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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Feeling Deprived: A State of Mind

The previous letter that I posted has really been bothering me. I will save the primary reason for a future post (upon my return). But the other reason was the statement that a family should do "normal" to create a regular life so as not to feel deprived: "Again, I want to stress that it's very important not to feel deprived in your life as a family."

To me deprivation is a state of mind, and a bad one at that. (I will save the quote from Pirkei Avot). Baruch Hashem, we all live in relative luxury. Most of us have roofs over our head, food in our stomachs, and probably more stuff than we really need. I think it is far better to find a different angle to view things at and forget about even trying to be "normal." Normal in the frum world is a standard that is near impossible to attain, or as an anonymous commenter wrote, "I think observance is getting to be a mile long and an inch thick." Trying to be "normal" which is a standard that is imposed by outsiders is a quick route to unhappiness.

Sacrificing so much time away from your children as they grow up is something to feel sad about. Getting into routine of fulltime homemaking is a lot like learning a dance, you have to find your groove. So if you want to dedicate yourself to being a (happy) homemaker who doesn't feel "deprived," it is necessary to start re-defining normal, start learning some new skills (like making your own gourmet pizzas), and start socializing with some "abnormal" people.


David S said...

Very well said.

We should all try to define contentment by what makes us content, and happiness by what makes us happy, rather than by what other people have or do.

I heard that this may be the meaning of the Gemara's comment in Bava Batra that Bilam noticed how the entrances to Benei Yisrael's tents were not facing one another, so that they could not look into each other's tents. He saw that the people were not constantly looking at their neighbors' lifestyle as the standard to which they need to aspire. In the midbar, everybody had pretty much the same, and so people were able to feel happy and content without always trying to have what the other person has. Bilam, who is often characterized as the greedy, envious type, was inspired by this quality of Benei Yisrael that he exclaimed, "ma tovu ohalecha Yaakov!"

This is something that we all must learn, given how financial stress has become such an issue in the Orthodox community.

Anonymous said...

I am a full-time working mother who used to burn the candle from both ends, with me as the sacrifice--getting by on two hours of sleep and feeling deprived.

Now I do less, work less and hang up the phone a lot more.

Simchas--in Israel

I have learned to spend a lot less. There is no need to give to charity as charity begins at home. When tuition eats up 50% of my income that is my charity! It should be yours to. If you pay full tuition you are paying far beyond what others pay.

Paying $500 per year on vacation per person is my bare minimum.

Family that moved away and expects me to come to their events and spend a fortune and take my vacation time is kidding.

I can't support my extended family my nuclear family comes first.

I can say no to simchas and give an $18 check.

Camp is a necessity for children of working moms--it gives them a break from stress.

Meat and chicken prices have soared so it is okay to go vegan all week. Shabbos is no our carnivore day.

Shabbos coats are not needed.

$15,000 per year of income is needed in income per person in frum families on average. I have gone over the numbers and there is no way that you can get by on less unless you schnorr tuition, camps, etc.

If you have kids in high school the figure jumps to $28,000 per year!

Tuition at the more modern high schools is quite high as is elementary school education.

If we have learned anything from the recent scandals we will keep away from corruption as a means of lowering our tuition.

miriamp said...

Paying $500 per year on vacation per person is my bare minimum.

See, this is a prime example of different standards for different families. Paying $500 per year on vacation total is still more than I do! Much less $5000 (yes, there are ten of us.) Although this year it may be a bit more, since there is a close family chassanah (in NY) that we will be attending. (We don't live in NY, but close enough to drive it in a day, so that's what we'll do.)

We also don't have $150,000 of income, ($15K per family member number quoted above) but then, we also don't pay for camp (they don't go). Okay, so half my kids aren't in school yet, but I figure my non-existent salary covers day care, housekeeping and camp, since I just do all of those myself. No one has a separate Shabbos coat unless it was a hand-me-down, and then why not? It was free. My teeny tiny home business that I somehow manage around the kids covers its own expenses but not much more at this point. And we give the full 10% (of after tax income, but without deducting other expenses) to charity, which definitely includes the local school and community institutions. There really isn't anywhere to go out to eat, so we don't. A local caterer starting doing "restaurant nights" but we don't even really do those, since it's much much cheaper to feed everyone at home. But I don't feel deprived. We have everything we truly need.

Ariella said...

Of course, everyone has their own priorities about spending. Some women really need cleaning help for their peace of mind, while others need vacations. As for tzedaka, I suppose, everyone can ask their own rav about it, but counting the tuition paid to schools as recipients of ma'aser could very well count tzedaka-wise though not tax-wise.

DAG said...

Normal? is it normal that we have dozens of organizations, each wiht ndividual budgets and infastructure dealing with the exac same problmes in the ecat same communties? Is it normal that we hace created a system by which Kolle life is the norm, rather than the ideal?

Sorry Spell check is down now

Anonymous said...

Tuition is $12,000 per child where I live for elementary school.

B said...

$20,000 to $25,000 per year for yeshiva high school tuition - elementary is $12,000

That is the cost of admission to be a torah observant jew in northern new jersey

a very expensive religion indeeed

SuperRaizy said...

Vacations, fancy cars, cellphones, and housekeepers are LUXURIES. Food, clothing, rent, utilities (and, unfortunately, yeshiva tuition) are necessities.
Priorities, people!!!

anonymous mom said...

I like what you said about homemaking, SL. It is truly a dance and you do have to find your groove. We do our own pizza now and everyone loves it. We are so abnormal, we still have our homemade Chanukah decorations up.

anonymous mom said...

I want someone to address the car thing. It gets on my nerves more than all the other luxuries that frum people have these days. And we don't have Shabbos coats either. I do feel like that is wrong of us, but I think we will start with the oldest and just hand it down when the next one is ready. Silly, but I secretly wish we could afford the snazzy Shabbos coats for the kids.

Abbi said...

Hey move to Israel

I don't know a single family who buys Shabbat coats for their kids, and many families don't even by shabbat shoes for their kids (I do).

And tuition is not even a quarter of American tuitions!

Anonymous said...

What on earth are Shabbat coats? Have people gone out of their minds?

ora said...

Is private Jewish school tuition always a necessity and not a luxury?

What if there are cheaper schools available, but they don't suit your hashkafa? What if mom or dad is at home and the kids would be amenable to home schooling?

I would say that over $15,000 a year to send your kid to one particular school when there are cheaper schools available is a luxury, but I'm not sure where I would draw the line.

IMO, as much as I hated public school and think it was both a waste of my time and not a very friendly environment for religious kids, if it comes down to a choice between:
1) Really expensive Jewish private school and parents who are tired out and secretly or not-so-secretly getting sick of Jewish life and all the expenses that come with it
2) Public school, tutoring, and happy parents

I think 2 would be a better choice for most kids. Especially if the school had a group of observant students, or if other hs students planned to drop out of the private school track as well and could be talked into attending the same school.

Finally, I second Abbi on move to Israel, when possible of course. I know a few families of "tuition refugees," and they're quite happy here.

Tamiri said...

B said...
$20,000 to $25,000 per year for yeshiva high school tuition - elementary is $12,000

That is the cost of admission to be a torah observant jew in northern new jersey

a very expensive religion indeeed

Yes, when you choose to live in Northern NJ. It's not so expensive to be religious in Israel, truly.

mlevin said...

Ora - I agree with you with homeschool/public school alternative, but not choosing a cheaper yeshivah and overlooking their hashkafa.

Our friends had to choose a high school for their son. Many of them demanded a written commitment that he would be going to Israel for one year after high school. They couldn't make that kind of a commitment and opted for another school. I also have a high school child, and I know about the hurdles and rediculous requirements of some schools. In order to gain admittance to some schools you have to change who you are starting with what you wear and ending with what you have or don't have at home, such as computer, TV, public library card...

Another reason to look at haskofa is the school's attitude towards secular education. Some schools are so bad that they provide a minimum requirement by the state and help students cheat to attain HS diploma.

Another reason to look at haskofa is the school's attitute towards kollel. Do you want your child brainwashed into thinking that kollel is the only respectable way to live?

Another reason to look at school's haskofa is time away from home. Some school principals think that they are a parent and they control how little time your child spends away from school. I'm talking about being in school 6 days instead of 5, length of school days and shabbos related activities. Do you really want to lose your child to school? Do you want to forgo your parental responsibilities?

anonymous mom said...

Ora, there are many of us out there who don't whine about the cost of tuition. I understand the burden, but I think the payoff is huge. I think that sending your children to a Jewish Day School is a must. We have Conservative friends who send their children to Solomon Shechter and wouldn't have it any other way. There is something very beautiful about being in an environment with like-minded individuals and with Hebrew language and Bible studies built into your day. I truly feel that our religion is too rich to be relegated to the worst time of the day/week for a kid which is what happens with Hebrew School or tutors. After school and Sunday morning are not times that kids want to be soaking anything up. They pretty much want to veg as they should. So having kids in Day School allows for it to happen at times that work for kids. Also, that is why the tuitions run high. I am not saying that we don't need as a community to start brainstorming for solutions to the ever-rising cost of tuition, but tuitions are high because it is a double curriculum after all. I guess I just want to clarify the importance of the choice. While Israel is a beautiful choice, it isn't for everyone. And while out of town communities can be more cost-effective than big cities like NY or NJ, day school costs run pretty high out there too. What you have again, is the dual curriculum. I hope our community can come up with some good ideas to help make day school more affordable to our people.

Ahavah B. said...

We make our own pizza too - either deep dish or "personal" ones, and for the little ones you don't even have to make a crust. You can use large tortillas.

But seriously, I didn't comment on the working women post because I imagine everybody knows what I would say, and working women would just get all defensive about it - but here I have to ask: Are they really working because they "need" to or because they simply cannot imagine a more frugal standard of living? Because they're too afraid to put their foot down and refuse to keep up with the Steins? Has people's idea of what is "normal" and "needed" become so distorted that what only a generation ago would have been considered amazing luxuries are now somehow "needful?" People got by for thousands of years without that stuff. Are those things really worth sacrificing your kids on the altar of a career, to be raised in herds by strangers?

As for tuition: Catholic schools also have a double curriculum, and yet they seem to be able to educate their kids for half the cost (or less) of Jewish day schools. The problems with the tuition are far deeper than that. There are a lot of wasted opportunities, and a lot of cronyism regarding contracts and supplies, and a lot of using the schools as an employment agency for everyone's under-qualified relatives and friends.

Someone in the comments said they were getting by on credit cards - what happens when they're maxed out and no more credit is available? What happens when it becomes obvious that even IF both parents are working (presuming that having mom working isn't actually sending the family out backwards, which it more-often-than-not does), that tuition is killing the family's budget?

Where is the point when people are willing to admit that the lifestyle has gotten so out of hand that it simply cannot be done anymore? I think we have long passed that point, but simply aren't willing to admit it. We are sacrificing not just our kids, but our parents, our extended family, our religious and social obligations, and our charitable duties...where do we finally draw the line and say "enough?"

And why have we, as a whole, not already drawn it where it needs to be drawn? Why, why, why do we keep pretending there is nothing wrong with this picture?

anonymous mom said...

"Catholic schools also have a double curriculum, and yet they seem to be able to educate their kids for half the cost (or less) of Jewish day schools"

Ahava, I'm with you all the way on everything else, but I hear Catholic School is pretty expensive. I would ask my Catholic colleagues at work tomorrow (really nice women, I might add), but they're off for the week. And cronyism doesn't cause higher tuition. The lack of young Jewish people going into education might. Younger, less experienced teachers get paid less (as they should), but we don't have enough of those. I'm not sure where the answers lie. Can they cut costs on supplies? I'm sure there are things that can be done, but I also know that there are amazing, dedicated administrators busting their behinds off long after your kids leave school for the day writing grants and filling out paperwork so our kids can get free or lower cost stuff. I know that because I am old enough now to be friends with these administrators (and smart enough not to want to kill myself in that thankless job they do every day in our Yeshivos and Day Schools). Our principals are our heroes. A few bad apples and lazy apples aside, many of them (usually the assistant principals) work extremely hard to get programs, books, funds... You have no idea what goes on. Oh. And they also run the school when the kids are actually there. Excuse the speechifying, but tuition isn't as simple a puzzle as laypeople make it out to be.

Abbi said...

Has people's idea of what is "normal" and "needed" become so distorted that what only a generation ago would have been considered amazing luxuries are now somehow "needful?"

Ok, here's the thing: Since everyone or every family determines what is there specific financial/ material comfort level, what happened thousands of years ago was irrelevant.

As for a more frugal standards- again, every family has to do what they feel they are capable of doing. We have two cars, because my husband needs to commute and I couldn't manage without one, though I tried for a year and a half.

While carless, I chose a day care for my daughter (who DESPISED being at home alone with just me to play with) that was a 1/2 hour walk away from our home, because I thought it was the best one and I really loved the gannenet. Could I have compromised and gone to one that was a bit closer? Yes, but I couldn't imagine compromising on something like that. I walked her to the gan for 18 months, to the middle of my second pregnancy.

Now, I drive a 10 year old, banged up little Mitsubishi that I fill up every two weeks. Now that we've moved, my kids are still in ganim that are more convenient to drive to, rather than walk, but I would rather spend a little more on education that I feel is better (and having a car allows me that choice) then being stuck with what only what's available in my neighborhood.

Which is why it works for our family that I work and cover my car and gan expenses. Everyone wins in our setup- my kids, me and my husband, even with what looks to some like a we have a "luxury".

On the flip side, aside from our once a week cleaner, our house is generally not in tip top shape. My husband and I talked about it and he would rather have my income, then a spotless house.

On top of that, we are half way through paying off our 12 year mortgage on our apartment, which would be very difficult to do on one salary.

Could we exist/survive on one salary + lots of frugality? Sure. Would we be as happy with such a life? Probably not.

Lion of Zion said...


"Catholic schools also have a double curriculum"

i see this statement thrown around, but i don't know if it is relevant. is the religious curriculum at catholic schools really as extensive (i.e., expensive) as the one in jewish schools? i doubt it. (i don't know anything about catholic schools, but i do know that their hours are in line with public schools, which is one reason i assume it is not a real dual curriculum)

"The problems with the tuition are far deeper than that . . ."

i agree with anon mom

"under-qualified relatives and friends."

cronysim/nepotism is unacceptable. as far as "under-qualified," though, this is probably a result of the meager salaries/benefits day school teachers get. the so-called "tuition crisis" would be even worse if we hired better qualified teachers and payed them (or the existing qualified teachers) what they deserved.

