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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Pretending It Away

While some deal with reality gracefully, others would rather play a game of pretend. Two loyal readers of my blog emailed me with the same post from the 5 Towns listserve. In a similar spirit to the email taking up a collection for the oldest boy in a family for his Bar Mitzvah in order that the family be able to provide the bells and whistles of a modern day party, including prizes for the kids, the following collection for a kallah, about to be married, is now being spearheaded by a member of the community:

Dear Friends,
I turn to you today to ask if you could please find it in your heart to help parents marry off their daughter. They do not want the girl to know that they don't have the money to make the wedding and are so embarrassed to be put in this situation but unfortunately have no choice. Please could you help out?

I am looking for contacts in the following areas of business, so that we might get discounts in the various items we need for this bride. If you know of anyone in these businesses, please respond with their contact information.

If you would like to donate money to the cause and receive a tax deductible receipt, please contact me and I will give you the information. Additionally if you have new items to donate, please contact me as well.Thank you so much!
Clothing stores
Jewelry (to get cuff links for the groom)
Judaica
Linen
Kitchen sets
Beds
Furniture

Thanks again,
[name]

Pray tell, how long does the family intend to keep up this facade? And for the purpose of providing a young chatan and kallah with *cuff links,* judaica, linens, and furniture? And what sort of house of straw are these parents setting up for a couple? One only hopes that the presumption of money is not one that the shidduch itself is based upon. Many young couples have an expectation of receiving "help" well into marriage itself. Here it looks more likely that the couple themselves will need to prepare for helping their own parents out!

Facades are futile. I know one person that found out things weren't are rosy are assumed then the family car was reposed (makes it hard to get to work too). I know another person that found out her 'well to do' family wasn't so well to do when she lend the her credit card before her wedding and never was paid back.

I can only imagine that there will be a lot of anger as the masks come off and families discover just how much money was invested in shtus like cuff links and how little has been invested in paying off a home, buying life insurance/long term care insurance, putting away for retirement, and paying for an education.

My advice to those being solicited for cuff links while many of our families are facing unemployment and salary cuts and our institutions are facing liquidity problems: send your tzedakah elsewhere. Young couples will not only live without cuff links and overpriced linens, but it will be character building. But you can send them a link to Craigslist or the address of the nearest Target in the spirit of Hachnasat Kallah.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's very sweet of this family's friends to want to make a nice start for this couple, but so very misguided for all the reasons SL states. If these kids are old enough to get married and start a family, they are old enough to be told some of the financial realities. It also is dead wrong to tell people that the donations will be tax deductible. You generally can't have deductible charitable contributions earmarked for a specific person. If a 501(c)(3) is allowing their organization to be used in this way, they may be on very thin ice.

rosie said...

Now this I do agree with. While I take a hard line about curtailing Jewish family size, and I am generous with the government's money, I 100% agree that we should stop this charade of pretending that money exists in the frum community for overpriced non-essentials. This is one thing that I always hated about frum stores, especially when they are dealing with parents of engaged kids or if they are dealing with grandparents who are assumed to have a bottomless wallet. One of them once asked me what I spent to furnish apartments when I had previously married off children. My children tell me of friends who had less than generous parents but I also know of those who were treated to $10,000 bedroom sets and luxury leather sofas. This type of expectation needs to go and needs to go fast (before my next child gets engaged).

Anonymous said...

Since they are looking for suggestions for discounts for the for stores selling clothing, jewelry,linens, and furniture,
may I suggest Goodwill, the Salvation Army store, Walmart and Target. That's where my stuff came from when I got married (except in those days it was Caldors), plus the occasional yard sale, and the coffe table made out of cinder blocks and a board with a table cloth on top.
Doesn't that expensive Jewish yeshiva/day school education teach anything about innovating and making do and proper priorities, let alone simplicity and humility?

Thinking said...

And another!

http://www.jewishpress.com/pageroute.do/20531/

The greatest gift my parents gave me was the gift of honesty. When I was 8 my father explained to me that he could not afford to send me to summer camp because they were buying a house and money was tight. I totally understood and appreciated even more the subsequent summers where my parents were able to pay for me to go.
Another time, on our way to purchase expensive sneakers that I was dying to get, my father explained to me that he wasn't getting them because he thought I needed them, he was getting them for me because he was able to afford to.

I was too young at the time to understand the messages he was giving me, but now more then 20+ years later they are 2 of the most important lessons I ever received.

BH I do relatively well, but I work even harder trying to make sure that my children understand the value of money and responsibility. i.e. my son lost his baseball glove. He and I both know that i could afford to pay the $15 to replace it, but I didn't. His 2 options were to pay for it himself or not have a glove for the rest of the season.

tesyaa said...

