Government provides aid to Jewish schools in Australia, Britain and Canada – and it is high time that the Jewish community in America demands the same. Undoubtedly, if implemented, the support would make a tremendous impact on Jewish continuity efforts.
American Jews intermarry at a rate of nearly 50%, assimilation is at an all-time high – and it appears that education is the primary path to ensure Jewish continuity. According to sociologist Steven Cohen, Jewish school attendance increases a Jewish child’s likelihood of marrying another Jew by 14 percentage points. Naturally it also impacts other arenas of an individual’s Jewish identity. What issue today poses a larger threat to the American Jewish community than the sweeping tide of assimilation? In years past, certain Jewish organizations argued about the importance of a separation of church and state. Clearly, this concern pales in comparison to the fact that American Jewry is voluntarily withering away.
Education isn’t cheap – tuition at American Jewish schools averages $14,000 a year, and it’s a heavy burden to pay for many parents. Lowering costs makes a big difference – an experiment last decade at a Cleveland Jewish day school showed that cutting tuition from roughly $10,000 to around $5,500 led to an enrollment increase of 20% over three years. And why should Jews be taxed to pay for public schools which don’t provide a curriculum geared towards securing our people’s future?
It appears that slowly Jewish organizations are rethinking their opposition to public support for religious schools. The Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans recently became the first in the country to endorse private school vouchers. But more action needs to be taken much faster as every year we lose more and more Jews. Government aid for Jewish schools is a cause which anyone concerned about the future of American Jewry must universally advocate for.
For me, as a parent, owning my own business and living in New York City, I pay approximately 45% of my income in taxes – and on top of that I pay $20,000+ (in post-tax dollars) per child for yeshiva (Jewish education) for my children. Why shouldn’t I receive tax credits for public school which my kids don’t attend?
As Ze’ev Jabotinsky said in 1937, “Jewish religious tradition is not an archaic object of our history, but an active pulsating power which exists today and will continue for all eternity.”