In recent weeks there has been a series of articles and letters in the Jewish press regarding the cost of Jewish education in our community. As principals of Bergen County yeshivot, we have followed the articles with great interest. The challenges that many of our families are confronting by the increasing costs of yeshiva/day school education cannot be minimized. We fully recognize and empathize with these very real concerns, especially in this difficult financial climate, and we continually scrutinize our operating expenses to contain costs and minimize the often overwhelming financial burden of day-school tuition. There is not a yeshiva in this county that has not already made programming and staffing cuts, many of which have been significant and painful. But making these difficult decisions should not be equated with “trimming the fat,” and recent characterizations of our schools as “Rolls-Royce models of education” are not only misleading but do an injustice to any yeshiva/day school that takes seriously its mission of educating the next generation of committed Jews.

Continuing the conversation… Our essential mission commits us to provide a strong, comprehensive, and well-rounded Judaic and secular education that strives to achieve the highest standards of instruction and learning. To accomplish these goals, we are committed to:

Hiring skilled and effective teachers in both areas of the curriculum and offering teachers a compensation package that reflects their level of skill and expertise while encouraging the best and brightest to choose Jewish education as a career path;

Ensuring the wide array of academic services, including assistance and enrichment, that our students require to achieve success in their learning;

Addressing the spiritual, cognitive, and emotional needs of all our students;

Recognizing the critical role music, arts, technology, and athletics play in the development of the whole child;

Creating stimulating special events, dynamic chaggim, celebrations, and hands-on learning activities that combine to form the foundations for a love for and excitement about Judaism that will last a lifetime.

These are not luxuries but are the necessities for an effective, meaningful Jewish and secular education for all of our students. Beyond all other priorities, today’s successful model of education requires a multitude of professional resources and varied approaches to learning that address the individual needs of every child. Enabling each student to experience cognitive, social, emotional, and ethical growth entails staffing our schools with learning specialists, psychologists, and teaching assistants who can supply sufficient support to meet the needs of all our students.

Furthermore, in our desire to make Jewish education affordable for as many Jewish children as possible, our schools provide millions of dollars in financial aid. We continue to urge all families who are committed to making Jewish education a top priority for their children but are experiencing financial difficulties to avail themselves of the support that our schools have offered in the past and will continue to offer in the future. At the same time, it is incumbent upon each of our schools to continue to ensure application processes that preserve the dignity and respect of our families.

Both the professional and lay leaderships of our schools have made enormous efforts to be fiscally responsible within a national environment of spiraling educational costs. In fact, our expenditure, while offering a dual curriculum, is significantly lower per student than those of our local public school systems. We are determined to intensify these efforts in these financially difficult times. Our schools communicate with each other on an ongoing basis in efforts to lower costs across the community. Additionally, over the past six months we have been meeting regularly as part of a newly formed, Bergen County-wide, lay-professional committee, in conjunction with the Rabbinical Council of Bergen County, to explore new avenues of funding for our yeshivot. Concrete plans are being laid, and this committee will be communicating its recommendations shortly.

Clearly we are living in challenging economic times, yet our children are counting on us to provide the finest educational experience for them that resources will allow. They deserve nothing less.

B’vracha,

Rabbi Shmuel Goldstein,
Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey

Rabbi Chaim Hagler, Yeshivat Noam

Rabbi Jonathan Knapp, Yavneh Academy

Dr. Elliot Prager, The Moriah School

Rabbi Tomer Ronen, Ben Porat Yosef