Our community rabbis need to step up and be rabbis to the entire community, not just the wealthy. They need to help those who are distressed financially – not by giving money, but by guaranteeing that there are options for the children of financially struggling families to continue to learn.
Our rabbis publicly decry those who put their children into public schools. They continue to preach from the pulpit that we need to give up everything in order to keep our schools afloat, and don’t forget to contribute to the latest Yizkor appeal, and make sure you donate money to Israel, and can you sponsor this program and…well, it just never ends, does it?
But they won’t organize local after-school Judaic programs for the children of their own communities. Do they fear that financially comfortable families will be lured away from increasingly expensive day schools into the public school system? What about “veshinantam levanecha”?
Here you have parents who want to give their children a Jewish education one way or another, and Jewish religious leadership is standing in their way. Not every parent has the background to teach his or her own child. We have a large contingent of families in which one or both parents are first-generation frum Jews. These are the families at the highest risk of being lost if nothing is done.
At the end of the day, it is the responsibility of every Jewish parent to guarantee a Jewish education for his or her children. If parents are able to provide this through paying tuition at a Jewish day school, gezunteheit. But the reality is that this is becoming more and more of a challenge for a growing number of families.
Families unable to give their children an ideal religious education should not be made to feel inferior. On the contrary, we should honor their honesty, respect their desire not to be a burden on other Jews, and help them in every way possible to find a solution so that their children receive a good Jewish education outside the day school system.
Vanessa Brooks is a frum-from-birth mother of three in Boca Raton, Florida. After years of struggling to pay for day school, she and her husband have made the difficult decision to put their children in a Ben Gamla charter school. She blogs on Jewish education and other topics at www.vanessaceo.wordpress.com.