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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Variety Post: Links and Comments on a Whole Bunch of Stuff

Poverty in Eretz Yisrael

(Hat Tip: Esther) Jonathan Rosenblum has just published a column "Can We Talk Seriously About Poverty?"

He details many of the side-effects of crushing poverty:

  • Increased defection rates, inability to provide children with services they need to thrive in the Chareidi community, potential association of Torah with deprivation and strife amongst youth.
  • Inviting the yetzer hara into financial dealings. This year alone here in America we have had enough arrests here to fill a book. From Spinka earlier in the year to Wextrust just this month, the DOJ, IRS, and SEC have enough work to keep their lawyers busy for a long time to come. Get rich scams are prevelant in the Orthodox community. I detailed my disappointment when the Yated an a free advertisement for one such scheme. Vosizneias recently ran a warning about the Goji scam which has apparantely become quite popular in certain enclaves. Gambling is also a growing problem. And a lot of what passes for "investment" looks more like gambling. Yashrut is seriously lacking, but that really shouldn't come as a surprise because where desperation is the rule, you can be sure that the yetzer hara will win. Chazal told us this long ago in Pirkei Avot.
  • Loss of self-respect when one depends on others.
  • Putting money first in shidduchim is causing marital problems.
  • Serious health issues.
What Mr. Rosenblum does not do is offer any answers. He knows the solutions of the past (greater government support, contributions from Jews abroad, and adopting a simpler lifestyle) have failed and will only continue to fail. And, while he claims not to have any solutions writing, "What the solutions might be I do not know. But it is clear that we cannot afford to hide our heads in the sand and not address the issue," I believe that the real issue is that he, nor any respected member of the Chareidi community, is actually allowed to "Talk Seriously About Poverty." Planting questions is as much "talking" as is allowed, if that.

Talking about poverty will expose an education system that is leaving its constituents unable to thrive in a 21st century job market. (You can't even talk about jobs until you talk about job preparations). Talking about poverty will challenge the community leaders and Gedolim, which challenges the heart of the community. Talking about poverty will bring up questions of prudence in regards to young marriage and extremely large families, defining factors of this community.

Talking about poverty simply isn't something the community is ready to do. In America, we have a similar issue when it comes to Yeshiva Tuition. We all know the problem is huge. But real talking isn't taking place yet. Hopefully it will take place before economic reality really takes over.

Update: The Wolf has also made some comments and Rabbi Horowitz posted the article. A commentor at Cross-Currents believes the problem will solve itself when unemployed/underemployed Chareidim do what immigrant groups always do: work menial jobs, start small businesses, and educate their children. I think we would all like to believe that. But, I would say there has bee a serious change of work ethic and business has also changed. Perhaps in a few years we will all be hiring Chareidi cleaning help?

Reputations, Shidduchim, and Criminals

As Jonathan Rosenblum related in his article, con-men run free in the Orthodox community because of financial desperation. Another type of man that runs free are molesters and rapists. The desperation here is none other than shidduchim. And this desperation turns tzedek, yashrut, and rachamim on its head. In Boro Park, police have DNA evidence that links the abduction and sexual assault of a 4 year old to that of a 14 year old.

Scared that their daughters will lack shidduchim in the future (no thanks to community members who lack the ability to keep their lips zipped), the police can't get much cooperation from the families. And, so another sexual criminal runs free to rape more young Jewish girls.

Chinuch and Crime Control

Rabbi Horowitz posted an article on chinuch written by a Rabbi Brezak. The story behind the article is that boys were caught on camera vandalizing the girls school and causing serious financial loss. After the boys were told that the principal might turn over the video, the criminal activity stopped.

The author then writes, "At first glance, the way this incident was handled appears to be chinuch at its best. The boys were made aware that their unscrupulous deeds would bring them dire consequences, thus discouraging them from similar antics in the future.
However, after careful examination, we realize that this is not chinuch; it is crime control."

