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April 21, 2014 / 21 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Ben Gamla’

Florida School Board Reviewing Peter Deutsch’s Ben Gamla Schools

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

A Florida school board is reviewing whether the Ben Gamla Hebrew charter school network violates the law by mixing religion with public schooling.

The review was prompted by a JTA story published July 17 in which Ben Gamla founder Peter Deutsch described the publicly funded charter schools as builders of Jewish identity.

The chairwoman of the Broward County school board, Laurie Rich Levinson, told the Broward Bulldog in a story picked up by the Miami Herald that her office sent the JTA article to the district’s Charter School Department for “review and response” after receiving a complaint on Aug. 10 from a civic activist in the area, Charlotte Greenbarg of Hollywood.

In interviews with JTA, Deutsch said he believes that of Ben Gamla’s collective annual budget of $10 million, approximately 80 percent serves Jewish communal purposes.

“To me, it is literally the best leverage that I’m aware of in Jewish communal stuff in the history of the Jewish people,” Deutsch told JTA. “Jews need to be supportive of this endeavor.”

Deutsch also said it was his own opinion and that the four Ben Gamla schools in South Florida, which collectively have about 1,700 students, do not teach religion.

“The school complies with every aspect of separation of church and state,” Deutsch told the Herald. “The school is obsessive with compliance with separation of church and state. The process is 100 percent transparent.”

When Yeshiva Day School Is No Longer A Viable Option

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

The day school tuition crisis is not new. It has been brewing for years. School costs continue to rise while unemployment and underemployment remain high. And one also needs money to live in a neighborhood with shuls and mikvehs, to buy kosher food, to make proper simchas, to cover Yom Tov expenses, etc.

It seems that somewhere along the line it became mandated that in order to be frum you have to be rich – or at least extremely well off.

And of course you must keep your children in private day schools – or else, we are warned, you are putting your children’s Jewish future at risk.

We are told to sacrifice as much as possible in order to provide a Jewish education for our children. Give up vacations, cars, home renovations. Stop drinking coffee. Don’t send your children to camp. Don’t buy anything. Give all your tzedakah to the schools your children attend.

Give up everything that might bring you joy because there is no joy greater than your children’s Jewish education. This, we are told, will guarantee that our children will remain safely in the Jewish fold.

But what of families who have already sacrificed everything? What of families who are receiving financial assistance from the schools and still have trouble making those monthly payments? What of families forced to decide each month which bills to pay and which to ignore? What of families who risk losing their home to foreclosure or having their car repossessed? What guarantees do they get?

In an ideal world, families in need of tuition assistance would receive it and remain anonymous. In the real world, especially in smaller communities, this is impossible. The scrutinizing, the judging, the criticism of families who receive financial aid is intolerable and should be unacceptable. Those paying full tuition are frequently – and quite publicly – resentful, accusatory and spiteful.

The benefiting families are made to feel like a burden on their community. God forbid someone sees them eating at a restaurant. Heaven help them if someone notices them at the movies on Motzaei Shabbat.

Some parents no longer wish to be a burden. They want to pay bills when they are due without worrying where they’ll find the money for tuition. They want to save something for college or retirement. So they make the difficult decision to remove their children from day school and place them in public school. Other families opt for a Hebrew language charter school.

Here in South Florida, a number of Ben Gamla charter schools have opened in the past few years. The advantage of a Hebrew language charter over the local public school is that Israeli culture is taught alongside the language. So while the children cannot daven at school or study religious texts, they can learn, for example, about Chanukah and how the Maccabees fought and beat the Greeks. Just don’t mention the miracle of the oil.

Far from being ideal for frum families, the Ben Gamla charter schools offer an intermediate solution: free secular education for your children, with the added benefit of Hebrew language and Israeli culture and history, taught by Sherut Leumi (National Service) girls.

But what about Judaics?

You tell yourself you’ll send your children to the local Talmud Torah, but then you learn they no longer exist, at least not anywhere near you. You think you’ll hire a teacher from a local day school to tutor your kids a few afternoons a week – until you discover that not a few day schools have told their teachers not to tutor children who have transferred from day school to public school.

So these wonderful educators, who as it is are underpaid by institutions heralding Torah, mitzvot and midot, are threatened with job loss by those very institutions.

Perhaps the rabbis in the community would like to advise parents on finding tutors? Maybe they would like to facilitate a group-learning opportunity for the many children now in public schools due to the tuition crisis?

Some community rabbis seem to believe the majority of families with children in public school do not care enough about Judaics. I beg to disagree. For families who pull out of yeshiva for financial reasons, the cost of private tutors (if you can find one) is too high. For them, the idea of a communal Hebrew school program, geared specifically toward kids who began life in day school, is an attractive one. Something local, affordable and communal. A program like that will cost less per child, and even if it begins with just a few children the likelihood is it will grow in numbers as people see it working and parents are happy with what is being taught.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/when-yeshiva-day-school-is-no-longer-a-viable-option/2012/07/11/

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