(lubavitch.com) With the new school year fast approaching, parents affected by the current economic crisis are facing difficult choices regarding their children’s education. Many have alredy enrolled their children in public schools in order to cut back on the expenses of a private school education. According to findings by the US Department of Education private school enrollment dropped by 2.5% between 2006 and 2009.
Jewish schools across the nation are looking for innovative programing that will help stem the tide of private school attrition. One example is the groundbreaking partnership between the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute (JLI) and the Kohelet Foundation, which was announced this past June at JLI’s 12th annual conference.
Founded in 2008 by David Magerman, as a means of combining his philanthropic and educational interests, the Kohelet Foundation’s fellowship program seeks to bridge generational divides and to create a holistic Jewish learning environment. In Magerman’s words, “If you can make parents more knowledgeable about the value of Jewish learning, you can make them stronger and more devoted proponents of day school education.”
The foundation’s Kohelet Fellowships offer adult education classes for parents of children enrolled in Jewish day schools. In conjunction with participation in this fellowship, the Kohelet Foundation is awarding grants of up to $1,000 towards the Jewish day school tuition costs being shouldered by participating parents.
Magerman sees the Kohelet Foundation’s partnership with JLI as the logical outcome of the Fellowships’ development as a program. “There is a valuable community-building aspect to having day school parents congregate in a classroom to learn together.”
Magerman says that “the depth” of JLI classes, “the broad geographic reach of Chabad, and the high quality of the JLI curricula and teachers” makes JLI a particularly appropriate partner for the the Kohelet Fellowships program.
An initial group of 350 parents was selected for the 2010 pilot run of this partnership in 14 participating schools across four different states, with an additional 150 parents expected to be accepted for the 2011-2012 academic year.
According to Rabbi Efraim Mintz, Executive Director of JLI, “The partnership with Kohelet offers JLI affiliates to reach out to an entirely new segment of the Jewish community.”
Participating affiliates are equally enthusiastic about the opportunities inherent in the partnership. Rabbi Shraga Sherman, Director of Chabad of the Main Line and one of initial 14 JLI affiliates to pilot the program, sees it as means to be “shoulder to shoulder with local day schools” in bringing content and inspiration to the larger Jewish community.
Excitement over the Kohelet Fellowship is building across the wider Jewish community as well. Laura Harkavy, President of the Bornblum Solomon Schechter of Memphis, TN is eager about the potential that the Fellowships offer.
“My experience has been incredible,“ she says. “The entire Memphis community is grateful . . . [for] this opportunity, and our parents are very excited about participating in the Kohelet fellowship.”
As to what this future collaboration will bring, Harkavy’s interest isn’t merely professional. In fact, she and her husband have already registered for the fall course at her local JLI affiliate. Harkavy hopes that “more parents will become engaged with continuing their Jewish education and making it relevant to what their children are learning in school.”
In addition, she is confident that her JLI studies will enrich her family as a whole by fostering meaningful conversations at home about a range of Jewish topics.