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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Pretending It Away Part II: Camp

Don't let economic realities get in the way of ensuring your children have a camping experience. One Yated reader informs readers that they can work out a payment plan with Camp Agudah. (Note: I don't really have an issue with working out a payment plan. I just find it frustrating that instead of working with reality, people seem to want to keep everything the same: camp, weddings, "support, etc).

Yes, this is yet another letter stating camp is not a luxury, but a necessity. If you say it enough, you might believe it! Of course, if I were going to ask such a question about camp, I hope I would have the good sense NOT to ask a Rebbe, no matter how wonderful, that makes part of his living as via camp. But, that's just me.

This father's situation was solved by a camp scholarship through Camp Agudah. But what happens if/when this necessity or luxury, depending on your point of view, falls out of reach? Is a one year camping break ever an option? Is there any way to replace whatever camping experience(s) are the most important for a child's development?

I think so. But then again I am writing a blog about Orthodoxy (living a Torah observant life) and Economics (i.e. scarcity of resources and alternatives).

One other note: if you plan to send your child on a Shabbaton which is marketing a product that you are considering, you might one to consider your finances first. As a parent, I do try to actively reduce marketing towards my children. I'm perfectly capable of saying no. But, I don't parade them through isles of products I don't intend to buy either.

RESCUED BY RUACH COUNTRY

Dear Editor,
When my son arrived home on a recent Motzoei Shabbos from the annual Camp Agudah reunion all excited about summer 5769, I knew I had the difficult task of breaking the news to him that due to our financial difficulties, we could not afford the luxury of sending him to camp this summer. I contacted his warm and caring rebbi to ask him for guidance in this matter. His wonderful rebbi, who himself is a mechanech in a sleep-away camp (not Camp Agudah), stated very strongly that for my son befrat and for many boys bechlal, camp is no longer a luxury, but more of a necessity in developing within them a cheshek for Torah and Yiddishkeit. [A conflict of interest perhaps?]

He stressed that the wonderful blend of ruchniyus and gashmiyus of Camp Agudah, and especially the experience of Shabbos Kodesh spent b’kedusha and in the presence of gedolim and bnei Torah, could not and should not be so easily discounted. The rebbi suggested that I contact the camp office. After explaining my financial situation to Camp Agudah’s dedicated director, Rabbi Meir Frischman, I was told that arrangements could be worked out with a break in price as well as a payment plan. He well understood the situation and was more than willing to work with me. I am aware that there are many other parents in a similar matzav as me, who don’t feel that their children should miss out on the camping experience.

I was also told that due to the economic situation, as well as its expansion, Camp Agudah has set aside reserved slots for its old-timers to be able to come back for 5769.I strongly suggest to all parents looking to see their son blossom in a wonderful atmosphere to pick up the phone and call 212.797.8172 (no, this is not an advertisement) and speak to Meir Frischman about registering their son under a payment plan that they are comfortable with, as I did. Yasher kochacha.

Eli’s Proud Father

50 comments:

justajew said...

I've heard this argument before. I wonder when people will realize that there are only so many (dwindling) dollars in the charity bucket - once we start assigning sleepaway camp and other luxuries as necessities, we justify taking donations. This money comes out of other pockets - perhaps yeshiva tuition, perhaps basic food needs for a family that's really in need. As a "community," our priorities are seriously out of whack.

Here's the part that really irks me though - not the parent who got a snow job, who really believes that his kid will be damaged for life if he doesn't get to spend camp in the poconos - but the rabbi who makes the sale with "Shabbos Kodesh spent b’kedusha." Does the child live in a drug den? Are all other 44 weekends spent partying with the dregs of society? I'm willing to bet that every Shabbos at home, the child has a wonderful time going to shul, having a meal, going to a d'rasha - in other words, spent b'kedusha.

Avi said...

While being away from home certainly fosters independence, I'm not sure that frum sleepaway camps are even helpful for spiritual development. My experience of two summers in camp was uplifting from a ruchnius perspective - the rebbaim were nice, and I remember being inspired by the emphasis on learning. OTOH, it was profoundly troubling from a bein adam l'chaveiro perspective - most of the kids were from Brooklyn and were mean, spiteful, and often intellectually backward. I wouldn't want my kids spending two minutes with them, never mind 4 - 8 weeks.

