Pacific Jewish Center | Rabbi

The Rabbi on the Beach @ The Shul on the Beach

Tough Times for Private Schools and Yeshivas

My father is the Dean of a Jewish girls private school in New York. It is a girls Yeshiva called Ateres Bais Yaakov. The government provides no funding to run the school however there is grant money as well as some other federal and state programs which contribute to the school’s bottom line. The bulk of the budget is set off by tuition and donations. Last week my father told me about the recent economic situation’s effect on his school.

It has been on my mind since then. Today the Wall Street Journal has an article detailing the current pinch for private schools and their parents.

In the observant Jewish community nearly every single child is enrolled in private school (Yeshiva). This pinch is being felt more and more in our community. Tuition is a lot of money and when times are tough tuition takes a back seat. This in turn has an unsettling effect on the schools.

Times are tough for everyone. When times are tough there is less money for the non-profits, charities, synagogues and private education institutions. We need to be more careful with how our charity monies are allotted. There is a specific order by which the Torah teaches us to give tzedakah (charity). We are told that our primary obligation is to our close relatives. The next level of obligation is to Torah Scholars and the institutions that teach Torah. Yeshivas is certainly in this category. After this we look to further relatives, residents of your city and then residents of Jerusalem and then the rest of Israel. Then and only then are we to give for communal needs.

Unfortunately for most people who do have the funds to give charity they don’t follow these Halachic guidelines. People like to give to cool and exotic charities before they give to their Yeshivas. Sometimes at the expense of taking a cut in tuition so that they can give charity to places that are lower on the Tzedaka totem pole. This is wrong. Our Torah institutions are the basis of our entire community. These institutions cannot make it without our donations. We cannot forgo them and give charity to other projects so long as they are suffering.

Please remember the halachic precedence for charity giving and help our local Torah institutions navigate these difficult waters of our troubled economic times. You will be fulfilling the mitzva of Tzedaka in its proper function.

I cannot criticize the Jewish people for their incredible philanthropy and history of charity giving. Actions speak louder than any words. Tzedaka is a basic tenet of Judaism and is observed by almost all Jews regardless of level of observance. I am constantly amazed at the sheer number of public service and kindness organizations within the Jewish community that survive on charity alone. We all give charity. But we all want to do it right. Right?

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4 Responses

  1. […] went to a religious Jewish elementary school (in a previous incarnation of the school, my father was the Dean). We had a basketball team and we did wear shorts but one teammate of ours was a […]

  2. […] of the economic uncertainty in our country right now. A little while back, I wrote about how the Yeshivas and Day Schools for Jewish children and teens are being […]

  3. […] Speak Up! Economic Crisis Hitting Jewish Day Schools I blogged a little while back about the pinch being felt in Jewish Day School and Yeshivas. […]

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January 2009

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