By Rabbi Moshe Lieblich, Principal, Hamesivta, Lubavitcher Yeshiva
I want to share with you my personal experience.
It was time for me to enroll my child to school, I heard all the horror stories about meeting the board of tuition so I decided to come prepared.
They had asked me for $5,200, so I sat down with my wife, and we went over our budget and saw that the most we can offer was $4,000, at that time I just purchased a condo and we were in a tight spot.
So I brought him my story, I was well prepared… or was I? I came into the room, there were about 4-5 people there, the room was silent, there was fear and dread in the room, no one was talking, we were all waiting to get this over with…
The woman before me came out of the room sobbing, and that’s when I really got scared.
But I thought I was prepared, so I came into the room, sat down and showed him my papers, and said that I discussed it with my wife and the most we can afford is $4,000.
He looked at me and started yelling at me that I have a nerve to come into his office and make him an offer, he said that the real price is close to $9,000 and he was already giving me a discount, and how do I have the chutzpah to ask him for a bigger discount?
He said that every penny he gives off is money that he has to raise, and I have a chutzpa to ask him to raise more money for my kid…
I tried talking to him and explaining to him my situation… he didn’t even let me talk… after 15 minutes we didn’t end up coming to a conclusion so I left.
I remember walking out of there trying to look strong but inside I was crying, I remember walking away broken, dejected, humiliated, and I remember thinking, if this is what it’s like when I have 3 kids, how will I manage when I have more?
A few years ago I had an amazing Rebbe working in my school, he had a family of 5 kids and he was making a salary of $42,000 a year, and he was 3 months behind in pay. Sad to say, he had to quit teaching, he isn’t a Rebbe anymore.
I’m in chinuch for 12 years now and I have dealt with over 200 families, I see first-hand what it means to make payroll at the end of the month, I face my teachers every day and I see the stress they have every week wondering, “will I get paid this week?”
I see first-hand the effect it has on families and my students, I had mothers crying to me on the phone that they don’t have money for food, I had a father tell me that he doesn’t have the money for the a gemara for his son, I have seen the devastating effect it has on our kids.
Now I didn’t choose to take on this project but someone had to do it.
The plan I’m going to present to you, I will present it in 3 parts, I will first tell you the plan, I will tell you how I will do it, and then I will tell you why I called you here tonight.
What is the plan?
I would like to introduce you to an organization that I am starting called the “Jewish Education Scholarship Fund.”
My plan is to create an endowment fund of $100,000,000 over the next 10 years.
What that means is that over the next 10 years we would raise $100,000,000 and we would invest any money that we raise and we would only use the interest.
The money that we raise will stay in the account for generations to come, we would only use the interest and dividends that we get from it, we would have at least 2 firms representing us and investing for us, and we would invest it conservatively to make sure we don’t lose it.
Based on history we are expecting a return average of 4% a year; that would mean $4,000,000 a year,
Our fund would also help families make full use of the government voucher program, basically what that is, is that there is a government program for low income families if both parents are working, it’s an after school program that the government gives money per child.
It’s a complicated process to go through with a lot of paper work, so we will have a team of experts focused just on that.
If we can get 300-400 kids a year on that program that would bring in another $2,000,000-$3,000,000 to the schools, together with government grants we would help schools get, and fundraising, we would hopefully help bring in to the schools around $7,000,000 a year.
Now, there would be a few conditions for the schools to get the money:
1: we would have a tuition cap of $7,000 a year. The reason for that is that it already happened before with such scholarship funds for schools and camps that as soon as there is a fund they raise tuition and the only ones to gain are the people at the top, My goal is to help struggling families.
2: another condition for the school to get the money would be that they need to pay teachers a starting salary of $70,000 a year. Our teachers work hard and deserve to get paid a decent salary.
There is no reason we shouldn’t be able to attract quality teachers and the ones we have shouldn’t have to work second and third jobs to pay for food..
With this plan, the schools would have enough money to pay for it, make the cheshbon: if there are 25 students in the class and they get $7,000 per kid then they are getting $175,000, if they pay the teacher $70,000 they would have another $105,000 for other expenses.
I want to be very clear that I am not taking over the fundraising of the schools at all, what I am doing is helping struggling families and raising the salaries of teachers, the school will continue to do whatever fundraising they are doing, whether it’s a Chinese auction, a dinner or anything else, my goal is to help struggling families and raise the teacher’s salary.
I cannot say this enough: we want it to be an independent organization. All parents who care about their children’s future, and anyone who cares about the future of our youth, will be able to feel secure in donating to an independent, transparent organization. This is where all of us should be giving our monthly maaser money to.