Of course, when both parents are working, some form of supervised childcare is a necessity. You can't have the kids at home while you're at work. That doesn't have to be sleepaway camp, it could be a day camp with Torah learning every day, or even a summer program at the local community center (wait, non-Jewish kids will be there, too, right? We can't have that! Oh, won't somebody please think of the children!). If one or both spouses work from home, it's even more important to get the kids out of the house or you won't get a stitch of work done. School vacations and in-service days are problematic for this reason as well.

Ezzie said...

Personally this letter is much less troubling than similar ones. While I may disagree with the ideas espoused, and the implication that Shabbasos at home are somehow not b'kedusha like they are in camp, this sounds like a parent who was going to be financially responsible, and is in the end as well. They are only sending the son because of a reduced cost to them.

In addition, they're basing the decision on advice that is at least somewhat individualized; the rebbe thinks that this son specifically would gain from camp and notes that it's true for many boys in general. I think that's difficult to argue; one can easily make the case that there are boys who gain tremendously from a camp experience such as that.

Switching back to the financial part... it's hard to weigh what is "right" in a situation such as this. A father is making an economic choice that is good for his family, accepting a scholarship offer - but the idea in general is bad for the community as a whole. I don't know that that is somehow on the parents to get the blame for; to a large degree, they have to do what's best for them. It's different than someone making a conscious decision to [say] take a year off and learn, then ask for a tuition break.

SephardiLady said...

Ezzie-But what is it that boys (and girls) NEED. If it is a different type of Shabbat experience, what about a handful of well planned inexpensive Shabbatons throughout the year?

If it is an intensive learning program, what about starting a summer school program locally?

If it is the sports, what about new and improved sports leagues that meet throughout the year and really develop those hidden talents and promote good health ALL year long?

If it is the art classes, drama classes, or dance classes, ditto to above. How can the girls or boys "needing" sleepaway camp for the art programs receive that instruction at home, throughout the year?

If we are looking to develop independence. . . . I have a bold idea: don't fund every want and need because "everyone else is doing it." If kids see their parents making independent choices, chances are they will be more independent (at least that is what happened to in the house I grew up in!).

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Meir Frischman is klopping himself on the head saying "Me and my big mouth! If I'd wanted to advertise in the Yated, I'd have advertised in the Yated!" and now having to explain to scores of parents calling for a break on camp that his resources are limited and he really can't do it for everyone...

Anonymous said...

I can understand summer camp expenses much more than expensive weddings and simchas, wedding gifts, buying new furniture for newly weds and people having big houses and driving expensive cars. However, if after cutting those expenses, there is no money for summer camp without dipping into savings or taking on debt (including the payment plan referred to in the letter -- that's just more debt), then the key is making sure to hook up with a group of kids who also are not going away and making sure there are plenty of healthy and fun activities for them.

At some age, however, kids should not have every hour of the day programmed. Older kids and adolescents need to start figuring out how to fill their own time, and sometimes its ok, and good, for kids to just hang out.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget that for young teens, a part-time summer job is also an option. By age 13 or 14 kids can get babysitting/mother's helpers jobs and work as junior counselors or assistants at day or sleep away camps. Doing some volunteer work, such as at a food bank, soup kitchen, nursing home, etc. is also a good summer activity for teens .

Ariella said...

I would second what JustaJew wrote above. The frum community has bought the mentality that a child (particularly a boy) has to be in an atmosphere set by an institution of some sort - a yeshiva or a camp. I know a woman who accepted the fact that she could not afford camp for her 8 children. But when she sent her son to a certain yeshiva high schoool, they stipulated that he must be in a camp during the summer. So she had to scrape together extra money that she didn't have for that because she did not want him not to have his place in yeshiva.
The problem is that there is no trust in parents for proper supervision, and all too many parents are happy to sign away the responsibility for their children to others for pay. And while there is an element of guilt felt by parents who leave their children home with a (often nonJewish and sometimes even nonEnglish speaking) babysitter, there is absolutely no guilt involved in spending thousands on sleep away camp.

tesyaa said...

