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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

New Bloggers on the Block with Orthonomic Posts

Relatively new blogger "Independent Frum Thinker" has posted a number of insightful posts. The last post was about Priorities in Tzedakah, a topic I've blogged about numerous times. He makes the point that glitz sells when it comes to enticing donors to donate and I think we are all paying for our "base material instincts" and the Marriotts, Hiltons, and Four Seasons of the world come out the only clear winners (!).

In an ideal world, everyone would just donate to the causes that are most important, they would keep much of their money local building their own institutions, and nearly every dollar would go to benefit those causes. In our less than ideal world, banquets must be held and we are lucky if one of every two dollars benefit the cause. But lately it seems that the stakes have been raised and more and more materialism has been introduced to fundraising.

We are kicking ourselves in the foot with the high overhead involved in fundraising. And some of these fundraisers are NOT raising significant funds, but they are taking away from the limited pot of money that is out there. I even know of a banquet that lost money (!). The community may have raised a huge sum of money, but they spend every penny and more on overhead. And, once people have opened their wallets that money is gone forever. What a shame that not one penny went to benefit this school.

There is a fairly limited pot of tzedakah dollars in this world and when we spend so much of those dollars by paying caterers, hotels, musicians, and more, we are only hurting ourselves. Some people argue that "all of the goods [used to appeal to our materialistic instincts] are donated." I would respond that it would be better if we could just prioritize our dollars and be wise together about the finances of our community. We desperately need to reorient ourselves and our communities. And, I'm glad to see the j-blogs talking about the subject since I'm not hearing much about it other places.

There are so many needy causes and it is a shame that it takes a China Cabinet of silver to get us excited about those causes. While I consider myself more pragmatic than idealistic, I wish to be an idealist on this topic. Anything less is just kicking ourselves in the foot.

Another new blogger is "Jacob Da Jew" who just posted a piece on tuition entitled "Our Children's Education: A Robin Hood Affair." He talks about the difficulty for the middle class in tuition and predicts that things are going to get worse. I posted this comment on his blog:

My estimation is like yours: the middle class is really suffering. They make too much for tuition breaks, but not enough to really meet the expenses of tuition. I've posted some heartwrenching stories from guest posters and it is truly sad that people with respectable salaries are sinking into debt and are oftentimes paychecks away from insolvency.

I also have to sadly agree with your that it is going to get worse. There are so many young people in tremendous amounts of debt from college and grad school. Jewish parents are generous and in most of the cases I believe the parents were out of funds to keep helping their children along. Yet these young couples are stuck with payments on loans that are nearly the size of a small mortgage in an inexpensive community (5 years ago, that is). On top of this, they need to secure housing and be ready to pay tuition and each tuition is the size of another small mortgage payment.

Many times the schools tell you to ask your parents for help. I can't speak for others, but my in-laws just finished paying off the 2nd mortgage that they put on their home to pay for high school tuitions for their children. Now they have three times as many grandchildren as they had children (baruch Hashem) and have their own escalating expenses of old(er) age. In short, I think that this route has been exhausted and if the older generation is expected to pick up the difference for the younger generation, the scale will eventually tilt back and the younger generation will *need* to take care of their parents. So, all in all, this "minhag hamakom" of some communities is limited too."


Independent Frum Thinker said...

It’s like the old question regarding the chicken and the egg, which one came first.
Are people so materialistic that Tzedakohs feel they need to appeal to their base materialistic instincts in order to raise money, or did they decide that doing so will generate even more money and are therefore glorifying opulent lifestyles?
Either way, as I wrote on my blog, overhead should be kept to the bare minimum possible. The more money to the cause the better.
Thanks for quoting me and the nice compliment.

Jacob Da Jew said...

Well, for my part, I am not oblivious to the future. We had started putting away money already in a fund for our daughter's future financial needs.

I also intend to educate my daughter to be financially independent. That means her learning the value of money and that getting a job is of the upmost importance. I do not intend for her or any b"H other children to be a yoke around our shoulders past a certain age.

Me and my wife both come from poor families and we work hard. Hopefully we will be able to impart that ethic to our children.

Thanks for the plug. I like the site, it has practical value.