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Photo: CIJnews

Grassroots movement started to save Tannenbaum CHAT

On March 6th, 2017 TanenbaumCHAT’s (TCK) board of directors sent shock waves throughout the Jewish community when they announced they would close the school, due to declining enrollment and merge with the southern campus, CHAT on Wilmington, beginning this fall.

At an emotional town hall meeting at TCK about the closure ,on March 14, 500 people packed the gym, expressing their distress and criticizing the board for not informing them about the situation prior to the announcement of closure.

In a letter to the board and administrators published in the CJN, speaking on behalf of the students, Kayla Saul wrote “We are shocked and dismayed at the suddenness of the announcement of a merger and the lack of advance communication and outreach…disillusioned and heartbroken”.

This comes at a time when UJA Federation of Greater Toronto announced it had received $15 million in donations, which would cut tuition dramatically and make it more affordable to middle class families.

But a large group of parents and members of the community refuse to take no for an answer. In a very short time, they have started a grassroots movement to save TCK. “The issue is much larger than just keeping TCK open,” they write in a brief. “It is about concerns over a rushed transition and not giving up on the Jewish community north of Toronto.

A meeting with the CHAT board and chief school administrators on March 21, where they presented their proposal which included fund raising plans and strategies, left them feeling frustrated and dismissed. “The Board rejected our recommendation that CHAT’s marketing, fundraising and recruitment efforts could be improved (the proposal included detailed marketing and recruitment ideas) and more cost- cutting measures could be implemented and did not engage in a discussion with us regarding the conditional pledges (they have already raised more than $500,00 in conditional pledges) component of our proposal.” An email from the Board May 24th, rejected the proposal and “left no room for further discussion”.

“We are certain that we have the ability to raise the necessary funds (based on results already to date) and implement a viable plan that will increase enrollment.

The group is requesting that the Board

  • Grant them a mandate to raise funds
  • Set up a Parents Council as mandated in the Constitution , to run aggressive marketing fundraising and recruitment campaigns
  • Provide the necessary information to complete a more detailed implementation plan.

Adam Minsky is president and CEO of UJA Federation of Greater Toronto and a father of three children in the day schools system. The closure of TCK illustrates the real problem facing the community, he writes on CJN – the affordability of Jewish education. “Too many families are not choosing Jewish education because of the steep costs…”

In the past, nearly 80 percent of middle school students continued on to a Jewish high school Now it is only 50 percent. But the $15 million bequest which will bring tuition down by nearly $10,000 will make, he wrote, Jewish high school accessible for hundreds more students. He is calling it “the tuition affordability initiative”.

“The affordability initiative at TanenbaumCHAT is only the first step in this process. Next we must strengthen the elementary schools and other high schools, ensure the long- term sustainability of the TanenbaumCHAT program and focus on the issue of affordability across our community.”

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About Doris Strub Epstein

Doris Strub Epstein
Doris is a multimedia journalist with many years of experience. She has worked in radio, television and print journalism and writes on a variety of topics, especially the crucial issues in Canadian and Jewish life.

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