Jewish leaders seeking more funds for day schools Local Catholic effort is noted as a model dTC

December 31, 1997|By Debbie M. Price | Debbie M. Price,SUN STAFF

Noting that the Archdiocese of Baltimore recently pledged tens of millions of dollars to improve its schools, a group of rabbis and lay leaders is asking The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore to increase its financial support for Jewish day schools.

The group, which calls itself Advocates for Leadership in Educational Funding, is seeking a threefold increase in The Associated's annual allocation for the private day schools that teach religious and secular courses.

The Associated's annual campaign last year raised about $24 million for Jewish agencies here and in Israel. The organization distributes $30 million a year, including designated endowments.

Last year, The Associated allocated a total of more than $1 million to nine Jewish day schools in the Baltimore area, according to organization officials.

That amount represents about $196 per student, according to Larry Cohen, co-chairman of the Advocates for Leadership in Educational Funding. The Baltimore contribution is about $400 less per student than the average contribution that other Jewish communities give to their day schools, Cohen says.

The group is asking The Associated to increase its total contribution by about $1.5 million a year to bring funding for day schools in Baltimore up to the national average.

Less than 5 percent of the local annual allocation goes to day schools. Similar organizations in the nation allocate about 12 percent to schools in their communities, Cohen said.

"Just as the archdiocese has launched a fund-raising campaign to help subsidize children who go to Catholic schools, we believe the same thing should be done for the Jewish schools," said Cohen. "The Associated should be the leader in raising that sum to help families who want their children to have a Jewish education."

Searle Mitnick, chairman of the Jewish education budget committee for The Associated, said that the organization has been "working very hard to increase funding for Jewish education in general and day schools in particular," but that it is limited by its overall obligations.

"Education is a top priority, but any increase has to be done consistent with our other responsibilities to 18 other agencies," said Mitnick.

Mitnick declined to specify a target goal for increased funding.

More than 70 parents, rabbis and children gathered last night on the final night of Hanukkah on the icy lawn of the Park Heights Avenue home of Ann and Morris Cohen to light the eighth candle on a 5-foot-high menorah and to publicize their cause.

Jay Bernstein, also a co-chairman of Advocates for Leadership in Educational Funding, recalled the significance of Hanukkah, the celebration of the triumph of the ancient Jews over the forces that sought "total assimilation," and challenged The Associated to "join the battle against [modern] assimilation by adequately funding the day schools."

Many of those at the candle-lighting have children who attend the day schools at costs that range from $4,000 to $7,500 a year per child.

Several parents said, however, they do not count the costs and are willing to sacrifice not only to provide their children with quality education but also to give them the knowledge necessary to preserve the Jewish culture.

"You need a solid Jewish education to maintain your Jewish identity," said Larry Cohen, whose three children attend day schools. "And you shouldn't have to be wealthy to provide your children with a Jewish education."

Pub Date: 12/31/97

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