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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Obscene!

For only $30 dollars a month you can help feed a child in a far away 3rd world country. Anyone want to guess what a well known tzedakah is asking to feed a family for Pesach alone? Take $30 and start multiplying. . . . . . . . . .

Obscene is the word my husband blurted out after I showed him an advertisement that was running in a publication for a well known tzedakah for aniyei Eretz Yisrael. This advertisement detailed the costs needed to be covered for aniyei Eretz Yisrael as follows:

Seder night for a smaller family = $214
Seder night for a larger family = $404
Entire Yom Tov for a smaller family (including clothing) = $1449
Entire Yom Tov for a larger family (including clothing) = $3088

My husband and I were simply astounded by these (high) figures and how an organization could ask for far more for one night or one week than the donor you are trying to attract is planning to spend, possibly for 6 months on their own needs? (The advertisement ran in a community that is not known for high incomes).

I only hope that the numbers are inflated. Personally I see no good purpose in inflating numbers. Inflating numbers doesn't underscore need, it makes the donor question the need, especially when your middle income donor in America, who is likely cutting back to make their own ends meet, isn't planning on spending so much for their own needs.

The notation "including clothing" was made in the form of an edit (light blue), in handwriting with a ^, instead typewriting. This too is disturbing. I have been reading numerous reports that the food situation in Eretz Yisrael is desperate. And when the situation regarding food is desperate, it seems to me that the concentration should simply be on feeding people. Yet that does not appear to be the case. In this report, a major philanthropist, is told by well known Rabbonim about the terrible and rampant poverty (bochurim in yeshiva are being fed only bread and water for breakfast and supper and those who have families with food-which from other articles seems to be few- are being asked to go home for Shabbat). One would think that given the situation regarding food, a major donor would be asked to either donate food and/or start some sort of program that could help the situation in the long term via job training and placement. But instead the recommended initiative was to donate suits to bochurim, of which 10,000 were donated.

While I do believe that we need to concentrate on our needs at home (a point emphasized by both Rabbi Schachter and the Rabbonim in Baltimore at another event I have yet to report on--thanks readers for all the info you have sent me!), the poverty in Eretz Yisarel is of great concern to me because the way it is being dealt (and I have another post about wedding takanot in the Belz and Yeshiva communities in Eretz Yisrael) underscores some very troubling issues vis a vis priorities in spending.

Signing off for now. (Hope this post wasn't too harsh).

76 comments:

rosie said...

If a donor is spending $30,000 to take his own family to a Pesach hotel, what is wrong with asking him to spend a tenth of that to feed and clothe a poor family? Unless the poor family is being asked to subsist on hard boiled eggs and boiled potatoes all week and wear cast-offs from the US, $3000+ is not a bad price for feeding and clothing a large family for the week of Pesach. If they can do it for that, I would like to know their secret.

JS said...

WOW!! $400 for just one seder night for a large family?? It took me a second to realize it's just one seder we're talking about here as it's eretz yisroel and not chutz la'aretz.

Is there no economy of scale for cooking for a small family to a large family? I know when we make a shabbat meal we always try to line up as many guests as possible since the extra cost and work between cooking for 6 and cooking for 8 is minimal. Here, the cost is double!

And why is the seder night cost simply multiplied roughly by 7 (another thing, Pesach is only 7 days in Israel)? The family is eating a seder worth of food every day? And what clothes are being purchased exactly?

I'm just shocked. Breakfast over pesach is usually a matzah with whipped cream cheese or maybe butter or jelly. Maybe a small piece of cake. Lunch is usually leftovers or maybe potatoes and eggs and some side. We usually have so much leftover from the seder such as a turkey and kugels that it lasts several days into the holiday. I think the prices they quote for one seder is close to what my parents run for all of pesach for the large family.

And unless there's a big sale and someone really needs a new outfit, we forgo the clothing.

I don't donate to any organization where I feel the money is misused or the priorities are misplaced. This just takes the cake.

mother in israel said...

