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I Decide who Gets Assistance to Jewish Day School Tuition

October 11, 2018 | by Emuna Braverman

I try to be compassionate but when I see vacation photos on Facebook my blood boils.

Dear Emuna,

I am a day-school administrator and often involved in determining whether families are eligible for tuition assistance or not. I try to be compassionate and understanding but sometimes when I go on Facebook I see pictures of families that are requesting assistance away at fancy hotels and vacation spots. This makes my blood boil and I don’t know how to look at that family. I don’t want to embarrass them but I think it’s not right. How should I handle this?

It’s Really Tough to Run a Day School

Dear It’s Really Tough,

I can’t imagine having your job; it is so important and yet so difficult. And I think that this issue of tuition assistance is a sticky and sensitive one. Although I’m sure there are people who are not completely honest on their forms and try to minimize what they pay the schools, they are also plenty of honest, struggling parents who are completely humiliated by the demands and invasiveness of the tuition assistance procedure. It is often a serious violation of the family’s privacy.

Despite the school’s needs, I’m not sure it justifies embarrassing other Jews. But I don’t have your job and I’m not confronted with people trying to scam the system, so to speak. We have a mitzvah to judge others favorably and I see no reason why that doesn’t apply here as well. Perhaps the grandparents paid for that fancy vacation you saw on Facebook. Those grandparents would not otherwise have given the money to the school. Perhaps something particularly stressful or challenging was occurring within the family and they desperately needed to get away. Perhaps they were actually working at the location but didn’t want others to know how their vacation was paid for.

I’m sure that with a little time and creativity, we could think of many possible scenarios to explain a vacation that seems out of context for a family applying for scholarship. I don’t mean to tell you how to do your job or how to balance the very real needs of the school with the very limited resources of the parents. But, again, I think the mitzvah to judge favorably should apply here. If you’re able to do this, while it won’t alleviate all the stress of your job, it will certainly take away the piece that is constantly frustrated with what (only) appears to be the selfishness of the parents.

Dear Emuna,

I volunteer at a non-profit organization and I take a lot of pride and pleasure in my work. It is a cause I deeply believe in and the work is gratifying. My biggest challenge is that even when there are committees established to run an event, I end up doing most of the work. No one else seems prepared to step up to the plate. As much as I love my job, this does make me feel frustrated and resentful and even tempted to quit. How can I let go and move on?

A Giver

Dear Giver,

It is normal and human to react the way you do and I’m not going to suggest that you should be completely selfless. Although our motives may be unselfish and altruistic we all like a little help or a little recognition or a little praise. I suspect that if you got just a drop of that it would ease your burden. However, given that neither help nor praise nor expressions of gratitude and appreciation seem forthcoming, I would fall back on the fact that you repeatedly mentioned how much you love your job. You are doing work that makes a difference and gives you pleasure. It would be cutting off your nose to spite your face as the expression goes to pull back from a job you love just because others aren’t participating.

You are very fortunate to have a job you love – most people don’t. In addition, your job is about giving to others which is also a rare gift. Try (as we do with everything in life) to focus on the benefits of your work, the positive impact you are making and the ways in which it nourishes you and work on accepting the reluctance of others to help as a small price to pay for such a rewarding opportunity. It’s not easy, I know, but it is worth it.


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