Once again we learn that tuition fees have risen “often at amounts that exceed the rate of inflation,” this despite previous reassurances from UJA Federation of Greater Toronto officials that additional, significant infusions of funds dedicated to Jewish education were made this year that would lower tuitions this year (“Jewish day school fees rise by up to 10 per cent,” CJN, Aug. 28). In some cases, Jewish day school fees have risen by up to 10 per cent. This is clearly an intolerable situation, a crisis of epic proportions that requires immediate and determined consideration by the community at large.
Yet our leadership has resorted to its usual and predictable refrain, indicating that they are trying their best to increase allocations for subsidies for hardworking middle-class families. Given its poor track record to date – where our tuition increases have largely surpassed the rate of inflation on an annual basis for the past number of decades – trying is no longer good enough. I worry that our children and grandchildren will not be a position to afford a Jewish education for their children. By my simple calculation, utilizing a five per cent average increase year after year, our family will be paying more than $30,000 toward the cost of our youngest child’s Grade 12 high school education alone. Two Jewish schools have closed this past year and without some considerable intervention, more are destined to do the same. Without the possibility of an affordable Jewish education, our future looks dim, and I venture that our newly built and renovated Toronto Jewish community centres will not serve as a satisfactory substitute. We require immediate and creative solutions to this serious problem, or we will all surely suffer the dire consequences.
Day school funding
Jerrold Landau is undoubtedly correct in forecasting that the Ontario Jewish population will decline because of the cost of Jewish education (“Toronto community may decline,” CJN letters, Aug, 28). But there is a further point: why would anyone wish to live in a jurisdiction that studiously avoids conforming to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights? Since 1999, Ontarians have known that civilized countries do not discriminate in funding non-public education, but the best the Ontario government can do is engage in denial. It repeatedly relies on an outdated constitution to justify discrimination, but it makes no effort to change the constitution.
Obama another Chamberlain
Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Senator Barack Obama appears to be a potential Neville Chamberlain of our time. Obama has said that he would sit, discuss and arrange accords with leaders such Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran. Talk about naiveté! (“Obama woos Jews in race for White House,” CJN, Aug. 28)
Chamberlain, the prime minister of England, did the very same thing with Adolf Hitler of Germany. We all know the results of that sit-down – World War II and the Holocaust. History gives great lessons, and it often repeats itself unless attention is paid to it and the lessons learned.
Bat mitzvah project
My bat mitzvah is on Jan. 24, 2009, and for my bat mitzvah project, I am creating a website (www.myjewishlegacy.com) so that our generation can share the stories of Holocaust survivors. I decided to make this website because I wanted our generation to have a place to document the journeys and experiences their families had to endure. Learning about my grandparents who survived the Holocaust made me feel proud to be a Jew. I hope the website will keep the memories alive.
I spent an afternoon interviewing my grandpa, Bert, and heard about his travels from the age of 10. There came a time when he could no longer go to school in Germany. His family lived on the Swiss border, and his family was able to arrange for him and his sister to go to school in Switzerland. He would ride his bike to school, and he hid documents and money (also the deed to the house in Germany) on these rides and gave these items to a teacher in Switzerland to hold for the Bodenheimer family. Every day, the police would flag him over the border, but on the ride home, they would stop him, search his belongings, and even take a tire off his bicycle to make sure he wasn’t smuggling anything into the country. They never thought he would smuggle items out. It was very dangerous to do this, but my grandfather was a very determined, smart and brave person. His Jewish identity was one of the most important aspects of his being.
Through my bat mitzvah project, I hope our generation learns more about the Holocaust and that we will never forget what happened.
Pâques isn’t Pâque
Starting this school year in Quebec, in an attempt to promote tolerance, all Jewish schools will be required to teach the new curriculum of Ethics and Religious Culture. One of the chapters in the new book to be distributed to high school students blurs the lines between Judaism and Christianity. Published by Modulo Éditeur, schoolchildren discuss in French the holiday of Pâques (Easter). One child says that Pâques is the holiday of the resurrection of Jesus. The second corrects his friend and says that Pâque is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt. (In French, the word for Easter (Pâques) and Passover (Pâque) is pronounced the same way) The book goes on to say that the moral of this is to teach us that there are different ways to celebrate or understand a holiday, Pâque(s) being an example.
In its attempt at rapprochement, it is wrong and disingenuous to show how Easter and Passover are basically one holiday that is observed in two different ways by Jews and Christians. In a historical anomaly, the French names of Easter and Passover are the same, but that is where the similarity ends. What’s to stop a young impressionable Jewish child from going to church to celebrate Easter if it’s just another way of observing Passover? We in the Jewish community must stand up for our cherished beliefs and tell the government that while their goals of promoting tolerance are admirable, the ends never justify the means, and a curriculum that attempts to merge Easter and Passover into one is unacceptable material for any Jewish day school.
Rabbi Mordechai Bulua
In 1984, the National Film Board produced Democracy on Trial: The Morgentaler Affair. In it, Dr. Henry Morgentaler spoke about his civil disobedience campaign on behalf of a woman’s right to choose safe and legal abortion. The national response to the film, like reaction to his recent appointment to the Order of Canada, was intense and heartfelt.
When this writer read the production files of the film, it was clear that the genesis of his activity was linked to losing all but one of his family members in the Holocaust.
While imprisoned in Quebec in 1975, Morgentaler observed that 90 per cent of those incarcerated were originally unwanted and abused children, many of whom drifted from foster homes into a life of crime. “If all children were desired, received with love and affection and care,” Morgentaler believed, “they would become loving and caring individuals. If we had that for a number of generations, we would have a different kind of species, a different humankind.”
From this optic, Morgentaler’s lifelong fight is for the millions of civilian victims who were felled in World War II by those who lacked love and human compassion. To him, abortion is not about killing babies, it is about preventing potential future criminals and fascists.
Verbalizing this logic would not have mattered for those who are impelled by visceral emotions and other ethical considerations. Morgentaler knows that innocence and the will to survive are the universals that are shared by developing life, but his motivation stems from his belief that that those who grew into killers must have lacked a humane impulse. It was such ordinary men and women, he believed, who volunteered to participate in the crime of the century.
This reasoning became Morgentaler’s motivation and touchstone for his decision to become the legal test case for the abortion debate in Canada. This information was left on the cutting room floor as the docudrama chose to dwell on his civil disobedience campaign. One wonders if its inclusion would have clarified the current controversy.