OU Helps Communities Weather the Economic Storm

by | in Economics

With the economic crisis deepening, the Orthodox Union (OU) is offering a series of workshops on coping in today’s financially turbulent times. Sponsored by the OU’s Department of Community Services and Special Projects and held in communities throughout the New York tri-state area, the workshops address relevant, timely topics such as budgeting, finding a job and the emotional impact of the economic crisis on the family. Hundreds of community members have attended the workshops to date.

“Our goal is to assist our communities through programming and to enable individuals and families to successfully address and overcome the tidal wave of unique economic challenges,” says Frank Buchweitz, national director of the Department of Community Services and Special Projects. “We welcome the opportunity to work with communities on various approaches [to the financial crisis] at this most crucial time.”

Designed to empower communities, the workshops, featuring experts in financial planning, career counseling and other relevant fields, include topics such as “Making Your Money Do More When the Economy Does Less” and “How to Improve Your Odds of Finding a Job.”

The OU is also taking steps to help alleviate financial pressures on yeshivot and day schools. In January, the OU’s Department of Day School and Educational Services, headed by Director Rabbi Saul Zucker and Assistant Director Rabbi Cary Friedman, sponsored a summit meeting to discuss cost-cutting strategies. At the meeting, which was attended by dozens of yeshivah and Jewish day school representatives from across the Orthodox spectrum, suggestions were shared on how to save money. Ideas included the purchase of a relatively inexpensive national health insurance plan for the thousands of employees of day schools around the country and a fund in which synagogues collect money on a monthly basis to support yeshivot.

One of the strategies discussed was the need for alternative schools where tuition is capped at $6,500 a year. “These schools will still offer a quality education, but they will have less of the ‘bells and whistles’ and perks most yeshivot offer these days,” says Rabbi Zucker.

The department has also been studying the Ben Gamla Charter School in Hollywood, Florida, to determine the elements of a Jewish charter school that can be incorporated into a more traditional Jewish school. [See “Addressing the Tuition Crisis” in this issue.]

“Despite the economic crisis, there is reason to be cautiously optimistic,” says Rabbi Zucker. “If we implement our purpose-oriented steps, and if there is cooperation between the yeshivot and day schools and communal organizations, there is certainly hope that we can all weather this storm together.”

Tova Ross is a public relations assistant at the OU.

This article was featured in Jewish Action Summer 2009.

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