Got Orthonomics in your Email Box?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Guest Post: The Real Subject we Can't Talk About

Two weeks ago I linked to an Article by Rabbi Rosenbloom, "Can We Talk Seriously About Poverty?" The real subject we can't talk about that is, at the very least, highly correlated with frum financial challenges is family size. This blog has been around for approximately 2.5 years and in all that time, I haven't even directly touched the subject of large families, family planning, etc with a 10 foot pole. Of course, I've directly and indirectly alluded to the subject, but I have yet to give it its own forum. You just can't ignore the matter and write about finances. But, this subject is a halachic subject, a personal subject, a financial subject, a political subject, and a subject you just don't talk about. . . . . and since I don't have any firm opinions on the matter (or more acurately I have 10-20 conflicting opinions on the matter), I don't really find myself able to write anything remotely worth reading on the subject.

A few months ago, my inbox was filling up because Yeshiva World News posted a letter in the "Out of the Mailbag" section addressing Family Planning. By the time, I tried to link to the article, it was gone. I am told the article didn't last more than 3 hours before it was pulled. (I will challenge myself to beating the YWN record as I prepare for the onslaught of comments, despite a different readership).

This week, the author of the original article sent me an email with an attached document of the original article. I'm going to save my comments on his article for the comments section but am happy to give him a forum at my blog. The article follows below:

Family Planning – A Harsh Reality

No doubt there are those that are going to disagree with the following statements, but many would be hard-pressed to dispute the reality it represents. The following statements are not based on empirical research, but rather a data set based on numerous qualitative discussions with young couples in our community. I should also point out that having been in chinuch, both as a Rebbi and administrator, and a family therapist and now working full time in the corporate world, I believe I have some real insight into the different aspects of the following topic.
There are a number of challenges that Klal Yisrael is currently dealing with: shidduchim, parnossah, the internet to list just a few. Each one comes with its unique set of nisyonos and hardships. However, there is a new issue currently start to grow within the young families in our community. Family Planning. There are many young families in our community who are currently restricting the number of children they have due to the current costs of raising children. This is not being done out of choice, but as a practical last resort, as a way of preserving some sanity and shalom bayis in a home that would otherwise have none. As a Family Therapist I can tell you that the number one issue couples fight about are finances. More and more couples are faced with doing something they never imagined when they first got married, not having more children in exchange for not fighting about finances. Many young couples are reaching out to their rabbonim to discuss heterim that are available to them.

First, let’s look at the current fiscal situation for a young couple. A 30 year old couple with 3 children in school could potentially have a tuition bill of up to approximately $35,000, depending on where you live of course. If you add camp to the tab at $2,000 per child per summer the total cost of education per year is approximately $41,000. In order to earn enough money for education and camp the couple would have to earn approximately $55-60,000 per year. They have not yet housed their children, clothed them or fed them.

There will be those who are quick to jump and say, “Where is your bitachon? Have as many children as you want and Hashem will provide”. There is no question that the Ribbono Shel Olam is the ultimate provider, but not everyone can handle the challenges that come with being such a baal bitachon. That’s their reality. Does responsible parenting mean one is lacking in bitachon? We are talking about erliche families, who learn and daven daily in addition to earning 6 figure salaries. Who only want to provide the best possible chinuch and opportunities to their children without having to work 2-3 jobs and not even have the chance to see their children, learn with them or play with them.

Think about the choices that some families have to make: Sending kids to camp, in my opinion, a vital part of bringing up children or having another child? Paying full tuition and perhaps being able to hire a tutor when necessary or growing your family? Having your wife be able to work part time (or maybe not at all) or having another child? These are the choices currently being made by young couples today. Are they lacking Bitachon? Do they not have Emunah Sheleimah?

“Move somewhere cheaper.” Is that the answer? Instead of being able to provide the best svivah, hashkafah and chinuch to our children we should move to a new community that does not have these assets? Young couples should not be allowed to raise their children where they grew up themselves, because of factors beyond their control.

So what are the solutions? There is really no point in bringing up the topic unless there are some possible solutions. The solutions I am laying forth here have to do with the escalating cost of tuition in the Yeshivas and Bais Yaakov’s. For many families tuition represents the largest expense and that’s why many of the solutions lie there. The reality is with the rising costs of housing, food and energy many people are going to be forced to default on their Yeshiva commitments as it is. It’s not as if they are not going to house and feed their children. Yeshiva’s need to start to create solutions for themselves otherwise they will be spending more and more time fighting to collect money.

What can Yeshivas do?

1) Yeshivas should not offer full scholarships, only partial scholarships, even to their own Rabbeim. At one point in my career I ran a high school. Many parents could not afford the full tuition. Once we established the amount they could afford, I would take the remaining amount and tell the parents, “I will raise half and you raise the other half”. Parents were required to fundraise too. If the entire achrayos for the scholarship would have been on the yeshiva we would have had to raise tuition and only further perpetuate the problem. Rabbeim and others who cannot afford tuition must be involved in raising money; they cannot just rely on the yeshiva. There is no company in the world that offers that type of “perk” on top of a salary. Think about it, if a Rebbi has 3-4 children in the yeshiva and pays no tuition, his “perk” is worth $30-40,000 pre-tax! And someone is paying for that perk!

2) Yeshivas should not be allowed to force parents to pay tuition beyond the actual cost of educating the child. The cost of education is the actual cost of maintaining the class (salaries, physical plant and administrative fees) divided by the number of students per class. Yeshiva tuition is typically not a reflection of the actual cost per student. If a Yeshiva charges $11,000 per child and has 25 children per class the total amount of revenue per class is $275,000. It does not cost $275,000 a year to run a class. A percentage of full tuition goes towards supplying scholarships to needy students. Should Yeshivas offer scholarships to some students knowing that families being forced to pay full tuition may need to compensate by regulating the size of their family?

3) There must be a discount given for multiple children in the yeshiva. I.e. if one has 3+ children in one yeshiva they should be able to get a “multiple children” discount. If not, those being provided with free or heavily subsidised tuition are being encouraged to have more children while those being charged full are being forced to not.

Nothing is easy about these issues, neither the problems nor the solutions. If no one chooses to do anything about it though, there are many who will start to look for solutions that will at least give them some peace of mind, even if it means doing something drastic like family planning.


Zach Kessin said...

Is it just me or do #2 and #3 contradict each other? If you want to have the yesheva only charge what it costs to educate each child, then giving a discount for multiple children does not make much sense. Its not like it costs less to educate a child just because two of his brothers go to the same school

SephardiLady said...

Zach-It isn't just you. I noted the same thing while agreeing with the premise that when some families are paying the bill and other families are attending for near nothing, that former are being told they can't grow their family while the latter get a different message.

That said, I can see why a school would want to have a discount even if following #2, which would be to attract more students (lowering cost per student) and encourage loyalty to a school.

thegameiam said...

If the discount in #3 is small, they can be harmonized.

SephardiLady said...

I've never seen a frum school offer anything more than a token multiple student discount.

tesyaa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
tesyaa said...

Sorry, that didn't come out right. It should read:

If you are committed to a large family and to private education, get education yourself - a master's or professional degree in a well paying field. Not everyone can have mazal in parnasa, of course, but you have to get yourself in the game.

Anonymous said...

If 75% of tuition is real, and 25% is paying for those who like a free ride, then if you have 3 kids in yeshiva, you are paying that "free ride tax" 3 times. Seems like a multiple child discount could make sense.

Incidentally, we are in a unique situation historically with regards to large families. First, almost all of our kids survive. Infant and childhood mortality used to claim more than half of your kids. Second, we outfit our children in clothing, food, etc in a manner that is more congruant with a couple who has 2.3 kids and earns $200k/year, not 10 kids and $75k/year. Two hundred years ago, the rare family with 10 kids would likely not have enough food or clothing to provide for all of them. Today, we expect to send them all to camp, feed them meat every night, and buy them each new yom tov clothes.

Anonymous said...

The thing is, it's not just about 'large' families. I am currently expecting child no. 2 and frankly, we will not be able to afford child no. 3 for a very, very long time. I live in London, UK where there are no equivalent tuition issues (with some exceptions - in some areas the state-subsidised Jewish schools are very hard to get into and people have to go private), however if you want to live in a frum community there is hardly any choice of where to live and our mortgage burden is ENORMOUS - despite the fact we live in a small house in what is considered the cheapo neighborhood and we both hold down relatively well-paying, full-time jobs (then there's childcare... which, once I'm paying for 2, will practically eat up everything I earn). I know several of our friends have told us they simply cannot even consider a third child for the same reasons.
I cannot even imagine stopping at two children and find the whole issue extremely upsetting. I recognize that I will prob never be able to afford the 4 children I would ideally like and just pray that one day I will be able to afford a third.
It's no way to live.

