Orthodox Leaders Urge Welfare Funds Give Top Priority to “save” Jewish Day Schools

Two leaders of Orthodox Jewry have called on the American Jewish community for “a massive effort to raise millions of dollars to save and expand the Jewish day schools.” Rabbi Louis Bernstein, president of the Rabbinical Council of America and Rabbi Fabian Schoenfeld, first vice president, directed-their plea primarily at Jewish federations and welfare funds which were urged to “reorder their priorities in the light of the recent Supreme Court decision outlawing all forms of governmental aid to schools under religious auspices.”

The rabbinic leaders said that secular Jewish agencies and federations were prime movers in the legal contest that resulted in the Supreme Court’s June 25 ruling which declared unconstitutional all substantial forms of state aid for non-public schools. The decision appeared to doom all future efforts to obtain such aid on constitutional grounds.

“You have won the fight,” Rabbis Bernstein and Schoenfeld said in a statement issued after the close of the Rabbinical Council’s annual convention and addressed to secular Jewish organizations. “You are now challenged to produce from within the Jewish community the necessary resources to assure the continued existence of these schools.” The rabbis warned that “Only positive intensive Jewish education can cope with the increased incidence of assimilation and intermarriage. Only they can safeguard the future of a viable Jewish community. If they fall, there will be no secular agencies; there will be no federations and there will be no meaningful Jewish life.”

According to the Rabbinical Council leaders there are some 420 Jewish day schools in the U.S. with an enrollment of 100,000. But they said, “the inability of more and more parents to meet the increased costs of tuition have brought the day school movement to a critical stage. Unless communal funds are immediately made available, many of these schools may pass out of existence.” To avert this, the rabbis said that Jewish federations and welfare funds must give precedence in their allocations to the day school movement. “Intensive education must take precedence over every welfare program currently being conducted by the Jewish community,” they said:

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