Ontario’s indifference to the health of independent school children is stunning

Some ten months ago, in January, Ontario’s Minister of Education, Stephen Lecce proudly announced: “To ensure our schools remain safe in January 2021 and beyond…We will do whatever it takes to ensure our kids can continue to learn.” 

The minister had in mind enhancing and upgrading the abilities of schools to provide a safe learning environment for their students and to rapidly test students to detect the presence of the Covid virus. To help fund the ambitious but vital safety program, the province benefited from the federal government Safe Return to Class Fund. Indeed, Ottawa gave Queen’s Park $763 million for the express purpose of making Ontario’s schools more Covid-safe.

But when he spoke about doing “whatever it takes to ensure our kids can continue to learn” Minister Lecce had in mind only the kids who attend public school. The 150,000 children attending independent schools – denominational and non-denominational – were left on their own, to fend for themselves against the horrific pandemic threat even though the amount of money given by Ottawa to Queen’s Park was based upon the number of all children from 4-18 years old attending school in Ontario. (Our emphasis)

In August, three independent schools challenged in Court, Ontario’s refusal to disburse any monies from the Safe Return to Class Fund to protect independent school children. The court decision is still pending.

Further to his promise to “do whatever it takes to ensure our kids can continue to learn,” starting on November 15, Ontario’s schools will receive take-home rapid Covid testing kits. But again, Minister Lecce had in mind only “publicly funded schools.” And again, the 150,000 kids in the province’s independent schools have been left on their own.

In responding to the public health crisis wrought by Covid-19, the province differentiates between children in publicly funded schools and those in independent schools. By what measure of conscience, morality, public health planning or earnest concern for the safety of all children in their classrooms is such governmentally-originated discrimination justifiable?

It is not. It is unconscionable. Ontario’s indifference to the health of independent school children is stunning and unworthy of a government in Canada in the year 2021.

•••

GAJE hopes to soon launch a lawsuit to try to end the Government of Ontario’s funding discrimination against Jewish (and other) independent schools. We are deeply appreciative of the many individuals who have to date joined our cause, who have contributed in helping underwrite the legal effort. Thus far, we have raised half of the amount needed. Please encourage your friends to also join in our effort. If we do not care, who will?

To donate to the cause, please click here.

(For further information, please contact Israel Mida at imida1818@gmail.com)

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.

•••

Be safe. Be well. Shabbat shalom.

Grassroots for Affordable Jewish Education (GAJE)  

November 5, 2021

Posted in Uncategorized

Education is who we are: Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, z’l

Memorial commemorations were held across the Jewish world this week in tribute to the late Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks on the first anniversary of his passing Cheshvan 20. We would fail our consciences and be untrue to our belief in the pre-eminence of Jewish education as the gateway to celebratory, meaningful and purposeful Jewish life if we too did not reflect on his remarkable impact.

Thus, we reproduce excerpts of the commentary by Rabbi Lord Sacks of Parshat Matot-Masei that we printed in this space in the summer of 2019. His observation on the relationship between the Jewish people and education aptly depicts the belief that has animated our efforts these past six and a half years.

•••

…The fate of Jewish communities, for the most part, was determined by a single factor: their decision, or lack of decision, to put children and their education first. Already in the first century, Josephus was able to write: “The result of our thorough education in our laws, from the very dawn of intelligence, is that they are, as it were, engraved on our souls.” The Rabbis ruled that “any town that lacks children at school is to be excommunicated” (Shabbat 119b). Already in the first century, the Jewish community in Israel had established a network of schools at which attendance was compulsory (Bava Batra 21a) – the first such system in history.

The pattern persisted throughout the Middle Ages. In twelfth-century France a Christian scholar noted: “A Jew, however poor, if he has ten sons, will put them all to letters, not for gain as the Christians do, but for the understanding of God’s law – and not only his sons but his daughters too.”

In 1432, at the height of Christian persecution of Jews in Spain, a council was convened at Valladolid to institute a system of taxation to fund Jewish education for all. In 1648, at the end of the Thirty Years’ War, the first thing Jewish communities in Europe did to re-establish Jewish life was to reorganise the educational system….