I saw an ad for a night in a hotel for Pesach, asking NIS 940/night/couple.That comes to eight nights at $1880. But it doesn't include the children or clothing.
We went shopping today and paid NIS 1300 for staples, canned goods, matzah, meat, fish and dairy. It also includes nuts, chocolate, cocoa, jam, toothbrushes, 2 boxes of macaroons at NIS 20 each, and six bottles of drinks. We still have to buy wine, produce, eggs and more dairy products. We figure another NIS 1000 but perhaps more. We are eight people.
We don't buy: catsup, mayonnaise (I make it), paper goods. I need a few houseware items but won't include those.

Lion of Zion said...

ROSIE:

"$3000+ is not a bad price for feeding and clothing a large family for the week of Pesach. If they can do it for that, I would like to know their secret."

are you serious?

tesyaa said...

Yom Tov is expensive. If you are not going to a hotel, it's very likely that you're still spending less than many non-Jewish families spend on Xmas food and presents. I would net out what you would spend on food for the 8-11 days if it weren't Pesach in figuring out the incremental cost.

I just don't see clothing as such a big expense since many kids who have grown get new Yom Tov clothing that they wear for Shabbos all spring and summer. They would need those clothes anyway.

With kids (particularly young kids and girls) the question for me has always been whether to buy one nice, good quality outfit that they will wear over and over again, or several cute, cheap outfits from Target so they have variety.

The younger kids do accept hand me downs but also want something new that is their "own." I respect that desire but try to do it in an economical fashion.

rosie said...

Each adult male goes though about 16 oz. of wine per seder. Shmurah matza is over $15/lb. Meat, fish, vegetables, nuts, and loads of assorted other things, children's shoes, stockings, haircuts, sheitel setting, jackets, suits, cleaning supplies, etc. Teens usually need clothing from the adult department. Married children mean trying to cook something to satisfy in-law children. (Yes, I know that there are those who would tell them that this year we are in recession and a fleishig meal is potatoes fried in shmaltz). Of course there are the regular needs of the week such as diapers but with children home from school there is more use of everything such as the washing machine. Some families need also to buy supplies such as more haggadahs as the family grows. I think that if by the term "large" family they mean 7 or more kids, then why is $3088 such an inflated figure? I am normally quite frugal but I did allow a wine choice for adults this year (within reason).

tesyaa said...

Hair has to be cut anyway, so I try to schedule my boys' haircut needs around yom tov. I don't get my shaitel set for yom tov. I have 2 in rotation and I get them done regularly since I wear them to work. I just try to wear the clean one if I have a chance to get to shul.

We're still using free Haggadas my father got from a bank 30 years ago. Of course, we have others, but they have been purchased over the course of time for learning purposes.

I gave up kugels years ago too since who needs potatoes cooked with eggs and oil when baked potatoes area easy and satsifying? We are eating so much else that we don't need the extra calories.

I find buying teenagers clothing is often cheaper than for children since you can go to discount stores such as Annie Sez rather than heimishe children's stores.

16 oz. of wine per adult sounds like a lot. You don't even havea to drink the whole kos, just rov kos. We use small wineglasses (just enough for the proper shiur) to avoid overdrinking, and low alcohol wine such as Moscato d'Asti and Lambrusco, which happen to be cheap.

Rosie, if you want to spend a lot feel free, but don't try to convince the rest of us that these expenses are necessities.

alpidarkomama said...

WOW! WOW! OY! WOW! I'm feeding our family of 6 plus a few guests, and I am striving to stay within my usual grocery budget of $800/month. I might be $100 over this month, but I'm hoping not. $3,088???????? Yes, we've officially achieved lunacy.

Meat? We eat chicken; brisket for first seder. Fish? We eat tilapia and salmon (cheap here). Nuts? A few, but they're expensive. New shoes? Nope. Stockings? Already have. Sheitel? I'm a fancy snood sort of girl. Jacket? Suit? My husband still wears his wedding suit. I get him a nice new shirt. Cleaning supplies? Vinegar. Children's dress? Sale at Target - 80% off, so $5 each. Boys? New shirt, also from Target, $8 each. All at their January sale where they had to get rid of all the holiday clothing they didn't sell. Grape juice? We make our own. The only processed things we buy are catsup (for those french fry karpas!), mayonnaise, oil for baking, matzo meal, and potato starch. And one box of chocolates. :) The expenses are what we make them. And I'm not making them!!!!!