Lion of Zion said...


also, are catholic schools subsidized by local parishes or dioceses?

finally, in my area (new york), i think there have been closures of catholic schools because of funding issues.

aryeh-baltimore said...

I think what our schools need is some transparency. Like CharityNavigator for schools. Can anybody name for me a yeshiva that actually opens its books and publishes an annual report? Seriously--is there one? I'd like to know teachers' salaries, the principal's salary, money from donations, and MOST importantly, average ACTUAL cost paid by each student (and the number of students paying nothing).

Especially at smaller schools, the benefits packages paid to these teachers is also outrageous... they are far overpaid. If some kollel guy gets a job teaching and gets free tuition for his 10 kids, that amounts to $100,000/year (which is like $130,000 pre-tax), plus his salary. Plus he gets summer off to take another job. His entire benefit package likely exceeds the pay of a doctor or lawyer, and he's done nothing but warm a plastic seat in yeshiva for a few years. Still think teachers are underpaid?

My wife's friend has a masters in Jewish education, and does the work for all the teachers around her who are kollel wives without even a Bachelors. She is paid almost minimum wage because her husband doesn't learn in kollel (and without kids, she doesn't get the free tuition). How are we encouraging qualified teachers with this insane system?

I will repeat my question--is there a single school out there that makes its budget transparent?

One more thought--even in the absence of gross misappropriation of funds, there can be a lot of waste in budgets because these yeshivas are run by the same ladies who use their houses as big piggy banks (run up the credit card, refi the house, run it up, refi, etc). If they can't manage their own finances, how can they manage the yeshiva? And the yeshiva is like the federal government. The government can overspend its budget, and just raise taxes or inflate the currency to cover it. The yeshiva can overspend, and have "emergency mortgage fund drives", and have the rabbonim declare there is a crisis, and they get more dollars.

Flame suit on...

Halfnutcase said...

y'know, we could probably half the cost of running an elementary school if we were to insist that the teachers be double certified and teach the kids all day.

(ie have both gone to seminary and have gone to college to get an elementary education degree.)

That would be ideal. That way we only have to pay one reasonable salary, instead of two teachers whom we can't pay enouhg for the job.

and in highschool it would be a seriousl boon if we'd set up the teachers by department, and teach that way. This was we only have 1 teacher per class of kids, instead of two, and they rotate through the classrooms, or kids go around to different classes.

and then we could hire much more competant teachers.

JS said...

ahavah b,

I think many women work because by the time the have children they're already in or about to be in dire straits financially. I think most simply don't have a choice. Through poor decision making and/or just life happening they need the money to get by, not just for luxuries. The average couple that gets married at say 23/21 and has a kid nearly right away is simply not pulling in a huge income and hasn't saved much money if any. Even if there is a huge income more likely than not it came through huge student loans for medical school or law school etc.

In terms of the tuition issue:
I think people here need to separate modern orthodox yeshivas from more right-wing yeshivas. I know little about right-wing yeshivas, but if I had to guess why modern orthodox yeshivas were so expensive, I'd say:

1) New or renovated top of the line facilities. Where I live a modern orthodox yeshiva will close if it doesn't have new facilities with a huge soccer filed, track, professional basketball courts, huge science and computer labs, cafeterias, etc. Several yeshivas in my area have within the past 5 or so years made major upgrades or bought new buildings. This means huge mortgages and huge upkeep costs.

2) Small class sizes and many tracks. Class sizes are usually 20-25 which means more sections per grade. This means more classrooms and more teachers.

3) Focus on secular studies and attempts to get top-notch teachers with PhDs.

4) Many more staff than right-wing yeshivas. You have librarians, computer lab technicians, more electives so more teachers to teach those electives, gym teachers, more secretaries, more administrative staff, etc.

I think a problem in general though is we simply have too many yeshivas. Why have 2 schools of 300 students and not 1 school for 600 students? Our minor hashkafic differences create unnecesary competition and overhead.

Anonymous said...

To Aryeh-Baltimore

I belive Shulamis in Brooklyn and Hillel in Passaic both file 990s. Maayanot in Teaneck filed one 990 but then stopped for some reason. Frisch in Paramus does file 990s as well. Their names are sometimes are a little hard to search for. Hillel I believe is Passaic Hebrew Institute. Maayanot is Teaneck High School For Girls or something. Frisch is Frisch School. Shulamis is Shulamith Institute I believe.

Happy Reading!

Lion of Zion said...


"and in highschool it would be a seriousl boon if we'd set up the teachers by department, and teach that way. This was we only have 1 teacher per class of kids, instead of two, and they rotate through the classrooms, or kids go around to different classes."

this is standard in MO schools.

Lion of Zion said...


"Our minor hashkafic differences create unnecesary competition and overhead . . ."

i disagree. what you consider minor is central to someone else.

i prefer to have numerous schools because

1) not every child is the same and different children flourish in different types of schools

2)kids get more attention in smaller schools? (the trend in public schools is to close down large schools and reopen them as smaller entities)

3) competition is always good, including in education. (incidentally, yeshivot are exempt from hassagat gevul)

4) you always need to have backup.

the dearth of school choice in out-of-town communities is one of the reasons i prefer the new york area.

aryeh-baltimore said...

Lion Of Zion--
While I don't share your love of NY, I agree with your comment on school choice. In out-of-town (hate that term) communities, if you have a school choice, it's either the haredi/yeshivish place, or the extremely modern/zionist place (Baltimore comes to mind!). If you just want what I'd call normal (centrist Orthodox), you have to go to New York. Plus, if there is a decent school in an out-of-town community, many of the frummer parents send their kids away, so the student body isn't so frum. Just my observation.

anonymous mom said...

Hey, Aryeh-Baltimore, bring it on.
Here's my rebuttal to you point by point:
"Especially at smaller schools, the benefits packages paid to these teachers is also outrageous..."
Teachers in Yeshivos don't get benefits packages. And the lucky ones who do usually work in MO Yeshivos and get lousy benefits packages. Ask one.
"they are far overpaid."
I started teaching 20 years ago and was paid all of 6,000 bucks for 22 hour week. 10 years later, I had worked my way up to 20,000 with a Master's in Education and 10 years experience in my field. That would be 40,000 for a full day job. Oh, when I worked full-day at a day school, I made a whopping 27,000 again with my Master's.

"If some kollel guy gets a job teaching and gets free tuition for his 10 kids, that amounts to $100,000/year (which is like $130,000 pre-tax), plus his salary."
Nope. Sorry. He gets a break on his kids' tuition for a few kids and then his salary goes directly to the Yeshiva that his female children attend. That's how it works. Oh, and nobody gets free tuition for 10 kids. I know plenty of families with less kids who live in the Yeshiva world and stuggle to pay partial tuitions on most of them. And after tuitions, whatever he may have left is bubkes. Hence the tutoring and the Bar Mitzvah lessons and the camp jobs. Those summer camp jobs aren't icing on the cake, their the protein in the meal.

"Plus he gets summer off to take another job."
I tackled that idiotic notion a minute ago.

"His entire benefit package likely exceeds the pay of a doctor or lawyer, and he's done nothing but warm a plastic seat in yeshiva for a few years."
Not every Rebbe is a plastic seat warmer, you ungrateful sorry excuse for a parent (I'm assuming you are a parent of a school-age child)
"Still think teachers are underpaid?"
Yep. And don't ask a teacher. Ask his/her spouse. They'll tell you the truth.

And, I know every Rebbe isn't necessarily worth his weight in dollars, but you know what--there are some wonderful Mechanchim out there. Your choice of words and your bitter, angry attitude toward them is a terrible shame for your kids because it will no doubt rub off on them through osmosis. It is shameful talk. You need to get educated about the system. Like I said, it's complicated.

Oh and one more thing:
"these yeshivas are run by the same ladies who use their houses as big piggy banks (run up the credit card, refi the house, run it up, refi, etc)."
These Yeshivos are run by a bunch of rich, spoiled board members who are getting younger and younger every day. Boy, your wife is really lucky.

Tamiri said...

The money isn't going to the Jewish studies teachers or the secretarial/janitorial staff. You have only to look at their lifestyles to know that.
What needs a good, hard looking into is the salaries of the various administrators, including the principal.
A principal has been likened to the CEO of a large company, the financial administrator to the CFO. Well, that is all well and good in a PROFIT EARNING enterprise.
If everyone is giving up to be part of this show, what reason is there for these employees to have a large income?

Anonymous said...

Some thoughts on why tuition is so hish:
A dual curriculum means two assistant principals. By the way, they usually don't get paid that well. These jobs are usually filled by teachers who take the job to get Kovod and a stepping stone up the ladder. They usually do the grunt work for the dean or overall principal/Menahel. How much does he/she get paid? I never knew that. I do know that running a school is absolutely nauseatingly frustrating. And principals do not get the entire summer off. Maybe one month at best. Usually less.
I believe an earlier commenter stated that Jewish day schools are more of a dual curriculum than Catholic schools and that is an important thought. Our second curriculum (or first one, for that matter) necessitates a host of "books" (Sefarim) that cost money. In the good old days, we Hebrew teachers (back when I was teaching Limudei Kodesh) would make our own Chovaros (workbooks) to teach Chumash and other subjects. Now there are fancy printed ones. Plus the standard Chumashim, Neviim, Mishnayos, Gemaros which all cost money.
I will continue to try and figure out why costs are high. I usually try not to think about it. Oh, and we do carry kids. We do have children in Yeshiva who do not pay tuition at all either because of poverty or family background. That is honorable and all Chareidi and MO day schools do this. As they should.

anonymous mom said...

That last anonymous was me.

ora said...

As the daughter of a (secular, university) teacher, I can assure you that teachers do not get the summer "off." They need to choose textbooks, plan assignments, set the curriculum, etc. All of this takes weeks of planning and changes each year (if the teacher is good, I suppose bad teachers are probably putting in less effort). In addition, each hour spent in the classroom during the year often means at least one hour at home grading papers and other student assignments, dealing with special requests, coordinating with other teachers, etc. The fact that a teacher only teaches for four hours a day, nine months a year (for example) does not mean that they only work four hours a day, nine months a year.

anonymous mom said...

Many parents and members of the community don't believe that most teachers spend hours of "unbillable" time preparing for class and grading tests. They think this is a crock of bull. I've heard it many times. They don't understand our profession. By the way, there are wonderful parents who do get what we do and for them I am eternally grateful.

anonymous mom said...

I don't know why I'm bothering, but I guess I just wanted to open the window a bit to a teacher/Rebbe's life. Today is Sunday. Today, I have to grade 75 tests. I am a Junior High teacher and teach 4 classes. It is nearing the end of the term. I will be filling out 75 report cards with comments (all individual) all checked by my principal as she does all the comments of all the teachers on her watch. I get written comments from her on my comments. Sometimes I have to change them according to her wise, unbiased suggestions. I don't mind. In a week, one of my classes has a term paper due. I will have to grade those with great care. I will be at school until approximately ten o'clock P.M. on parent conference night, but that follows phone calling through the term to notify parents of problems and discuss them. That doesn't include the times I come in early for a conference about a student with her special ed staff, tutor, etc. Now, allow me to be the Rebbe in a right-wing Yeshiva for a second. I've actually taught English in one of those places so I know a lot about what they do. The 7th Grade Rebbe attends every Bar Mitzvah of every child in his his spare time...from his own 6/7/8 children. The 1st grade Rebbe teaches kids of many different levels Kriah. A painstaking process. You see, in the more right-wing places, all the levels are dumped together in one room. Or he could also be the tutor for that kid after his spare time. The 2nd, 3rd, 4th grade Rebbeim are working on writing, reading, Chumash, Rashi, Mishnayos with kids who don't know a thing about them. The 5th and 6th grade Rebbes are working with advanced skills, Gemara, and now the emerging behavior problems that go along with preteen kids.
Just so you know, the younger the grade a teacher (secular or not) teaches, the more labor intensive the job is and the more prep time you need. The higher the grade, the more grading of tests. All of us have uniques challenges, but all of us clock in many, many hours of time off the clock. Okay, Aryeh, I'm done. I feel better now. Now, go hug your son's Rebbe.

anonymous mom said...

One last word, I refuse to allow my profession be judged on the basis of the few slackers that occupy it. Much as an attorney, a physician, an accountant would not want his profession judged by the incompetents in the field. The tuition problem should not rest at my feet or at the feet of my colleagues.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous mom--just out of curiousity, do the rebbes in your school accept food stamps, WIC, Child Health Plus (or similar programs) or Section 8?

anonymous mom said...

I don't know who collects what. I will go ahead and assume that the Rebbes in my school do not. I know what you're getting at and I'm sure that there were some Rebbes that I've worked with in the past who have. None of that is my business, even if I am paying taxes for it. Even if I don't agree with it. I don't make Cheshbonos for other people who give to the Klal. Believe it or not, most Rebbes are giving of themselves to the Klal. Again, you have no idea how much it takes out of a person to teach children. And not everyone is a plastic seat warmer as my dear friend Aryeh seems to think. So we are asked to be Dan L'Kav Zechus, but not in our children's teachers. No. In them, we look for problems and it's a Mitzvah of some sort for some of you. They are plastic seat warmers, they are milking the government and living it up and getting great benefits packages and getting the summer off to work another job to get richer. Whatever. I'm pretty sure the rov out there know the truth. That most live very simply. With or without government assistance. That most work their tails off and care about your children for hours at a time. That most are actually good at their jobs and believe in what they do. Find another scapegoat.

mlevin said...

Anon 12/27 9:07

I disagree with you, Hebrew school provides a great Jewish education. My children went to Hebrew school every Tuesday and Thursday, and every other Saturday Morning. There they learned how to read, bench, daven, stories from Tanach and Jewish history. The problem with Hebrew schools is that they end when you’re 12 or Seventh grade in Public School. That is a precise age when children start to understand religion and philosophy, but their Jewish education is suddenly over. Had Hebrew schools in our neighborhood continued through high school, I would not have switched my children to Yeshivas.

As far as working mothers. I worked all my mothering years, mainly because my husband is always worried that he would lose a job and we will be left without an income. Yes, when we started out we had nothing. Then my babysitter was making more then I was. Slowly my salary progressed and we were able to afford luxuries, or as my older daughter calls it “having Kit-Kats”. In 21 years since we got married I lost my job twice and my husband 3 times. First time he lost his job we were able to buy new furniture with his severance pay. One job I had where we were working 7 days a week. Literally. I would be at work on weekdays from 9 am to midnight. And on weekends we (Shomer Shabbos Jews) would come after Shabbos and work until 7-8 am. As parents we brought our children with us and they played together. My husband also came on weekends to help out. Company understood that we had lives and could not just be all business because they could not have sufficient man power to handle all the work.When that company closed my 7 year old was very upset, because she won’t get to play with Erika any more.

