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Kadima Day School shifts tuition model

In an effort to increase enrollment and woo new families, Kadima Day School in West Hills is implementing a tuition model that will eliminate financial aid for families in need and replace it with lower costs that will make the school more affordable for most Kadima families.

Beginning in the 2017-18 academic year, the annual tuition for children in early education (ages 2 to 5) will drop 11 percent, to $11,600; the cost for children in kindergarten through fifth grade will drop by 43 percent, to $13,900; and it will drop the same percentage for grades six through eight, to $14,900, according to a Kadima Day School press release.

The initiative is being financially supported by the Evenhaim family, the school said.

Shawn Evenhaim, a member of the board of trustees at Kadima, a Conservative school, said his family’s support — now in the millions of dollars, cumulatively — represents an investment in the future of Jewish day schools at a time when they are facing enrollment decline because of rising tuition costs and non-Orthodox families having fewer children.

“It’s a huge investment on our end. We decided to do it, and there were many reasons we decided to do it,” Evenhaim said. Not least, he added, is the experience of his own children at Kadima.

“We saw the impact on our three boys,” he said.

Nonetheless, because so many families at Kadima are on tuition assistance, the new model will result in some families paying more than they have been with financial aid, said Kadima Head of School Greg Kovacs.

“We’ve done a lot of number crunching,” he said. “We’re looking at about just under 20 percent who will see an increase in their tuition, while the rest of population will see around the same or a slight decrease.”

Kovacs told the Journal the school will continue to make quality education its top priority even as the cost of tuition decreases. There are plans to cut costs through instructional changes, such as one teacher handling different student ability levels within the same classroom, as opposed to multiple teachers leading multiple classes for each level.

The school also will integrate learning, such as a general studies teacher incorporating Judaic studies into the curriculum.

“Some say lower tuition means less quality of education. It’s not the case here. We’re putting as much energy and time into securing the best quality of teachers,” Kovacs said. “That’s the motivation, the balance of quality education with accessible tuition.”

Shawn Evenhaim. Photo courtesy Miller Ink.

Shawn Evenhaim. Photo courtesy Miller Ink.

Evenhaim is founder and chief executive officer of Los Angeles-based California Home Builders and chairman emeritus of the Israeli American Council. In 2014, Evenhaim and his wife, Dorit, donated $1.2 million to the school — its full name is Kadima Day School Evenhaim Family Campus — for grants to help middle-income families that did not have children enrolled in Jewish day schools at the time.

Even high-earning families like the Evenhaims find day school tuition so high as to be unattractive, especially if the family has more than one prospective Jewish school student.

Indeed, families with annual incomes of even $200,000 can be eligible for financial aid at Jewish day schools. The problem is high-earning families do not want to apply for financial aid because they do not see themselves as candidates for it, Evenhaim said.

“We attracted a lot of kids through that [2014] grant and I’m very happy it was successful, but then I realized a lot of people are not even applying for these grants. They think, ‘Look, I make a good income,’ ” Evenhaim said.

Fran Amkraut, a Kadima board member and parent of four children who attend the school, said her children have received financial aid, and they are not alone — approximately 75 percent of the 250 students there currently receive some sort of tuition assistance, according to Kovacs.

Amkraut said she understands why some would not want to apply for aid.

“I find financial aid to be intimidating, tedious, laborious. I think for some families, I can’t speak for [all of] them, I find it believable it would be a reason some would not apply. It’s a headache,” she said. “People are not comfortable with numbers and paperwork. People who are new to the country, community or economy might not know where to start.”

A large portion of the student population at Kadima is Israeli. Evenhaim is Israeli and grew up with Judaism all around him. For Jewish children growing up in the multicultural United States, Jewish day school plays an important role in shaping young people as they grow older, he said.

He said he hopes other Jewish day schools follow suit and make tuition more affordable.

“This is a big-picture issue. It is not just about Kadima,” he said.

Kadima’s new tuition plan compares favorably with other Jewish schools. Annual tuition at Valley Beth Shalom Harold M. Schulweis Day School, which is Conservative and offers kindergarten through sixth grade, is $24,950. Kindergarten-through-sixth-grade tuition at Wise School, which is Reform and located at Stephen Wise Temple, is $28,885.

In non-Orthodox communities, it’s definitely on the low end,” Miriam Prum Hess, director of donor and community relations at Builders of Jewish Education (BJE), said of the new tuition costs at Kadima, one of 37 Los Angeles-area schools accredited by BJE. “I don’t think we have other schools that are anywhere near that.”

Prum Hess said that enrollment in Jewish day schools has dropped about 5 percent, to 9,500 from a peak of 10,000 in 2008.

Emblematic of the enrollment decline was the closure last May of Temple Emanuel Academy Day School.

Evenhaim said he hopes the lower tuition will entice new families, who in turn become eventual supporters of the school.

“My goal is to create a model where the school sustains itself and we’re not relying on a few donors but are creating families who are not just sending kids to Jewish education,” he said, “but are becoming supporters of Jewish education.”

How to shrink your day school tuition bill by $163,000

When the parents of three school-age children sat down with their financial adviser to try to figure out how to minimize their anticipated private school tuition bill of $810,000 through high school, they came up with a plan that shrunk the bill by $163,000.

How’d they do it?

Well, mostly by pre-paying, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Here’s how they worked it: With tuition averaging $30,000 per year for each of their children, ages 11, 9 and 7, they figured their total bill would be $810,000 if they factored in average annual increases of 5 percent per year.

If they pre-paid, however, they’d lock in the $30,000 rate. Their adviser, Kevin Stophel, suggested they lock in only 11 years of tuition payments. For the remaining payments, they could set aside the money and out-pace the expected tuition increases with smart investments.

Stophel also had the parents establish a 2503(c) minor’s trust for each of the youngest children to allow that money to grow tax free inside those trusts.

This could be a model for day school tuition savings — for those parents who have hundreds of thousands of dollars of cash lying around to pre-pay tuition, of course.

Goodbye, California

The scariest conversation I’ve had recently was with a college counselor at a local high school.

She said she has to tell parents and students that acceptance to the California State University (Cal State) system is no longer a sure thing. What’s more, the once near-certain transfer from a community college to a University of California (UC) is no longer so automatic.

At the root of the problem is money. The schools can’t expand to fill the demand; in fact, they are shrinking. Classes have been cut. Foreign and out-of-state students who can pay full fare get greater priority than ever before. What used to be assured for students looking to better themselves and contribute to society is now, in some cases, a long shot.

And it’s only going to get worse.

The state budget that Gov. Jerry Brown and the Democrat-led legislature passed on June 28 will take $650 million each from the Cal State and the UC systems. Those cuts come after a decade of reductions that began under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who slashed UC budgets some 20 percent.

The education cuts are among many tough choices Brown and the legislature made, including cuts in mental health, elderly, low-income and handicapped services, in an attempt to close a $26.6 billion state budget deficit.

As a result, education officials predict a shortening of the academic year, reduced ability to attract and retain top professors and researchers, an increase in the cost of community colleges, layoffs at universities that employ thousands of Californians, and tuition hikes approaching 20 percent.

