Debra Nussbaum Cohen’s June 24 article (“Major Effort To Promote Day Schools Shows Mixed Results”) captured the vital importance of day schools and the Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education’s critical role in strengthening them as a major community asset. The business of Jewish day schools is not just a numbers game. Rather, it’s about the heart and soul of the Jewish future. PEJE helps day schools maximize their impact on the next generation of leaders. Its current focus is on the very real challenges of affordability and sustainability.
We would like to make the following clarifications:
While it’s true that some of PEJE’s original funders have moved on to other causes, our newer funders are unequivocally supportive of PEJE and its current direction — both under the leadership of Josh Elkin and the incoming Executive Director Amy Katz.
PEJE has had contributions averaging $4-5 million dollars per year over its 14 years. We have almost exactly the same number of donors as we did when PEJE started. Some original core funders have been replaced by new donors.
Leonard Saxe was quoted as saying that only 3–4 % of all non-Orthodox Jewish children are receiving a day school education. We believe a much more relevant measure of our success is the percentage of non-Orthodox students in grades 1-8 who are receiving any formal Jewish education. That number is estimated to be between 12% – 13%.
We should be happy that the numbers have not significantly diminished in the face of the affordability challenge. Our goal is to create financial sustainability for day schools; our initiatives focus on improving the sophistication and capacity to secure the additional dollars and students essential for long-term viability and affordability.
In the weeks and months ahead we will continue our efforts. We recognize that the challenges are huge and they require the active involvement of all who care about intensive Jewish education. We are intensively collaborating with other day school networks as well as central agencies for Jewish education, federations, camps, and such new initiatives as PJ Library. Jewish day school education will be an indispensable factor in shaping our future leaders and our future communities.
PEJE Board Chair
Michael J. Bohnen