The reason I’m writing this is because if you are a parent, you would make sure that you are parenting your children. You would bring them to work, you would cut on your own sleep, but you would do it. Other parents think that giving birth to them and providing them with food and shelter is enough. These parents don’t care about their kids and situation would not change whether they are home or working.

As far as teachers are concerned. Yes, it is a relatively easy job. In younger grades you may be more intense in the class room, but there is very little time consumed once you’re out of it. In higher grades you teach the same thing year in and year out. Yes, there may be some curriculum changes, but overall it’s all the same. The longest thing about grading tests and homework is the essay or short answer. Majority of teachers give multiple choice tests which are very easy to grade. Regardless, you will never convince me that a teacher who teaches 5 classes/day during school year equals 40 hours/week 48 weeks/year of regular jobs. Math does not add up.

Lion of Zion said...


"Hebrew school provides a great Jewish education."

please define jewish education.

in my experience, hebrew school is one of the biggest scams of the jewish community.

"Yes, it is a relatively easy job."

can i assume you've never worked as a teacher?

Anonymous said...

I disagree with MLEVIN regarding hebrew school... teaches you nothing about what you need to know to be a Jew. If we don't send our children to yeshiva, we'll homeschool them and get the boys chevrusas for gemara.

Regarding teaching, I know many teachers, and it is an easy job compared to many others. Sorry--you can't say, "teachers work beyond the school day" and think that means to me their day is like a typical professional. Up at 5:45 am for minyan, then 1 hour drive to work, 9-10 hours there at a desk, an hour home. Many work evenings and weekends. And teachers are near impossible to fire in public school ( a little easier in private), and not subject to the kind of review that goes on in industry. Or how about a landscaper? I had one working on my house (frum guy)--worked 9-10 hours in broiling hot sun moving rocks by hand. Think that's easy?

Our yeshiva world turns out boys who can be nothing but teachers. "I'm going into chinuch" is what they all say. With thousands of teachers for a limited number of positions, how much do you think they should be paid?

By the way, $40k/year is the average household income in this country, and is quite respectable. I know an social worker (MSW) who works 20 hours/week and pulls in $25k/year. So $40k/year when many of these teachers don't even have a bachelors or a masters is amazing (and it is reasonable if you have a masters). Add in the fact that many of the Jewish schools will adjust your "on the books" pay so you qualify for welfare (don't argue--I know first hand they do), and you can add $10k-$15k on top of what you're earning. No matter what the real tuition break might be (maybe not $10k x 10 kids), it's still worth quite a bit. Oh, and in NY schools, Rebbe's gelt ranges from $100 normally to possibly $500/student depending on the school (and do you think the Rebbe files a 1099 on that?). So you have another $10k at least (make it $13k if it were taxed). Then, yes... you can work summers. I'm sure you'll find time in the evenings to work on your curriculum and still wait tables or whatever it is you find to do.

Appropriate salary in any industry is the smallest amount you can pay and get qualified work. If the rebbes aren't leaving for better paying schools, I'd say the salary is quite appropriate.

Anonymous said...

Just to clarify, I do respect the job the Rebbe does and think many are quite good---just that they are obviously paid the proper amount for the job they do--it's called the market rate. If they weren't paid enough, they'd get better jobs. If they left, we'd find replacements, likely for less than we were paying them. I don't mean to sound cruel, but these schools have budgets to balance, and they have to be accountable. They can only charge high tuitions if they pay for the best rebbes (higher than market rate). If we collectively believe the market rate for all Rebbes should be higher, the frum world should stop knocking down all the cheap houses in their neighborhood, building monstrosities in their place, leasing brand new cars, going on $40k Pesach resort vacations, and instead everyone should pay their full yeshiva bills and then some. We should all live in 3 bedroom single floor homes with no renovations, old beater cars we paid for with cash, no vacations, and give all our extra money to the yeshivas. Since I don't see rabbonim preaching the value of living without debt and finding financial peace, it's obviously not a priority in our community.

B said...


What is true of Northern New Jersey - is true of the five towns or any other place in the NY/NJ area. The price of admission to orthodox judaism is an upper class income together with a middle to lower middle class lifestyle.

Becoming a tuition refugee in Israel would be an option if I had a way to earn a living in Israel. Most professions don't exist in Israel - that is why there are all the Yordim in NY/NJ.

Outside the NY/NJ area housing is cheaper - but tuitions are only slightly cheaper - not offset by the decrease in income.

In the UK and France the government pays for the secular portion of yeshiva - but most of us do not have EU citizenship

aryeh-baltimore said...

B--how does your math work? Incomes are not that much higher in NY to offset the cost of living in a frum area of NY. Even in the overpriced housing of NY, the frum areas are twice as insane. Cheapest houses in Monsey go for $500k, and it's even worse in NJ/Long Island, meaning a first time homebuyer needs a household income of about $200k/year to afford it (the median income in Scarsdale is $182k, followed by Chappaqua at $163k, and some of North Jersey is around $120k to give you some perspective). 2 BA's from YU won't net you that. In Baltimore, you can get a home for $250k. Still a little pricey for new BA's in their 20's, but they might be able to fit in $50k/person (or a lawyer might be able to afford it). You think 2 fresh BA's from YU/Stern will earn $50k in Baltimore, but $100k in NY? Salaries aren't that different in my experience. Plus, the modern orthodox place here is $10k/year, compared to NY schools which I hear approach $20k/year. The haredi places are more like $6k. Add in real estate taxes which on modest homes can be $10k-$15k/year.

I've looked at Cleveland as well. Houses can be bought for $150k-$200k, and salaries aren't that much worse than Baltimore.

Some very small communities (like Seattle) have schools that cost only $3000/year! They have to keep their costs down or else nobody would go there. They can't get away with the shenanigans of the NY yeshivas.

New Yorkers like to claim that they live there because the higher salaries offset the higher living expense, but the math never adds up. You live in NY because you like it and don't mind living in debt because the Steins do as well.

As for being a tuition refugee in Israel, don't count on it. Move to Israel because you believe in the modern secular medinah. Move to Israel because you don't care about the medinah, but would live there if it was run by the Turks because it's Israel. But if you move for economic reasons, you'll likely be moving back quickly (especially if G-d forbid you need real medical treatment). Just take your current salary, divide it by half to see what you'll be lucky to make in Israel, and divide that by half to see what Israeli taxes will take. And if you want real medical treatment, you'll want to get private insurance anyways, just you'll be paying for 100% of it now in addition to your taxes. Oh, but school is free....

JS said...

lion of zion,

Regarding "minor hashkafic differences"...what is the point of the modern-day yeshiva system anyways?

It seems to me we place an extraordinary emphasis on our children being able to learn. It's not enough nowadays to simply go to minyan three times a day, say your brachot, and keep taharat mishpacha. Nowadays, everyone needs to be a learner, everyone needs to shteig away on a gemarah, go to shiurim, or do daf yomi.

I'm curious what happened to just being Jewish. Why do we feel we need a yeshiva system to teach everyone to be a rabbi? Does being able to learn keep one "on the derech"?

Ironically, although "everyone" nowadays can learn we have a greater reliance on rabbeim than ever before. Every question no matter how minor or major is asked to a rav. What's the point of learning if you can't even answer a simple halachic question?

I can't help but think we're spending all this time and money to educate our children and no one has thought about why we do this or what we hope to get out of it.

ora said...

I find it bizarre that you completely reject the idea of "tuition refugee." Do you think that the many families who moved to Israel to save on tuition just didn't think to do the math? I can assure you that these are smart people who find life easier here (in addition to all the other benefits of life in Israel).

"As for being a tuition refugee in Israel, don't count on it...Just take your current salary, divide it by half to see what you'll be lucky to make in Israel, and divide that by half to see what Israeli taxes will take."

Israeli taxes are high, but not that high. You won't pay 50% in taxes unless you're making well over 15,000 shekels a month with no minor children. A man I know who makes 15,000 a month with no kids in his custody pays about 35% in taxes. I make about 4,500 a month and pay between 200 and 300 in taxes, with one child.

"And if you want real medical treatment, you'll want to get private insurance anyways,"

What is "real medical treatment"? Only rare conditions and special treatments (ex. chiropractors) are not covered, or at least partially covered, under public insurance. In addition, you can get upgraded pulic insurance (that does cover specialists) for your whole family for less than 100 shekels a month.

I've gone through a few standard medical emergencies (dehydration, infection, baby's high fever, weird allergic reaction) in my years in Israel and I've never had to pay more than 200 shekels for treatment. An overnight stay in the hospital + medications was 50 shekels. Doctor's visits, hospital stay, etc for an entire pregnancy and birth cost nothing (vitamins were about 50 shekels a month). I won't deny that anyone with unusual medical needs would be better off with private insurance, but your average, generally healthy person will be fine with the state insurance.

"just you'll be paying for 100% of it now in addition to your taxes. Oh, but school is free...."

It's not only school that costs less. In yishuvim, the Golan, the Galilee, and other "development areas," a 7-room cottage often costs less than $150,000. Where in the states can you find a private house in a religious Jewish community for that kind of money? Keeping kosher is cheaper as well, and shul fees are practically nonexistant. University costs around 10,000 shekels a year instead of 15,000-40,000 dollars.

I'm not trying to argue that your average rich American (ie, making over $150,000 a year) without a big family will be better off here, financially speaking. However, anyone with six kids or more (even with a high salary) will probably find that the tuition savings make up for the lower salary, and anyone trying to get by with a medium or low income in the states will almost certainly find it easier here if they can learn the language. There is no way that my husband and I could afford tuition for even one child in the states. There is no way we could afford housing in a community with a large Jewish population in the states. Here we can support ourselves, and b'ezrat Hashem will be able to afford tuition for our children as well. A surgeon will have a better material life in the states, but a midwife, social worker, or writer will be better off here.

Halfnutcase said...

I will point out that those who cannot properly learn gemorah, And understand how to psak from it (in the theoretical future sense) have no obligation to waste their time learning it. Al pi halacha better for them to learn the more hashkafic sefarim (mefarshim on chumash and nach, aggadata) plus the relevant halachot out of chayyei adam or kitzur shulchan aruch, and that suffices for them. With the rest of their time they should earn moneny and spend time with their family, and there is no reason why you can't teach kids these things in an afternoon and sunday school, as well as teach them to speak and read hebrew fluently so they can learn halachot on their own.

B said...

What Ora says rings true - if you make less than $200,000 and have TWO or more children in the tri-state area - you will likely be better off economically in Israel - her points on tuition and housing are spot on.

Arye - you make some valid points - Baltimore with its relatively low cost housing and access to the Washington job market can make for a good ARB play. but places like Cleveland have a shallow job base.

Arye - you make some good points but some of your remarks take on a strident angry tone - which is understandable to an extent considering the financial pressure we are all under - but it takes away from your valid points.

Israel takes tuition, healthcare, university costs and most housing expenses mostly off the table - food and clothing remain

At a friends job - there are layoffs - He tells me the non-jews with no children are nervous - but not overly so - Those with children are a little more nervous - As a frum jew with children plus tuitions - he can not sleep at night.

Tamiri said...

b wrote "
Becoming a tuition refugee in Israel would be an option if I had a way to earn a living in Israel. Most professions don't exist in Israel - that is why there are all the Yordim in NY/NJ."

aryeh-baltimore wrote "But if you move for economic reasons, you'll likely be moving back quickly (especially if G-d forbid you need real medical treatment). Just take your current salary, divide it by half to see what you'll be lucky to make in Israel, and divide that by half to see what Israeli taxes will take. And if you want real medical treatment, you'll want to get private insurance anyways, just you'll be paying for 100% of it now in addition to your taxes. Oh, but school is free...."

I am already a SAHM advocate, enough arguing for me. But you guys REALLY need to check up your stats on living in Israel. I mean it. Life can be GREAT here even with that pay cut and the huge taxes. We live better here, with less worries, than we did in the States AND we have another kid. Of course, each individual case must be examined closely but I promise, I know lots and lots of Olim and none are complaining.
BTW, school for dati kids is NOT free before Kindergarten or after
6th grade. For example, my 7th grader who needs to be bussed (parents pay) incurs tuition costs of around 1200 NIS or a little over $300 (remember, that is on an Israeli salary, half of half of what we earn in the States).

Tamiri said...

Oh, and by the way: we have FABULOUS health care, hopefully we should never need it. Even without the extra private insurance, which we carry for mainly convenience sake, our medical needs are dealt with quickly and professionally.

Tamiri said...

js wrote "I can't help but think we're spending all this time and money to educate our children and no one has thought about why we do this or what we hope to get out of it."
Do you really want to know? I want to write something inflammatory but won't. It's my birthday and I don't want to be arguing :-)

Tamiri said...

Ora, there is diff taxation for men and women here. Women receive the deductibles for children, men don't. So in our family, where I do not work outside the home, there are ZERO deductibles for the family. We are essentially paying for me not working. You can't compare the bottom line of men and women earners.
And regarding the taxes: included in them are school (in the States we paid tax PLUS school) and health tax (in the States that was also a separate charge) so it's not all "lost money".

JS said...


I'd love to hear it honestly. Just to clarify, I don't mean why do we educate our children at all. I mean why do our children need to learn so much? I think we educate our children more now than they've ever been educated in the past. And I don't just mean girls/women. Today, you're an ignoramus if you've never heard of the ramah. I'm asking why such a high level of education is needed for the masses. Does it really keep us more frum?

Another point I'll throw out is that I think I could teach my future kids how to be Jewish, frum, G-d fearing, etc either by home-schooling or hiring a tutor for afternoons, Sundays, etc. But, you know what my biggest worry is? That even if I sent them to NCSY and frum summer camps and other programs all the yeshiva kids would ostracize my kids and think they were weird or irreligious and my kids would have this stigma attached to them.

Ahavah B. said...

"Some very small communities (like Seattle) have schools that cost only $3000/year! They have to keep their costs down or else nobody would go there. They can't get away with the shenanigans of the NY yeshivas.

New Yorkers like to claim that they live there because the higher salaries offset the higher living expense, but the math never adds up. You live in NY because you like it and don't mind living in debt because the Steins do as well."

Well said, Aryeh.

