Tuition Incentive Wins Approval
Three weeks ago, my wife and I had the privilege of hosting last-minute Shabbos guests. My third cousin, whose existence I never even knew of until very recently, was heading back to New York on a Friday with his wife, and their flight was delayed multiple times in Rochester. Seeing how they would never make it back to New York before Shabbos, my cousin and his wife had to convince the airline staff to let them off their flight, and they reached out to me to help them find a place to stay for Shabbos.
Of course, my wife and I invited them to stay with us. While it was the first time we had ever met, we had an amazing time together, with the conversation eventually turning to Jewish life in Rochester. We told them about what a fantastic community we live in, how great the schools are, and how my wife’s school, Derech HaTorah, is offering a groundbreaking $7,000 tuition incentive that we hope will finally end the nightmare that so many Orthodox Jews are facing.
It wasn’t until our guests got back to New York and read The Jewish Press cover article on our community that they realized that Rochester is the only place offering such an incredible tuition plan for new families (“Massive Tuition Incentive a Potential Community Builder in Rochester,” July 28). The idea of effecting real change in the Jewish world of education appealed to them so much that they decided they wanted to take part in this initiative. I can’t even begin to tell how shocked my wife and I were to receive a thank you card from them, along with a $10,000 donation for our new tuition.
Thank you for letting the world know about Derech HaTorah’s tuition incentive program.
Rabbi Danny Goldstein
Executive director and general studies principal
Yeshiva of Rochester
The Charter School Solution
It should be obvious that we need to remove our precious children from the sewer that public education is rapidly becoming. Granted, even removing children from the public schools doesn’t guarantee that they won’t be exposed to gross violations of Jewish values.
For example, there has been a running battle for years between yeshivas and Ofsted, the UK education inspection agency, about attempts to introduce LGBTQ and other sex education for four- to11-year-olds. Not surprisingly, an op-ed in the Jewish weekly, Forward, supports the Ofsted position.
Nevertheless, more parents are coming to recognize the benefits of Jewish day schools. Enrollment is rising, but it would rise more rapidly if not for the high cost of tuition.
It appears, however, that a solution may be at hand in the development of English-Hebrew charter schools, which receive public funding (though parents may be asked for supplemental contributions). If these schools become widespread, current day schools could be limited to religious studies, which would substantially reduce costs and thereby bring down tuition. Teachers of secular subjects from the current day schools hopefully could largely transfer to the new charter schools.
There are now at least two models for Hebrew-English charter schools. One is the Ben Gamla Charter School, which started in Broward County, Florida, in 2007 as the first Hebrew charter school in America. It now has six schools in south Florida. While it appears that a majority of the staff are non-Jews, and students of all races are depicted on their website, naming the chain after a High Priest during the Second Temple Era who is credited with starting the first Jewish day school hints at its orientation.
The other chain is Hebrew Public, which started in New York in 2009 and has expanded since 2015 so that it now has branches in Brooklyn, Harlem, Staten Island and Philadelphia, along with affiliate schools in Los Angeles, San Diego, Washington, D.C., East Brunswick, New Jersey, and Edina, Minnesota., and is now enrolling Ukrainian refugee children. They publicly commit to racial diversity and integration, with a diverse staff, and number among their major contributors Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas.
Both schools justify their daily Hebrew language instruction and Israel studies program as beneficial for students looking to enter the world of commerce. One may surmise that large numbers of non-Jewish parents will be interested, just as many non-Catholic Black parents send their children to parochial schools expecting them to receive a better education than in the public schools. They all may well be right.
Summer Camp Luxury?
Kudos to your rabbinical panel, especially Rabbi Marc Angel, in your article “Is it proper to send your kids to sleepaway camp, if they receive tuition assistance?” (July 28).
Many yeshivas are struggling financially. In many cases, parents who pay full tuition are not covering all of the yeshiva’s costs, let alone scholarships. Granting scholarships to those who spend on luxuries may be depriving the schools and students of desperately needed funds. It’s not a secret that many families are struggling with the cost of living, especially tuition. Frankly, to deny the problem (which many call a crisis) exists is shameful.
While it is up to the individual tuition committees to decide what is a luxury, and while individual circumstances may vary, the rabbis are making an excellent point, namely that at least in a general sense, it is clearly immoral to spend money on non-essentials and ask struggling educational institutions and other families to subsidize the extravagant lifestyles of others.