I write with great concern in response to the article, “Can Day Schools Survive?” (July 23) in which Tamar Snyder suggests that the days are numbered for day schools. There is no doubt that day schools are facing new pressures to meet a rising call for financial aid and that mega-donors prepared to commit to intensive, immersive and long-term strategies are too few. That said, these two realities in and of themselves do not warrant panic; rather, they are a reminder that a vibrant Jewish future requires the steady and patient partnership of schools, families, local funders and visionary leaders.
To cry “the sky is falling” is to tell only one small part of the day school story. While enrollment was down just over 4 percent in community day schools in 2009 (not 5.5 percent as reported), more than one-third of all community day schools grew during the same period of time. Noteworthy funding of informal Jewish education does not come at the expense of day school funding, as implied, but rather expands and strengthens the universe of Jewish educational opportunities for all.
This may be a challenging time for Jewish organizations, but it is also an exciting time filled with great opportunity for leadership, philanthropic investment and values clarification. There is work to be done and new strategies yet to emerge. Still, day schools have no equal when it comes to instilling Jewish literacy, Jewish life commitments, communal engagement and attachment to Israel, and this reality is compelling, engaging and well-worth the resources it takes to do it right.
It is a red herring to claim that the national conversation about Jewish day schools is one solely about cost: the real conversation about Jewish day school education is about value.
RAVSAK: The Jewish Community Day School Network