Commenter Abbi said...

"Married children mean trying to cook something to satisfy in-law children. "

Are you suggesting that mothers in law are expected to cater to the whims of picky married sons and daughters in law? I don't even cook special food for my own small children anymore.

The rule in my house is if you don't like it, I guess you'll be hungry.

Lion of Zion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tamiri said...

$200 = around 800 nis which doesn't see so totally outrageous if you consider that this tzedaka may be taking into account only hand matza, super duper kosher chickens and, well... a bit of overhead. Maybe they are planning that the family should have leftovers?

SephardiLady said...

rosie-In response to this part of your first post, I will reply: Unless the poor family is being asked to subsist on hard boiled eggs and boiled potatoes all week and wear cast-offs from the US

Plenty of us would be donors are "subsisting" on inexpensive food (and not "only" eggs and potatoes) and plenty of our children are simply going without new yom tov clothing or have picked out some second hand items.

We want to give to those who are struggling. We are b'nei rachamim. But what an organization is asking for should be in line with reality and the reality is that those who read the publication I pulled this out of are simply NOT spending anywhere close to these amounts themselves and many of the people reading this publication having seen a downturn in business, have taken a salary cut, or perhaps don't have a job anymore (chas v'shalom). It is simply bad marketing for an organization and perhaps even an affront to those who are stuggling with dignity.

David said...

It's worth applying the "100-years-ago" test to all things Pesah: if people didn't do X 100 years ago, it probably isn't actually a necessity.

I think that 100 years ago, nobody spent the price of an automobile on a Pesah vacation.

Ezzie said...

Wooow. I thought our $6-700 a month on food was a lot (we have lots of guests as well)!

I wonder if perhaps the numbers were meant to be in shekalim. They would then be a LOT more in line with what makes sense.

I don't think any response to the survey I'm running has averaged that amount per meal in a month, and that's with some big food spenders in there.

SephardiLady said...

Tamiri, It was advertised as 900@=$214,etc.

If the prices aren't unreasonable for Israel they certainly look huge from the perspective of the American eyes here, with the exception of Rosie.

I've posted plenty of good and bad techniques of tzedakot. Certaintly a tzedakah with an American office should know what looks outrageously expensive to state in an ad. . . . .. . . . . .unless, of course, this is what people consider normal. . .. . . which leaves me to think no wonder the general American Orthodox population feels like it is financially sinking.

SephardiLady said...

Ezzie-The amounts were in both NIS and dollars. I printed the amounts in dollars since dollars is what we relate to. Dollars is what the potential American donor is going to be drawn too.

Ezzie said...

There goes my Dan L'Kaf Zchus. I was hoping they just made a typo.

Also - wow. They're even squeezing more money out of the exchange rate! That's... theft.

Ezzie said...

I take it back. With the dollar climbing, that's actually remarkably accurate.

Thinking said...

This might just be a poorly thought out marketing plan. Perhaps the assumption is that if they attach the number to something like "the seder" people would be more inclined to give. The same way that organizations might ask for $2500 per window when building a new building. It does work.

The reality is that families who need help with the seder need help with more then just food and the additional money will come in handy.

We don't have to always be so literal. The money will be well spent.

Our Maos Chittim campaign focuses on single mothers. We give them money for matza, food and clothing, but we also give money for a car wash and afikomen presents. Some might say that its not essential, but every dollar helps.

rosie said...

There are various levels of need. If everyone is starving then don't give tzedukah for shoes and haircuts. Someone who is buying designer clothes for little tykes can probably afford to give tzedukah for someone else to have new shoes. Moas chitim is for celebrating a holiday. I saw an appeal in a non-Jewish magazine for help equipping African villages with tablets that will make their water potable. While there are loads of non-Jews who can donate to that, it is a matter of life-or death. Contrast that to giving money so that someone can have a happy holiday but that is the mitzvah of Moas chitim. Most people don't need tzedukah to afford eggs and potatoes. The same thing is the mitzvah of hachnassas kallah. It is not a life or death issue to buy things for a kallah but it still considered a mitzvah to make a kallah happy.
Obviously if you can't afford to give to that cause, give a small donation or nothing. Those who are struggling to make Pesach themselves are not obligated to give but there are those who are out buying $2000 sheitels and who live in communities where tying a scarf over one's hair is not as acceptable as it is in Israel. Those who are spending big money on Pesach chocolates, cheesecakes, roasts, catered meals, or are making sheva brochas for a crowd at the seder, can probably donate something so that another Jew can enjoy his yomtov.

