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Endowment fund created for Jewish day schools

June 5, 2009 |  1:41 pm

With many Jewish day schools in a financial bind as families struggle to pay tuition, community leaders in Los Angeles have launched a campaign to raise $100 million for scholarships to help families enroll and keep their children in school.

The Day School Endowment Fund is a project of the Bureau of Jewish Education and the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and is meant to help provide immediate financial aid for families in need and to become an ongoing source of assistance, officials said.

Currently, about 10,000 students are enrolled in 36 K-12 schools in the greater Los Angeles area that are accredited by the Bureau of Jewish Education. About 40% of those students receive tuition assistance. The organization expects that percentage to rise because of the economic crisis.

The endowment fund is being seeded by two substantial challenge grants: $12.7 million from the Jim Joseph Foundation, which is providing scholarships for students to attend five local high schools, and $5 million from the Simha and Sara Lainer Family Foundation, which can be used to offset tuition at any of the schools. So far, about $4.25 million has been raised toward the challenge.

For the 2009-10 school year, more than $3 million will be distributed to families, with support also coming from the Candiotty Endowment, the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles Emergency Grant and the Milken Family Foundation.

"The Bureau of Jewish Education recognizes that while 40% of students in Jewish private schools are currently receiving financial assistance, today’s increasing economic pressure will cause those numbers to rise significantly," said Gil Graff, executive director of the organization.

At Shalhevet, one of the high schools that will be aided, many families are struggling, said Rabbi Elchanan Weinbach, who heads the school.

"As a school, we have seen almost 20 families who have, for years, paid tuition in full who now need significant scholarships to maintain for their younger children what they provided for their older ones,"  Weinbach said.

"Additionally many of the families who have been receiving financial aid now have greater needs. In the midst of this 'perfect storm' of dire need, the additional support provided by the Jim Joseph Foundation and the Lainer family is a break in the clouds that keeps the sun shining on so many of our children."

-- Carla Rivera