Monday, August 26, 2013

Time to Pass the Baton

I’ve been moderating this blog for 20 months now.  I’ve made 160 posts and gotten almost 300,000 page views.  I’ve read (most of) thousands of comments and responded to some of them.   
We’ve covered lots of topics including blended learning, Hebrew charter schools, assistant teachers, school calendars, marketing costs, government funding, Communal funding, discounts for teachers and rabbis, transparency in finances, scholarship abuse, Talmud Torahs,   and more.  Hopefully the discussion has caused some positive change in Bergen County or has at least caused some people to consider certain ideas that they hadn’t yet thought about.
What I haven’t succeeded at doing is encouraging civility in our discourse.  Perhaps it’s just our nature to be nasty when no one (at least no one mortal) can see us doing it.  Though compared to some other unmoderated blogs and especially the comments section on youtube, the discussion here does remain somewhat polite and on topic.  Some people thought I should delete comments that were uncivil but that’s not really my MO.  I’m not a big fan of censorship and I think adults should make their own decisions on how to speak.  To all those who contributed in positive ways with your comments I wish you sincere thanks.
At this point I’ve said all I have to say about yeshiva tuition.  Also I need to focus on other things in my life right now and can’t spend that much time musing about yeshiva tuition.  I’m looking for someone else to take over the blog or to make a new blog so we can continue the conversation.  Please email me offline at if you’re interested. 
For those that were offended by things I’ve said I beg for mechilah and hope you understand that everything I’ve done on this blog was done out of love for our community and out of a sincere desire for our mesorah to continue to be transmitted to future generations, which can only be done if the community can afford the growing expense of yeshiva tuition.
I encourage everyone to get involved in other ways to help solve the tuition crisis.  Make your voices heard.  Come to board meetings.  Speak to administrators.  Get involved in fund raising.  Volunteer for the scholarship committee.  Accept that you may need to sacrifice some things you like in your school to help bring down costs.  And above all, try to stay positive.
Wishing everyone a Kativa V’chatima Tova,

Yeshiva Dad

Friday, August 23, 2013

New Assistant Principal Position at Moriah

Despite a recent drop in admissions at Moriah, a new Assistant Principal for Student Life position has been created, as reported by the Jewish Link.  This Assistant Principal will join the other Assistant Principal, two associate principals, 6 Directors and of course the Principal, in the Administration.  This does not include office staff or business office.  Does this seem excessive to anyone else?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

AJE Selects "BOLD" Schools to Receive Funding

Five Schools Selected as BOLD Day Schools 

August 20, 2013

NEW YORK – Five Jewish day schools have been selected for the BOLD (Blending Online Learning in Day Schools) Project, funded by The Affordable Jewish Education Project (AJE), The AVI CHAI Foundation and The Kohelet Foundation.  The goal of BOLD Day Schools is to design and implement sustainable, cost-saving blended learning programs to ignite the potential of students through the delivery of innovative and personalized learning.  Additionally, BOLD Day Schools will become a network of schools and educators working to accelerate the rollout of sustainable blended learning programs throughout the Jewish day school field.

The BOLD Day Schools are:
Denver Academy of Torah, Denver, CO
Elementary & Middle School

Magen David Yeshivah High School, Brooklyn, NY
High School

The Moriah School, Englewood, NJ
Elementary & Middle School

The Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey, River Edge, NJ
Middle School

Tarbut v’Torah Community Day School, Irvine, CA
Elementary School

The five BOLD Day Schools were selected out of a pool of close to 30 submissions through an intensive application process that assessed each school’s vision for blended learning, implementation plan, and financial plan outlining cost savings and program sustainability.  The funding organizations also considered school size, location, denomination, and division in an effort to provide a variety of proof points that recognizes the diversity of Jewish day schools.

Blended learning integrates online learning with face-to-face instruction, enabling teachers to align their instructional approaches to the particular academic needs of each student based on real-time, individualized data.  In addition to improved educational outcomes for students, blended learning educational models provide opportunities for cost savings through reducing schools’ personnel, facility, and textbook costs.

“We are all very excited about this groundbreaking project,” said Jeff Kiderman, Executive Director of AJE, “and have selected a group of well-regarded established schools that have shown a desire to be bold and partner with us to lead the future of Jewish education.”

Over the summer, the BOLD Day Schools have been deeply immersed in program design and planning with the help of one of two blended learning consulting firms (Education Elements and Evergreen Education Group).  The consultants have been assisting school leaders in refining their financial plans, selecting software, and planning professional development for their faculties.  Implementation is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2013.  Within three years, every student in the selected division(s) will be learning using a blended education model on a daily basis.  In addition, schools will create a plan to realize cost savings through the efficiencies of their new model.

The three funding organizations have committed up to $3 million to the BOLD Project. This funding will cover most of the costs associated with transitioning each school to a blended learning model, with the schools gradually  assuming responsibility for all ongoing costs, including software, hardware, and personnel. “It is important to us that the BOLD Day Schools be able to sustain these innovations within their own annual budgets moving forward without relying on outside funding,” said Rachel Mohl Abrahams, Senior Program Officer at The AVI CHAI Foundation.

