Thinking Big and Funding Small: Models for Making Jewish Education Affordable

April 18, 2019

Source: eJewish Philanthropy 


In September 2018, the first group of one-and-a-half to three year-old kids began attending Olam Katan. I started this drop off playgroup because there are no reasonably priced, pedagogically sound Jewish programs in our Lower East Side neighborhood in Manhattan, and I feel strongly about my son receiving a quality Jewish early childhood educational experience that reflects my family’s values.

As a parent, I wanted to create a quality program that would benefit my son and other kids in the neighborhood this year. As Olam Katan approaches the end of its first year, I want to reflect on our experiences – both as a parent and as the executive director of a foundation that supports education – and spark additional conversation about affordable Jewish education within the funding space. Much ink has been spilled about the lack of affordable Jewish education, and if we are committed to addressing the issue now, the Olam Katan model – or a variation or variations of it – is a potential solution for early childhood education and well beyond. Below, I outline some of the ways the model could be implemented.

My drop off playgroup is technically a homeschool co-op. Homeschool co-ops are inexpensive, adaptable to the individual students and families, and provide the social benefits of attending school. We have very little overhead, and “schools” like ours can easily be replicated; I wrote a longer piece about how others can create their own Jewish homeschool co-op programs. Although each “school” can and should be customized to the needs of the kids attending, there is no reason to reinvent the wheel; many elements remain the same for everyone.

Whether as a compliment to Hebrew charter schools or public schools, we can put more resources into funding serious, quality, and fun supplemental religious programs before and after school.

Updated: May. 01, 2019