To understand the importance of Jewish day schools for our community’s future, consider the impact—which goes far beyond the individual. Day school students represent more than half of our Jewish summer camp counsellors, Israel advocates on campus, and synagogue youth leaders. When Jewish education thrives, so does our entire community.
This is one reason why the increasing unaffordability of life in Toronto is such a serious threat to our Jewish future. The cost of living in Toronto is rising more sharply relative to almost any other major city in the world.9 An October 2021 study found that nearly half of Canadians who carry debt added to it during the pandemic. Especially concerning is the role of rising food and housing costs in driving this trend of financial distress. Among Canadians who report saving less or not at all during the pandemic, nearly three out of five said it was due to an increase in spending on these necessities.10
The devastating financial effects of the pandemic only compounded the pressures that so many day school families were already facing.
With the financial devastation of the pandemic, there was a real threat this trend would accelerate with irreversible consequences. With jobs lost and working hours cut, many families found themselves making difficult financial decisions—which might have included permanently removing their kids from day school.
Through the generosity of donors, we were able to assist families hit hardest by the pandemic and protect the well-being of their children. But astonishingly, through a strategic approach, we were able to reverse a 17-year trend of declining enrolment.
Expanded financial relief, combined with the exceptional performance of our partner day schools, has now led to two years of enrolment growth across the system. Through a blend of UJA emergency funding, ongoing Annual Campaign funding, and a new Generations Trust scholarship program fuelled by an endowment through the Jewish Foundation of Greater Toronto, we have made tuition relief more accessible than ever in Jewish Toronto. As many families that received emergency assistance get back on their feet financially, they will return to paying regular tuition, demonstrating that our short-term investment is having a long-term impact on the sustainability of our day schools.
Making core Jewish programming more affordable and accessible was a top priority of the 2021 Annual Campaign. To that end, last year we expanded UJACommunityScholarships.ca, a one-stop online portal where community members can discover a range of subsidies, grants, scholarships, and other affordability programs. The portal now offers significant options for a diversity of Jewish experiences, including financial assistance for attending day school, part-time Jewish school, Jewish non-profit overnight camps, and more.
The UJACommunityScholarships.ca platform is an integral part of our inclusive vision in which everyone, regardless of financial means, can participate in Jewish life. Affordability is a major priority going forward, and more programs will be announced in the years to come. Because of your gift, more and more Jewish children and youth will benefit from experiences that foster Jewish knowledge and pride—and inspire a lasting commitment to community.
8 2018 Study of Jews in Canada, Environics Institute
9 2021 Worldwide Cost of Living Index, Economist Intelligence Group
10 BDO Affordability Index 2021, Angus Reid Group & BDO Debt Solutions