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Friday, April 18, 2014

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New fund caps day school tuition for eligible families

Tags: Jewish learning
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MONTREAL — School leaders and parents have enthusiastically welcomed a new Federation CJA fund that aims to make Jewish education more affordable, especially for the middle-class, by capping tuition for eligible families.

“It’s a win-win situation,” said Sidney Benudiz, executive director of United Talmud Torahs/Herzliah High School, who is pleased by both the extra money’s practical effect and the signal the federation is sending that Jewish day school education is a priority.

A pilot program called C.A.P.S., started last year, is now being made permanent and placed under the federation’s new Generations Fund for Educational Excellence. It sets a tuition cap for qualifying families, with the fund making up the difference to the school.

Parents can go to www.generationsfund.ca and input their financial and family details into an online calculator to determine whether they qualify under new, more flexible criteria.

Grants of $1,800 are also available for students entering kindergarten and Secondary I as incentives to parents. That part of the program is accepting applications until March 25 at noon.

The Generations Fund, established with donations from some prominent community members, will provide subsidies over and above those already granted to more than 3,000 students through the federation’s Tuition Assistance Allocation, which benefits mainly lower income families.

That program’s criteria had left more and more middle-income families unable to qualify, the federation said.

The federation has not said how big the Generations Fund is or how much it will pay out each year.

The founders of the fund, along with the federation, are the Sylvan Adams Family Foundation, Morris and Rosalind Goodman Family Foundation, Alvin Segal Family Foundation, in memory of Barbara Weldon, and the Jewish Community Foundation of Montreal.

Participating schools are Akiva School, Solomon Schechter Academy, Jewish People’s and Peretz Schools/Bialik High School, United Talmud Torahs/Herzliah High School, Hebrew Foundation School, Hebrew Academy, and Ecole Maimonide.

The Generations Fund will also assist the schools in improving their educational standards.

The Bronfman Jewish Experience Centre will oversee grants to participating mainstream schools for projects aimed at developing lay and professional leadership, fundraising, recruitment, and marketing and public relations, as well as for “cutting-edge” programs that will attract enrolment.

“An excellent Jewish education is vital to preserving culture and Jewish vibrancy in our community,” said federation president David Cape. “I’m proud of the measures we’re taking to make such an education more accessible, and hope that all those who qualify give this opportunity due consideration.”

For more information, visit the program’s website, or call Natana Shek Dor at 514-345-2645, ext. 3200.

The Generations Fund is under the Gen J initiative, which aims to preserve and strengthen Montreal Jews’ identity, primarily among youth.

As a pilot program for this school year, Benudiz said 72 students out of a total enrolment of approximately 600 at UTT/Herzliah benefited from the new tuition cap.

And with the criteria for eligibility more flexible for next year, he expects even more to be accepted.

“Families that in the past would not have gone to Jewish schools are able to do so now,” he said. “The community is making a very wise investment, and we express our appreciation to the donors.”

The cap on tuition, once approved, he noted, is good for the duration of a child’s schooling, from elementary through high school and does not have to be renewed annually.

Sabrina Bercovitch, a Gen J associate at the federation, clarified, however, that the cap would change if the family’s income or number of children changes.

The schools remain free to set their regular tuition at the rate they feel necessary. “In this way, we can make the upgrades we need to maintain excellence, and be able to compete with other [non-Jewish] private schools,” Benudiz said.

Jamie Ross, a Jewish People’s and Peretz Schools/Bialik High School board member and parent of two children in the system, said he’s “thrilled” by the new funding.

“The community is providing an opportunity to many middle-class families and is recognizing that a Jewish education can be expensive, especially if you have more than one child,” Ross said.

“This is a step in the right direction. It will absolutely make a difference.”

Ross said he’s also pleased that the federation is acting as a “partner” with the schools in helping to make real the principle that “every Jewish child deserves a Jewish education.”

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