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From a New York point of view

The greatest challenge to Orthodox Jewish families? Tuition costs

Posted by: Gary Stern - Posted in Cost, Religious day schools, Yeshiva tuition on Jan 19, 2011

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.





One Response to “The greatest challenge to Orthodox Jewish families? Tuition costs”

  1. Reb

    This article is interesting. The new OU president comments on people making 200K or more. Does he think about the Jews making well under 100K ? It might be prudent to look at the lower earners and help those who need it most. I know the point is that even those who earn in the top 3.5% have difficulties. I happen to be friendly with a few of the OUs employees (mashgichim and others). I am always surprised when they tell me that the OU fails to pay many of its own a
    decent wage. It seems they’re so busy making a name for themselves, they sometimes overlook the ones that have helped get them there.

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