Menachem said...

This is an important issue, and like so many important issues in the frum community it's brushed under the rug.

Much of this article is, correctly, focused on finances. But there is another important aspect; the ability of parents to properly parent large families.

Some people are amazing at it, they seem to have infinitely expandable time and patience. Many are not. I'm sure the author has seen many cases of children from large families whose problems result from parental overload and it's consequences such as lack of discipline, poor study habits, anti-social behavior, not to mention much more serious problems one often sees among kids in large families.

The balance to bitachon is hishtadlus and part of hishtadlus is knowing when, with the help of a Rav, to know one's limits and implement those limits.

tesyaa said...

anonymous, the free ride tax is per child, not per family.

Not only do we outfit our children like upper middle class Americans - we expect our yeshivas to provide an environment that's like a public school in an upper middle class neighborhood.

When one of our local schools was being built, there was a suggestion to wait on the fancy building and bring in trailers for the time being. It didn't fly. The reason posited (which I have to reason to disbelieve) was that the large scale donors that were lined up would pull out if the proposal was scaled back to trailers. I guess no rich donor wants his / her plaque on a trailer. So the money was only available for the fancy building, not for a more modest proposal.

triLcat said...

Anonymous from the UK: I know what you mean - I live in Israel, and the figures only work out for two kids.

Fortunately, once the kids start school, daycare costs drop dramatically, so I'm hoping we'll be able to manage more kids when #2 is in first grade.

Fortunately, most of us live in a world where our children won't go without food, clothes, and shelter, but that doesn't absolve us of financial responsibility for the children we bring into this world.

L said...

In pre-war Europe, only boys went to cheder and yeshiva. There were no camps or seminaries. Boys from poor homes only went until age 9. Classes were held in rebbe's homes or in shuls but yeshivas usually did not have their own buildings. Many frum older people who grew up in America went to public school during the day and Talmud Torah in the Afternoon. Most frum Jews did not expect to make a career out of learning. When a child was old enough to work, he or she contributed to the welfare of the family and gave the earnings to the father. Many families employed the children in family businesses. Sometimes grandparents lived with the family and if they were healthy, they were able to help raise the children so that it was not left entirely up to the beleaguered parents. Fathers who traveled on business and mothers who sometimes had health problems kept the birth rate down in addition to infant and child mortality. There were large families then but probably not as many as now. The generations after the holocaust also have the desire to rebuild the Jewish nation.

Mike S. said...

I would imagine that it costs something in the $150-180K range per classroom. This would be a $50-60K salary for the teacher, taxes, benefits, physical plant, utilities, supplies, insurance, and salaries for those not directly teaching, like the administrators, business folks, librarian, nurse and so on. So if you are charging $11,000 and have 20 kids in the classroom, you need to net about 70% of full tuition to cover costs. Even if you get a higher fraction of the nominal tuition at the reduced rate, you won't get it all. If you reduce the tuition to $8K and you get, say 80% of that you have to raise $30K per classroom. That's fine if you can do it, but for K-8 with 2 sections per grade, that is over half a million dollars. And, if you have fewer than 20 kids in some classes because demographics rarely work out evenly, yo may need to cover an additional $100K or so.

Anonymous said...

I want to mention something that really ought to become the subject of another blog entry. This year (and the next few) in particular is going to be very difficult. With all the upheaval going on at Wall Street, and knowing that so many of our wealthy school benefactors earn their money there, I have little doubt that fundraising is going to suffer. And it may suffer a lot. Especially in New York!


ora said...

I disagree with the author on "svivah." Yes, living in a more remote location is harder, but so is limiting family size more than you want, or raising your kids in a small family instead of a large one. There are hashkafic, chinuch, and "sviva" benefits to having more children as well, which IMO can outweight the benefits of being in a religiously strong area. What's happening in your own home matters more than who the neighbors are.

Menachem--IMO, the emotional aspects of raising children are a different topic. Going on birth control because you can't handle another child and going on bc because you'd love another child but can't handle another tuition are two different stories.

Tesyaa--You make a great point about expectations from schools. A big part of the tuition problem, IMO, is that we aren't just looking for Jewish schools to be the Jewish equivalent of some random public school--we want them to be the equivalent of the best public schools, or even prep schools. Communities that see Jewish school as a place to get a Jewish education, and don't worry if the school is just as crowded and run down and the teachers just as overworked as in the not-so-great public schools, have much less of a tuition crisis. This is true in Israel, I assume in the states as well, at least that's the impression I get from talking to both chassidic and MO friends.

anonymous who said we're in a unique situation historically--I don't entirely agree. If you look back 70 or 80 years instead of 200 you'll find plenty of big families. The difference is that today it's very rare in frum communities that kids have time to be truly useful to the family business or make money elsewhere, or that they'd be expected to. Parents are spending a lot of money on their 16-year-olds, not getting an income from them. And yes, the expectations of what kids deserve to have are much higher--more clothes, more bedroom space, more furniture, better food, etc. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but does give some clue as to how to make a large family work if you wish to do so.

Anonymous said...

tessya - just getting a professional degree does not mean one will have enough money - between student loans, the cost of living, and the rising costs of tuition, even professionals can have a hard time

aml said...

SL- thanks for being brave enough to post this. The writer has hit the nail on the head. DH and I both have advanced degrees and both make a decent living. But with student loans and the rising cost of living, numbers three and four (which is also my ideal) is a fleeting memory. I just met a couple who both work and make approximately $110/year. This is in Baltimore. They have three kids in school (two in elementary and one in middle school) and their tuition is almost 40k/year. And this is just tuition. And they are making a nice a decent living for the area. I don't see how this is reasonable. Add another kid and you're looks at over 50k/year. Who thinks this is a good idea?

And what's the alternative? Public school? Someone mentioned here before that its better to have more children and put them in public school but I just don't understand that.

I get so depressed everything I come to this blog, but I am addicted.

SephardiLady said...

aml-Please keep coming back. I try not to post only on tuition to mix things up.

SephardiLady said...

Mark-Another topic in my book. You want to write a guest post?

onionsoupmix said...

Good post. I just whined about this myself.

anonymous mom said...

Ora, I agree with you. Living out-of town can be greatly beneficial to a frum family and not just financially. To the letter writer, I don't agree with most of what you are saying. I think the fact that you served time as a Rebbe, but also as a therapist and someone who works in the corporate world kind of puts you at a disadvantage. I know we all would like Yeshivos to run like businesses, but they don't. Our day school is pretty transparent financially and business-like, but we aren't going to turn away those who need scholarships including the small number of public school refugees so that you or anyone else can have a larger family. I am a pretty practical person (and cynical) but "Hashem Yaazor" actually does come into play here. We ought not turn away those in need of scholarships and we ought not squeeze our Rebbes and teachers even more by requiring that they fundraise. I know that some people think the Rebbes are just taking up space and getting paid way too much. I've said before, that many of them work quite hard and deserve a decent salary and our respect. Letter writer and former Rebbe, your words do not speak with the chime of respect. And I doubt highly that you have taught in the Yeshiva system for any appreciable amount of time because then you would not be haranguing the Yeshivos for offering perks like free tuition to the Rebbes (which most places do not do). "Perks" like free tuition for one or two children are what keeps good day schools going strong with steady good teachers. More of them should take note of this. Plus investment=success. When Rebbes/teachers put their children in the school in which they teach, they are automatically more personally invested in their work and the success of the school. Sometimes benefits are not measured in dollar signs. That is why Yeshivos are not to be treated exactly as businesses. Experience in the corporate world will only get you so far in tackling the true challenges of educating children en masse.

aml said...

Anon Mom, it seems that you are missing the point here. The point is that we (the collective we) cannot afford to pay tuition. Bottom line. We cannot afford it. And the schools cannot afford for us to not be able to afford it.

anonymous mom said...

I'm pretty sure I got it. I live it too. But these "solutions" offend me . I'm putting my money on our being able as a community to come up with some better solutions.

Dave said...

If these solutions offend you, do you have another option?

What I keep seeing is people insisting that all of the options are bad.

Well, that may be. Sometimes all of the options *are* bad.

