Local educators have welcomed news of a merger of five national Jewish day school organizations representing the denominational spectrum.
The organization, to be known as NewOrg until a permanent name is finalized, was jointly announced Jan. 19 by the Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education, the nondenominational RAVSAK-The Jewish Community Day School Network, and three denominational bodies: PARDES: Day Schools of Reform Judaism, the Schechter Day School Network (Conservative), and the Yeshiva University School Partnership (Orthodox). It expects to begin operations this summer.
The decision to merge “recognizes that a combined day school organization will more effectively meet the diverse needs of local schools by pooling the talent, expertise, and resources originally dispersed among its founding agencies,” according to a news release.
Rivky Ross, head of school at Yeshivat Netivot Montessori in East Brunswick, said her school has been affiliated with the YU group for several years.
“I definitely look forward to this new organization,” she said. “I think it’s really a credit to the various networks that they were able to come together in an effort to create a consortium benefitting all the day schools.”
Ross that she believes the joint venture should help drive down costs and increase efficiency. “Especially in this age where so much is happening digitally, creating one organization representing everyone will help to accomplish those goals,” she said.
Yoti Yarhi, head of school at Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Monmouth County in Marlboro, said she, too, is looking forward to working with NewOrg.
“The continued growth of Jewish day schools is contingent upon developing and maintaining partnerships,” she said. “Working together by sharing ideas and resources will make us all stronger and more vibrant. We recognize and cherish the full range of Jewish religious beliefs, philosophy, attitudes, and observances within the Solomon Schechter family and are confident that this NewOrg will reflect our constituents.”
Rabbi Pesach Raymon Yeshiva in Edison has also been affiliated with the YU partnership. Its head of school, Rabbi Daniel Loew, said he expected the united organization will make “tremendous contributions in the field of Jewish education, and I’m hopeful that banding our efforts together will magnify our effectiveness in supporting Jewish education.”
The merger comes as enrollment in non-Orthodox day schools is declining and centrist and Modern Orthodox school enrollment is flat. Fervently Orthodox, or haredi, schools, which will not be represented in the new group, have been rapidly growing, accounting for more than half of all full-time Jewish school enrollment.
NewOrg will work to promote greater local communal and funder engagement and assist both schools and communities in efforts to increase enrollment.
The new organization intends to offer an expanded set of programs, services, and networking opportunities to benefit the more than 375 schools and almost 100,000 students currently served by the separate groups, as well as other schools interested in participating.
The decision to merge follows an almost year-long planning process facilitated in part by the Avi Chai Foundation, which has pledged financial support for the new organization until Avi Chai shuts down operations, as long planned, in 2019.
Together, the schools represented by the five groups enroll about 40 percent of the total number of students in full-time Jewish schools, according to The New York Jewish Week, which reported that the merger is estimated to save more than $1 million annually.
For more information and updates, go to newjdsorg.org.
With reporting by JTA