Scare tactics are immoral. Scaring a parent into spending $$$ they don't have with the fear of a kid going off the derech if he doesn't go to camp is immoral. In a previous thread, a commenter is using scare tactics to encourage women not to work because of scary illegal immigrant babysitters. Most babysitters are fine, some are actually great, and most kids will not go OTD from a summer at home. Yet scare tactics seem to work everytime.

Of course there are exceptions that make the news, but these are the exceptions.

Thinking said...

I am not sure I see the issue.

The father was facing reality and had made what he thought, at the time, was a good decision. He received input from another individual (who may or may not have a conflict of interest, who knows?) as well as a suggestion. Kudos for the rebbi not just giving an opinion, but also suggesting the father contact the camp and see what could be done. Kudos to Camp Agudah for facing reality, planning ahead and their willingness to work with families. They clearly believe that camp is important and are willing to do what they can to work with campers and their families.
Seems like everyone is thinking and considering the options and make the best decision they can. Payment plan does not always = debt.

I recently posted that I and many of my friends work closely with our schools to come up with a reasonable plan that allows us to make substantial payments to the yeshiva on a consistent basis while not necessarily paying full tuition. The yeshivos prefer"guaranteed" income over charging the full price and spending countless hours trying to collect.

Many camps will act the same way this year. This may impact their short term profitability, but will definitely keep their clients for many more years to come.

To Anonymous 4:03's comment, yeah they probably did not want it advertised.

Anonymous said...

Tesyaa makes some interesting points. Blackmailing parents into institutionalizing their kids. I'm surprised no one has told these parents their kids won't get a good schadduch if they don't go to camp, or the right camp.

Avi said...

Payment plan may simply be smaller monthly amounts instead of the giant lump sums camps often want. I didn't assume the parent was going into debt for this; in fact, just the opposite - the price was reduced and payments structured so that the parent can now (just barely) afford it.

rosie said...

Tesyaa, go to the Lefferts Ave playground in CH and watch the illegal alien babysitters with the Jewish kids and then draw your own conclusions. I never said that all babysitters or day care centers are bad. No one can convince me though that these poorly paid illegals can give the same love as the mother can. I have been around long enough to see the world change from SAHMs as being the norm and the whole storm that occurred when this changed. Not all babysitters are like the famed Sandra Samuels. Working mothers with sufficient income can hire better care takers. The working poor cannot and that is why they often choose to stay home and get government aid. While some on here sit in judgment of them, I do not. I have seen that some here feel that the working poor are irresponsible if they have kids and then need help from the government (or maybe they should resign themselves to inferior childcare).
That being said, I do agree that families need a break from the expectation that their kids attend sleep away camp. That is one of the things that I blame on the frum community for the economic mess. And in my experience, when it comes to shidduchim, it is often asked where the single was each summer after high school but no one asks about where they went to camp as a child.

tesyaa said...

Rosie, are you the same Rosie who stated she was not in NY in a previous thread?

rosie said...

I don't live in NY but visit a lot.

Ezzie said...

SL - Or you can get a lot of those things including the independence at once in a camp setting, which also saves on babysitting/childcare and other daily expenses. It's like what Thinking said.

While crossing out wasteful expenditures is wise, the idea to give a blanket list of "all of these are by definition wastes of money" is not.

If this child would be well-served by going to camp, and the parents are being given a way to send him to that camp for an affordable and reasonable price, I don't see why that's a problem.

I also do not think that payment plan = debt, but the ability to stretch out the payments over time. Say, instead of $1,000 at once, it's $250 over four months.

Honestly Frum said...

I agree with anonymous 4:03. Do you think that the camp wanted to publically advertise that they are giving scholarships away in this financial climate? How are they going to pay their staff if they have half the camp on scholarship? Are they going to jack up prices on full paying campers (like the yeshivos do)? Will there be a fund raiser or an "asifa" about the camp crisis?
I do agree that camp is important but if you can't afford it find something else, less expensive to do with your kids for the summer. Why not have them find jobs?

Anonymous said...

Ezzie: No one is saying that sleep away camp is bad. However, just because the child may be well-served and the price is reasonable, that does not make it a necessity. It is still a luxury for which there are alternatives. I would be well-served by unwinding on a two week mediterranean cruise. I could get healthier and come back rejuvenated and better able to serve others and a nice trip with my hubby would be good for sholom bayis, and there are some great deals now and I could work out a payment plan, but a cruise would still be a luxury.