Let’s be very, very clear about what is happening on our watch. We, the current generation of Californians, are overseeing the decay and degradation of the greatest gift the previous generation has bequeathed us: our system of public higher education.

What’s worse, we are robbing future generations of the opportunities we had, and in the process, we are taking a wrecking ball to our state.

Democrats and Republicans can argue ad nauseam about how to solve California’s budget deficit. But there is no serious partisan disagreement over this fundamental fact: You cannot have a great state without a great public education system.

Just think of our own little world, our own community. In so many cases, it was access to inexpensive, excellent public schools and universities that enabled many of us in the community to evolve from our grandparents’ struggling roots to become a professional and entrepreneurial class. The University of California turned out to be one of the greatest Jewish institutions the world has ever known. How much wealth, achievement and success can be traced back to its campuses?

“It was accessible to anybody who earned it,” Zev Yaroslavky, the Los Angeles County Supervisor — and UCLA grad — told me over the phone last week. “All they needed was the intellectual capacity and the drive to succeed.”

The true tragedy is that the next generation of worthy students simply won’t have the same opportunities. But they aren’t the only ones who will pay a price: We all will.

Universities are society’s economic engines, sure. But perhaps the public universities’ greater value is the values they stand for: that anyone who works hard enough can succeed. Trample on the path to affordable, excellent education, and you trample on hope.

Reading the Internet and listening to talk radio, you get the impression that the people to blame for these deficits are the students themselves — who have the temerity to expect the same quality of education their parents were offered — or those fat pensions UC executives and employees get.

I do think that in an era of tight money, until we get our house in order, some cuts, pension reform and some hikes are necessary. Share the wealth, share the pain.

But what seems to be happening in this round of budget “compromise” is just the pain part.

For instance, Yaroslavsky pointed out that under Schwarzenegger the state revoked its taxes on luxury items like yachts and private airplanes. The new budget retains those tax breaks.

Are taxes on Gulfstream Vs enough to close the gap? No. But the refusal to increase, or even extend, any tax revenue, even among the richest among us, sends a clear message — let the burden fall on those who are least able to fight back.

Raising these questions inevitably brings accusations of class warfare, but it’s hard not to think that the war started a while ago, and only one side is fighting.

In the end, though, we all lose.

“If these are the values of our state today,” Yaroslavsky said, “shame on all of us.”

Then again, maybe he’s overreacting. Maybe I am, too. Maybe higher learning is overrated. After all, the governor, the legislators and most voters all have college educations — and look what a mess we’ve made of this great state.

Tuition grants, endowments to benefit day schools

More than half the students in Los Angeles Jewish day schools receive financial aid to pay tuition, which runs between $12,000 and $30,000 per year. And with both tuition and the number of students requiring aid expected to continue climbing, BJE: Builders of Jewish Education is partnering with local donors and national organizations both to alleviate the immediate crisis and work toward long-term solutions for lowering the cost of Jewish education.

Last week, BJE announced that Los Angeles is one of three cities to split a $3.1 million Generations grant from the AVI CHAI Foundation and the Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education (PEJE) that will provide seven day schools with financial aid dollars and training and resources necessary for developing an endowment capable of spinning off funds in perpetuity. BJE raised $600,000 to match AVI CHAI’s contribution to secure the grant, and is now accepting applications from elementary, middle and high schools.

“If you look at what is happening in the school world, the schools and universities that are successful and able to weather the economy are those that have big endowments. So we set that as a high priority,” said Miriam Prum Hess, director of BJE’s Center for Excellence in Day School Education.

Only a few of Los Angeles’ 38 Jewish day schools have any sort of endowment, and the Generations grant joins other initiatives that in the last few years have focused on endowment.

A Jim Joseph Foundation grant totaling $12.7 million gave five Los Angeles Jewish high schools money to provide scholarships to middle-class families who earn too much to qualify for financial aid but still struggle to pay tuition. The grant came with funds to hire and train development staff, and required schools to raise their own monies for endowment.

Now completing the second year of a six-year cycle, the five high schools have raised a combined $2.3 million for their endowments.

“It’s difficult to think endowment when you need to raise money to keep the lights on,” said Larry Gill, board president of Shalhevet, where tuition for next year is $27,250. “But the reason the Jim Joseph program has been so effective is that it has really forced discipline on us. It’s sort of like a 401(k) — it forced us to put money away for the future.”

The grant also enabled Shalhevet to hire two full-time development professionals. Gill says Shalhevet is well on the way toward securing pledges of $500,000 for the endowment to meet a June 30 grant deadline.

BJE itself has secured pledges of nearly $10 million for a community fund that, starting in 2012, will add 25 cents to every dollar schools raise for endowment. The community fund, also a requirement for the Jim Joseph Foundation grant, was seeded with a $5 million matching challenge from the Simha and Sara Lainer Family Foundation. BJE has set a target of $100 million total for the community fund combined with the schools’ individual endowments, but Prum Hess says that number will have to grow to meet the community’s growing needs. More than half of the 9,500 students in BJE-affiliated schools are projected to receive financial aid next year.

To further help schools build fundraising infrastructure, BJE set up the Leadership and Fundraising Academy (LFA), an 18-month program for administrators and lay leaders, funded by a grant from Peter and Janine Lowy.

Sinai Akiba is one of the few schools in Los Angeles to have an endowment — a $7 million fund it started in the 1980s — and participation in LFA has enabled it to broaden its fundraising activities and focus its mission, according to headmaster Rabbi Larry Scheindlin.

“The thing we have learned most from the LFA process is that it is educational quality that drives the future of the school and carries the school into a virtuous cycle of enrollment and fundraising,” Scheindlin said. “It’s a terrible mistake to think that you can cut back on educational quality in order to lower tuition and thereby sustain enrollment.”

Rather, he said, Sinai Akiba has set tuition where it needs to be — $19,400 for the lower school, $21,600 for the middle school for the 2011-12 academic year — and increased its financial aid program, going from 15 percent of students a few years ago to 27 percent this year. The school has actively recruited and offered aid to families who thought they couldn’t afford a Jewish education.

Prum Hess says the presence of the LFA and the success of the Jim Joseph grant helped Los Angeles win the AVI CHAI grant, which relies on training existing development staff.

BJE raised $600,000 to qualify for the matching grant, then raised additional money to offer each of the seven schools $52,000 over three years, rather than the $25,000 prescribed by AVI CHAI. The hope is that the scholarship money, though a modest amount compared to the need, will alleviate some immediate stress and stabilize enrollment, and allow schools to develop their capacity to raise endowment funds, Prum Hess said.

In addition to the cash infusion, each school will receive five days of coaching with an experienced fundraiser and marketing materials that schools can customize. A BJE staff person, hired with the grant money, will serve as a resource to guide schools through the process of shoring up its fundraising apparatus.

The help, according to Shalhevet’s Gill, can’t come soon enough.

“If things continue in the current crescendo of cost versus money earned, in a very short amount of time the advantage of a Jewish education will be the purview of the extremely wealthy only. And that would be a disaster,” Gill said.

N.Y. budget includes tuition grants for rabbinic students

New York’s state budget includes tuition grants for college students attending some private religious institutions, including Orthodox rabbinical schools.