SephardiLady said...

rosie-Take a look at what potable water means. The organization is looking to bring more drinkable water to communities, not provide the starving with a designer dress.

Please re-read my post. The situation in Israel is known to be desperate, i.e. people who can't afford eggs and potatoes. The Rabbonoim that suggested donating suits noted that the bochurim are being fed with bread and water only for breakfast and dinner.

Anon819 said...

As soon as the fancy clothes come into the mix, that's what makes me angry. Even if they will end up eating better on Pesach than my own children, that's still food. But every time there's a clothing drive to collect clothes for Israel, I see people donating excellent quality items. Why are these good enough for my kids (who rarely wear anything except 2nd hand clothes, or occassionally a special treat from Target), but not good enough for them? It's that disconnect from reality that SL has discussed before.

rosie said...

I think that what happens with suits is that they have a cheap suit manufacturer who donates lots of unsold suits. Who knows what these suits look like but they are probably unsold from several seasons ago and are not worth much anymore. They probably could not sell those suits anyway so they donated them to the bochrim. That is my guess. I personally buy cheap clothes so I agree with anon that expensive clothes are not necessary. Still, a new suit of clothes is a reason for a shechechiyanu brocha and part of the experience of rejoicing on a holiday.
There is real poverty and most likely the money is not spread evenly. There may be people starving and getting very little while another family is getting from one of the causes. I know in my community, we give to one woman who collects on behalf of all the poor and tries to give them according to their needs. Some get more and others less. It may be the same way in Israel.

Ariella said...

I just went shopping in 3 stores for Pesach today and spent about $300 on wine, grape juice, matza, a bit of meat (which will not suffice for all of Yom Tov) aluminum foil, seltzer, and various other things. I've already spent over $100 on earlier shopping and still have to pick up more meat, dairy products, produce, etc. So even with all the free matza I qualified for at Stop and Shop, plus shopping around to pick up items at the best prices in various stores, and leaving behind the really expensive prepared cakes, etc., I will still be spending more than I would like to think about on food alone.

Anonymous said...

rosie - Who knows what these suits look like but they are probably unsold from several seasons ago and are not worth much anymore.

Oy Vey, not worth anything??? I own 4 suits, one is 10 years old that I bought at Men's Wearhouse for a cousins wedding (my mother wouldn't allow me to attend with a nice long sleeve white shirt and shabbat pants), and one is about 20 years old from my brothers bar mitzvah, and the other 2 belonged to my uncle, and my aunt gave them to me after my uncle was killed in a car accident.

Entire Yom Tov for a larger family (including clothing) = $3088

This is utter insanity. I can certainly see how a wealthy family could spend this much quite easily. However, this is enough to feed a family for a few months, and such a princely sum should not be spent all in one week!

And, clothes, how many new clothes need to be purchased in the first place? In our case, the kids all wear hand-me-downs, and when we do buy new stuff (rarely), we only buy opportunistically when there are great sales. Usually Target will have an end of season sale that starts at 50% off, but if you wait a week, the stuff goes to 70 or 80% off. That's when my wife grabs the bargains and buys stuff for the next few years. For myself, I almost never buy new stuff, maybe a few new white shirts every few years, and recently I've noticed that the hems are fraying on my shabbat pants, so I will probably have to get a new pair soon (obviously when there is a good sale).

Our biggest expense is probably wine/grape juice/shmura matzah for the sedarim. We are having our sedarim at my sisters homes and we are bringing those items for 21+ people.

