (Shemot, 9:13)”

Quoting different authorities, Rav Angel, urges us to find inspiration, courage and meaning in God’s concise instruction. He suggests that the true meaning of these few spoken words is to bid us, all, not to bend our heads – figuratively and literally – in deference to seemingly impossible situations of suffering and especially to perpetrators of that suffering. In the commentary, Rav Angel applies God’s directive as a primer for personal conduct when facing decisive, large, watershed societal moments.

GAJE too can apply Rav Angel’s insight.

The challenge to help make Jewish education in our community more affordable is indeed daunting. But we must not be daunted. As God urged Moses, we too must “stand tall”, unbowed, and unafraid before the task.

And so we shall.

Shabbat shalom.

••• Rabbi Angel’s commentary is available at:

GAJE, January 24, 2020

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Acting today to change tomorrow

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks is widely known for the inspiring insights he pulls from the weekly Torah portion. His commentary on this week’s portion, Shemot, is a striking illustration of how the rabbi’s wisdom can be the jet stream, pulling us forward to the horizon we seek.

The departure point for his commentary this week is the response by God when Moses asks Him how he should identify God when the people ask His name? God replied: “Ehyeh asher ehyeh” (Ex. 3:14). “It means ‘I will be what, where, or how I will be’, Rabbi Sacks writes. “The essential element of the phrase is..the future tense. God is defining Himself as the Lord of history who is about to intervene in an unprecedented way…” 

Typically, Rabbi Sacks mines various meanings from the rich and rewarding veins of language and concept that fill the parsha. He imparts a key message that is relevant for GAJE’s mission and for the wider community in trying to make Jewish education affordable. 

“The future is the sphere of human freedom… I cannot change yesterday but I can change tomorrow by what I do today,” Rabbi Sacks wrote.

We can indeed achieve our goal. We can indeed change tomorrow by determining today and acting today to make Jewish education affordable.

If we but will it, it will be no dream.

Shabbat shalom.

••• Rabbi Sacks’ article is available at:

GAJE, January 17, 2020

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Educational funding should be in line with the rest of Canada

The New Year brings new resolve.

As we have written previously in this space, GAJE is moving forward with an attempt to have the law move with the times to compel the government of Ontario to partially fund the cost of education in the province’s independent schools.

We are not asking Ontario to embark on a revolutionary educational funding policy. Rather, we are asking Ontario merely to conform to the funding policies of the next five largest provinces in Canada, indeed with the educational funding policies of many western European countries. Moreover, as the experience in British Columbia shows, extending partial funding to the independent schools actually is a more efficient use of public funds and ultimately yields better educational results due to the competition faced by the public schools to establish and maintain educational excellence.

In resolving to pursue a legal remedy to help abate the unconscionable financial hardship faced by our young families, most of whom pay an enormous price – not all of it financial – to enrol their children in day school, we are mindful of and grateful for the important funding and lobbying initiatives underway by the community also aimed at making Jewish education affordable. But we believe that there is room and indeed an obligation to try to move the law as well as part of a multi-pronged effort to secure the future of our schools as well as the future of the community.

We perceive this also to be a matter of fundamental fairness and justice. What works in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Quebec, should also work in Ontario.

We must not be afraid to bring the situation to the attention of the Ontario public. Nor should we be reluctant to call upon the courts to bring Ontario’s educational funding in line with the diverse life in the province, indeed, in Canada in the year 2020.  As in the other provinces, we should no longer be bound, fully chained, to an outdated educational funding policy.

In the weeks and months ahead GAJE will call upon the public to assist in funding this legal initiative.

GAJE, January 12, 2020

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Building a firm financial footing for day schools

As most observers have known for some time, day school affordability is the preeminent subject on the agenda of many North American Jewish communities, as it is in the GTA. From time to time, we have used this space to feature articles and discussion pieces from other jurisdictions on the subject. We begin 2020 by drawing attention to a recent op-ed by Dror Futter entitled When Dreams Meet Reality that appeared last week in the Jewish Link (of New Jersey). Futter is a day school activist and father of three alumni of Bergen County day schools.

