Securing the Future of Jewish Day Schools: A Community Approach

Simha and Sara Lainer believed in big ideas, and they believed in Jewish education.

During their lifetime, they helped big ideas become real, starting with their first gift to BJE in 1951 – a gift that continues to benefit students, nearly 3 generations later. In many ways, Simha and Sara Lainer embodied the phrase "it takes a village to raise a child" and dedicated their philanthropic efforts to enhance Jewish educational opportunities; their legacy is a commitment to ensuring a Jewish future by endowing Jewish day school education in Los Angeles. The Lainer Family felt that the best way to honor their parents was through a big idea, one that would transcend an individual school or neighborhood, one that would enable schools to plan for the future without compromising current needs. One that would help ensure that families could rely on having access to quality Jewish education, regardless of economic fluctuations. One that would place the long term economic future of Jewish day schools in the top 25th percentile of independent and private school peers in Los Angeles.

The Lainer Day School Endowment Fund

In 2007, that big idea took shape as the Simha and Sara Lainer Day School Endowment Fund: A community-wide, $100 million endowment initiative to secure the future of day school education in Los Angeles - a joint project of BJE and the Jewish Federation. A challenge to schools: begin working on your own endowment – with an eye toward a combined total of $80 million in school-based endowment funds. A challenge to the community: raise $20 million in a central fund. The central fund would provide an incentive to BJE-affiliated schools committed to growing endowment by earmarking funds on a 1:4 matching basis for new endowment dollars raised, up to a maximum based on school budget size. With BJE as a communal partner to provide training and assistance for school-based efforts, and together with Federation helping secure community-based support, the Lainer Family pledged to match, on a one-to-three basis, up to to $5 million. The Jewish Federation of Los Angeles also stepped up with a pledge of $1 million. Within a short time, an initial investment of $4.25 million from the community was on deposit. As is often the case, one big idea leads to another.

Phase I: The Jim Joseph High School Affordability Initiative

In September 2009, the Jim Joseph Foundation, in partnership with BJE and the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles, kicked off Phase I of the initiative in the form of the Jim Joseph Foundation High School Affordability Initiative with a $12.7 million demonstration grant for five Jewish high schools. The project challenges the five high schools to raise $17 million towards their own endowment funds. There are immediate benefits to the participating schools as well: by meeting a set of endowment benchmarks over a six year period, each school will receive a portion of the $12.7 grant as operating support to pay for development staff, training, and other resources, along with funds to aid middle-income families in need of tuition assistance. The Jim Joseph High Schools are the first to benefit from the Lainer Day School Endowment Fund 1:4 matching program.

Jim Joseph High Schools:

Milken Community HighSchool

New Community Jewish High School

Shalhevet High School

YULA Boys High School

YULA Girls High School

For more information about the Jim Joseph High School Affordability Initiative,
contact Arlene Agress - 323-761-3398, or visit

Phase II: Generations LA

In 2011, BJE and the Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education (PEJE) helped to launch Phase II of the endowment initiative, Generations LA, funded in large part by the AVI CHAI Foundation and local Los Angeles donors, Rich and Wendy Kellner, Mark and Ellie Lainer, Peter and Janine Lowy, and Alan and Sheila Spiwak. In 2013, a second cohort of Generations LA was launched and five additional schools have been added to the program. During the three-year program, twelve schools will receive professional, technical and financial assistance toward reaching an endowment benchmark of $4,000 per enrolled student in current and planned gifts as well as an annual cash grants for need-based tuition assistance. The twelve Generations LA Schools will also be eligible to benefit from the Lainer Day School Endowment Fund 1:4 matching program.

Generations LA Schools:

Abraham Joshua Heschel Day School   

Adat Ari El Labowe Family Day School

Beth Hillel Day School

Cheder Menachem

Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy

Kadima Day School

Pressman Academy of Temple Beth Am

Sinai Akiba Academy

Temple Israel of Hollywood

Valley Beth Shalom Harold M. Schulweis Day School

Weizmann Day School

Yavneh Hebrew Academy

For more information about Generations LA, contact Rebecca Spain at: (323) 761-8612.

It's Bigger than You'll Ever Know

Endowment is about strengthening the fabric of a school by providing a permanent source of support that bolsters annual operating budgets, allowing for programming and building enhancements, while also relieving pressure of increasing financial aid costs. A gift to an individual school's endowment fund ensures that future generations of Jewish children will benefit from the outstanding education that the school provides while deepening and strengthening student's Jewish identity. Endowment resources help ensure that Jewish day school education is not limited to only the wealthiest in our community.

Endowment is also about strengthening the fabric of our community. A gift to the Lainer Day School Endowment Fund makes a strong statement that securing a vibrant Jewish future through Jewish education is a communal responsibility and benefits ALL day schools in Los Angeles that have committed to growing their own endowments.

Whether at the individual school level or at the community level, the commitment to endowing Jewish day schools in Los Angeles is a commitment to endowing a Jewish future.

Do your part in ensuring strong, vibrant Jewish day schools for our children's children. Contact Miriam Prum Hess - 323-761-8331 to leave your legacy.

BJE's Partners for Securing the Future of Jewish Day Schools