#17 Budowsphere- January 20, 2017
The Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies posts videos of various discussions on their website, and I just listened to a panel discussion about intermarriage that was very interesting. One of the discussants is a statistician, and he talked about the frightening statistics for Jewish intermarriage in America outside of the Orthodox community and what that means for the future of American Jewry.
He stated that one of the major contributing factors to the increase in intermarriage among Jews is that Jews are very spread out among the general population. Most American Jews are no longer living in the small, primarily Jewish neighborhoods of their parents and grandparents where the children would go to school with other Jewish children, make Jewish friends, and meet Jewish mates. That is one of the main purposes of a day school education- it is an opportunity to place Jewish children in a Jewish environment where they will make Jewish friends and form connections that will encourage them to continue their Jewish education, seek out Jewish mates, and hopefully remain Jewish throughout their lives.
This year we have actively pursued a recruitment campaign to increase our enrollment, publicizing the many avenues available to obtain financial aid for qualified families- Abrams students with financial need receive funding from private donors who sponsor cohorts of students, Children’s Scholarship Fund, Oorah, EITC, and other sources.
This week we held a recruitment meeting at Espresso Café, thanks to the generosity of Sharon Abergel, its owner. The meeting was very well-attended, and 12 of the families who attended have expressed their desire to enroll their children at Abrams, and we spoke to another 12 families prior to the meeting on Tuesday night about enrollment. The common thread among all of these prospective families was the concern about affordability and financial aid. In my opinion, the reason more Jews do not send their children to day school isn’t that they don’t care about Judaism or retaining their Jewish identity, but that they cannot afford the tuition. It was particularly surprising for me to realize that many of the Israeli families we met have children in public school, since obviously they know about Judaism, so that reinforces my belief that funding is the major hurdle that young Jewish parents face in sending children to day school.
This is why EITC is so important to the school. While watching the confirmation hearings this week on the woman who has been nominated as Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, a strong proponent of school vouchers, I was amused to see an Orthodox Rabbi sitting behind her as an advocate for vouchers. PA already has its form of a voucher system, and that is EITC. If you, as an individual or through your business, participate in EITC you help Jewish children to maintain their Jewish identity.
What is more important for a wealthy person to do- place his/her name on a building, or help to save the Jewish people? In 1993 the movie Schindler’s List was released, and one of the most moving scenes was when he was begging for people to send him more Jews to save. The most important thing to him was to save even one more Jewish life.
We also have the opportunity to keep Judaism alive, and that is through EITC. The program provides scholarships to educate children with financial need. This money is used only for tuition relief, and what is more worthwhile than educating our children who are truly our future?
Rabbi Ira Budow
Our goal is to provide a Jewish education for as many interested families as we can