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Can we afford day schools?

Gary Rosenblatt, editor and publisher of the New York Jewish Week, argues that the Jewish community needs to "recognize that, with the collapse of the economy, the American Jewish day school model is breaking, if not already broken."

We have to deal with a new reality, and that calls for revisiting and reassessing the sacred cows surrounding how we approach the education of our children — from pedagogical, social and financial points of view.

In future columns, I hope to deal with the range of efforts being undertaken in our community to deal with this crisis. For now, let’s focus on a few central facts:

*An American Jewish community obsessed with its survival has determined through numerous studies that the most successful means of maintaining Jewish identity and affiliation among young people is through a sustained Jewish day school education.

* The increasingly prohibitive costs of such an education, the lingering perception that day schools are primarily for the Orthodox, and the strongly held belief that the separation of church and state would be harmed if government provided tuition relief for parochial school families, has kept the issue from becoming a priority on our national agenda.

* In the traditional community, the belief that public schools and Hebrew schools are to be avoided at all costs has kept us from using our imagination and inventiveness in responding to a new, perhaps permanent, landscape of limited financial resources.

We need to think on a communal level which values and lifestyles we are willing to sacrifice and which are most important to keep.

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