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Reflection – The Helpful ‘Blame Game’
by Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

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I appreciate a compliment as much as the next fellow.

It was therefore quite rewarding to receive positive feedback in response to my "Charity Begins at Home" article which appeared in The Jewish Press two weeks ago, making the case for increased support for Jewish Education. In particular, many menhalim, executive directors and lay leaders of yeshivos and day schools across North America contacted me and thanked me for writing the column. In fact, I received numerous requests from my colleagues for permission to reprint the article in order to have it distributed to their parent bodies and prospective donors.

All is well, right?

Not so fast. Or, as the kids say in their singsong mode, "I don't think so!"

For as much as I firmly believe that members of our community need to recalibrate and place Jewish Education at the top of our tzedakah pyramid, there is much reflection needed from educational leaders as well. If we are asking the public to take a hard look in the mirror and reevaluate their tzedakah priorities, school leadership as well needs to undergo the same grueling process of reflection if we are to have any hope of increasing much-needed public support for our yeshivos.

The Blame Game

Several weeks ago, in the midst of the furor over the ineffectual Federal response to Hurricane Katrina, President George Bush addressed the nation and assumed responsibility for the rescue effort. During his speech, he stressed the need to avoid finger pointing - "The Blame Game," as he referred to it. In fact, many reporters commented that he mentioned the words "Blame Game" fifteen times during that particular speech.
However, as many op-ed writers noted in the days and weeks following that press conference, Mr. Bush simply missed the point. It wasn't unproductive 'blame,' which the American public was demanding, but rather reflection and analysis. Blame seeks to punish or demean those responsible for errors. Thoughtful examination seeks to identify flaws in design or execution in order to correct them moving forward. The rapidly sagging approval ratings of Mr. Bush, who was fond of telling reporters over the years that he does not read newspapers, speaks to the fact that he was not engaging in this self-examination process.
Reading the Tea Leaves

Let us assume for the moment that the logical underpinning of Dr. Marvin Schick's recent series of advertisements is correct and there is little in the way of communal support for Jewish Education nowadays.

That being the case, those of us who are in leadership positions of our yeshivos and day schools need to engage in thoughtful analysis of the facts on the ground and ask ourselves some tough questions to uncover the reasons for this reality.

Three weeks ago, in an attempt to gather information on this subject, I sent an email to those on my distribution list (please feel free to visit to sign up) requesting their input regarding the following questions:

  • "Being that our children are so important to us, why is there so little in the way of communal support for yeshiva education?"
  • "Why are there no public initiatives to significantly improve our schools?
  • "Why are other tzedakos which seem to have less impact on our lives and the lives of our children more effective in raising public consciousness - and funds?

To date, I received nearly thirty varied and often passionate responses to that email. I am preparing future columns addressing the issues raised by my readers. In my next column, I will begin sharing with you some of the many and diverse subjects touched upon by those who took the time to share their thoughts with me.

As I collect and process the information, I encourage you, my readers, to do the same and drop me an email at with your thoughts on this critical matter of communal support for Jewish education. Please indicate if you wish your comments to remain confidential. I will, of course, respect your wishes.

I think that these questions need to be asked, answered - and the issues addressed - if we are to make a dent in improving communal support for our schools and the children they serve.

There is so very much at stake and we dare not engage in pointless 'blame game' posturing. At the same time, we cannot and should not avoid the real issues that need to be addressed.

To loosely quote the Mishna (Avos, 2:20); [the] time is short and there is much work to do.

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Related Articles:
Charity Begins at Home
Making the Case
Spending the Money
Target Audience

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