The announcement last month by the UJA-Federation of New York of a $300 million matching program to support Jewish education — and similar initiatives in Los Angeles and MetroWest, New Jersey — comes at a time when middle-class Jewish parents find themselves increasingly caught between the Scylla of rising day-school tuitions and the Charybdis of declining real-dollar income.
Although Gail Rusgo and her husband are Orthodox and attended day schools, they’ve decided not to have their children follow in their educational footsteps.
Rusgo, a teacher, told her rabbi at the Lido Beach Synagogue on Long Island, “I’m going to be sending my children to public schools, and we need more children.”
The story of the Garden of Eden could be seen as a biblical truth, raising eternal questions of wrong vs. right, good vs. evil.
Or it could be used as a parable, a map of the human choices we face today, exploring issues of what is knowledge and what are the consequences of it in our lives?
On a recent Wednesday afternoon, several English speakers circled around a pair of large wooden tables trying to learn Hebrew. They were in Ahuva Tal-Hollander’s program at West Side Institutional Synagogue, one of the largest Hebrew language programs in the city.
Some were secular Jews who were dating someone religious or Israeli; others had become religious and wanted to better understand the Torah; and still others were American medical students preparing for classes in Israel this fall.
Near the end of the 2007-08 academic year, some unusual news about one class at the Solomon Schechter School of Manhattan came home to Miriam Akabas and her daughter Ariel and other families of then-fifth-grade students: there would be no boys in the school’s sixth-grade class the following year.
For various unconnected reasons, several families of end-of-year fifth-graders were moving from New York City; seven of the departing students were boys, all the males in the class.
On a business visit to Houston three years ago, Israeli real estate agent-turned-educator Eran Dubovi accepted a suggestion from Lee Wunsch, executive director of the city’s Jewish federation. Go see a certain public school in southwest Houston, Wunsch said.
The Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education (CAJE) may be making a comeback. The education organization shuttered its doors in February and cancelled its annual conference this summer, but last week held a small, regional conference in Maryland where talked turned to what could be done to revive CAJE.
Many universities encourage their students to perform community service, but for students at List College it comes with a twist.
The school has begun offering the Fellowship in Jewish Social Entrepreneurship, which combines social justice internships with courses that put it into a Jewish perspective. The school is the undergraduate college of the Jewish Theological Seminary.
Rebecca Hammerman, assistant dean and director of the fellowship program, said the project was launched as a pilot in the spring.
The $8,500 in NY state aid per pupil attending charter schools should also be available to parents of religious school students.
George N. Spitz
Special To The Jewish Week
Repealing or ignoring the last remaining vestige of bigotry contained in the New York State Constitution, the so-called “Blaine” amendment, could open the door to providing parents with children attending religious schools — Jewish, Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Greek Orthodox — with the same approximate $8,500 annually per pupil that charter schools receive, all deducted from the budget of the local school district that the charter school pupils would otherwise attend.