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Federation Solution Not New

Federation Solution Not New

The latest in a series of bureaucratic responses to the day-school-and-yeshiva-funding nightmare comes from UJA-Federation of New York’s Deborah Joselow (“New Ways to Tackle the Day-School Tuition Crunch,” Opinion, Nov. 18). Joselow’s eponymous “new ways” in fact are old ways; commendable though UJA-Federation’s initiatives are, there is nothing “new” in hitting up foundations and going for the dugs of government.

We are in a time when Jewish parents find themselves increasingly caught between the Scylla of rising day-school tuitions and the Charybdis of declining real-dollar income. Add to this the continuing controversy surrounding the traditionally rather flaccid commitment on the part of the federation system to Jewish education, an issue that has been with the Jewish community for lo these many decades. What’s more, federation campaigns have been flat for years. 

The system is collapsing.

Were the UJA-Federation serious about “continuing to accept as part of our communal responsibilities” day-school affordability, it would go back to basics, starting with a long, hard, look at reallocations. Yes, it is yet true that the traditional day-to-day social-service delivery network does come from the federation system; some of the old stuff proves its worth, indeed, a century down the pike. But it is more than true that there is old stuff that we don’t need any more.  The debate is not one of “the soup kitchen versus Jewish education.”

The problem is that the federations have traditionally had heartburn and worse when the word “reallocations” is whispered.  Reallocations cause pain; they cause divisiveness. The federation model, one of consensus, does not lend itself to visionary approaches. The system has reacted with horror to the merest hint of reallocating resources, in a major way, to education.

If the federation system is serious about “new ways,” it ought go back to an “old”:  the historical basics of its allocations function.


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