We Have the Money

By: Rabbi Jay Kelman |

As summer approaches, day school parents will soon be getting notifications regarding tuition fees for next year. Undoubtedly, fees will—as they do each and every year—rise at two to three times the rate of inflation. This is to be expected as cost-cutting measures that may be employed in other industries can have little impact in a service industry such as education. Unless one wants to replace teachers in the classroom with some form of online learning, cost-cutting measures are just hard to come by.

As summer approaches, day school parents will soon be getting notifications regarding tuition fees for next year. Undoubtedly, fees will—as they do each and every year—rise at two to three times the rate of inflation. This is to be expected as cost-cutting measures that may be employed in other industries can have little impact in a service industry such as education. Unless one wants to replace teachers in the classroom with some form of online learning, cost-cutting measures are just hard to come by.

Enrollment will once again drop in our day school system. With high school fees hovering around $25,000 before any "extras,” it takes very little imagination to realize that a family with three children, earning $200,000 a year and paying full tuition, will have great difficulty making ends meet. With taxes of approximately $65,000 and tuition costing another $60,000, a family of five is left with $75,000 or so to pay for all other expenses! And the vast majority of Jewish families make substantially less than $200,000 a year.

Ironically, as school fees continue to rise, not only are middle class parents dropping out of the day school system, so are many of the wealthy. With the gap between the cost of a Jewish education and tuition at elite private schools narrowing, some parents are choosing the latter.

Millions are being spent on communal infrastructure, but it is not at all certain that enough Jews will care 30 years from now to make use of all our wonderful facilities.

I am well aware that the Toronto community gives more support to Jewish education than any other, and that there are many pressing needs besides education. So as we hear over and over again, there just is not enough money to solve this crisis. After all, how many times can we go back to the same few very wealthy and very generous people and ask for more? Communal funds are tapped out, and cutting tuition in half across the board would cost approximately one hundred million dollars a year.

However, it must be noted that not one additional penny need be raised to enable Jewish education in this city to be completely free. A perusal of available public records will demonstrate that there are billions of dollars sitting in the charitable foundations of well-known Jewish philanthropists. That money has already been given away. Unfortunately, very little actually goes to charity each year, as capital preservation reigns supreme. If we could change that mindset, the crisis could be solved with the stroke of a pen.

Ah, but if these monies are depleted, how can we address all other future needs?

The simple answer is that nothing need change. The amounts sitting in foundations are so large that everything can be paid for—provided one does not feel that capital must be preserved indefinitely. Furthermore, as I have previously argued,  as a condition of benefiting from day school fees that have been slashed or eliminated, parents can be required to purchase life insurance plans at a fraction of the cost of a Jewish education; the proceeds of which can replenish any "capital depletion".

There can be no greater legacy than creating "Birthright Education.” Doing so will lead not only to a more engaged Jewish community, but a more giving one, allowing us to support even more worthy causes.