What I'm seeing here is that everybody in debt is justifying their debt, and nobody is willing to move or reduce their expenses in order to get out of debt or avoid debt. Everybody claims they don't have "luxuries," they only have what they "need" to live.

I'm sure they really believe that. Unfortunately, what that means out here in reality land is that the problem will never be solved. Tuition will keep going up, people will get further and further behind, until....what?

What will it take to make everyone change? Losing your house? Not being able to buy food? Gas? Having to choose between heating oil and tuition?

I'm very curious now, because it is clear that we, as a whole, have no intention whatsoever of changing anything voluntarily. So what will make you change involuntarily? How bad will it have to get before the dysfunction stops? Just what will it take to get people to stop running up the credit cards, erasing every bit of equity in their homes, and never saving a dime for the future? What will it take? I really want to know.

Tamiri said...

I was discussing this scenario with my husband tonight:
The "A" family and the "B" family live on the same block. The "A"s have three children in school and more on the way, the "B"s have two children in school and can't have any more, much to their chagrin.
Family "A" commands a nice income, in the $150K range (I know, that's pathetic, but let's pretend). Only Daddy "A" works outside the home, Mommy "A" spends her time at home because she does not want to be away from children or home for too many hours/day. They can't pay full tuition for the three kids they have in school and are treated to a scholarship. This family is very frugal and does whatever they can, within their framework, to keep up with the tuition payments.
In family "B", both the Daddy and the Mommy work, and are professionals, but they make much less that Family "A", maybe $120K max. They can't pay full tuition for the two kids. They too, get assistance. Mommy "B" is too tired to clean the house, which she likes neat and tidy, because of her work. So she gets a cleaner once every week. Both Mommy and Daddy "B" are exhausted at the end of the week and really don't feel like tackling the yard, so they get a gardener too. Mommy "B" also decided to start covering her hair, and felt she deserved a custom-made sheitel to start with, albeit a cheap one. There are also clothing requirements one needs to keep up with while gainfully employed.
Daddy "A", who works very long hours, usually 60 hours or more, does do the yard himself or with the help of his wife. He doesn't have the means to pay a gardener $150 or more a month to do the yard. Mommy "A" cleans the house herself of course; no question about paying anyone else to do it. She doesn't do much shopping for clothes for herself, and the kids are either in hand-me-downs or the bargain basket at Target/Gap etc.

So, what's fair here?

Unless you are totally wealthy or born to the right family, you aren't going to be able to make those tuition payments for a few kids. Some people can't even make the full payments for TWO kids, even though both spouses are working. Is mother "B" more entitled because... because WHAT??? Does father "A" HAVE to be a shnook and do his own yard to save a few bucks while down the block, people are getting more from the school? What is right in this Orthodox Jewish WE NEED A JEWISH SCHOOL FOR OUR KIDS system? Are couple "B" being rewarded or punished for behaving in a "noble" manner.
And this didn't even bring into account the "C" family who also live on that block. Dad "C" works a full time job, and Mom "C" works nights to bring in enough money to pay FULL tuition. Mom wants to be home for the kids if needed, during the day, so she worked out a night shift in her profession. So they do pay full tuition but still don't have a cleaner or a gardener.

Does anyone here get my drift?

B said...

Seattle Yeshiva HS Tuition

Tuition for the year 2007—2008 is $9965. Additionally, there is an annual Student Activity fee of $95, a Security Assessment fee of $100, and a Capital Fund fee of $1000 ($250 per year) for new students who begin attendance at NYHS in the 2007 - 2008 school year and thereafter. This fee applies to families of students joining NYHS as freshmen or at some other juncture. Participants in NYHS interscholastic sports programs are responsible for related fees. These fees are not included in tuition.

B said...

Seattle Chabad Elementary School Cheder Tuition

Tuition and Fees

Tuition changes every year. Each January, tuition is set by the Board for the following school year. Below are the tuition rates for 2007-08. In addition to tuition and the reservation fee, there are class activity fees which vary by grade.

Registration Fee: Non-refundable $250

Per Year $8,100
Per Year $8,100
Pre-School: 5 day program
Per Year $6,100
Partial scholarship available upon request.

Anonymous said...

I'll remember all of your glowing accolades about the Israeli healthcare system next time some meshulach comes to my door asking me to pay the medical bills for someone in Israel who has some horrible disease..........

I'll also remember to stop helping the "healthcare refugees" who ask the community for hospitality when they come from Israel to the US for our superior medical care. They must not know what a wonderful healthcare system they have left. My ex-chevrusa must have been nuts to come to the US to get his son heart surgery.

Socialist healthcare pays for the everyday expenses, at the cost of the big expenses. Yes, your strep culture and antibiotic seem "free" (both are rather small expenses). But when you really need insurance, it's not there. Imagine if your car insurance paid for every oil change or flat tire, but then failed to pay when you totaled both your car and somebody's Lexus. That's socialized healthcare---it's not really insurance, as insurance is supposed to prevent against major losses, not cushion everyday living expenses (do you buy bread insurance?).

Still having nightmares from when I took a fellow yeshiva bochur to an emergency room in Israel. As he had no Israeli "insurance", they let him lie on the ground in seizures until he coughed up a credit card.

Socialized healthcare is failing in Canada, failing in the UK, and the only reason it appears to work in Israel is that Israel is a big welfare state that is basically funded by the US taxpayer.

Socialist healthcare is also one of the top 5 reasons I'm not making aliyah (no joke)...

DAG said...

I was talking to my wife about paying full Tuition. I have always felt that to be my responsibility, whenever possible...

BUT, seeing some of the waste at my child's school firsthand (including cronyism) I have to wonder, WHY should I suffer in debt, living in an apartment after almost 10 years of marriage while the school easily squanders multiples of any tuition assistance I would receive on the founder's incompetent son?

Why should I waste money I could place into an account for a down payment to help pay for absolute, inexcusable waste? The check I wrote for January’s rent makes $116,600+ in 9 years and 7 months of marriage.

Anonymous said...

relatives working under the same reporting lines seem to be a problem in some yeshivos

at the school my kids go to the principal's wife reports to him or to an assistant principal that reports to him - his son also works for him - in any public corporation there are nepotism rules that preclude relatives being in the same reporting lines

mlevin said...

"please define jewish education"

As I said earlier: "There they learned how to read, bench, daven, stories from Tanach and Jewish history. The problem with Hebrew schools is that they end when you’re 12 or Seventh grade in Public School. "

"I disagree with MLEVIN regarding hebrew school... teaches you nothing about what you need to know to be a Jew. If we don't send our children to yeshiva, we'll homeschool them and get the boys chevrusas for gemara." How much Jewishness do you expect little children to learn? Hebrew schools are until 7th grade. That's about 12 years old.

kojvzma said...

Re: Israeli healthcare. I don't know why you are posting as anonymous. Don't want to be recognized as a meragel, I guess.
In any event, my father has been ill with a certain type of cancer for over 10 years. Not only are all treatments covered, including experimental ones, but so is his bus fair and lunch fees for those outpatient days. Cost: zero.
He needed a pacemaker. He was in IU ONE NIGHT, the next day he had the operation.
No one should need the healthcare, but it beats a lot of what goes on outside the country.
And yes, if you have the means, private supplemental insurance is also good. It costs my family the equivalent of around $50/month and enables us to see the private doctor of our choice plus go to a private hospital if we choose.
As far as the meshulachim: it's tzedaka. Give or don't give but who knows what the REAL story is there.
Don't they have telethons and phone-in fund raising in the States as well? Or do they just let people die. Don't answer that one.....

Lion of Zion said...


"I can't help but think we're spending all this time and money to educate our children and no one has thought about why we do this or what we hope to get out of it."

here are what i think the goals of jewish ed are:

1) ritual observance
2) jewish literacy
3) national consciousness
4) endogamy

"It seems to me we place an extraordinary emphasis on our children being able to learn . . ."

please tell me that i am misunderstanding you. are you really arguing that there is nothing wrong with raising an am ha-aretz?

"Every question no matter how minor or major is asked to a rav."

i'm not sure what your objection is here. if you don't know the answer to a halakhic issue, what's the problem with seeking expert guidance?


"There they learned how to read, bench, daven, stories from Tanach and Jewish history. The problem with Hebrew schools is that they end when you’re 12 or Seventh grade in Public School."

no, the problem with hebrew schools is that by the age of 12 students still can't/don't daven, bench, read, nor do they know stories from tanach and jewish history. hebrew schools fail at every one of the goals of jewish education (as i defined them at the top of this comment).

there is a lot to be critical of in the orthodox community. however, one thing it has done right over the past few decades is emphasize day school education.

ora said...

Anonymous (on health care)
I already said that rare conditions and experimental insurance sometimes aren't covered under normal Israeli healthcare. For that you'll need private insurance. So what? You'll need private insurance in the states as well, and it will be much more expensive. The difference is, in the states you have to pay private insurance for both the unusual illnesses/accidents AND the things (pneumonia, broken bones, complications in pregnancy, "normal" cancers, AIDS treatment, etc) that are covered here.

People regularly fly abroad for special treatments. What does that have to do with insurance? If the best heart surgeon on earth is in New York, then an Israeli parent who can afford it should take their child to New York. That doesn't mean heart surgery isn't available here.

And trust me, the system in America is NOTHING to brag about. As someone who worked as a health aide for the state, I can tell you that many, many Americans die each year because they can't afford insurance.

ora said...

I see two main reasons for Jewish schooling.

1) Public school isn't just "not Jewish," it's often anti-Jewish. I know many people in their 40s/50s who attended public school and occasional Hebrew school with good results, but IMO things have changed, and it's much harder to be observant in public school these days. Even if you can get a large group of observant students to attend school together and be a support system for each other, they will still face a lot of pressure.

Most parents don't want to homeschool, making public school the only cheap alternative to Jewish school.

2) Back when the average Jewish child wasn't getting much of a Jewish education, they weren't getting much of a secular education either. Now the average set of Jewish parents expects their child to get at least an undergrad degree, probably more. What kind of message would we send kids by expecting them to get a masters in secular studies while making it clear that they only need the most basic Jewish knowledge? Also, how is a Jewish university student supposed to stay observant with a very limited Jewish education and constant exposure to non-Jewish ideas and philosophies?

JS said...

lion of zion,

No, I'm not advocating our children should be am'aratzim. See what I wrote above:

"Just to clarify, I don't mean why do we educate our children at all. I mean why do our children need to learn so much? I think we educate our children more now than they've ever been educated in the past. And I don't just mean girls/women. Today, you're an ignoramus if you've never heard of the ramah. I'm asking why such a high level of education is needed for the masses. Does it really keep us more frum?"

I tend to agree with your 4 reasons (I had to look up endogamy - marrying in the faith).

I guess what I'm asking is why such a high level of education is needed. Consider secular education. You go to 4 years of intense study in college to learn a particular subject area and acquire some broad knowledge of other fields. You can then specialize further and do a master's degree and perhaps even a PhD.

Why not follow a similar model in the frum world? Perhaps until college all our children should learn is Hebrew in a part-time school. The basics of observance and Jewish literacy can be taught in the home and shul. Honestly, until around 6-8 grade most children aren't learning that much anyways in yeshiva - I would argue certainly not more that couldn't be covered at home going over the weekly torah reading and taking your kid to some shiurim in say mishna or daf yomi.

Then in high school we can begin a 4 year intensive program in which you learn halacha, gemarah, tanach, etc. Those who then want more can continue to learn in Israel or go to YU/Stern or other similar programs.

Wouldn't this accomplish your 4 goals? Also, why not place more of the responsibility for frumkeit on the family? Isn't that where it belongs anyways?

Abbi said...

Anon hater of Israeli healthcare:

Hmm, so why did your chavrusa not have a kupat cholim card? Probably because he refused to take a tameh Israeli citizenship and too cheap to buy private insurance? Sounds about right.

Meshulachim will tell you every lie in the book to get you to take out your checkbook, after which they promptly use your checks for their handy kiting scheme. Not sure what you prove with that.

Sorry, no failing health system around here as far as I can tell. People that I have known who need care for big ticket items (heart surgery, cancer treatment) get all the care they need and promptly.

Also, if the care is so crappy here, how were so many pple able to survive horrific piguim from a few years ago? Yeah, really horrible health care here. Don't know why they didn't ship all those trauma victims directly to NY. Take a minute to actually think about all that Republican nonsense you hear about "socialized" medicine.

mlevin said...

"no, the problem with hebrew schools is that by the age of 12 students still can't/don't daven, bench, read, nor do they know stories from tanach and jewish history. hebrew schools fail at every one of the goals of jewish education (as i defined them at the top of this comment)."

That is simply not true. My children went to Hebrew school and they knew those things. You are confusing Jewish children who go to Hebrew school and their parents care about Jewish education, and children whos parents only do it for the sake of propriety. The latter parents end up taking children out of class for variety of reasons and they do not attend shabbos classes at all, although they are part of a curriculum. So, you end up with children who are not educated in Jewish studies, but still receive a diploma.

bitachon said...

For those limiting their children because of worries about future finances...

How would you feel if in 5 years from now tuition vouchers became standard?

Or if you finally got a job with a salary in the triple digits?

Or if a generous philanthropist lowered tuition in a school to a maximum per family?

Or if the rises caused something to break, and therefore the system had to change?

And who says you will be able to support even one or two children? Who says you will keep your job? Who says tuition won't shoot up to an unmanageable level even for one?

Children are a gift from Hashem... he can find many ways to ensure they are taken care of. Nowhere in Torah does it say not to have children if you can't pay for them. In fact, Torah says you should have children even if you KNOW (with Ruach HaKodesh) that they will be evil.

Halfnutcase said...

bitachon, I doubt that was an unmitigated statement.

Secondly, it is assur to rely on miracles. One must conduct ones self based on the realities of today, not the possibilities of tomorow. Anything else is assur according to halachah.

and if tuition vouchers became standard, as many people have wryly obvserved, then tuition will simply go up.

In such a case I would simply stop trying to limit my children and have more.

Or I would take it as a sign that hashem wants me to adopt children, something that I would be pleased as peach to do.


Anonymous said...

Bitachon - limiting children - see what Rashi says about why Yosef hatzadik had his TWO children before the onset of the famine in Egypt - becuase one is not aloud to have children during a famine

ora said...

There's a difference between having children during a famine (a special case, I believe. I'm not sure even infertile/older couples are allowed to have sex during a famine) and having children in one of the richest countries on earth when private school tuition is expensive. If, as we just read last week, Jews kept having kids as slaves, I don't think there would be any problem with having kids nowadays.

