1. David Roytenberg says

    Dear Editor,

    While I understand the board’s reasoning, I disagree with their solution. While it is true that over the past two years, only seven students have proceeded to the high school after grade 8, there are another seven who wanted to continue this fall. While he two year number is 7 of 51, the three year number, if the school continued, would be 14 of 63. In the recent past large classes have passed through the school. The board of OJCS are turning away 7 students who want to attend Jewish high school next year. We can’t let this happen.

    I agree that the lower school must be safeguarded and that the board must ensure that is the case. This is a failure of the community as a whole. The community as a whole must raise the money to keep the high school viable and at the same time we must identify the obstacles to Jewish families in Ottawa sending their children to Jewish High School. While it is true that other Jewish communities also have problems, the closure of the high school in particular and community problems in general are not inevitable and they can be addressed if enough of us take responsibility for fixing them. In Vancouver, a thriving Jewish high school has been created in the past ten years. The Jewish community of Ottawa can accomplish the same thing. If our Jewish high school is not serving us well, the solution is not to close it but to change it so that it serves us better. All we need is 6% of Jewish high school students to attend the Jewish high school to reach the number which the board’s eMail says would be required. As a community we can make that happen. We can endow scholarships. We can endow teaching positions. We can create funds whose proceeds go to fund specialized programs at the high school. There is so much that we can do to make the school a success. Failure should not be considered an option.

    Friends and neighbors ask yourself what you can do to fix this problem and make sure that a high quality Jewish high school is available in Ottawa for generations to come.


    David Roytenberg

  2. Andrea Stevens says

    I am a parent immediately affected by this decision, as my son is currently in grade 8. Some may say you don’t need Jewish day school education to be a Jew, and we can have all kind of lengthy discussions in this regard. However, what Federation has effectively done is strip me and my family of our choice. I assume that part of the reasoning behind not considering the families of the 5-7 students planning to enrol at the high school next year is just that…”only” 5-7 kids out of all of the children that age in Ottawa isn’t such a big deal. It tells me that Federation feels MY family doesn’t matter enough.

    Yesterday afternoon I spoke with a current grade 12 student at OJCS and he said something very interesting. He will graduate this year, so the decision to close OJCS won’t affect him directly. He said the school is not for everyone, but it IS for him and the other students attending, and as such Federation has a RESPONSIBILITY to help provide what every Jewish child needs.

    Those families making the CHOICE not to send their children to OJCS absolutely have that right. But it is telling to me that those ultimately making this decision aren’t directly affected by the loss of this portion of the school.

  3. Lewis Retik says

    In short this was a decision made without the prior consultation of either parents or the community at large. There was no call to action. Despite regular emails from the school, not a single one identified an imminent crisis, made a call for action, or raised any concern whatsoever regarding either a financial or enrollement crisis that would effectively result in a fundamental change to the Jewish education landscape in Ottawa.

    All this being said, there is an opportunity to put this in the past. First the board and Federation should work together to find a way to immediately over turn the decision made. Both the decision itself and how it occurred was wrong, but it can be fixed. It will be a very difficult situation to fix with a closing school in the backdrop.

    Second, the board should make an immediate call to action to leverage those in the community that are passionate about ensuring day school Jewish education exists for the entire community here in Ottawa. Everything should be on the table. This should include recruitment at all grade levels from outside the system, cost structure, budgets, scholarships, and fundraising. The board should not do this alone behind closed doors, but in partnership with the community itself. Every email sent by the school should have a short piece on what needs to be done now by us all to move the school forward. There should never again be the absence of communication with parents and the community at large, especially when the topic of school closure is on the table.

    Third, as a community we need to come together and and work towards a solution. I know this is already happening at a fast pace as there are many passionate members of the community that are simply not accepting this decision. What surprises me the most is just how many people are coming together in support of Jewish education. Perhaps this is the silver lining in all of this, bringing together members of all parts of the Jewish community with one goal in mind, saving the Jewish high school.

    I hope and fundamentally believe that this can be done in partnership with both the board and Federation and perhaps in the end we will have a stronger and more unified Jewish community.

  4. Mark Buckshon says

    I was surprised and disappointed to hear the news of the school’s closure. Our son has thrived in the school. He won’t be directly affected — he graduates this year — but I certainly can understand the angst this decision has caused parents and students in the lower grades.

    Obviously, we need to recognize the importance of sustainability and viability in everything we do, but the question that troubles me is: Why was the decision to close the school announced as a final decision, when an alternative — a firm and straightforward (and if necessary stark) declaration of the problem could also have been stated? Sure, the writing could have been seen to be on the wall by the board of directors of both the federation and the Ottawa Jewish Community School — but as far as I can tell, no one let the community-at-large know that there was a real and imminent possibility of the high school closing — until the bomb dropped.

    Crisis situations can sometimes galvanize solutions. Clearly this has happened, with an ad hoc community group formed to find answers and a road to sustainability. But I wonder why this crisis couldn’t have been managed more effectively by making a different announcement — that the school truly will need to close unless a solution to the serious financial and enrolment problems is achieved. There could be a short-time line for action and resolution, and maybe, through the collective will of the people who care most about the school, a viable long-term answer could be discovered.

    The school, as it is now, has a rather spectacular dichotomy. Judging from parents and students enrolled there (and alumni), it has been an absolute success: In fostering Jewish identity, academic standards, and “sustainability” — if this is defined as the attitudes of children and parents who enrol in Grade 9 and stay on through Grade 12 — leaving absolutely satisfied that they made the right decision to enrol in this school. However, I certainly agree that there are plenty of students who have chosen not to attend, enough to create a financially unviable situation. Whether there can be solutions to bridge the gap and increase enrolment and funding, I don’t know. However, certainly parents and graduates have decided to work to find these answers — and I believe should be given the opportunity through a reconsideration of the closure decision.

  5. Ella Sabourin says

    I do not believe my attempts at saving an institution that the community and its members care about is “quixotic” in the least. I appreciate the mention.

  6. Dani Schwartz says

    Given the Ontario government’s discrimination against Jews and other religions in funding for faith based schools (non-Catholic, that is), why is CIJA bestowing its “Leadership Award” on Premier Kathleen Wynne? She was Dalton McGuinty’s Education Minister when the Liberal Government refused to fund our schools and has done nothing to change that as Premier.

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