So which bad option do you pick? Or do you wait for financial implosion to take the choice away?

anonymous mom said...

our day school outlined some ideas. i chose not to share because i don't want to out myself. and i just don't know myself. i wouldn't disparage the solutions if they didn't offend my craft directly. When it comes to solving a school or shul issue in our community, it is going to have to be a human and humane solution. by that i mean that it will take a unique approach of Ne'eemut. Something that many of the "solutions" don't really offer. there is great heart and soul in Chinuch, beyond the wildest dreams of the average layparent. in honor of the spirit of our kids and those who teach them, we will find a way or two to attack this problem with Ne'eemut. I will ask for that at times I feel it is missing.

Dave said...

The math just doesn't work.

Look, I'd love it if my dinner always tasted incredible, was good for the environment, healthy, low calorie, and just this side of free. There are times when I can come close to some of those, but I don't think I've ever managed all of them.

You simply cannot combine large families and expensive schools and get an answer that works short of a handful of the very wealthy. If you add in the Kollel culture and the list of expensive cultural pressures, there is no way it ends well.

When your expenses are higher than your income, the only viable long term solution is to either lower the expenses or raise the income.

Historically, children were generally an economic net benefit -- they contributed more to the household resources than they consumed. That isn't the case in industrialized societies.

Commenter Abbi said...

Sorry, i've read this post a few times and I'm still losing the thread as to how yeshivot are supposed to solve the problems of large families.

I thought this was going to be a serious and brave discussion about the need for birth control in the frum community. Guess not.

L said...

I read somewhere that the top selling prescriptions in pharmacies in frum communities are BC pills and antidepressants. That may be urban legend but I would imagine that plenty of frum families use BC for a variety of reasons.
Still, it is hard to take upon oneself, the onus of telling another person to stop having babies unless it is clearly dangerous for that person to do so.
There is also the issue of "group-think". If a couple wants to have more kids than they can afford to educate, they can rethink their educational options. They don't have to follow the crowd.
Still, for most frum people, the frustration comes from the silence of the rabbinic community. They speak up about music and concerts that are of minimal if any threat to our youth but are quiet about the bigger issues. Few frum people want to be the first in their communities to homeschool, make cheaper simchas, or send their kids to shul on yomtov in clothes from Walmart. Most frum people appreciate the value of a child and would be loathe to say that they are only having 3. Unless the rabbinic body declares it a mitzvah (and would only apply if a valid heter could be found) to have a small family, there may only be a trickle of families that voluntarily limit their family size.

anonymous mom said...

Abbi, I agree totally. I was so disappointed. A. I thought we were going to talk openly about birth control
B. I found the suggestions rather impractical in addition to my concerns about respect and sensitivity.

Commenter Dave said the math doesn't work and he's right, but at some point he throws in "Kollel Culture." Dave, I wouldn't throw that in, I'd throw that out! Like, yesterday. And since this isn't YW which I have no idea why any of you read at all, I won't get stoned for saying it. Why the heck do you people read and comment on YW and the Yated? Why not just deal with MO day schools, shift focus where stuff is actually going in the right direction financially. The crisis of tuition is there, but there is way more transparency and way more openness to suggestions should anyone actually come up with a good one. I'd like to hear more from out of town day school parents on this issue. How are your communities dealing with the tuition challenge and the desire to have the amount of children you wish?

Dave in DC said...

Let's throw another "macro" dynamic into the mix - we *want* big families. We *need* big families. The general Jewish community is going to fall off a cliff demographically in the next two generations due to the disaffiliation of the majority (!) of the diaspora. Without fecund frummies, we could quickly find ourselves below critical mass for maintaining many communities.

That said, readers of this blog know well that even incomes that are double or triple the American norm struggle to afford the luxury items we view as baseline - with real estate in high-demand areas and private school tuition being the most significant and least negotiable of those costs. (Yes, we compound the problem with simchas, sheitels and seminaries but even without those, it would be tight.)

I'll own up to being one of those kvetchers without solutions. But my question is who in Jewish leadership is dealing with the macro problem? Yeshivas try to keep themselves sustainable from year to year, families try to make their budget work anyway they can, tzedakas and mosdos try to serve their missions, but among all our organizations and all our rebbeim, who is formulating a plan for the overall kehila? Without one, why would we expect anything other than a critical implosion?

Far too depressing for this early in the morning...

ProfK said...

I'm with Abbi on this one--we've gone into school tuition and how large families can't afford them, which is only a symptom, and gone away from the underlying cause, which is the large families themselves. Some have been arguing that the large families are a given--says who? It's way more than time for an open discussion on family planning and birth control.

tesyaa said...

OK, let's talk birth control. Clearly people are using birth control. If people marry in their early 20s, most will have way more than 6-8 kids without using birth control (even with breastfeeding spacing some pregnancies).

(Case in point - the Yeshiva World News, that bastion of journalism, just reported on a 47 year old woman who married at 20 and just gave birth to her 19th child).

There's still a lot of social pressure to have even the 5-8 kid size family, so people who can do it physically will do it. That doesn't mean that they're not using birth control at some time or another.

The postwar mentality to replace Jews lost to genocide is still strong, I think. That was the impetus for the postwar wave of large families in the frum community. Nowadays it's the social norm.

I think it's a human desire to have large families (especially among women, let's face it). It just happens to be that in the frum community it's not only socially acceptable, it's socially desirable.

That doesn't mean that people shouldn't know their limits, either economically or in parenting capacity.

Any comments?

ProfK said...

We could start the discussion Tesyaa by coming up with a definition for "large family" that all would agree on, and I don't think we are going to get that agreement. "Large" is a comparative term--large as a number compared to what? Some comments here seem to put large as 3-4 children. Others talk about 5-8. So would 5 be borderline large and 8 borderline what ever comes after large? What about 10 kids? 15 kids? 19 kids or more? Are those really large families or do they fall into a different, as yet un-named, class?

Or maybe we could start with trying to define what a parent is or what parenting is. Does the biological fact of producing a child make you a parent? In one sense of the definition it does--your procreator is your parent for identification purposes. But is that the only definition we want/need to use? Beyond giving them life, do parents "owe" anything to the children they have produced? If so, what? Can this as yet unnamed thing we owe the kids be idiosyncratic, differing from one set of parents to another? And do "large families"--however we are going to define that--affect the parent/child obligations?

For any argument/discussion to be effective all parties have to be defining terms the same way, and I don't believe that we are.

Anonymous said...

So we have established what drives frum Jews to have large families. At the end of the day, each family has to make their choices and not wait for gedolim to wake up and smell the Starbucks. One menahel that I heard about raised his school's tuition big time. A father came to pay and said that he couldn't handle the inflated price. The menahel reputedly told him to have fewer children. This school has a cross section of families from MO to very frum. This guy's family was somewhere in the middle. Another man walked into the yeshiva office for some matter and found a child sitting in the office. She had not misbehaved nor was she running a fever. Her parents were behind on tuition and she could not be let into class. The man, married only a few years, promptly informed his wife that their family would consist of 3 children. (maybe #3 will be twins)
As the article writer said, there is now a trend among young couples to have fewer children. If readers of this blog want to see action taken, do not wait for your rabbonim to see that there is a problem. They seem to be focusing on thrips in your salad. Meet with other families in your yeshiva and try to see what solutions the group can come up with. Take action rather than waiting for someone else to do it. I asked my rabbi what is being done and his response was that he already established a fund to pay for bochrim to go to yeshiva, how much was I willing to give? His solution is to raise money. That is a bit like a bandaid on a large incision but for now he raised enough to send 3 bochrim to yeshiva. At this point, he is way ahead of me.

tesyaa said...

Great questions, ProfK. And it necessarily leads to questions about siblings. Do kids benefit from having siblings, or does having more than one sibling harm a child ? (I'm leaving the single child family aside as a special case, since there's probably as much pathology associated with being an only child as with being one of a huge horde or siblings).

I'm guessing the answer is different for different people. You know, different strokes for different folks.

Of course parents have a huge obligation to their kids, but how do we define that? I have heard plenty of stories of people who appreciate the support network of siblings, especially as they and their parents get older. Is it deprivation to deny offspring that benefit?

And there are benefits of learning to share resources that come with being one of many siblings. It may be good preparation for the competition of college and the workplace.

These random thoughts do not necessarily represent personal opinions on my part.

Anonymous said... - check out this article in Ha'aretz from last week which claims that the cut in child allowances in Israel has led to a drop in the Charedi average family size - and a fall in the poverty rate amongst Charedim.

Dave said...

If large family size really is, as Dave in DC says, a "need", that actually makes things easier.

Because then you can look at what needs to go to make that possible.

One thing that can go is living in New York. The cost of residence in New York is astronomical. The same would go for other high price cities (London, San Francisco, etc).

The Amish also have large families (6-8 children according to one source), and they have a land intensive lifestyle. It is my understanding that when the prices of land grow too high for the next generation, they sell and move on. In cases where they don't, apparently the family size starts to decrease.

