Leadership Perspectives on the Financial Sustainability of Non-Orthodox Jewish Day Schools in Toronto


Source: Journal of Jewish Education


The purpose of this study was to better understand how Jewish day school leaders in Toronto perceive non-Orthodox Jewish day school financial sustainability. This multisite case study used a questionnaire, completed by 23 leaders of non-Orthodox Jewish day schools, and one-on-one interviews with all eight heads of school of the non-Orthodox Jewish day schools in Toronto to collect data.

Both data collection instruments addressed three guiding research questions. Conclusions point toward a need to develop new ideas, to increase collaboration between the schools, and to focus efforts on raising the perceived value of Jewish day school education for prospective families.

List of recommendations for school leaders

The data point to several recommendations for school leaders working on financial sustainability at non-Orthodox Jewish day schools, in particular in the context of Toronto:

  1. Continue working on improving the financial sustainability of your institution. Ensuring financial sustainability is a key component to long-term success; thus it is something school leaders have to continue to work on. 
  2. Involve midlevel administrators. They are already thinking about the issue, and involving them will provide more people to tackle the many tasks within financial sustainability implementation. Additionally, giving them more responsibility around this issue could make it easier for the heads of school to fulfill their many other expectations. 
  3. Don’t go at it alone. Financial sustainability is in need of an adaptive solution. Adaptive solutions can best be found when working collaboratively. 
  4. Solve the issue through a systems-based approach. Financial sustainability is very complex and can only be understood on the systemic level.
  5. Focus on more value and commitment strategies to get more people to consider Jewish day school. In particular, leaders are encouraged to make the value proposition explicit in marketing and admission strategies. 
  6. Establish a community endowment. They are good long-term investments that allow for money to be used by the institutions well into the future, they can help with attrition, they can help lead to further fundraising, and they can serve to support the whole community and not just individual schools. 
  7. Establish clear and weighted criteria to help you determine success of sustainability strategies. This will help leaders decide which strategies will be optimal for their schools and communities. 
  8. The board is encouraged to ask the head of school what changes to his/ her role would result in an increased ability to focus efforts towards the long-term financial sustainability of the school.
Updated: Feb. 18, 2021