The money is available as part of the state’s Tuition Assistance Program, under which any theological student who meets certain criteria, including attending a three-year program at a tax-exempt institution based in New York, can be eligible for the grants.

The institution also must be eligible under federal law for Pell grants for undergraduate study; the program does not exclude students studying for the rabbinate.

Some 5,000 men who attend dozens of Orthodox rabbinical schools in New York stand to benefit, according to The New York Times, but most rabbinic seminaries accept only students who have completed college.

Some New York State lawmakers have tried for the last 10 years to eliminate the program’s ban on state tuition assistance for college students who attend yeshivas that are not state-chartered, according to the Times.

Opponents say the provision violates the constitutional provision of separation of church and state.

Will recession fuel a return to public schools?

Throughout the Los Angeles Unified School District, the recession is prompting middle-class parents to take a look at public middle and high schools they have long disdained. Private schools are just too expensive for many people.

A large number of Jews, whose heritage and culture put a high value on education, are in this economically stressed category. That is why the present and future of the Los Angeles schools is a Jewish issue, one that deserves a place high up on the community’s agenda.

“The number of people who can’t afford private school is increasing,” said Marlene Canter, the Los Angeles school board member who has for two terms represented the Westside and its many Jewish residents and who is about to step down. I met with Canter and her field representative, Paola Santana, for breakfast last week in Westwood to talk about her efforts to persuade Westside residents to send their children to public schools. She represents the Fourth District, which extends from the Palisades and Brentwood to Marina del Rey and includes Mar Vista, Palms, Westwood, Westchester and Venice. It also reaches as far east as Hollywood.

We discussed the current recession’s impact on Jewish families who began abandoning the LAUSD generations ago, when court-ordered desegregation touched off a white exodus from the school system. While this was happening, Los Angeles’ population was changing, and many schools became predominantly Latino. The change is reflected in high schools in Canter’s district.

University High School’s student body is almost 60 percent Latino, 18.6 percent black, 8.9 per cent Asian and 10.3 percent white. At Venice High, Latinos comprise almost 73 percent, whites 11 percent, blacks almost 11 percent and Asians almost 4 percent. Hollywood High School’s students are 77.8 percent Latino, 9.4 percent white, 4.7 percent black and 3.8 percent Asian.

Canter said she starts with the premise that “every child should have an opportunity to get a great public education in a public school.”

You can’t very well make the argument that the schools throughout the Los Angeles district are great schools. The district is huge and covers the Southland’s poorest and toughest neighborhoods. LAUSD’s leadership is unstable and uncertain, smothering initiative with a huge blanket of bureaucracy. The teachers’ union opposes attempts to change work rules that shelter the incompetent. So does the principals’ union. (Yes, unbelievably, they have a union, too).

But there are many talented teachers and principals in the Los Angeles schools. I saw some bad principals, but good ones, too, when I wrote about the schools for the Los Angeles Times more than a decade ago, and I was reminded of the high-quality personnel in September when I met with Los Angeles High School teachers for a column for Truthdig, the web magazine. I was impressed.

In this climate, Canter is stepping up her efforts to urge parents to consider sending their children to middle and high schools in their neighborhoods. There are, she acknowledged, other choices within LAUSD — charter schools and magnets. But charters are often located far from home, and for admission to magnets, parents must navigate through a complicated lottery system based on points. Local schools are making an attempt to improve, and they could be an attractive choice.

What’s more, many public schools aren’t the same monolithic campuses that they once were. There’s been a movement to create small learning centers, offering special programs known as Schools for Advanced Studies, for example, for honors students, or specialized “academies” for kids particularly interested in math, science or performing arts, among others. These schools-within-schools are very popular, creating not only specialized learning centers for the students, but also a sense of community. And they take only a simple application for admission. You can find them in many LAUSD middle and high schools.

Earlier this year, Canter arranged for Ray Cortines, the recently named LAUSD school superintendent who at the time was deputy superintendent, to meet with a group of parents at a Westside Coffee Bean to tout the virtues of University High. Kathy Gonnella, principal of Emerson Middle School, has also hosted a wine and cheese evening for parents. My daughter, mother of two children, went to the latter and came back impressed. Earlier this year, I attended an evening meeting at Webster Middle School, where several principals pitched their Westside middle and high schools.

“What we are doing is breaking down perceptions,” Canter said, attitudes that have been 30 years in the making, dating back to the desegregation controversy.

She said the principals and teachers have to play a big role in bringing about the change. “Principals in private schools spend a lot of time marketing themselves,” she said. But in the past, she said, “our principals have never tried.” The schools, she said, “must open the doors to the parents.”

In addition, she said, the school board must make marketing LAUSD a high priority.

Of course the need to bring back middle-class parents extends far beyond the Jewish community. It is important throughout the district. It is unfair, unjust and simply dead wrong for a parent to be forced to mortgage the family future to send a kid to a private school that may or may not provide the education the child needs. Harvard Westlake is a good school, but graduation from there is not an automatic ticket to the Ivy League.

Los Angeles’ public high schools should be a path to Harvard, UCLA, Berkeley, USC, Cal State Northridge or any other college. As a matter of fact, they already often are. The district is making an effort to improve and has succeeded in many schools.

With more parents considering such an alternative, it is up to the L.A. school district to convince them that it is a good choice.

Until leaving the Los Angeles Times in 2001, Bill Boyarsky worked as a political correspondent, a Metro columnist for nine years and as city editor for three years. You can reach him at

Kadima cuts costs via Community Tuition Partnership

Kadima Hebrew Academy/Kadima Heschel West Middle School is confronting the economic crisis by reducing tuition school-wide for 2009-2010 by an average of 20 percent.

Kadima hopes the move — the first of its kind in the Los Angeles area — will encourage struggling families to keep their kids enrolled at the private day school and make Jewish education seem more financially feasible to those who formerly could not afford it.

“We wanted to find a way to make our day school education more affordable for more parents,” said Dr. Barbara Gereboff, head of school. “A couple of our families have come in and said times are tough and they don’t know how they’re going to make it work. We decided it was time to make an innovative, bold move outside of the normal paradigm to make that possible.”

The West Hills school joined community supporters and parents who could afford to donate extra funds in a partnership to subsidize the tuition cut. The Community Tuition Partnership, which will take effect in the 2009-2010 academic year, will lower costs for the entire K-8 student body: kindergarten students currently paying $16,273 for 2008-2009 next year would pay $13,070; elementary school fees would fall from $18,314 to $14,300; and middle school rates would drop from $20,910 to $16,905. New enrollees pay an extra one-time entry fee, but total tuition and fees are slightly lower if families pay for the year in full upfront.

“Most schools in the last few years have continued to increase tuition, in Los Angeles and across the country,” board of trustees president Shawn Evenhaim said. “What we’ve done is we’ve pushed a large part of our community away because it just wasn’t accessible anymore. We wanted to look at what we could do to correct that.”

This year, many families receiving financial aid asked for increased aid, and several families that had never applied for financial aid before did so for the first time, Evenhaim said.

But simply increasing financial aid wasn’t addressing the extra stress put on middle class families, Gereboff said. Even as the economic downturn began to plunge formerly stable households into financial turmoil, many parents resisted making the psychological adjustment necessary to ask for help.