I agree with Bitachon's approach. I don't think a couple that wants five kids should feel that they have to have nine, but it would be a chaval if they limit themselves to three just because of tuition. The Jewish community is shrinking fast enough as it is.

ora said...

No student goes into college with a bare-bones secular education that includes only basic literacy and simple concepts. Student go into college after 12 years of primary and high school. If you want to go to a "good" (ie out of state) school, you would need advanced placement courses in calculus, science, writing, etc, as well. So your example of college would, IMO, actually support the argument for intense Jewish education at a young age.

I know what it's like to feel like you've learned nothing from 8 years of school. In all my time in public school until sometime in high school, I think I learned maybe 100 words in Spanish and a bit about the periodic table. It was a complete waste of time. I think that has more to do with the school than anything else. When I spent four years in private school it was WONDERFUL and I learned something new pretty much every day. I know kids who have an AMAZING knowledge of Jewish sources by age 7 or 8. When my neighbor's son started learning Humash at age 7, he was already able to sit down and read it on his own, in Hebrew (which was so fun to watch--he kept racing over saying, "Mom! Mom! Now Hashem is making FISH!!!" "That's great, sweety"). So yeah, a good Hebrew school is a good investment, a bad one is a waste of time and money, but the same is true of any school. A bad secular school is a complete waste of time (and often a really, really bad influence on your kids), a good one is expensive. IMO there's really no way to get your kids a decent, enjoyable education (Jewish or secular) without either home-schooling (and not all kids would enjoy that) or spending a lot of money on a carefully selected, usually exclusive school.

anonymous mom said...

"Honestly, until around 6-8 grade most children aren't learning that much anyways in yeshiva "

Very funny if it wasn't desperately sad. Please ask a teacher or principal what children learn in elementary school. The kids I have taught in more than one school (and my own children) learn Bekius--loads of general Torah Knowledge, Chumash, Rashi, Navi after 4th grade, Hebrew Language and Grammar, Hebrew Composition, Halacha as pertains to Chagim/Shabbos/Kashrus in 5th, some Jewish History--more in Middle School, Midos awareness (I am ambivalent about how this is taught or if it can be taught), Pirkei Avos, Tehilim, Explanation of Tefilos. 4th and 5th graders learn the basics of Safrus, in depth Parshas Hashavua with Meforshim...They also learn to respect the Rebbe/teacher. A minor lesson, I see, for some.

JS said...

ora, anonymous mom,

I appreciate your comments. I think Modern Orthodox yeshivas do not do nearly as good a job as you indicated the yeshivas you're familiar with are doing (I assume they are more right-wing).

But, no one has answered my more fundamental question which is, does the average Orthodox Jew need this much knowledge? There's a huge gap between being a total am ha'aretz and knowing several different meforshim, for example. Thus, I don't really see what's wrong with a "yeshiva lite" program which would certainly be much cheaper.

It seems our system is based around an "all or nothing" approach. Imagine instead of Jewish studies, it was Math instead. Mathematics is a gigantic field and one can, and some do, spend a lifetime just studying what is already known, let alone trying to make a "chidush". If a student went to a math only school which was set up to teach math the way yeshivas teach (using your example, anonymous mom) I think the kids would have PhD's in math by the time they graduated high school. Then, some kids would go on to be math teachers or professors, or some would be researchers, while the average graduate does an odd math problem here and there.

Does the analogy make sense? We're training our kids to get a PhD without considering if such an option is necessary. Not everyone is a mathematician, and not everyone has a learning kop. But there's no other options.

Here is what I propose; let me know if it's crazy and why.

Kindergarten through 5th grade:
Public school. Additional classes to teach fluency in Hebrew (written, spoken, grammar, etc). Weekly classes on parshat ha'shavua and tefilah in shul. Additional classes before each holiday for laws, customs, and prayers of the holiday.

6th grade through 8th grade:
Public school. Continue previous program. Additional classes in navi and mishna. Classes in basic halacha. Classes in Jewish history.

9th grade through 12th grade:
Private yeshiva. Intense study of tanach, gemara, philosophy, advanced meforshim, etc.

Wouldn't this save a lot of money and produce children more than ready to enter life as a frum adult? If the only crazy thing is "public school", I think that can be addressed. For one thing public schools would be more acceptable and amenable to Jewish families if Jewish kids actually went there. It seems a bit silly to say public schools are anti-Jewish when few Jews go there. The situation would change if Jews got involved in the schools and school boards.

Ahavah B. said...

The plan is great - in theory. In reality all cheredi and even some MO Rabbis will condemn you for sending your child to a public school, period. People have had their conversions or BT status revoked or never approved in the first place for doing so. And that absolutely will not change. Most don't even consider homeschooling a serious option, because they want to have control themselves over the children, since the parents might be making a "mistake," or are apikorus in some way. What you have suggested will simply never happen - not until the economic situation on our communities completely collapses. And by that time, education will hardly be our biggest concern.

Tamiri said...

No one Orthodox is going to send their kids to public school. It's just not done. First, it's an admission of failure (everyone else sends to Day School) and second, there really are much more negative elements in PS.
I had my kids in PS when we lived in a certain city where the Jewish school was just unacceptable. Neither kid suffered, as far as I can see, from not being in a non-Jewish environment, but it was for just a limited time, 2 years, till we got ourselves out of that city. One kid rebelled against being home schooled in Jewish studies so learned no limudai kodesh. He wore neither tzitzit to school nor a kippa there (he wore the kippa at home). Hebrew language was no big deal since we spoke it (more or less) at home. When he got to Jewish Day School he was fine - 2 lost years (5th and 6th grade) didn't register in the MO Day School world. Now THAT is sad.
The other child arrived at a Jewish Day School in 2nd grade with a higher level of Hebrew than the other kids. He did wear tzitzit and a hat to school every day and got to explain to people what the strings are and why he wears a hat and why he could not eat their snacks etc. etc. Not the best way to go, but he was fine. In fact, we miss the PS where he was for 1st grade, it was awesome.
Not many people are crazy enough to take the plunge.
I believe the children need a good begining, such as Jewish preschool thru 1st and 2nd grade, which are not expensive (the high fees we pay are to offset the price of the upper grades, so I have been told), then a few years PS with tutoring. I think that if this could be incorporated into HS it would not be a bad thing either. I know plenty of kids from out-of-town cities who went to PS High School and came out very frum, after the year in Israel and Stern/YU. I also know plenty who came out irreligious...
Hey, sounds the same as MO High School, whadya know!!!! Of course, anything to the right of MO would find this unacceptable. Jews really don't mingle....

mlevin said...

Tamiri - I hope you did not make it intentionally, but your last 2paragraphs imply that no one is going off the derech in families that are not MO.

another jewish accountant said...

Im with anonymous mom on this one. I see what my children learn each day and recall what i learned as a child, and see the importance of a strong jewish education as the foundation for a lifetime of jewish observance. perhaps it is having experiences with less than stellar schools that bring people to recommend otherwise, and certainly all schools have their problems, but I wouldnt for a moment consider twice or 3x a week jewish education sufficient when compared to what my kids have been learning.

that said, my kids school does have teachers teaching a full day rather than having more part time teachers, so some kids have limudei kodesh in the afternoon, some in the morning (they switch mid-year, and all have davening in the morning). I do not sit back when there are things at school that I disagree with, but get involved and if reasonable try to effect change through involvement rather than sitting back and throwing my hands up, and bad mouthing the administration. in my experience the school welcomes parental involvement (easier said than done when we both work full time!) and does try to implement suggestions that make sense.

Tamiri said...

"mlevin said...
Tamiri - I hope you did not make it intentionally, but your last 2paragraphs imply that no one is going off the derech in families that are not MO."
I can only write about what I know and see, not speculate about what goes on elsewhere.
But I know what you mean, and yes, I do read about problems across the board.

JS said...


I certainly agree that you'd be hard pressed to find charedi or others to the right of modern orthodoxy who would agree with or implement what I suggested. I was speaking more to the modern orthodox crowd, I suppose. And in that circle, I actually know several families who put one or more children into public school. The publicly stated reason for doing so varied (my kid loves music which they don't teach in yeshiva, my kid is very athletic and the gym/sports program in yeshiva isn't good, etc) the real reasons were usually financial or the kid was simply not getting anything out of yeshiva.

accountant, I think you're right that my attitude stems partially from looking back at my yeshiva education and being dissapointed.

But, what I'd like you (and others) to answer is: what makes for a good jewish education? Are 12-13 years required? Is going to Israel to learn required? Is going to a YU/Stern/Ner Yisroel/etc required? Is learning Rashi required? Is learning gemara required? etc.

Please don't respond back with "Of course it's not required, but we shouldn't view religion from a "required" perspective, we should always strive to do more." That's good in theory, but if it were true, we'd all be learning 24/7 in kollel. There needs to be a line drawn for where to end our formal education if for no other reason than we need to work for a living (please don't drag this conversation into a debate on kollel). As a quick proof, if high school ended at age 14 instead of 17/18 most yeshiva education would end at that point too - the length of yeshiva education is dictated by secular realities. And yet, if it did end at 14 I doubt there would be those saying how can we only educate our children for 9-10 years? Children need at least 12-13 years (as we currently do)!

Food for thought.

mlevin said...

And do you know how much Hebrew school costs? $500 per first child and $200 per each additional. Well, those were the prices 5 years ago. Sure beats $5,000 in Bais Yakov.

another jewish accountant said...

$5,000 in bais yakov? i think the bais yakov near me is more than double that!

JS - that is a very interesting question to which id imagine there is no "right" answer. i think that also varies by kid/family/etc. so where one kid may have a nice strong foundation at age 14, for others it may take a bit longer. the flip side of it is that no matter how long the "formal" education is, there will always be those who choose to leave frumkeit down the road, making school last more years isnt going to cure that on its own witout other changes.

I myself went to very right wing schools until i was 16, and then took classes at the local college without finishing yeshiva high school education. believe me, i (and my parents) faced tons of criticism including the how will you find a shidduch questions, and disregarded all of that, and went along with my plan.

my parents were okay with that as they knew me well enough to trust me in that environment (even at that age). after almost 2 years in college, i did go to Israel with the rest of my friends, and after a while felt that i was wasting time, so came home on time to start the second semester of the year in college.

i must say, i am thankful that for the most part i am pretty happy with my kids education, and do not see the school/administration/teachers as adversaries, and I am starting to realize how lucky i am for that. I cant imagine feeling "forced" to pay for something that i dont see value in.

anonymous mom said...


I don't think you addressed a point I brought up earlier which is that developmentally, you are asking kids to learn after a day of school, the most important and holy of subjects, the life-guiding ones are relegated to "after school." While the public school day is shorter than the Yeshiva day, the hebrew schools don't begin until a time of day that most Yeshiva students are being dismissed. It is evening time. Kids are hungry, uptight, a bit burned out from the events of the day at school (and it's not just learning that burns them out, it's the social situations, the recess issues). This is not a time to be teaching them Torah.

Next, you do need to learn more about kids from those who know. Adolescence begins in middle school. I can assure you that a mixed sex environment in 6th through 8th grade when hormones begin to kick in (more today than in our day) is a risky idea. In left wing MO schools who have mixed classes, this is--to me--a hindrance to good education, especially for girls. In a public school environment, it would be a huge risk. I know that public schools are not the playground of the devil that many think they are, but they truly set before an Orthodox child obstacles that he/she does not need.

I can see from your comments that you haven't had good experiences with Yeshiva day schools. I have. I choose wisely for my teaching career and my kids' education. I wish more parents would get out of their comfort zone with regard to the day schools out there and choose one that fits their needs. There are some great right wing MO day schools in the NY area and out of NY, there are some great schools that have a nice balance. Not all, though.

Halfnutcase said...

seeing that the issue of public school has been brought up I think, having been in public school durring middle school, I would like to share my thoughts.

about the coed issue, actualy for boys its usualy a major positive. Having girls in the classroom raises their grades, lessons behavior issues, and generaly helps their studies. it is, evidently, very psychologicaly calming for a boy to be in a classroom with girls.

however, for girls it can be very disruptive. Research consistantly shows that girls in coed classes are more stressed, make worse grades, and learn less. Girls who in elementery school were the top of their classes in math, suddenly begin to fail once they hit puberty if they're in a coed class.

various theories have been advanced on this subject, and I find it interesting that it is the opposite of what common sense would tell you should happen.

Likewise, based on my own observation and reports from others, boys who are in public school "sin" far less often than those who are in yeshiva. in public school they may do so less than once a week, yeshiva bochurim generaly seem to do so more that twice a week, or even everyday.

and in terms of the pritzus issue, it really isn't that bad. Boys who don't want to mess around can usually find like minded people to hang around, and girls who don't want to mess around likewise. Yes there are reported incidents of missbehavior but they are not that common. Really it depends on the additude of the kid.

JS said...

anonymous mom,

I'm talking about the creation of a new program, so I don't think there's any need to assume the program would be late in the evening. In fact, the program could be arranged to start half an hour after public school ended. I don't think limudei kodesh after school in any way diminishes its study or relegates it to the back burner. I think that attitude comes from how parents treat it and the vibe children pick up from their parents. I think the biggest problem with many hebrew school programs is that the parents don't treat it seriously. In conservative communities for example it's often done solely because it's a prerequisite for a child to be allowed to have a bar mitzvah in the shul. I think with the proper attitude this isn't an issue. After all, many yeshivas do limudei kodesh in the afternoon and I don't think that creates a negative attitude.

In terms of hormones, my modern orthodox yeshiva was mixed and I don't think there were any issues with this. Some kids messed around, but that had more to do with the group of friends you had. There are always bad elements and its a parent's job to steer their kids towards good kids. My group of friends were (and are) very solid and acted as a positive influence to not do anything bad (drugs, sex, drinking, etc) and to instead go to shiurim and extra learning. I think even in single-sex yeshivot you still have bad kids and bad influences to watch out for. As an added note, I had non-religious and non-Jewish friends who went to public school and they were all good kids for the most part. You find all kinds no matter what the environment is.

To clarify my yeshiva experience, it wasn't terrible and I didn't hate it. I just look back and think many, many years and a lot, a lot of money were wasted given what I got out of it. I feel that for that much time and money I should have learned a lot more and at the very least be able to learn on my own.

mlevin said...

1. anonymous mom - You have a skewed picture of hebrew schools. The one where my daughters went started at 4 pm. That is enough time for kids to get home, eat something to keep them till dinner and get to school. So, children already had a break and food by the time they get to hebrew school. They are fine.

