When mega-philanthropist Michael Steinhardt founded the Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education in 1996, it was a heady time for day schools. Today, the recession seems endless, enrollment of non-Orthodox Jews is declining and even some Orthodox Jews are questioning the affordability, if not the importance, of day schools.
A provocative question is circulating in the Jewish community: Can day schools survive, given the reality of reduced philanthropic support in this economic climate? While this is a vitally important question, it misses two salient points.
First, there is strong evidence that the day school field is not only surviving, but is a resilient, thriving enterprise. Enrollment decreases this past year were smaller than originally feared; we have seen significant enrollment growth at 50 non-Orthodox schools nationwide; and school closures, while painful, have been few.