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Sunday, January 06, 2008

Price Setting and the Shabbos Robe

Hat Tip: The Muquata and Lion of Zion

The JPost has an interesting article up about a Shabbos Robe cartel. According to the article, "growing concern over the survival of this niche market led a group of retailers and manufacturers this summer to form the Loungewear and Hostess Gown Council, which synchronized sale dates and markup prices. Sales are scheduled to be held on January 1 and on July 4, 2008, and the markup price for shabbos robes increased from 50 percent to 65% above wholesale."

Women who have waited for a "bargain" in the past are out in the cold this year and store owners, either unintimidated or completely ignorant of US Antitrust Laws, have even posted notices pertaining to this arrangement on their store doors. Amazing! (In addition, I find it hard to believe this is an industry in danger of survival, as it claims. Nor can I believe that markup was only 50% because that just doesn't seem like a sound investment in inventory for a proprietor. Sorry, just not buying it).

While I don't have a great personal interest in the price of Shabbos Robes (I like wearing them, but I can take it or leave it and at $150-$250 I'm sooner to leave it. . . . . fortunately there are less "exlusive" robes to be had), I do care a great deal about price fixing.

And, I'd like to know other ways (if any) that competition in the frum market is being intentionally thwarted?

77 comments:

anonymous mom said...

Fish, for one. It happened before Sukkos. Also, before any Yom Tov, all the suppliers get together and hike up the prices on meats, chicken, fish, other staples. It's disgusting and I think Hakodosh Baruch Hu has a special punishment set aside just for these frum people who price gouge (spellcheck?) right before a Yom Tov.

ALG said...

I never knew that Shabbos robes were made especially for that purpose, or that they were so expensive! I just thought they were fancy bathrobes, and never really understood how anyone got away with wearing them to the table. Maybe I just don't know what they are? In any case, the whole thing sounds ridiculous/crazy to me.

anonymous mom said...

You have no idea how serious certain segments of our population take this. There are mini versions of these ornate, over the top/evening gown type robes made especially for young girls. Even toddlers have special mini-Shabbos robes. These cost about 80 bucks. This is an insane niche. There are nursing mother Shabbos robes for the post natal hospital stay or just at-home post natal use. There is the special "Kallah" Shabbos robe--that's even more fancy than the normal Shabbos robe. There is also the ridiculous concept of the "Yom Tov Shabbos Robe" which is one step above the normal Shabbos robe. This would be the kind of thing one would wear in the lobby of one of those opulent Pesach hotels. Never mind that no one in the free world walks around in a robe in the lobby of a hotel. Oy. Whatever. It's late.

Anonymous said...

First, I don't think it is price gouging to up the price of fish, chicken, etc before Yom Tov. We all expect the stores to have plenty of certain items, and act outraged when they don't have those items (like Matza before pesach). Yes, I've heard indignant women act like the Third Reich is back when the store is out of gefilte fish. They have to stock more than what they'll need, and jack up the price to cover their expenses plus profit. Also, I sometimes buy large amounts of chicken to freeze. I don't do this when the prices are jacked up, which is good, because it ensures everybody can buy food for Yom Tov. Increasing prices before high demand ensures there's enough supply for all who want, and nobody "stocking up" when the demand is high. It's like increasing the price of commodities during a natural disaster to prevent shortage of supply.

That being said, most of these frum stores are total ripoffs, and I say that as I lived in Monsey. Needed a tablecloth... went to the "tablecloth store", and was told the cheapest one was $250!!! It was nothing more than a white shmata... the nice ones were more! The woman acted like I was some idiot country bumpkin for questioning her price, and kept saying, "But it's for Shaaaaaabos!!!!". Needless to say, I bought one twice as nice, and twice as big, for about $30 at Bed Bath and Beyond. Ditto for shoes for the kids. Payless Shoes or Walmart, not "Fine european shoes". You'll go broke unless you're paying in Dovid's Dollars or Kinder Kash...

Rachel said...

Kosher for Pesach; most chicken and cheese are kosher for pesach all year round. The factories don't clean or do any preparation except to increase production. Why the price increase for a sticker that seys "extra kosher for Pesach"?
I agree with Anon 12:14am. When I lived in the states I used to avoid the jewish stores like the plague unless it's something that I could only find in one of them and not online. A skirt in boro park was >80 for something that you could find in TJMaxx for 25, and they weren't even good quality.
Now that I live in Israel I can't simply avoid jewish stores!! However I found that if you know when to look for things in secular stores you can find them a lot cheaper than in bnei brak or yerushalaim.

Anonymous said...

esrogim anyone?

Zach Kessin said...

Opps, any chance that the law enforcement types won't notice now that it has been in the newspaper and notices posted on the doors of the stores. I would think that this would be an open and shut case.

If I was running one of these stores I would want to talk to my lawyer ASAP.

Tamiri said...

From what I remember a "real" Shabbos robe is made of royal velvet, the same kind they used at the Queen's coronation, on her ermine-edged cape (now, there's a thought: ermine edging for a Shabbos robe. As long as you don't have to feed it...). It's lined with 100% silk mined from only MENSA-approved silkworms. Intricate (pure) gold-thread designs decorate the front of the robe, wherever it's not dripping with Swarovsky crystals and semi-precious stones. The zipper is titanium-reinforced platinu, with a patented "satin-zip" mechanism. Comes with pockets, or without and at $300 it's a BARGAIN, dahlink! A true Shabbos robe put's Cinderella's gown to shame. DRY CLEAN ONLY!!!!

Larry Lennhoff said...

Unfair weights and measures used by a business is called by the Torah a 'toevah'. Care to guess whether the frum community will inflict on these people the social opprobrium inflicted on those who perform the other 'toevah' act?

JS said...

Does anyone have any information on why kosher meats and cheeses are so expensive? In terms of meat, don't they sell any slaughtered animal that doesn't meet glatt standards to non-kosher companies?

I've heard, but have no idea if it's true, that prices are intentionally held high on meats and cheeses to provide income to those involved in those industries (and the kashrut supervisors as well) and that if real market forces prevailed the costs would be much lower. I've heard this in particular for cheeses that there is a cartel to only allow a select few companies make and sell kosher cheese to allow Jewish/frum businesses to thrive.

Anyone have information on this?

mother in israel said...

How much for Shatnez testing?

Larry Lennhoff said...

I've heard this in particular for cheeses that there is a cartel to only allow a select few companies make and sell kosher cheese to allow Jewish/frum businesses to thrive.

I don't believe this to be true. The problem is that American Orthodoxy has accepted (via a teshuvah of Rav Moshe Feinstein zt'l) the stringent opinion of the Shach, which requires extensive supervision of cheesemaking along with requiring a shomer shabbat Jew to add the rennet (even bacterial or vegetarian rennet) to the mixture. This drives the cost of kosher supervision to the point where it doesn't make economic sense for most gentile cheese companies.

I have heard that the tablet K does not follow the stringent opinion of the Shach, which is why they provide hecksherim for many gentile cheeses including Cabot. The "OU" cabot cheese that has had a single production run annually for the past few years is identical to the standard run except that the equipment is kashered and a mashgiach places the rennet and supervises the rest of the process.

A good two part summary of this issue can be found at .

JS said...

larry,

Very interesting. But I wonder, how much does it really cost for a gentile company to go kosher? You have a one-time cost of kashering and then the rennet-adding position is turned over to a Jew. What else is required? It would seem this wouldn't be a huge barrier to entry into the market.

Larry Lennhoff said...

But I wonder, how much does it really cost for a gentile company to go kosher? You have a one-time cost of kashering and then the rennet-adding position is turned over to a Jew. What else is required?

I'm not a posek or have any actual experience in the kashrut industry. That said, I believe that according to the stringent opinion of the Shach the cheese making plant would need a higher level of supervision than a dairy - possibly to the level of a mashgiach temidi, certainly to the same level as cholov yisrael milk.

The reason all kosher cheese is not cholov yisrael is simply that the diary may choose to start with cholov stam milk - the remainder of the process is to cholov yisrael standards.

Thus, just as no diary finds it worthwhile to produce cholov yisrael milk for the general market, nobody finds it worthwhile to produce kosher cheese for the general market either.

Larry Lennhoff said...