“Many middle-class parents didn’t see themselves as people who should apply for financial aid, so they wouldn’t even walk in the door to begin with,” she said.

Evenhaim also said he spoke to parents who couldn’t afford a day school education on their own, but refused to apply for aid because they didn’t see themselves as “financial aid families.”

Kadima board members started exploring ways to subsidize tuition four months ago in response to what they saw as a “perfect storm” pushing students out of Jewish education across the city and beyond. The school modeled its rate cut on a similar step taken by Gross Schechter Day School in Cleveland, Ohio, five years ago. At that school, parents, community donors and Jewish organizations pooled their funds to cut yearly tuition almost in half — students now pay $6,500, a steep drop from the $13,000-$14,000 they would be paying without the subsidy.

“If we could shock the system by lowering tuition, we felt we could provide relief to our current families and also attract new families,” said Rabbi Jim Rogozen, headmaster. “We figured we could either take a chance, given the economy, and wait to see what the next year brought — or we could do something different.”

Since slashing tuition in the 2004-2005 academic year, Gross Schechter has seen its enrollment rise by 24 percent. The school has also retained more students at all grade levels who might have otherwise opted to switch into public schools, Rogozen said.

Parents and administrators at Kadima are hoping their own partnership produces similar results. PTO president Natalie Spiewak said the move would tip the scale for families who found the school’s former price tag intimidating.

“I think people who otherwise wouldn’t look at Kadima because it was too expensive might say, ‘This is more affordable now; maybe I can consider it,'” she said. “I think this is going to open the door for a lot more people to be able to choose a private day school education.”

News of the program is also a much-needed boon to families that are now struggling to keep more than one child enrolled at the school, said Spiewak, whose two children are students.

But even with the tuition cut, Kadima’s rates are still middle-of-the-road as far as L.A. day schools go. The Rabbi Jacob Pressman Academy of Temple Beth Am this year charged $13,345 to $14,650 for its elementary and middle school students, Valley Beth Shalom Day School charged $16,150, and Sinai Akiba Academy’s fees ranged from $17,083 to $19,275.

“Some schools cost significantly less, some are on par, and others cost more,” said Miriam Prum Hess, vice president of The Jewish Federation and director of day school operations for the Bureau of Jewish Education. “The struggle for schools is to make their education as affordable as possible, yet operate in a responsible way. It will be interesting to see how this works, but it’s hard to tell.”

While Kadima is still “not cheap,” Evenhaim said it wasn’t hard to get donors on board to fund the tuition cut. For the school’s parent donors, it was as simple as asking them to pay what they paid in tuition this year — under the new, lowered-rate system, the extra dollars would suddenly be tantamount to tzedakah.

“Almost everybody that we went to were extremely excited about this concept,” he said. “Just by writing a check for tuition, they are giving tzedakah to the community. When they become part of this partnership, they feel good because their money is working to ensure the future of Jewish education. This is the best investment that we can concentrate on today.”

The new tuition system would not affect the quality of classroom instruction for the school’s 260 students, according to Gereboff.

Evenhaim said he hopes the program will inspire a local trend. He wants other private schools to adopt similar plans and make a unified effort to boost the number of L.A. students in Jewish day schools. “If this is successful, we would love to share it with many other schools,” he said. “Our goal is not just to make sure Kadima has a lot of students — our goal is to make sure that as many Jewish kids as possible receive a Jewish education.”

Spiewak said she plans to keep her children in private day school.

“I believe in the education that my children are getting there,” she said.

UCLA chancellor Gene Block tackles economy, civic responsibility

UCLA’s new chancellor, Gene D. (for David) Block, got an early lesson in both hard work and Jewish tribalism when, during summer vacations, he helped his father, a dairy products distributor in Monticello, N.Y.

“I had two milk routes along the Borscht Belt in the Catskill Mountains,” Block recalled. “I got up at 4 a.m. for my wholesale deliveries to the large camps. In the early afternoon, I’d switch trucks to service the retail customers in the bungalows.”

The tough part of the job was to keep milk labels apart for the different Chasidic customers.

“I had to juggle six kinds of kosher milk,” Black said, “because the Lubavitchers needed a different kind of certification than the Satmars, and so did the Belz, the Ger Chasidim and so on.”

Still, the job had its compensations. Delivering milk to the great Borscht Belt hotels — The Concord, Grossinger’s and others — Block caught the last of the legendary comics of the era.

Block, 59, has completed his first year as UCLA’s top man, after spending most of his career — from assistant professor to vice president — at the University of Virginia.

He earned an international reputation as a physiological psychologist and continues to focus his research and teaching on biological clocks, the brain’s electrical time-keeping system.

Block is known to his colleagues as a workaholic and multitasker but also wins praise for his patience and optimism. He displayed his patience and humor during an hour-long interview at his UCLA office and needs all his optimism to tackle the problems at hand.

These include a shaky state budget, which provides about 30 percent of UCLA’s funds; continued efforts at student diversity within legal parameters; and, lately, protecting researchers working with animals from politically motivated physical attacks.

He prides himself on good communication with students, and the campus has been largely spared ethnic or religious friction. Of some 37,500 undergraduate and graduate students, 36 percent are white, non-Hispanic; 33 percent are Asian and Pacific Islanders; 12.5 percent Chicano/Latino, and 3.5 percent African Americans. The remainder chose not to identify their ethnicities.

According to the best estimates, there are some 3,500 to 4,000 Jewish students, or roughly 10 percent of the student body.

Block’s grandparents on both sides came to the United States from different parts of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, mainly from the Czech, Hungarian and Transylvanian areas, in search of a better life.

The chancellor relishes talking about his paternal grandfather, who served 25 years in the U.S. Navy under the name of Frank May and saw action in the Chinese Boxer Rebellion of 1899-1901.

After discharge, he decided to buy a farm in the Catskill area but found the going tough. So his wife opened a boarding house for New York summer visitors, and when all the rooms were rented out, Block’s grandparents slept in the barn.

Block’s parents were Reform Jews, but young Gene (his real given name) celebrated his bar mitzvah in a Conservative synagogue.

“We were sort of the typical American Jewish family in transition,” Block remembered. “We didn’t keep a kosher home, but my mother had two sets of dishes and never served shrimp.”

His father spoke Yiddish, of which Block has retained a smattering.

When Block was a biology professor at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, he made what he smilingly described as his greatest contribution to his faith.

“I had a post-doctoral student, who, it turned out, was also a cantor. So I ‘volunteered’ him to the local synagogue, and even after he moved elsewhere, he always returned for the High Holidays.”

At UCLA, as in Virginia, Block attends High Holy Day services at the campus Hillel Center.

Block married his high school sweetheart, Carol, 38 years ago, and they are the parents of two adult children. Among his hobbies are tinkering with cars and his collection of 50 antique radios.

Block seems to be enjoying his new job and is high on UCLA, especially its “remarkable students — they’re dazzling.” When they graduate, he predicted, “they will be a transformative generation, crucial to the technological and economic development of California.”

In the interview, Block stressed UCLA’s responsibility to the larger Los Angeles community, especially in improving the public school system.