SephardiLady said...

SL - Or you can get a lot of those things including the independence at once in a camp setting, which also saves on babysitting/childcare and other daily expenses. It's like what Thinking said.

I apologize for not being sold on the indepedence element. I know plenty of independent kids who never attended camp and plenty of relatively dependent kids who did. Real independence can't be divorced from responsibility and accountability. I also see no great virtue in pushig kids towards some sort of independence at a stage of a life where they should be dependent on their parents for molding them.

As for my point about extracurriculars, if a child is genuinely interested in sports, visual arts, or performing arts, they will be best served by being part of a program with peers who are also genuinely interested. Additionaly, the level of learning, seriousness of the group, and presentation of proper methods and techniques will be much higher. And proper technique in the sports and arts are best developed in a year round program.

Camp can provide a nice introduction to arts or sports. But a kid who really wants to explore these extracurriculars is unlikely to really devlop their talents in a regular camp environment.

I'm sure my own biases are playing into my comments, but I'm sad that so many activity programs for frum children are mediocre (to be nice). If there is a recognition that these extras are important for our children (and I believe they are), then relegating them to the summer isn't helpful in developing the child.

Ezzie said...

Anon - No one is saying that sleep away camp is bad. However, just because the child may be well-served and the price is reasonable, that does not make it a necessity. It is still a luxury for which there are alternatives. I would be well-served by unwinding on a two week mediterranean cruise. I could get healthier and come back rejuvenated and better able to serve others and a nice trip with my hubby would be good for sholom bayis, and there are some great deals now and I could work out a payment plan, but a cruise would still be a luxury.

I think some people *are* saying it's bad. I agree it's not a necessity, but that doesn't mean that even if it is presented at a price that is quite fair it should still be avoided. I think that when we equate camp - which does have many positive attributes and is in essence replacing finding something for kids to do during summer break - with luxury vacations we're doing ourselves a disservice. People will not equate the two and will simply discount the point, which is to gauge whether something is or is not worthwhile. And again, payment plan here does not seem to equal debt/interest.

SL - Agreed that camp isn't the source of independence; I'm merely noting it's one trait among many that kids get out of camp. I went to sleepaway camp just once in my life, and found that it was whether kids went away for HS that most often helped develop greater independence. That's a different discussion, though.

I'll agree on the year round programs being better than relying on camp; in the meantime, however, those are non-existent, and people need to live within that current reality. Perhaps the lack of affordability of camps will help push that along for the future, but for now, it does not seem as if a parent sending their kid to camp that they feel would gain tremendously from it only after being given an offer that was within his range is so outrageous.

Commenter Abbi said...

I developed a lot of independence at camp- i had to keep track of my clothes, my laundry, my spending money, keep my belongings neat.

I didn't really have all that much fun at camp, but i definitely learned a lot about taking care of myself.

Anonymous said...

"Yes, this is yet another letter stating camp is not a luxury, but a necessity. If you say it enough, you might believe it! Of course, if I were going to ask such a question about camp, I hope I would have the good sense NOT to ask a Rebbe, no matter how wonderful, that makes part of his living as via camp. But, that's just me."

Nowhere in the letter did it say that camp was a necessity. The father thought that camp wasn't feasible and discovered there are options to make it more feasible.

SL- Sorry, but on this one your personal biases are weighing in. Maybe had he not worked out a plan his son would not go? He was already resigned to that reality.

SephardiLady said...

I contacted his warm and caring rebbi to ask him for guidance in this matter. His wonderful rebbi, who himself is a mechanech in a sleep-away camp (not Camp Agudah), stated very strongly that for my son befrat and for many boys bechlal, camp is no longer a luxury, but more of a necessity in developing within them a cheshek for Torah and Yiddishkeit

What does this say? I read it that camp is necessity (for most).

rosie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

The ("warm, caring")rebbi was stating that, not the father who wrote the letter.

The rebbi's opinion (and he was asked for guidance), we do not know the boy or his family, was that this boy needed it. He also stated that "many" not all boys need it.
Can you disagree with those statements?

