In response to Dan Katz – from “Dror”

I was working on another post today, when I received the following in an email, from someone who wishes to be known only as “Dror”. I was so impressed with how well Dror expressed what so many have been trying to say that I decided to post it (with his approval) here, and I’ll leave my post for another day.

Dear Mr. Katz,

I appreciate your informative reply to the blog, even though I believe that this information should have been broadcast months ago, in order to let people know what was coming, and why the changes were happening. In general the information flow has been lacking, which has left people to believe the rumor-mill, rather than learning the facts. The information flow from all institutions has been scarce. Which has lead to the misinformation, misrepresentation and an overall lack of confidence in the leadership. The reason political leadership put themselves “out there” to talk to their people, or CEOs hold shareholder meetings is to make sure that the people who are paying into the system know the real story.

One question in regards to all of the revisions to the tuition policy is the continued “corruption” which still occurs. Should a family be responsible for paying tuition, which accounts for nearly half of their after tax take home? All while there are families who are still getting significant assistance, who with confidence I can state, are completely not deserving of it, given the lifestyle they lead.

Maybe the “fix” may come by lobbying the Federation to lower their donations to Israel while there are so many devastating issues in their own literal backyard. It is called the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County, and it needs to help here first, and then outside of the community. Then comes the question why Donna Klein receives such a disproportionate amount of financial assistance per student compared to Hillel or Torah Academy. Are the Orthodox less worthy than Conservative or Reform Jews? This is the message they are sending. Considering that Ben Gamla directly attracts the DKJA student body, why would the Federation pay out so much in aid when the student body has an ideal, free, alternative?

You say Rabbi Goldberg is more in tune with this issue than anyone. Yet when he speaks he says that Ben Gamla is not an option. Great – then what are the options? In all reality, it is an option (maybe he meant to say it isn’t a “replacement” or “solution”) because if there are people who cannot get financially comfortable, it is an answer, until the problems are fixed. The people taking the cruises or driving fancy cars are a small slice of the crying population. Should people chose between savings and tuition? When the majority of people don’t have any money in savings as it is. What happens if the employment situation gets worse again, like all the news reports are telling? Or what if, G-d forbid, there is a significant medical expense? Will the community be there to bail them out – since they chose tuition payments rather than building a financial reserve?

The Rabbi says people are working on this at the highest level, implying political efforts upstate, assumingly for vouchers. Yet we don’t know names, aren’t given updates or timetables, so how can we feel confident or cozy with those statements. We are left wondering, and at least we see Ben Gamla in the pipeline, and that is the glimmer of light that gives people hope.

This is where Rabbi Goldberg can step out of the shadows of the RCA/OU and show himself as the great leader that we all saw in him a few years ago when he took the helm. The real loss is that the RCA and OU aren’t telling the pulpits to evolve with the times. They are not saying “go after the kids, build programs and keep them on the derech!” (that would be too Chabad for them). Show the kids that the shul and the community do care – even if their parents made the only choice they could, in order to gain some financial security. Because trust me, financial stress is the leading cause of marriage problems which only hurts the kids. If the kids see Yeshiva tuition as being responsible for their family turmoil, we will lose generations of children. This isn’t Hebrew school so don’t compare it to the Judaic Programs that are needed. This is when BRS can capture the children’s Judaic studies path.

What about the beautiful message BRS sends to the Jewish community? We have the “unpaved” lot to welcome people who drive to shul on shabbos. We have the explanatory and outreach minyans. We welcome all Jews and give them equal honors. This is absent in many “northern” communities where people don’t even say good shabbos to one and another. We are not them, we are not the typical OU shul – we are out of the box. So we need to start reflecting that with our approach to keeping our children in a warm, loving and caring Jewish community. The lack of information is causing splintering and is producing more Lashon Harah, which just from a religious aspect, the Rabbis should be quaking in their boots, as we have all learnt the negative impact it can have on a community.

Mr. Katz, this is when you, as President of two institutions, and as one of the most influential, and passionate members of the Boca Jewish community, can shine as a leader as well. This is when you, can openly admit that Ben Gamla is a reality, losing students at Hillel is a reality, but that the main concern is keeping these kids on a Judaic track. BRS spends so much effort and money on Adult education and Outreach, when are the kids going to get their turn? Please help the shul be guided in the right direction, through the creation of a non-Hebrew-school-style Judaics program. Please help Hillel be guided in the right direction, through an outreach style, socially inclusive after school programs (for example: open after school programs to kids of Ben Gamla so that they can play sports or do drama club within an Orthodox Jewish atmosphere). Hopefully WYHS follows suit, and contributes to these programs, in order to bring some of these kids back into Yeshiva for high school.

Under your leadership, and that of our Rabbis, the Jewish children of our community can receive a deluxe yeshiva education or alternatively, a Ben Gamla education with a Judaic enriching program!

Please direct any replies to this in the comments box, and I will make sure that Dror sees them.
This is when Boca, with the right leadership, who can step out of the box can create a model for other communities.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. keith wasserstrom
    Jun 15, 2011 @ 22:23:33

    The Ben Gamla model can be used to provide the secular studies and other non-Judaic programming (including sports, libraries, laboratories, extracariculars, clubs, community service) to reduce significantly the cost of a Jewish education. The infrastructure (building, property, fields, management, etc.) can also be covered or offset by Ben Gamla. I think too many people are afraid of Ben Gamla and are not open to the possibilities.


  2. Mark
    Jun 16, 2011 @ 03:57:57

    I think too many people are afraid of Ben Gamla and are not open to the possibilities.

    I think this is partially because there is no serious afternoon+Sunday yeshiva available, and no plans for anything like that to be available anytime soon. When I say serious I mean as close as possible in quality to the Limudei Kodesh portion of a typical day school. The only options that exist today are mostly geared to non-frum, Israeli masorati (traditional), and are very weak in Torah learning.


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