A major project is working together with the Los Angeles Unified School District on a future community school, on the site of the old Ambassador Hotel, whose students, mainly from minority groups, will be in small classes, with an emphasis on science and information technology.

Also getting under way is an interdisciplinary research center on the UCLA campus, dealing with acute civic problems, including childhood obesity, homelessness and gang violence.

All of this will take money, not the least from private donors, and Block knows that one of the main tasks of any modern university head is to spearhead fundraising efforts.

He does not discriminate against donors of any race or creed, but he is well aware that Jews have been among the most generous of UCLA supporters, as the names on many campus buildings and labs testify.

“I feel certain that the Jewish community will continue its traditional support of higher education,” Block said in parting.

What to do when the high price of higher education keeps getting higher

As high school seniors scramble to finish college applications and anxiously await admission decisions, their parents may be more worried about how they’re going to pay the bill.

The average annual cost for tuition, room and board, books and personal expenses at a UC campus is about $24,000. Many private colleges are twice as expensive. Tuition has been increasing faster than the rate of inflation and there is concern in the higher education community that only students from the most affluent families will be able to attend private colleges.

A number of prominent schools have taken steps to help make college more accessible to low- and middle-income families.

A number of prestigious colleges, including Amherst, Davidson, Princeton, Williams and Harvard, have decided to replace loans with grants for all students who qualify for financial aid. Harvard will no longer require families with an income under $60,000 to contribute to the cost of college, and families with incomes as high as $180,000 will pay no more than 10 percent of their income toward a Harvard education. In addition, the school will stop using home equity in determining financial need.

With the largest endowment of any college in the country, Harvard can afford to be more generous. But other schools are also making changes in financial aid policies. Administrators at Duke have also decided that parents of families with incomes below $60,000 will no longer have to contribute toward their child’s education, and if the income is under $40,000, the student will qualify to receive grants. Loans at Duke will also be reduced or capped for all students who qualify for financial aid, even those from families with incomes over $100,000.

Closer to home, Cal Tech has just announced that it is replacing loans with grants for all new students from families with incomes up to $60,000. More schools are likely to announce new financial aid initiatives in the near future.

How do parents apply for financial aid? Most colleges use the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine eligibility not only for federal and state aid, but also for their own institutional aid. The FAFSA can be filed beginning Jan. 1, and within a few weeks you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR). The most important piece of information on the SAR is the Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which is the figure the colleges use to determine financial aid packages. The difference between your EFC and the cost of attending is your financial need.

For example, if the annual total cost of attending a school is $42,000 and your EFC is $23,000, your financial need is $19,000. The financial aid office will then assemble a package of grants, loans and a work-study job. While the most selective colleges often guarantee to meet full demonstrated need, at most schools there is a gap between the aid package and a student’s need, leaving the family to find a way to make up the difference.

Financial aid packages can vary even among similar colleges. A student’s third-choice school may offer a lot of grant money while his first-choice school’s package is primarily loans. Being able to graduate without facing years of monthly loan payments can be a great reason to move the third-choice school to the top of the list.

Many parents wonder if applying for financial aid makes a student less attractive to a college. The truth is that it depends on the school. Colleges that have a need-blind admission policy make their admissions decisions without even looking at whether a student has applied for financial aid. The UC system and most highly selective schools fall in this category. Some schools that try to be need-blind during the admissions process do consider financial need when they are taking students off a waiting list, since by that time financial aid resources have often been depleted.

Earlier is better when it comes to applying for financial aid. Most colleges have limited resources, and once the money is gone, that’s it. It’s perfectly acceptable to use your best estimates on the FAFSA and make corrections after your income tax returns have been filed.

To complete the FAFSA, visit ” target=”_blank”> A good Web site for financial aid information is

Mere Humans

In the space below, list all patents you have received in the past four years:


Nothing? Not even one lousy invention?

And you expect to get into college?

No kidding, my niece, Lesley, came upon this question on the 2007 entrance application to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She left it blank.

“Guys,” she told her parents, “I don’t think I’m going to MIT.”

That moment, Lesley said, was her low point in the long, drawn-out hell that is college admissions. You can get straight A’s, ace your SATs, captain the girls’ water polo team, write like Anne Morrow Lindbergh, but then some wiseacre admissions committee wants to know what have you done for humanity lately. Scratch that: What have you invented for humanity lately?

I don’t know if that question has haunted the MIT application for decades.

But I do know that this year was the single hardest year to get into the college of one’s choice. The Baby Boomers who mated nearly 18 years ago created a demographic bubble, a baby boomlet, that has flooded college admissions offices with piano prodigies, Westinghouse winners and Junior Olympians with 4.5 GPAs.

“I don’t want to be too discouraging,” Judith P. Mackenzie of Mackenzie College Consulting told the Seattle Times, “because many mere humans are admitted each year, but it’s tougher than it’s ever been.”

Lesley’s father attended MIT. “If it’s any comfort,” he told her, “I wouldn’t have gotten in either this year.”

I suspect those words are being repeated in many households around now.

This time of year in L.A., the usual chatter about real estate prices and movie grosses gives way temporarily to unending conversations about schools — and not just colleges.

The angst that marks the college entrance process echoes backward through the grades.

Milken Community High and New Jewish Community High School each faced extraordinarily large pools of qualified applicants for the ninth grade.

A friend of mine with a toddler asked me if I had any pull with a Chabad preschool on the Westside. “I didn’t know you were Jewish,” I said.

“We’re not,” she said, “but we need a backup in case we can’t get her into First Years.”
And so it begins.

I know some parents for whom this process is not such a big deal. They realized early on how the system works. They bought or rented a home based on the local school’s rating, or they carefully racked up magnet school points, all the while tithing their income into a sensible savings plan. I have a word for these parents: grownups.

But I know more parents who, when their infant suddenly walked upright, went into a school-provoked frenzy that doesn’t relent until the last installment on the last college loan is paid, sometime around 2027.

These are the parents I tend to hang out with. Our conversations shuttle from shock to outrage to high anxiety to resignation.

We suddenly awaken to the sorry state of too many of our public schools, far too late in the game to improve them for our kids.

Some of us point fingers at busing, the competitiveness of a global economy, immigrants, incompetent officials, uncaring parents — but still we have to choose now for our kids, knowing we can’t solve any of these problems tomorrow.

For those of us committed to a Jewish education, the choices are, to put it mildly, complex. Our external and internal debates probe the quality, the cost, the convenience. The lack of Jewish high schools on the Westside has led 11 families I know to enroll their soon-to-be ninth graders in New Jew, which is in the West Valley. The kids will get a great education, with a minor in commuting.

And that’s assuming — now that their children have cleared the entrance hurdle — the parents can keep paying for it. A rabbi in town told me his son once asked him when they will ever get a new car. “I get a new car every year,” the rabbi responded. “It’s called a Tuition.”

For parents of special-needs children, this whole process is a thousand times more agonizing, mixed with uncertainty, a public education system that usually has to be litigated into submission and limited and expensive private and Jewish options.

But … summer is almost here. The college admissions frenzy has climaxed, the first tuition installments have come due and parents and children are resigned or elated in their choices for the coming academic year.

