NewsBits: It’s a Slow Week, But…

Making news this last week of summer (in the U.S.)

from The Riverdale Press:

Observant Jews forced to choose: school or rent?

‘Parents have to choose between having a home foreclosed on or having a Jewish education. It’s a very tough decision,’ said a rabbi who has been inundated with calls for help.

from The Jewish Journal:

Milken Middle School Gets New Campus

Students at Milken Community High School’s middle school were awarded a first-class upgrade when school opened Monday, as they left behind classrooms in trailers on rented church property and took ownership of a $30 million, high-tech, terraced hillside campus.

…Several other private schools in Los Angeles have recently opened or are planning new middle school campuses, making Milken’s long-planned upgrade timely in its bid to be competitive with top independent schools.

This year, Jewish day schools have seen enrollment drop as the economic slump tightens its grip around families, philanthropists and institutions. Milken itself has seen a higher attrition rate between eighth and ninth grade, with families unable to afford even a fraction of the $30,000 tuition for middle school and high school. One-third more students than last year are on scholarship this year, Ablin said. [Jason Ablin, Head of School]

both from The Forward:

Birthright Alumni Center Tied to Haredi Outreach Group

Many of the young people who pass through the Jewish Enrichment Center in Lower Manhattan view it with great affection. It is often the first time they have come in contact with a Judaism that is engaging and accessible. The rabbis responsible for the center’s educational and religious programs are charismatic and approachable people who, participants say, have had a large impact on their lives.

As the official New York follow-up organization for Taglit-Birthright Israel – which sends young people on free trips to Israel and lately is trying to keep them Jewishly engaged when they return – there could hardly be a better model.

But there are also those Birthright alumni who have been turned off by the JEC, sensing that it has a hidden, religious agenda that clashes with Birthright’s declared nondenominational and pluralistic stance. Their suspicions have now been substantiated with the revelation that the JEC’s rabbis were trained at Ohr Somayach, a Jerusalem-based ultra-Orthodox yeshiva with international branches and a publicly declared goal of turning secular and nonobservant Jews into ba’alei teshuvah. The JEC, it has emerged, was launched as an outreach arm of the yeshiva.

Birth-responsibility (an editorial)

We can’t ask a single program, even one supported by mega-philanthropists, to compensate for the absence of a broader communal commitment to engage 20-something Jews. But we are. Even worse, we are expecting programs such as Birthright NEXT to make up for the vast deficiencies in how Jewish children are raised.

from Haaretz:

New campaign targets Jews ‘abducted’ by intermarriage

An organization that works to strengthen ties between Israel and Diaspora Jews Wednesday launched a scare-tactic campaign that urges Israelis to combat assimilation in North America by working to prevent the “loss” of their own Jewish acquaintances there.

The 10-day Hebrew-language campaign, to be shown on television and online, was prepared by a leading advertising firm at the behest of MASA, a partnership between the Jewish Agency and the Israeli government that helps finance and market semester- and year-length Israel programs for Diaspora Jews.

The head of the campaign, Motti Scharf, compared assimilation to the critical water shortage. “Even though this is an existential problem, the public in Israel is displaying apathy towards it because the process is slow and not dramatic, out of sight,” he said. “The time has come to put the issue on the table.” [last paragraph from a second Haaretz article WATCH: New ad campaign targets Jews ‘abducted’ by intermarriage]