We are not looking to manage the schools at all, there will be however some basic standards that the school will need to keep to be considered a school, like basic student safety, a standard curriculum etc.
The way it would work would be as follows, the parents would approach the school for registration, if they can’t afford to pay the full $7,000 they would come to our fund, we would have an independent company who would treat them humanely and with respect go over their finances and make a decision.
The fund would then give the school whatever the parent can’t pay, if a family is eligible for vouchers then we would help them navigate the system and sign them up for the voucher program.
The voucher program is a program available to many people in our community, when I went to pay for tuition they didn’t even mention it.
if we can get 300-400 kids on vouchers that’s another $2-3 million dollars for our schools.
The plan is a 10 year plan to raise the full $100,000,000 but we will not need to wait the full 10 years till we can start using it, as soon as we have $1,000,000 we will start distributing and build on that, the more that comes in the more we will distribute, and work from there, people will start seeing relief way before the fund is fully funded.
Grants is another thing we would put a lot of work into, each school is hiring people to do research for grants and paying grant writers, if we work together as a community we can have an office and hire the best grant writers in the country, instead of writing for 1 school they can write for all the schools together.
How will we get the money?
The plan is really simple, I will go to 100 wealthy people and ask them to donate $1,000,000 or $100,000 over the next 10 years, I will explain to them how the money will last forever and how they are saving an entire community, and that every million dollars will sponsor a full class forever.
I know it sounds like a dream and many people are telling me it’s unrealistic, but I am determined to make it happen, if I can’t get 100 people I will get 200 people to give $500,000 over the next 10 years.
I will try private people and foundations, if someone can give $10,000 or $20,000 a year, that would be $100,000 or $200,000 over 10 years.
I also spoke to all the rabbonim and many of them said that they would come with me anywhere in the world to help me make this happen. I am determined and with Hashem’s help and the Rebbe’s brochos we will make it happen.
Why did I call you to a meeting?
I started reaching out to donors and got some very positive feedback, one very wealthy donor, to quote, said, “Thank you for considering us for a partnership role in this amazing project, your vision is noble, the cause is just, and in my opinion, long overdue.”
And there are many others, however what I’m seeing over and over again is that they want to see it come from the community, not just from 1 guy with a dream.
They said it’s a huge project and they will be happy to be part of it if they see it coming from the community as a whole, the parents, the teachers, the schools and the donors, B”H I have all the Rabbonim of the community supporting this project, Rabbi Avrohom Osdoba, Rabbi Yakov Schwei and Rabbi Yosef Braun, and many more.
But what I need now is the community support, so first of all the fact that you all came out here today and there is another 2000 people watching it online is a very strong message to donors that the community is suffering from this crisis and that the community is behind me and is hoping that this will succeed.
Second, showing up here is not enough, if you can make a donation to the fund, if 1000 people give $10 a month over the next 10 years we will raise $1,200,000 if 10000 people give 36 a month over the next 10 years we will raise $4.320,000 if you can give more is even better, those that can give $1,000 a month that would be amazing, but most important is to give something.
I need to be able to come to donors and show them that we have a community that is hurting and they are backing my project, we need to show the schools that we as a community are hurting and the people of the community want them to work together and united to solve this crisis, if I can show that I have a strong support from the community then we can make this happen.
Another issue I would address is to work with our elected officials and try to pass legislation to help our community, we would strongly encourage everyone to go out and vote, we are a growing community and imagine the power we will have if 15000-20000 people show up to vote, we will have a real voice on the city and state level and we will be able to accomplish a lot.
Earlier today I spoke with our state senator Jesse Hamilton and he committed to meet with me to put together legislation to help our community, I told him it wasn’t fair that we are being taxed twice, we are paying property tax that funds public schools and then we need to pay tuition to our schools.
He said he is happy to work with me to put forward any proposal we would want, we have to understand that we voted them in and they work for us… but we have to show up to vote…
In summary, I will continue to work on a few fronts, and I need your help.
• Creating and growing the endowment fund
• I would help people with the voucher program
• I will work with the schools to maximize our funds from government and private foundations
• I will work with our city and state officials to pass legislation to help us out.
The ultimate goal is to raise a generation of children that are happy, healthy and serving the oibershter, that’s what we all want, we want a healthy community with healthy marriages and healthy children and I ask you to join me in my efforts to come together as a community and solve this together.
Please go online to www.jewisheducationscholarshipfund.org and make your donation, show your support, and follow up on our progress.
Thank you so much for coming out here tonight, it’s the first step in uniting the entire community for a common cause, may Hashem see the achdus and bench us with the coming of moshiach speedily in our days.
Full Event Video