As for my niece, she’ll be attending UC Berkeley this fall — patent that, MIT.

She’ll succeed, but I’m sure her future success will have less to do with what schools she did or did not attend and more to do with her ability to attend to herself.

“Go to your bosom,” wrote Shakespeare in “Measure for Measure,” “knock there, and ask your heart what it doth know.”

To raise a child to young adulthood who knows herself, who has a sense of what she loves, an ability to relate to others and a command of the things she needs to learn — that is a gift far beyond the right school and the best scores.

Because let’s not fool ourselves about the most important question our children will have to answer once they’ve finally graduated.

It’s not, “Where did you go to school?”

It’s, “What do you want to do next?”

Retaining Educators No Easy Assignment

Last year, Deena Messinger considered leaving her job as a kindergarten teacher at Sinai Akiva Academy in Westwood to teach at a secular private school or a public school. While Sinai pays well relative to other day schools, she said, a switch would mean higher salary and better benefits, such as a vision and dental plan. As Messinger and her husband look down the line to having children, paying for day-school education on their salaries — Sinai Akiba’s tuition is now “pushing $12,000,” she said — seemed daunting.

In the end, Messinger chose to stay at Sinai.

“It wasn’t just about money. What kept me at my school was that I do really like teaching Jewish kids,” she said. “Any choice you make in your life has trade-offs. There’s no perfect place. But it’s worth it. I love what I do and I think that’s pretty rare.”

Dedicating oneself to Jewish education, and then feeling underpaid and undervalued for doing so, is a chronic problem among Jewish educators — especially those who teach the youngest children.

When Jewish early childhood educators were asked in a recent survey what had attracted them to the field, only 1 percent said it was the money. Asked what factors most contribute to keeping them in the field, just 3 percent mentioned their salaries.

And when the same group of teachers from Broward and Miami-Dade counties in Florida was asked what would most improve their jobs, 76 percent said increased salary would help, and another 34 percent mentioned better health insurance.

Those findings aren’t surprising, given that the average salary of an early childhood Jewish educator in the United States hovers somewhere around $18,000 a year, and low salaries across the spectrum of jobs in Jewish education remain a problem, observers say.

“Early childhood Jewish education is where people are generally paid the worst and receive the worst of everything, and it can be a crucial component of the Jewish education system,” said Steven Kraus, director of day school, congregational and communal education initiatives at the Jewish Education Service of North America. The Jewish community, he added, needs to understand the importance of early childhood education and support those “who are on the front lines.”

A new pilot project now operating in Florida aims to do just that.

Project Kavod: Improving the Culture of Employment in Jewish Education, a program conducted by the Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education through a grant from the Covenant Foundation, is investigating ways to better recruit and retain qualified teachers.

Project Kavod, a three-year pilot program, is working with four Miami institutions: the David and Mary Alper Jewish Community Center; the Conservative Bet Shira Congregation; the Reform Temple Beth Sholom; and the Rabbi Alexander S. Gross Hebrew Academy, whose student body is largely Orthodox.

In addition, Project Kavod — the Hebrew word for “respect” — is working with the Miami-Dade Center for the Advancement of Jewish Education and the Greater Miami Jewish Federation.

The program has begun by gathering fiscal data on the four sites. The result is 45 items that potentially could improve the culture of employment in early childhood education.

One fundamental challenge is informing the public about the importance of early childhood education.

“There still needs to be an important education/advocacy piece,” said Kraus of the Jewish Education Service. A few “generations ago some people would have seen early childhood education as glorified baby-sitting. We’re way beyond that in many places.”

Further, said Patricia Bidol-Padva, the Project Kavod coordinator in Florida, Jewish parents need to learn about “what the salaries are and to make a commitment to doing something about it.”

Project Kavod is producing a manual of “change-management tools” for early childhood education institutions and a publication with answers to three perennial questions: Why is Jewish education important; how should Jewish educators be treated; and what’s the obligation of Jewish educators to the communities they serve?

“There’s a long way to go,” Bido-Padva said. Still, teachers’ salaries could be significantly improved if the JCC raised $100,000 more a year, said Rabbi Jeffrey Falick, director of Jewish life and culture at the Dave and Mary Alper JCC.

“That’s not, on the scale of things, an unrealistic aspiration,” he said. “The program is really helping us to build a case. ”


The $45 Million Question

As soon as word spread about last month’s $45 million gift to Jewish day schools in Boston, one question arose for parents and educators around the city: What about Los Angeles?

While no one is brazen enough to put a definitive number or date on such a godsend in Los Angeles, officials at the highest levels of Jewish communal structures have been incubating a plan for about a year to make day school funding and fundraising more robust.

With tuition as high as $22,000 a year for high school — and that’s not even covering increasing operational expenses — everyone from parents to community leaders recognize that something has to be done to sustain the city’s 36 schools and 10,000 students.

In all national population surveys, having a day school education has been a key factor in creating higher sustained levels of affiliation.

The top executives of the The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, the Bureau of Jewish Education (BJE) and the Jewish Community Foundation have joined forces to buck the perennial Los Angeles challenges of size and sprawl to lay the foundation for a system where money raised on a communal level will go both toward funding scholarships and toward creating incentives for the schools to develop endowments of their own.

“We have had an ongoing discussion about building a very large community endowment,” L.A. Federation President John Fishel said. “Using monies that we have available through our annual campaign and money available from the Jewish Community Foundation, we want to try to challenge large donors to come on board to help us build a significant endowment that would allow us to generate income for the operational support of schools and to keep tuition costs down.”

Fishel said that he has met with several major givers to begin discussions on what may become lead gifts for a communal pot, but no donor has come forward yet to open the floodgates.

“I think there are some things in place that if they would align themselves properly — and we are trying to push those things to align themselves properly — I think the community in the course of the next decade could develop a $25 [million] to $30 million fund,” said Marvin Schotland, president and CEO of the Jewish Community Foundation.

While the details of how such a fund would function are not yet established — and might very well be driven by a particular donor’s vision — the need for schools to increase income is undeniable.

Currently, only a handful of schools have endowments. In non-Orthodox schools, tuition covers about 85 to 90 percent of costs, with the rest raised through annual dinners, campaigns or major benefactors. Orthodox schools, which give more scholarships, operate with roughly 60 to 65 percent of costs covered by tuition.

The BJE, a Federation agency, distributes $2.25 million to schools annually — about $225 per day school child — a number many critics feel is too low.

In Chicago, a city whose community has deeper roots and whose annual campaign is proportionately much more successful than Los Angeles’, the Federation doles out $500 per child in kindergarten through eighth grade and $1,000 per high school student, in addition to funds from an endowment.

In the last 10 years, annual tuition has nearly doubled at most schools, with kindergarten through eighth-grade tuition reaching about $12,000.

Gil Graff, executive director of the BJE, worries that even comfortable professional families cannot sustain that level of sacrifice. He points to a drop in day school enrollment over the last several years, due mostly to nationwide demographic dips in school-age children, but also, Graff fears, due to the rising costs.

Graff looks toward the model of Chicago as one example of what Los Angeles can do to create new realities. Over the last few years, Chicago has developed two day school endowment programs. One is a communal fund where the income is paid out on a per capita basis to the 14 schools. The other is one where schools themselves raise the money, and the Federation kicks in an additional 10 percent, up to $100,000 per gift.