This is gone into in more detail in part two of the essay I mentioned.

Anonymous said...

The Knish: Shabbos Robes Declared Shatnez; Men Rejoice

Ahavah said...

It's interesting to read these comments. There's a bizarre claustrophobia of circumstances goin on - the shop owners jack up the prices to ridiculous levels, the potential customers go elsewhere, and then the whole community complains that poverty and unemployment is rampant in cheredi communities. The shop owners are, absolutely, out of line with their prices on things, even shabbat robes - but you can't have it both ways. You can't refuse to patronize Jewish shops and then complain about the horrid amount of welfare and charity needed in the Jewish community. This is a self-perpetuating loop - and it should be easy to break, with a bit of compromise on both sides.

Think about this - the reason stuff made in china and india is cheaper than American/Israeli made goods is because they engage in practices that are ILLEGAL in this country: they use child labor, pay people 26cents an hour, make them work 18 hours a day locked in the factory, expose them to toxic chemicals - and offer them no sick leave and no shabbat - they work 7 days a week or they're replaced. We in America and Europe have decided, and rightly so, that it is a violation of worker's human rights to be treated like this, not to mention a violation of their dignity, etc. We have made these things illegal for good reasons - but when you buy the stuff made in third world backwaters that have no such protections, you have made a choice to subsidize de-facto slavery.

Of course American, European, and Israeli products are going to be more expensive - but we need to consider whether we want our money to stay in and benefit our own communities, or benefit some fat cat robber baron taking advantage of the poor of other countries? We don't need so much "stuff." But we do need to be more conscientious about the "stuff" we do buy.

anonymous mom said...

Ahavah, the mark ups in Heimish-run businesses are unconscionable. That's the key. Where I live, we are constantly being harangued to buy Heimish, but we are being overcharged left and right for basic items. This goes from fish and meat to luxury items like robes, tablecloths, jewelry. I recently purchased a bracelet for my mother in a heimishe store. I didn't want to do it because I knew I was overpaying, but I did it to support the store. I could not believe how much more they were charging for the same items that one would find in a department store jewelry department for much less. The chicken here costs at the minimum 1.75 a pound. I grew up in New York City where chicken is at least 50 cents less a pound. We are all of 30 miles north or less. What is the excuse? The Chasidishe Shechitas which are way easier to find in the stores are charging 2.20 to 2.40 a pound. Empire is somewhere in between. My suggestion is to get a published Kosher Consumer Magazine and companion blog to come out regularly comparing prices on all items in different Jewish communities. Store names should be mentioned. We need to open all of this up. It's dirty business. Many clothing stores don't even put prices on their merchandise. We all know what that means and we all know that it is Neged Halacha. We do need to publicize, publicize, publicize.

Ahavah said...

You're right! As I said, they're going to have to compromise on the markups and bring prices down to a more reasonable level. But even that level is still going to be a bit higher than imported stuff. But eing vocal and publicizing couldn't hurt, obviously, since things are so bad already. Both sides are going to have to give - consumers a little, shop owners more. Healthy competition that doesn't involve collusion is a step in the right direction - and publicity would help that. I would say: it doesn't hurt to try.

JS said...

By me (and I live in the NYC area) Empire chicken breast is about $5.50-$6.00 a pound, Aaron's chicken breast is $5.00-$5.50 a pound. Sometimes you can find a large family pack to freeze that's $4.50 a pound.

Ground beef is around $6.00-$6.50 a pound. Pepper steak or cubed beef runs around $7.50.

If it wasn't such a pain, I could go to Brooklyn and probably find it at half the cost.

Then again, at least I don't live in Manhattan proper, the prices in the city make the prices I pay seem downright affordable.

Lion of Zion said...

JS:

"If it wasn't such a pain, I could go to Brooklyn and probably find it at half the cost."

that's one thing i like about living in flatbush. every one of my friends has fled to the suburbs and they all complain about the prices and lack of selection of meat

ANON MOM

"I didn't want to do it because I knew I was overpaying, but I did it to support the store."

i'm sorry, but there is a fine line between throwing someone some business and being taken advantage of. there is no mitzvah to be a sucker.

maybe if these people charged more reasonable prices they would get more business.

AHAVA:

"You can't refuse to patronize Jewish shops and then complain about the horrid amount of welfare and charity needed in the Jewish community."

huh?

there are other ways to make an honest living besides owning a store.

also please see what i just wrote to anon mom.

Lion of Zion said...

as an aside, how come you shabbos robers get to wear glorified bathrobes/nightgowns, but if wear my dress shorts i am stoned?

anonymous mom said...

Lion,
Just so you know, I totally felt like a sucker. It's not my usual MO. It won't happen again. It was raining. It was Erev Shabbos Chanukah. I think I was lazy too.

Regarding the Kosher Consumer info. Could someone do it please? We could all post prices from our communities sort of like Wikipedia. And there could be someone checking in from time to time for accuracy. Actually, the Klal would probably bring up any inaccuracies in pricing reported.

Maybe it could be a sidebar on a blog like this one. We could do it by category like the online stores do.

ora said...

I agree with Ahava on supporting local businesses. Of course they shouldn't be charging absurd prices, but as she said, the price will be higher.

My friends used to live in a small community (here in Israel) with an olive press. The olive oil they make costs 40-42 shekels a bottle, while you can find other bottles that only cost 32 (this is at the same store). There is no way they can cut costs without hiring foreign labor for below minimum wage like kibbutzim and other farmers do. It's not only about the store, it's about the entire production process. Goods made by American/Israeli citizens will be more expensive.

Of course buyers shouldn't be naive, and should make sure they are paying more for goods produced without foreign labor, and not paying more for the exact same thing produced in the same Vietnamese sweatshop (although even if it is the exact same thing, a "mom and pop" store will always need to charge a bit more than Target).

Lion of Zion--
This isn't just about the storeowners, it's about seamstresses, woodworkers, artists, and everyone else who produces goods more expensive than those in big department stores. Also, if you buy a good made by local artists and sold in a local store, you aren't only helping the artists + storeowner (and doing the mitzva of supporting a fellow Jew), you're helping yourself, because if those people can't make a parnassa you'll end up paying for it in tzedaka money or tax dollars, and everyone will lose.

SephardiLady said...

Anonymous Mom-I think your idea is fantastic. Let's take our conversation off line (email me at orthonomics at gmail dot com) and let's figure out how to start a blog or something else.

JS said...

Anon mom,

Fantastic idea, and I would certainly do anything I could to help such as post prices. But, I think this might face opposition as not allowing a Jew to make a living by forcing him to lower prices.

It's a strange world we live in because frumkeit doesn't operate by the principles of "free market" or "competition". Our faith guides us to support one another, it is almost a form of charity. Then again, many store owners, restaurants, artisans, etc take advantage of the average Jew's desire to help a fellow a Jew.

I'd say the most well-known example is the exorbitant prices tourists encounter on ben yehuda street or in tzfat - lots of stores selling mostly the same goods in which the price is based on how much of a sucker you are. I was just in Israel this past summer and even after negotiating down I found afterwards the price I paid was at parity with what online stores sold these goods for. But, I wanted to help these store owners out, so I don't feel too bad about it.

What makes me most upset is the attitude of "you owe us" or "where else are you going to go?" that many restaurants and stores have. That it is essentially my duty as a Jew to not only patronize them, but to pay higher prices for worse service.

The ShopRite near me sells kosher meat and has a deli counter but it's strongly encouraged to use the local kosher market. Many items here are more expensive (though some are admittedly cheaper). Furthermore, they understaff the deli counter so on ever Shabbos you must wait at least 20-30 minutes to have your order filled. And to make matters even worse, the local vaad won't allow new stores or restaurants lest the current Jewish owners suffer.

mother in israel said...

JS--
The prices in Safed or on Ben-Yehuda have nothing to do with frumkeit or "owing" anyone. Go to any tourist spot in the world and you will find exorbitant prices.

But when we are talking about monopolies, the biggest ones are day schools. Because they know most of their customers will not consider other options.

Lion of Zion said...

