An educational master makes the case for day school

It appears beyond doubt that more affordable day school tuition leads to more enrolment in the schools (see last week’s update). Now it is imperative for community leaders, teachers, students, parents, grandparents, education enthusiasts and everyone else who recognize the connection between Jewish literacy and Jewish peoplehood, to boost the excellence and importance of a day school education.

Lucky for us, three weeks ago, Dr. Erica Brown, one of the world’s pre-eminent Jewish studies educators. wrote “The case for day schools”. The article is both paean and plea. She pays tribute to a day school education and urges parents to consider day schools for their children. And she uses her own experience as the basis of her argument.

Dr. Brown tells her readers that she entered day school at 16. “I could barely write my name in Hebrew.” By the end of her day school education however, Dr. Brown’s ability with Hebrew and with related Hebrew study were well established.

Her praise for day school education is on pragmatic and substantive grounds. The following is excerpted from her article.

“We have research from Brandeis University’s Cohen Center that day school graduates achieve among the highest levels of academic success. Central to that is the confidence these schools instil in their students to handle a serious workload. We talk a lot about resilience in education. Look at the stamina of day school students. They come early, leave late, balance a dual curriculum, and heap on extra-curricular activities.

“Day school exposed me to a Jewish life that was sophisticated, embracing and challenging.

“Day school also gave me a treasured group of friends, decent human beings who cared about each other and now care about the world.

“The Cohen Center study above demonstrated that day school graduates in college were less likely to engage in risky behaviour, and after college were more likely to volunteer, to find careers that helped people, and to devote themselves in and outside of work to making a difference in society.

“Day schools offer living wisdom and a soul-stretching education I couldn’t find where I was. Prep school prepared me well for individual achievement. But day school gave me my first-ever community. It taught me to live responsibly in an I-Thou space. It’s no surprise that research done by the Avi Chai Foundation showed an over-representation of day school graduates in leadership positions. When Jewish organizations need leaders, chances are they’ll be filling slots with day school graduates.

“Discerning parents realize that day school deserves a fair hearing. You might find, as I did, that no single decision has done more to craft a life of meaning for a family. The best case for day school is not what it delivers short-term. It’s the life it delivers long after graduation.”

Dr. Brown is immensely qualified to state the case for Jewish Day Schools. The author of 11 books and frequent contributor to journals and newspapers, she is an award-winning educator, associate professor at George Washington University and the director of its Mayberg Center for Jewish Education and Leadership.

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Dr. Brown is the most recent high-profile, experienced, knowledgeable, caring educator to advocate on behalf of a day school education. Its benefits and its promise are eternal. Now the community must do its utmost, leaving no stone––through philanthropy and advocacy––to make day school education affordable.

Shabbat Shalom.

GAJE

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The theory is proven: Lower tuition actually brings in more students!

In the marginally quieter days of the December holiday period, some members of our community may have missed an important news item that appeared in Dec. 20 edition of The Canadian Jewish News. Under the headline TanenbaumCHAT Day School sees increased enrolment after tuition cut, veteran CJN reporter Lila Sarick wrote that the high school has seen a major increase in Grade 9 enrolment applications from 200 this year to about 300 for the academic year 2018-19. This constitutes a 50 percent increase in one year!

There can be no doubt that the reason for this heartening jump was the intervention of community-minded, Jewish-future-caring, generous philanthropists whose $14 million gift to the school enabled the tuition to be reduced by nearly $10,000 per year per student for the next five years.

Not surprisingly, the school administration is excited about the enrolment development for next year. “All of North America is watching this and we think parents are responding, that they want a Jewish education for their children and this is making it more accessible for them. The response has been overwhelmingly positive,” Jonathan Levy, TanenbaumCHAT’s head of school said.

And we should be excited too. For the theory is no longer a theory. It is now proven. Tuition is indeed a determining factor in families’ sending their children to day school.

To be sure, the tuition per child per year – namely $18,500 – is still bitingly difficult and a severe hardship for many families, especially those with multiple children in the day school system. But the proof is in. Families will do their utmost to enable their children to receive a Jewish education if only the cost can be made bearable. Indeed when all the costs of running a Jewish household for a multiple-child family in our community are tallied, there can be no higher demonstration of a family’s commitment to a school or to our community. The resulting ongoing, tuition-anchored, financial struggle is their commitment to the community. It is foremost of course, their commitment to their children and to their forebears. It is not an overstatement to say that we owe these families a debt of gratitude for sending their children through Jewish education – despite the hardship.