But raising communal dollars is notoriously difficult in Los Angeles, with its geographic and philosophical sprawl.

“Los Angeles does not have donors who are stepping up to endow the communal pot,” Schotland said. “What kind of individual do you need to find that has the vision, the openness and the understanding so that they are willing to put dollars into a communal pot and understand that on every level, across the board, the community is enhanced by students being educated in a Jewish environment?”

Schotland pointed to other challenges. Education in general has not been a big draw for major donors, he said, and even donors interested in Jewish education might not agree that day schools are the best way to educate future generations.

In addition, Los Angeles schools are still in a state of relative immaturity. The oldest day schools in Los Angeles are around 50 years old, and a good number of them were founded only in the last two decades. Enrollment has gone from 5,500 students in 22 schools in 1985 to nearly 10,000 students in 36 schools today, with much of the growth occurring in non-Orthodox institutions. Those newer schools, and some of the old ones, are still building their infrastructure, so many of the major gifts go to specific schools for specific projects.

Graff hopes the Boston gift will change how people view giving to day schools.

“[The Boston gift] establishes that this cause in fact elicits gifts of high magnitude, and a donor is not being some sort of idiosyncratic pioneer, but is joining others who have undertaken such initiatives,” Graff said.

The $45 million was split four ways, with $15 million going into a community fund for the 2,600 students in 16 day schools, and three schools receiving $10 million each.

Barry Shrage, president of Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston (the L.A. Federation’s equivalent), said the gift materialized over several years after two donors, both of whom have long-standing connections to Schrage, took the lead in crafting both the vision and the donor pool.

“The day school project is enormously important, but it is imbedded in a broader vision for the creation of a new kind of Jewish community,” Shrage said. “I think it works best in an environment where the Federation is not just about raising money. The Federation is about creating a very broad, shared vision for the entire community. The donors feel comfortable as part of that shared vision.”

Does that atmosphere exist in Los Angeles, which is both bigger and younger than the Boston community?

Fishel still sees enormous challenges to achieving that level of rapport.

“I think we are at a very different level of community development,” he said. “We are grappling here with trying to forge a vision that has broad-based consensus so we can move from our historical patterns of support to something that would address contemporary realities. If I can be brutally honest, I would like to think that we would have moved further along that continuum.”

Still, Fishel vows to keep up the fight for day schools.

“It’s taken a long time for Boston to get to this point, and the challenge in Los Angeles is longer term. But that doesn’t mean you don’t undertake it and don’t try to achieve it.”

Day School Help on the Way

Beginning Dec. 1, Miriam Prum-Hess, the L.A. Federation’s vice president of planning and allocations, will move within the organization to become a consultant for operational issues for day schools through the Bureau of Jewish Education.

Her job will include helping schools identify and implement best practices, streamline their operations and improve marketing and development. She will also look for cost-saving opportunities, such as using the day schools’ collective purchasing powers for everything from supplies to insurance.

Day school principals have already set up meetings with long agendas with her, she said.

“It’s an incredible statement on the part of our Federation to take someone who is senior staff and lend me out for two years to see if there are ways to strengthen these important institutions in our community,” said Prum-Hess, herself a parent of two day school students and a self-described “passionate advocate” for schools.

To contact Miriam Prum-Hess, call (323) 761-8000.

Your Letters

Rabbis for Rent

Miriam Garber refers to “Rabbis for Rent” (March 28) as a godsend because “they do God’s work without putting a price tag on it, as it should be.” After a quick review of the Web site, however, I see that all of the rabbis on the site do, in fact, put a price tag (and might I say a high one) on their services. One rabbi has a price for a “traditional” wedding and a higher price for an “interfaith” wedding.

I’m not going to apologize for my synagogue, or any other, for that matter, charging membership dues — I don’t need to because the logic behind it is utterly apparent. I invite any Jew on the Westside in search of a community to visit us at Kehillat Ma’arav in Santa Monica, which has always addressed the issue of membership and school tuition to individuals and families based on income, as well as ability to pay, in a confidential and dignified manner.

Chazan Keith Miller, Director of Education Kehillat Ma’arav

In response to Miriam Garber’s letter (March 28) regarding “Rabbis for Rent” (March 7) and finding bar mitzvah training for her son, the Los Angeles Jewish community does indeed offer the bar mitzvah training she sought for her son. Adat Shalom in West Los Angeles, as well as other shuls in the area, has never turned anyone away. We have always had a policy that “no child is refused a Jewish education” and do not subscribe to the philosophy of either of the synagogues she queried. We are not a bar mitzvah factory, but we do believe that becoming a bar mitzvah is much more than just learning a haftorah and a few prayers for one Shabbat service. We prefer our students to be part of our religious school for four years. Our synagogue embraces our children as a part of our Jewish community and our religious school teaches our children what it means to be a Jew. This philosophy will ensure a future Jewish generation.

Mandy Altman , Treasurer Adat Shalom

A Just War

I agree with Rabbi [Joel] Rembaum that the war will more than likely have a negative impact on Israel (“A Just War May Be Great Risk to Israel,” March 28). This will particularly be the case if it increases the forces of radical Islam and weakens such moderate Arab governments as Egypt and Jordan.

People may differ on factual judgments, but to those American Jews whose primary justification for this war is its presumed benefit to Israel, I say, shame!

David Perel ,Los Angeles

Aunt Coca’s Ghost

Annabelle Stevens’ article, “Aunt Coca’s Ghost” (April 4), hit close to home and felt real. Please keep bringing new pens. There is a difference between vulnerable and open, and lovable. The kvetcher group complains a lot, but also wants too much and is aggressive. Stevens touches and scores as a writer, and despite the Elliott experience, her kindness makes her very eligible. The prognosis is optimistic, except her girlfriends will miss her at Starbucks. I am a nice guy who got lucky after decades of singles futility. Time ticks slower for guys, but “kind” was probably my ace in the hole. Kudos for publishing a wide variety of points of view in the more serious, political side of The Journal.

Name Withheld Upon Request

Jewish Music

We greatly appreciate the fine article by Ellen Jaffe-Gill (“A New Voice for Jewish Music,” March 21). The Jewish Journal provides the major opportunity for Jewish arts organizations to reach the greater community, so it is an important opportunity for the Jewish Music Commission to be recognized in The Journal. It would be unfortunate, however, not to acknowledge Dr. Robert Strassburg for his unstinting encouragement and guidance and Sam Glaser for his great work in producing four outstanding years of the “American Jewish Song Festival” (1992-1996), which were the culmination of international competitions for new Jewish songs.

Richard A. Braun, Chairman Jewish Music Commission of Los Angeles

Community Comments

April 4-6, UCLA hosted the seventh annual national conference of the National Union of Jewish Lesbian-Gay-Transgender-Bisexual Students (NUJLS). Had I not provided a host home, I would have been unaware of both the gathering and the existence of NUJLS. The attendees, who traveled here from all over the United States and Canada, were committed Jewish young people, knowledgeable, aware and educated; an asset to our communities and our institutions. On Shabbat morning, they had Reform, Conservative and Orthodox services. Homosexuals should be part of the mainstream of contemporary Judaism, not the fringe. There is a reservoir of good leadership in this group, maybe even a Conservative rabbi or two.

