Outcomes of Jewish Education and the Philanthropic Community

Spring 2017

Source: Gleanings, Volume 4, Issue 1


So, what exactly is the situation we find ourselves in now, in the light of many new initiatives and an increase in philanthropic support for Jewish education? One need only look at the landscape of Jewish education today to see the remarkable changes: developments in academic training programs for Jewish educators in a variety of settings, initiatives in Israel education, Jewish summer camping, and in-service training of day school teachers and leaders, as well as programs for early childhood educators and Jewish community center staff that didn’t exist before 1990. There are direct service programs for young people, such as the Bronfman Youth Fellowship and Birthright Israel. ..

So, what should our outcomes be? First, Jewish learning is an end in itself. Our tradition values education as one of the most essential aspects of being a Jew. About that there is no question, no matter what its impact may be on later Jewish identity. Second, giving young people the best possible Jewish education increases the likelihood that being Jewish will speak to them in their personal lives. It can become a source of values and ideas, some of which will run counter to the weaknesses of the culture in which we live. We want to cultivate those dispositions in the people that we educate, and we believe as educators that Judaism as a religion and Jewish culture in its broadest sense offers a tradition of wisdom and practice that can make a difference in an individual’s life and in bettering the state of the world.

In order to maintain the continuity of the Jewish people, the only intervention over which we have any control as a community is that of education. We can’t legislate who will marry whom. We can’t dictate where people will live and who their friends will be. But we can work toward the goal that education will have an impact on the lives of learners.

Finally, we can wonder about the evolution of Jewish philanthropy in the years ahead. Will Jewish education remain high on the list of philanthropic concerns if it can’t be seen as moving the needle on intermarriage? Will Jewish foundations and local federations still invest in education? Indeed, will community federations—now more than a century old—continue to play a central role in collecting and allocating Jewish charitable dollars? If so, which institutions and programs will be favored with support? We do know that Jewish education will have a role to play in defining the future, even if that future ends up looking very different from the world we live in today. How great a role it will play may depend on what counts as an important outcome to foundations and community funders and their willingness to envision a vital role for Jewish education.

Read the entire article in Gleanings.

Updated: May. 03, 2017