ANON MOM:

"Regarding the Kosher Consumer info . . ."

that's a great idea

ORA:

"Goods made by American/Israeli citizens will be more expensive."

which is why you should not bemoan the loss of local manufacturing. let the third world have manufacturing. americans and israelis should concentrate and foster brain intensive industries that are far more lucrative.

in any case, Made in America/Ovadah Ivrit is a thing of the past.

"you're helping yourself, because if those people can't make a parnassa you'll end up paying for it in tzedaka money or tax dollars, and everyone will lose."

i really don't understand why the general public should be expected to support someone who refuses to abandon a bad business model or simply can't remain competitive in the long term.

you bring up your friend with the olive press. i've heard of these american olim who want to live like arabs in some sort of idealized mapuesque pastoral setting. that's all very nice and romantic, but they should not have made aliyah without a more sensible way of supporting themselves. (i'm not saying these are your friends; i'm just using this as an extreme example.)

note that in a modern economy there is natural unemployment, which is GOOD thing. economists don't worry about a 3% unemployment rate, for exameple, because it is understood that people will lose their jobs as economies shift and evolve. saying that someone who has been doing X for Y ammount of years should be able to continue doing so perpetually regardless of external factors is not what fosters a healthy and dymanic economy.

finally, you are concerned about local seamstresses, woodworkers, etc. (what do artists have to do with this?). well maybe if you weren't paying extra for that [fill in the blank] you could afford to spread your money aroud in different ways (go to the movies, for example). also, cheaper manufactured goods will mean that that fewer people who are employed will need public assistance.

Anonymous said...

"But when we are talking about monopolies, the biggest ones are day schools. Because they know most of their customers will not consider other options."

In no sense of the word are day schools monopolies. Not only is anyone theoretically free to organize with others to open up their own school, this happens constantly in communities across America. How many times have I head of a RW yeshiva opening up somewhere and draining away all of the students from a pre-existing institution. And Halachically this is not a problem of Masig Gevul because of Kinas sofrim tarbeh chachma. So in fact schools are the one Jewish institution where Jewish law coincides with American law in outlawing monopolies.

Halfnutcase said...

I've always wondered about the shabbos robes. Like someone said above, they're just glorified nightgowns (which is what I initialy thought they were...) and its like, sometimes I wonder about whether or not they're truly tznius. I wouldn't be caught dead in pajamas with nonfamily around, or even often with family around.

Its just like, strange.

mother in israel said...

I grew up "out of town," where the competition you speak of did not exist.

SephardiLady said...

Perhaps in NY there is no monopoly over schools, but where I live, all schools are within approximately $1000 of each other.

And even in NY, schools sharing a similiar "hashkafa" are within range.

Camps, which are "for profit" do vary significantly in cost. Schools do not in my experience.

ora said...

"which is why you should not bemoan the loss of local manufacturing. let the third world have manufacturing. americans and israelis should concentrate and foster brain intensive industries that are far more lucrative."

Israelis who are able to succeed in lucrative industries do so. But not everyone is capable of being a doctor/computer programmer/what have you. You will always have a lot of people whoseields like elder care, child care, agriculture, etc.

"in any case, Made in America/Ovadah Ivrit is a thing of the past."

In the secular community, perhaps. In the religious/nationalist community, not at all. Not only is it good to support Jewish families, the alternative is bringing in hundreds of thousands of Arabs/foreign workers, which causes a lot of problems.

"i really don't understand why the general public should be expected to support someone who refuses to abandon a bad business model or simply can't remain competitive in the long term."

If we're going to start giving all jobs to the lowest bidder, who will be able to remain competitive? You do realize that it's not only the jobs in manufactoring that go abroad, right? Companies can hire Indian engineers for one fourth of normal market price, or bring in foreign nurses (fortunately most countries still have laws against this--they'll let cleaning ladies and farmers be replaced, but the middle class and rich still have too much influence to be pushed aside).

Also, as ahava pointed out, the cheaper products are competitive due to unethical and sometimes illegal labor practices. Do you really want Jews to become "competitive" by running sweatshops full of 10-year-old Cambodian children who work 12 hours a day? And if not, how do you expect them to compete with the companies that do use child labor?

As for the American olim, that has absolutely nothing to do with my example, which involved a successful olive oil company run by Israelis. As I said, the company could only drop prices by paying an unfair wage, and I don't want to see that happen. That doens't mean the product is obscenely expensive or that people only buy it out of pity. It's a good product and it sells well.

As for saving money to use elsewhere in the community, possibly, but I would still be spending more of my money outside the community than I would by buying from an Israeli Jew. For example, if I hire a Jewish cleaning woman for an hour it would cost about 35 shekels. If I hire an illegal Philipina worker it would cost 25 shekels and I could also buy a slice of pizza for 10. In the first scenario 35 shekels go back into the Israeli economy, while in the second, about 20 shekels go into the Israeli economy and 15 go back to the Philipines whenever the worker does. Not that I object to strenghthening the economy in the Philipines, I just don't want to do it at the expense of my own country.

Lion of Zion said...

ORA:

"Also, as ahava pointed out, the cheaper products are competitive due to unethical and sometimes illegal labor practices. Do you really want Jews to become "competitive" by running sweatshops full of 10-year-old Cambodian children who work 12 hours a day?"

maybe we don't want sweatshops of 10-year-old jewish boys, but not one of us here really cares about that cambodian kid enough to do much more than give anonymous lip service on a blog. so let's not get bogged down here in sentiments.

"In the secular community, perhaps. In the religious/nationalist community, not at all. Not only is it good to support Jewish families, the alternative is bringing in hundreds of thousands of Arabs/foreign workers, which causes a lot of problems."

this is nonsense.

who do you think built your house? even the houses in kfar tapuah were built by arabs, and you don't get more nationalist than that.

almost all large-scale religious farmers (whether kibbutzim/moshavim or settlers) use foreign labor. they simply could not afford to exist otherwise. this labor used to be palestinian, now it is thai, etc. When i was in yeshivah in 92-93, gush katif famers stopped using palestinian labor, not because of avodah ivrit ideals, but rather because of terrorism. they started crying and begging for volunteers to come fill the spots until they could bring in other foreigners. hiring jews was never even considered.)

before the intafades, religious jews also flocked to kalkilya for cheaper auto mechanics, etc.

bottom line: the average dati/leumi wants to save a buck just as much as his hiloni counterpart

"For example, if I hire a Jewish cleaning woman for an hour it would cost about 35 shekels. If I hire an illegal Philipina worker it would cost 25 shekels and I could also buy a slice of pizza for 10. In the first scenario 35 shekels go back into the Israeli economy, while in the second, about 20 shekels go into the Israeli economy and 15 go back to the Philipines whenever the worker does."

i think your the missing point. let the illegal filipino send 15 sheks back home if this means that one more israeli is freed up to go work for motoralla and bring 80 shekel into the country.

i don't want to see unemployed israelis. i want to see better-employed israelis.

"that has absolutely nothing to do with my example, which involved a successful olive oil company run by Israelis."

does the oil really taste or burn that much better(don't comapare virgin vs. pumace) that it's worth the price differential? if not, then it can't be considered "successful" if it is relying on people buying it just to support avodah ivrit.

"But not everyone is capable of being a doctor/computer programmer/what have you."

don't sell your brethren short. most israelis who do avodah shehorah do so because of lack of educational opportunities and a social support system (some might even add in discrimination by one part of the population against another), not because they are incapable of doing anything better. the government should be investing in education so that future generations can be self sufficient, not in welfare programs that perpetuate an israeli underclass.


"the alternative is bringing in hundreds of thousands of Arabs/foreign workers, which causes a lot of problems."

true, but your alternative would cause long-term economic upheavals as israel would not longer be competitive in the global marketplace for what it could do best. i understand the social and idealistic underpinnings of your arguments, but i really don't think you are considering the long-term economic impact (which of course would affect the social issues you are so worried about). a national economy predicated on your principles would fast become stagnant and moribund. is this what you want?

Anonymous said...

"And even in NY, schools sharing a similiar "hashkafa" are within range."

Exactly! Schools that have a similar hashkafa roughly perform the same service, have the same labor pool, and have the same client base. Schools that differ is hashkafa deliver different types of services and have a different client base. The market i.e. available labor (supply) + how much the client base can afford (demand) determines the price. I would expect similar prices just as boxes of cereal in the supermarket have similar prices. A decent mashal would be prices of corn oil in the supermarket which are roughly the same no matter the brand, while all the olive oil is substantially higher.