Karen Heller Mason , Los Angeles


In a letter to the editor by Iddo Wernick (April 11), a statement regarding Rabbi Mattis Weinberg should have been attributed to Rabbi Ari Hier, who is director of the Wiesenthal Center’s Jewish Studies Institute.

“Fine Wine Pours Down From Golan” (April 11) was incorrectly illustrated with a photo of Mouton Cadet. The photo should have depicted a bottle of Yarden. We regret the error.

Material Instincts

Every day before Dina Goldstein (not her real name) leaves
the house to take her two young children to day care and herself to work, she
grabs two bagels and two boxes of orange juice. After buckling the kids into
the car, she gives them the bagels and the juice, and they eat breakfast in the
car on the way to school.

“I just don’t have time to get them ready, myself ready and
feed everyone before I leave the house,” said Goldstein, who works as a
religious day school teacher.

Like Goldstein, many women find maintaining a family and a
job overwhelming. With over 75 percent of women in the United States between
the ages of 25 and 54 working outside the home (according the International
Labor Organization), it is very likely that at some point most women will have
to do both things concurrently. While women choose to work for a variety of
reasons, for many in the Jewish community, a woman’s employment is not a matter
of personal fulfillment but of financial necessity.

With high tuition fees, synagogue dues and mortgages in the
Jewish neighborhoods, maintaining a presence in the community is difficult to
do on one income alone — meaning that the husband is no longer the sole
breadwinner in the family.

But many women find that their careers give them not one job
but two — their paid employment and their nonpaid work inside the house, which
seldom diminishes with the onset of employment. Few will say that the feminist
ideal of “having it all” is viable unless certain sacrifices are made. Finding
ways to produce calm out of the chaos requires innovation, skill, organization
and lots and lots of help.

“The ‘superwoman’ is a myth,” said Tova Hinda Siegal, a
Pico-Robertson midwife who is on-call seven days a week while raising her six
children. “It’s tremendously tricky to try to do everything.”

One of the ways that some women try to balance both job and
family is by finding careers that allow them to work from home, which gives
them close access to their family while still enabling them to bring in some
extra money. While there is not necessarily the same kind of career advancement
available to those who do not work in an office, many say that the sacrifice is
worth it.

“It’s a hugely satisfying feeling to know that I can be
there for my kids when they need me, because I know how stressful it is for a
mother in an office when her kids have an odd day off,” said Judy Gruen, a
mother of four, Journal contributor and  Pico-Robertson writer on domesticity.

Other women make sure that their husbands are picking up the
slack, and that paid help in the house is not a luxury, but a necessity. “I
think it’s more important to have part-time help in your house than to buy new
clothes,” Siegal said. “People who are working should not be fighting with each
other over who does the laundry.”

Siegal also said that it’s up to a woman to train her
husband to do his share of the work.

“I think you have to tell your husband, ‘No, it’s not a good
idea to sit while I’m in the kitchen cleaning up,'”she said.

“In our house we made a rule that whoever cooks does not
have to clean up,” she continued. “That is an equitable division of labor. I
also think it’s fine that a mother gets up in the middle of the night to nurse
her babies, but in the morning, the father should get up and take the baby out
for a few hours and let her sleep. The husband should not feel that when he
does something he is doing his wife a favor. Both need to feel that they are
contributing to the family’s welfare.”

Even with a spouse’s help, keeping your household together
requires careful organization for it to run efficiently. Esther Simon, a Santa
Monica mother of seven and a professional home organizer, said that there are a
number of things one can do to help this process.

“You need to create a clutter-free home, where everything
has a place,” she said. “You should also have a family calendar day planner
where you write down what you want to do each day and what things need to be
done during the week, and then you work out what things can only be done by you
and what things can be done by someone else. Only you can give love to your
child; someone else can wash the floor.”

Simon also suggests laying out all your children’s clothes,
preparing breakfast and putting backpacks by the door the night before to
minimize the rush in the morning.

There is one upside to trying to do everything. “Working and
taking care of a family definitely keeps you out of trouble,” Siegal said. “You
just don’t have the time for anything else.”  

Private Schools: “Many Who Apply Will Not Be Admitted”

Since August, all of us have been the targets of television advertisements supporting and opposing Proposition 38. No doubt proponents of the initiative will be quick to use the results of a recent Harvard University study that found an improvement in academic achievement of some African Americans, particularly low-income families that received vouchers and are enrolled in private schools.

Before these findings send us rushing to the voting booth to support vouchers, we need to examine Proposition 38 and how it relates to this recent study. The programs examined in the study bear no resemblance to what Proposition 38 mandates. Those programs were privately funded and targeted to low-income and minority students, underachievers and failing schools.

Proposition 38 does not focus on those in our community who are less privileged or underachievers. The $4,000 that will be available to school-age Californians will be available to everyone, no matter how wealthy or high achieving. In California, $4,000 does not come close to covering the ever-growing cost of private school tuition. Consequently, only the wealthiest among us will benefit from the “wisdom” of Tim Draper. We, as taxpayers, will be contributing $4,000 per year to those families who can already afford to pay private school tuition.

The hidden irony in this initiative is that the money taken from California’s budget to pay private schools for taking in students will not come from the education budget, but rather from that portion of the budget which funds community colleges, roads, low-income housing, health care and other social services that serve the poor.

Los Angeles School Board President Genethia Hayes, during a recent presentation to the Anti-Defamation League, cited a survey her office conducted of the South Central Los Angeles area she represents. The least expensive private school charges $4,666 for tuition alone. This does not include the cost of books, transportation, uniforms or other required fees. And before those of you who can afford the additional expense go running to the private school of your choice, be aware that many who apply will not be admitted. There just isn’t space.

Hayes noted that fewer than 1 percent of the private schools in her area (and there are few to begin with) have room for additional students. Most, she said, are full and have waiting lists miles long. And if a family should be lucky enough to find a school that does have an empty seat, an applicant still may not be admitted; perhaps because she doesn’t seem smart enough, isn’t wealthy enough, isn’t of the right faith, the school doesn’t want girls, or she has a disability, learning or otherwise. All of these are permitted exclusions under the ballot initiative. Hayes also stated that most experts estimate it will take up to 20 years for private schools to gear up to provide the extra seats needed in a growing community the size of Los Angeles.

Our public schools are the keystone of our pluralistic society. They are a mixture of races, ethnicities, abilities, religions and sexual orientations, which facilitates an environment where young people learn the civic skills that enable them to become productive members of society when they graduate. The truth is that private schools remain substantially segregated and look little like our society at large.

Unable to benefit from Draper’s concept, minorities and students in California’s poorest communities will remain in the public schools, which will suffer further as public funds are siphoned off into private schools for the wealthy.

As the debate over Proposition 38 heats up, beware of the uses to which the recently released testing data will be put. The beneficiaries of the Draper vouchers will not be those who need the most help.

Sue Stengel is the Western States counsel of the Anti-Defamation League. Connie Rice is co-director of the Advancement Project.