If only we could now convince other community-minded, Jewish-future-caring, generous philanthropists to step forward to help radically reduce tuition for the community’s day schools, more children would become students there. A special fund – The Jewish Tuition Assistance Fund – has been established at the Jewish Foundation of Greater Toronto expressly for the purpose of making Jewish education affordable for the vast majority of families in our community. Can there be more poignant and compelling proof that donations to this fund will make a permanent, positive difference to the future of our community. Can one imagine the even further climb in enrolment in our schools if tuition costs for middle class families were lowered by an additional $10,000 in elementary and/or high school?

Not long ago, GAJE wrote about Eli Horn, a rare Jewish philanthropist in Brazil who decided to dedicate the bulk of his wealth to Jewish education there. Where is our community’s Eli Horn? Where is a consortium of philanthropists who together could achieve what Horn has done for his community in Brazil?

To paraphrase our Sages, “the work is great and the time short and the Master is knocking…” We have no time to lose. We know what works. Where are our philanthropists?

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Shabbat Shalom.

GAJE

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Looking for Zebuluns

The New Year brings new hope and new resolve. Always and everywhere.

So too at GAJE.

Having assessed information and conclusions from countless conversations, discussions, research and studies, the Funding Committee is now working on bringing forward previously untried methods for making tuition affordable to the vast middle economic band of families. Thus, GAJE hopes to announce this year a new approach to enabling every family in our community that wishes to enrol their children in Jewish education.

Through the generosity and commitment of a civic-minded individual in our community, the Legal Committee retained the services of one of the country’s preeminent human rights experts to assess the feasibility of “re-opening” the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision (Adler) in 1996 that ruled Ontario’s educational funding policies to be constitutional. Our counsel submitted a legal opinion in which he concluded: “There is merit in a request for reconsideration of the Adler decision.”

In addition, we know that the conversation about the immunity from adopting a just and fair educational funding policy granted to Ontario by the Adler decision is now also being discussed among legal scholars, teachers and students. They too are asking if “Adler” is still good law? GAJE contends that it is not. A great deal – law, social attitudes, and educational practices in the rest of the country – has changed in the intervening 22 years.

GAJE also contends that if the government of Ontario will not of its own inclination to do the right thing change its funding policy to accord with fairness and justice and Canada-wide practice, we must once again turn to the courts to compel Ontario to do so.

In the December 28 edition of The Canadian Jewish News, Rabbi Baruch Frydman-Kohl elegantly and succinctly reminded us of our core human responsibility regarding the permanence of our people.

“The future of the Jewish people is based on Jewish education… While the transmission of Torah was originally the responsibility of the family, as a system of study developed, it required funding by patrons or taxation.”

With Jewish education as his laser, locked in focus, Rabbi Frydman-Kohl explained a quizzical aspect of the blessings conferred by Jacob and Moses upon Zebulun and Issachar. Rabbi Frydman-Kohl states that Jacob and Moses had in mind the eternal importance of sustaining a communal system of education. “The Issachar/Zebulun (student/business person) partnership venerated those who supported Jewish education.”

GAJE’s lawyer has offered to conduct the legal challenge to the “Adler case” from trial through appeals for a deeply discounted fee. We must now hope more civic-minded individuals – the “Zebuluns” in the community – step forward to help further engage our lawyer to carry the case forward to its ultimate resolution.

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Shabbat Shalom.

GAJE

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Perhaps Ontario could catch up to the majority?

With the last GAJE update of 2017, we wish to draw the Government of Ontario’s attention to the attitudes of Canadians toward government funding of independent religious schools.

According to a recent study conducted by the think tank Cardus and the Angus Reid Institute, some 61 per cent of Canadians support full or partial government funding for independent religious schools.

The chief conclusion of the study was encapsulated in the headline “Canadians are clear. They prefer a diversity of options for educating our children.” This majority preference also sits well with research that points to the benefits of a diversity of educational options. A multiplicity of educational offerings creates competition within the overall provincial system and this, in turn, raises the standard throughout and especially in the public sector.

One of the highlights of the study speaks to and directly refutes a recurring argument against public funding – partial or full – for independent religious schools, namely, that such funding threatens the public system and therefore too the inclusive, tolerant, cooperative, multi-cultural functioning of our society spawned by a healthy public school system. Yet, the study found that “religious school graduates…exhibit a wide variety of civic contributions. Compared to public school graduates, for example, they donate more money, are more likely to volunteer for arts and cultural organization, are more willing to give blood, and are as likely to be politically active as their public school peers.”

The article reported that “five provinces also provide funding for religious schools in the independent school sector: British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Quebec… Funding for independent schools doesn’t cover costs for capital such as buildings and land, but it does match anywhere from 35 to 80 percent of what is offered, on average, to a local public school for the education of a student.” (Our emphasis)

The Fraser Institute has compared the maths-and-sciences outcomes of students in British Columbia and in Ontario. BC students outperformed their Ontario counterparts. (One of those studies was cited in a previous GAJE update.)

