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Bader endows day schools with $10 million

By Stephanie Wagner
Special to The Chronicle

June 24th, 2009

The Helen Bader Foundation, Inc. has announced that it will commit at least $10 million over the next decade to create a permanent endowment for the Helen Bader Day School Scholarship Fund for Jewish Education, which has helped low- and middle-income families with the cost of tuition at Milwaukee-area Jewish day schools for nearly 19 years, according to foundation communications director, Robert Tobon.

When mature, the endowment will be administered by the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, marking the largest single gift in the foundation’s history.

“Education is the linchpin of our community, and since the first day, the Helen Bader Foundation has sought to keep this option viable for all families,” said Daniel Bader, foundation president. 

“The foundation board is making this gift to signal to the community that Jewish education is perhaps the strongest investment they can make today toward ensuring our collective future.”

As the endowment is built, the foundation will continue to fund scholarships on an annual basis.  In recent years, the scholarship fund has provided $500,000 annually to local families, for a total of more than $6.1 million.

Granting an average of $11 million annually, the Helen Bader Foundation, Inc. has awarded more than $179 million in grants and $10 million in program related investments since it was established in 1991.

Responding to the announcement, Milwaukee Jewish Day School head of school Judy Miller said, “This is groundbreaking.  The vision and leadership of the Helen Bader Foundation have raised up our community, not just for the present but for many years to come. The scope of this gift takes my breath away.”

“The Helen Bader Foundation is ensuring a future for Jewish education just as they have so graciously supported us in the past,” said Sora Rauch, principal of Torah Academy of Milwaukee High School for Girls.

“A Jewish education is the legacy we give our children, and this generous and visionary endowment will ensure that today’s scholarship beneficiaries can see their children and their children’s children attend those same day schools,” said Bruce A. Arbit president of the federation, which is allocating $694,400 in 2009-2010 to the three constituent day schools. “The Helen Bader Foundation has once again demonstrated a commitment to building the long-term strength of this community, for families of all means.”

Each summer, the scholarships are awarded under the guidance of the Day School Grant Allocation Committee of the Coalition for Jewish Learning, the education program of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation.  This advisory body determines the levels of tuition assistance based on anonymous application criteria, including income, number of school-age children and other life circumstances. “For many families, the added support of the scholarship means the difference in whether or not a family is able to send their children to a day school,” Bader said.

To determine the greatest need, the federation works closely with the five schools that participate in the program:  The Academy (Hillel), Milwaukee Jewish Day School, Torah Academy of Milwaukee, Wisconsin Institute for Torah Study and Yeshiva Elementary School of Milwaukee. “That collaboration has attracted national attention to the Milwaukee area, with many Jewish communities seeking to replicate its approach to sustaining Jewish education and building a vibrant Jewish culture,” Tobon said.

 “Among communities our size, Milwaukee is unsurpassed in its level of support for Jewish education,” said Richard H. Meyer, federation executive vice president.  “Maintaining that momentum is no small task, but we hope that other members of our community will be inspired to follow the Helen Bader Foundation’s example of long-term commitment to Jewish day school education.”

“The scholarships’ role in building a stronger Jewish community ties back to the ideals of my mother,” said Bader. “Every year, we see the impact of the scholarships at the student and family level, but it’s really much broader than that.  The spirit of this community is epitomized by day school students who strengthen their faith and go on in life to help others. I’m pleased that my mother’s legacy will continue to make that a reality,” he said. 

Stephanie Wagner lives in Milwaukee.