Jewish Education Institutions Reorganize in the Face of Ongoing Financial Crisis

January 29, 2013

Source: The Jewish Week


July Wiener writes about how financial constraints and declining affiliation rates are bringing virtually every national Jewish institution, and many local ones, to restructure, redefine its mission, merge or even close. In the latest sign of the times, this week the board of the Jewish Education Service of North America (JESNA)  — which has downsized dramatically in the past four years — announced it is considering merging with the Jewish Education Project, a New York organization that is itself the product of a 2010 merger.


A week earlier, leaders of the Partnership for Effective Learning and Innovative Education (PELIE), a five-year-old national group that promotes innovations in congregational schools and other “complementary” education, decided to put the project on “pause” for the next few months. PELIE, which launched with eight funding partners but now has just two, will continue funding existing projects, but is closing its office — in space subleased from JESNA — and laying off most of its small staff.


The Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education, which supports day schools, now has an annual budget of $3.2 million, down from $6.3 million in fiscal year 2009. The group recently restructured its governance and mission, shifting from grant-making to “capacity-building.” In addition, whereas each day school network once held its own conference, centrist/Modern Orthodox, pluralistic, Conservative and Reform day schools have, since 2010, joined forces on one collective confab.


In 2009 the Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education, known for its large annual professional development and networking conferences, filed for bankruptcy. (NewCAJE, a smaller, volunteer-run version of that group, has taken over some of its functions.)


The recession, and a tendency of most donors to favor local organizations over national ones, has taken a toll on many national institutions and projects.


Many observers, however, contend that much of the change occurring now is healthy, with more innovation and collaboration, greater efficiencies and fewer turf battles, than in past decades.


Wiener's entire article can be read at The Jewish Week


Renee Ghert-Zand writes in The Jewish Daily Forward about the effect the restructuring and merging of Jewish organizations is having on the careers of Jewish education professionals in mid-level management positions. She brings the stories of five women who face challenges to their Jewish education careers, each choosing to move forward in a different way.

Updated: Feb. 17, 2013