At his funeral on Friday, Matt Fenster’s dream to build support for day schools was posthumously read to the overflowing audience.
Family and friends,
In my opinion, the single biggest crisis facing the American Jewish population is the unaffordability of Jewish day school education. I know of parents who have limited the size of their family because they felt that they could not afford a Jewish day school education for any more children. This stands in stark contradistinction to the Torah’s imperative of “pru urvu” — “be fruitful and multiply”. The notion that the cost of a Jewish day school education would cause fewer Jewish babies to be brought into this world is the cruelest of ironies.
But why is a Jewish day school education so important? Each and every Jewish child is born into a millennia-old heritage, just waiting to be accessed. It is essential that we give our children the keys to unlocking this tradition. I think of the Torah’s narrative of Moses transferring leadership of the Jewish people to Joshua. The Torah says that Joshua was filled with the “ruach chochma” — “spirit of wisdom”. The Torah does not say that Moses downloaded into Joshua each and every nuance of Moses’ forty years of experience as judge of Israel. Rather, what Moses instilled in Joshua was a mindset and capacity for serving in his own right as the future leader of the Jewish people.
This is how I think of a Jewish day school education. Each and every child must be provided with a basic skill set, including the ability to read Hebrew, understand the commentators, and parse a Talmudic argument. Once equipped with these skills, the child is then free to go off in whatever direction he or she chooses, potentially becoming a future leader of Israel in his or her own right.
I hope you will share in my dream of making a Jewish day school education available to each and every Jewish child. You can do this by donating to the fund established in my memory, the Matthew S. Fenster Jewish Education Fund, which is administered by the Jewish Communal Fund. Thank you.
If you would like to join Matt in his last wish, donations made payable to the Jewish Communal Fund should be sent to
Jewish Communal Fund
575 Madison Ave, Suite 703
New York, NY 10022
(REMINDER: to be credited appropriately, the memo section on your check must indicate “Matthew S. Fenster Jewish Education Fund”.
View earlier posts about Matt “The Power of One” and “Improving the Jewish World in Life and in Death”