It is hard to think of any other religion or civilisation that has so predicated its very existence on putting children and their education first. There have been Jewish communities in the past that were affluent and built magnificent synagogues – Alexandria in the first centuries of the Common Era is an example. Yet because they did not put children first, they contributed little to the Jewish story. They flourished briefly, then disappeared.

…Children come first, property is secondary. Civilisations that value the young stay young. Those that invest in the future have a future. It is not what we own that gives us a share in eternity, but those to whom we give birth and the effort we make to ensure that they carry our faith and way of life into the next generation.

For Jews, education is not just what we know. It’s who we are. No people ever cared for education more. Our ancestors were the first to make education a religious command, and the first to create a compulsory universal system of schooling – eighteen centuries before Britain.

The Rabbis valued study as higher even than prayer….The Egyptians built pyramids, the Greeks built temples, the Romans built amphitheatres. Jews built schools. They knew that to defend a country you need an army, but to defend a civilisation you need education. So, Jews became the people whose heroes were teachers, whose citadels were schools, and whose passion was study and the life of the mind. How can we deprive our children of that heritage?

…In a single generation, nowadays, there is more scientific and technological advance than in all previous centuries since human beings first set foot on earth. In uncharted territory, you need a compass. That’s what Judaism is. It guided our ancestors through good times and bad. It gave them identity, security, and a sense of direction. It enabled them to cope with circumstances more varied than any other people have ever known. It lifted them, often, to heights of greatness. Why? Because Judaism is about learning. Education counts for more in the long run than wealth or power or privilege. Those who know, grow.

•••

Following Rabbi Lord Sacks’ thought, how can we not do everything in our power to enable as many Jewish children as possible to know their heritage? Rabbi Lord Sacks was profoundly wise and committed with all his heart to a vital, thriving future for his people. His memory will be a blessing for all time.

•••

In the coming weeks, GAJE will announce the launch of a lawsuit to try to end the Government of Ontario’s funding discrimination against Jewish (and other) independent schools. We are deeply appreciative of the many individuals who have to date joined our cause, who have contributed in helping underwrite the legal effort. Thus far, we have raised half of the amount needed. Please encourage your friends to also join in our effort. If we do not care, who will?

To donate to the cause, please click here.

(For further information, please contact Israel Mida at imida1818@gmail.com)

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.

•••

Be safe. Be well. Shabbat shalom.

Grassroots for Affordable Jewish Education (GAJE)  

October 29, 2021

Posted in Uncategorized

It’s about more than excellence and academics: it’s about life.

The CJN reported this week that “enrolment at Toronto’s non-Orthodox Jewish day schools has increased for a second consecutive year, reversing a 17-year decline.” Some 3,861 students are enrolled in kindergarten to Grade 8, in non-Orthodox day schools, an increase from 3,805 last year; 1,231 students are enrolled in TanenbaumCHAT, an increase from 1,096 last year.

Daniel Held, Chief Program Officer of UJA Federation of Greater Toronto noted that the increase in enrolment is not only due to the schools’ quick and substantive response to Covid. The sense of community fostered in the various schools and their respective academic excellence, he pointed out, are also sources of strong attraction for parents and their families. The new UJA Federation grant program, Generations Trust, is also enabling more young families to enroll their children in day school.

The CJN article can be found at: https://thecjn.ca/news/the-cjn-briefing-october-20/

•••

The article in The CJN echoes similar observations about the phenomenon of the Covid-inspired discovery of day school education by a number of “new” families across North America. The findings were published by Prizmah, the Center for Jewish Day Schools, in a recent report entitled, Seizing the Moment: Transferring to Jewish Day School During the Covid-19 Pandemic.

The key findings of the report are:

• After a year being enrolled in Jewish day school – parents have largely been thrilled by their experience.

• Parents expressed appreciation for the quality of the educational and social dimensions of the experience at Jewish day schools.

• Jewish day schools are “nurturing environments,” “caring,” “warm,” “having a strong emphasis on community,” “welcoming,” “loving,” and “friendly.” When parents decided to transfer their children to a Jewish day school, these qualities were front of mind.

• Strong relationships contributed significantly to the positive experience of parents, with 85% identifying the strength, frequency, and variety of positive relationships at the school: among the students, among families, and between teachers and families. 