Private schooling also almost certainly needs to go, at least in the form in which it currently exists. Assume that the actual cost per child is ~6,000 per year (35k per teacher, tripled to cover other expenses, 20 students per class). Even at that rate, it just isn't affordable for expected incomes if you are going to have 6-8 children.

And of course, there are the two issues of the strong disapproval of work in parts of the frum culture, and the set of "required" luxuries.

One common complaint I've seen voiced by those who can afford to pay for the size of the family is that they "make an income that should give them a luxurious lifestyle, but they don't get any of the benefits". Life is about choices. They chose a large family over a smaller family and a more luxurious life. You don't get to eat your cake and have it too.

Esther said...

Per Dave's comment, when we look at the other groups with large families (Amish and some Christian groups), they do NOT have private school. Amish have a basic school sytem that ends at 8th grade, and the Christian community is now homeschooling to a large extent. (Not individuals, but as a community - they have developed their own curriculums, textbooks, schooling networks, etc.)

Anonymous said...

Another conclusion I draw is that it is in some peoples mind better NOT to have a Jewish child than have that child and send them to public school or another alternative. And we talk about bitochon?

Have we all lost our collective minds?

SephardiLady said...

Anonymous Mom-I live out of town and have attended open MO BOD school meetings. The price of MO schooling is just going up and up. The administration is committed to making sure teachers ae paid on the pay scale of a public school teacher. Families are generally paying high tuitions already and high earners tend to sit on the board. These parents are looking for a Jewish pre-school and aren't ready to start making major cuts. . . .

Staff salaries are 70-80% of the budget which complicates things in a major way because slashing a budget rarely means eliminating a sports program, but eliminating staff.

I don't know what to say. I don't find the MO schools any more on top of this issue than the more right wing schools.

SephardiLady said...

I'm not quite sure where to start with a conversation on BC. If someone wants to pen their own guest post, be my guest. Otherwise I will give it a try later.

In the meantime, I concur with tesyaa. The desire to have a large family is strong. And most people do engage in "family planning" of some sort at some time, or many of us would be having kids much quicker. Just look around at a small social group and you will meet the mother with 5 under 6 years old, while her friend has just 2. Bodies work differently, but. . . . . . .

Sara said...

Living in a large community I see all types of the spectrum. Many struggling couples who can barely make ends meet, never mind tuition, are having large families. These families are recipients of various chesed organizations aside from tuition scholarships. When it comes to tuition, [we're talking community schools] they are given huge discounts because it is obvious there is no money.
Then there are other couples who are not struggling financially when it comes to basic needs. They can make it. Along comes tuition and they break the bank. So they have less kids. And a big part of their tuition bill is subsidizing those struggling families.
This is what is unfair. [I know life IS unfair]! Families who want to live 'ehrlich'. W/o help from chesed organizations and scholarships are losing out to subsidize other people's families!!
I'm unsure of a solution like many of the above readers. However, I do agree with the guest poster's solution #1.
Nobody is obligated to 'raise' money for your child's tuition. Because community school's are committed to your child's chinuch they will help you and do everything possible. But parents also have a share in this responsibility.
I know this is rather long :) but i just wanted to rant about this. It really irks me that I may have to limit my family size and end up subsidizing someone else's choices.
Yes, there are many 'broken' things with the system. No accountability on the school's part, abuse on the parents' side etc.... But every parent must remember that ultimately the obligation of educating their children is their responsibility.

Thinking said...

I figured now would be a good time to chime in, as I wrote the article.
As SL wrote YW posted the article for 3 hours and had to pull it do to potential serious consequences to them. I appreciate their attempt to raise awareness. And I appreciate SL giving it a voice here.

SL- You got it right, the reason #2 and #3 don't contradict each other is because if you are actually paying the actual cost, the yeshiva should be willing to provide an actual scholarship to cover at least some of your tuition. This would encourage school loyalty.

Anony mom- I was a rebbi for 5+ years, during which time, due to parsonage and tuition breaks, I made more money then many of my other friends who were just starting out were making. In addition, while it took a considerable amount of time for me to prepare for my classes, my schedule allowed me the flexibility to have my wife work and go to school. My point being that not all lawyers make 6 figures, some of them work in th DA's office. Not all accountants make 6 figures, there's is a lot of competition out there. It is hard to justify giving rabbeim and teachers free or highly reduced tuition unless we are certain that their salaries are in fact lower then that of the parent body of the school.
To clarify one point about rabbeim and teachers raising money, I do not mean that they should raise money for the yeshiva as a whole, but at least try to raise money for their own children's tuition.

And why shouldn't the financial aspects of yeshivos be run like a fiscally responsible business? I have seen a number of yeshivos hire people with corporate experience in order to ensure the long term fiscal viability of the yeshiva, with great success.

To the point of birth control. As a therapist I have had this discussion with many Rabbonim, from Chassidish to MO and everything in between. The good news is no one told me "Chas V'Shalom!! Never!!" The general point that they made was that it is difficult to make any broad statements as we (you know who I mean) tend to translate what is said to our benefit without hearing the real message. The best advice that I got, and the advice I give to many young couples, is "Asei L'cha Rav", have a rav who you can come to as a couple and who can guide you to the appropriate gadol who can help you make the right decisions. Only a gadol can give you a heter in this situation. Don't be afraid to call them and ask, they understand and are willing to discuss it with you. You just need to find the right one for you.

JS said...

I'm sure this post will cause a tidal wave, but I think it needs to be said.

Bitachon, in its modern usage, is simply not a Jewish value. For proof, just look at the book of Shmuel when Hashem tells Shmuel to go annoint David king. What does Shmuel say back to Hashem? I can't do it because Shaul will kill me! If you make me a guarantee on my safety, I will go annoint David. This is the difference between modern Bitachon and Jewish Bitachon. Modern Bitachon runs off doing mitzvot without even the most basic thoughts on one's safety, livelihood, or well-being. Jewish Bitachon does everything in one's power to take care of oneself while seeking to do mitzvot. Even all of the commentators on that verse say this: God helps those who help themselves.

Someone who goes off and has kid after kid after kid without any ability to provide financially is not exercising Bitachon, he is exercising foolishness and is causing himself and his family to suffer for misplaced and wrong values.

We need to wake up and recapture what real Bitachon is.

Furthermore, the issue with birth control isn't just how many kids to have, but perhaps more importantly, when to have them. A couple can have just 2 kids (a halachic minimum) and still be in financial trouble because they had the kids one after the other immediately after getting married. If couples waited a few years they could save money and have a cushion to live more comfortably. Once you get into debt it is very hard to get out even if one is now earning much more money. Saving while young (which can only be done in ernest without kids) is one of the few financial things a couple CAN control (they can't control tuition). And yet, I see couple after couple rushing to get pregnant the second they get married. We live in amazing times and a woman is still quite fertile in general at age 27 or 28 as she is at 22 or 23. Those 5 years can make a huge financial difference. And yet social pressure and rabbinic pressure to have children and get off birth control prevents this.

Lastly, I've said this before but I'll say it again. Tuition is so high because there are far too many people who can't pay. High tuition is a way of forcing the wealthy or those too proud to ask for assistance to subsidize those who can't afford it. A couple who can't pay $5,000/kid can't pay $10,000/kid, so might as well make it $10,000/kid and get more money from the wealthy and proud. Because if you charged less, the yeshiva would just get less. If they charged $7,500 they'd still get the same amount from those who can't afford, but now they'll get less from those who can or are too proud. Because the latter will only give the money over if it's required, they won't give it over willingly as charity.

Anonymous said...

Js, you mention social and rabbinic pressure to have children early in marriage. What about halachic pressure? Apparently there is not much support in halacha for a newly married couple without those 2 children to delay pregnancy for 5yrs. Those who use BC for years on end without and then discover when they discontinue using it that they had fertility issues that should have been addressed years ago, find that there is no cheap or economical cure for infertility. I realize that that is not true of everyone but the infertility rate in America is now about 15% I am not sure that waiting 5 years to start a family would wash with many frum people.

Anonymous said...

I have a friend who just told me about a miscarriage....her 6th. She already has two children. In the same conversation she told me about WIC, and free health insurance, and all sorts of "benefits" her family is getting due to low income.

Frum or not.... if you're taking advantage of government programs, it should be very temporary and for a very dire circumstance, not a way of life, and in all too many frum families, it is a way of life. I was complaining about paying over $1000 a month for health insurance (we're on cobra) and my friend told me to apply for the free health insurance. ack.