The process will be documented to measure the effectiveness of each model and to provide guidance for additional schools looking to transition to blended learning in the future. “We hope the BOLD Day Schools will serve as paradigms of how established Jewish day schools can transform themselves into more innovative, affordable institutions that prepare our students for successful Jewish lives in the 21st century,” said Holly Cohen, Executive Director of The Kohelet Foundation.

Read more about the BOLD Day Schools and follow their progress at

No one is "Anti-Teacher"

This is something I've been meaning to get off my chest for a long time.  There's a rhetorical trick employed by people of all political stripes to discredit those with who them disagree, and it really should stop.

Most of us agree that in all ethnic, social, religious and political groups there are good and bad individuals.  There are people who care only about themselves, some that only care about their friends and families and those that only care about people in their "group", whatever that group happens to be.  Since one can't generalize about the behavior of all people in any particular group, those who do generalize are often called prejudiced, bigots, racists, etc.  and their arguments are automatically discredited.

So the trick is to show that a policy that you oppose doesn't merely reflect a different perspective, but that it represents an animosity towards an entire group of people.  That way it is prejudice, bigotry, etc. and you don't even have to argue the merits of the policy because it is discredited at the outset.

Hence, gun enthusiasts will oppose gun restrictions as being "anti-gun owner" rather than simply "anti-gun".  Amsterdam News will label the NYPD's "stop and frisk" program as "racism" (racist in itself, mot merely in the implementation).  The Jewish Voice and Opinion will label opposition to Israel's settlement policy as "anti-semitism."  If you believe that life begins at conception and that therefore abortion should be illegal you must be "sexist."  Opposition to gay marriage must reflect "homophobia."

And if I suggest that schools make up for days lost due to weather in the summer than I am "anti-teacher."  Similarly if I suggest that teachers who don't work in the summers have an easy July and August.

If you believe in any of the above you must hate everyone the respective group.  Even if you are a member of that group.  You must just hate yourself.  And since this is a thought crime there is no way to disprove it.

Of course everyone sees the ridiculousness in other people's hang-ups but not in their own.

Feel free to vent below.  But please don't say "how can you compare x to y?"  I'm comparing your faulty logic, not making any moral comparisons.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Shmoozing With Zach & Rabbi Sommer

I've been having an interesting conversation online about tuition and Yeshiva Day Schools with 2 former MTA teachers - Zach Abramowitz and Rabbi Pesach Sommer.  Here's the link:

Check for updates soon.  Shabbat Shalom,


Friday, July 26, 2013

AJE Founder Responds to Rabbi Krauss

First off, let me say that I believe the overall quality of the Jewish high school system to be outstanding. I am blown away by the quality of education being offered our high schoolers. But this quality has come at a devastating cost and price to our community. The emphasis of trying to get our kids into the best colleges, offer  the  most extra curriculars, the most AP’s, the arms race to attract the best and most expensive teachers, has not come cheaply and is in fact crippling our community. We are losing countless students to public schools, less Jewish children are being born, marriages are strained, and we are fostering resentment towards religion amongst our parents due to this unfortunate situation of ever escalating tuition costs.

 I believe that in their zealousness to address the ever escalating costs of high school education and to assure parents that their children will still be receiving a quality education even at a lower price point, Gershon and Jeff overreached and were off base in attacking the quality of our educational system. You correctly call them to task for it.  They have acknowledged their mistake. That having been said, I would be remiss if I did not respectfully point out  you have engaged in some overreaching of your own and in the spirit of everyone learning from each other, I think there are some things that Gershon in his actions has accomplished in the last few years you are not giving enough credit to.

Your dismissiveness of Yeshivat Heatid is unfortunate. You say you are skeptical a quality Jewish education can be offered at half the price . But why? It is being done at Yeshivat Heatid . Yeshivat Heatid will be cash flow break even towards the end of next year and by all accounts, parent satisfaction of education quality is extremely high,  they have attracted quality teachers and are offering a top notch Jewish education. Westchester Torah Academy has likewise attracted top notch educators.  These are real live living and breathing institutions that are not just talking but acting to make a difference to ease the devastating financial burdens of our community.  Just as you were rightly offended by what you perceived as an assault on the  level of education in the Jewish high school movement, we in the affordable Jewish education movement are offended by your attack on our newly formed schools and on the existing schools we are working with  such as HALB (that is roughly half the price of SAR and has been in existence just as long)  whose leaders are credentialed educators who also give a lot of thought into best practices in education and are providing children with a high quality Jewish education. You say time will tell whether these institutions can be successful? Why? They are incredibly successful already. Quality of education has subjective elements to it. Affordability does not. Our schools are offering a price point that works for the community. The higher “quality” schools, should they continue as the only options in the community, clearly do not.

 Rabbi Krauss, you know I admire your contribution to Jewish education and feel that SAR day school thanks to your leadership, is the very best in Jewish day school education, but your implication that a school like SAR high school at nearly 35 k a year is the ONLY way to serve the community is misguided and must be denounced in the strongest terms.   We are not saying that all schools must adopt cost cutting and innovative teaching  methods we espouse but we do feel very strongly that there needs to be an affordable option in all major population centers where successful Jewish parents earning north of 250k annually can send their child, receive a quality education and not have to get undressed asking for scholarship.