2. one sex schools does not guarantee certain behaivors. There are nice kids in public schools and there are loose kids in yeshivahs. My daughter just came back from a shabboton. Her friend from 6-8 grades is in a super frum yeshivah. Girls only. 6 Days per week. Her father is a Rabbi, etc. etc. Well, this 16 year old is already up to her 3rd boyfriend, all behind her parents back. So, what is yeshivah school protecting her from? I think that being in yeshivah gives her parents a reason not to be as vigilant as they should be and that is why she is able to sneak out behind their back.

Abbi said...

"There needs to be a line drawn for where to end our formal education if for no other reason than we need to work for a living (please don't drag this conversation into a debate on kollel).As a quick proof, if high school ended at age 14 instead of 17/18 most yeshiva education would end at that point too - the length of yeshiva education is dictated by secular realities."

Huh? It was so important to my parents that I remain in a religious environment, that they only college they would pay for was Stern for me and YU for my brother. So, clearly, my parents were not aware of this rule that "the length of yeshiva education is dictated by secular realities."

You also don't seem really in tune with the reality that most MO parents want to keep their children in a Jewish environment for as long as possible. At least the ones I know.

JS said...


You're proving my point. Your parents chose to end the length of yeshiva education at another secular point - the end of college education. My point is that secular life sets certain semi-arbitrary points: end of middle school, end of high school, end of college, starting a career. If tomorrow a new push in education was made to have high school start earlier at age 11 as opposed to 13, high school would then end at 16. Formal yeshiva education would end then as well for the vast majority of people (those who go to secular universities). Or, say college is shortened to a 2 year program. YU/Stern would then also be 2 years. You can't deny the length of our yeshiva education is completely dictated by these secular realities. My point is that it's fairly arbitrary as is, so why not think about it and come up with something that is cheaper and effective.

In terms of your last point, I agree. I think the "modern" in modern orthodox doesn't mean what it used to. It used to mean embracing the modern world, now it just means left of charedi or yeshivish. I think it speaks volumes about how little we think of our religion and our education system if we truly believe that an experience with the outside world will completely negate everything we've every taught our children. Then again, maybe our worries are correct and serious reforms are needed.

anonymous mom said...

Just to emphasize--not belabor--my point as an educator who has taught in Hebrew schools over the years and who has taught in same-sex right wing and co-ed MO schools:

Teaching kids anything in the late afternoon hours is going to get less concentration than the early morning hours. Late afternoon/early evening is not an optimum time to learn any subject if you are an elementary school child. When I taught high school in a Hebrew School, their classes for high schoolers began at 6:30. If you are going to revolutionize Hebrew School, then you'll have to teach Hebrew studies in the morning which truly is the optimum time to learn. Most Yeshivos and even most MO day schools strive to do this. You can give them an afternoon snack and all that, but I guarantee you they aren't at their best at 3, 4, or 5 P.M. If you start at 3 as you suggest, then when do you end each day? Just curious because if you want to give Jewish Studies and Hebrew Language the time they deserve, then the kid will still be learning at 5. This isn't a good time for adults let alone kids.

Co-ed/same sex. Sorry, folks. All the nasty right wing delinquent stories aren't going to change the fact that pre and post pubescent girls do learn better without boys in the room, boys tend to settle down more when tempered with the presence of girls. And there is bad stuff and bad influences in all types of schools, but a Yeshiva day school environment is going to be on the whole a bit more controlled and wholesome than a public school environment. I live in the NYC area and have spent time in Public Schools. I have nothing but respect for the teachers, principals who work there. I think all kids have great promise. I don't discriminate when it comes to kids and I know some great teenagers who currently attend public school, but wholesomeness is compromised in that environment and pressures are different. Ask an honest public school student who attends an inner city public school. I have.
It's easy for some of you to make me out to be some kind of a cartoon character representing the Yeshiva system. I wish you would take what I have to say seriously without the immediate stereotyping that I must think Public School is the anti-Christ and Yeshiva churns out only wholesome kids. Try to step back for a minute and do this discussion some justice. You're advocating something that isn't in the best interest of Orthodox Jewish children. It may work for some, but on the whole, it is flawed from the get-go.

JS said...

anonymous mom,

While I disagree with some of your points, particularly your point that my idea is flawed from the get go, I do acknowledge public school doesn't provide as good as environment as a yeshiva. However, my idea is a compromise. If people want to send their kids all day to yeshiva and pay whatever that costs, kol hakavod. My idea wouldn't even remotely appeal to them. But, if someone feels yeshiva is too expensive and simply can't be paid for, when all is said and done I think the compromises I offered make sense - or at least offer a starting point for a discussion.

In high school, I lived about 45 minutes by bus from yeshiva. Woke up 6 am, got on a bus around 6:50. Classes ended 5:10 and if I didn't have an extracurricular or mishmar that night, I would get home at about 6pm. It was a long exhausting day, but I don't think there's any other way if you want two curriculums. Even before high school, it was nearly as long a day as one got towards middle school. I don't see how 2 hours from 3PM to 5PM for example would be any different. I also proposed getting the shuls involved. Why not have kids learn on Shabbat and get the rabbi and community more involved in education?

Lastly, in terms of mixed sex public school classes, this is one of the compromises I see as necessary for a cheaper system to work. The property taxes for the schools are already being paid, it's a sunk cost, might as well take advantage of it. Also, I'll add, since Jews (at least in the NYC area) all live in the same (usually upscale) areas, I'm sure the public schools are better than most. For example, I'm sure Great Neck or the Five Towns or towns in Westchester, etc have great public school systems relatively speaking.

anonymous mom said...

There are way too many comments to take issue with in your last statement. All I can say is do yourself a favor and speak with a few teachers, those who have taught in Yeshiva Day School and Public School--there are some of those or just those who are currently teaching in Public School. I would say I wish you well, but I don't. I think turning to public school is not the answer. It raises many more questions/problems. I must address your last point about Jews living in upscale neighborhoods. Have you heard of Brooklyn? Do you know what the public schools there are like? Also, the upscale public schools are not insulated from the bigger challenges that all the public schools are facing. Drugs, Sex, and dropping test scores for teenage girls are nation-wide problems.

ora said...

I think that while sex and drugs are the most obvious problems with the public school environment, they aren't the most serious problems. IMO the harder thing for kids and teens to face is being surrounded by people, both Jewish and not, who see Torah as old-fashioned, absolute morality as snobbish and judgemental, modest clothing as unattractive, a refusal to date/marry non-Jews as racist, etc, etc. I don't think kids and teens should be expected to face such pressures. We should be able to be confident that a 20-something-year-old can handle a secular school or workplace with no harm done, but I just don't think it's realistic to expect the same of the average teenager or young child, no matter how Jewishly strong the family is.

Also, wanting to ensure that our children remain in a strong Jewish environment isn't a reflection of a lack of faith in Torah, it's an acceptance of human nature. JS--you wil never really know what you got from Jewish school. It's possible you didn't learn much, but it's also possible that being in an essentially Jewish environment was a crucial aspect of your identity.

As for Jewish learning being connected to secular learning (that is, we expect kids to continue Jewish learning as long as they continue secular learning), I think that's another important part of human nature. I can't really say why. It just seems clear to me (I really will try to think of why) that a person who is not highly educated and is not surrounded by educated people will not feel their lack of Torah learning hurts their faith, while someone with an advanced degree surrounded by highly educated non-religious/non-Jewish people will have many problems if s/he does not have a strong Jewish education. Basically, the more that you and the people around you are educated in secular subjects, the more you will need a Torah education as well.

Abbi said...

What Ora said. She put it very well. I don't think your ideas reflect a realistic view of teenage psychology.

mlevin said...

Anonymous mom- You suggested talking to teachers from day schools and public schools. Well, I have. More then half of my shul are teachers in either one or the other. Some in both. The answer is always the same. In yeshivas today children are not encouraged to learn secular subjects. They all plan to go to kollel or be morahs. There are few exception schools, but they are few. In Prospect girls on shabbatons are chanting “We can, we can, we can support our men”. Prospect substituted their law teacher with home economics teacher. Prospect gives only one AP class, the rest is just Touro accepted credits. In Shulamith official regent failure rate is 8-10%. That’s a lot for the money they charge. In Beis Yakov of BoroPark majority of regent classes’ teachers are young girls/just married women teaching from the Baron’s regents review book. Boy yeshivas are even worse. In Meir, if a boy just passed his Chem. regent he is considered smart. In other boy Yeshivas there is flagrant cheating to pass these state tests. Their senior year is a kollel year and no secular subjects are taught at all.

Anonymous mom- you suggested looking at Brooklyn’s public schools. Since I live here I could tell you a lot about these schools. From kindergarten on students are encouraged to learn. Those with good academics and behaviors are accepted into good junior high schools and than high schools. Those who don’t give a damn are left to attend nightmare schools you hear about. But, let’s discuss great academic junior high schools in Brooklyn. Here we have (ok, my information is a few years behind) Mark Twain, Bay Academy, Hudde and Coughneham. That’s the best of the best in Brooklyn. Hudde won an award or the best Junior high school in the North America. Hudde teaches John Hopkins principle in other words self paced. For math children are given a math book, where they read directions/explanations and do problems. If a child does not understand something, she/he approaches a teacher (there are two teachers per class) and gets an explanation. Once a chapter is completed, that child proceeds with a chapter test and then continues with the next chapter. While majority of children finish Hudde with somewhere in the 10th year of math, few go on further and graduate with all high school math + some calculus. Isn’t that impressive for eighth graders? History/English/Science has lectures of course, but these classes put lots of emphasis on research and presentation. These children do many research papers and projects. In the end, they graduate junior high school with a year+ of high school classes already taken. In addition, there are elective subjects for “talented” children with art and music and “untalented” with computers, robotics, woodworking, acting and etc. Brooklyn children also go to great public high schools. Stuyvesant high school has the best education in the world incidentally it provides Jewish studies, such as Hebrew and Jewish history. Other great public schools for Brooklyn children are Hunter, Brooklyn Tech and Midwood. Graduates from any of these schools end up in Ivy League schools and become accomplished professionals.

JS said...

anonymous mom,

I wish you would comment and help educate me, and the rest of blog readers on why my last statement is so offensive or at the very least help me understand what it is that I just don't get. I'll be the first to admit I don't know everything. This is just an idea I had that I thought I would put out there for discussion.

You're definitely right about my yeshiva education. Although I didn't learn as much as I would have liked given the length of time and money spent, sending me and my siblings to yeshiva made my family frum and has shaped my personality for the better. I just think the current system is not sustainable.

Any radical proposal is going to meet with vehement disagreement, but I don't think more moderate proposals will solve the problem. For example joining with other yeshivas to order supplies or get insurance in bulk. Many solutions proposed are already in place in modern orthodox yeshivas anyways (one teacher for a particular subject to teach all students). Making better use of facilities will similarly not help much. The problem isn't that tuition is a few hundred or thousand dollars too expensive, it's that it is MANY thousands of dollars too expensive.

To reduce tuition by that much money, at least one of the following has to happen:

1) Huge endowment for education
2) Governmental assistance
3) Reduce class time in yeshiva
4) Reduce number of years in yeshiva
5) Make better use of existing resources

These are the 5 I can think of. I thought #1 and #2 were unrealistic. I also thought only #3 was not realistic, no one is willing to send their kids to a school is cheaper, but doesn't teach Math or Chumash for example to save money by hiring fewer teachers. So, I thought #4 and #5 made the most sense. Have classic yeshiva for fewer years and have a new program that makes use of shuls, shul rabbis and parents to make up for as much of the difference as possible.

Of course, this necessitates public school. For the record, I have the same concerns as everyone else who posted about public school and even though I had friends growing up who went to PS, I never attended and can't vouch for what the environment is like.

I would point out that the public school system would be radically different if suddenly in a given town or city hundreds of frum kids entered, frum parents got involved in the school boards, and frum teachers who now teach in yeshivas taught in PS. Also, there are public schools only for girls.

mlevin said...

Ora – in public schools, here in Brooklyn there are so many different types of children that uniqueness of being an orthodox Jew is nothing special.

As far as morality is concerned, how is fighting PS Teacher morality different with fighting a Prospect teachings of “we can, we can, we can support our men”. Or what about flagrant lying on school applications about TVs and internet? Our children are faced with wrong all the time and it is up to us parents to teach our children right from wrong, not schools.

How can you expect a 20 year old to handle a secular school or workplace, if they were never exposed to it? They never learned about that life and unless they totally snob their fellow students and co-workers they would be unable to handle that new influence. Besides, at that age they are outside of your control and their internal struggles will not be as obvious to you. My daughter’s friend came from one such sheltered environment. Now she is trying to get into nursing program at the community college. First time a boy (black boy) asked her name she almost had a heart attack. She panicked and run. For a whole week she had nightmares of rape and other things. She could not sleep at nights. Is that healthy?

I am not against Jewish schools, but I am against what Jewish schools have become: An imprisonment of our next generation. Total isolation from the outside world. And total brainwashing into believing in utopian lifestyle that is not possible to obtain by majority.

ora said...

I would react to the problem of a bizarre Prospect hashkafa the same way I would react to the problem of ps morality--not sending my kids there.

The issue with PS isn't that an orthodox Jew would be different. Having a unique culture is usually considered cool. The problem comes when Jewish law keeps you from doing almost everything your friends are doing--clothes shopping at the same stores, going out to eat together, going to dances and sports games (which are almost exclusively on Friday nights), etc, and when Jewish law offends the people around you. That gets old pretty quickly, and the sense of being unique does little to make up for it.

Your daughter's friend is a unique case. I know many girls who were raised in all kinds of religious environments, from MO to chassidic to yeshivish, and not a single one of them would have reacted that way.

I agree that kids need a certain amount of exposure to secular life, the question is how much. IMO, seven or eight hours a day, five days a week is too much for most kids. IMO it's not the exposure to the secular world that prepares kids to handle it, it's the exposure to Torah values coupled with an awareness of the secular world that creates kids who can go out and interact with the secular world. I think one of the best examples of this is Chabad. They have exclusively Jewish religious communities that turn out kids who are ready to move to the middle of nowhere and interact with non-Jews and completely secular Jews. They don't do that through a constant exposure to secular values, they do it through a constant focus on Torah values.