My opinion is that if you are on food stamps, welfare, WIC, free health insurance, or whatever else...... there should be mandatory birth control. Birth control doesn't work? Fine. You're forced to give your baby up for adoption. There are waiting lists of people waiting for an American, healthy infant. Harsh, yep.... but don't have babies if you can't afford them.

Yes, we had children. Yes, we can keep a roof over our head and food on the table. But at this time, we KNOW that we can not pay for more day school tuitions than children we have, so at this time we don't plan to have more. Heter from the Rabbi. simple. We're not destitute, but we're treating day school tuition as birth control.

triLcat said...

anonymous 1:05pm - Starting at 20 or starting at 25 is not what makes the difference between being able to have kids and not being able to have kids. The difference comes in when couples start past 35 when ova are already slightly less good.
Bottom line is that if you expect your children to have certain things, then you have to take responsibility for that.

If you require that each of your children have a full day school education, go to camp each summer, and go to Yeshiva in Israel after high school, then you have a responsibility to work out how you're going to manage that. If you can't manage that with your financial situation, you have several options:

1. Lower your demands/expectations.
2. Increase your earnings.
3. Decrease other types of spending.
4. Don't have the kids.

Unfortunately, it seems that many people are unwilling to do any of the above and instead expect others to pick up their slack.

There is the community issue that 1. Schools and camps are not run as efficiently as they could/should be.

2. Expectations are too high and those who don't meet those expectations are penalized (e.g. teeny meanies who will make fun of a girl wearing clothes from Target/Wal-Mart; schools that require camp; schools that make parents feel inadequate if their kids don't go on every single overpriced school trip)

Still, we can moan and groan about these things or we can take action and take responsibility.

Ahavah Gayle said...

There have been several very astute comments here - the situation boils down to two things. In order to remain financially solvent, there are two basic choices: forgo private dayschool or forgo having children.

The woman who said all of her income was being eaten up by daycare was close to the solution, but backed away from it. If you're going to have more than one or two children, the only truly economically sustainable path is a homeschool cooperative - staying home and grouping up with other moms doing the same to provide the kids with the education without the paid teachers, buildings, and other infrastructure.

The only costs would be secular studies books and workbooks and multi-media materials (which can be ordered in sets for the whole school year at a fraction of the cost of a dayschool) and a Torah tutor, probably a bochur who would could be paid a reasonable fee for an hour or so a day per "class." Obviously, this person could do two or three "classes" a day and still get their own studying/college classes in, too, so it's a win-win for everyone.

Given a choice between having children and having private dayschool, we should choose to have children if at all possible. That's my opinion, of course, and women who are too emotionally invested in their careers to be full-time moms and homeschool co-op teachers will not doubt disagree. But in real life, most women of more than 2 or 3 children and not gaining their family anything financially by working.

And if it's a contest between your ego and your family's financial well being, why did you have kids in the first place, knowing you can't afford to educate them and your rav/community doesn't permit public schooling (as most don't)?

It IS very much irresponsible to have kids if you are not going to give them a sound financial situation - bottom line. Money is not going to fall out of the sky for private school tuition - and as the economy gets worse, charity for tuition will get more and more scarce, too. Tuitions will have to go up, and most people are already at the breaking point.

So a hard, hard choice will have to be made. Putting your head in the sand and, as someone said, keep on having kid after kid you know you can't pay tuition for is digging yourself a hole Hashem is not going to dig you out of. He expects you to exercise reasonable stewardship of your resources, not rely on handouts or miracles. Even if someone at the school won the lottery - how long would the money last? How much would go for charity tuition? It would only be a stop-gap measure. The underlying problems are still there, because we refuse to make the hard choices we need to make.

ProfK said...

Thinking, no disrespect meant at all but please define gadol. Arguments on who is a gadol also take up a lot of the time of members of Klal, nor is there agreement in all cases. If by gadol as it applies to birth control or family planning you mean a rav with more experience and/or study and knowledge of all the ins and outs of the subject that would be one thing. In that case it would be comparable to describe the gadol as the expert's expert, similar to going to a GP who then recommends the right specialist. But many people do not define gadol in this manner. We all know of the partisanship that can exist in "annointing" gedolim, with some people taking the attitude (and by this I many many a rav as well) that my gadol is bigger than your gadol. When a rav recommends a gadol you have to ask him why that gadol and not another. What are this gadol's qualifications for paskening in my particular case? Just being termed a gadol is not enough. Otherwise you might get sent to a dermatologist to set your broken foot. You also need to ask why a specialist is needed in this case altogether. Do you go to a pulmonologist to treat a cold? Only if that cold morphs into something else. Why should not your rav who paskens on everything else for you be the place to go for guidance and a psak?

qsman said...

I agree with the other commenters regarding the bizzare disconnect between the start and end of the article.

We've got large families on scholarships that are 100% current, better than the 2 child family. There are also several large family cases that had us scratching our heads as to what were they thinking......

I owe SephardiLady a guest post, but parnossah keeps getting in the way :)

Lion of Zion said...


"1. Lower your demands/expectations.
2. Increase your earnings.
3. Decrease other types of spending.
4. Don't have the kids."

on target.

i personally am also become very sympathetic to a no-scholarship policy in schools (except in limited emergency situations).

but the problem with trilcat's suggestions and my own no-scholarship suggestion is that the jewish community does require certain professional personnel who will never earn much more than a token salary. what do we do about them?

Anonymous said...

To trilcat, occasionally there are couples that marry young and start out thinking that pregnancy will come easily, only to find that one of them has a problem that they were not aware of before marriage. Sometimes 2 or 3 years go by before they realize that without treatment, their chances of becoming parents are poor. I am not talking about the type of infertility that occurs with advanced age but that type that the young person may have developed since childhood. Causes can be due to type one diabetes, pelvic infections due to a ruptured appendix, previous chemotherapy, birth defects, endometriosis, and polycystic ovary disease. It is not a given that every young person is equally fertile. Wouldn't it be sad if a couple waited 5 years and then discovered that it might take several more years to become parents?

triLcat said...

Anon: I have PCOS and married at 27.
I'm aware of these issues.
Close friends of mine tried for 3-5 years, had miscarriages, etc.

If you start trying when you're 25, then unless you're missing a uterus or some equally serious difficulty, you will still have a reasonable chance of having several children.

More than that, most 20-year-olds aren't mature and responsible enough to handle the difficulties of infertility. Starting fertility treatments in the first year or two of a young marriage is all but asking for disaster.

Thinking said...

ProfK- You define who a gadol is for you. If you feel that your local Rav is qualified in these matters so be it. Personally, my rav, who is highly qualified in many halachic areas, recommends that those who ask him about BC speak to someone who he feels is more qualified in these sensitive and halachically complicated matters than he is. He defines for his kahal who he believes a "gadol" is and it is not the same gadol for every question. I was not suggesting there is 1 gadol for everyone, I was just differentiating between a Rav and one who you would consider to be a gadol. Feel free to ask your Rav why he believes someone else can provide a better answer, we should always be comfortable asking our rabbonim for more information, when necessary and in a respectful way. Don't just question for the sake of questioning. And don't assume that we do not have gedolim in our generation who are the ultimate source for delicate questions such as these.

LOZ- The Jewish community does not require certain professional personnel who will never earn more than a token salary. Rabbeim and teachers are capable of earning higher salaries if necessary, principals can earn 6 figures. If a Rebbi needs more money there are ways of making it work, they need to rely less on the community.

Let me quickly run through the numbers here for those who are not familiar with them:
Rebbi Salary = $50,000 (that's low end)
Parsonage allows all living expenses to be free of Federal Taxes. This can include: rent/mortgage, utilities, repairs, furnishing etc. Let's assume the living expenses are $25,000 a year, that's an additional $6,250 of net income per year. Rabbeim can earn an additional $5,000 with a summer job. Now let's also assume that this rebbi does not have a second job, he spends anytime not in the classroom preparing for class. That is the way it should be, it's not really that way, most Rabbeim have second jobs. At least the fact that he is done work by 2pm allows him the flexibility to help out at home and with carpools so that his wife can have a job too. Let's assume she makes $30,000 a year.
Between the 2 of them they are earning $85,000 or actually the equivalent of $91,250 per year. They are a middle income family like many other Jewish families earning no less then anyone else is. Then why the free tuition? Or as I mentioned before, why isn't tuition free for anyone who earns whatever a Rebbi earns?
Many companies have childcare programs, they cost employees $15-20K a year. Even for employees who are only making $50-$60K.
BTW I based these numbers on my own experiences with actual numbers.

Shoshana said...

