With a long-standing policy of never turning away a family for lack of funds, the network of schools run under the umbrella of Chabad-Lubavitch in the United Kingdom has predictably had trouble with its bottom line. But despite the continuing economic doldrums, things have gotten a lot easier of late thanks to increasing help from supporters and state aid at three of the London headquarters’ institutions.

“Thank G‑d, we are doing better,” said Chabad-Lubavitch UK chief executive officer Rabbi Bentzi Sudak. “It’s no secret that, over the last few years, we have been fighting for the financial security to continue our work in communities, schools, and campuses across the country.”

Sudak explained that the organization has seen a change of status for two of its Jewish day schools, the Senior Girls’ School in Stamford Hill and the Lubavitch House Boys’ School, which allow them to benefit from state funds. The Ruth Lunzer Lubavitch Girls’ Primary School, which includes the Lubavitch Children’s Centre, has been receiving state funding since 2004.

“This reduces the huge financial burden on the foundation,” said Rabbi Nissan Dubov, whose children travel more than an hour each way from their home in Wimbledon in order to attend school.

According to Freida Sudak, a senior Chabad-Lubavitch emissary who led the effort to obtain state aid and serves as head teacher at the Girls’ Primary School and executive director of the Boys School, the financial situation had gotten so severe because of the many families who, due to the global recession, were simply not able to pay tuition.

“We never sent away a child for not paying tuition,” she affirmed. “Whoever wanted to come came.”

Rabbi Shmuel Lew, director of the Senior Girls’ School, said that the institutions’ change of status followed a lengthy inspection process. The end result is not only a set amount of money per student, but also the ability to receive grants for programs or equipment. He mentioned that students with special needs, in particular, will gain from the new developments, as the school will now be able to employ a full-time assistant.

“A few lessons a week and coaching one-on-one could enhance their whole learning experience,” he explained.

According to Rachel Davidoff, who will have three daughters in the high school next year, the Hackney Learning Trust – the non-profit organization which distributes state education grants in the London borough of Hackney – was particularly receptive to the importance of each school’s Jewish Studies curriculum.

“We showed them how by learning Torah, for example, we are teaching history and timelines,” said Davidoff, who teaches English at the boys’ school. “It says a lot that the Learning Trust has accepted and understood that we can teach Jewish subjects in the morning and we are not compromising our standards. This is a tremendous achievement.”

British Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks attends the grand opening of the Lubavitch Children’s Centre in 2010.
British Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks attends the grand opening of the Lubavitch Children’s Centre in 2010.

Education for Every Child

The idea of providing a Jewish education for every child in need is nothing new, said Lew. Back in 1981, he travelled to the then-Soviet Union at the behest of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, and came back with dozens of Jewish girls in need of an education.

“They came with just the clothes they were wearing,” he recalled. “And we gave them room and board, and a top-notch education.”

Echoing that sentiment, Bentzi Sudak said that children have always been the top priority.

“Children are the leaders of the next generation,” he said. “It is our responsibility to world Jewry to provide them with a solid education.”

The attitude has struck a chord with parents.

“It’s a great achievement,” Dubov, who directs Chabad of Wimbledon, said of the change in status. “It shows the confidence that the local authority has for the excellence of the school.”

Sudak said that the influx of funds will allow the schools and their umbrella organization to do more for more people.

“We are now able to focus on a level that was never attainable before,” he explained.

“Thanks to an amazing staff, we have achieved excellent academic results and a unique ethos of kindness and love for Judaism on such a small budget,” added Helen Freeman, head teacher of the Girls’ Senior School, which has consistently achieved national recognition. “Just imagine what we’ll be able to achieve with this additional funding.”