Orthodox paying students to learn

By Simon Rocker, August 28, 2008

Orthodox outreach organisations in the UK are offering financial incentives to attract students.

The Jewish Learning Exchange has plans to expand a leadership-training programme for students which has previously offered £300 for attendance.

Another educational organisation, Seed, is running courses for parents of Jewish day-school pupils with apparent offers to pay £250 towards the cost of their children's Jewish studies.

But the head of one leading organisation for young Jewish people this week expressed opposition to the idea of cash-for-study.

Adam Pike, chair of the Union of Jewish Students, said that although the JLE's programme had its "consent", UJS "upholds the Jewish community's stance that it is not justified to offer young people money to attend programmes on campus.

"Activism and Jewish identity are inspired by the quality and variety of activities that are offered, and this should be the focus of our efforts."

The JLE piloted its Genesis programme for students at Nottingham and London during the last academic year. According to information that has appeared on the organisation's website, participants "who successfully complete" the programme - consisting of 10 evening sessions and two residential weekends - "will earn a sum of £300".

A JLE worker said there were plans to run it again at both venues this year, and Leeds as well, but no one was available to comment further.

Seed describes its Foundations course for parents as "the course we pay you to attend". Its website says that ,with over 150 participants, it is "growing from strength to strength" with courses at nine London Jewish day schools .

One prospective participant said that Seed was offering around £50 a session over five sessions towards the cost of voluntary contributions for their children's Jewish studies at school.
No one at Seed was available for comment.

Jess Baron, who attended the JLE Genesis course at Nottingham University last year, recalled being paid "a flat fee of, I think, £300 for the course but £10 was deducted for every session missed and £100 for every weekend residential missed... The money was intended as a reward rather than an incentive, and I don't think that I was aware of the money aspect when I applied."

She believed "there was no one who was just there for the money. I think the money was just the JLE's way of saying we know you have limited spare time and limited funds, so here's a little gift from us."

Describing the programme as "well-run and enjoyable", she added: "Considering it was on a Monday night and ran for three to four hours without a break, interest was maintained and attendance was pretty much consistent all the way to the end."

Rabbi Naftali Schiff, the executive director of another Orthodox outreach organisation, Aish, said his organisation was also considering financial incentives.

"If giving parents £100 off a term to go to lectures will make a difference, then I am a firm believer that Anglo-Jewry needs to invest in whoever it can to attract children and parents into learning," he said.
"Intermarriage rates are spiralling, and since fighting assimilation, apathy and ignorance are the educational priority of Aish, we do believe in the urgent need to try everything possible to stem the tide." Since Aish had subsidised educational trips for students for years, "providing stipends for a course in Jewish studies is certainly something we would consider".

Last updated: 4:13pm, August 29 2008