• Overall, three-quarters of parents plan for their children to stay at their new school. 

In commenting on the findings of the report, Prizmah’s CEO Paul Bernstein observed that “sending your kid to school is about much more than academics.” He is correct. It is about the kind of life we hope they will lead.

The article and the report can be found at:

https://prizmah.org/knowledge/resource/seizing-moment-transferring-jewish-day-school-during-covid-19-pandemic

•••

As followers of GAJE know, our effort to enable as many families to experience a Jewish education requires that such education be affordable to the largest swath possible of young families. And we are convinced that true, permanent affordability requires the Government of Ontario to end its discriminatory educational funding. Behind-the-scenes lobbying, up-front public discussion and all manner of moral suasion have failed to convince successive Governments of Ontario to undo the discrimination. Thus, in the coming weeks, GAJE will announce the launch of the lawsuit to try to end the discrimination.

We are deeply appreciative of the many individuals who have joined our cause, who have contributed to helping underwrite the lawsuit. To date, we have raised half of the amount needed.  Please encourage your friends to join in our effort.

If we will not try to end the injustice of Ontario’s educational funding discrimination, who will?

To donate to the cause, please click here.

(For further information, please contact Israel Mida at imida1818@gmail.com)

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.

•••

Be safe. Be well.

Shabbat shalom.

Grassroots for Affordable Jewish Education (GAJE)  

October 22, 2021

Posted in Uncategorized

If we don’t believe it is possible, then it won’t be

Like every week, we are reading deeply instructive portions in the Torah reading cycle. This is the time of year when our ancestors Avraham and Sarah effect a revolution in the way much of subsequent humanity would forever imagine the world and understand the human place in the vast splendor and mystery of our earth and universe.

Avraham and Sarah did not fool themselves into believing their advocacy of a total moral-intellectual-spiritual sea change of thought would be readily adopted by his societal milieu. But nor were they daunted by the implications of the new view of human life they offered the world. They believed with all their hearts and with all the electricity in the pathways of their minds   that their vision was correct. They were not swayed by doubters. They were not convinced by naysayers.

It is Avraham’s and Sarah’s determination and resolution that inspire GAJE. We follow their example in having decided that the only lasting way to make Jewish education truly affordable for the majority of the families who seek it for their children is to turn to the courts.

We know that the path is not certain.

But we also know that not trying is a rejection of the revolutionary spirit that has animated Judaism from its very beginnings, that has made Jewish life vivid and sustaining. Shall we reject this world-changing, revolutionary legacy of our forebears? We cannot. We will not simply reconcile ourselves to accepting as right or just or in any way appropriate for our society in the year 2021, the injustice of Ontario’s discriminatory educational funding.

If we do not believe that remedying the injustice is possible, that “changing the world” is possible, then it won’t be.

And so, in the coming weeks, GAJE will announce the launch of the lawsuit to try to end the discrimination in Ontario’s educational system against the funding of independent schools, in our case, denominationally Jewish schools. We are deeply appreciative of the many individuals who have thus far joined our cause, who have contributed to helping underwrite the lawsuit. We are raised half of the amount needed.  Please encourage your friends to join in our effort.

This is our generation’s opportunity to permanently increase our children’s and grandchildren’s opportunities to experience meaningful Jewish education. If we do not try to do so, who will?

To donate to the cause, please click here.

(For further information, please contact Israel Mida at imida1818@gmail.com)

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.

 •••

Be safe. Be well.

Shabbat shalom.

Grassroots for Affordable Jewish Education (GAJE)  

October 15, 2021

Posted in Uncategorized

Independent Schools contribute to societal wellbeing and health

Last week, we shared with GAJE supporters a recent study by Cardus, on the financial cost of Ontario actually ending its discrimination against independent schools. Cardus, is an independent Canadian think tank whose research makes the case for tolerant, inclusive communal life lived on the basis of values that are rich in tradition and mutual respect focussing “on human dignity, strong families, religious freedom, formative education, and healthy communities.”