As far as for the rest of the chag, no special additions other than matzah (machine made, the cheap stuff), extra cream cheese, butter, and honey. Lots of potatoes (my wife found a great deal with a coupon and a sale at Target, 5 pounds of potatoes for a dollar or so). We eat a lot of eggs throughout the year and constantly buy them when they are on sale, at any given time, we may have 4 or 5 dozen in the fridge. Meat, chicken, maybe one extra fleishig meal each chag day. Fruits, veggies, we eat on a regular basis anyway, so maybe only a little added cost during the chag.

Mark

rosie said...

Most of us are on this blog because we are comfortable in old clothes and discount stores. This does not take away that teenagers feel self conscious if they wear old clothes. I know a rosh yeshiva in Betar Ilit that tries to outfit each bocher for Pesach. This helps a bocher's self-esteem. Of course if someone is starving to death you can't worry about the person's clothes.

Shoshana said...

We will proudly be eating eggs and potatoes and cast-off clothing! :)

Commenter Abbi said...

"This helps a bocher's self-esteem. "


I think what helps the self esteem more is learning a profession or trade and being able to fully support yourself and buy all the clothes you need with your own money.

Rosie, what you seem to be suggesting is that although we here strive to be as frugal as possible and live within our means, not everyone is on this "madrega", so to speak and we have to coddle their needs, even if they're too poor to provide for their own needs.

I'm sorry, I couldn't disagree more. I believe it's a huge mitzva to provide proper food for poor people, especially on Pesach- I don't beleive it's a mitzva to provide a luxury spread for those in need, even if that's what they're "used to".

Are you suggesting that this organization http://www.tabletotable.org.il/english/ is pas nisht for frum people because they collect other people's leftovers for those who are hungry?

The point is, if you can't afford to buy your own suit, you should feel low self esteem. And you should be inspired to get up, find work and save so you can buy yourself your own suit.

triLcat said...

I would say that $400 for the week of Pesach is not ridiculous in Israel, if you're talking about people who eat shmura matza and mehadrin shchita (I don't consider whole chickens an extravagance on chag - I think it counts as simchat chag to have a chicken per 3-4 people. Other foods? Almost everything we eat is potatoes, matza meal, eggs, onions, apples. A tiny bit of nuts...

As for clothes, I think it makes much more sense to collect gently used clothing so that people can have "new" clothes for chag.

Personally, I bought my daughter new tights for chag and my mom bought her new shoes on sale (about $12) I have to look through the most recent piles of hand-me-downs to find the nicest dress for Seder. (and then she'll change into pajamas before shulchan orech.)

rosie said...

Abbi, the years that a bocher learns Torah are earmarked for that purpose and therefore he is not working. Most teenagers in secular society are only working part-time jobs. Many do buy their own clothes but those clothes do not include suits and hats. Now those who uphold that system, where bochrim study Torah rather than get jobs, will be sympathetic to a bocher in a worn out suit, especially if poverty will affect how he perceives Yiddishkeit. Many kids will not want to give another generation a holiday that forces them to go hungry.
The idea behind Pesach tzedukah is so that people can have a happy holiday, as I explained earlier. If they are starving, then they are usually starving all year and need help all year. I don't believe in long term kollel and I am quite opposed to it but at the same time, I am in favor of large families. Sometimes even the best workers cannot afford a nice yomtov for their large families so if someone desires to help them, it is a mitzvah. In some cases there is a missing parent and then they cannot be blamed for being in need.
If someone is not receiving help or there is no one to help him, then obviously he must make do with the cheapest foods possible. He will have fulfilled the halacha but yomtov might seem like less of a happy occasion. And obviously if we are talking about mass starvation, it is more important to feed as many people as possible to keep them alive, rather than give a few families a plentiful yomtov.

Tamiri said...

BTW, I don't think the tzedaka meant you have to give $200 all by yourself, just that it adds up. I think that giving $18 is fine too - everyone does what they can.

Squooshball said...

I just received the following e-mail and thought it was a really interesting contrast to the "obscene" tzedakah request in your most recent blog post. Note that in this case, this American-based organization states that $36 pays for a complete seder for one client and that $1,000 sponsors ALL of a client's meals, programs, and services for a FULL YEAR--as opposed to $1,449 for an entire family for only ONE WEEK.

