My wife and I had the good fortune of being able to attend the White House Chanukah Party on Thursday, December 6. One of the many extraordinary aspects of the gathering is that cabinet members and Washington officials also attend and mingle with the guests. The newly-nominated Ambassador to the United Nations, Heather Nauert, was there. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer was there. Rudy Giuliani was there along with many others.
It used to be said that more was accomplished on the golf course than anywhere else. Well, more is achieved at the Chanukah White House Party than on the links.
It is a tremendous statement of goodwill, brotherhood, and fraternity when a Cabinet official comes to the Chanukah Party. It sends all the right messages. It is rare to have both the President and the Vice President in the same room at the same time. It is a security headache, but they were there honoring eight Holocaust survivors. The whole event transmitted such warmth and respect.
Betsy DeVos, who is Secretary of Education, came to the party and spoke to me at length. We covered a diverse array of topics ranging from forgiveness of student loans to anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiments infused during the Obama years in American textbooks, and to private school education. I mentioned that I had spent 1.25 million post-tax dollars on yeshivah education from first grade through high school for my five sons. She was somewhat taken aback by that. She listened intently. I said the easiest thing that should be done is to give a tax credit for private school education. She seemed to agree.
The cost of yeshivah education today is immensely higher that when my sons went to school. I really don’t know how people do it. It has reached crisis proportions. To complicate matters, it is having an effect on family size. This impacts our very existence and survival.
Betsy DeVos wants to help. More have to speak to her. More have to raise their voices.
I hope that by next year’s Chanukah Party, yeshivah education in America will finally be affordable.
Joseph M. Frager is a physician and lifelong activist.