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Toronto Jewish education board to streamline — a positive step?

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Mercaz, the board of Jewish education in Toronto, is laying off 10 employees and two contract workers, according to the Canadian Jewish News.

But, the organization says, it is not doing so because of the economic downturn. The move is simply part of a designed restructuring:

This year’s restructuring was deemed necessary by “lead professional and lay people at the federation, including lead lay people at the Mercaz,” English said. No educational professionals were involved in the decision, he added, but Epstein “was informed about our intentions a week to 10 days before the announcement was made.”

The decision was preceded by several months of ongoing discussions and was approved by the federation’s executive committee and board, English said.

Among concerns expressed by school leaders was the maintenance of financial assistance for supplementary schools, English said. He told The CJN that funding for supplementary schools and special needs education would be maintained and “hopefully” increased in the upcoming 2009-2010 fiscal year beginning July 1, depending on the amount of revenue raised in this year’s UJA campaign.

He said the federation is confident that it will reach or come very close to last year’s total of $66 million. As of last week, “close to $62 million” had been raised, English said.

For the 2008-2009 fiscal year, an extra $180,000 was budgeted for Jewish education, and the federation is “going to provide another $320,000” in the coming year, he said.

The money is already budgeted, and is “coming from donor revenue available to UJA Federation,” English added.

Not that layoffs are ever good or easy, but perhaps this is what nonprofits should be doing. Streamlining and becoming more efficient require difficult and often painful decisions. Now — when everything else seems to be falling apart — might be the easiest time to make those decisions.

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