The big news for the Jewish future in Toronto is that next year’s entering Grade 9 class at TanenbaumCHAT is on track to be larger than the current Grade 9.  Our goal is to continue that trend despite the precarious state of Jewish day school education.

The accepted wisdom is that there are factors underlying a vulnerable state of Jewish schooling that are beyond our immediate control, some demographic and some economic. As such, we might call out for a task force to solve the problem. We might hope and pray that someone devises a fantastic low-cost high yield model for privately educating Jewish youth.  Or we can solve the problem ourselves. The future is in our hands.

That’s why TanenbaumCHAT is pursuing an independent strategy towards academic excellence and financial sustainability at our two high school campuses. It is a strategy that focuses on evolution, not revolution.  We are making the changes that the times demand.

Like many other private schools in Toronto, we are transforming ourselves into a more competitive recruitment-based operation.  An energetic group of parents has been meeting regularly to drive this campaign.  Efforts are already yielding results: the entering Grade 9 class for 2015-2016 is now projected to exceed the size of this year’s Grade 9 class. Previously, we focused exclusively on admissions, i.e. processing applicants as they came to the school. Those days are over. We are now tapping into the collective power of our students, parents, alumni, and staff to reach out to prospective families.

Besides this shift to a recruitment-based focus, we are investing in the educational value proposition of the school by introducing more academic options for advanced students. A recent gift of approximately $1.5 million will see the launch of a robotics and engineering program at TanenbaumCHAT.  In 2016, we will offer Advanced Placement courses that enable students to gain university placement or credit. Curricular study in Israel during high school will become an integral dimension of a TanenbaumCHAT education. Last year, 30 of our students conducted 50 hours of research in marine biology in Eilat sponsored by Ben Gurion University; this year, students will study robotics at the Technion University in Haifa and conduct a three-week archaeological dig near Ashkelon under the auspices of Harvard University.

To continually enhance the TanenbaumCHAT experience, we are streamlining operations on both campuses to avoid duplication and have set as our goal to raise $1.5 million annually. As expenses continue to climb, we, as a community and as TanenbaumCHAT parents, must all do more to ensure that we put Jewish education as a priority.  We must raise necessary funds to ensure that we continue to raise the next generation of proud, passionate, and engaged Jews.

For over 50 years TanenbaumCHAT has graduated a steady stream of knowledgeable and empowered young people. Our alumni include many who become committed leaders in the layered communities that comprise Toronto.  We find them at the forefront of the Jewish community, active in all professional ranks, in Toronto’s educational leadership, in the business world, and political realm. Our graduates shape the Toronto Jewish community and much of Toronto and Canada well beyond it.  We will do the same for the next 50 years and we will set an example for others on how to create a sustainable, vibrant future of enduring significance.  There is a lot to talk about.

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