Part of Cardus’ purpose is to accompany the plea  – that Ontario to end its the unjust treatment of  families whose children attend independent schools – with facts and corroborated truths. Last week we referred to Cardus that provides the range of the possible costs for Ontario to fund its independent schools. That range extends from full funding to any of the many partial-funding models that already exist in Canada. The study pointed out that Ontario’s refusal to extend any funding to independent schools is “anomalous in both a global and Canadian context.” The study concludes that Ontario’s lack of financial support for independent-school students is “unjust and inequitable.”

Cardus concluded that the cost of ending educational funding discrimination would be “a relatively minimal cost,” from 0.3% to 0.8% of the budget, depending upon the model adopted by the provincial government.

This week we refer to a recent Cardus study by Ashley Rogers Berner, entitledGood Schools, Good Citizens: Do Independent Schools Contribute to Civic Formation?

Because it is imperative that GAJE supporters be aware of the substance and import of Funding All Students, we reproduce the study’s executive summary. The purpose of this study is to demonstrate that public support of independent schools improves the civic capabilities of young people and leads “to a more civically integrated and politically engaged public.” In other words, it is demonstrably not the fact that the majority of independent school graduates stand aloof from the civic and social needs of their respective communities. Rather, they are more likely to plunge into the deep end of trying to enhance the wellbeing of the entire community and to pursue a broadly-based common good for everyone.

Because it is imperative that GAJE supporters be aware of this study too, we reproduce the study’s executive summary.

•••

Executive Summary

“The heart of democratic education lies in preparing the next generation to join the community of citizens. Indeed, state-funded public education developed out of the imperative to inculcate the civic knowledge, skills, and attachment necessary for democratic governance. But what is the role of independent schools in the process of civic formation and social cohesion? Do they help or hinder the development of democratic citizenship? What oversight should governments exercise over them? And should governments fund such schools as part of public education writ large?

“In all modern cases of which we are aware, explicit civic formation is seen as seminal to social cohesion. It is important, however, to understand that the goal in most cases is not to reinforce cultural homogeneity, but rather to create the conditions in which a heterogeneous population might negotiate their political differences through democratic processes and institutions.

This coincides with how most democracies understand public education. In this light, all forms of education remain within the public’s interest and concern, as other people’s children’s lives (including workforce participation and social well-being) and political involvement (understanding democratic institutions, analyzing legislation, and voting) shape ours. This is the long-established justification for taxpayer-funded education and mandatory school attendance. For this reason, independent schools are often included in modern democracies’ understanding of public education—and why their independent schools receive state funding and are held to common academic benchmarks alongside state schools.

“The vast majority of democracies have pluralist education systems: where the state, individuals, and civil society play equally important roles in democratic education. The goal of such educational pluralism is to maximize the freedom of schools to create their own organic communities with a common ethos and distinctive practices, while assuring the public of academic and civic quality with respect to outcomes.

“Is there evidence that this balance leads to success? Individually and collectively, the preponderance of findings on independent-school attendance after controlling for family background illustrate that the fear of independent schools’ negative impact on civic life remains misplaced. For example, a recent analysis of thirty-four quantitative studies on the effects of independent and state schools on civic outcomes yielded eighty-six separate statistically significant findings; fifty showed a clear independent-school advantage, thirty-three found neutral effects, and only three showed a state-school advantage.

“Independent schools can offer substantial benefits to civic formation. They do not inherently harm social cohesion as some critics fear; indeed, on almost every measure, independent-school attendance enhances civic outcomes. Thus, democratic policy-makers can have confidence that expanding access to independent schools while ensuring their quality is likely to enhance the civic capabilities of young people and lead, eventually, to a more civically integrated and politically engaged public.

“Democracies are fragile. Each generation must prepare the next to take up the rights and responsibilities of citizens; schools bear an outsized burden in this process. Independent schools, in particular, play a positive role in inculcating the knowledge, skills, and habits that animate lifelong democratic participation. The key is honouring religious, philosophical, and pedagogical beliefs of families and students while ensuring robust knowledge-building for all.”

The complete study is available at:

https://www.cardus.ca/research/education/reports/good-schools-good-citizens/

•••

GAJE will soon announce the launch of a lawsuit to try to end the discrimination in Ontario’s educational system against the funding of independent schools, in our case, denominationally Jewish schools. We are deeply appreciative of the many individuals who have thus far joined our cause, who have contributed to helping underwrite the lawsuit. We are raised half of the amount needed.  Please encourage your friends to join in our effort.