The fact that schools of similar hashkafa are roughly the same does not prove there is a monopoly but rather the market is effectively setting the "correct" price. Now that price may be prohibitive for many families and so we may need to think about ideas of pooling resources or communal funding, etc. But right now this is the cost of educating our children in a private school environment.

If schools were not allowed to open up and "compete", that would be indeed be a symptom of monopolies. But again, time and again we see schools opening up and competing with more established institutions.

SephardiLady said...

Anon-I disagree that the price is right. In my own area there are comparable Catholic Schools that run the gamet in terms of cost. Some are double the price of others. Seems to me that competition is lacking in the Jewish world.

Anonymous said...

As a store owner of an expensive line of goods, I have to say that I know that I'm the only one in my community who sells the goods I sell. There are two other stores with similar sorts of goods but neither is actually real competition.

As a thrifty shopper, I'm horrified at the wholesale prices I have to pay for these necesarry items but like Ora and Ahava pointed out these are items produced in the United States. My Canadian products are only a bit cheaper because of the exchange rate. Another peice to factor in is spread of overhead. My wholesalers sell 100 of an item let's say versus 250 that a non-niche company sells. Shipping, production, general overhead divided by 100 is a higher than same amounts divided by 250.

I don't know if I've added anything to this conversation but I did want to chime in that there are a number of factors that play into price. I've dropped prices since buying my business (it's just unfair to charge more) but I can't drop them much lower because I'd have to go out of business. (I say this knowing that many consumers would buy more if prices were more reasonable.)

Anonymous said...

Catholic schools provide a different service, with a different labor pool, and a different client base. How much do you pay for a Rebbe vs. a nun lehavdil? How many hours of religious instruction are taught beyond the general studies curriculum in a Catholic school vs. a frum school. Will frum schools hire teachers who are gentiles or are they limiting themselves even in the general studies dept to frum Jews? What can the market (Catholics and some non-Catholics population vs. frum population) bear in terms of cost, etc. All of these could lead to cost differences and it is very difficult to analyze. I do know that if someone can provide the "same" service for cheaper by opening up another school (and make some money doing so) then somebody would probably have done so already or will do so. And the fact that schools open up all the time is merely a proof that it is possible to start a new school even where another institution already exists. Thus there are no school monopolies. It may be expensive. We may need to think outside of the box so everyone can afford a basic Jewish education. But the price is what the price is.

Abbi said...

I agree with anon- I don't think the hours and intensity of religious instruction in Jewish schools, not to mention extra curriculars like Chanuka/purim chaggigas, mishmar, etc) are anywhere near comparable to what is taught in Catholic schools.

Just think about the material itself only- catechism, maybe a bit of Bible (in English, not Greek or Hebrew) MAYBE Latin, but I doubt they teach that much anymore, maybe a bit of philosophy vs. Chumash (with Parshanut) Navi (with parshanut) Mishna/Gemara, Hebrew Language, Machshava, Jewish History (the last two for MO schools, obviously) Dinim, Chagim + mishmar, chessed, whatever else they might have after school.

+ Kosher food, if they're serving lunch.

I don't see the comparison at all. To be honest, I don't think there is any comparable religious community that you can find this type of intense religious study, which is probably why the diaspora Indian community looks at us with envy.

Tamiri said...

Re Catholic schools: I think this has been mentioned before but if not: the WHOLE community is required to support the schools, whether there are children going there or not. There is totally no comparison between a dual-cur Jewish Day School and a parochial school, and the costs are different, but THEY have the support of everyone....

ora said...

Another note on Catholic schools--
Not only do they generally have a much more limited religious curriculum than Jewish schools (based on info from Catholic friends) and support from tithing Catholics without kids in school, many of them are also open to non-Catholics, giving them another source of full-tuition-paying parents.

anonymous mom said...

anon 2:00, you make an important point. Right before Succos, I was going to take my cause (i.e. the fact that prices of fish rose ridiculously high in the course of just one week) all the way to the top. I spoke with the owner of the store. I was referred to the fish supplier. I spoke with the fish supplier and was told it was the cost of whitefish. After a long conversation/interrogation, I think the fish supplier may have been telling the truth, but I'm not sure. It did make me wonder, who exactly is hiking up the prices, where on the line? I owe it to my local store owner to find out. SL, I am too chicken right now to email you. I will probably at some point because I really believe in this Kosher Consumer idea. Listing suppliers' prices may be necessary in this venture to route out the evil. Oh, and I have a little challenge for everyone. Watch your prices of staples (chicken, fish) now carefully. They will not legally be permitted to shoot up right before Pesach, but they have already begun a slow and sneaky climb in my area. Chicken--the cheapest brand in the area--just rose to 1.99 from 1.79. I would love to know the rise and the percentage price increase per week as we get closer to Pesach. You'll see.

ora said...

Lion of Zion--
You seem to be under the impression that the average Jewish Israeli housecleaner or caretaker is a bright young 20-something who could easily bring much more money into the country by getting an advanced degree. This is not true. The average Jewish houseclear/caretaker is an older woman, often a 40 or 50-something mother of kids, who has no first degree and would need several years to gain the skills needed on the high-tech market, at which point she still wouldn't be hired because of her age. The only young people I know who work in housekeeping do so in order to pay for their education.

What would you do with older workers who are willing to do good, necessary work, and are not able to go into a different field at this point? Why not support them?

And what about the sharp drop in salaries that would face educated Israelis if hundreds of thousands more engineers, marketing experts, and computer programmers flooded the market?

I didn't say that all religious people use avodah ivrit, only that the concept is not entirely lost as you said. I still know many people who prefer Jewish labor when possible. Again, this Jewish labor is not provided by possible high-tech workers, but by young men working post-army jobs to save for university or older men who at this point can't realistically be expected to get a masters in business management/computer science/ whatever.

What percent of young people do you think are capable of earning an advanced degree?

Your ideal economy seems to be based on an entirely professional class with no other class to speak of. What makes you think that's realistic? Do you see another country where that's been done? How is it not like having a pyramid with no bottom? Or in this case, a bottom made up of increasingly hostile Arabs or a constant flow of foreign workers? I don't mind the idea of foreign workers to a certain extent, but do you really think it's wise to base the entire economy on their labor?

ora said...

I'm surprised that prices would shoot up right before Pesach and other holidays. How is that good for business? In Israel prices go down as grocery stores compete for business, with each giving sales on wine, pesach cakes, cleaning fluids, etc, in hopes that shoppers will come there to spend their thousand-something pre-Pesach shekels. IMO it doesn't make sense to fix prices in order to make sure there's enough for everyone. Why would a storeowner want to do that, instead of using the opportunity to sell as much as possible?

ora said...

Lion of Zion--
Just to make it clear, I am not proposing that 80% of the country, or even 20%, be employed in picking tomatoes and scrubbing toilets. I just want to see the use of foreign labor limited so that jobs that used to provide a decent living are not taken over by cheap labor from abroad.

Also, I don't see how it's relevant whether people care or don't care about child labor. I don't believe that we, as Torah-observant Jews, are allowed to support unethical labor practices. Even if you personally don't care where or how your shirt was made, there are relevant halachot that should be followed.

Lion of Zion said...

ORA:

"What would you do with older workers who are willing to do good, necessary work, and are not able to go into a different field at this point? Why not support them?"

i am talking about planning for the next generation. as far as i can tell, your ideas will keep israel from progressing economically.

"I didn't say that all religious people use avodah ivrit, only that the concept is not entirely lost as you said. I still know many people who prefer Jewish labor when possible."

i already gave you examples above that this is simply not true, but to restate, most religious people in israel care about avodah ivrit they way we all care about the 10 year old cambodian kid in the sweatshop mentioned above. most people are not going to adjust their lifestyle (i.e., drastically lower their living standards) to support either ideal. you write "when possible," which really means as long as it doesn't cost more than a few agurot. yes, a few people might go out of their way to patronize that oil presser you mentioned, but even the most ideological settler will have arabs/romanians/chinese build his home. same goes for all those religous/nationalist gush katif farmers. when it came to their parnasah they dispensed with avodah ivrit.

