At Tucson Hebrew Academy’s Tikkun Olam Award Celebration on Oct. 24, guest speaker Rabbi Daniel Gordis, author of “Saving Israel,” drew a direct connection between Jewish education and the Jewish future. “There are challenges facing the Jewish people across the world … and Jewish education is so critical in combating that. … [It] is actually the critical first wave of attack against what is happening to the Jewish people worldwide,” Gordis said.
With Arizona’s private school tuition tax credit, any Arizona taxpayer may direct a portion of his or her taxes to support Jewish education in Tucson.
Up to $1,000 per married couple and $500 per single filer in Arizona state tax credits can be directed to the Jewish Education Tax Credit Organization, or JETCO, formerly known as the Cheder Scholarship Organization. These funds provide scholarships for students who would otherwise be unable to afford tuition at three of Tucson’s Jewish educational institutions: Tucson Hebrew Academy, the Tucson Jewish Community Center’s kindergarten and Congregation Anshei Israel’s Esther B. Feldman kindergarten. Contributors receive a dollar-for-dollar private school tax credit that reduces what they owe to the state of Arizona.
“JETCO … empowers families to know that financially they have support to take advantage of the incredible learning and developmental opportunities that are offered within our Jewish community,” says Myron Rottenstein, a financial advisor who is active in the Jewish Community Foundation of Southern Arizona and other local organizations.
Last year JETCO raised $522,000, providing scholarships to 113 children at THA and the JCC’s kindergarten. Sixty percent of all THA students receive financial support through JETCO. Allocation is based strictly on an assessment of needs. Without that assistance, enrollment could dwindle to numbers that could endanger the school’s viability.
Dave Karp, who co-chairs the 2010 JETCO campaign with Nanci Levy, notes that some people express concern that the JETCO state tax credit diverts funds from public education. He points out that in 2009, JETCO donations were barely a blip against Arizona’s education budget, making up less than .01 of one percent of the budget. In addition, contributors may take advantage of tax credits for both JETCO and the public school of their choice.
Contributions to JETCO must be made by Dec. 31. Monthly payment plans are available and, thanks to an anonymous donor, arrangements are available for those who need help bridging the cash flow gap until they receive their tax refunds. For more information, call Ori Parnaby at 577-9393, ext.117 or visit www.jetco.org.
Nancy Ben-Asher Ozeri is a freelance writer living in Tucson.