The Canadian Jeiwsh News

Friday, July 31, 2015

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Jewish education in Ottawa

Tags: Letters

I read with great interest your editorial on the costs of Jewish education, (“Summit on Education,” Feb. 12). The silence on this topic has been particularly deafening in Ottawa, where our Jewish community day school recently announced significant changes to its tuition and financial model. The proposed tuition model will increase the tuition by 15 to 22 per cent for middle-income families of $150,000 to $250,000 gross income.

Climbing tuition fees are driving out families headed by professionals who want their children to attend day school. It makes sense economically (not necessarily philosophically) to spread the distribution of tuition assistance to middle-income households rather than focusing solely on full funding at the lower end of the income spectrum – that is, when you subsidize the cost by a few thousand dollars per, let’s say, 10 families in the middle rather than full scholarships for one or two families.

We know that gross household income is not a good measure of affordability of private school. Many families obtain assistance or other sources of income not necessarily identified on their tax return. As well, there are families that might have expenditures beyond their control, such as daycare or after-school care costs.

In Ottawa, our community day school enrolment has fallen by 39 per cent in the last five years. We know from 2001 census information that the majority of Jewish households in Canada represented families of “middle” income – those between $150,000 and $250,000 (old information but incomes in general in Canada have changed very little since 2001). In a smaller Jewish centre such as Ottawa, there is little room for alienating this middle class of parents.

If a community is dedicated to making Jewish day schools accessible to as many families as possible, then providing assistance to all but the wealthiest families might achieve this goal. On the other hand, if the goal is to make schools that are financially self-sustainable by charging the real costs of the school and limiting subsidies to those defined as “in need,” the community must recognize that the schools will suffer as middle-income families will not be able to attend. In Ottawa, the debate about the future of Jewish education is bubbling to the surface. Significant change will happen, and we are most ready to be a part of a large strategy or summit.

Jackie Luffman


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Kwinter voted against his party


Monte Kwinter, while a minster in former Ontario premier’s Dalton McGuinty’s first government, did vote against his own government’s rescinding of the Equity in Education Tax Credit shortly after the 2003 provincial election (“Kwinter and Jewish education,” letter, Feb. 28). This deserves special notice, because minsters are expected to support all government legislation, and Kwinter did take the bold step opposing this legislation. Kwinter suffered retribution for this, because he was ultimately shuffled out of cabinet. While I am a diehard conservative and a supporter of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, we must keep to the facts when dealing with this issue. It was the mean-spirited McGuinty who sold out the soul of the Ontario Liberal Party to engage the votes of schoolteachers in attempting to win the election. And it was the mean-spiritedness of McGuinty that ultimately threw Kwinter under the bus by removing him from cabinet.

Mark A. Greenberg


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Palliative care


The three-part series on palliative care, published on Feb. 28, March 7 and in today’s CJN, indicates that it is based on Jewish values. But is it based on Jewish law? I understand and appreciate the need for palliative care, but does this type of patient intervention take into account halachic restrictions against the removal of life support, the deprivation of oxygenation and the denial of hydration and nutrition? This is a complicated area of Jewish law and practice that requires the utilization of halachic authorities to work in conjunction with palliative specialists.

Rabbi Howard Finkelstein



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The ‘pasta’ controversy


The recent “pasta” controversy in Quebec saw an outpouring against the Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF) crackdown on restaurants that use international names of food. Quebec became the laughingstock around the world, and the Marois government had to back down. It found a loophole for these foods, which are now under the category of “foreign.”

Foreign is an insult. Without us foreigners, cities such as Montreal and Toronto would never have been built. The Holocaust survivors and Italians who arrived in the late 1940s and ’50s brought their back-breaking labour, pooled their money and built these cities. Many spoke no official language, had no formal education and had to contend with antisemitism and exclusion.

Today words, such as bagel, depanneur, pasta, poutine and smoked meat are part of our mainstream vocabulary. To translate matzot or won ton soup is ludicrous. The raison d’être of the OQFL was in response to a faulty premise – that French Canadians and their language needed to be protected or they would disappear. This called for the establishment of a financially wasteful department of overzealous language cops. By restricting cultural food names, they would protect the French-Canadian language. Pasta translated will not protect the French language. Education and a more welcoming attitude to us foreigners will!

How many years will it take Quebecers to finally not see us as “foreigners” but as successful contributing members of our home, Quebec, who speak Franglais? My family has been here more than 100 years, having lived in St Lin des Laurentides. We sold our eggs, knishes, challahs and verenekas to the surrounding French-Canadians who loved the foods. To date, not one French-Canadian we continue to visit regularly has lost their language or identity. In fact, before my going out to St. Lin, they still give me their lists of “foreign” foods to bring. Foreigners?

Sharon Freedman




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