When Rabbi Jonathan Snowbell was taking undergraduate and graduate classes at Yeshiva University, he never dreamed the State of Israel would find his YU degrees unacceptable.
The problem: the Ministry of Finance changed the criteria in 2003 of what it requires to pay Israeli teachers a higher salary for their college and graduate degrees.
"I was told my degrees are legitimate except for salary evaluation purposes," said Rabbi Snowbell, 30, a high school teacher in Jerusalem who has lived in Israel since 1998.
For the second year in a row, two seniors at the Stella K. Abraham High School for Girls in Hewlett Bay Park, L.I., were national finalists in the prestigious Siemens Westinghouse Competition in Math, Science and Technology. But this time, it was not necessary to explain their need to make their presentation before the Sabbath and for glatt kosher food.
Even as the some of the major donors of community-based Jewish day schools gathered for the first time this week to discuss ways to increase funding, several admitted in interviews that the amounts they could raise would be a pittance compared to what school vouchers could provide.
"Vouchers can make a bigger difference than if UJA-Federation doubled its allocation" to day schools, said Alec Ellison of Rye, a supporter of the Solomon Schechter School of Westchester.
Three founders of an Orthodox yeshiva in Smithtown, L.I., upset over the school's closing last fall, have announced plans to start another Orthodox yeshiva in Suffolk County next year.
But their plan to open in the same building they helped erect 40 years ago (the Hebrew Academy of Suffolk County) has been complicated by the group that closed the elementary school after 20 years of operation.
Brandeis University is developing a center for Middle Eastern studies that will include Israel and the history of Zionism as a legitimate part of the region, something the schoolís president said has never before been done.
Most polls ranking campaign issues place aid to education near the top of voter concerns. And judging by a series of congressional votes, most Americans don’t seem to mind if Jewish schools get government funding, as well. Nevertheless, a Senate vote earlier this month, which would free up money for parents with children in day schools as well as public schools, has ignited a fierce debate in the Jewish community over whether this was a necessary gift or a Trojan horse.
At first, 15-year-old David Gokar of Brooklyn and his parents were hesitant about the prospect of him spending the next three years at a high school in Israel.
But after attending a presentation that stressed the high caliber of the education (as well as the 98 percent graduation rate among the 9,000 Jewish teens from 32 countries who had enrolled since the program started 12 years ago) David signed up and became one of the first six North Americans admitted to the Elite Academy program.
Education is in the cards at the Menorah Day School in Smithtown, L.I.: bingo cards, that is.
The school was forced to relocate its 50 students last week after the Suffolk County Department of Health Services said the youngsters, in kindergarten through sixth grade, could not be in a building in which smoking was permitted. Four nights a week the school runs bingo games that allow smoking.
"Bingo supports three-quarters of our budget," said Gittel Bausk, the school board's chair. "We had the most successful bingo in the county."
Nearly 20 years ago, Rabbi Berish Ganz turned to bingo to keep his struggling Orthodox day school in Smithtown, L.I., afloat. Over the years the bingo games, held in the gym and frequented by heavy smokers lured by the large prizes, reaped more than $500,000 annually. Despite the cash, enrollment in the elementary school never grew to more than 130 students.
It has come to this for Norman Finkelstein: Back home in the Brooklyn of his youth, living alone in his deceased father’s rent-stabilized apartment on Ocean Parkway, just a few blocks from where the white-hot controversial professor grew up.
No more loyal students, no more lectures to prepare, no more radio debates with his arch-enemy, Alan Dershowitz, no more national spotlight; Finkelstein is the man no one wants, and perhaps for good reason.