Over the decades, the Board’s Cape Town and Durban branches and the National office in Johannesburg have been entrusted with administering sizable bursary portfolios on behalf of needy and/or academically deserving Jewish students. Several of the bursaries are also open to similarly qualified students from the broader community. The various branches have now all finalised the bursary allocations for the current academic year.
Most of the funding has come from far-sighted and generous members of our community who, either during their life-times or as bequests, made significant donations in support of higher education. Specific funds within the larger portfolios bear the names of these benefactors. Through this crucial support, innumerable young members of our community have been able to realize their professional and academic dreams, and in turn they have contributed in no small measure to the community and to society in general.
One of the key reasons for the success of the Jewish people over the ages has been the emphasis we have traditionally placed on education. To this end, we have always been prepared to make considerable sacrifices, whether as individuals or as communities.
South African Jewry has certainly distinguished itself when it comes to educating their youth, both in terms of Jewish and secular education, but it has not been achieved without a considerable struggle. As every Jewish parent knows, as does anyone involved in the arduous task of fundraising, the costs of private and post-matric education are enormous, particularly during these difficult economic times. For a great many people, it would simply be unachievable without assistance. It is a testimony to the generosity of the broader Jewish community that such assistance has largely been forthcoming up until now, but such support needs to be ongoing and cannot simply be taken for granted.
While we were glad to be in a position to extend at least some much-needed assistance to this year’s applicants, we were also all too aware of the limitations of what we could do. Inevitably, not every application was successful, and even with those that were, the assistance provided could go only part of the way towards meeting the applicants’ needs.
We clearly need to grow our current bursary funds to meet the ever-rising costs of higher education. Amongst other things, what were once very substantial grants provided by certain funds when they were first established have since become exceedingly modest as a result of inflation. Here, I would like to appeal to our community to assist, in particular those who have received financial assistance from the Board in the past. Any donation to the Board’s bursary fund, however small, will be of lasting benefit since it will be added to the capital base and thereby help provide a permanent source of funding.
This Above Board column first appeared in the South African Jewish Report on 27 January 2012