HELP FEED HOMELESS JEWS THIS PASSOVER

Project ORE, the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Outreach to Elders Project, has provided thousands of homeless, isolated, and elderly Jews with more than 400,000 nutritious kosher meals, help finding housing, and a caring Jewish community over the past 20 years.

As economic conditions worsen, attendance at Project ORE has increased 20%, and costs are rising. But we have made a promise: Project ORE will not turn anyone away.

We need your help to keep our commitment to the vulnerable people who depend on Project ORE.

Passover is right around the corner. Our clients will celebrate with a seder meal paid for with donations from individuals like you. Please consider giving to those less fortunate. Not all Jews have a place to go for the holiday.

NOT SURE HOW MUCH TO GIVE?
$36 pays for a Passover Seder for one client.

$100 provides emergency cash assistance for one client.

$250 pays for a month of Hebrew or art classes.

$500 buys one day's lunch for 50 clients.

$1,000 sponsors all of a client's meals, programs, and services for a full year.

$5,000 sponsors our Passover Seder.

A gift of any amount will help feed homeless Jews. Click here to give today. Please choose Project ORE in the Program Designation field. To give by phone, please call (212) 780-2300 x4090.

SephardiLady said...

Trlicat- the $404 figure is marketed as night of the seder.

Rosie-From what I have been reading the situation is desperate and very little money is coming in from chutz l'aretz. I'm not sure families are at the point of mass starvation, but the well known rabbonim in the article I linked to said that the bochurim are only getting bread and water for two meals a day. If this is true, and I do believe it is because I've seen other similar reports, I do believe that whatever money is coming in needs to stretch as far as possible.

I also believe that less money will be coming in. Here is American, the Rabbis are starting to push keeping money in the community. I have reports from readers in Baltimore from their asifa put on by the Rabbinical Council/Va'ad of Baltimore. There is a public pledge that they want everyone to sign that obligates the signee to keep the majority of their money in Baltimore and at least a quarter in the local schools.

Tamiri-Yes they will accept $18 donations. I don't object to trying to collect, but the marketing campaign should be in touch. And this marketing campaign clearly is not in touch with the market it was advertising in.

Honestly Frum said...

Perhaps there was a misprint and it should have read shekolim and not dollars. Maybe you are paying for fine china and crystal. I did the math and I figure, even using hand shemurah matzah (which is a chumrah that can perhaps be foregone this year if you don't have money to pay for food for your family) you can easily make a seder for 4 people for about $60.

rosie said...

I don't just cheshbon food though. I spend more on gas and utilities when more people are here and a 3 day yomtov with the stove and range hood going and several freezers and refrigerators running also costs. Covering counters and lining fridges with foil also costs. Kids should not use the same chometzdik pacifiers and sippy cups so those need to be bought new. I had to buy canned air to clean this infernal machine that I am typing on. Some years I have to replace dull peelers or need larger pots. Some types of chometz pots cannot be kashered and new ones much be purchased. Life is a lot easier with plastic table covers. I do more laundry erev Pesach and when Pesach ends, the laundry mountain resembles Har Sinai.
As far as forgoing shmurah matza, for many shmurah matza is the first priority of Pesach but each person can eat the minimum amount for the sedarim and not wash and make motzei for the other yomtov meals if it is that scarce.

SA said...

Rosie- the tzedaka is for Israel- yom tov is, as always, one day. We have stone countertops that are kashered with boiling water (covering is a chumra, again, if you can't afford food, chumras have to go).

We heat water with solar water heaters- no need to raise the electric bill heating water.

Fridges and freezers run 24/7 no matter how much or how little you have in them. If you didn't buy energy efficient models, that was your mistake in the first place. Even if the motor runs a bit more for extra food- i really doubt you're going to see a huge difference on your electric bill. Running the dryer more will certainly add up- the other appliances, i just don't think so.


Again, nothing your bringing from your own experience justifies the outrageous prices these people are asking for tzedaka.

tesyaa said...

BTW, you should not line refrigerators with foil since the air can't circulate properly. It sounds like a chumra to me too.