In general, I think you're talking about a certain subset of Jewish schools, as most of the schools I'm familiar with aren't at all like what you describe. Whether some Jewish schools teach questionable values is, to me, beside the point. If public school is bad for my kids I won't send them there, whether or not some Jewish schools are also bad.

ora said...

js, a couple more points

1. Torah learning is valuable in and of itself, without an end goal.

2. It's not like every kid is learning to become a rabbi. In a good school, every kid is learning enough that s/he can open the Humash or Gemara and study, or could pick up Hebrew within a fairly short amount of time. If a kid then wants to be a rabbi, he could go on and do that in about four years, just as a kid who decided go into economics or nursing could do that in four years or so. IMO those are fairly basic standards.

My in-laws youngest kids each spent a few (3-8) years in public school. It's interesting to compare them to the older siblings and to their friends who stayed in religious school. On the one hand, they are still religious, for the most part, and are very good kids. On the other hand, they had a big head start (religious elementary/middle school, a full set of religious friends, fluent Hebrew), their knowledge of Jewish sources + halacha is very limited, and as I said, they are still religious "for the most part," ie, not entirely.

That's what I see in kids from a fairly strong family. OTOH, my friend and her siblings switched from religious schools to public schools midway, and her siblings aren't religious to the point where I believe most of them see no point in marrying a Jew. It really depends on the family and situation. IMO in the best-case scenario, a kid who goes to public school in a place with a large number of Jewishly committed students will stay shomer shabbat and shomer kashrut, but will almost certainly not keep tzniut or similar laws, and will feel out of place and often ignorant around most of the religious community.

JS said...


To address one of your points, my sister-in-law is very into kiruv and attends NYU. She has many non-Jewish and non-religious friends. You may be surprised to hear that they all LOVE learning about frumkeit and are deeply respectful of her beliefs. In fact, many of the girls she is friends with find tzniut empowering. They love going with her to frum "girls only" singing and theater events in the city. Her friends enjoy learning about why she only wears skirts, what Shabbat and kashrut is - many eat with her in the kosher cafeteria.

Is everyone this understanding and accepting? Of course not. But to suggest that "goyim" are universally a bad influence and are disrespectful of frumkeit and perhaps even wish to subvert it is simply not true.

JS said...


As to your other point, yes, torah learning should never have an end, but formal Jewish education necessarily has an end for the vast majority of people.

I think you're confusing issues when you bring that into the conversation.

mlevin, I thought your comments on public schools in brooklyn were very interesting.

For everyone else, I'm wondering what would diminish your fears about public school.

What one or more differences would make you change your mind:
1) Vacation days for all yom tov.
2) Majority of students are frum.
3) No religious education at all (no christian influence at all).
4) Separate sex classrooms.
5) Modest dress code or uniforms.
6) Cafeteria offers kosher food.
7) Ability to remove children from class during controversial topics (such as sex-ed).
8) Frum teachers.
9) Extracurriculars and sports do not conflict with shabbat/yom tov.

That's all I can think of, I welcome other suggestions.

anonymous mom said...

Ok. So Prospect girls are now chanting proudly that they can support their men. Hahaha. I'm a Prospect girl. I made a conscious choice to marry a man and educate our children together in a way that was different than what we grew up with and what we grew up with was better than the current state of affairs in most NY Yeshivas. We have chosen to send our children to a MO school. Are there many MO schools in the NY area with "middle of the road", YU type Hashkafa? No. But, we sure the heck found one. I discussed this with my husband on the boardwalk in Long Beach when we were on I think our fifth date. Sorry. It never ceases to amaze me when people moan about the system and refuse to avail themselves of other choices within said system. Out of town, most day schools are not right wing with lousy secular studies. The problem there is that all the Kollel types who move out there are starting to found new Yeshivas out there that mimic the lousy ones in NY, but when you live out of town, you can support the original day school and your kids will probably get a good education. The real danger is these upstart schools out there that are taking money away from the original day schools. This should be addressed.
With regard to the public schools you mentioned in Brooklyn, you are mentioning the cream of the crop academically. I certainly don't have a public school in my community of the caliber of Stuyvesant. I have worked in public schools. I have Orthodox friends who currently do. We love kids. We don't think frum kids should be there. I can't stress enough to parents that school is your child's culture. They are in there for hours at a time. You need to make sure they fit their school culture as best as possible so they will be happy and well-adjusted. Kids are not mini adults. We can work for hours a day in an environment that does not suit our Hashkafa or personality. Children, when placed in environments that do not match their home life and ideals will have difficulty. I had non-Jewish friends growing up. I don't fear the "Goy" as some do. Or Hashem help us, I don't fear the non-Orthodox Jew as some do. But, public school culture is not Orthodox culture. And, JS, your utopia where most of the kids attending are frum is an unreasonable proposition. I don't understand how that would come about. I don't live in a segregated community. There are non=Jews and secular Jews in my PS district. How would we all not be in the same school? I'm okay with them, like I said, but how would a scenario happen in which they would not be going to school with my kids and spending hours with them each day. And, just so you are clear, my main problem with your suggestion is not the ever popular "bad influences" issue. That, to me, is mainly a problem in adolescence. What I am most concerned about is that Jewish Studies should be taught at optimum times of concentration. In MO schools, Hebrew Language is a big part of Jewish Studies as it should be. I don't want my kid learning Chumash in Ivrit at the end of the day. It's just poor educational practice. Also, I don't want the community teaching my kids Jewish Studies. I want teachers doing that. Another annoying misconception is that anyone, including the Rabbi, with knowledge can teach. Not true. Most offensive of all of your suggestions I think, but I don't mean to sound angry. Teachers teach. What we need to do is encourage more MO college kids to go into Jewish Education. Right now in the field you can hear the crickets. And no one is going into elementary ed. That isn't prestigious enough for them. About the tuition, I don't know. I told you. The pooling of resources sounds like a good idea. Other than that, I've got nothing. But at least I know my kids are getting properly educated in their schools. I am officially off the Prospect track. I invite all of you to join me. We need more MO schools.

ora said...

I think I made it abundantly clear that my problem is with secular culture, not with "goyim." Please don't twist my words.

Unless your sister-in-law went to public school, I don't see what the point of your anecdote is. University is not primary school or high school. University students, as a whole, tend to be much more open to new concepts and to religion/spirituality in particular than are younger students. I went to public middle and high school, and I went to a secular university, and I can tell you there is a huge difference in the overall atmosphere and the ease of being frum.

Of course I realize that formal Jewish education must end sometime. My point was that we should end it later, rather than sooner. You did not address my other point--that the current level of Jewish learning is not unecessarily high, but actually fairly basic.

Obviously if you could find a high school with frum teachers, kosher food, a majority (or even a large minority) of frum students, modest uniforms, separate sex classes, and a schedule that suits Jewish students I would probably feel differently. However, I sincerely doubt that you will find a school like that in the public school system.

ora said...


I really have never seen a case where kids from orthodox families who went to public school ended up on the same religious level as those who went to religious school. Honestly, I think the only thing that could change my mind at this point would be a study showing that all of the cases I've seen are unusual, and that the average child from a frum family will do just as well in public school as in religious school.

mlevin said...

Anonymous Mom – If you worked in PS, then you know that children segregate themselves by who they are and there is very little interaction between these groups. Most of these interactions are forced by teachers. The groups we are talking about are Chinese, Russian, Blacks, Moslem, and etc. So, why do you think that frum children are different and will not cling to their own group?

Re Jewish Education at the end of the day. Somehow I get an impression that you think once school is over, Jewish education is over too. That is not so, not even close. We continuously learn through out our lives. It is secular education that ends at graduation. Although we need Jewish education to be Jewish, it is continuous, but we need secular education to make parnasah. Without proper secular education the next generations are doomed, so it is wrong to gamble with our children’s future and relegate secular education to late day learning, especially if you stress how much more important Chumash study than math or history or English or science or …

Ora – you question how many children end PS on the same religious level they entered. So, I’d like to reverse that question. How many Yeshiva educated children go off the derech? Last I heard, numbers are astronomical.

Abbi said...

"Jewish Education at the end of the day. Somehow I get an impression that you think once school is over, Jewish education is over too. That is not so, not even close. We continuously learn through out our lives."

You're talking about Jewish education through living Jewishly (Happy Shabbos meals, visiting the sick, Chanuaka parties). This has absolutely nothing to do with sitting at a desk and learning Shmuel Aleph, doing homework on it and getting tested and graded. Unless you have actually gone into a classroom and tried to do this with the average 6th grader at 4:30 pm after a full day of public school, I suggest you rethink expounding on the topic.

Sorry, as for "gambling with secular studies", there's just no comparison. I don't know how crazy frummie yeshivas do it, but most mo schools get the balance right. And they certainly don't disrespect secular studies; actually, for the most part, they encourage students to shoot for ivy league.

Once you make Jewish studies anything but a central part of the school experience, you are gambling with your children's frumkeit.

mlevin said...

Abbi - Haven't you heard of shiurim. Yep, there are no tests with those, but people still go on regular basis. We have our pick of shiurim and we go a few times per week. These things are conducted with adults in mind and no glazing certain subjects over. Also, there available shiurim over the phone, on line and for your ipod. Who said that the best Jewish education is done before 18 in a formal school setting?

Abbi said...

"Haven't you heard of shiurim. Yep, there are no tests with those, but people still go on regular basis."

Yes, many adults enjoy going to shiurim and voluntarily expanding their knowledge. 7-15 year olds? notsomuch.

Mlevin, Can you get your demographics straight? If you want to talk about adult Jewish education, bvakasha. If you want to talk about elementary- high school Jewish education, please stick to reality and the subject.

The majority of MO parents want to their children to have a strong grounding in Jewish and religious studies. If this is something that is beyond your personal financial reach or is not a priority for you, your certainly welcome to your opinions. But to suggest that Jewish adult education is l'chatchila an answer to the tuition crisis is beyond absurd.

ora said...

IMO you're quoting me the exception, not the rule. Yes, there are some students in religious schools who decide to be secular (although even in the worst schools I've seen, it's far from an "astronomical" number, which to me implies majority. The worst school I know of had a drop-out rate of somewhere between 20 and 30 percent, but that was a school for kids who already weren't so serious about religion, generally speaking). And yes, there are children who attend public schools and come out religious. But the fact that you know a yeshiva girl who sleeps around or a ps student who keeps Shabbat and even dresses modestly does not mean that most students are not far more likely to choose a Jewish, Torah-observant life if they attend Jewish schools and learn Torah.

mlevin said...

Ok, here’s the summary.

If you have money, all the luck, send your children to yeshiva, you have no problems.

If you do not have money or if sending your children to yeshiva will significantly impact your life, then you could opt out of the traditional go-into-debt way and send your children to PS and provide them with Jewish education after school and on weekends. Yes, upon graduation, your children will not know as many Rashi pshats as yeshiva graduates, but that is not as important as many seem to think. First it does not mean that having learned extra Rashi one is a better Jew. Second one can always learn extra Rashi after graduation. Third, knowing that extra Rashi does not prevent one from going off the derech.

PS are not as bad as frum establishment paints them to be. I listed several excellent schools available to children in Brooklyn. I am sure there are similar choices for other areas in the country, after all PS are comprised of children in the area. If more frum children from good families attended, then the whole student body of that school would improve.

Let’s say you have 5 children. You send them all to public elementary school. Think of all the tuition savings right then and there. Only two were able to get to a good program in Junior high school in PS. You send the remaining 3 to yeshiva, but you are saving tuition for these 2 right? Now, only one of your remaining PS children was able to get into a good high school program. You send the other one to yeshiva, but you are still saving money on one tuition. Do the math. Savings are significant.

Side note: not all Yeshivas are great, but we are not running around like headless chicken condemning all Yeshivas.

Abbi said...

mlevin- you're just not getting the cultural/sociological/psychological aspects at all, so i'm really not sure the point of continuing this conversation.

It doesn't seem that you grasp the extreme difficulty children would have switching from one culture to another, especially in the middle of their schooling (re: your idea of switching them into a yeshiva junior high/high school- how would they catch up on everything they missed in Jewish studies? You don't address that).

You also don't seem to grasp how big of an impact school/peer culture has on children's religious/spiritual development. It's not a matter of one more or less Rashi- it's a matter of who they can play with on Shabbos afternoons, will their friend's birthday party be kosher (or even not on Shabbos). For most Orthodox parents, this is a pretty unthinkable situation.

You can do all the math you want, but if you want your kids to be Orthodox, even Modern Orthodox public school will make it very difficult for them to really absorb Orthodox religious culture as it stands today.

If you really want to save money and keep your kids in a religious environment, then homeschooling is the way to go. Short of that, then yes, it looks like a lifetime of debt, unless you're willing to make aliyah. I have a number of family members who have done just that and tuition was a big factor in the decision.

JS said...

It's disconcerting that the only solutions put on the table as an alternative to my PS idea are:
1) Status Quo and go into debt
2) Make aliyah

I agree with mlevin that learning one less rashi doesn't make one less frum (yes, I know this is a broad oversimplification, but you know what I mean). I think a real program could be worked out combining PS and a new type of Hebrew school - I just don't think anyone is remotely interested, mostly due to propaganda about how can only be frum in the confines of our shtetle yeshivas.

I don't think people appreciate that there are good public schools available and that accomodations could be made to make them more amenable to frum students IF frum students actually attended and their parents got involved with the PTA and school board.

I guess the main difference is I see the challenges presented by PS to be workable and the problems solvable whereas others don't think it's worthwhile to even try.

I will say this though. Say you have 4 children. Yeshiva costs will be about $50,000-$60,000 if you paid full price. Can you honestly tell me you couldn't give your children a better Jewish education for half that amount by sending them to PS and hiring a private tutor? Not good enough? Couldn't you take $40,000 say and "steal" the best rabbi/teacher at the local yeshiva and have him be the private tutor? You'd still save money and your kids would learn a ton more.

frumskeptic said...


"It's not a matter of one more or less Rashi- it's a matter of who they can play with on Shabbos afternoons, will their friend's birthday party be kosher (or even not on Shabbos). For most Orthodox parents, this is a pretty unthinkable situation. "

Seriously now people, It's not like your kids wont be going to shul! And if you dont send your kids to shul, than its your fault when it comes to bad parenting, not anyone elses. To rely on a school for middos/friendships and everything else social, you are literally damaging your kids, not the PS system, or any other system. Just like kids who have allergies learn to not eat the peanuts, or the kids with diabetes know not to take the candy, same way your kids will know not to eat trief. If you're worried they wont know, then theres something wrong with your parenting. Another thing, I know for a fact, because I went to public school in a Jewish neighborhood, that the school tended to provide kosher food for the kids. ON pesach (or spring break), I used to be stuck in the corner of my friends birthday parties eating tuna and potato chips, while my friends ate pizza all around me. Guess what, I survived, and it was good for character building! Also, about peer pressure, please, there is no community that pressures children more than the frum one. Come on, if Gd forbid your kid goes to the wrong camp they can't ever get married, or so they are told! What could public school do thats worse, if you guys admit there's nothing to fear when it comes to drugs and alcohol and sex?

