May 19, 2024
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May 19, 2024
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Kushner’s Innovative Affordability Initiatives Create a Successful Equation for Growth

Enrollment at the Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy and the Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School has grown significantly in the past two years, largely attributed to the winning equation for success—offering a high-quality education and demonstrating an innovative commitment to affordability and growth, that has received recognition nationally. Recognizing the challenges families face in their commitment to Jewish education, the school identified a need to create a multi-tiered program that would have a true impact on families, the greater community and the school itself. The three-part approach includes a community growth incentive that partners with the surrounding Orthodox communities to attract new families to move to one of the local communities and enroll in the school, a middle-income tuition-max program that caps tuition at a percentage of income, and the establishment of an endowment to help sustain traditional financial assistance. As a result, the school has witnessed a 12 percent school-wide growth in enrollment since the programs began. The impact of these initiatives are also meaningful to existing families as indicated by the school’s very strong retention numbers.

In recent years, the school identified a challenge in its community demographics. Its communities were not growing and the school population was shrinking in the feeder Orthodox communities that sustain JKHA/RKYHS. Answering this challenge, the school created the Bonim Community Growth Incentive Program, which was launched in the winter of 2014/15. The school approached the local feeder communities and invited them to work together toward the goal of attracting new families to move to the area. The Bonim program is constructed as follows, with JKHA/RKYHS offering up to $25,000 in tuition credit over five years for new families moving to the area from outside the Greater Metrowest Community. The participating synagogues in Livingston, Parsippany, Springfield and West Orange offer additional incentives of up to $12,500. The JCC Metrowest offers benefits of up to $15,000 in membership and other discounts, bringing the total benefit up to over $50,000. JKHA/RKYHS was excited to be able to develop and offer a program that was community-wide, and not solely focused on the school, that illustrated the partnership and unity in the greater community. The results of this effort can be felt both in the school and the community at large.

Families attracted to the Bonim program have moved to the school communities from Brooklyn, Manhattan, Riverdale, Teaneck, South Africa, Staten Island and Israel. There has been a 70 percent increase in families moving into the school’s local communities, and word of mouth continues to spread with families actively interested and pursuing a move to the area.

“There are so many children our children’s ages in Springfield. It was important to us for our school-age daughter to go to school and shul with the same children for every aspect of her growth—we love that JKHA is part of the community,” commented Jodi Rosenberg, who moved to Springfield, New Jersey, from Riverdale, New York. “I had heard such amazing things about JKHA and it has more than exceeded our expectations. A Jewish day-school education is of primary importance to us, and we will do what we need to make it happen, so being a part of the Bonim program is a huge benefit.”

“We love living in a community and sending our kids to a school that are both warm, down to earth and welcoming, where we don’t feel like we get lost in the crowd,” added Shael Sokolowski, who recently moved with his family from Riverdale, New York to West Orange, New Jersey. “Being a young family who is just starting out, purchasing our first home and joining a shul makes the Bonim program appealing, and we are thrilled to be beneficiaries of it.”

The success of the Bonim community growth incentive has caught on. The Greater MetroWest Day School Initiative, one of the leading initiatives in North America to build significant endowments for affordability and excellence in Jewish day-school education, recently launched their own move-in incentive initiative. The Greater MetroWest Day School Initiative awards grants of $1,800 to a limited number of families moving to the Greater MetroWest area of New Jersey and who have registered for one of the Jewish day schools in the Greater MetroWest.

“We moved to Livingston, New Jersey, from Staten Island to send all of our kids to JKHA and RKYHS and couldn’t be happier,” remarked JKHA and RKYHS parent Michelle Ansel. “The Bonim incentive is just another example of how the school is always looking out for both the students as well as the families, ensuring that it is a positive experience.”

Simultaneously, the school, through the generosity of the Gottesman Foundation and the Federation’s Jewish Community Foundation, introduced a groundbreaking Yesodot Middle Income Tuition Max Program providing relief to middle-income families. Through the program, qualifying families have their tuition capped at a total percentage of a family’s adjusted gross income (AGI)—regardless of how many children are enrolled or the actual cost of their tuition. The program gives new and current families security and an opportunity to plan their financial future as they are able to have a clear knowledge of what their fixed financial commitment will be for providing their children with a Jewish education. JKHA/RKYHS is grateful for the leadership of Paula and Jerry Gottesman Family Supporting Foundation, the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater MetroWest NJ, and the Partnership for Jewish Learning and Life for their support and vision in this endeavor.

The third pillar of the school’s commitment to affordability is the establishment of the L’atidenu Financial Assistance Endowment Campaign. By establishing an endowment to fund financial assistance, the school will ensure perpetual funding and the sustainability of our vital financial assistance program by providing a steady, reliable stream of revenue to fund financial assistance for the more than 50 percent of school families who receive assistance, and allow for funds to adequately be allocated to meet the growing needs of our families.

“Our results in enrollment and growth have far exceeded our expectations when establishing the breadth of these programs,” commented Sandra Blank, JKHA/RKYHS director of admissions and community relations. “The quality of our school’s outstanding academic reputation combined with widespread word of mouth about our innovative initiatives has led to an unprecedented increase in enrollment and community growth. We have defined ourselves as leaders in education and affordability by responding to the need to provide excellence in our educational program while creating innovative solutions that reflect our partnership and commitment to our families in their management of providing their children a Jewish education.”

The core of the success of any school’s growth has to be attributed to offering students a first-rate Jewish and general studies education. Rabbi Eliezer Rubin, JKHA/RKYHS head of school and Klatt Family rosh hayeshiva, has made academic excellence the focal point of the school’s community of educators. From nursery three to graduating seniors, students participate in both an inspired Jewish education as well as a thoughtful, engaging secular education rivaling the very best independent schools in the country. Educators teach students from an early age through a process of active engagement and student participation. Students learn about mitzvot by performing mitzvot. Students learn science by doing science, conducting science as students do at top undergraduate and graduate universities. JKHA/RKYHS is developing a dynamic scope and sequence that will ensure that all divisions work in concert to best advance students’ success. Students at JKHA/RKYHS thrive in a uniquely engaged, Jewish educational community that prizes each student’s contributions and presence.

“We are committed to understanding each student’s learning profile, encouraging their strengths and inspiring them to own their learning and growth. The exciting and validating growth of our school community reflects the foundational strengths of our education, led by competent, devoted and forward-thinking educators and school leaders,” commented Rabbi Eliezer Rubin, JKHA/RKYHS head of school, Klatt Family rosh hayeshiva.

The impact of satisfaction in the academic program and appreciation for affordability initiatives has been felt by current families as well. Student retention at JKHA/RKYHS increased by 63 percent over last year, and 90 percent of last year’s JKHA eighth graders advanced to the current RKYHS ninth grade. Families appreciate the quality of the education and level of attention that their children receive, and are comforted to know that the school is committed to ensuring the accessibility of a day school education.

The school invites all families who are interested in seeing for themselves what all the buzz is about to join them on Sunday, November 20, at 10:00 a.m., for the Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy Open House Family Fun Day. Experience the JKHA difference with a morning of interactive activities and chesed programming for children, and a chance for parents to see the school and its standout academic program first-hand. Registration can be found at

It is the institutional goal of JKHA/RKYHS to continue to build foundations for our future—bonim yesodot l’atidenu.

This article was written and sponsored by JKHA/RKYHS.

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