Maybe the Rebbi was being polite and saying that other boys need camp, but really meant that this boy's son really needed camp.

If you trusted your child's rebbi and he recommended that your child needed therapy and that there are many children who need therapy (even if the rebbi himself was a therapist) would you disregard it as a luxury? A blanket statement?

rosie said...

The origin of the sleep away camp movement was in order to indoctrinate children with various ideals, be it religious or political. It is effective when children are removed from home and are blasted these ideals from every direction that they come home believing in these ideals. It works for awhile but then the effect wears off somewhat.
Parents who can't afford sleep away camp need not worry that their children will receive insufficient indoctrination because sleep away yeshiva and seminary will still take care of that. The kid will come home so indoctrinated that it will be hard to find a shidduch holy enough. I sent my kids to sleep away camp but I would tell today's financially strapped parents to find an alternative.

Anonymous said...

"The origin of the sleep away camp movement was in order to indoctrinate children with various ideals, be it religious or political. It is effective when children are removed from home and are blasted these ideals from every direction that they come home believing in these ideals. It works for awhile but then the effect wears off somewhat."

Rosie- It sounds like you have done a study on this. Can we get a link to your source materials? Or is this just your opinion?

SephardiLady said...

I dont care to agree or disagree with camp being a good/great thing. There are many, many great things we can do for our children, but they simply aren't always possible, especially where there are other competing priorities.

rosie said...

I looked it up a long time ago when I was arguing in another blog about camp. I think that the first camps were as early as before the turn of the century (not this one, the last one). I read numerous articles that I had googled but most agreed with that premise. There were also camps established to give city children a taste of the country and short term boy scout, campfire, and the like. I am not technologically advanced enough to know how to link something anyway. The Fresh Air Fund paid for poor kids to go to camp. If you have ever read Sam Levinson's books (something that my generation did) he spoke of being a child of immigrants who was sent to camp by a charitable organization that wanted to help tenement kids.

SephardiLady said...

Rosie-You just put a smile on my face. The screaming in the camp environment is something I really do NOT care for. It really is a different post, but I think trying to make everything just so exciting makes the adjustment to school a lot more difficult.

Perhaps I will bring some words of Rav Weinberg zt"l on the subject.

rosie said...

I actually deleted that post because I had by accident referred to it as a day camp but I will repeat that the kid comes home screaming the birkas ha mazon while standing on his chair. That is probably what your were referring to.
BTW, I was just reading something about USE Tax. It is just one line on most tax forms and I don't know how seriously everyone takes it because it is hard to prove but it is basically a sales tax owed on out-of-state purchases. From what I read, it has a somewhat low compliance rate. I am not sure that everyone calculates what they spent online and didn't pay sales tax on and keeps track of what they owe in taxes. Some may declare something on the fear of being audited. Anyone what to discuss that issue?

Dave said...

When we lived in North Carolina, there was an "estimated use tax" on the State Tax form. You could just use its multiplier based on income as the states "guess" of what you owed.

We paid that; I'm not sure how many people did, since it wasn't enforced.

Anonymous said...

justajew - This money comes out of other pockets - perhaps yeshiva tuition, perhaps basic food needs for a family that's really in need. As a "community," our priorities are seriously out of whack.

Our priorities (even of discussion) are sure out of whack.

I've never gotten a straight answer out of any Rav that I've asked the following question. Even though tzedaka is supposed to begin within ones community, is it permissible to fund the building of a shul social hall (or extra seforim, or a Shoah memorial, or sleepaway camp, etc) while Jews in other communities are still lacking the basics of housing, food, and medical care?

In the end, the answers are always a variant of "everything must be funded" which is itself a variant of "Gott Von Hilfen".

Mark

rosie said...

Apparently states lose huge amounts on lost sales tax. It is impossible to enforce because there is no proof of purchase. It is totally up to the individual to keep track and pay. If a person declares 0, it doesn't mean that they will be audited but I am not sure that anyone will believe it either. From what I could see, some states estimated a less that 1% compliance rate but even a small compliance rate sometimes gains a state hundreds of thousands of dollars.
It looks as if the only thing that they would not expect someone to pay taxes for is if a person ordered something online and sent it as a gift to someone in another state and neither the giver nor recipient lived in the state that the goods were sold in.

