The Greatest Assurance for Jewish Continuity From This Generation to the Next

When people ask me what the most difficult challenge is that I’ve faced, personally or professionally, my answer is: serving as the board president of my kids’ Jewish day school. In fact, I often joke that my day job at Google is relaxing compared to my volunteer work in the Jewish community. Managing a board of directors, fundraising, and building relationships with stakeholder groups including parents, teachers, and the community is never simple. And though the pandemic added unique challenges, the work has been very rewarding.

Teacher reading to day school studentsOur collective efforts to strengthen Jewish day school education is so utterly necessary. In fact, I am convinced that day schools are the cornerstone of our community. Though there are many worthwhile Jewish organizations in our ecosystem that are vital to our communal wellbeing, day schools offer us the greatest possible assurance for Jewish continuity from this generation to the next.

Without Jewish education options for their children, young families and young leaders simply won’t come to the Bay Area. I know I certainly wouldn’t be here. 

My role as Board Chair of the South Peninsula Hebrew Day School (SPHDS) has allowed me to push both fundraising and cost saving initiatives that have resulted in material financial impact on the school’s future. One critical method of cost savings has been group procurement.

In the case of SPHDS alone, our collective procurement of office and school supplies saved us over $50,000, simply by buying them aftermarket in bulk. That’s $50,000 that could be dedicated to the education and wellbeing of our children. And the same or greater savings can be realized for so many other community organizations, whether they are synagogues or grass roots nonprofits. In addition to school supplies, we’ve implemented this strategy to donate groceries, PPE, 150 Chromebooks for our students, and refurbished laptops for our teachers.

What group procurement lacks in glamour, it more than makes up for in financial impact. Group procurement is only one way—albeit an increasingly effective one—to address inefficiencies and help day schools keep costs down and pass those savings on to prospective students. But it’s clearly not enough. My mission, and it’s one the Federation shares though their Jewish Day School Growth Initiative, is to do whatever I can to assure that the day school education product is at the same level if not better than our free public-school counterparts, and competitive with other private schools while being affordable to all.

If our day schools offer excellence and affordability, we will be able to offer a Jewish education to everyone in the Bay Area who wants it. Now is the time to move further into innovation and growth.

During the pandemic, the Federation provided additional scholarships to help families with financial hardships and subsidized the influx of public-school students. Many of those students stayed with us, even as COVID’s day-to-day impact waned. Their families recognized that the opportunity for a Jewish education is an extraordinary one. With the Federation’s Jewish Day School Growth Initiative, I’m convinced we can make it more and more feasible.

The Federation’s Jewish Day School Growth Initiative aims to increase the number of Jewish students who are able to attend Jewish day schools while maximizing the role of our schools in our community’s Jewish life. With the typical cost of Jewish day school reaching up to $27,000 per year, the Federation provides need-based scholarships to Jewish children attending qualified Jewish day schools in the Federation’s service area. Day school scholarships are intended to provide “last resort” community resources above and beyond what is contributed by families and individual day schools.

For more information about Jewish day school scholarships, please contact Eliezah Hoffman.


July 07, 2022


Barry Berkowitz