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HOME

MISSION

BACK STORY

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MISSION

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“Learning in old age is like writing on sand;
learning in youth is like engraving on stone.”
~Ibn Gabirol

TorahTrust is Our Stone

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MISSION

Our Mission Statement
TorahTrust is an out-of-the-box idea that seeks to transform the paradigm of gift
giving by encouraging friends and family to contribute to a child's Jewish education
rather than giving a material gift. Jewish educational programs (formal and informal)
will also be encouraged to add financial value to a TorahTrust account being used in
their institution.

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THE BACK STORY
It’s A New Idea to Fund Jewish Education
When my two daughters were growing up, I was never sure what to do with all the gifts. Whatever the occasion — bir thdays,
day school graduations, eventually B’nai Mitzvot — we would come away with a pile of stuff we didn’t need, from Legos and
building blocks to dolls and toy houses. Some of the gifts would be enjoyed, at least for a while, but eventually they’d be
discarded, or tossed into a dusty corner.
Now my daughters are grown, and they each have two young children of their own. Four grandchildren, and the same pattern:
more gifts than they know what to do with. Now more than ever, I find myself asking: Can there be more meaning and purpose
in all this gift-giving?
Something else has been on my mind, too, driven by the fact that my children and many of their friends have day school-aged
kids. It’s all but impossible to get an affordable Jewish education in Los Angeles, especially for middle-class families.
This won’t be news to any Angelenos who have kids in school, but costs are out of control. Jewish early childhood programs
cost an average of $10,000 per year, and high schools cost as much as $38,000 per year — prices that few Jewish families can
truly afford. I know parents who might have to choose between buying a house and giving their children a Jewish education.
That isn’t a choice anyone should have to make.
Take my friends Margy and Jeremy Horowitz, who enrolled their daughter, Julia, at a private Jewish day school in West L.A.
before she was two years old. She was suppor ted by scholarships at first, but before she entered first grade the school slashed
her funding.
Julia’s parents didn’t know what to do. Her younger brother Nathan was nearing regular schooling age, and his tuition would be
hefty, too — if he were to attend a Jewish day school. In the end, the Horowitzes enrolled Julia and Nathan in public school.
“They wanted us to more than double what we were paying, and that was too large a jump for us,” Margy Horowitz told me.
“There was no way we could afford one annual tuition, let alone two.”
Stories like this are especially frustrating because immersive Jewish educational experiences are essential to the formation of
Jewish identity — and thus to the future of American Jewish life. With young Jews increasingly disengaged from religion, we
should be doing everything we can to suppor t Jewish schools, camps, and social groups. But right now these experiences are
increasingly out of financial reach for Los Angeles families.
So here’s my question: What if we stopped giving all those throwaway childhood gifts — the action figures, the train sets, the
stuff we don’t really need — and instead gave our children and grandchildren the enduring, meaningful gift of a Jewish
education?
I pitched that idea to the nonprofit Builders of Jewish Education (BJE), calling it TorahTrust. It would function like a child’s gift
registry: In the same way that many parents star t “529 College Savings Plans,” they would be able to create “613 TorahTrust
Savings Accounts” for their children’s Jewish education. Whatever the occasion — a baby-naming, a bir thday, a Bar Mitzvah —
relatives and friends would have the option of eschewing traditional gifts and instead contributing to a child’s Jewish education.
TorahTrust savings accounts would be housed in a financial institution or community foundation. A whole range of par ties —
day schools, synagogues, camps, and more — would encourage families to star t accounts. Those organizations might offer
incentives for par ticipation, giving parents discounts and added value for using TorahTrust savings to pay for their educational
offerings. Corporations and nonprofits would be encouraged to provide matching gifts, and to help market the program. The
BJE would be the interface between the financial institution and the gift-giver.
This kind of initiative — giving families a dedicated avenue to save for their children’s Jewish education, and mobilizing the entire
community to suppor t them — doesn’t exist anywhere else in Nor th America.
BJE liked the TorahTrust idea and drafted a proposal. To date we have not been able to secure funding, and TorahTrust hasn’t
taken off.
I haven’t given up.
BJE estimates that less than half of this city’s young Jews are enrolled in Jewish schools or camps in any given year, and to me
that’s not acceptable. I want young Angelenos like my grandchildren to grow up knowing what it means to be a Jew, and to find
meaning in their extraordinary heritage. The best way to make that happen is to give them the chance to go to Jewish day
school.
Changing the way we give gifts might seem like a small step. But it’s a small step that could open big doors — not to mention
make gift-giving a lot less stressful, on the giving and receiving ends.

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TorahTrust is an out-of-the-box idea that seeks to
transform the paradigm of gift giving by encouraging
friends and family to contribute to a child's Jewish
education rather than giving a material gift. Jewish
educational programs (formal and informal) would also
be encouraged to add financial value to a TorahTrust
account being used in their institution.

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torahtrust@gmail.com

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© 2015 TorahTrust. All Rights Reserved

Designed by Max LaZebnik


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