Perhaps I am missing something (I'm sure it wouldn't be the first time), but it seems that whatever chinuch these boys should have received vis a vis not damaging other people's stuff was lost upon them and that "crime control" (and under the category of crime control I would include RESTITUTION) is "chinuch at its best" this point. These boys need to understand that their actions have consequences and, while it would have been nice if they understood this before going out and damaging property, they don't and now they need consequences.

More on property damage later. This subject is one that desperately needs addressed and I might as well take the bait later.

Kids Need a Multi-Thousand Dollar Experience to Learn these Skills?

The Mom Blog author, Emuna Braverman, hails the glory of camp writing:

"At camp, kids learn some basic cleanup skills (can I brag about my daughter's bunks 10+ neatness grade?), some laundry skills and most of all, some interpersonal and conflict resolution skills. They are thrown together with the other girls 24/7 and they have to work their issues out (even when someone dares to touch their things or sit on their bed!). They learn to negotiate the complicated weaving of new friendships and old ones. They learn about kindness and about sharing (woe to the camper who hoards a care package!). They learn about team spirit and how to really create unity through everyone's involvement."

Camp has been sold to the Orthodox community as a complete necessity, rather than a luxury. And, as such, I've seen many articles, letters to the editors, etc, glorifying the learning experience of camp. This is not the first time I've heard about basic cleanup and laundry skills as a big plus. Am I the only one who find it ridiculous to think kids *need* a multi-thousand dollar experience to learn to take some basic responsibility? If so, our kids have been catered to far too much. The skills named certainly can be learned without spending somewhere between $2000 to $6000 a month, especially when the parents are hurting to provide this experience.


Shoshana said...

This is what it might say if people tried to replicate this "advanced training" at home:

At [home], kids learn [more than] basic cleanup skills (can I brag about my [son's ability to make scrambled eggs and pizza bagels when mom needs help getting lunch on the table?]), some laundry skills and most of all, [lots!] of interpersonal and conflict resolution skills. They are thrown together with [siblings] 24/7 and they have [loving and reassuring parental guidance] to work their issues out (even when someone dares to touch their things or sit on their bed!). They learn to negotiate the complicated weaving of new friendships and old ones [while still remaining attached to their parents and family life]. They learn about kindness and about sharing [because it starts to feel good when it happens over and over again, plus it makes mom and dad really happy!]. They learn about team spirit and how to really create unity through everyone's involvement [especially in things like house cleaning, cooking together, making Shabbos and Yom Tov, and spending time together in nature].

Perhaps if there was more emphasis on real life rather than fabricated experiences, we would be able to talk about solutions to so many of the ugly problems plaguing our Am Kadosh.

Esther said...

Thanks for responding to the article - I am still shocked at the, for lack of a better word, wimpiness at the end after a post that was otherwise amazing. If you had a chance to read the comments, they apparently received tons of responses saying the same thing - get jobs! Although you are right on in adding that the job skills are needed before this solution could even be a reality.

Regarding the camp quote - as you probably know, the Bravermans are blessed with quite a large family, so I can't imagine that her children aren't getting this at home as part of daily life.

bluke said...

I posted about this as well It is amazing that a discussion of solutions for poverty would not include any mention of education or jobs.

triLcat said...

This Shabbat, I was at my brother's house. His wife is 9+ months pregnant with their sixth child.

All of the kids (except the 2-year-old) helped make the challah this week.

The oldest (11, boy) made rice. The next (9, boy) cut veggies for vegetable soup and watched/stirred while it cooked. The next (7, girl) made chulent. The 4th (4.5, girl) made fish w/ vegetables and sauce. It's true that their mom had to assist quite a lot, and that it works out to be just as much work for her (if not more, because of the cleaning), but I'm also sure that the fact that she does this with the kids whenever she has the patience (once every 3-4 weeks) teaches them LOADS.

As for laundry, my sister had her kids putting a basket of clothes in the washer and transferring wet clothes from the washer to the dryer by the time they were four. She used to pay them a shekel for every load they transferred. Heck of a lot cheaper than camp, and was particularly useful when she was pregnant and the bending was painful. Plus the kids had their OWN spending money that they'd worked for from a very young age.

Anonymous said...