“Although not perfect, I strongly believe the day schools are the crown jewels of our community and the key to both who we are as a community and our continued growth, Futter wrote. “Everyone talks about the ‘tuition crisis’ in the same resigned tones normally reserved for discussions about the weather. What we have now is not a crisis, it is a chronic condition that imposes a great deal of hardship and which we have done little to improve. However, in the next downturn, this situation could quickly morph into a full-blown crisis. To be clear, it was only because of the relatively quick economic upturn in 2010 that our day school system survived intact.”

Borrowing upon biblical Joseph’s wisdom, Futter calls for a centralized mechanism in his area to facilitate a comprehensive plan “to weather the next economic downturn” and put the day schools on a firm financial footing. He then offers recommendations for the mission and composition of such a planning body.

Thankfully, UJA Federation of Greater Toronto and CIJA are already engaged in the very planning that Futter urges. But there is also a responsibility that falls on the rest of the community and work for us to do as a result.

GAJE sees part of its work in this regard to use the legal system to help bring about a change in Ontario’s funding polices toward independent schools.

Our hope is that this year will bring us closer to our goal. We have begun the process of raising funds to underwrite the lawsuit.


Shabbat Shalom.


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Lower tuition means higher enrolment

The recent article in The CJN entitled More Students Applying To Jewish High School in Toronto is an appropriate springboard for diving, fully confident of mission and means, into the New Year and the new decade.

The information contained in the article once again provides empirical proof of the proposition that level of enrolment in Jewish day school is directly tied to level of tuition.

The enrolment at TanenbaumCHAT has steadily increased since it implemented a revolutionary 5-year program in 2017 reducing tuition from almost $30,000, to under $20,000.

There are a number of heartening details in the article:

• The school’s enrolment next year is expected to be 1,060, compared with 1,015 this year.

• Some 85 per cent of children graduating from the community’s Jewish elementary schools will likely apply for admission to the school for the 2020-21. This figure compares with 57% three years ago.

• Some 350 students have applied for entry into its Grade 9 program for 2020-21. Of this number, 80 applicants are from non-Jewish elementary schools.

Jonathan Levy, CHAT’s head of school, made the very important point that tuition has undoubtedly brought more students into school but the students remain in the school because of the school’s positive academic environment and the excellence of the education it provides.

Levy justifiably “gave credit to the community, especially UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, for its strong and continued support for accessible Jewish education.”

Though the tuition at TanenbaumCHAT is now approximately two thirds the amount it was three years ago, it and the tuition at the feeder schools are still too high for many families, especially for multi-children families.

Community leaders are fully engaged in attempting to secure the future of our day schools. It falls to all of us however to play our part as well. As The CJN noted, “the school is working to secure more funding to keep tuition rates low, after the funding for the initial five-year subsidy runs out. That includes its announced tuition accessibility program, which includes maximum tuitions for the two succeeding years and lower costs for families with lower financial means.”

GAJE too has deployed to help make Jewish education more affordable. As we reported in this space, we will soon embark on an effort to have the courts re-assess and hopefully revise the 1996 Supreme Court decision that permitted the government of Ontario to adopt its unfair educational funding policies toward independent schools.

Let’s hope that the coming year will bring us closer to success.

The CJN article is available at:


Shabbat Shalom. Happy, healthy, successful New Year

GAJE, December 27, 2019

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Faith-based education tends to teach tolerance of others

One of the “throw-away” statements of the Supreme Court in the Adler decision of 1996 was that extending public funding to independent denominational schools would risk tearing the multicultural fabric of our society. Madame Justice Beverley McLachlin made the remark even though there was no any evidence to support the proposition.

