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October 15, 2004 - Image 46

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2004-10-15

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

World

Record Investment

Boston day schools to benefit from $45 million gift.

URIEL HEILMAN
Jewish Telegraphic Agency

New York
wish educators hope one of the
largest gifts ever for Jewish educa-
tion in America will prompt
other philanthropists to follow suit.
The $45 million donation from a
group of anonymous families is intend-
ed to improve Jewish day school educa-
tion in Boston. The money will be
spent over five years, with $30 million
divided equally among three schools
and the remaining $15 million desig-
nated for a tuition scholarship fund
and grants for innovative educational
projects.
Jewish community professionals
hailed the move, announced Monday,
as a historic investment. Jewish educa-
tors say they hope other philanthropists
will now step up to transform day
school education across the country.
"We've been dreaming about days
like this," Barry Schrage, president of
the Combined Jewish Philanthropies
(CJP), said at a news conference
Monday in Boston. "The grant truly
represents a change in the way the
American Jewish community under-
stands education."
The pledge, called CJP's Peerless
Excellence Project, was announced at
the annual conference of the
Partnership for Excellence in Jewish
Education, held in Boston from
Sunday through Tuesday.
The gift's primary beneficiaries will
be the Solomon Schechter Day School
of Greater Boston, the Rashi School
and Maimonides School. They are the
Boston area's three largest Jewish day
schools, representing the Conservative,
Reform and Orthodox movements,
respectively.
"It's not merely a gift; it's an invest-
ment,' said Lisa Rosenbaum, a member
of Maimonides' executive committee.
"We're being goaded to think bigger. "
Maimonides, the oldest and largest
of Boston's Jewish day schools, with
approximately 625 students, is in the
process of coming up with a plan to
spend its $10 million — an amount
equal to the school's annual budget.

je

See Editor's Notebook, page 5

ITN

10/15

2004

46

school education."
There are 14 Jewish day schools in the
Boston area serving a total of 2,600
students, 1,400 of them at the three
schools slated to receive the gifts.
Day-school enrollment in Boston has
risen significantly in recent years
together with the opening of several
new schools. The area's schools now
have excess capacity.
One of the areas not addressed by
the $45 million gift is teacher salaries,
which educators say still fall short of
the level needed to recruit and retain
good teachers. None of the $15 million
portion of the gift will go toward
teachers' salaries, though Peerless
Excellence officials did not say whether
or not the three primary beneficiaries
would be able to include requests for
salary raises in their $10 million spend-
Eighth-grade science teacher Katerina Sherman teaches students at Maimonides
ing plans.
School in Brookline, Mass.
The decision by the anonymous fami-
lies to make the $45 million donation
to day-school education — an amount
rare
even for gifts to Universities and
Changing Culture
the line" and improve the schools per-
museums
— came in a "magic
manently,
he
said.
"This
is
really
a
The executive director of the Boston-
moment," CJP's Schrage said.
vision for what the Jewish community
based Partnership for Excellence in
Deliberations about a substantial gift
can be around the country."
Jewish Education, Rabbi Joshua Elkin,
for
day-school education had been
Yossi Prager, North American execu-
said the $10 million grants constituted
under
way for about five years, Schrage
tive director of Avi Chai, one of the
the largest-ever gifts for operational use
said,
but
it wasn't until one family
Jewish foundation world's biggest char-
in day-school education. The $45 mil-
decided
to
triple its intended pledge
lion total dwarfed even capital gifts and ities, said the schools' challenge will be
that
the
project
suddenly reached
to
build
a
system
that
will
use
the
day-school endowments, he said.
record proportions.
money effectively but also can survive
"There's been nothing quite at this
Officials would not say how many
once the funding period is over.
level," Elkin said. "It breaks the glass
families were involved, only that they
"Either they've got to build in an
ceiling of how much it is possible to
were local.
effective fund-raising program or find
invest in a day school."
"The prerequisite is a couple of passionate
"It presents an unprecedented oppor- ways of creating programming that's
donors
who believe they can change the
sustainable beyond the term of the
tunity that I believe will be something
world,"
Schrage said. 'We expect that many
funding,"
he
said.
that encourages other communities and
more
donors
will begin to see the schools as a
Avi
Chai
has
spent
tens
of
millions
of
other donors to think about ways to
positive place to make an investment"
dollars on grants to Jewish day schools.
invest in their day schools," he added.
Philanthropist Michael Steinhardt, the real-
It also operates an interest-free loan
The money comes with some strings
estate
magnate behind countless "Jewish ren-
program for capital improvements at
attached: Funds are not to be spent on
aissance'
projects, such as Birthright Israel,
day schools that has doled out approxi-
capital improvements, and the goal is
noted
that
the vast majority of Jewish parents
mately $56 million over the past five
to use the money to institute perma-
still
do
not
send their children to Jewish day
years.
nent improvements at the schools, not
schools.
Prager
said
the
$45
million
gift
merely give them a five-year boost,
About 91 percent of Orthodox children go
should serve as a model not only for
according to Gil Preuss, director of the
to day schools or yeshivas, but less than 20
Excellence Project.
investment in day-school operations
percent of Conservative children and 4 per-
but because of the role Boston's federa-
"We've challenged the schools to
cent of Reform children go to day schools,
tion, CJP, played in brokering the deal.
think carefully about their vision and
according
to the National Jewish Population
"The role of the federation was not
come up with a plan for implementing
Survey
2000-01.
it," Preuss said.
as a giver, but as an ally or advocate for
day schools," Prager noted. "That
"The idea is not just to have excel-
should be a comfortable role for day-
lent schools for five years, but to shift



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