I think the concept of camp as a "necessity" ironically comes from the unreasonable desire to have the best of America while still living the Jewish lifestyle. Summer camping is an American tradition, not an Eastern European or Middle Eastern one. Not sure but I think the first Jewish camps started because non-Jewish camps were closed to Jewish kids. Then it became a good thing to have Orthodox camps.

Just like fancy private colleges, if you can't afford camp, don't go. If you decide to scrimp somewhere else because camp is important to you or to your kids, that's your decision.

Chizki said...

I think it's worthwhile pointing out that living beyond one's means is a problematic trend found throughout American society today. The problems we're talking about here at this blog are the manners in which this trend becomes manifested in orthodox Jewish life, but it could be that their root causes are not uniquely Jewish. Just to bring one example: even with the current credit crunch in Wall Street, the overall ease of obtaining credit must be a powerful enabler of many of the financial misdeeds discussed on this blog.

ProfK said...

I'm still trying to get my mind around "At camp, kids learn some basic cleanup skills (can I brag about my daughter's bunks 10+ neatness grade?), some laundry skills and most of all, some interpersonal and conflict resolution skills." So, since camp seems to be the place that children will learn these skills, what happens to the kids who never go to camp? They never learn these skills? No way. By the time a child is old enough to go to camp they are more than old enough to already have learned these skills at home and in school. And home is still the best environment for teaching these to a child.

And just as an aside, I don't know where Ms. Braverman sends her kids to camp, but the camps my kids attended and the ones my friend's children attended sent the camp laundry out to be done or had someone do it for the campers--the campers didn't do it themselves. Only counselors had access to washing machines, sometimes.

L said...

Summer camps were started in the US during WWII when fathers were overseas or otherwise busy with the war effort and mothers were holding down the fort at home. At that point in history, they were probably necessary to provide stability for the children whose lives were disrupted by war. That is obviously not the case today.

Dave said...

While "living on credit" has sadly become a problem across American society, there are some key differences.

One, the family sizes are generally smaller.

Two, there is no widespread and socially required expensive private schooling.

Three, there is no widespread and socially required expensive summer camp.

Four, food prices are generally lower because of the high price of Kosher food.

And of course, the fact that many parts of the Orthodox community want to pay for all of the above as well as the luxuries that mainstream society has been putting on credit cards just makes things worse.

anonymous mom said...

Camp is a croc. Interpersonal skills may be learned at home and at school. Basic "clean-up" skills may be learned at home and (yes, gasp) at school, hopefully. I come from a large extended family of non-camp goers due to the expense and to the fact that our family likes to go on vacation as a team and just do day-trips together (most of us have moms who stay home). We are all okay socially and we do know how to clean up after ourselves.

As for the poverty, oy. Never any practical solutions because then a Rav would have to buck the system. Nobody is a Yachid anymore, willing to buck a system gone mad.

L said...

I looked up the history of camps in the US and world in general. They have been around since the 1890's. Most were used to indoctrinate children with a particular point of view or political attitude or teach them military skills. Some were to get street urchins off the street. Kids who go to camp or seminary truly do come home indoctrinated. It is a shame that parents who "do their own thing", buck the trends, fight the "system", etc are labeled losers. We as a society should ask ourselves:
1)Does every Bar Mitzvah boy need both a fancy kiddish and a fancy catered affair in a hall after Shabbos?
2)Does every chosson and kallah need a $10,000 photograpy package and catered sheva brochas in a hall?
3)Is it necessary to go to Israel to attend sem?
4)Is sem necessary?
5)Is day camp good enough?
6)Can "real" frum Jews buy clothes buy clothes at Walmart?

triLcat said...

I: I completely agree that Bar Mitzvas and weddings have gone off the deep end. If you look at Treppenwitz
this week, you can see how he celebrated his son's putting on tfillin with the class by bringing pastries and drinks and giving a short talk.

I'm sure they'll also have some kind of kiddush for the shul, but if people had this sort of attitude, a Bar Mitzva could be a $2-4K affair instead of a $10-20K affair...

