Before my divorce, all three of my sons were attending private Jewish Day Schools, and afterward I became solely financially responsible for their education. The divorce was already a huge upset in my children’s lives, and I wanted to keep things as normal as possible. Pulling them out of school where they had friends and a community they had grown to know and love would have been another huge disruption and derailed my efforts to raise them as Orthodox Jewish young men.
We first heard about Empower Illinois through Fasman Yeshiva High School in Skokie and applied. Thankfully, we received scholarships all four years of the Tax Credit Scholarship Program, which allowed me to keep my kids at their best-fit schools. I felt sending them to a school where they could receive a Jewish-based education was incredibly important towards maintaining their Jewish identify. The pull to assimilate to the outside world is so strong, people often lose the desire to stay within the fold. Their Jewish education has made all the difference in helping them become successful young men who are involved in the community and religiously observant.
All three of my sons were able to thrive at their private schools, receiving several awards and accolades. My oldest is now finishing college at a local Jewish school and already has a full-time job lined up. My middle son is about to attend a Jewish college in New York, and my youngest son graduated this past spring from Rochelle Zelle Jewish High School in Deerfield, where he was chosen to give the commencement address.
Most Orthodox Jewish families have very limited funds. We really focus on the Torah – being good people and doing good things in the world –- and it is difficult to balance secular and religious worlds. For example, many people must leave work early on Fridays to prepare for the Sabbath and take off Jewish holidays. Plus, the cost of Jewish education puts a huge financial burden on the community. Without scholarships, like those from Empower Illinois, families would have to go into an astronomical amount of debt.
I’m a huge advocate for the Tax Credit Scholarship Program and am extremely grateful my family was able to benefit from it. I was in charge of my children for all these years, and knowing I had financial support from donors and the community was huge for me. I’m eternally grateful.