Educators, lay leaders and rabbis representing South Florida Jewish day schools met last month in Tallahassee in a concerted effort to advocate state legislators for funds to alleviate a Jewish school tuition crisis. The visit, facilitated under the auspices of Chabad of Tallahasee, was a unique opportunity to build and strengthen connections between key community leaders from Jewish South Florida and Florida’s Jewish Legislators.
"The inaugural mission was to educate legislators in a very personal way about the Jewish day school crisis," said Elliot S. Schreiber, director of the Jewish Leadership Coalition for School Choice in South Florida.
With tuitions topping $20,000 per student, and insufficient private scholarship to meet the demand for tuition assistance, many parents cannot afford to send their children to Jewish schools. Currently, state programs provide a small amount of funding for tuition at Jewish day schools through programs like Step Up for Students and the McKay Scholarship for Students with Disabilities, yet advocates believe there is a long way to go towards ensuring affordable Jewish education for all.
The group of Jewish advocates represented a joint, non-partisan effort organized by the Jewish Leadership Coalition for School Choice (JLSSC) and included representatives from organizations across the spectrum of Jewish affiliation. United in their goal in securing expanded school choice and funding opportunities for the secular education needs of students who attend Jewish schools, the delegation included the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, Agudas Yisroel as well as influential leaders from Conservative and Reform backgrounds.
The multi-denominational group was led through the Capitol by Rabbi Schneur Oirechman, of Chabad of Tallahassee, who gave the opening invocation at the Florida Senate and coordinated events throughout the day, including a catered Kosher lunch and reception, meetings with individual legislators, and a surprise mezuzah for Representative Jim Waldman’s office.
Oirechman said, “Chabad has been here in Tallahassee for 13 years now and I am personally familiar with many of the Jewish representatives and senators. Dr. Allan Jacob, chairman of the JLCSC, is a friend and contacted me to help set up meetings and arrange kosher food for all the attendees.”
“This is the first time a combination of so many different Jewish leaders joined together for school choice on this level. There are many serious bills coming up in Florida’s House and Senate that will have a big impact on how the budget is spent. It is so important to the Jewish community to have our needs addressed. Jewish education is something we all care about.”
For Rabbi Oirechman the day was less about lobbying and more about Jewish people uniting for a Jewish cause.
“My work here typically focuses on Jewish outreach and I was so glad of the unique opportunity to facilitate a day that can potentially have such a large impact on the Jewish children of Florida. It was truly a historical mission to see such a large delegation of Jewish leaders unite to work toward the common goal of getting Jewish children to attend Jewish schools.”