My whole wedding, including flowers, dress, live jazz band, photography, video, over 200 guests, etc was kept under $10K. (2 years ago, in Israel)

I think the year in Israel is very important. I would argue that maybe it should be the last year of high school instead of a separate year - thus saving parents a year of tuition while still giving the child the richness of the experience.

Day camp isn't as "cool" as overnight camp, but let's face it, we have people who are accruing more and more debt daily. Debt is even less cool than day camp!

As for wal-mart, I got several really nice long skirts there in high school, but I was never one of the "cool" kids anyway, so go fig...

Besides, I understand Target is the new Wal-mart??

SephardiLady said...

Once you are in debt, $2-4K is as out of reach as $10-$20K.

triLcat said...

True, but the reality is that people are doing the $10-20K thing despite inability to meet basic financial responsibilities.

If the "class party" were reduced to an expectation to bring brownies and chocolate milk and give a little speech, then hopefully, those parents wouldn't drive themselves into debt to keep up with expectations.

I think the whole Bar Mitzva concept is being played wrong. It's about taking on responsibilities and becoming an adult, not about partying. Of course, we want to share these experiences with out friends and family, but all too often it becomes about outshining our friends and family...

L said...

Making a chassunah is Israel truly is the way to go unless neither side is from Israel and none of the friends and family is capable of going there.
If a girl cannot afford to spend a year in Israel, why not try Birthright and at least spend a couple of weeks there. There are plenty of seminaries in the US, UK, Australia (wherever people live). I wonder how many secular or non-Jewish teens spend their freshman year of college so far away.
Walmart, Target, KMart, is where the average American family shops for back to school clothes. Maybe not everything but a lot of it.
I have a friend with BH 8 kids and a teenage daughter would be devestated (chas v'sholem) to have to wear anything cheap. She must wear the latest fashion so that she is not labeled a "neb" by the teenie meanies in her expensive girl's school who never learned what it means to have good midos.

triLcat said...

I: We live in Israel, as do most of our family & friends so it was kind of a no-brainer for us to have our wedding in Israel.

If instead of seminary, the fourth year of high school were in Israel, in dorms, the cost would be roughly the same as a year in a regular Jewish high school in the USA, while giving the "in Israel" intense experience. I think that the intense experience is extremely valuable in particular for kids who will be going to various colleges and can use a good dose of "Chizuk" before they go out into the world.

Ariella said...

Um, why can't children learn housekeeping and cooperation skills at home?

L said...

I have seen students that came back from Israel with a lifetime full of inspiration but occasionally, students are sent home because unlike the US where a student must be 21 to gain entrance into a bar or club, Israel's age of entrance is 18 and even then the student is rarely asked to produce ID. If kids discover the fast track it may be a wash as to whether the inspiration out-inspires the non-inspiration. If a kid is a really good kid, send him/her to Israel. If a kid is a really misbehaving kid, send him/her to Israel because they would be misbehaving anywhere. If the kid could go either way, do not send them to Israel. It is too big of a gamble.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the year in Israel -- one of the reasons that it would not be easy to do this in the fourth year of high school is because that is the year that students are applying to college and doing so from abroad would make the process more difficult. More importantly some colleges look for students to have 4 not 3 years of various subjects (eg English or history).
Finally, I am not sure that having them go to Israel when they are even younger is necessarily a good thing. Some kids are too immature to handle the freedom from their parents when they are 18 -- at 17 it might be harder.

Anonymous said...

I totally disagree with most people here. Camp is as necessity for nurturing and developing children into healthy Jews as Jewish Day School is - if not more!

Whereas school may teach meat and potatoes of knowledge, camp nourishes their soul with the love for Jews and Judaism. For example, did you ever hear a kid say I learned this great niggun in school/how wonderful the davening is at school? No its almost always in the context of camp. Or how about love of Israel? Camp makes the connection for kids. These are as essential to being a Jew as learning this Rashi or that Rashi. It sustains the soul over a lifetime.

triLcat said...

anon: I got all that "camp benefit" from NCSY & high school shabbatonim. A Shabbaton once a month works out to a bit less than $1000/year spread over the whole year. Sure, it's less intense than camp, but it's more frequent and certainly powerful.

