The best investment in Jewish continuity

by Maskil on October 21, 2007

I’ve been an admirer of Mr Michael Steinhardt and his brand of Jewish philanthropy since I became aware of his involvement in the Taglit-Birthright Israel program, something I wish had been around when I was of that age. (I’m not just saying this because I’d like to find a patron). As Jay Michaelson points out in the article, Mr Steinhardt has set the gold standard when it comes to Jewish giving.

My understanding is that – apart from the Taglit-Birthright Israel program itself – the most bang for the buck in the field of Jewish giving is coming from activities centred around youth. More specifically, Jewish day schools, but also the whole aspect of Jewish camping, scouting and youth groups. Is Mr Steinhardt considering (or does he already) invest in these endeavours?

While each of the major streams within Judaism has its own networks of Jewish Day Schools, something I’d like to see is an international non-denominational Jewish Day Schools network, offering a consistent “entry-level” Jewish education to whoever requires it. In addition to an above-average secular education, these schools should provide Hebrew and Jewish studies classes, but leaving religion to be dealt with at home and in the synagogue. So, somewhere between the Ben-Gamla charter schools and conventional day schools, but with no bias towards any of the Jewish denominations.

Apart from consistency and the cultural and non-denominational approach, it is essential that attendance be subsidised by philanthropists and the wider Jewish community, to ensure that the education is available to all who want it for their children, without cost being a prohibitive factor. While I understand that there are many who would not – as a matter of principle – send their children to a faith-based school, I believe there are many who would if finances permitted.

I see this as the best investment we could make in Jewish continuity.

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