Most distressing has been the solution to which many parents have turned. Rather than cope with these impossible pressures, they have chosen to limit the size of their families. The costs of Jewish education have become translated into birth control and the reduction of the number of Jewish children.
That this situation is intolerable is apparent. Equally obvious is the conclusion that the funding of basic Jewish education must be the primary goal of the community at large. There is no more important goal than Jewish continuity, than Jewish survival.
Until now, the brunt of the burden of day school budgets has been placed upon the shoulders of the parent. We now see clearly that those shoulders are insufficient for the task. Parent resources are limited, especially because family budgets are so tight, and the typical parents of school-age children have not yet reached their maximum earning potentials.
Numerous organizations have been attempting to address this serious problem. The organization with which I am proudly affiliated, the Orthodox Union, has made the cost of Jewish education an overriding priority for the coming years. Possible solutions include state aid to private schools, better fiscal management of educational institutions, the pooling of the resources of competing schools, more effective use of educational technology, and larger class size.
But all of these proposals can only contribute partially to the ultimate solution of the problem, which lies in the hands of the community at large. All members of the community, whether or not they have children attending day schools, must contribute to those schools on a priority basis. Communities can simply no longer afford to direct their resources to all their causes.
If every member of the community were to review the charitable contributions he or she made over the year 5771, it would emerge that only a relatively small percentage of those contributions were directed to local day schools. The surprise would be in how much of those hard-earned funds were donated to causes of questionable legitimacy; to distant cities and countries which the giver had neither obligation nor allegiance to; or to a plethora of other causes of far lesser urgency than the day schools of our own neighborhoods.
Individuals need to do teshuvah. And that teshuvah must be a rigorous one, including improved relationships, more wholesome spirituality, and real change in all aspects of life.
Communities need to do teshuvah too. They need to sit down as groups and reason together, engage in communal introspection, ask each other hard questions, and courageously rearrange their priorities. If they do so, they will surely find that the resources to address the most critical issue of contemporary Jewish life, the adequate funding of basic Jewish education, are in their grasp. Together, members of the community can achieve much more than individuals acting separately. The group is certainly greater than the sum of its parts.
Teshuvah, prayer, and charity are our supreme mission at this time of year. And we are taught that they are the foundations upon which we can build a year free from evil decrees and, even more so, upon which we can garner the blessings that will form the basis of a year of peace, prosperity, and significant spiritual and material achievement.