"What percent of young people do you think are capable of earning an advanced degree?"

i'm not sure what you mean by "advanced degree." you don't need a PhD to work in high tech.

but in any case, as i said above, you are selling your brethren short. college may not be for everyone, but i have the feeling that is for a lot more people than you seem willing to consider. could you please tell me which large groups of israelis you think are not college material?

maybe this is where I am being naive, but i like to think that the only thing keeping more israelis from getting "advanced degrees" is lack of opportunity, encouragement, social/econimic support, (racism?), or a combination thereof.

"And what about the sharp drop in salaries that would face educated Israelis if hundreds of thousands more engineers, marketing experts, and computer programmers flooded the market?"

israel's brain/entrepreneurial class is what drives the current economic boom, and there is much more room for this class to expand. other sectors, on the other hand, will only contract further.

the israeli economy needs to find its place in the global economy. this includes incubating that professional-service class as much as possible.

Abbi said...

"i am talking about planning for the next generation."

LOZ: This is the biggest tell-tale sign that you've never lived in Israel for any extended period of time.

No Israeli leader, politician, citizen, etc from Ben-Gurion onward has done a stitch of anything remotely related to "planning for the next generation" in any kind of concrete terms (that pretty much ended with declaring the state and organizing the army) Any kind of urban, social, economic, educational planning has been seat of the pants at best.

as for advanced degrees and economic advancement- having a degree does not guarantee you automatic economic advancement. My husband, who happens to be going the cliche route of establishing a hitech start-up with his army buddies, has plenty of friends who got second tier computer science degrees and weren't able to make great strides in their career (one was stuck unemployed for well over a year after finishing his degree).

Academics are really stuck because it's so difficult to break into the tenure track.

So, i have to disagree- there isn't endless room for everyone with a CS degree to ride the hitech wave. A great deal depends on individual abilities and sheer job availability.

Lion of Zion said...

ABBI:

i don't have to have lived in israel for an extended period to know that nor would argue the point. i was merely thinking out loud about what i thought would be good for the country's economy. it's not my fault the PM has yet to hire me as his high-paid foreign consultant.

"having a degree does not guarantee you automatic economic advancement . . .."

of course not. but my impression is that it is you best (legal) bet.

"second tier computer science degrees"

i don't know this means in israel, but in america even a "second tier computer science degree" gets you a better job that a housecleaner.

"Academics are really stuck because it's so difficult to break into the tenure track."

i wouldn't recommend it anyway. (i'm a grad school drop-out myself.)

"There isn't endless room for everyone with a CS degree to ride the hitech wave. A great deal depends . . . sheer job availability."

i guess there is no such thing as "endless." but i still think the sector is israel's best bet vis-a-vis global markets.

abbi, would you rather your kids go to university or become a laborer (electric company not included).

mlevin said...

Abbi – I worked and vacationed with a number of Catholics who both went to Catholic schools and send their children there. Just like Jewish schools, there are different Catholic schools. Some are co-ed, others are girls/boys separated. Catholic church has a 2,000 year history with their own traditions and practices. I do not know the subject names, but a good Catholic church requires learning of Greek and Latin, then there is Church history, prayer classes, Pope history (for some reason it’s different from church history), holidays, saints and lots of other classes.

But I do agree with you, that we cannot compare with Catholics, because their schools and philosophy have a different base. For example, their teachers are nuns/priests who all took a vow of poverty and live in church supplied housing. That alone cannot be compared with Jewish teachers who have growing families and must divide their time between school and household.

Anon Mom: I remember hearing that chicken/eggs have tob e fed non chometz for at least a month prior to pesach, or one cannot buy it on Pesach. To prevent that problem, of course, one can buy meat and eggs before Pesach. I also know that non chometz feed is more expensive. Could that be the reason for price increase in meats? Fish?

Ariella said...

I don't think there are so many companies involved in these types of robes, so it is possible (though not necessarily legal) to collude on price. I know they are ridiculously high, but I've never bought one of these "offical" Shabbos robes. I haven't bought a new robe for over 7 years, I think, but I believe it was under either in the thirties or twenties from the seller known as the man with the truck.

SephardiLady said...

If you do an internet search, it seems there may only be one provider under different labels, but I can't tell. The Man with the Truck does not seel the same quality of item.

Ora--The reason people pay overinflated prices before Pesach (and Rosh Hashana) is because they are a captive audience, with seemingly no other place to go (for meat and fish that is---general grocery stores are quite competitive, but don't carry as much).

Anonymous said...

Abbi-
“No Israeli leader, politician, citizen, etc from Ben-Gurion onward has done a stitch of anything remotely related to "planning for the next generation" in any kind of concrete terms (that pretty much ended with declaring the state and organizing the army) Any kind of urban, social, economic, educational planning has been seat of the pants at best.”
Who cares? Since when is it planning to ensure that your descendants are established and will be able to take care of themselves is a government responsibility. In the old days, Jews taught their children jobs that will bring parnasa regardless where goyim force them to live. My grandfather, for example, forced my father to learn to play violin, because one can always stand at the corner and beg for money while playing violin. Yes, my father hates that thing so much that he never touches it, but he has a skill, just in case.

“as for advanced degrees and economic advancement- having a degree does not guarantee you automatic economic advancement. My husband, who happens to be going the cliche route of establishing a hitech start-up with his army buddies, has plenty of friends who got second tier computer science degrees and weren't able to make great strides in their career (one was stuck unemployed for well over a year after finishing his degree).”
Since when is there only two choices: poverty or computer science? It’s true, not everyone can be a programmer. To program computers one must have a highly trained logical brain, which is almost impossible if products of Yeshivas do not consider math an important subject and are discouraged from chess playing as something of a timewaster… But I digress, there are other fields available, to those who are not lazy. One can go into medicine and research. Israel today is a leading research country in all sciences and every new drug or technique that is developed brings money to both the scientist and the country. Another avenue to pursue is entertainment. Guess who is responsible for Shrek? A frum Jew. Today, all three Shreks are enjoyed through out the world. What is there to stop another Shrek? All is needed is imagination and hard work. Not complaining.

“Academics are really stuck because it's so difficult to break into the tenure track. “ So? Are you suggesting that no new teachers/professors will ever be hired? If one truly wants to teach a certain subject then he will find a way to do so. Sometimes it could mean accepting a position with a foreign university. But I guess, living in poverty is preferable than moving to Spain or France to teach one’s favorite subject.

SephardiLady said...

Catholic schools have changed a lot. My sources (Catholic parents I meet at the doctor's office, library, etc) tell me the schools pay all of their employees.

Charlie Hall, a commentor of this blog from NYC, tells me that the teachers are unionized (!) in NY.

I am planning an upcoming post on learning from other private schools that keep their prices low.

Probably the best place to study (and possibly learn from) would be the Islamic schools that are starting to pop up around the country. We were in NY recently and we passed an Islamic school. I'd never seen one before and have been researching since. There isn't much information available. But they offer a dual curriculum (1/2 day Islamic) and the cost is miniscule. Each child costs less (a lot less) and the 6th kid is free in one school.

Abbi said...

Ok, anon 1:05- if you're going to respond to my post, the least you can do is read the post to which I was responding. Lion of Zion brought up the issue of "economic planning for future generations" and my point about the lack thereof in Israel was a response to that.

As was the point about advanced hitech degrees, which , again, LOZ thinks is the cure all for the Israeli economy.(ie: outsource all menial labor to foreign workers.)

Your anecdotes are nice, but you're just not really responding to the whole thread.

Abbi said...

LOZ:

If my future son tells me his most fervent wish is to be a plumber or an electrician or a contracter, I'd be thrilled. It's a great profession and if you're good, you'll always have a great income. I know someone who made aliyah from America and specifically trained to be a plumber for just those reasons.

Second tier degrees are from non-university institutions like Machon Lev or Michlelet Hadassah. And sorry, advanced degrees from these institutions, though they are great schools, won't always get you a better job then a housecleaner.

Our friend who searched for 2 years for a job in his field (CS) ended up working in a shipping warehouse, making less then my housecleaner makes (they also make more then teachers- the standard is 40 shekel/hour. I made 30 as a first year teacher).