I have said this before, but I feel that it bears repeating. My husband and I have never felt that our children were "owed" a private education. We have four kids right now, live off of one salary and struggle greatly with finances. So we homeschool. It has been the best choice for all of us socially, financially and spiritually. It is truly an olam sheker when Jews start to say "an end to children" in favor of supporting a largely-failing and grossly over-priced school system.

Ariella said...

Shoshana makes a good point. When you do the math of the costs of homeschooling -- which could amount to a few hundred dollars per child for books, software supplies, and educational outings, etc. -- versus $5,000-$20,000 a year per child for yeshiva tuition -- not including the extras for trips and projects -- it really does make financial sense. But society is very quick to stigmatize those who do it. They assume the child was rejected by the yeshiva system because something is wrong with him/her, and they castigate the homeschooler for not supporting the local yeshivas. But the real threat is opting out of the system and the type of social coercion the system facilitates.

WannaBeChossid said...

Hello Everyone,

I thought, i would repost my previous solution. Please let me know your comments.

These articles finally made me sits down and do some digging, and here is what I found out: As far as for $175M “gone to our Torah institutions, there would have been enough to subsidize all the families who are unable to pay full tuition”,

There are 138k Students in Orthodox schools ( )

” According to a survey of all Jewish educational institutions performed by Dr. Marvin Schick, there are 138,000 students in the U.S. enrolled in Orthodox Jewish day schools.” On a side note, I encourage everyone to read that article as it has some fascinating facts such as: “Thus the total of the Core Jewish Population that claims to be halachically Jewish is 4,041,000.”

I also found an updated list here: which has a table that has a table with the following heading: “Enrollment in Jewish Day Schools, 2003–04” and which put total @ 205,035(!!!!) starting @ with 4 years old and up. I took out what I consider non orthodox schools: Reform, Scheter (Conservative) and Community and arrived @ 165K students. You must read this article since there are a lot of other interesting facts in there, such as:

“Not included in this census are children below the age of four, although a number of day schools have programs for them and count them in their enrollment statistics. Nor does this census include four year olds and even five-year olds who attend preschool and educational programs in Jewish institutional settings other than day schools, such as synagogues, community centers and private kindergartens.”

So if we use a number of 10K (*** Per ProfK – “at $10,000 per student”) which is not actually a true number since everyone gets a discount as kids are added to a school roster. In my personal case, it will be 5% off on a 9.5k tuition; but for a sake of argument and simplicity lets use 10K; So, that means that it costs: $1,654,550,000 (that is billion ladies and gentleman) per year to educate Orthodox Students. 175M make 11% of that number.

Our Friends @ Jewish Observer is making an assumption that only 11% of people don’t pay for their tuition, I would guess that the true number is much higher. My personal guess would be @ 50%;

There are between 550-650 thousand orthodox Jews in the USA today ( ) which means that it costs between $254.55 and $300.83 per USA Orthodox Jew Per Year to Education ALL Jewish Orthodox Children; So, for a cost 3-4 kishush sponsorships per year we can all pay for our kidsJ I am starting a revolution, who is with me?!

And why does the writer think that all Torah Institutions Deserve Community Money? In Chicago we have a school for every Orthodox Flavor ( ) you can imagine.

You want to speak Yiddish?! No Problem! (Veitzener Cheder) You are Lubavitch?! No problem, Litvak?! How can we forget about your needs! Modern Orthodox? We got something for you as well!!! Can someone PLEASE explain to me why does any community need a school for every sect of Judaism? Where is Ahavas Israel in that?! As I was told, that the difference between Veitzener Cheder and Yeshivas Tiferes Tzvi is that in Veitzener they speak Yiddish…. And that Veitzener Cheder opened to fill in a nitch for people who wanted their kids to learn how to speak Yiddish… Excuse me, but WHAT THE HECK?! So this means, 2 buildings, double the teachers, double the administrators, double EVERYTHING. The only 2 schools on that list that are not in red are: Arie Crown Hebrew Day School and Hillel Torah North Suburban Day School, both schools that serve people who work. I am not sure about Joan Dachs Bais Yaakov but since it is a school that serves same people as Tiferes Tzvi I doubt it is also in black.

And I don’t think the story is any different in other cities;

Another interesting article: "A Choice for the Chosen"

SephardiLady said...

We have given far more than your proposed amount in the past to subsidize other students in local day schools.

Filling in the gap isn't the issue. The issue is just how large tuition is, . . . especially as we go into a down economic period.

WannaBeChossid said...

Hello sephardilady,

Are you suggesting that together we have donated 1.6B dollars to schools?

What i am proposing would ensure that people don't pay more the $100 per person, thus making 10K tuitions irrelevant and ensuring that our students will receive solid education.

I doubt that $1.6B has been donated per year, and if it has been, then someone somewhere is stealing.

anonymous mom said...

Wannabe Chosid is so right with that last point especially. We do not need nor should we have a school for every flavor. As I've said here before, even out of town the "community day school" is now being challenged by the new Chareidi upstart establishment on the block. And--yes--we sink our money (at least those who have extra) in way too many places.

Shoshanna, there are tradeoffs to homeschooling that are often oversimplified. But, G-d help me, that argument can get vicious so just forget I said it.

Js, as the financially strapped Ed McMahon would say: "You are correct, Sir." You made perhaps the most on-target point of the thread: "High tuition is a way of forcing the wealthy or those too proud to ask for assistance to subsidize those who can't afford it." And, yes, if the Yeshivos charge less, they will get less.

Finally, to "thinking:"
You must have skipped over the part where I addressed the advantages to discounting or comping the Rebbes' tuitions. It isn't only about money. We are talking about a quality of life issue when we are talking about our children's school environments in which they remain locked for 8 hours a day. When you say "And why shouldn't the financial aspects of yeshivos be run like a fiscally responsible business?" I don't have a problem with that. Mine certainly runs that way to a great degree, but that's not what I meant. I meant that while a school should manage its finances responsibly, it also cannot make "business-sense only" decisions. Schools and Shuls are not "that kind" of business nor should they be. And that's the way it is. That's why (and you may disagree strongly) I don't have a problem with closed-door teacher salary negotiations where a mom of 6 will make more than a single girl (within reason) and Rebbes will make more than others on staff, where the kids from the difficult family where the dad can't keep a job pay less than the one where the parents are trying their best and struggling, where the child of immigrants who are convinced by some neighborhood Rabbi to put their kids in Yeshiva are not convinced enough to pay full tuition and we let them, and on and on. I'm okay with all of that because--and I hope all of you want this for your kids' schools--Yeshivos/Day schools are little families and they should be because they are partnering with you in shaping your children. And--no--I don't believe I have provided any solutions to the tuition challenges above just agreeing wholeheartedly with Js and Wannabe.

Anonymous said...

to thinking:

One correction to your math: we have discovered that it is highly risky to claim parsonage on your tax returns unless you are an actual congregational rabbi who uses part of his house as a minyan. And then you can only deduct the percentage of the house that is used for that purpose. In the past, my husband, who was a "kiruv rabbi" for many years, claimed parsonage on specific rooms of the house, and later we were told that, had they audited us, we would have been fined, because that is not the intent of the tax code deduction. And now they are scrutinizing the returns of those who are claiming parsonage. Just beware and be warned!

L said...

The turn in the economy will probably also impact many families as it has already severely impacted the fixed-income elderly. Those who are trying to raise large families might also be asked to give their tzedukah to their own grandparents rather than to yeshivas. The AARP magazine has a current article on poverty among the elderly and some old folks who thought that they had enough to live on are now turning to their families in order not to starve. Food banks are no longer taking new clients and thrift stores are running low on pants (see That is a separate topic but what is relevant to the family planning topic is that while tuition may not be an adequate reason for a heter, starvation is another matter. It sounds as though tzedukah organizations are not as capable of providing the safety net that they could at one time provide. Do the recipients outnumber the donors? This I do not know but the AARP article states that several programs that delivered food to the elderly closed down. While this thread is about the impact of tuition on the birthrate, we may soon have the young growing family breadwinner supporting several generations.
The over-credited American has run the economy into the ground and many people will have to learn to live on less. In the end, they may actually be happier.

ora said...

I don't think people who are suggesting bitachon mean "have as many kids as you want, don't worry if the fridge is empty, just leave it to God." It's just that at some point you do have to make a leap of faith when it comes to having kids. An expression I've heard (usually as a warning from the older crowd) is "If you wait until you can afford to have kids, you won't have any." There never seems to be extra money in the budget--but then somehow, there is.

So for me, "bitachon" means that while my husband and I do our part by getting an education, working hard, setting a budget, and not living beyond our means, we do also have to trust Hashem to do his part, and to say, we don't see room in the budget for a child but when we have one we'll work it out. And so far, we have.

