Allocate monies from Israel budget to fund Diaspora day schools?
Foreign Minister of Israel, Avigdor Liberman has proposed that the State of Israel budget $365,000,000 annually for Diaspora education, the objective of which is “to serve as an antidote to rising assimilation, intermarriage, and disengagement from the Jewish community.”
A threshold question is how many additional students can be educated if all of the $365,000,000 is allocated to the United States, and the preferred vehicle is Jewish Day School, at a cost of $20,000 per student annually, or $180,000 per student for nine years (K-8)? The answer is shockingly few: 2027. If we assume that in each grade level there is a potential pool of 60,000 students (1 percent of total estimated American Jewish population of six million), it is apparent that use of the money to educate this way is fruitless.
While a 10-day or two-week duration Israel experience is not the equivalent of a K-8 Jewish Day School education, there is evidence that in terms of Avigdor Liberman’s objectives, that there is a near equivalency.
Assuming a per student cost of $5,000 for a 10-day Israel experience (Birthright Israel is less), $365,000,000 would fund 73,000 Jewish teens on a life-changing Israel experience, as compared to a mere 2,027 children for a Jewish day school experience. Potentially, every Jewish 16-year-old and 25,000 additional teens in the Diaspora could be served each year, with “the antidote to rising assimilation, intermarriage, and disengagement from the Jewish community.” Jewish continuity will be assured.
Mr. Liberman must be applauded for his wonderful idea of allocating $365,000,000 from Israel’s budget to educate Jews of the Diaspora. Now his challenge is to use the money most effectively.
Robert I. Lappin, President, Lappin Foundation