JS said...

Animals must be fed non-chametz a month before pesach?!?!

I sincerely hope this is not true as it sounds completely ridiculous.

another jewish accountant said...

we constantly have people stating that redundancy in jewish education is what drive the costs (through increased overhead) up. seems this thought of an "education cartel" is just the opposite argument. while i think choice in schools is good, fragmenting the student body into too fine groups (with only minor differences) leads to significantly increased costs as the full paying families are spread amoungst several (or even many) schools each with their own building to pay for, heat, maintain, etc.

The point made above about the costs of paying for nuns/preists is also an excellent point. I assume the pay scale is lower for employees that have taken a vow of poverty and may have other benefits provided by the diocese (e.g., housing) than it would be for a rebbi or morah that has a large family to support.

While i do think there is a lot to be learned from other private/parochial schools, i dont think that the fact that catholic school costs less is an indicator that jewish schools are over priced. A friend of mine who sends their kids to a non-religious private school pays close to $20k for elementary school, while we pay about $12k per kid for the local day school.

Lion of Zion said...

ABBI:

i am going to backtrack a bit from some of what i said, but overall my feelings remain the same.

"If my future son tells me his most fervent wish is to be a plumber or an electrician or a contracter, I'd be thrilled. It's a great profession and if you're good, you'll always have a great income."

this is not what i meant by laborers. i wish i were good with my hands. i would have become an electrician/plumber, which are still great jobs; it would have saved me a small fortune and too many years in school. (and you wouldn't want a daughter to become a plumber? i imagine there is a niche market for this.)

"it was the point about advanced hitech degrees, which , again, LOZ thinks is the cure all for the Israeli economy.(ie: outsource all menial labor to foreign workers.)"

not just high tech. i was just using that as an example. also health research, military industries, etc. my point is still that israel needs to foster those sectors that will bring capital into the country. manufacturing, olive-pressing, housecleaning, etc. is not going to do that.

so how much are those shabbos robes again?

mother in israel said...

I have a female friend who was planning to study washing machine repair in anticipation of aliyah. They haven't gotten here yet.

ora said...

Lion of Zion--
Economic planning for Israel's future is great, but I think you're confusing the issue by talking about the ideal situation decades from now. Whatever will happen in 20 years, whatever technology will be around and whatever skills the next generation will have, right now, today, many (most?) Israelis do not have a college degree, many are immigrants with poor Hebrew, and many are older workers who can't easily change professions. What would you expect a 40-something woman from Ethiopia who barely speaks Hebrew to do for a living? Or a 55-year-old hareidi woman who wants to help support her family but has no secular education? It's all well and good to say, OK we'll train their kids in hightech/whatever, but their kids are still young and they need jobs today.

I did not say that certain "large groups of Israelis" are incapable of earning a degree. Simply that not all individuals are cut out for it. It's not a sephardi/ashekani/ethiopian thing. Each sector, rich or poor, has many people who are capable of achieving a certain level of education and some who are not.

"Avodah Ivrit" does not necessarily mean paying a Jew 35 shekels an hour to do something a foreign worker would do for 12. You are using the most extreme examples. Yes, Gush Katif farmers (although not all of them) used foreign labor. Agriculture is a field where Israeli labor tends to be prohibitively expensive. OTOH, many people in Jerusalem use Jewish cab companies, buy food from yishuvim, etc. And there are avodah ivrit construction companies that get a lot of business (a friend worked for one), and there are certain areas (Bat Ayin, for example) where nobody uses Arab labor. It's not all or nothing, nobody can completely avoid foreign labor and IMO that's not even desirable.

Finally, there is not a huge demand right now in a lot of fields. Israel has plenty of computer programmers, and too many lawyers (as examples). Salaries for technical writers and English tutors are slowly going down as more English speakers enter the country. It would be foolish to encourage an entire generation to pay for an education that won't benefit them. I would love to see all young Israelis working in well-paying jobs that they enjoy, but I would like to hear where you think those jobs will all come from.

Abbi said...

Again, what Ora said. LOZ, when you say "my point is still that israel needs to foster those sectors that will bring capital into the country. manufacturing, olive-pressing, housecleaning, etc. is not going to do that" you're just not dealing with the reality of Israel's job market today or even in the future.

There will always be poorer immigrants, poorer sectors of society that are not willing or capable of achieving higher degrees. And to be honest, there are always people who need their houses cleaned by someone else. So, it's not really a matter of Israel "fostering" a housecleaning industry. It's simply an industry that will always exist and always pay pretty decently while requiring little to no education for entry.

Just like there will always be a need for childcare. Is this also another low intellectual sector you think Israel shouldn't "foster"? It's a silly idea, because, again, there will always be a need for childcare and always pple who are more suited for this profession than other "hitech, biotech" type professions.

As for olive pressing, it happens to be a pretty lucrative industry, at least for larger manufacturers. And, bottom line, there will always be pple who just want to do what they love, and are willing to pay the cost of a simpler life to be able to do it.

Also, I'd be thrilled if my daughters want to go into some kind of trade. I think it would be very cool. By laborer you mean a day labrorer on a construction site? Given our economic status, and the small chances that it would change so drastically, I just don't see this as being likely. If my son or daughter said they want to be a general contractor and had to start off as a simple construction worker to learn the trade, again, I wouldn't have a problem with that.

But the other day my four year old announced that she wants to be an astronaut, so it's not looking likely.

mlevin said...

Ora:

“right now, today, many (most?) Israelis do not have a college degree, many are immigrants with poor Hebrew, and many are older workers who can't easily change professions”

1. Not having a college degree does not mean that that person is not educated, or is not a professional/expert in his field.
2. 25% of Israelis today are from Soviet Union. Their Hebrew may not be that great, but they are and will ensure a decent life style. Many are programmers, just as many others are doctors, scientists and other trained professionals.
3. If Israel today was as bad as you are painting it would not have been able to withstand the constant attacks. The main battlefield that Israel is fighting against its enemies is not on a ground, but it is a war of the wits and intelligence. Just recently Israel send bombers to the enemy territory, bombed them and flew back, all without being detected. Where do you think that technology and brain power came from? Goyim? Or Jews who hire goyim to clean their houses so they have enough time to come up with these types of strikes?

This is a second time you have referred to 40 year old women as over the hill, can’t learn anything type. I take great offense in it. I’m almost 40 and I know I can learn. I also know that I am not an exception. I know a Russian speaking woman who came to America at 40 something. She did not know English. She went to school and became a programmer. Today 20+ years later she is still working and counting down till retirement to spend time with her grandchildren. Let me restate my point: 40 year old women are not old.

55-year old haredi woman has adult children. Why do they need her support? Are they missing limbs, ears, eyes. Why can’t they go to work, yes, both male and female children and support her for a change? Where is the kovud ov v’aim? Sucking up from their parents when they are already adults. Or you are refering to the few remaining ones too young to get a part time job? They should be fine if their older siblings are all working and contributing to the family. And she could help out by watching young grandchildren while her daughter/daughter in law is at work making parnasa.

How can you train young kids in Israel, if there are new laws being issued that women should not go to school 2 years past high school? Yes, just like you read about American life, we read about frum Israeli life, and we are well aware that poverty you are in are all your own fault. If you keep your children from getting educated you are promoting that impoverish lifestyle. Kind of like blacks in America. They teach their young that formal education is a white thing and then they compain when they cannot get great jobs.

“I did not say that certain "large groups of Israelis" are incapable of earning a degree. Simply that not all individuals are cut out for it. It's not a sephardi/ashekani/ethiopian thing. Each sector, rich or poor, has many people who are capable of achieving a certain level of education and some who are not.”

Ora, you are speaking of Jews here. You know the same Jews who in other countries were not even allowed to get educated or get hired for good jobs, and somehow they managed. They did not just managed to get good jobs, but they also got menaged to get educated. I cringe every time I hear uneducated frum Jews. There is no excuse for that type of self destructive behaivor. Look through history. When did Jews stoop to cleaning other houses on perminant bases. A temporary solution, I could understand. But a perminant solution to a problem for a Jews to clean houses? You must be out of your mind. Jews are known for their brain, not their house cleaning abilities.