As for having kids at a younger age, I think the problem is that couples expect to have kids while both being full-time students like most American 20-somethings. That just doesn't work. But if you do things the more old-fashioned way, with one spouse supporting the other through college and then the reverse, it can work. And there are benefits to having kids younger.

ora said...

Not all kids enjoy home schooling. But getting a few families together and doing group schooling is a very interesting plan, IMO.

Here in Israel I've seen yeshivas and seminaries using shul space, apartments, and event halls in local shuls to hold classes. Is that something done in America as well, or does each school have its own building? It seems to me that one of the huge benefits of group schooling is just getting rid of the cost of building and maintaining a school. Maybe that could be done with a more formal school system as well?

SephardiLady said...

"If you wait until you can afford to have kids, you won't have any." There never seems to be extra money in the budget--but then somehow, there is.

Part of the issue is defining "afford," subject of another post.

SephardiLady said...

"Are you suggesting that together we have donated 1.6B dollars to schools?"

I haven't checked you math, but you mentioned that for the cost of 3-4 kiddushes we could support the shortfall. . . or at least that is how I'm reading.

I know we have donated that amount in the past, but now that we pay tuition, well, there isn't anything left to donate.

Anonymous said...

Donation is the buzz word. A little over a half hour ago, posted a concern for a number of Jewish charities that the collapse of Lehman brothers will put a clamp on the end of year fund-raising. Because of less taxable revenue, the state of NY will also have to cut back. Save your money folks!

Lion of Zion said...


"The Jewish community does not require certain professional personnel who will never earn more than a token salary"

shochatim, mashgichim, social workers, assistant teachers, low-level employees for the non-profits, etc.

re. how much a rebbe gets paid:

1) i also highly doubt that a rebbe can claim parsonage
2) which schools pay a half-day rebbe 50k base salary (and you say that is the low end)?
3) benefits are pathetic

(i do think that the light schedule is a big perk that people fail to take into account.)

"Many companies have childcare programs"

maybe a *few* companies have a type of daycare program but that is it. usually, however, it is lightly subsidized day care (if it is actually available altogether). others offer emergency day care for a certain number of days a year. most.

Thinking said...

LOZ - I claimed parsonage on my tax returns for 6 years and with 2 different yeshivos. In fact, all of the Rabbeim are given parsonage forms along with their W-4 at the beginning of the year.
An your point about corp day care is exactly my point, no one gets free tuition or daycare! Regardless of your pay grade. Rabbeim should have to pay at least the minimum amount it costs to educate a child unless it can be proven that they make less than other parents.

Anon- I am not sure what a "kiruv rabbi" is, but I believe you must be paid by a congregation or religious institution to have parsonage deducted.

To all the points about donations, relying on donations is what has gotten us into this pickle. And that is where the stress on young couples is coming from. Couples who are now entering their first children into the schools and had heard all a long that they would be able to negotiate or get reduced tuition based on their income are being told that's not the case. With less money coming into the schools, schools are providing less scholarship money and even raising tuition on a yearly basis. Now couples have to reconsider everything including family size and that is where the tremendous emotional stress is coming from, as well as shalom bayis issues.

What I love about this blog is how frank it is about what things actually cost. Young people need to know to properly plan their education, job selection, community etc.

Anonymous said...

By the way - to the original auther - you seem to know more than most about The YWN. How do you know about consequences they may have faced? They seem to lack a lot of integrity (e.g., allowing lashon hara about YU rashei yeshiva while covering up other things.) I have my suspicions that they are not actually Orthodox but are just in it for the ad revenue. Any comments?

Anonymous said...

In addition to the problem of the upper class and middle class limiting their family size and struggling to pay full tuition to subsidize the ones with many children - they are also subsidizing those that work off the books or have businesses that write everything off

I brought this topic up with the local MO yeshiva and they said look those who work on the books pay taxes and tuition - thats just the way it is

Anonymous said...

Anonymous September 17, 2008 11:21 AM

Another conclusion I draw is that it is in some peoples mind better NOT to have a Jewish child than have that child and send them to public school or another alternative. And we talk about bitochon?

Have we all lost our collective minds?

I think I have to agree with this. At least somewhat. I think it is better to have more Jewish children and send them to public school than to have fewer Jewish children and send them to Yeshiva. Even with the risk that some percentage of them will end up going off the derech.


anonymous mom said...

Mark, I think if you are going to choose, you should choose to have more kids and prostrate yourself before the tuition committee. You have to get off that ridiculous Public School warpath. It's a road to nowhere. For G-d's Sake!!!!! You are driving me nuts with it, already.

triLcat said...

disagree - I went to public school for grades 1-7. Not the end of the world.

anonymous mom said...

I'd rather pay the extra thousand or two so your kids don't wind up in Public School, Mark. I know many Yeshiva parents who would say the same. Those of you that don't want to do that, then go ahead. Like I said before, I've been the recipient of tuition committee help and it's the way our communities work. I'm proud of that. Whether the math works in the end is an issue that needs to be addressed, but in the meantime, Public School is not a choice for us.

JLan said...

I haven't bothered commenting on the numbers that I keep seeing in here yet, but it should be mentioned that anyone including MO high schools in this discussion has seriously underestimated costs, at least in the NY area.

1) Let's say that we teach the following subjects: English, History, Math, Science, Foreign Language (besides Hebrew), Ivrit, Tanach, Gemara, Machshava/current events, PE, and Art (of some sort). There is going to be a faculty to student ratio well under 20:1, even if some of those classes meet only a few times per week, and this does not include administrators, psychologist, nurse, and support staff (i.e. staff for children with special needs).

2) For those who are suggesting $50,000 (including benefits and employer-paid taxes) for full time teachers, you're undercounting by a significant margin, at least for SAR, Ramaz, etc. That doesn't even cover the starting salary for a full time high school teacher at either of those schools, let alone those with experience, benefits, taxes, coaching and other extracurricular staffing, etc. Keep in mind: MO high schools (the elementary/middle schools not as much) are trying to pay around the same as the local public schools, plus some form of tuition break (Ramaz and SAR are both at 50%). NYC public school salaries start around $50,000 these days, and very few of the teachers at the top MO high schools have only a bachelor's degree, so they start their salaries even higher (I teach at one of them, and I feel underqualified since I only have one Masters and it's in a teaching field- I lack a Masters in my subject matter, a second Masters, and a PhD, all of which are common).

Anonymous said...


2 comments on your numbers.
1) Psychologists, social workers and nurses should be covered by the board of ed. If schools are paying for it themselves they shouldn't be, they are entitled to it.
2)Since when do high school students need to be taught by PhD's?? I have never heard of such a thing! I am trying to figure out what I missed out on in my high school education by not having a PhD for a teacher. If this is what the parent body wants then fine, but if this is what the school is deciding on their own, someone needs to step in.

JLan said...

"2)Since when do high school students need to be taught by PhD's?? I have never heard of such a thing! I am trying to figure out what I missed out on in my high school education by not having a PhD for a teacher. If this is what the parent body wants then fine, but if this is what the school is deciding on their own, someone needs to step in."

AP teachers, amongst other people (AP courses are, in theory, college level, even if they often aren't taught that way). These are schools where if 20% of the graduating classes don't get in to Ivy League schools, it's a lousy year. The parents want PhDs for teachers for the strong students and people around for one on one work at least one period per day for the weakest students.

I'm just trying to say that while the suggestions above are an interesting starting point, to suggest that they would cover every school's tuition completely is silly. If you want to discuss a system wherein everyone in the Orthodox community pays in, fine, but be aware that it would give a set amount out per child, rather than covering the full tuitions at various schools.

ora said...

The goal is to give every Jewish child a Jewish education, not to send them to the Jewish equivalent of Exeter. If parents want to send their kids to prep school, that's their choice, but it's not part of the whole "tuition crisis" debate. Unless every MO school available is trying to be a jewish prep school, in which case, that's a shame.

There is absolutely no reason a high school student needs a teacher with a PhD. None. And I took AP classes.
For goodness sakes, if they get into the Ivies they'll have plenty of teachers there who don't have PhDs.

Again, if the parents want that, fine, good for them. But that's their own meshugas, and they should pay for it. Honestly, if there was going to be a fund paying out a set amount to each Jewish kid for school costs, I wouldn't want any of it going to someone attending a school like the one you describe, let alone enough to cover the cost of tuition there (which I assume is obscene).

SephardiLady said...