Dave said...

I think that that is why North Carolina went to the "here is a default" on the State Income Tax form.

It lets people try to comply, without onerous record keeping, and at a time when they are thinking about taxes anyway. I have no idea how well it worked for them.

Anonymous said...

Great question Mark. This would be a good topic for a separate post. Love the "Gott Von Hilfen".

rosie said...

But Mark, some people might answer that those who lack the basics are morally obligated to stop having kids and if you give them money, they might not stop. After all, why should tzedukah be given to those who don't make a decent living? Some people might feel that it is OK to donate to them if they are too sick to work. It is probably safer to give your money to yeshivas.

Mike S. said...

I found that sleep away camp was beneficial for my kids, but i could, thankfully, afford the bill.

I do not believe it is a necessity.

I also believe avoiding summer polio epidemics in the city had more to do with the growth of sleep away camps historically than did ideology.

SephardiLady said...

rosie-I don't think your comment is particularly fair. Chazal is very clear that there are better and worse ways to give tzedakah (yes, it is still tzedakah). The highest level, of course, is making a person self-supporting.

When being solicited for a tzedakah, I try to ask myself, am I helping the person when giving tzedakah?

E.g. Hachnasat Kallah is clearly a mitzvah, but I don't feel that giving money so a kallah can buy a chatan cuff links (2 posts ago) is at all helpful. In fact, I think promoting a lifestyle that is out of reach and is in fact hurtful to promote such a standard as normal.

Ariella said...

this was just posted to the area shul list:
The United Camping Scholarship Coalition (UCSC) for Boys was created
as a way to help families send, or continue sending their boys to
sleep-away camp in these troubled economic times.
- UCSC Boys can lower the cost of your camp tuition up to 50%
- Many Camps have united in these efforts to help you
- The camps involved cater to children from different backgrounds
How do I find out more?
Email UCSCBoys@gmail.com with your name, school and shul affiliation,
and what your son(s) looks forward to in his sleep-away camp experience.
We will respond promptly with the right camp for you!

Sincerely UCSC Administration

Other Camps are invited to join this coalition by emailing
UCSCBoys@gmail.com - Subject: Participating Camp

rosie said...

SL, sorry but I feel that Jews should not be critical of or discourage another Jew from bringing a Jewish life into the world unless it would endanger the mother, the child, or the family. Only a rav is qualified to say that a child should not be born. I was of course being facetious with my remarks. Unless rabbonim decide to advise Jewish families to have fewer children, no one has the "right" to judge other Jews for having large families.

Commenter Abbi said...

Rosie, responsible families decide for themselves whether they can afford to have more or less children. They base their decision on numerous factors, and replacing those who were lost in the Shoah may or may not be one of the factors (btw, my mother is a child of survivors and she and my father only had two children. Are you suggesting she shirked her responsibility to the Jewish people and her own family because she didn't have more? According to your previous statements, that seems to be what you're saying. How dare you judge families who choose to have fewer children. ).

In these trying economic times, families have to weigh all the factors, but putting food on the table is one of the most critical ones. I've said this many times already, but throwing caution to the wind and continuing to have babies when you can't provide the basics for them is simply irresponsible, regardless of whether you've gotten an ok from a rebbi or your intentions regarding repopulating the Jewish people.

BTW, poverty is a huge danger to the family.

Anonymous said...

rosie - But Mark, some people might answer that those who lack the basics are morally obligated to stop having kids and if you give them money, they might not stop. After all, why should tzedukah be given to those who don't make a decent living? Some people might feel that it is OK to donate to them if they are too sick to work. It is probably safer to give your money to yeshivas.

I generally don't give to organizations that help people with too many kids that aren't willing to help themselves (primarily Charedim).

I also almost never give to Yeshivas (I am talking about adult Yeshivas here), it just doesn't fit my hashkafa - I believe that man learns for 20 years, then works, once he can support a family, he gets married and has children in the number that he can properly support (housing, food, health, education, not fancy bar mitzvah parties and sleepaway camp).

I prefer giving to people and organizations that help the poor and unfortunate. I also like supporting (directly and with money) organizations that help people find employment. One of the best forms of tzedaka around. One of my favorite tzedakas is the Chicken Lady of Yerushalaim (Mrs. Clara Hammer) whom I've known personally for 22 years.