One could have questioned the remark at the time by asking how the multicultural fabric was holding together in the other Canadian jurisdictions where public funds did flow independent schools. For there was no evidence then, even as there is none today, that independent schools harm the multiculturalism that we cherish about Canada.

Recently released survey results conducted by Angus Reid Institute in partnership wish Cardus, indeed, prove the opposite. (Cardus is a non-partisan, faith-based think tank, and registered charity dedicated to promoting a flourishing society through independent research, robust public dialogue, and thought-provoking commentary.)

The article on the Cardus website summarizes the results of the survey in one unequivocal statement. “The 2019 Public Faith Index has found that the more religious Canadians are, the more likely they are to take a positive view of faiths different from their own. By contrast, when non-religious Canadians were asked whether various faiths were “benefitting or damaging Canada and Canadian society,” they took a dim view of every community but their own.”

The survey – and the article summarizing it – definitively establishes that Canadians for whom faith plays an important role will be more involved, not less, than Canadians for whom faith plays no role, in the pursuing the well-being of the wider community. They will be more charitable, help newcomers more readily and, in general, see the virtue of tolerance for all, since tolerance for all ensures tolerance for one’s own. Respect for other faiths is the path of reciprocal respect for one’s own.

The worry for our multicultural way of Canadian life stemming from public funds for independent schools falsely enshrined in the Adler decision can now be shown to have been falsely established.

The article about the survey is available at:


Shabbat Shalom

GAJE, December 20, 2019

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Saying: “Thank you. You mean a great deal to us” to our teachers

Teachers have always been revered and even lionized in Jewish tradition. We have understood from our first days as a people how important teachers are in fulfilling the divine instruction, across every generation, to teach our children the hallowed ways of Judaism.

Perhaps, as families approach the Chanukah and winter break, it is appropriate that we extend our hands in gratitude – literally and metaphorically – to the men and women who actually teach our children? We owe them a great deal.

In A Cup Full of Gratitude for Teachers and a Challenge, on the ejewishphilanthropy website, renowned Torah scholar and educator, Dr. Erica Brown, elegantly reminded us of the seminal importance of this unique expression of thanks. How right she is.

“No matter how much money is invested in renovating a gym, improving school lunches, buying the latest math curriculum or hiring a new principal, a school is only as good as your child’s worst teacher. Only uniformly great teaching across an entire school will produce consistently great learning.”

Dr. Brown points to evidence of a crisis (in the United States) of a dearth of good people going into or staying in the field of education. In response she writes, “the only way to confront the teacher crisis that is hitting us already and will hit harder still is an all-out concerted effort by establishment and emergent Jewish organizations – and not only schools – to say often and out-loud: Teaching Matters. Value Teachers. Become a Teacher.”

The situation for teachers in Canadian Jewish schools may not as dire as the one Dr. Brown describes in the United States. The key point, however, of her cri de coeur does indeed apply here as well. That is: it is always vital to acknowledge the good that teachers do for our children, for us and for helping to ensure our Jewish future.

Thus she writes: “So to all the teachers out there: thank you. Bless you. We need you to grow the next generation of teachers by deliberately planting the seeds now, no matter what grade you teach.” And then she invites teachers to send the reason or reasons they went into the profession to the Mayberg Center for Jewish Education and Leadership as a way of inspiring others to consider pursuing the same lofty work.

“If you’re a teacher of any subject and any grade, enter our contest. We’re asking you to fill in our virtual board by completing this statement in a hundred words of less and send it over before December 30th to “I teach because…” Don’t forget to tell us your name, what you teach, where you teach and what grade you teach. We will be posting these responses. The top entry will receive a $100 Amazon gift card.”

Dr. Brown concludes her heartfelt plea by reminding us of a certain wisdom that we should carry each day in our hearts as we conduct our lives.

“One hundred years from now, it won’t matter what kind of car I drove, what kind of house I lived in, how much money I had in the bank, or what my clothes looked like, but the world may be a little better because I was important in the life of a child.”


Shabbat Shalom


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