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In Melbourne Shabbat begins Fri 25 Jan 2019 08:20 PM and ends Sat 26 Jan 2019 09:20 PM
י"ד חשון ה' אלפים תשע"ב
The response was extraordinary. The two educators sat there for nearly two hours fielding questions and it would probably have gone on even longer had I not forcibly ended the conversation due to the lateness of the hour.
People wanted to know about the educational philosophy of various institutions and the best way to pick an appropriate school for one's children. They described various experiences they'd had in the past and detailed the various myths and misconceptions that currently prevail. In the face of a fiery and occasionally hostile inquisition, the two presenters impressed everyone with their passion and willingness to engage and their obvious dedication to their cause of imparting authenticity to a new generation.
By far the greatest number of questions revolved around the issue of the cost of schooling. As I mentioned on the night, I have spoken to hundreds of parents and almost universally they wish to send their kids to a Jewish school, if only they could afford it. Those at the forum definitely seemed to share this attitude, with many of them intrigued to learn about the bursaries on offer for those who need them and the efforts schools will go to welcome all children.
Another thing that made an impression was the request by the headmasters of parents not to just assume that education is beyond your means or be frightened off by the tales you hear from your friends. Do your own investigations; you may be pleasantly surprised by what you learn. Call the schools directly, take a tour of the facilities, schedule a meeting with the intake officer and learn the truth for yourself. You would never take a job or buy a car without doing your own due diligence and your children's future is far more crucial.
It was a fascinating evening, full of inspiration and good feeling, but since it finished I've spent the whole week obsessing about those people who genuinely feel that they cannot afford Jewish schools for their children. What should they do?
We will read this week the story of Avraham's second wife Hagar, who was lost in the desert with her son Yishmael, when their water ran out. And the water was depleted from the leather pouch, and she cast the child under one of the bushes. ...... And she sat from afar, and she raised her voice and wept.(VaYero 21:15-16)
It must be the most dispiriting thing in the word to see your child in need and to feel unable to help. As a parent you expect to provide for your own children; to raise them to happiness and nurture them in faith, but what do you when there's no water left in the flask and you've got nothing left to give? The temptation is to give up; to surrender the child to the vagaries of fate and sit back in despair.
If you can't afford school fees right now, do you have any choice but to send your child to the local public school and wait to see how things eventuate?
The Torah would have us learn an exact opposite lesson. And God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water, and she went and filled the pouch with water and gave the lad to drink. (21:19). There is always a way. A solution can and must be found. The water of our salvation is prepared and waiting for us nearby; we just have to open our eyes to find it.
Every child deserves an authentic Jewish education and it is the responsibility of all of us to ensure that there are solutions available for those who need. Accepting a subsidy is no more shameful than accepting a drink of reviving water in the desert. This is not charity; rather the community is investing in your child.
No child should ever be abandoned and every parent deserves nachas. There is always a way, not because we want, but because we must. And if we're willing to try our absolute best, we will quickly discover the source of salvation that Hashem has prepared for us in advance.