"but if you want your kids to be Orthodox, even Modern Orthodox public school will make it very difficult for them to really absorb Orthodox religious culture as it stands today."

What culture? There's nothing unique to being orthodox. The way we dress and what we eat, are all bits and pieces of everything we picked up on throughout the years? Whats Jewish? Absolutely nothing but the way we act and kill our food. So what, your kid will wear a denim skirt? Say mazel tov, atleast she isn't wearing a suffocating 1/2 wool skirt and thick oxford blouse in the middle of the summer.

hahaha..."Orthodox religious culture"...hahaha...thats a good one!

Abbi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
frumskeptic said...

actually Abbi, you are very wrong. I was always traditional, became frum and then went to a Jewish HS (because the Rabbi felt that since I am only BECOMING frum, it would be better for me to not remain in public school). I happen to really love Torah, Judaism, Yiddishkeit, and its the frum PEOPLE that make me "skeptical." It's the ridiculous generalizations and judgmental attitudes of the frum people that make me question everything frum, after all it really IS the people that make a religion, especially if we are so "minhag" driven. Oh...and skepticism is actually something that should be encouraged, as opposed to the blind following that I also noticed amongst alot of the frummy kids when I joined the private school system.

Abbi said...

Frumskeptic, your name pretty much says it all. Your public schooling experience might have been "character building" but it doesn't seem to have given you any type of strong or lasting connection to yiddishkeit or the frum community, which is what most Orthodox parents want.

You can laugh cynically all you want, but most parents don't want kids that turn out like you.

Hence, their refusal to even consider ps.

JS- many parents might consider it, if there was some type of daily yeshiva experience that could be worked out for the afternoons, but starting in the early afternoons (like after lunch). Otherwise, you're just ignoring the reality that most children have great difficult learning anything at 4:30 in the afternoon.

frumskeptic said...

abbi: read the post above. I replied to you before you revised your comment.

frumskeptic said...

Abbi: child psychology? By 14/15 , 150 years ago, these "kids" were already married. Oh...thats also around the age I became frum (well, actually at 13), while IN the public school system. So explain myself and my many friends who were also in PS's when they chose to accept a frum lifestyle. Are we just exceptions?

Abbi said...

frumskeptic- you can bring in all kinds of exceptions, bt examples and facts from 150 years ago- none of which really have any bearing on the average ffb kid growing up today in a yeshivish or mo community.

I'm sure NCSY is responsible for 100's if not thousands of ps kids becoming frum- so what? What does that have to do with parents who want a Torah environment for their children's primary and secondary schooling? Bdieved, i'm sure many kids would come out of ps with some kind of Orthodox identity. Would it compare to growing up in a completely Jewish school? Not even close.

Unlike you, most ortho parents LIKE their communities and want to aculturate their children into the community from as early an age as possible, hard as it may be for you to believe.

I'm sure you enjoy your smug outsider status, however you rationalize it- again, since most ortho parents aren't interested in that status for themselves or their children, your comments really don't suggest any real solution to the tuition problem.

mlevin said...

Abbi – you are missing a point. Even you admitted “i'm sure many kids would come out of ps with some kind of Orthodox identity”. If parents want their children in Yeshivas full time they should work and accumulate enough money to pay for Yeshivas, else their children should be schooled otherwise. You advocate shifting a burden of raising children from parents to community. Well, life does not work that way. Yes, community has some responsibility, but the grunt of it should be parents’.

“Unlike you, most ortho parents LIKE their communities and want to aculturate their children into the community from as early an age as possible, hard as it may be for you to believe.”

Then they should pay for it, not ask for handouts and moan about unfair overpricing. If they can’t handle the expense, then they should educate their children in a different meathod.

“I'm sure NCSY is responsible for 100's if not thousands of ps kids becoming frum- so what? What does that have to do with parents who want a Torah environment for their children's primary and secondary schooling?”

“I'm sure you enjoy your smug outsider status, however you rationalize it- again, since most ortho parents aren't interested in that status for themselves or their children, your comments really don't suggest any real solution to the tuition problem.”

Doesn’t children becoming frum in PS prove that PS is not some sort of evil establishment? And consequently it does provide a solution.

frumskeptic said...

Abbi: I don't particularly LIKE my "smug outsider status." It was the status given to me by a bunch of pompous "holier-than-thou" Jews who think that nothing good can come of Public Schools. However, those are the same Jews that happen to be biting themselves in their backside, because they're finding themselves in a financial "crisis". They are also ignoring all rational solutions given to them. SO for this particular situation, YES , I am enjoying the "smug outsider status" because while you guys slowly starve to death, I get to laugh at you guys while Rabbi's try and convince us that giving more than 20% in mayser is not against halacha, like we thought for the past 3000 years. Yay, lets find loopholes in halacha because "economics" was deemed a secular subject.

Abbi said...

Um, frumskeptic- I live in Israel and plan on sending my kids to an excellent local half public/half private day school that will cost me a whopping NIS 6000 shekel PER YEAR (about $1200 ?). That's about one month's property tax in the US, probably less. So, sorry to disappoint, I won't be starving to death any time soon. (I could send my daughter to the local Orthodox public school, which would be completely free and is also very good, but I'm looking for something with a bit more Torah studies)

Also, since I'm MO, I don't have any rabbeim running my life.

You sound like one of those bitter types who always blame everyone else for their problems ( you might want to make a decision about whether you actually do or don't like your outsider status). Good luck with that.

Abbi said...

Mlevin- this will be my last response, since I think I've stated my position very clearly many times.

If you look over all the posts I've made on this topic, I've never used the word "evil" in reference to ps. If I have please point it out. Please don't put words in my mouth.

Children becoming frum in ps proves that NCSY and other kiruv orgs can be very successful at targeting and involving ps students in Orthodox Jewish life. It doesn't prove anything about the ability of ps to nurture and develop a strong Orthodox Jewish identity, which again, most Ortho parents are looking for and which every Jewish child deserves.

As for the community not being responsible for the education of its children, I strongly disagree. If the cost of a day school/yeshiva education is so prohibitive that parents making a double middle class income can't afford to pay the full cost of sending their children, than it's the community's responsibility to come up with a solution, just like the community needs to find a solution for poor people, battered women, families in crisis and other vulnerable members.

mlevin said...

Abbi – I think that you have missed sarcasm in Frumskeptic’s post. She used sarcasm, because you had insulted her by calling her an outsider and dismissed her suggestion as irrelevant simply because she is a BT.

“Children becoming frum in ps proves that NCSY and other kiruv orgs can be very successful at targeting and involving ps students in Orthodox Jewish life. It doesn't prove anything about the ability of ps to nurture and develop a strong Orthodox Jewish identity, which again, most Ortho parents are looking for and which every Jewish child deserves.”

So, if a simple outside organization can make someone in PS frum, how would PS prevent parents from doing the same thing to their children who are ffb? How could PS take away Orthodox Jewish Identity from a child if he is growing up with it at home? Sending your child to yeshivah is nice and dandy, but no matter how you slice it yeshiva is a private school. Private schools need a source of income. If you are too poor to send your children to pricate schools, then you either home school or send them to public school. Demanding that others pay for your children is wrong. It is doubly wrong that those who are doing the demanding are poor and they are poor by choice.

Community responsibility as far as education is concerned stops once these children know how to read, write, do arithmatics, keep kosher, shabbos, taharas hamispacha and how to daven. The first 3 are provided by PS. The last four could be gotten at Hebrew school. The rest of the Jewish education is upto the parents. Yes, it’s nice to send your children to Yeshivah. It is also nice if I had a big house on the private beach with 4 kitchens (milchik, flaishich, pareve and pesach), pool, tennis court, ice skating rink, library, exersize room, bowling lane, fruit garden and a cleaning crew. Should I demand that everyone collect money to provide for my dream house.

JS said...

abbi, ora,

What I'm confused about is what you mean when you express concern or that children you know who went to public school are less frum or that the level of frumkeit isn't the same.

Does this mean they married, gd forbid, a non-Jew?

Does this mean they don't keep Shabbat and/or Kashrut and/or taharat mishpacha?

Does this mean they are not raising their children to be observant?

Does this mean they don't cover their hair and/or wear pants?

Does this mean they don't attend minyan regularly or at all?

Does this mean they have little interest in shiurim or other learning opportunities?

I'd like to know exactly what we're talking about when we say someone isn't frum or as frum.

Also, mlevin, I'll add it's not necessarily an issue of whether someone CAN afford to pay full tuition (even without taking on debt) it's an issue of whether they should be willing to pay that much money to begin with - or whether they should be willing to completely change their lifestyle to do so. I don't mean they can't take that cruise and buy that new luxury car every year, I mean they have to put off savings for themselves (retirement, safety net) and/or their children (bar/bat mitzvahs, weddings, college).

anonymous mom said...

Is the marriage worth saving, or should you stay with one foot in the marriage and the other in someone else's bed? Many can juggle this decision and run the length of their marriages this way. Great leaders have been known to do this. But a marriage is a partnership and a holy and beautiful entity and we all know that it is difficult when the marriage is troubled to find the solution from within, but it is the fitting choice. One foot in, one foot out is a half-marriage, half-commitment. And, frumskeptic, without an angry tone, you owe it to your Judaism to explore all its roads. Chareidi Judaism is one road. Many times people who become frum continue to the right and don't necessarily belong there. There is a comforting, peaceful, loving place within Orthodoxy that won't make you so bitter. Give MO a true chance. But to the PS advocates, it's not about whether the other woman/man is kind and discreet and loving. Or about how much time you are going to be spending with the other woman/man--just part time, you say. It's that the support and solutions should come from within the actual commitment that you made in the marriage. And we are all responsible to exhaust every strategy within that marriage to make it work. If we are truly committed to it. And to immerse ourselves within our beautiful Orthodox Jewish culture. I have hope for Jewish Education--full time Jewish Education--for my kids and yours. I think it's worth the fight.

ora said...

PS kids who become frum through NCSY are the EXCEPTION (sorry to "yell," but I want to make sure my point is clear this time, since it seems to have gotten lost in previous posts). NCSY does not manage to "make" most kids frum. The question is not "can a PS student become/remain frum?" or "do all Jewish school kids stay frum?" The answer to the first is obviously yes, and the answer to the second is obviously no. Not a single person in this thread has claimed otherwise. However, we are worried about PS because the general RULE is that kids in ps have trouble staying frum. If you put 100 kids from frum families in frum schools and 100 similar kids in public schools (for the sake of this comparison we'll use the average school, not the best that brooklyn has to offer or the worst drug and gang violence filled inner city school around), far more of the first 100 will stay frum than the second 100.

No individual--teacher, rabbi, parent, or even the child themselves--can know for sure which way one particular child will go. Many, many parents who believe that their child is strong enough to stay frum through public school have been mistaken. The fact that some were not mistaken does not change the general rule.

Unfortunately I don't have a very large sample to work with, because most frum kids don't go to public school. Almost all Jewish kids I knew from public school ended up at least one step below their parents in observance, whatever that meant. If the parents were frum, the kids wore pants (for girls), got involved in physical relationships in high school, and avoided shul except for kiddush. (A few of the children of frum parents I know who went to PS ended up almost completely irreligious--dating non-Jews, not keeping Shabbat or Kashrut, etc. However ,in those cases there were usually other factors involved.) If the parents kept kosher in the home and drove to shul on Shabbat, the kids dated non-Jews. If the parents were intermarried but raised the kids as Jews, the kids saw no reason to be Jewish. Etc. Yes, I know some exceptions (I happen to be one myself), but that was the general rule.

BTW, what I'm saying here is what I saw in these kids as they were graduating high school. In secular university I saw that most kids took another step or two away from observance, while in Israel I saw that many kids came closer to observance even if their high schools were not Jewish. Most of the families who sent their kids to public school did not send them to Israel, so for the most part the trend was for kids to continue away from observance.

frumskeptic said...

"However, we are worried about PS because the general RULE is that kids in ps have trouble staying frum."

I don't know how you can make a "rule" of it. When was the last time you heard of a FFB kid in a PS for you to decide that somehow that is a "general rule"?

frumskeptic said...

Anonymous mom:
"And, frumskeptic, without an angry tone, you owe it to your Judaism to explore all its roads. Chareidi Judaism is one road. Many times people who become frum continue to the right and don't necessarily belong there. There is a comforting, peaceful, loving place within Orthodoxy that won't make you so bitter"

I "explore" I learn, and I am modern orthodox. I am not usually bitter, but when people declare that they will completly ignore what I say because of some "smug outsider" status, that they ASSUME I have, is a bit ridiculous, so I get sarcastic. Its kinda fun.

Just a summary of what I learned from commenting on this post: the people that declare that PS is "not a good idea" make assumptions. Thats right, lets listen to people's decisions based on them trying to rationalize their sentiment. Since when do Jews prech Humean ethics?

frumskeptic said...


"Um, frumskeptic- I live in Israel and plan on sending my kids to an excellent local half public/half private day school that will cost me a whopping NIS 6000 shekel PER YEAR (about $1200 ?). That's about one month's property tax in the US, probably less. "

And I'M the smug outsider? How can someone in Israel, who cannot possibly know firsthand the situation in American Public Schools, possibly be arguing against them? For all you know there already IS a MO orthodox community that regularly send their kids to PS. or perhaps there isn't. Would YOU know?
Also, like Mlevin said, I was sarcastic.

ora said...

If you read the entire thread, you will see that I refer to families I know that sent their FFB kids to public school. As I've said, there is not a large enough population of FFBs in public school to get a truly significant set of statistics, but what I've seen is troubling.

People aren't ignoring your story because of your "outsider" status, they're ignoring it because it's irrelevant. Thousands of public schools students from secular families have become religious--that doesn't say much about whether or not public school is a good idea for the average FFB child. Most of those former ps students then turned around and sent their own kids to religious schools. I also became religious after attending public school for most of my life--so what? I know at least three people who became frum after joining Jews for Jesus (l'havdil)--I'm still not going to send my kids there.

As for Abbi living in Israel, what does that have to do with her knowledge of American schools? If she's from America, presumably she knows the system. I'm also an Israeli from America. IMO I know more about US public schools than most on this board, having gone to one not so long ago.