This is our generation’s opportunity to permanently increase our children’s and grandchildren’s opportunities to experience meaningful Jewish education. If we do not try to do so, who will?

To donate to the cause, please click here.

(For further information, please contact Israel Mida at imida1818@gmail.com)

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.

 •••

Be safe. Be well.

Shabbat shalom.

Grassroots for Affordable Jewish Education (GAJE)  

October 8, 2021

Posted in Uncategorized

The Fiscal Cost to Support Students in Ontario Independent Schools

In the past, GAJE has referred to original research by Cardus on matters touching upon education policy in Ontario. According to its website, “Cardus is an independent think tank located in the heart of Canada. It is dedicated to “helping people live together at their best” and strives to work “toward a healthy society.”

Cardus’ research makes the case for tolerant, inclusive communal life lived on the basis of values that are rich in tradition and mutual respect. As its website states, the think tank “focuses on human dignity, strong families, religious freedom, formative education, and healthy communities.”

Cardus has just published a study that brings information not conjecture, fact not myth, to the important question of how much it would actually cost the Government of Ontario to end its educational funding discrimination against the families and children of independent schools.

Funding All Students: A Comparative Economic Analysis of the Fiscal Cost to Support Students in Ontario Independent Schools is co-authored by David Hunt, Anointing Momoh and Deani Van Pelt. It is invaluable in the discussion about fair, equitable funding in the education of all of Ontario’s children.

Because it is imperative that GAJE supporters be aware of the substance and import of Funding All Students, we reproduce the study’s executive summary.

•••

Executive Summary

“This study presents the hypothetical economic costs of funding Ontario’s independent schools, if the province were to fully fund the sector or apply any of the existing partial-funding models in Canada.

“But before conducting the cost analysis, we first establish context and ask: Why should Ontario fund students at independent schools? Simply, as education is a socially formational good, society has a general interest in the education of the next generation of citizens. It is on this basis that taxes are raised to fund any child’s education. But as a morally formational good, parents have a prior and universal right to choose—and deeply personal interest in—their child’s education, and thus these public funds should follow families to their preferred school.

“Accordingly, funding is the norm around the world, as well as in Canada. Globally, 73 percent of countries at least partially fund independent schools—only one OECD country does not. In Canada outside Ontario, 75 percent of independent schools and 84 percent of independent-school students are partially publicly funded. Put differently, Ontario’s lack of funding is anomalous in both a global and Canadian context. We discuss the four main objections to funding and conclude that Ontario’s lack of financial support for independent-school students is an unjust and inequitable policy—uncharacteristic of a democratically elected government, especially in an advanced economy—that further disadvantages the already disadvantaged.

To rectify this eccentric and unjust policy, there are seven funding schemes, all taken from actual practice in Canada, to estimate the cost of funding students in Ontario’s independent schools. (Our emphasis) The first applies full government funding to Ontario’s independent sector. Alternatively, Ontario can partially fund independent schools using a similar approach as any of the other provinces that partially fund this sector—from west to east: British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan (two models), Manitoba, and Quebec. (In each of the seven funding schemes, the model recognizes that not all independent schools would qualify for or accept government funding, and this fact is accounted for in the analyses.)

“Each cost estimate factors into the respective model three plausible enrolment scenarios—our best estimates of the lower bound (scenario 1), most plausible case (scenario 2), and upper bound (scenario 3) of first-year enrolment levels that will result from implementing any of the seven options. Scenario 1 is based on no change in enrolments. Scenario 2 assumes a 7.8 percent first-year increase in enrolment, based on the experience of a short-lived Ontario policy introduced twenty years ago. And scenario 3 assumes an 18.3 percent first-year increase in enrolment, based on the most recent Canadian experience of a similar policy change—Saskatchewan’s expansion of funding for independent schools through the creation of the new Qualified independent school category.