There is going to be a faculty to student ratio well under 20:1,

The faculty to student ratio is most certainly a part of why schools cost so much. In our local school, you can have a class period with as few as 5 students, rarely will a class ever have 20 students.

Compare this to my Public High School where my smallest class had just around 20 students and my largest about 100. I do believe there were some very small classes (Journalism, French/Spanish/German Five, Advanced Auto Mechanics), but these were really exceptions.

Dave said...

To throw some numbers in.

Assume a class size of 20.

Assume a tuition cost per student of $8,000. This, for the sake of argument, meets the actual cost.

Assume 2 children per family if they are paying full price, and 5 children if they do not have to limit their family size based on finances. This assumes that they can afford $16,000 per year, regardless of family size.

With everyone paying full tuition, the revenue per classroom is $160,000.

If we assume that family size isn't being limited, we have a revenue per classroom of $64,000.

Where does the nearly $100,000 per classroom revenue shortfall come from?

Let us assume that only half of the classroom is filled with tuition waiver students. That means that our revenue is $112,000, leaving another $48,000 to be raised (or an extra $4800 per full price student in the classroom).

The math just doesn't work out for large families and widespread private schooling.

Lion of Zion said...


where does the 20:1 ratio come from? when i went to flatbush (k-12), i never had less than 30 kids in my class (ok, i don't remember k). or have things changed?

and very few teachers--even APs--had phds (or have things changed)

and are you sure they pay in the range of public schools? i know that about 10 year they weren't even close (even more so after taking benefits into account)


"The goal is to give every Jewish child a Jewish education, not to send them to the Jewish equivalent of Exeter."

i mentioned somewhere 2 things in this regard:

1) there is a vicious cycle: tuition is high so the schools feel they offer even more before parents expect something for that $, which causes higher tuition, with raises expectations, etc.

2) i've suggested that one way to lower (or at least lower the rate of increase) of MO tuition is to get back the basics of education. maybe we don't need so many extracurriculars, electives, technology, etc.


"In fact, all of the Rabbeim are given parsonage forms along with their W-4 at the beginning of the year."

my impression is that this isn't kosher. can any accountants out there clarify parsonage laws in this context?

Lion of Zion said...


"nurses should be covered by the board of ed."

could you please clarify. i'm upset that my son's school doesn't have a nurse. how can they get one. thanks.

Dave said...

We can do the same math with 30 children per classroom.

We'll drop it to $6,000 per child actual costs, for $180,000 per classroom.

We'll continue with our assumptions on the family: 2 children if they are concerned about finances, 5 if they are not. We'll also continue the assumption that a family with 5 children can still afford the same amount for tuition that they could for 2.

If all 30 children are on the discounted tuition, the revenue for the classroom is $60,000, leaving us $120,000 that needs to be raised to pay for the difference. If we assume 12 grades, that means the school is running $1.44 million in the red each year.

If half are discounted, then our revenue is $126,000 per classroom, which means those parents who are paying the full costs of their children's expenses (whether by reducing family size or being wealthy) would be shouldering another $3600 per child -- more than half the cost they were paying for their own child. Or again, we would need to have the school running almost $650,000 in the red per year.

Please note also that I used 5 children as the size for a large family. If that rises to match the family sizes in parts of the frum community, the numbers get even worse.

There is no way around the mathematics. If you are not independently wealthy, private schooling and large families simply does not mix.

Moreover, I do not find it laudable for someone to say "I want a large family, and someone else will just have to pick up the tab." That just pays for your financial irresponsibility at the expense of people who have made hard choices (including family size) to live within their means.

triLcat said...

It reminds me of the old joke about the young man meeting his future father-in-law.

What do you plan to do for a living?
G-d will provide.
How do you plan to care for your children?
G-d will provide.

The girl's father says: I like him, he doesn't even know me, but he already thinks I'm G-d!

You can't get something from nothing. Everything you take comes from somewhere. Financial aid in dayschools is intended to be the last resort of people who have fallen on hard times, not a way of life for those who aren't good at math.

Dave said...

Math correction (what I get for writing things late at night). In the first case with 30 children all on tuition waivers, it's $72,000 per classroom, not $60,000. So we only have a deficit of $108,000 per classroom, nearly $1.3 million for an entire school.

Anonymous said...

anon mom - Mark, I think if you are going to choose, you should choose to have more kids and prostrate yourself before the tuition committee. You have to get off that ridiculous Public School warpath. It's a road to nowhere. For G-d's Sake!!!!! You are driving me nuts with it, already.

Oy vey! What warpath??? I've only mentioned public school 2 or 3 times on this blog. All 5 of my children go to [frum] Jewish day schools, and 7 nieces and nephews all go to [frum] Jewish day schools. I and all my siblings went to Jewish day school. Even my sister-in-law that married a non-Jew sends her kids to Jewish day school! My sister-in-law in Israel (who is not dati) sends her kids to mamlachti dati school. And my sister-in-law in Baltimore sends her kids to [conservative] Jewish day school.

I think you are missing the point.

anon mom - I'd rather pay the extra thousand or two so your kids don't wind up in Public School, Mark. I know many Yeshiva parents who would say the same. Those of you that don't want to do that, then go ahead. Like I said before, I've been the recipient of tuition committee help and it's the way our communities work. I'm proud of that.

My parents accepted some help in the early 70's when my father was unemployed (and we were "homeless" - i.e. moved in with my grandparents for the year of unemployment), but my father paid back every single penny over the next 5 years, *WHILE* paying tuition for 4 kids. He told me that for many of those years, more than 50% of his *GROSS* salary went to the two schools (Etz Chaim and Shulamit in Boro Park) we attended.

Whether the math works in the end is an issue that needs to be addressed, but in the meantime, Public School is not a choice for us.

So now I will explain my point once again. It has nothing to do with individuals and everything to do with community. The point is that the community as a whole is limiting the number of children they have - and the most often stated excuse is high tuition.

Many/most people (including me) believe that the community (as an aggregate) cannot afford to send all the children to private Jewish day schools. And the community certainly cannot afford to send additional potential children either. Let's say, for instance, that a particular community (not in the NY area) has 700 families with 2000 children. Let's further assume that there are 4 main Jewish schools in the area that can handle 1600 students, and a further 150 students commute to other Jewish schools an hour plus away, and the remaining 250 kids go to local non-Jewish prep schools or to public schools. Let's further say that the Federation has had a very tough year of fundraising and is reducing their contribution to these schools by approximately $1.2 million this year. The schools, already in the hole by about $150k+ each, have been vigorously fundraising, but so have the shuls, and so has the local kollel (which is dwindling due to lack of funds). The mikvah (the only one within about 45 minutes away) needs $40-50k of work, and one of the schools just was informed that their rental building is not being renewed next year.

Now let's say that this year, not all the money necessary can be raised, though everyone has tried mightily. And let's further say that the tuition assistance committees have pretty much run out of money and have even informed all parents on assistance that their level of assistance has to be reduced by 5% because there simply is no more money available at all. Would you say that people of modest means in that community should choose not to have a 4'th or 5'th child this year or next year? Or would you counsel them otherwise? Where exactly would you suggest that they get funds to send those additional children to school?

New York City has been very (VERY) lucky over the past few years because there has been enormous wealth flowing around Wall Street, with many frum people working in that business and having great success. That is pretty much ending, just ask any investment banker around, especially the ones that are the biggest baalei tzedaka. Unfortunately, it is now possible that many Jewish organizations in New York City might now feel what many Jewish organizations outside the metro area have been feeling the last year or two.

Mark [5 kids, 2 in day school, 3 in pre-school, more than $4k a month]

ora said...

Why are you assuming that a family with five kids will only be able to pay as much as a family with two kids? That's completely unreasonable.

Usually what happens is that a larger family makes more sacrifices. They live in a more crowded space, they live further out of town, they don't go on vacation, both parents work out of the home, etc. Of course tuition gets harder with more kids, but there's no simple formula where after 3 kids people can no longer pay. Sorry, but the math done using such simplified and inaccurate assumptions is not very useful.

triLcat said...

The real issue is simply that people need to realize that education for their children is their responsibility.

Children come from Hashem, but doctors have figured out pretty well how to keep them from showing up.

I'll say it again: scholarships are for those who are going through tough times, not for those who didn't bother to check their salary before they went off the pill (or decided not to go on it)

The Torah says to support the poor person, the widow, the orphan. It doesn't say to support the poor planner.

Dave said...


It is an unreasonable assumption. But in the other direction.

A family with five children has higher non-education related expenses (clothing, housing, food) than a family with two children. It would have in fact been more reasonable to assume that the family that could only afford full tuition for two children would be able to pay even less if they had five children.