The financial cost of participating in Jewish life is always a concern. But a recent survey undertaken by reporter Michael Fraiman, and published in the October 4 edition of the Canadian Jewish News, showed that costs varied depending on location.
Fraiman chose a variety of categories and compared average costs in Jewish communities across the country. In his introduction, Fraiman stressed that the numbers he presents “are all designed to be broadly representative,” that they are averages and that “almost none are literal.”
I looked at Fraiman’s report to see how our community fared in the various categories. Ottawa is a medium-sized Jewish community – the fourth largest of the 12 communities examined. Toronto is Canada’s largest Jewish community followed by Montreal and Vancouver. The other communities by size are Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Regina, Saskatoon, Moncton and St. John’s.
In most categories, Ottawa was a relatively economic place to lead a Jewish life.
Challah – The average price for a loaf of challah in Ottawa was $5.10. That’s a little below the national average of $5.29 but more expensive than Toronto ($4.75) or Montreal ($3.60), where challah was cheapest.
Synagogue membership dues – Fraiman qualified his figures in this category by noting that they are based on dues for a 50-year-old single person and that not all synagogues were willing to divulge fees. The quoted Ottawa average was $539, significantly lower than the national average of $893. In fact, Ottawa’s figure was the second-lowest in the country. Only St. John’s, at $400, was lower.
Real estate in Jewish neighbourhoods – Fraiman compared typical real estate prices in neighbourhoods with a city’s largest Jewish population (in Ottawa it was Centrepointe) with average costs in the entire city; and with each city in comparison to others in the survey. In all cases, “Jewish” neighbourhoods were more expensive than a city’s average but in Ottawa only slightly more so. While, real estate in Ottawa was slightly more expensive than in Montreal, it was significantly lower than Vancouver, Toronto and Halifax and also lower than Winnipeg, Calgary and Edmonton.
Tuition at Jewish day schools – Average Jewish day school tuition in Ottawa was $10,400, just slightly higher than the national average of $10,050 and much lower than Toronto’s $17,000. Interestingly, day school tuition in Ottawa was lower than in Montreal ($11,500) and Vancouver ($12,125) which are in provinces that provide subsidies to non-Catholic faith-based private schools. Ontario remains the only province not to do so. Fraiman also provided averages for tuition at non-Jewish private schools and Jewish schools were less expensive in every city. In Ottawa average tuition at a non-Jewish private school was $15,196.
A week at Jewish summer camp – In this category, Fraiman looked at the six provinces that have Jewish summer camps and found that Jewish camp fees in Ontario, at an average of $1,152 per week, were the highest in Canada. The national average for a week of Jewish summer camp was $896 with the lowest fees in Manitoba at an average of $633.
Jewish funerals – The average cost of a Jewish funeral varies greatly across the country. Fraiman’s figures for Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Regina, Saskatoon and Moncton include the cost of a cemetery plot while the figures for Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Winnipeg, and St. John’s do not. The average cost for a Jewish funeral in Ottawa was $6,900, well below the average of $9,175 for all cities that do not include a plot. Winnipeg, at an average of $15,000, was the most expensive for the cost of a Jewish funeral not including a plot followed by Toronto ($12,000), Vancouver ($9,500), Montreal ($8,000), Ottawa, and St. John’s ($3,650).
There are other areas that could be included in a more comprehensive survey – like JCC membership, a grocery basket of kosher food, etc. – but these figures are fascinating.