The recent commentary by Jewish News Managing Editor Leisah Woldoff (“The cost of a committed Jewish life,” Jewish News, April 11) offers a stark illustration of the cost of being Jewish for young engaged Jewish families in the Greater Phoenix area. Ms. Woldoff tallies the costs of having one child in day school and one in preschool. In addition, she includes the costs of synagogue membership and she lists other expense items such as membership in the JCC and purchasing kosher food.
Her commentary goes on to express appreciation to the Jewish Tuition Organization and all those who make tax-credit contributions to the JTO to help mitigate the high cost of day school tuition through needs-based scholarships. Even though my children did not receive a Jewish day school education, I am pleased to be able to participate in the tuition tax credit program to assist those who want to provide Jewish day school education for their children.
I find it somewhat distressing that the Jewish News article about the recently announced allocations by the Jewish Community Association (“$1.3M allocated to local programs,” March 28) reports that the 2013 JCA campaign resulted in $2,861,792 over which the JCA had full discretion to allocate. After a $250,000 grant for support of Israel, the JCA was left with $2,611,792 available for local allocations. Of this amount, only $99,000 or 3.8 percent was allocated to local Jewish day schools. This amounts to $165 per enrolled local Jewish day school student. At the same time, we learn that $525,000, or more than five times the amount of Jewish day school support, was allocated to the Valley of the Sun Jewish Community Center.
I realize that of the $338,208 included as part of the JCA’s campaign and reported to be donor-designated gifts that it is possible that a portion may have been designated by donors to be granted to Jewish day school education. However, of the nondesignated gifts that make up 90 percent of the JCA’s annual fundraising campaign, less than 4 percent of the general support from the community went to Jewish day school education.
It is disappointing to see such a low level of commitment from the JCA’s 2013 Campaign for Jewish Needs directed to Jewish day school education, which is arguably one of the most effective gateways to lifelong Jewish learning and future Jewish engagement. Studies have repeatedly shown that the most effective ways of ensuring future Jewish involvement of young people is through Jewish day school education, overnight Jewish camp, and time spent in a meaningful Israel experience.
Of the total allocable dollars available for JCA grants, approximately 54 percent was allocated and approximately 46 percent was retained by the JCA for its own operating costs, overhead and undisclosed programs. Perhaps, if a greater portion of the 2013 campaign had been allocated, we could only hope that more might have been directed toward local Jewish day school education.
Yes, Ms. Woldoff is correct. The cost of being Jewish, especially for young families, is high. And, for far too many, perhaps prohibitively high. So there is even more reason to help young families fully participate in Jewish life before further dilution and disengagement wreaks havoc on the future of our Jewish community.
Stu Turgel, former president of the Jewish Community Foundation, is a development consultant for Dental Lifeline Network and a faculty associate with the Arizona State University Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation.