“It seems too good to be true that you could help give Jewish kids a Jewish education with almost no out-of-pocket expenses,” said Elliot Holtz, chairman of the Foundation for Jewish Day schools.
“People say, “’What’s the catch?’ There is no catch,” he added with a laugh. “You really can just shift your Pennsylvania taxes to support scholarships for families in need.”
It’s true. Individuals and businesses can direct their personal and/or business taxes — money you would need to pay anyway — toward Jewish pre- and day school scholarships.
Here’s how it works: Eligible taxpayers can receive tax credits of up to 90% from Pennsylvania’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program for your contribution to a scholarship organization. The Foundation for Jewish Day Schools is one such organization. Created by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and local day schools, it is a separate 501(c)(3) whose mission includes providing needs-based scholarships to local Jewish pre- and day schools.
“Let me unpack this for you,” said Ellen Horowitz Matz, director of Education Tax Credit Programs at Jewish Federation. “Let’s say you owe $10,000 to Harrisburg. You apply for EITC and get approved. You send your $10,000 check to the foundation, the money goes to day schools and you receive a 90% state tax credit — a $9,000 state tax credit. It’s simple.”
Thanks to the EITC program and donors’ generosity, the foundation awarded more than $7.8 million in needs-based scholarships during the 2018-2019 school year, which enabled more than 1,000 students from low- to moderate-income homes to attend a Greater Philadelphia Jewish day school. The foundation also awarded almost $740,000 in scholarships to 200 students attending a Jewish preschool.
The deadline for first-time business participants is July 1, and Matz is available to walk you through the application process to make it easy-peasy; you can contact her directly at [email protected] or 215-832-0525.
For individuals, there’s almost always an opportunity to participate (with a minimum state tax liability of $6,200); Gwen Horowitz, executive director at Jewish Scholarship LLC, who works closely with Matz, facilitates the process for individuals and can be reached at [email protected] or 610-668-0044. The foundation encourages you to communicate with your tax adviser as well.
For more information, application forms and step-by-step instructions, you can also visit jewishphilly.org/eitc.
Advocacy Day in Harrisburg: Make Your Voice Heard
When it comes to issues important to our Jewish communities, it’s crucial that our voices be heard in the halls of power.
That’s why the Jewish Federation’s Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) holds Advocacy Day missions to Harrisburg and Washington, D.C., to educate, train and lead volunteers to engage impactfully with legislators.
What’s an Advocacy Day like?
Participant Ellen Fisher remembers of her first mission, in 2017: “Excited as I was, I was scared,” she admitted. “We were representing 200,000 Jewish people who vote. We took that responsibility seriously.”
Her group was given advance material on the issues and, on the bus ride, prepped with additional guidance. They were divided into groups, then spent all day scurrying between meetings with legislators and their staffs. Fisher found the entire experience inspiring. “It was a great feeling to know that by speaking out we were making a difference,” she said.
This June 18, join JCRC and the Anti-Defamation League on a trip to Harrisburg. At the Pennsylvania Capitol they’ll meet with elected officials, including Speaker of the House Mike Turzai, Rep. Dan Frankel and Gov. Tom Wolf. Together, the JCRC and ADL will lobby on consensus issues important to our Jewish communities, including gun violence prevention, hate crimes legislation and preservation of the social safety net.
“People often don’t realize how powerful local advocacy can be — and how easy,” JCRC Director Rabbi Batya Glazer said. “It’s accessible. And it allows us to be a meaningful part of our democracy.”
For more information on Advocacy Day in Harrisburg or to register, contact Robin Schatz at [email protected] or 215-832-0654.