I also define tzedaka a little differently than most people. For example, money given to a shul to build anything in excess of the minimum necessary to daven and to learn, I don't consider to be true tzedaka. Money towards memorials I do not consider to be true tzedaka (as long as there are poor live Jews that still need support, I see no reason to divert funds to honor dead Jews). Money for dinners, and all the other shtus that many consider "charitable", I don't consider to be true tzedaka.

Mark

Ateres said...

Abbi,

By your own definition of being able to afford children, two-thirds of the world's population should not have children.

The poorest Jewish families in America are better off than most Jews were in prewar Europe. If they shared your philosophy on this, few of us would be here today.

Commenter Abbi said...

Well, I certainly would be here, because my parents only chose to have two children because that's the number they could afford to support.

If fewer Jewish children meant happier healthier homes that wouldn't bother me one bit. Sorry, I'm not clear as to why people are all worried about Jewish population issues. A family of four has more than replaced itself and contributed nicely to the Jewish people. It's simply not necessary to have 8-10 kids to populate the Jewish people.

And yes, two thirds of the world's population should not be having the number of babies they are having. Wealthier nations have more women practicing birth control- it's a fact. And these women are more educated and, in turn, are able to make a living.

I'm not sure what kind of point you're trying to make about the poorest Jewish families in America. The poorest Jewish families in America are still poor whether they are better off than Jews in prewar Europe or not is irrelevant. Jews today have access to birth control that European prewar Jews didn't (and there are perfectly halachic ways to use it) so there's no excuse for spacing and capping family population.-
Poor families still need to be responsible about the income they do make, regardless if they are better off then other people.

Commenter Abbi said...

sorry, no excuse for NOT spacing and capping family populations

Anonymous said...

To add to Abbi's comments, none of the poor Jews today are willing to live at the standard of their great grandparents in Europe. Yes, none. At the very least, they have carseats, vaccinations, meat or chicken on Shabbos.

Ateres said...

Abbi,

You are missing the point.

Firstly, I was not referring to your parent's generation, I was referring to your great-grandparents or later. By your standards, most people in their generation should not have had children at all. The same goes for most of the worlds population today. It is not about whether to have five or six, they could not "afford" one either.

By that definition I certainly wouldn't be here. My great-grandmother was the youngest of seven from a struggling Eastern European family.

I simply do not accept that the right to have children is limited to the rich. I agree that if the home is unhappy and stressful than BC is in order, but there are plenty of happy families out there who are poor.

Also, not all rabbis accept that bc is allowed for financial reasons short of starvation and you cannot pasken halacha for all of klal yisrael.

Commenter Abbi said...

No, you're missing the point. No where did I say that children are for the rich. I said children are for the RESPONSIBLE. That's a huge difference. It's possible to live on $1500 a year if you live on a farm, grow your own food, make your own clothes and barter. That's a choice available to anyone with a little initiative. You can come to Israel and live in a trailer and have children to your heart's content. But it's irresponsible to expect to keep having child after child without any thought to how you're going to support them. And expecting to be supported by the community and the government is not financial planning.

As long as a family can be responsible for its finances, they should have as many children as they like and be as poor as they like.

Believe me, your great grandmother's family did not get handouts from the Polish or Russian government to support the seven children in her family. They were more likely to have been robbed by the government, rather than helped by it.

I'm sure there are many happy poor families out there. And they're happy because: they don't expect to give their chatan cuff links for the wedding, they don't expect to send their children to camp and they might even homeschool their kids. And they almost certainly don't expect handouts from anyone. They're happy because they have self-respect and they are focused on being a self sufficient unit.

Rabbis who don't accept BC short of starvation have no idea how to make a psak halacha and shouldn't be doing so.

rosie said...

Having children, as well as several other things Jews do is supposed to reflect a level of faith. No one knows at the outset of a pregnancy, what the outcome will be. While we hope and pray for a healthy baby, mother, and the means to raise the child, we put our faith in Hashem. We hope that the means to raise the child will occur in an honorable way; that we should not be forced to beg for the money from the government or other individuals but sometimes Hashem sends the means through less than honorable ways.