Will their grandchildren be Jewish?

I had started this post discussing men who learn in yeshivas all their lives while their enormous families are supported by their parents and their weathered wives. I don’t want to see Modern Orthodoxy go the same way when grandparents are forced to pay tuition for Day Schools. But I decided not to get into that.

So this week there was an OU summit about the tuition crisis. Actually they said it was about the “Affordability of Jewish Education”. Excuse my cynicism, but the basic answer is “it’s not affordable”. I watched the tweets coming out of the #OUSummit, and I’ve read the couple of articles that have been written since it concluded. The conclusion this group of rabbis, educators, laypeople etc. came to is that there is a very real tuition crisis within the Jewish Day School community.

Mazal Tov! Happy to know that the money good people have donated to the OU paid for you all to stay in a hotel in New Jersey to agree with what we’ve all been saying for a long time.

Obviously there is no overnight solution. Clearly this is something that will take time to mend. But there are options. There are things that can be done, and the main thing standing in the way? The leaders of the Day Schools. The rabbis in our communities. The majority of existing after school Judaics programs are not run by Orthodox rabbis for Orthodox children. Most of them are put together for children coming from non-Orthodox homes, kids who have not grown up in a Day School environment. It’s typical “Hebrew School”, similar to the failed Talmud Torah from the 50s and 60s that has scared Orthodox American Jewry into believing that Jewish Day Schools are the only option.

What we need is a group of competent rabbis and educators, who are prepared to take a stand. We need these leaders to support and encourage the building of a new program. We need the curriculum from an Orthodox Day School, tailored to an after school program. This is not “dumbing down” – this is continuing ed for kids who have been in yeshiva until now, but for reasons beyond their control, can no longer stay. The Jewish future of these children is as important as the Jewish future of the wealthier children who will remain in Day Schools.

“Will your grandchildren be Jewish?” should never boil down to money! Sacrifices have been made. Grandparents are already helping, many no longer can. Now is the time to be proactive and to accept that there are solutions, whether in Hebrew language charter schools, or in regular public schools. No one will ever claim that this is “better” than Day School. But if it is the only option, stand up to the plate. Be a leader. If you believe that Yeshivas are the guarantee for a Jewish future, help ensure that the other Jewish kids have a Jewish future too, by allowing them to have a Yeshiva education outside of the Yeshiva building.

Shabbat Shalom.

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