Recently a father in West Bloomfield wrote an essay to explain why he and his wife could not attend the day school in which I happen to be the Head of School. He acknowledges the desire to send his children to Hillel and even acknowledges its excellent reputation. But they cannot afford it. Well, I have good news, they can and so can just about any other Jewish family who wants to, at least in the Detroit area.
I cannot speak for any other community other than Detroit. In our community we have philanthropists and foundations that believe it is not a burden to give tzedakah to enable Jewish children to receive a Jewish education. In fact, our donors recognize it takes the entire Jewish community to raise a Jewish child and take on this responsibility as a sacred act. Our many donors, along with the Jewish Federation of Detroit, make it possible for 58% of our students to receive an education they would otherwise not be able to afford. In addition, I assure everyone that the families who receive tuition assistance not only have integrity, they recognize the importance of a Jewish day school education for their children, families and future of the American Jewish community. All of these families make some level of sacrifice to send their children to our day school.
In addition, Hillel just received a transformative gift from the William Davidson Foundation that will provide each family with a grant up to $36,000. This grant increases by $1,000 each year up to $36,000, effectively lowering the real tuition dollars parents will need to pay. This new grant program brings predictability to the tuition process along with stability. While tuition will increase modestly each year, the value of the grant will outpace the increase, effectively lowering the real dollars families will have to pay the longer they stay at Hillel. This program is primarily targeted to families who do not qualify for financial assistance. So many of the middle class are squeezed out, and this program addresses this.
Between our generous tuition assistance program and the implementation of the Davidson Grant, Hillel should be affordable to almost everyone who wants this education for their children. We are committed to breaking down any financial barriers. This father also expressed concern that tuition assistance programs have bankrupted other schools and he does not want to be a part of that. I certainly appreciate his concern. Fortunately Hillel has a strong fiscal history and is managed with great responsibility. In addition, our programs are all strategically planned so that any tuition assistance program or grants program will not jeopardize the financial stability of the school.
Our donors and our leaders want families to take advantage of tuition assistance or the Davidson Grant program. We want Jewish children at Hillel – the future depends on it.
Finally, this family feels they can provide the necessary Jewish education at home for their children. That is outstanding. Jewish education and living begins in the home. However, their background and knowledge are unique. Most parents today cannot provide that level of opportunity. In addition, I would humbly suggest that it is certainly easier for them while their children are young. I am not sure it will be as easy as they get older. They are also possibly depriving their children of a Jewish social life with like- minded friends/families who are committed to similar values.
Yes, it is a commitment to send your children to a Jewish day school. Yes it is costly. Yes, for most it does require giving up on some or even many extras. But since when did anything of great value and worth come easily? A day school education is not only a priceless gift for your children, it is for the community. And I am confident that when the Pew study is analyzed in greater detail, it will once again reinforce that those who attended a day school have the greatest Jewish identification and patterns of Jewish living and values in the survey.