As for the "risk" of sending kids to ISrael, it also depends where you're sending them. A highschool program would certainly have to continue the academics of high school, and it would have to be a very well supervised program.

Some seminaries give the kids a lot of free reign, while others are much more heavily supervised and have curfews and rules. If you know your child, you can judge which environment is best for your child. (if you're paying the tuition, you certainly get the final veto power)

L said...

I don't think that anyone would argue that children learn many beneficial things about being Jewish in camps and seminaries. The "iccur" of orthonomics is to discuss if something is worth the cost and what to do is something is possibly worth the cost but few people have the money to pay. There are many camps, yeshivas, seminaries, etc today that turn kids down for inability to pay. If this is a necessity, money has to be raised for it the same way that people give to Tomchei Shabbos to give hungry people food. If it is a luxury, then people need to learn how to live without it if it is not within their means. They have to find creative ways to raise Jewish children within their budget. For some that would mean co-op schooling, home schooling, day camps, Shabbatons, public school with afternoon Hebrew school, or whatever would work for that family. Maybe US high schools would create sem programs where girls could teach half a day for pay and study the other half. There is now a yeshiva in NJ that pays older bochrim to learn in the morning and take business courses in the afternoon. The graduates will be working boys who will have to hope that when they marry, there will be girls who have not been indoctrinated in sem that working boys are garbage.

anonymous mom said...

I attended seminary for two years--sem in morning, college in afternoon. Then, third year out: taught in the morning, attended college in the afternoon/eve, shiurim on evenings or Sundays once a week. Then, working and grad school, continue Shiurim. Worked every summer. Working needs to be part of the lexicon as it should for the boys. When you take working out of the picture for older teens and up (even younger teens), it becomes something that isn't ingrained in who you are. I can't believe how many adult young men and women have not walked into a regular job until their late 20's. It's absolutely ridiculous.

L said...

I also wanted to add that before you send your kids to camp, find out what they will be eating. If the government surplus food that may be prepared in unsanitary conditions is not to their liking, they can go to canteen and fill up on candy.
Make sure that the bunkbeds have guardrails, that no one under 21 will be driving your child anywhere and that someone in the camp has reasonable medical training. Also, speak to your child about what to do if someone tries to molest him since this seems to happen sometimes at camp.If a child is a bedwetter, figure out where he will dispose of his wet diapers or bedding. Make sure that your child can call home often and consider attending visiting day. At visiting day, see if his nails need to be trimmed. Camps do not trim children's nails and if the child still does not do that himself, the parents will need to do it.
When the child comes home, check for ticks and lice. Take your child for a dental hygiene appointment since he probably has not flossed his teeth or brushed adequately since he left home. Of course, most children come home alive, well, happy and with a mountain of dirty laundry.

ora said...

I sympathize with victims and victims' parents who don't cooperate with police in sexual assault cases. Even sympathetic officers have to maintain doubt about the victim's story, they have to ask all kinds of questions that the victim will find very upsetting, and the victim will have to relate the experience repeatedly before s/he's had the benefit of therapy or significant time to begin healing. It's easy to blame and claim that it's a matter of shidduchim, but if that were the only issue there'd be a lot fewer non-Jewish parents who limit their cooperation with police as well.

In this case, the police got DNA samples, and they got the story and description of the attacker and location of attack. There's probably not a whole lot more these girls can do at this point. I could understand the frustration if the police had caught the guy and the girls/girls' families refused to testify, but that's not the case. And unless it becomes the case, I don't think it's fair to expect parents to sacrifice their young daughters' mental health for a (limited, potential) increase in public safety.

As for the article on camp, I think the quote has been taken out of context. The point of the article wasn't "See how wonderful camp is, all kids need camp." It was "If you're sending your kids to camp, give them some independence so they can flourish--otherwise you've missed the point." Her praise of camp came in the context of asking parents to keep camp as it's traditionally been. I agree with previous posters that camp shouldn't be considered necessary, but I don't think Mrs. Braverman's article was about that.