“Applying these three scenarios to each of the seven provincial funding schemes results in twenty-one cost estimations, ranging between $535.2 million and $1.539 billion in net annual cost to Ontario taxpayers. For context, within the scope of Ontario’s $186 billion annual budget, this is around 1/3 to 4/5 of 1 percent (0.3% to 0.8%) of the budget. In other words, any of these funding options is a relatively minimal cost to substantially benefit the families who need it most.”

The complete study is available at:

https://www.cardus.ca/research/education/reports/the-cost-to-fund-students-in-ontario-independent-schools/

•••

GAJE hopes to soon announce the launch of a lawsuit to try to end the inequity and the discrimination in Ontario’s funding of the educational system. We are deeply appreciative of the many individuals who have thus far joined our cause, who have contributed to helping underwrite the lawsuit. We are approximately half way to the amount needed.

This is our generation’s opportunity to do the right thing for our children’s and grandchildren’s Jewish education. Please encourage your friends to join in our effort. If we do not try, who will? 

To donate to the cause, please click here.

(For further information, please contact Israel Mida at imida1818@gmail.com)

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.

 •••

Be safe. Be well.

Shabbat shalom.

Grassroots for Affordable Jewish Education (GAJE)  

October 1, 2021

Posted in Uncategorized

Jewish schools shine brightly during darker Covid days

The Tishrei holy days have created a choppy, interrupted schedule of learning for the students at day school. But thankfully, the return to school two weeks ago has been uneventful. And may it continue so until June.

Earlier in the month, a group of educators and scholars in the US published an article summarizing the situation facing the various Jewish “institutions” of education as we head into the New Year. Paul Bernstein, the CEO of the New York-based Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools wrote about Jewish day schools. His positive observations include the performance of the day schools in the GTA. Indeed, our GTA schools might actually be the vanguard of the day school phalanx of excellence. His comments – excerpted below – are worthy of reading. Day schools shine brightly during darker Covid days.

“Jewish day schools, their faculty, and their leadership enter this new school year more prepared and with more experience of the flexibility needed to handle uncertainty and constantly changing norms than last year.

Prizmah recently released a report, “A Year in Review: Data and Reflections on Jewish Day Schools and Yeshivas.” The data show increased enrollment in day schools as well as positive development trends across North America for the school year ending in 2021. North American Jewish day schools saw an increase in enrollment of 1.8% on average, and a majority (62%) of schools increased admission numbers during the pandemic. It is clear that the particular challenges presented to schools during Covid only helped to demonstrate the value of Jewish day schools during even (and especially) the most difficult times. Similar upward trends in donor investment in Jewish day schools, on both individual school and communal levels, reflect the fact that it’s not only families that see our schools’ value, but that the Jewish community as a whole is invested in the success of our schools as a foundation for a strong Jewish future. We expect these trends to continue in the year ahead.

Though this year will undoubtedly require much pivoting and dynamic, changing safety protocols, school leaders have worked incredibly hard to prepare and to plan in the best way possible for the known-but-unknown. Schools have already laid the foundations for many kinds of learning models and safety protocols; they can lean on this preparation…to serve their school community in the most effective ways. This enables schools and the field to focus strategically on other key areas of investment, such as continuing to strengthen educational excellence, student and faculty wellness, and improved curriculum and learning around important topics, such as race and school culture and Israel education.”

•••

GAJE thanks everyone who has contributed to help fund the lawsuit – we hope to soon announce   – to try to end the inequity and the discrimination in Ontario’s educational system. We are deeply appreciative of your joining our cause. We are approximately half way to the amount needed.

This is our generation’s opportunity to do the right thing for our children’s and grandchildren’s Jewish education. If we do not try, who will?  Please help us make this happen! And please tell your friends to join in our effort.

To donate to this important cause, please click here.

(For further information, please contact Israel Mida at imida1818@gmail.com)

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.

 •••

Be safe. Be well.

Shabbat shalom. And…mo’adim l’simchah.

Grassroots for Affordable Jewish Education (GAJE)  

September 24, 2021

Posted in Uncategorized

Enriching the education system by bringing independent schools in from the cold

Many learned, expert observers of Ontario’s educational system have noted over the years that there is a deep dysfunction at its core preventing it from excelling to higher levels and from better serving Ontario’s increasingly diverse and notably civically-minded population.

