OU and Texas Orthodox Jewish Community Testify in Support of Texas Tax Credit Scholarship Legislation


Senate Committee Approves Bill, House Bill Still Waiting Approval

On April 9, 2013, Jesse Hervitz, Associate Director of Political Affairs for the Orthodox Union, testified to two Texas legislative committees in support of tax credit scholarship legislation. He was joined in testifying by two members of the Texas Jewish community: Rabbi Eliezar Langer of Congregation Tiferet Israel in Austin, and Natalie Levi, a parent at Torah Day School of Dallas.

If passed, House Bill 3245, authored by Representative Bill Callegari, and Senate Bill 23, co-authored by Senator Dan Patrick and Senator Ken Paxton, would help hundreds of Jewish students in Texas afford a Jewish education. Both bills would create a tax credit scholarship program similar to existing ones in Florida, Pennsylvania and Arizona. The Florida, Pennsylvania, and Arizona communities benefit considerably from their programs.

Parents, proponents, and policy experts of the proposed programs, used both hearings to repeatedly stress the fact that this program would not utilize any funds that may come from the Texas public education budget.  Furthermore, they demonstrated the significant savings this program would have for both the state and local school districts.  Rabbi Langer focused his comments on the diversity of the proposals proponents, while Ms. Levi eloquently told of her personal struggle to offer her daughter a quality education as a single working mother.

The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America (Orthodox Union) is the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization, representing nearly 1,000 synagogues and day schools across the country.  Through its Institute for Public Affairs, the Orthodox Union advocates for the values and interests of its constituency on key public policy issues, most prominently Jewish educational affordability and parental educational choice.

The Orthodox Union understands the important role an affordable Jewish education plays in the continuity of the Jewish people, and furthermore, the critical importance of access to quality education for all children. In his remarks Hervitz, concluded by reiterating this important message.

“When we gathered (recently) for our Passover Seders, the traditional Passover meal on the first two nights of the holiday, we were commanded not to focus on the adults in the room, but rather concentrate our effort on one thing and one thing alone:  In Hebrew, “v’higadita l’vincha”, “to teach our children”.  We are commanded to spend two long nights together as a family telling over the story of the exodus the young—to educate the next generation of Jewish Americans about their heritage, where they come from, and where they can go if given the right tools.

We use perhaps two of the most important nights in the Jewish calendar year, to teach our children of the paramount importance of education, and the role it must play in their lives.  This deeply rooted commitment to education, while crucial to our existence as a Jewish people, is actually what connects us to the many advocates and parents—both religious and secular—joined here in this room today asking you to support this important piece of legislation.”

The House Ways and means Committee will now deliberate in order to determine whether or not to give them approval and send the bill to the full House for debate. The Senate Education Committee approved the bill early Thursday morning.  The Senate bill now requires a two thirds vote to bring it to the floor for consideration.