Did you read LOZ’s post? He did not say that all people should go into programming. He used programming as an example. (Just like I did) But he did say that people should look for something better then just cleaning houses, and suggested to use foreign housecleaners to free up time for more productive jobs. He even said that plumbing is a great job. But it all requires education. Yes, even plumbing.

Abbi – what is wrong with your daughter becoming an astronaut? It’s very prestigious. Women are able to cope in space better then men. It has been proven that threat of space radiation is not as bad as first thought. Russians already planning to send a first man to Mars in 2025. Suppose they succeed, your daughter could be the first Jew to settle on Mars and open a chabad house.

Abbi said...

mlevin- seriously, can you try reading carefully before responding? I said it's unlikely that she'll want to go into the contracting business because the other day she announced she wants to be an astronaut. How did you make the leap that I have a problem with her being an astronaut?

mlevin said...

Abbi - you wrote "But the other day my four year old announced that she wants to be an astronaut, so it's not looking likely." As a separate paragraph. What else would I think, but that you did not think your daughter would ever become an astronaut?

Abbi said...

mlevin: I'm sorry, I think the scope of this comments section prevent me from helping you with reading comprehension. Try this link:

http://www.rhlschool.com/reading.htm

ora said...

mlevin--
I realize that many immigrants from the former Soviet Union have advanced degrees. However:
1) An advanced degree with no Hebrew skills will get you nowhere in Israel.
2) When you have hundreds, even thousands, of Russian immigrants with masters and phds in Russian literature, Russian history, etc--only so many of them will find jobs in their field.
3) Not all new immigrants are Russian. Not all Russian immigrants have degrees.

As for age:
The average 40-year-old will need six times the amount of time to find a job as the average 25-year-old, even with the exact same resume. I don't think that 40 is over the hill--my parents, aunts, and uncles are all in their 50s and 60s and still doing quite well in their fields. However, a 40-year-old is going to have a much, much harder time breaking into a new profession than a younger worker. That's just life.

Also, there is a reason I said 40-something ETHIOPIAN IMMIGRANT WITH POOR HEBREW and not just "40-something." Please respond to my example and not just the parts that bother you.

I don't know why you keep saying "you" when talking about certain sectors of Israeli hareidi society. I am not from those circles (hint: you can tell because I'm online). I completely agree that frum people should do their best to be educated and support their families, as should everyone.

You and LOZ seem not to understand my concern. Housecleaning is not fun. It is hard physical work and while the pay is decent, it's not great. People don't work in housecleaning when they could be making a lot more money, they work in housecleaning when it's the best job they can get at the time for whatever reason. To say that bringing in cheap foreign labor will free up housecleaners for better jobs is absurd. If they were able to get better jobs THEY WOULD DO SO. Your "solution" is backwards. First find the well-paying jobs and provide the necessary training THEN replace the laborers. Don't just take tens of thousands of jobs off of the market and say "well, if they can't work with the elderly anymore they should go into high-tech or something--I know this one lady who managed to do it, and it's a much better job."

Abbi said...

Ora- I actually had a lovely olaha chadasha from Spain who helped me with cleaning for 6 months until she started a computer course so she could get a better job.

Although honestly, at 40 shekel an hour, that salary is pretty competitive to most entry level or even midlevel white collar or retail positions. The average middle class salary is 45- 50 shekel an hour, I think.

mother in israel said...

In Israel it's misleading to compare jobs by hourly salary. Yes, cleaning ladies get a certain amount of vacation time, national insurance, etc. as required by law (assuming the employer is honest or the employee knows to demand it), but jobs in the public sector (including teaching jobs) get many benefits and perks, like retirement benefits, that need to be calculated when considering the hourly wage.

mlevin said...

Ora

“1) An advanced degree with no Hebrew skills will get you nowhere in Israel.”

a) Hebrew is a very easy language to learn.
b) One can easily do R&D and learn Hebrew at the same time. Science/measurement has its own “language”. I.e. gram is gram and degree is a degree
c) Same goes for programming and many other engineering fields.

“2) When you have hundreds, even thousands, of Russian immigrants with masters and phds in Russian literature, Russian history, etc--only so many of them will find jobs in their field.”

Last time I looked it wasn’t very popular among Soviet Jews to specialize in Russian literature, Russian history. Etc. It was so for many reasons
a) Many Jews planned to leave Soviet Union as soon as the curtain opened, or whatever their reason for staying behind was. So, they knew that Russian Literature/Russian History were not in high demand outside the boarder.
b) Jews were not exactly treated lovingly by the Russians to inspire such love and dedication among Jews
c) Scientific degrees were much more lucrative and easier to obtain to the Jews in Soviet Union than Russian literature/Russian History degree. After all who would want to listen to a Zhid lecturing on Russian literature/Russian history?

“3) Not all new immigrants are Russian. Not all Russian immigrants have degrees.”

a) I did not say that all immigrants are Russian; I said 25% of Israelis are from Soviet Union. You can go back and reread my post. That is a big chunk of Israeli population. Every fourth if your math is rusty.
b) I did not say that they all had degrees, but I did say that many (implying most) are trained professionals.

“Also, there is a reason I said 40-something ETHIOPIAN IMMIGRANT WITH POOR HEBREW and not just "40-something." Please respond to my example and not just the parts that bother you.”

Actually this was second time, as I pointed out, that you referred to 40 something. The first time was on Jan 10, at 6:20 am and there were no Ethiopians mentioned with it.

“The average 40-year-old will need six times the amount of time to find a job as the average 25-year-old, even with the exact same resume.”

Not necessarily.
a) Average 25 y/o either has a young family or is about to make one. Young children mean lots of time off, many do not like hiring young people for that reason.
b) There are more chances that 25 y/o will leave in a year or so for a higher paying job, but 40 year olds are more cautious, and do not tend to change jobs as often.
c) Many 25 y/o are not as mature and not as dependable as older people. It all has to do with how one envisions his company.
d) Although not in this particular field, 40 y/o have other skills, acquired through life, and wisdom that 25 y/o do not have.

Anonymous said...

What barriers keep others outside the cartel from making such robes for themselves---or for sale, at least to friends?

Abbi said...

mlevin, your last response seriously lacks any connection to the reality of most immigrants today. Clearly you have not met one of the hundreds of Russian engineers working as cleaners or handymen- do you think that they do this because they they're too lazy to find a better job or because they feel an obligation to clean other ppl's houses? No and no- it's simply a matter of lack of job supply and lack of networking contact/ protekzia.

You still haven't presented a cogent argument as to how bringing in foreign workers to work menial jobs will increase the supply of professional jobs available to Israeli immigrants who are not equipped to perform them.

Also on Russians not loving Russian culture- you're completely out to lunch. There is a big boom in Christmas tree sales because many former Soviets love to celebrate it as a Russian holiday. It's also very important to many Russian parents that their children speak fluent Russian and are knowledgeable about Russian literature and culture, because they find it "superior" to what they see as low class Israeli culture.


http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull&cid=1134309630100

mlevin said...

“mlevin, your last response seriously lacks any connection to the reality of most immigrants today. Clearly you have not met one of the hundreds of Russian engineers working as cleaners or handymen- do you think that they do this because they they're too lazy to find a better job or because they feel an obligation to clean other ppl's houses? No and no- it's simply a matter of lack of job supply and lack of networking contact/ protekzia. “

Clearly you know nothing about economy. When there is a sudden influx of about a million people suddenly enters a country the size of Israel, it is only logical that majority would have a difficult time finding jobs and place to live. So, people were force to take jobs as cleaners or handymen. But we are not talking about 15 years ago. We are talking about Israel today. Why do you think there is an economic boom in Israel? Is it because of an influx of cleaners and handymen? Or is it because of the influx of educated/professional people?

“You still haven't presented a cogent argument as to how bringing in foreign workers to work menial jobs will increase the supply of professional jobs available to Israeli immigrants who are not equipped to perform them.”

It wasn’t my argument, it was Lion of Zion’s argument and I just happened to agree with it. He said that if foreigners clean houses and etc. then it frees more time for Israelis to do more worthwhile work. i.e. Research and Development, Programming, medicine and etc. These worthwhile activities bring a lot more money into the country then foreign laborers take out.

