By Sherwin Pomerantz
Earlier this week our youngest grandchild of those children living in Los Angeles graduated from the Gindi Maimonides Academy, a modern Orthodox K-8 day school there. Sadly, because of Corona, as we live in Israel we could not be in Los Angeles to celebrate in person but we were happy to get up at 5 AM our time to participate virtually. It was a well-run and a proud moment for us, of course.
Toward the end of the graduation ceremony, the school awarded numbered Jerseys to each family whose last child graduated this week. The number represents the number of years the family has had a child in the school and, for our kids, the number was 16. Theirs’ was not the largest number; one family had the number 23.
After we left the zoom connection I got to thinking about how much money our kids have spent to put our four grandchildren through that program (bless them for that). And the number bowled me over.
Tuition at the Gindi Academy ranges from $21,800 a year for the lower grades to $23,700 per year for the middle school. Now you do the math. Recognizing that 16 years ago the tuition might have been a bit lower, using an average annual tuition fee of $18,000 per year per child, the cost for four children attending for eight years each totals a staggering $576,000.
But that’s not the end of the story. Each of those kids then go on to attend four years of high school at the Shalhevet High School in Los Angeles. Tuition there is now $40,300 per student per year. Again, given inflation let’s assume that the average tuition over the 8 years that the family will have kids in that school will be at an average annual rate of $38,000 per student per year. There the total cost is yet another $608,000.
That means that by the time all four of them have graduated from high school the family would have spent $1,184,000 just in tuition plus Lord only knows how many additional fees, building fund donations, etc. will have been paid all before they even start college. And we don’t dare calculate that cost at this point
For sure, some families get scholarship assistance. But as an associate in New York who lives in Westchester County told me earlier this week, in order to qualify for financial aid at the school where his kids will go, a family has to have annual income of under $400,000. While the average annual household income in Westchester County is $171,403, an educated guess would most likely put the income of the Jewish community living in and around the Westchester Day School, for example, above the $400,000 level. Tuition there is from $19,275 – $26,650 per child per year depending on the grade. Scholarship assistance runs from $500-$3,000 per child depending on income and the number of children in the school. So, while that helps a bit it does not really address the issue.
The result of all of this, of course, is that the American Jewish Community is fast moving to a situation where only the real elites of the Jewish world will be able to afford to provide their children with a day school education which everyone admits is the best grounding for ensuring a Jewishly committed adult life.
Clearly something drastic must be done. Asking parents to spend an average of $300,000 per child plus fees, funds, class trips, etc. for education costs prior to college is simply going to be beyond the means of most people, yet, the education should be available for all who want it.
The only viable solution as we enter the post COVID-19 world is to consider having the local community provide sufficient funding to make such education available for all who want it and to provide that option either at no cost or at a manageable cost. Not doing so puts the future of American Jewry further at risk than it is today.
Now is the time to act lest we lose the opportunity forever.
Sherwin Pomerantz has lived in Israel for 36 years, is CEO of Atid EDI ltd., a Jerusalem based business development consultancy, is a Past National President of the Association of Americans & Canadians in Israel and currently Chair of the Board of Directors of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies. .