Enrolment at Toronto’s non-Orthodox Jewish day schools has increased for a second consecutive year, reversing a 17-year decline.
This year, 3,861 students were enrolled in kindergarten to Grade 8, an increase from 3,805 in 2020.
The city’s only non-Orthodox high school, TanenbaumCHAT, also saw increased enrolment, with 1,231 students registered for 2021, compared to 1,096 last year.
Overall, enrolment in non-Orthodox elementary schools grew by 1.5 percent, with kindergarten enrolment up by four percent, according to Daniel Held, Chief Program Officer of UJA Federation of Greater Toronto.
Enrolment figures from Orthodox schools, only some of which are funded by UJA Federation, usually come after the High Holidays, but the number is expected to remain stable from previous years, Held said in an interview with The CJN.
The rise in enrolment in 2020 was attributed to the COVID pandemic, as day schools were seen to be doing a better job of effectively adapting to online instruction and adjusting to frequently changing health guidelines.
But this year’s increase indicates that COVID wasn’t solely responsible for the uptick, Held said. Surveys of new parents have shown they are attracted by the schools’ academics and sense of community.
Last year, economic difficulties caused by COVID meant that families already receiving tuition assistance needed about 15 percent more aid, while 378 families who had previously not received financial aid now required emergency scholarships.
UJA Federation of Greater Toronto contributed an additional $6.3 million in funding to day schools last year to meet increased needs.
This year, a new grant program called Generations Trust, which promised to be more transparent and easier to access, was launched, and has granted more than 400 new scholarships.
Schools are still finalizing their financial reports, but anecdotally, there is an increased need for funding again this year, Held said.
UJA creates new position to fight antisemitism
An Oct. 13 announcement from Federation president and CEO Adam Minsky noted that Steven Farber has joined UJA as senior vice-president of Countering Antisemitism and Hate—a new position created “to lead UJA’s efforts to empower our community to rise to this challenge.”
Farber’s background includes experience in Canadian Jewish community leadership, business, government, and international relations. He served in Israel as a key advisor to Tony Blair in the Office of the Quartet Representative.
He will work with key partners, such as the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, Hillel Ontario, UJA Community Security, and the Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre, soon to become Toronto’s Holocaust Museum.
Farber “will build and coordinate a coalition of organizations, activists, and allies working together to combat antisemitism,” UJA’s statement went on.
Among the new effort’s priorities are tackling online hate and antisemitism on campus, in academia, the arts, social movements, and the corporate world.
UJA’s Board Chair Linda Frum, who resigned from Canada’s senate in August to focus on countering antisemitism, “will be playing a central role in this effort.”
“We need new research into perceptions of Jews in Canadian society, as well as the messages that will dismantle antisemitic myths and create new allies,” Minsky stated. “And we need to do more to prepare the next generation by strengthening their Jewish pride and equipping them to recognize and counter antisemitism.”