“Also on Russians not loving Russian culture- you're completely out to lunch. There is a big boom in Christmas tree sales because many former Soviets love to celebrate it as a Russian holiday. It's also very important to many Russian parents that their children speak fluent Russian and are knowledgeable about Russian literature and culture, because they find it "superior" to what they see as low class Israeli culture.”

Hold it a sec. Here I know that you have no idea what you are talking about. Soviet Jews DO NOT LOVE Russian culture. Have you ever spoken to any of them?
1. Re: Christmas trees:
a. They do not consider them Christmas trees, but New Years’ trees
b. They celebrate it because bereft of all other traditions (communists took all the traditions from Jews); they feel it is a tradition and celebrate it as such. Yes, it’s stupid, considering its roots in Christianity, but that is all they have. And they will obstinately object to any religious significance.
c. They do not consider it a Russian holiday. They call it a calendar New Year. And refer to it as an international holiday
d. Russians (not Jews) celebrate Christmas on Jan 7th and New Years 8 days later. Soviet Jews make sure that their trees are taken down before Jan 7th last someone will mistake them for goyim
2. Re: Children speaking Russian. Of course parents want their children to know Russian. The more languages one knows the more avenues are open to him to make a parnasa. Consider 158 million people all over the world speak Russian; why not give your children that additional edge of an extra language?
3. Re: Children being knowledgeable about Russian literature/culture. Not true. Soviet Jews couldn’t care less if their children knew about Russian literature/culture. There is little money potential in that area. And if one really needs to know it, all they need to do is open a book.
4. Re: Finding it “superior” to Israeli culture.
a. These people ran away from Russians
b. Majority of Soviet Jews are not from Russia, so their knowledge of Russian culture is limited.

Yes, the older Soviet Jews remember their younger days with nostalgia. Kind of like Hebrews in the desert remembered eating cucumbers in Egypt, that does not mean that they love Russians or Russia. You must also keep in mind, that there is a number of recent immigrants in Israel who claimed to be Jewish but in reality are not. These people are the loudest about superior Russian culture, after all, everyone knows that Russians are better then Jews. (That was sarcasm, in case it escaped you).

ora said...

mlevin--
You still are not addressing my main point--nobody needs to be "freed up" for a better job. If they are capable of getting a better-paying job with better benefits, they will do so. Why on earth would anyone, 25 years old or 40, immigrant or native, work for 40 shekels an hour in cleaning if they could be making much more money in a more interesting and better paying job? Do you think they feel obligated to keep other people's houses clean, and will only search for a different job when an illegal ukrainian worker takes theirs for less money?

You seem convinced that most Israelis are capable of earning a lot of money in fields requiring a good education. If that is so, then why don't they????? Do they also not understand how an economy works?

As for 40 vs. 25, according to unemployment office statistics, it takes the average 40yo six times as long to look for a job as the average 25yo. You can argue that the numbers don't make sense or should be different, but that's what they are. As for a 45yo having more job experience, we were talking about 40 year olds who are starting a new field in a new language, remember? They have no relevant experience.

mlevin said...

mlevin--
"You still are not addressing my main point--nobody needs to be "freed up" for a better job. If they are capable of getting a better-paying job with better benefits, they will do so. Why on earth would anyone, 25 years old or 40, immigrant or native, work for 40 shekels an hour in cleaning if they could be making much more money in a more interesting and better paying job? Do you think they feel obligated to keep other people's houses clean, and will only search for a different job when an illegal ukrainian worker takes theirs for less money? "
I was responding to the suggestion that Israelis hire only jews to clean their houses, thus insuring that all the money stays in Israel and does not go out of the country to places like the Phillipines and the Ukraine. So, I pointed out how impractical that is, because we want Israelies to have better jobs than cleaning houses. Better jobs would not only make Israelis feel better about themselves, but they would also bring more money into the country, even after one subtracts money taken out by the illegals.

"You seem convinced that most Israelis are capable of earning a lot of money in fields requiring a good education. If that is so, then why don't they????? Do they also not understand how an economy works? "
Because it requires more initial efforts to get those jobs. Cleaning houses merely requires a pair of arms, legs and an I.Q. of an orangutang. But with a jewish sechal, settling for cleaning houses rather than aiming higher is an embarrasement.

"As for 40 vs. 25, according to unemployment office statistics, it takes the average 40yo six times as long to look for a job as the average 25yo. "
40 y/o's want higher paying jobs. 25 y/o's settle for a lower initial pay, thus it's easier for 25 y/o's to find a job.
"You can argue that the numbers don't make sense or should be different, but that's what they are. As for a 45yo having more job experience, we were talking about 40 year olds who are starting a new field in a new language, remember? They have no relevant experience."
I am not talking about experienced in that particular field. I am talking about life experience. A stay at home mother may not have any programming experience, but she does have experience in organizing, management, multi-tasking, diplomacy, etc. These skills are just as important as those acquired from book learning.

mlevin said...

mlevin--
"You still are not addressing my main point--nobody needs to be "freed up" for a better job. If they are capable of getting a better-paying job with better benefits, they will do so. Why on earth would anyone, 25 years old or 40, immigrant or native, work for 40 shekels an hour in cleaning if they could be making much more money in a more interesting and better paying job? Do you think they feel obligated to keep other people's houses clean, and will only search for a different job when an illegal ukrainian worker takes theirs for less money? "
I was responding to the suggestion that Israelis hire only jews to clean their houses, thus insuring that all the money stays in Israel and does not go out of the country to places like the Phillipines and the Ukraine. So, I pointed out how impractical that is, because we want Israelies to have better jobs than cleaning houses. Better jobs would not only make Israelis feel better about themselves, but they would also bring more money into the country, even after one subtracts money taken out by the illegals.

"You seem convinced that most Israelis are capable of earning a lot of money in fields requiring a good education. If that is so, then why don't they????? Do they also not understand how an economy works? "
Because it requires more initial efforts to get those jobs. Cleaning houses merely requires a pair of arms, legs and an I.Q. of an orangutang. But with a jewish sechal, settling for cleaning houses rather than aiming higher is an embarrasement.

"As for 40 vs. 25, according to unemployment office statistics, it takes the average 40yo six times as long to look for a job as the average 25yo. "
40 y/o's want higher paying jobs. 25 y/o's settle for a lower initial pay, thus it's easier for 25 y/o's to find a job.
"You can argue that the numbers don't make sense or should be different, but that's what they are. As for a 45yo having more job experience, we were talking about 40 year olds who are starting a new field in a new language, remember? They have no relevant experience."
I am not talking about experienced in that particular field. I am talking about life experience. A stay at home mother may not have any programming experience, but she does have experience in organizing, management, multi-tasking, diplomacy, etc. These skills are just as important as those acquired from book learning.

Abbi said...

mlevin- Every one of your points comes back to a stereotyped "ideal"- "jewish seichel", "life experience" rather than hard facts of reality. Employers with high paying jobs don't hire based on Jewish or any other type of seichal, nor do they care to fill in the holes of a spotty resume with "life experience". They want proven job experience, mother tongue fluency in English or Hebrew, preferably both, college and graduate degrees, etc.

There are training programs galore provided by all types of government welfare agencies. Those who are capable take advantage of them. Those who aren't, don't.

You might consider cleaning houses an embarrassment but for many immigrants who can't make the initial effort to get into a white collar job, it's an honest day's work that pays quite well. Nothing embarrassing about that.

ProfK said...

It's the poor consumer who cannot distinguish between a necessity and a luxury, and what might be reasonable to spend on either. Kosher food and yeshivot for children are not luxuries in our frum society; they are necessities. That sellers would seek to gouge prices on what is a necessity should be of great concern to all of us.

Shabbos robes are luxuries, not necessities, even in homes such as mine where the minhag for women to wear robes on Shabbos and Yom Tov comes from both sides. Where prices are outrageous I have no obligation to support those who sell the robes, frum or not. I particularly have no obligation to support them when beautiful robes can be purchased outside of Brooklyn for far, far less. When a beautiful embroidered velvet gown, machine wash, can be purchased in NJ for $22 on sale then it should actually be ossur for me to buy a robe in Brooklyn for $150 and up. With luxuries I have a responsibility to my bottom line, not to the bottom line of the Brooklyn price gougers.