When public schools shut down, Jewish day schools saw a tremendous opportunity to open the doors of Jewish education to new families.
That was the goal that launched the Our Heritage project, a new grant-matching initiative by the Menachem Education Foundation that seeks to bring Jewish public-school students into quality Jewish day schools. Developed in direct response to the COVID crisis, the Our Heritage project is designed to embrace this unique moment in time towards the long-term goal of increasing enrollment in Jewish Day Schools.
For many families, the COVID-19 crisis has inspired introspection and self-reflection, with people exploring the values that really matter in life. “The school shutdown has called into question the value of schooling in general,” says Rabbi Zalman Shnuer, Director of the Menachem Education Foundation. “Is it simply childcare or is school more meaningful in the formation of instilling values and spirituality?”
The first stage of the program, which launched this past fall, aimed to recruit 10 schools in a $25,000 matching grant challenge, contingent on enrolling at least 10 new students per school.
The program surpassed its goals with 13 enrolled schools and 183 new students – and counting. MEF’s Charidy campaign taking place now will help to increase the number of Jewish children receiving Torah-true Chinuch, and you can be part of it at charidy.com/mef.
The Shaloh House, a Chabad day school in Brighton, Massachusetts, has enrolled in the program. Rabbi Dan Rodkin, the school’s executive director, says that enrollment to Shaloh House surged even before the Our Heritage Program began during the first months of the Covid-19 outbreak.
He explains that in the months of April to June, parents from the surrounding public-school system started to complain on Facebook about how poorly the schools were handling remote learning. After one parent recommended Shaloh House, Rodkin says new enrollees came from as far as Texas to participate in the online curriculum. “During those three months, we doubled in size,” said Rodkin. “I had to hire three more teachers just to accommodate the new students.”
For some schools, the increase in enrollment this year has changed the game. Last year, the Academy of the Arts day school in California had 37 students enrolled. This year, they have 79. Rabbi Yossi Mintz, the director of the school, says that the Our Heritage grant, which the school utilized towards scholarships, has been critical in attracting new families who were on the fence about making the switch. “The grant has given us the ability to help parents who would not have otherwise been able to take on the financial responsibility of a day school tuition.”
“We are thrilled to be able to offer a quality Jewish and secular education to families in our community,” says Mintz. “Now that they have joined our community, we have a great responsibility to provide the highest quality program and care that will keep them here in subsequent years.”
After an extremely successful rollout of phase one of the Our Heritage program, Rabbi Shneur is looking to build on the momentum to create “a renaissance of Jewish day school education.” The multi-phase program has set out an ambitious goal is to reorient Jewish day schools towards new enrollments and ultimately generate interest and success that can lead to a national movement of day school enrollment.
The Our Heritage project has committed $271,249 in scholarships for new students. Help us give those students access to a Torah-true education by contributing to the Menachem Education Foundation’s annual matching Charidy Campaign, raising $500,000 now through Wednesday, Dec. 9 / 23 Kislev.
Help MEF fuel the momentum to give Jewish children the best possible Chinuch, today and always. Please donate now at charidy.com/mef.
Participating Schools in Our Heritage Phase 1:
Bader Hillel Academy, Milwaukee, WI
Chabad Early Learning Center & The Academy of the Arts and Sciences, Bayside, NY
Chabad Hebrew Academy, San Diego, CA
Desert Torah Academy, Las Vegas, NV
Jewish Institute of Queens, Queens, NY
JNY Day School, Toronto, ON
Mazal Jewish Day School, Brooklyn, NY
Shaloh House Jewish Day School, Brighton, MA
Silverstein Hebrew Academy, Great Neck, NY
Slater Torah Academy, New Orleans, LA
South Florida Jewish Academy, Coconut Creek, FL
Tamim Academy, Burlington, VT
The Academy of the Arts, Redondo Beach, CA
You can support this vital initiative by donating to MEF’s ongoing matching funds campaign at charidy.com/mef.