Why Jews Should Support Indirect State Funding for Private Schools

Jan. 28 2020

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard the case of Espinoza v. Montana, challenging a ruling by the Montana Supreme Court that overturned a 2015 law providing tax credits to those who donate money to private schools. At issue is the state’s “Blaine Amendment,” which strictly forbids government support for religious education. Such amendments, present in many state constitutions, were an outgrowth of 19th-century anti-Catholic bigotry, but since the 20th century have been widely supported by Jews. Jonathan Tobin argues that it’s time to reconsider:

[T]hanks to other Supreme Court rulings, efforts to force Jewish children to recite Christian prayers in school are . . . a distant memory. But the fears of the past are still motivating many Jews to adopt a mindset that sees private religious schools—whether Jewish, Catholic or evangelical—as a threat to public education or church-state separation. Extreme separationism, such as the effort to oppose even the indirect aid that tuition tax credits give to faith-based schools, ignores the plight of poor students [who] are . . . trapped in failing public schools because their parents don’t have the money to send them to private or religious schools.

It also fails to take into account the interests of society in supporting educational institutions that help religious minorities thrive, such as Jewish day schools. Yet outside Agudath Israel, which represents the interests of ultra-Orthodox Jews, Jewish groups aren’t rallying to support [the plaintiff in this case], or efforts to preserve and expand laws in other states that have helped both Jewish and non-Jewish families afford private education costs.

Prejudice against private and religious education hurts children while doing nothing to preserve anyone’s constitutional rights.

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Read more at JNS

More about: American law, church and state, Education, Supreme Court

Will America Invite Israel to Join Its Multinational Coalitions?

From the Korean War onward, the U.S. has rarely fought wars alone, but has instead led coalitions of various allied states. Israel stands out in that it has close military and diplomatic relations with Washington yet its forces have never been part of these coalitions—even in the 1991 Gulf War, when Iraqi missiles were raining down on its cities. The primary reason for its exclusion was the sensitivity of participating Arab and Muslim nations. But now that Jerusalem has diplomatic relations with several Arab countries and indeed regularly participates alongside them in U.S.-led joint military exercises, David Levy believes it may someday soon be asked to contribute to an American expedition.

It is unlikely that Israel would be expected by the U.S. to deploy the Golani [infantry] brigade or any other major army unit. Instead, Washington will likely solicit areas of IDF niche expertise. These include missile defense and special forces, two areas in which Israel is a world leader. The IDF has capabilities that it can share by providing trainers and observers. Naval and air support would also be expected as these assets are inherently deployable. Israel can also provide allies in foreign wars with intelligence and cyber-warfare support, much of which can be accomplished without the physical deployment of troops.

Jerusalem’s previous reasons for abstention from coalitions were legitimate. Since its independence, Israel has faced existential threats. Conventional Arab armies sought to eliminate the nascent state in 1948-49, 1967, and again in 1973. This danger remained ever-present until the 1978 signing of the Camp David Accords, which established peace between Egypt and Israel. Post-Camp David, the threats to Israel remain serious but are no longer existential. If Iran were to become a nuclear power, this would pose a new existential threat. Until then, Israel is relatively well secured.

Jerusalem’s new Arab allies would welcome its aid. Western capitals, especially Washington, should be expected to pursue Israel’s military assistance, and Jerusalem will have little choice but to acquiesce to the expeditionary expectation.

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Read more at BESA Center

More about: IDF, U.S. military, U.S.-Israel relationship