Clarification: In the article about Menachem Mendel Seattle Cheder’s financial troubles (“Day school hangs by a thread,” June 22), the terms of loan the school received from the Samis Foundation would convert to a grant should MMSC raise the amount of the loan. The school also defaulted on a bridge loan from the Avi Chai Foundation, for which Samis has assumed payment. Samis will subtract that amount from the operating funds it gives to MMSC.
The Menachem Mendel Seattle Cheder needs a miracle.
“We want to stay healthy, and we can’t stay healthy if we don’t have community support,” Tziviah Goldberg, MMSC’s director of development, told JTNews.
Following the death of one major supporter and the loss of a business by another, which had been a combined $250,000 commitment to the school over each of the past several years, school leaders realized in January there would be a budget shortfall and began an emergency campaign to raise the difference.
So far the campaign has raised approximately $130,000, according to Goldberg, and needs to raise $50,000 more by July 1 to keep from defaulting on its debt obligations.
“We got 100 percent participation from all of our faculty, all our parents, and we’re reaching out to alumni as well,” said Rabbi Yossi Charytan, MMSC’s head of school.
The school is now turning to the larger community for assistance.
“We felt like it was time for the community to come forward and give us a little push,” Goldberg said.
The challenge has been in meeting the debt obligations related to the school’s building in Seattle’s Maple Leaf neighborhood, which MMSC occupied in 2010. The 36-year-old Orthodox academy had previously operated rent-free in the Chabad of the Pacific Northwest headquarters, but a building switch between several Jewish organizations had left MMSC homeless until it bought what was originally the Waldo Hospital from the Campfire Girls organization.
The Samis Foundation, which provides funding to all six of the state’s day schools, helped with obtaining loan money that MMSC has already defaulted on, but “we felt that we could not go beyond our obligations,” said Rob Toren, Samis’s grants administrator. “Even if we could afford it, it would not be a relationship for us to have with any school in this situation.”
A request to Chabad’s central body in New York is pending, but “they generally don’t support nationally,” Goldberg said. “You have to do your part as your own Chabad institution.”
Rabbi Sholom Ber Levitin, director of Chabad of the Pacific Northwest, told JTNews that he is confident the school can meet its obligations, but “the ultimate responsibility of the financials is vested in the board of directors and the parent body, as at any school.” He added that “the Chabad regional offices continue to make substantial grants to the school,” both financially and through other material support.
Ultimately, Levitin believes the energy created by MMSC’s parents and supporters around filling the shortfall could be good for the school.
“In the long run that’s exactly what the school needs,” he said.
So the question is, if the school is unable to meet its goal in such a short time period, what happens in the fall, especially if it loses its building?
“Our intent is to open, somehow, some way,” Goldberg said.
“We are definitely going to be here — not even a question in our minds,” Charytan said. “If we don’t meet that particular deadline, we’ll have to strategize and figure out what the next step will be.”