Portrait of Philanthropy

Davidi and Natalie Jonas: A Passion for Education

Photo: Abbie Sophia Photography

Davidi and Natalie Jonas, residents of Paramus, New Jersey, are among the most innovative and passionate philanthropists devoted to education. Not just for their own four children, but for all Jewish children.

Currently in their mid-thirties, the Jonases are elementary school sweethearts who met at SAR in Riverdale, New York, and have been together ever since.

“Natalie is the real gaon of education,” says Davidi of his wife, who is an early childhood educator. “She just gets it. She knows how to speak to kids on their level.”

Hoping to strengthen children’s confidence and self-understanding, the couple sponsored “Foundations,” a social-emotional curriculum at Yavneh Academy of Paramus that helps students learn how to work collaboratively and deal with stress. Launched this past year as a pilot program, Foundations is expected to expand in the coming year.

“We feel that education is the key to training the next generation of Jewish leadership,” says Davidi. “Our community has done a great job [teaching] knowledge and content. We expect our children to be overachievers relative to the general population, and that can put a lot of stress and strain on children.”

While working at IDT, Davidi, who currently runs his own investment company, was asked by a colleague if he would be interested in meeting with the OU’s Teach NJ. “[My colleague] told me that on a return-on-investment basis, Teach NJ is probably one of the most successful non-profit organizations in the Jewish philanthropy world, and most certainly in the education sector.” To Davidi, choosing to support Teach NJ was a sound business decision.

Teach NJ is part of the OU’s Teach Coalition, which aims to secure government financial support for Jewish day schools and yeshivot. Teach Coalition lobbies for equitable government funding, tax credit scholarships, government grants and education savings accounts to benefit Jewish families and schools.

“The people who run Teach NJ do a very good job,” says Davidi. “They’ve developed deep relationships with a broad coalition of co-religionists and bipartisan representatives, which gives private schools the best chance of stable and sustainable support.”

In addition to Teach NJ, the couple supports many other OU programs, including Yachad and NCSY, viewing them as being vital to the community. “Davidi and Natalie Jonas are leaders at every level in the sphere of education within the Jewish community,” says Katie Katz, Executive Director of Teach NJ. “The programs they support show that they are creative thinkers who develop and implement progressive and holistic ideas to address a variety of challenging issues.”

In 2019, Teach NJ achieved an unprecedented increase in nonpublic school security funding by doubling the allocation to $22.6 million. And since the start of the Covid-19 crisis, Teach NJ has been at the forefront of helping our schools and their families by advocating for special services to resume remotely, and distributing over 80,000 free kosher meals to children each week. Currently it serves as a liaison between days schools and the government as schools plan for reopening. Throughout this pandemic, Teach NJ has continued to advocate to ensure schools have the resources they need to get through this crisis. “Through the support of generous donors like the Jonases, we have been able to help schools secure tens of millions of dollars in relief funds, which is a lifeline in these challenging times,” says Katie. “Teach NJ is honored to partner with Davidi and Natalie Jonas on this crucial, important work to fight for safer and more affordable Jewish education,” says Katie. “We need more partners like them to continue advancing this work.”

This article was featured in the Fall 2020 issue of Jewish Action.
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