Thursday, May 19, 2016

How Do You Pay for Jewish Education?

This is an op-ed I wrote to the Canadian Jewish News, it was abridged slightly and printed in this week's paper. This is the original article:

Two weeks ago, the CJN printed an article suggesting that grandparents help pay for their grandchildren’s Jewish education. While it is laudable when grandparents choose to help their children with the high cost of day school, it is not their responsibility to do so. Many of our parents are on fixed incomes and do not have cash to spare, and it would be a huge imposition to ask for their help.

A solution that I have yet to see proposed is the reallocation of funds by the UJA.  According to the UJA’s pie chart of how our donations are distributed, in 2015, the projected campaign total was $61.729 million dollars. Jewish education received 26% of that total, $12,639,014M. Support of Israel & Overseas received 32% of the total, 15,216,800M. I cannot understand why “Support for Israel & Overseas” gets more money than “Jewish education”.

I am a firm believer in creating a strong connection to Israel. I am all for private donations between our community members here in Toronto and in Israel, however, I do think that it is time for us to recalibrate our thinking. It is now 68 years since the founding of the current State of Israel. Thankfully, Israel is doing quite well these days with her GDP steadily growing.  Israel is not the dependent country that it once was. UJA needs to understand this and readjust its priorities.

Our conversation centers on the staggering cost of Jewish education, but that is not the only crisis at hand. Housing costs are at astronomical highs. For many, it is indeed impossible to come up with a down payment on a home. What about those that a Jewish education and housing is simply a pipe dream? According to United Chesed, there are 24,000 Jews living in poverty in the Toronto area alone.

I suggest that it is time that UJA reassign the money that is being donated to Israel, or perhaps much of it, to these major issues that we face here in Toronto. While I have no doubt that the money being sent to Israel is well spent, and certainly it is our responsibility to do what we can for the Jewish state, we have serious problems here at home that must be addressed and quickly.

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