The start of a new school year next month is a milestone for every family. But as the kids get ready to hit the books again, it's not a bad moment to think about what sort of marks our community might be getting on its next education report card.
The good news is that quality educational resources are available for those who want to give their children the best possible Jewish education. Our day schools are among our best — as well as our most important — achievements as a community.
The bad news is that tuition at day schools is still so exhorbitant that many middle-class families do not consider them a viable option. Many in the community have discussed doing more to raise money to ensure that no child will be denied a day-school education because of the cost. The coming year will be one in which we hope such plans will become more than mere talk.
Even worse is the fact that because of a resounding failure in outreach and the secular bent of many American Jews, day schools continue to be rejected at any price. The coming year will be one in which, hopefully, the day-school movement will be marketed more effectively to a broader audience, and then become a reality for many.
Ironically, one of the reasons why it might be even harder to raise more money for day schools is linked to another Jewish crisis: the war on Israel. How do we adequately support Jewish education while also fulfilling our responsibility to aid Israel? At at time when funding is inherently limited, how do you choose between the two?
The short answer is that there is no alternative to trying to do both. Given the scope of devastation suffered by Israelis at the hands of Hezbollah terrorists, making the Israel Emergency Fund of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia a success is not an option, but an imperative. At the same time, this should not be a reason to table further plans to aid Jewish education. It's up to all of us to find a way to sustain all aspects of Jewish life.
Preparing college students, for example, to respond to an avalanche of anti-Israel propaganda they may encounter in the media and on their campuses is another issue that must be addressed.
To that end, Hillel, AIPAC and other Jewish groups are not sitting back and waiting for the assault to start before responding. These efforts deserve not only the funding they are getting from the national groups, but whatever local assistance our community can muster for campuses in our own area.
To gain passing marks on all of these issues will not be easy. But we need to remind ourselves that failure on any one of these points is simply unacceptable.