May 12, 2009
The current global financial downturn has adversely affected Jewish communities far and wide. One potentially devastating result, for younger families, is the challenge of affording Jewish day school tuition.
A double curriculum, particularly on the high school level, requires twice the faculty needed for general studies, causing a great deal of additional expense. Even before the current economic crisis, charter schools teaching Hebrew language and Jewish history, as well as public schools that would permit Jewish studies to be taught to select students during the school day, were proposed as cost-cutting options.
Considerable research has demonstrated that the years spent in a Jewish day school environment play a powerful and essential role in Jewish identity formation and ongoing commitment to observance and Jewish community. Even proposed "Hebrew language" charter schools fail to provide an environment conducive to the development of deep-seated Jewish identity. Further, these schools are mandated to teach limited aspects of Jewish culture, self-consciously avoiding Torah and mitzvot.
Were a shortage of funds to force us to reprise the situation of past decades, in which relatively few young members of even the Orthodox community were able to receive a day school education, this would constitute a substantive demolishment of one of the crucial building blocks of our families, neighborhoods, communities, and cities. This would turn back the clock on the many years invested in achieving the current level of availability of day school education, and the concomitant positive results.
Be it resolved that we urgently encourage our Jewish communities to creatively make the maximum possible assistance available to students in need, so that they will receive the total Jewish education they desperately need and deserve.
Be it further resolved that Jewish day schools must engage in serious and effective cost-cutting, to insure that their operations are as lean and cost-efficient as possible.
We further call upon rabbis and their constituents to re-evaluate the needs of their community schools and the distribution of their tzedaka funds, so as to direct them inwardly, where such is required.
We further urge rabbanim to emphasize to their congregants that the obligation to support Jewish day schools is not limited to the parent body, but applies to the entire community. Indeed, only through such an understanding will our educational institutions survive the current economic downturn as well as thrive, and offer our children the education and experience that is so necessary for their Jewish success.