The greatest challenge to Orthodox Jewish families? Tuition costs

We’ve all heard about the troubles facing Catholic schools, most recently in the form of nine more local schools to be closed in June.

I’ve touched a few times on the similar challenges facing Jewish day schools.

I was just reading the inaugural address of Dr. Simcha Katz, who on Sunday became the president of the Orthodox Union, which represents Orthodox congregations across North America.

Many Orthodox Jews send their kids to yeshivas or day schools, which are quite expensive. Many Orthodox Jewish couples also have more than two or three kids, meaning their educational bills are HUGE.

Katz focused on this during his address. Here’s the part in question:


Let’s touch on tuition affordability. When I completed my doctoral thesis, we were living in a railroad apartment in Washington Heights; we had two children, and Pesh worked and took care of everything, so I could be free. I thanked and dedicated my thesis “to my wife who made it possible and to my children who made it necessary.” In taking on this OU responsibility and specifically my commitment to tuition affordability, I can easily state here “thanks to my wife who makes it possible and to my children who make it necessary.”

In the United States, the most challenging reality facing our families and affecting in a very negative way their quality of life is yeshiva tuition. We have a situation in which a family earning as much as $200,000 (only 3.5% of Americans earn more) with four children or more in yeshiva day schools cannot afford to pay full tuition and must apply for tuition assistance. This problem is decades in the making, and we now are facing a broken and unsustainable system. This challenge must be addressed and our success or failure in addressing the cost of raising an observant family will determine what Orthodox Judaism in America will look like 25 years from now. We will do our part by refocusing our internal resources and partnering with other stakeholders, whether they come from the Jewish or non-Jewish world. We will need multiple approaches to ameliorate this situation. It is a terrible problem and Rabbi Steven Weil (OU Executive Vice President), our lay leadership and I are committed to focus on it.



Gary Stern

Gary Stern covered education in the Lower Hudson Valley for several years during the early 1990s. Now's he back on the beat. He believes that schools are one of the main reasons that people live around here and that educational issues -- from curriculum to financing -- are among the most challenging things that journalists can write about. He continues to be amazed by the complexity of educational jargon. Gary got his B.A. at SUNY Buffalo and his M.A. from the University of Missouri Journalism School (where his master's thesis was about the best ways to cover education). He lives in White Plains with his wife and two sons, who attend public schools.