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Endowing Day Schools

In his op-ed, Rabbi Ari Segal portrays the quandary that most Jewish day schools, and especially Jewish high schools, find themselves in today in regard to their middle-income families (“The 1% Solution,” January 2). Tuition increases have well exceeded rises in wages, cost of living has increased greatly and middle-income families with multiple children in day school are simply not able to keep up.

Six years ago, with generous funding from the Jim Joseph Foundation, BJE and the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles embarked on a unique project that targeted five Jewish high schools focused on the building of endowments. (After all, non-Jewish private schools have, for decades, been building endowments; why shouldn’t Jewish schools do the same?)

To date, the five schools have collectively raised more than $16 million (on their way to a goal of $17 million) for endowment; a foundation, the Simha & Sara Lainer Day School Endowment Fund, provided a 25% match, adding $4.25 million. Bottom line: By June, $21.25 million will have been raised, and more important, each school now has a growing endowment fund that will generate distributions for tuition assistance in perpetuity. Are the schools done? Of course not: Endowments must continue to expand and grow to meet the needs of the future.

While Segal’s proposal is an interesting one, Jewish day schools still need a reliable and predictable income stream each year in order to balance their yearly budget. This is a model for other communities to consider (New York in fact recently launched its own Day School Challenge Fund). An additional proposal to Segal’s might also be that families receiving subsidies are asked or encouraged to leave 1% of their estate to the day school’s endowment fund in their will — expressing their gratitude to the school by providing a legacy for future generations.

Arlene Agress

Director, Los Angeles High School Affordability Initiative

Itamar Harari

Director, Center for Excellence in Day School Education

Los Angeles

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