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Are Lay Leaders Fiddling While Yeshivas Burn?

Are Lay Leaders Fiddling While Yeshivas Burn?

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

The lack of sustainability of what is now a $2 billion educational system that caters primarily to middle-class and lower-class students should have been anticipated long ago, when the number of kids in private Jewish schools began to skyrocket, as far back as the 1950s.

But a new report by Yeshiva University’s Institute of University-School Partnership suggests that even today, “lackadaisical lay leadership and weak boards of directors at the schools seem content with making half-hearted attempts at creating economically viable institutions.”

The Survey of the Governance Practices of Jewish Day Schools is based on the assessment of lay leaders themselves via questionnaires submitted to board members at major Jewish schools in North America. Only about one third of schools who received the surveys, or about 71 institutions responded. But those who did were refreshingly candid.

From YU’s press release:

• Only about one-third of presidents strongly agree that board members give their schools their top personal philanthropic gifts or that they generate financial support for school events.

• Only about one-quarter of presidents feel that board members are actively engaged in identifying and cultivating potential major donors for their institutions.

• Only about 24 percent of presidents strongly agree that their schools have a comprehensive long-range financial plan.

“Boards spend half their time schmoozing,” Harry Bloom, the report’s primary author told JTA’s Jacob Berkman. “If they are spending their time schmoozing, then they are not spending their time on planning.”

The Jewish Week’s Carolyn Slutsky reports further on this tomorrow. There is more about the report, including a video of Bloom discussing it, on YU’s Web site.

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