My father jokes that Day School tuition is the best contraception. He is a urologist so that’s saying something. Years ago when he said it I would laugh embarrassedly. But as my friends have had children and I’ve heard more than one say, “We’d like to have a third child, or a fourth, but now that we’ve decided to send our children to Day School we are not having another,” I see how true it is.
An old friend confided that she and her husband have planned their children’s education so that each could reap the benefits of the Day School education that she and her husband had each received. They have two children but they can’t afford for both children to be in Day School at the same time. So they cobble together other options – an excellent public middle school, day care instead of Jewish preschool. A Sophie’s choice of Jewish education. I vacillated between being profoundly moved at the lengths they were willing to go to ensure that both their children were Jewishly educated despite not being able to afford it, and being horrified at them having to choose which of their children had the greater need for Day School.
The reason this is on my mind is that I recently attended my high school reunion (a Jewish high school) and of the 50 classmates who attended, almost every single one was giving their children a Day School education and/or a Jewish high school education. We joked that if you added up the tuition bills for everyone in the room it would be astronomical. Those of more modest means said that they literally spend all their money on Jewish education for their kids. It is incredibly impressive, but it’s far from funny.
I realize that I am telling you something you already know because so many of you have shared similar stories. The question is how can we help? What can we as a community do to make Jewish Day School and high school an affordable necessity (NOT an option) for Jewish parents?
Our Jewish leaders who are in Baltimore this week for the GA take heed: we know you have heard this countless times before but you, and we, must find a way to make Day School education affordable for all Jewish families. Our Jewish future depends on it.