Summer isalmost over,and in countless homes throughout the country, preparations for the new school year have begun. Shiny new pencil boxes and supplies have been purchased. Hair has been cut and shoes have been shined. Many children are eager to see old friends and familiar classrooms. Traditionally, this time of year has been one of happy anticipation and excitement.
Unfortunately, especially in these tough economic times, many Jewish families are facing back-to-school with dread. Breadwinners have lost their jobs. Businesses are barely scraping by. Revenue is down. For these families, yeshiva and day school tuitions loom as an insurmountable hurdle.
The thought of sending their children to a public school fills many parents with anguish. The youngsters cannot understand why their beloved rebbes and teachers will not let them into the school they love so much. They know that they have done nothing to warrant expulsion. The sad fact is that this experience can forever sour a young mind on the Jewish lifestyle. They see the very yeshiva that taught the importance of chesed, has thrown them out on the street.
The adults feel helpless. They simply do not have the money. They feel humiliated and abandoned.
The Jewish schools, themselves, should not necessarily take the brunt of the blame. Some can barely meet their payroll. Some cannot even do that. Many have fully half of their students on some sort of discounted (scholarship) rate. It is troubling, however, that the cost of many Jewish schools is on par with that of college tuition.
Jews in the United States took part in a vast cultural endeavor. They interacted and intermingled with the population. Their venture was, tragically, a great success. The rate of assimilation and intermarriage of American Jews has been astounding.
Jews who attended yeshivot and day schools, however, have bucked this trend. Their assimilation is far below the national numbers. They, for the most part, have remained true to their heritage.
The Jewish people need to put together a communal effort toward nurturing every precious young soul. Jewish organizations and philanthropies need to make this funding as a number one priority. It is essential to the very survival of our people.
Synagogues need to make appeals from every pulpit for money to fund Jewish education. Jewish Federations need to concentrate on this vital issue and cut back on funding non-essential parties, events and trips. Every Jewish group, club and congregation needs to be part of this vital undertaking.
One-and-a-half-million Jewish children were murdered in the Shoah. We have not a soul to spare.