Continuing the conversation – ‘What is really at stake here is Jewish life’

Continuing the conversation – ‘What is really at stake here is Jewish life’

Scott Goldberg’s May 8 article highlighting Yeshiva University’s involvement in addressing the day-school tuition challenge falls way short of the mark. Its prescriptions are tantamount to offering those on a ship that is sinking because it has taken on too much water a teaspoon by which they can bail themselves out.

Dr. Goldberg cites YU’s involvement in advocacy, knowledge-building, and consultation as examples of its positive meaningful contributions toward developing solutions. However, these efforts are either too long-term to produce results, or aimed at costs, that if reduced, would have little impact on addressing the problem.

Developing energy-conservation strategies when a school budget is more than 80 percent healthcare and labor will provide no meaningful financial relief. Asking a school to reallocate funds to develop a fund-raising infrastructure while it struggles to save teaching positions or avoid increasing class size is impractical and, at best, a very difficult challenge.

Dr. Goldberg’s and Yeshiva University’s prescriptions would be appropriate if there were not an urgency to develop a solution before Jewish education becomes simply the purview of only the very wealthy. It is not the prescription that is needed today.

Yeshiva University is in an extraordinary position to address this crisis. It has demonstrated the ability to raise $1.5 billion for its endowment. Using its obviously immense and successful fund-raising capabilities to build the superfund would be a meaningful and real first step to addressing these issues and buying the time needed to investigate, develop, and implement long-term strategies and tactics.

Ironically, Yeshiva University would likely benefit the most by taking the lead and making this appropriate investment. Its mission is to “bring wisdom to life” and “foster greater understanding and appreciation of the heritage, traditions, and values we all hold so dear.”

Building a strong educational system to provide YU with minds to develop and shape is a requirement in order to fulfill this mission. The Jewish day schools and high schools are YU’s feeder institutions. If these institutions produce fewer qualified applicants, YU’s mission is jeopardized. And if these institutions simply produce fewer applicants, YU’s viability and relevance are endangered.

Taking the lead role in seeding and growing this fund fits into the leadership role that is a hallmark of this storied institution. One can only imagine that such an initiative will be applauded across the Jewish communal landscape. It would also not be surprising to find that Yeshiva University becomes more appreciated for its leadership and that its fund-raising and business model become even more successful.

After all, what is really at stake here is Jewish life.

Numerous studies have taught us that one of the critical success factors in the involvement and support of all Jewish social, communal, and educational institutions is the degree to which there is a strong Jewish connection. Weaken or break that connection and the fabric of Jewish life is torn. Educating our Jewish children is the greatest and most effective way to build that bond.

More than that, as tuition takes up greater and greater portions of household budgets, other worthy Jewish projects will no longer be supported. A very dangerous decelerating cycle of Jewish life is likely to follow as important project after important project is abandoned or compromised because of inadequate financial support.

Dr. Goldberg speaks of the Center for the Jewish Future. The “center” should not be about symposiums or compilations of scholarly articles. It needs to be about one thing only – the proper and effective education of all Jewish children, including those with special needs. There is nothing else that is both our “Center” and our “Jewish Future.”

The time is now for Yeshiva University’s executive board and lead donors to courageously mobilize their efforts, reach across to other organizations, and their leadership, and build this superfund so a more comprehensive, multi-faceted, and broad-based solution has the time and resources to develop.