Jewish day school graduates hold key to our Jewish future

Generations Trust endowment created to ensure Jewish education

According to Jack Wertheimer, a well-respected professor of American Jewish History at the Jewish Theological Seminary: “The future health and vitality of American Jewish life requires a population of literate Jews, steeped in the wisdom of their religious tradition, passionate about Israel and the fate of fellow Jews, and committed to activism on behalf of Jews and others in need. Day school graduates have been inculcated with these values.”

Nearly a quarter-century of research in North America has continually demonstrated that day school education has a profound and unparalleled impact on a student’s Jewish knowledge and identity. A day school is also a place where students from all socioeconomic backgrounds converge to make life-long connections, creating a permanent sense of Jewish belonging. Jewish education changes lives and shapes communities.

However, the cost of creating a passionate and engaged Jewish community is often too high for middle income families. The Generations Trust Endowment for Jewish education is held at the Ottawa Jewish Community Foundation. Through Generations Trust, donors are reducing the financial burden of school fees for middle-income families, while increasing the financial sustainability of day schools and allowing the schools to focus more on their critical mission of excellence in education.

The Generations Trust Endowment aims to be a permanent $40 million endowment and will support families in their desire for Jewish education. This represents the largest endowment in Jewish Ottawa and in the Foundation's history. The goal is that for families earning between $70,000 and $250,000, tuition will be capped at a certain percentage of income. This number will be a maximum payment regardless of the number of children in attendance. This will make day school more affordable for middle income families and offer them tuition predictability for the entirety of their child’s or children’s education. Day schools will continue to offer tuition assistance programs for lower income families and in special circumstances.

The Generations Trust program is modelled on the proven success of a similar program in Montreal and the influx of students into TanenbaumCHAT in Toronto following a restructuring and subsequent lowering of fees. The Foundation is confident that Generations Trust will alleviate the burden on the day schools to fund raise and provide tuition subsidies when enrolling middle income families. Affordability remains the primary barrier for those wishing to give their children a day school education. 

We are blessed to have two options of Jewish day school education. Ottawa Jewish Community School (OJCS) and Torah Day School of Ottawa. Having the security of the Generations Trust allocation will free up staff time and resources to focus on other areas of growth and will make our schools more competitive in the private school marketplace. Our day schools should be a viable choice not just for those with high income, but for all Jewish families in Ottawa. The future growth and vibrancy of the Ottawa Jewish community depends on raising strong, knowledgeable, and connected Jewish adults.

Neil Presner, a parent of three students at OJCS says, “Sending out kids to Jewish day school is like buying a new luxury car every year and leaving it on the lot, only to have to repurchase it again next year.” 

“For us, sending our kids to day school has meant that we sacrifice vacations, new car upgrades, and other optional expenses. We know that the tuition price quoted is already a subsidized cost through the generosity of donors, the Jewish Federation, and endowments, but for many the cost is still too high, and they forego the fabulous opportunity that Jewish day school offers altogether.”

Presner continues, “We made the commitment when we chose to send our fist child to day school. We have renewed that commitment every year since and we are glad that we did. But I understand that in these inflationary times, it’s not a choice that all families can make. Generations Trust would open doors to so many more families by offering a tuition cap that is predictable.”

The Foundation is thrilled to report that the Generations Trust campaign has now reached $22 million in cash pledges. When combined with some testamentary gifts, this campaign is now the largest endowment campaign in Ottawa’s Jewish communal history, and that is certainly cause for celebration. There are also several asks outstanding that they are confident will result in commitments in the coming months. These asks represent large gifts for the individual donors. It will be their legacy to Jewish education.

“For most donors, Generations Trust is the largest single gift (payable over five years) they will ever give to a community organization, but we are confident that it will be the most meaningful. Knowing that Jewish Day school education is affordable for all children in Ottawa is a huge step to ensuring a strong future for all of Jewish Canada,” explains Micah Garten, Interim CEO of the Foundation.

If you have a passion for Jewish education and understand how crucial it is to the future success of the community, contact Micah Garten, to see how you can bring this to fruition.