Despite needing $350,000 to remain fully functional, Rabbi Walter Jacob, president of the Abraham Geiger College in Potsdam, Germany, is optimistic that the school will weather its current economic crisis.
“We’re not going to close it. That’s a definite,” said Jacob, rabbi emeritus of Rodef Shalom Congregation. “I’m optimistic that we won’t have to face the decision of cutting back either.”
The biggest problem facing the college according to Rabbi Jacob is the upcoming 2009 school year. The current enrollment of 17 rabbinic students and five cantorial students are in need of funds for their academic year — an average year costs around $12,000 to $13,000 per student.
No one anticipated the school financial trouble was this bad when it began its first cantorial program in August, accepting five students.
“When we opened it, the problems in America were not acute,” Jacob said.
He believes the money can be raised, Specifically, he’s relying on the American donors and the German government to pull the college out of its economic situation.
“What we are trying to do with all of this is two things,” he said. “One is that the American support, which remains important, doesn’t erode too much through this economic crisis; secondly that the German government assume more of a responsibility for the college.”
“The sum is not really large,” he said, “Certainly not when you compare it to what the bailouts are costing us.”
Meanwhile, the school is going about things as usual for the 2009 school year. Classes are being scheduled as normal.
But if funds aren’t secured, Jacob warned, there will be severe cutbacks.
“We will keep up the students as long as it’s possible,” he said. “We will eliminate entirely some of the courses which we offer. Which possibly could be made up in later years.”
As for the teachers, Jacob said they already receive little compensation for their work, and they might have to work voluntarily if the money isn’t raised.
“We will simply tell these folks who are teaching, who are not getting significant salaries now anyhow, that we will have to tell them we won’t be able to pay them anything and that they can go voluntarily. Or simply stop those classes.”
Jacob is hoping that the continued support the college has seen from American donors will continue despite harsh economic times.
“I’m counting on my American friends really spread throughout the country, to continue to participate.”
(Mike Zoller can be reached at email@example.com.)