Is Ontario less financially able than our five sister provinces to partially fund independent religious schools, say from 35 to 80 per cent of what is offered to a local public school for the education of a student? We think not.

Therefore, let us state the obvious. It is simply a matter of political will.

There is no political will in the current Government of Ontario to adopt at least some measure of fairness and justice in educational funding in Ontario – even though it appears that more than 60 percent of the population are in favour. Perhaps Ontario could catch up to the majority?

The study was reported in the Dec. 14 edition of the National Post.

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Shabbat Shalom.

GAJE

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Their memories will always be for blessing

It is no exaggeration to write that the lives of most of the members of the Jewish community of the GTA in one way or another have been enhanced by the magnanimity and goodness of the late Honey and Barry Sherman. One need not have personally known them to have benefited by their unceasing concern for the welfare of others and for the wellbeing of communities in Canada, Israel and around the world. Such was the extent of their caring.

Family and friends are still grieving.

An entire world of individuals here and abroad is traumatized.

We dedicate this week’s update to Honey and Barry Sherman. In their large, undaunted and effusive way, they strove to ensure the strength, diversity and permanence of the Jewish community.

GAJE, in its way, strives toward the very same end.

The memories of Honey and Barry Sherman will surely be for blessing. Amen.

•••

Shabbat Shalom.

GAJE

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‘The world our children will inherit tomorrow is born in the schools we build today’

Chanukah candles

Chanukah candles

These are the days of briefest light in the northern hemisphere. The candles of Chanukah are therefore a welcome illumination during the darkness of the holiday’s eight days.

An additional illumination with the power to shine permanent light on a subject that needs constant light can be found in the speech Rabbi Lord Sacks delivered in the British House of Lords on Dec. 7 in the Archbishop of Canterbury’s debate on the role of education in building a flourishing and skilled society.

In a short, pithy, precise four-minute speech entitled “The world our children will inherit tomorrow is born in the schools we build today”, Rabbi Sack’s pleaded for an educational system that instils in children knowledge and values.

“We need to give our children an internalised moral Satellite Navigation System so that they can find their way across the undiscovered country called the future. We need to give them the strongest possible sense of collective responsibility for the common good, because we don’t know who will be the winners and losers in the lottery of the global economy and we need to ensure its blessings are shared. There is too much “I” and too little “We” in our culture and we need to teach our children to care for others, especially those not like us.”

In his very next sentence, Rabbi Sacks added: “We work for all these things in our Jewish schools.”

It is a powerful statement, succinctly delivered.

The recording and text of Rabbi Sack’s speech are available at:
http://rabbisacks.org/rabbi-sacks-speaks-house-lords-debate-education/

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Chag Urim Samayach and Shabbat Shalom.

GAJE

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For Jewish education to succeed…

What success can we claim when Jewish education in our community becomes truly affordable, if that education is not itself excellent?

Thankfully, in the GTA, Jewish education is indeed excellent within the still available wide offerings throughout the day school system.

Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz, President & Dean of the Valley Beit Midrash, in Phoenix, Arizona, a renowned activist for Jewish affairs and concerns and the author of twelve books on Jewish ethics, adds an important element to ensuring the excellence and permanence of Jewish education that is to be found outside the walls of the classroom.

In an article entitled, Why Jewish Education Fails, Rabbi Yanklowitz asserts very boldly what many probably assume but seldom articulate: “To be sure, formal education will have little to no value if we avoid the primary influence on our children: Ourselves.”

Rabbi Yanklowitz powerfully reminds us that education – in the fullest sense of the term – is not merely a service paid for by parents confined to the institution we call school. He provides a quick – albeit cursory – review of socio-educational literature that points indisputably to the inescapable influence of parents and of the dynamics within the home upon the child’s long-lasting development, acquisition of knowledge and formation of character.

Rabbi Yanklowitz is succinct and precise. “One can invest in every quality program in these [educational] fields but can squander the investment entirely if one’s home is not cultivated in values pertaining to the best of the Jewish experience. If educational priorities are only focused on material objects – food, athletic sponsorships, or the latest tech, for example – then the timeless values that should take precedence elapse into irrelevancy.

His words are an important reminder to us.

Our respective roles and obligation as parents, grandparents or simply caring community-minded individuals in helping bring Jewish education within reach of young Jewish families does not end with ensuring its affordability. Indeed, perhaps that is but the beginning?

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Shabbat Shalom.

GAJE

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