How will the daughter feel when she finds out (she will find out) that she was lied to and that her wedding and gifts came from charity? I wonder if this is even a particularly Jewish problem. It sounds more like stereotypical baby boomer parents who never want to see their children unhappy. (Please don't tell me that you are a baby boomer and that is not your style. I am referring to a stereotype).

Anonymous said...

I wonder if there is a fear that if children are brought up with the truth about family finances and at appropriate ages are expected to work and save for extras, that they might want more secular education, aspire to go to college, wait until they can support a family to marry, and forego full time Kollel?

Ariella said...

I first thought that they just want the kallah to feel light-hearted. But it is also possible that the charade is intended to misrepresent their financial status to the groom's side, who may have been given the impression that the kallah's family is wealthy enough to contribute to their support for a while. I do know a woman whose learning son married a girl who had been represented to her as coming from a family comfortable enough to support their daughter's new household. In fact, they were not.

SephardiLady said...

tesyaa-True there are plenty of Americans unwilling to disappoint their prince and princesses. But the begging to pay for a wedding and ALL the extras (and that list is ridiculously long) I believe is a fairly Orthodox Jewish phenomena.

For starters, most Americans from the demographic where Mommy and Daddy will pick up the tab are older when they get married. Engagement gifts, such as a engagement rings and whatever else people give each other (don't think the list is that massive) are going to be paid for by the couple themselves. Furnishing a household is certainly not viewed as the parent's responsibility.

And, I don't have a clue how a non-Jew would even go about collecting for their party. Who could they email to ask for cuff links for their future son-in-law?

rosie said...

Ever read a Brides (or similar) magazine? While on one end of the spectrum there are couples who get married at city hall and go out to lunch after (and do all this on their lunch break) there are others who fly all the guests to a destination wedding weekend.
Ever see bridal registries at really high end stores? Check out the bridesmaid's gifts. Some folks today feel that spending $75 to $150 is the going rate. Most of these magazines advertise honeymoons in various posh locations. While the couple themselves pay for much of the costs, weddings among non-Jews and non-frum Jews take a year to a year and a half to plan. While that gives the couple and their families more time to look for deals and budget the money, it may also indicate that the affair is posh and complicated enough to require lots of time to plan.
It appears that there are those wealthy people out there that spring for very high end jewelry besides the rings. At least that is what the magazine industry wants us to believe.

SephardiLady said...

But they don't ask anyone else to pay for it. . . . . and even where one couple might make a fancy wedding, their friend might make a low-key wedding.

And, yes, the American wedding standard as marketed by vendors is ridiculous.

ProfK said...

There is a show on one of the cable channels called "Platinum Weddings." If you want to feel "better" about what some frum people consider as necessary or are willing to pay for for a wedding, you need to see this show to put things into perspective. There is worse out there. However, that doesn't excuse the excesses represented by the letter you posted. Yes, it is excess and highly excessive to make a wedding with all these items when you clearly don't have the money to pay for it. It also has to have something to do with the community/social group represented by those friends. I honestly cannot think of one friend, never mind a group, who would place an advertisement like this for me for the items requested.

ora said...

The email might not even be the parents' idea. Anyone can post anything on a listserve... When we lived in Jerusalem I once saw an appeal for money for a poor couple on a listserve -- it turned out that the "poor" couple was a young (apparently not poor at all) American couple that had no idea their friends were out collecting "tzedaka" on their behalf. The friends just wanted to be nice because something had been stolen from this couple, and they wanted to buy a replacement.

The point, if I have one, is I guess to double and triple check any tzedaka appeal on a listserve. And don't take it too seriously.

Anonymous said...

It also is dead wrong to tell people that the donations will be tax deductible. You generally can't have deductible charitable contributions earmarked for a specific person. If a 501(c)(3) is allowing their organization to be used in this way, they may be on very thin ice.

I wonder if this is also true when raising money for an expensive medical treatment for a particular person.

Mark

Anonymous said...

I don't get it. When we got married a few years ago, our beds were used beds given to us by family members, and the rest of our furniture was stuff from old apartments. When it was time to "upgrade" we went shopping on craigs list and discount closeout furniture stores to get a couch and table and chairs. Our linens and kitchen stuff was stuff we got as gifts, and if we needed something else we went out and bought it.

I just don't get it. We both work, and are both educated and went to school. Are we the only ones that don't have people buying them fancy furniture and stuff when they get married. It seems like such a waste of money, and makes people not appreciate the cost of the fancy stuff, that it becomes a MUST for years to come.

Ateres said...

If you are wondering about how non-Jews can pull off this charade, the answer is simple...


credit cards and HELOCs. How do you the economy got to this state to begin with?

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