The Jewish Week reports that the UJA-Federation of NY is launching a $300 million endowment “superfund” to support Jewish day schools. The idea is that each school would raise up to $6 million for the fund, and the Feds would match with up to $3 million, or a 1:2 match. The entire sum would be held in trust by the Feds, and each school would be able to draw 5% of the maximum of $9 million, for a total of $450,000 per year.
I was truly astonished when I started putting the numbers together. According to the article, total day school costs in New York are are $1.5 billion, annually. If the most that can be drawn from the endowment fund is 5%, and the whole fund is $300 million, that means that only $15 million will be available from the fund annually, or just 1% of total costs.
Another puzzle is how these numbers all fit. If the target size of the fund is $300 million, at $9 million per school, that means we’re looking at 33-34 schools participating. How many Jewish day schools exist in NY? My guess is that it’s mroe than that, but I’m not really sure. If there are more, on what basis are certain schools being left behind? Also in question is why should schools turn over their endowment to the Feds for management? It suggests that they will cede significant control, including the right to draw more than 5% from the fund, should the need arise.
In the end, I agree with Gil Graff, the executive director of the BJE in LA, where a similar fund has been established. The amount is not sufficient to make any real dent, but an endowment project is a long-term solution that will take years to build to, and “it’s the kind of thing where if you don’t start, you never start.”