The high costs of Jewish day schools is not a NEW challenge

Since the onset of the Great Recession, there has been a tremendous amount of concern in the Jewish community about the debilitating costs of day schools.

But Shira Dicker, a well-known writer and publicist out of NYC, has written a very absorbing and persuasive column in The Jewish Week about the struggle that non-affluent Jews have long faced to pay day school tuition.

The problem is not new, she writes, even if many Jews did not notice before the recession. She writes, in part:

*****

But the problematic price tag of Jewish education was enabled by a culture of affluence that somehow got tangled up with American Jewish identity. My unscientific observation is that this culture took root in the early ‘80s and grew wildly in the intervening decades, subverting the teaching of the Ethics of the Fathers—“Who is successful?” The answer became “He who makes tons of money and has lots of stuff.”

Within this culture of affluence, there was a distinct shame associated with financial struggle, a belief that not having enough money indicated some kind of existential failure. After a brief eternity of being a have-not in a land of haves, it is startling for me to suddenly hear the phrase, “I cannot afford…”

For the last quarter century, those who were committed yet couldn’t afford the high price of being Jewish were bullied or shamed into silence or compliance. That reality changed, nearly overnight, and I view the defection of Jewish families from the day school system as an important wake-up call, a reaction to the myth that if Jewish education is a priority, families will always find a way to finance it.

*****

That’s what is called brutal honesty.

Tonight’s subject in New Rochelle: The cost of Jewish day schools

Young Israel of New Rochelle will host a program tonight (Monday, June 8) on one of the most pressing issues in Orthodox and Conservative Judaism today: how families can afford the costs of day schools.

The program — “Day School Education in Challenging Times: Family, Institutional, and Communal Responsibility” — is being presented by the UJA-Federation of NY’s Westchester Region.

Start time: 8:30 p.m.

From a release, here’s the line-up:

*****

Gary Rosenblatt, editor of The Jewish Week (that’s him), will moderate the panel discussion, which will feature experts in the field of Jewish education: Amy Katz, associate director for the Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education; Scott Shay, past chair of UJA-Federation’s Commission on Jewish Identity and Renewal and chair of the Task Force on Communal Jewish Education; and Dr. Jon Woocher, chief ideas officer at the Jewish Education Service of North America.

*****

Also co-sponsoring are most of the region’s modern Orthodox congregations: Congregation Anshe Sholom in New Rochelle, Hebrew Institute of White Plains, Young Israel of Harrison, Young Israel of New Rochelle, Young Israel of Scarsdale, and Young Israel of White Plains.