For example, nearly a decade ago, Charles Pascal, a former Ontario deputy minister of education during the McGuinty years, famously called out Ontario’s educational funding system as being anachronistic. Some three decades prior, Dr. Bernard Shapiro, renowned educator, academic, scholar, who would also serve as deputy minister of education in Ontario submitted a Report of the Commission on Private Schools in Ontario that urged the province to make some room in the budget for private, independent schools in order to challenge public schools with some measure of pedagogical and administrative competition.

Echoing the conclusions of the Shapiro report, Derek J. Allison, professor emeritus of education at Western University and a senior fellow at the Fraser Institute, published an op-ed in The National Post in which he clearly urges Ontario to include more choice in its educational system.

GAJE has long pointed out the double inequity at the heart of Ontario’s educational funding policy. It prefers one religion to the exclusion of all others and it refuses entirely to provide any assistance to Ontario’s independent schools. In relation to Ontario’s financial disregard of independent schools, Allison observes “Ontario’s long-standing unwillingness to follow other Canadian provinces that provide financial support for independent schools erects an often, insurmountable barrier to school choice for non-wealthy households.” Not to be overlooked in Allison’s observation is the fact that other provinces (the five next largest provinces) do “provide financial support for independent schools”.

Allison further notes what GAJE supporters and day school families know very well. “Ontario’s independent schools offer a rich variety of traditional and innovative schools. Providing financial support for all parents to help enable them to choose an independent school would encourage more variety, further enriching education in the province.”

Allison concludes his piece with a Cri de Coeur that is also familiar to GAJE supporters. “The time has come to enrich the education system by bringing independent schools in from the cold.”

Allison’s full article is available at:

https://financialpost.com/opinion/opinion-ontario-needs-more-choice-in-education

•••

GAJE thanks everyone who has contributed to help fund the lawsuit that we plan to launch to try to end the inequity and the discrimination hobbling Ontario’s educational system. We are deeply appreciative of your joining our cause. We are nearly half way to the amount needed.

This is our generation’s opportunity to try to end the funding discrimination that has existed in Ontario for more than 25 years. If we do not try, who will?  Please help us make this happen! And please tell your friends to join in our effort.

To donate to this important cause, please click here.

(For further information, please contact Israel Mida at imida1818@gmail.com)

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.

 •••

Be safe. Be well.

Shabbat shalom. And…chag Succot samayach.

Grassroots for Affordable Jewish Education (GAJE)  

September 17, 2021

Posted in Uncategorized

Teachers’ dedication and work are deeply appreciated

The return this week to school by GTA-area children was accompanied by the earnest hopes and deeply felt prayers of their parents that this coming year be a “normal” one. Parental hopes and prayers are but one side of a golden coin. The other side of the coin is an unending reservoir of appreciation, gratitude and thanks to the teachers and the administrators.

The educators’ dedication to their charges – our children and grandchildren – has not gone unnoticed. It must never go unappreciated.

Judith Talesnick, managing director of professional learning and growth at The Jewish Education Project in New York recently wrote an essay for eJewishPhilanthropy entitled Teacher wellness: Relaxation and recovery, in which she conveys appreciation for the herculean efforts by educators to teach through Covid as well as concern for teachers’ health for the upcoming year should the virus disrupt the classrooms as it did a year ago.

“With the rise of the Delta variant, the giddiness of the post-vaccination summer is now replaced by the dread of illness and return of stricter COVID restrictions. Elementary school teachers may have to return to concurrent, hybrid and Zoom teaching. No one can predict how students or teachers will respond to the reality that 2021-22 may look like last year and feel even worse because of the anticipation of “being done with COVID.”

“Yet, regardless of the circumstances and challenges, parents and students continue to rely on day school teachers and administrators to provide quality educational experiences, strong community relationships and a safe place to grow.”

Talesnick offers a detailed prescription for quick intervention to support and bolster teachers should the need arise due to the unhappy, oppressive re-intrusion of the virus into our communities.

It is a worthy article for indeed, our teachers are also our heroes.

The full article is available at:

•••

Readers of this weekly report know, GAJE will soon be asking the court to reassess the correctness of the Supreme Court’s decision in 1996 (Adler) in light of the circumstances of Ontario in 2021. As readers know it is this decision which ruled Ontario could legally fund the educational system of only one religion. The Court did not prevent Ontario from extending funding to other, independent, denominational schools. Nor, does Ontario suggest that its policy is fair to non-Catholics. Rather, Ontario simply believes it is immune from being legally compelled to change its policy. 

We thank everyone who has contributed to help fund the lawsuit. We are deeply appreciative of your joining our cause. We are nearly half way to the amount needed.

This is our generation’s opportunity to try to end the funding discrimination that has existed in Ontario for more than 25 years. If we do not try, who will?  Please help us make this happen! And please tell your friends to join in our effort.

It is our fervent hope that together, from strength to strength, we will be able to end the discrimination in Ontario’s educational funding.

To donate to this important cause, please click here.

(For further information, please contact Israel Mida at imida1818@gmail.com)

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.

 •••

Be safe. Be well.

Shabbat shalom. And…Gmar Chatimah Tovah.

Grassroots for Affordable Jewish Education (GAJE)  

September 10, 2021

Posted in Uncategorized

How to ensure a legacy that has meaning

Next week brings two beginnings: Rosh Hashana 5782 and the return to school for most of our children. It will indeed be a meaningful week.

At least for a few moments next week we will likely think about the significance and the frailty of our lives even as we pray that our children – all children – will be blessed with a year of normal, in-class, person-to-person, healthy schooling.

It is no exaggeration to write that our defining hopes and aspirations as caring, committed and giving individuals – connected to our people’s past and to its future – are captured in the images of the youngsters back at school.

Two years ago, on the eve of Rosh Hashana, we referred to a statement by Prof. Irving Abella. We do so again for it elegantly and movingly gives expression to those hopes and aspirations.

“It seemed self-evident that the major challenge to our Jewish leadership in the next generation should be building a Jewish community that is not simply concerned with survival, but one that is creative and attractive to our children – a community with substance and content, a community that stresses not only memory but other important values of our traditions – primarily social justice, equity, compassion and spirituality. We pride in its activities and achievements. We will have to find ways to convert alienation to action and passivity to pride, the pride of being possessors of a great legacy, a legacy which has meaning for today and beyond.”

Prof. Abella wrote those words some 25 years ago. They appeared in a collection of essays entitled Creating the Jewish Future. They were deeply relevant then. They remain so today, as they surely will be in every generation. Bless him for having done so.

Most of us understand, however, that creating a “legacy which has meaning for today and beyond” requires excellent, immersive, meaningful, accessible Jewish education in all its diverse, effective manifestations. But to be accessible, the education must be affordable.

We point out the irony that flashes at us like a neon sign at midnight. Prof. Abella wrote those words the same year that the Supreme Court decided the Adler case, in which the Court ruled Ontario could legally fund the educational system of only one religion. The decision did not prevent Ontario from extending funding to other, independent, denominational schools. Nor, does Ontario suggest that its policy is fair to non-Catholics. Rather, Ontario simply believes it is immune from being legally compelled to change its policy. 

Readers of this weekly report know, one of the key ways to making Jewish education affordable is by asking the court to reassess the correctness and applicability of the 1996 Adler to the circumstances of Ontario in 2021. And as readers also know, that is what GAJE is doing.

The total cost for proceeding with the case, from the trial all the way to the Supreme Court, is approximately $250,000. To date, we have raised some 40 percent of that amount. As we have done each week for the past many weeks, we turn to you for help to raise the balance.

This is our generation’s opportunity to try to end the funding discrimination that has existed in Ontario for more than 25 years. If we do not try, who will?  Please help us make this happen! And please tell your friends to join in our effort.

To donate to this important cause, please click here.

(For further information, please contact Israel Mida at imida1818@gmail.com)

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.

We thank everyone who has contributed to the funding of the lawsuit. We are deeply appreciative of your joining our cause. It is our fervent hope that together, from strength to strength, we will be able to end the discrimination in Ontario’s educational funding.

 •••

Be safe. Be well.

Shabbat shalom. And, Shana tovah umetukah.

Grassroots for Affordable Jewish Education (GAJE)  

September 3, 2021

Posted in Uncategorized
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Parents Tell Their Stories

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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