After yom tov yes there is a lot of laundry but you're probably not doing laundry in chol hamoed except for little children. Everyone is still only wearing one outfit per day (if children wear more because they're messy, presumably it's no different from when it's not Pesach.

We save sippy cups from year to year and they are like brand new since they are only used one week per year.

When I need new utensils I look for them on sale all year round (Mother in Israel had a post about making a post-Pesach list so you know what you need for next year).

Rosie, it seems like everyone's challenging your assertions, but your comments sound like the frum party line for why the frum life is expensive! What the rest of us are saying is that it doesn't have to be the case.

Anon819 said...

What about my child's self-esteem of wearing 2nd hand clothes that very possibly could have been donated by someone in his class? And my daughter's self-esteem at always wearing her best friend's used clothing? Our total income last year was $32K, so we really rely on the used clothing. Who wants to send me money to buy my kids new clothing this year to help their self-esteem?

SephardiLady said...

Anon819-We rely on used clothing too despite having a somewhat high income.
Perhaps I'm a bad parent! I don't spend a lot of time worrying about self-esteem vis a vis material possessions. I want my kids to have the "real thing" which is based on pride in accomplishing, not the style or label on the clothing. For us, clothing that is clean, in good repair, and at least somewhat stylish is just fine. We shop second hand. . . . and incidently, since we started doing so, we are better dressed.

triLcat said...

self-esteem comes from within. True, it may be hard for kids who are teased, but if their self-esteem comes from clothes, then something's way way wrong.

I pretty much never wore second hand clothes as a kid, b/c there was no one to get them from. I was teased because my jeans weren't Levi's and my skirts weren't GAP...

Plus I took a fair amount of teasing for being arrogant and whiney... so you be the judge...

also, I know that the figure was for seder only, I was just trying to give an idea of what I think is reasonable.

Anon819 said...

I hope it was clear that I was being sarcastic. (Though it would be nice not to worry about someone teasing my son for wearing something they donated to the gemach - hasn't happened yet but I'm sure it will eventually.)

I think it is good for their middot and Torah outlook to not be overly concerned about outward appearance (other than hygiene, cleanliness, etc.) I think it is very bad for a Torah-oriented person to focus on these things, even if it's a teenager.

That said, I wish I could allow my kids the privilege of picking out their own clothes (at Target or similarly priced store, of course.) I hope to someday soon not need to take so many clothes from the gemach. But if my financial situation requires me to do so, I do it. I might ask other people if they have any used clothes for my kids, but I don't ask them to buy clothes for my kids because they will have low self esteem otherwise.

Anonymous said...

My inlaws gave us money for our kids clothes this yom tov we bought them each one nice outfit and are going to set the rest aside to buy camp and summer clothes at Target and JC Penny (also some on sale in Old Navy). Where we live it is not unusual for 4 and 5 year old kids to show up in shul in $100 outfits. I want my kids to look good for shabbos and yom tov but some of these people are over the top.

Anonymous said...

SL - Please re-read my post. The situation in Israel is known to be desperate, i.e. people who can't afford eggs and potatoes. The Rabbonoim that suggested donating suits noted that the bochurim are being fed with bread and water only for breakfast and dinner.

Oy vey, this is terrible! I have a suggestion for them. Maybe they could take turns working a few hours to earn a little money to support the Yeshiva. Something like each bochur could work for 1 week every month and remit the earnings to the yeshiva. That way, they could still learn most of the time, and eat.

Mark

Anonymous said...

Lots of potatoes (my wife found a great deal with a coupon and a sale at Target, 5 pounds of potatoes for a dollar or so).

My wife went to Target today, and unfortunately this deal is incorrect. There is a coupon, but the sale was not quite as good as originally reported. However, the produce manager at the store told her that the 10 pound bags will be on sale next week.

Mark

Julie said...

I think there is a huge psychological difference between taking hand-me-down clothes because you are frugal and/or environmentally conscious and being in position where you really cannot afford new clothes from a store like Target. I, like Sephardic Lady, love hand-me-downs. People at my kids' schools often offer us clothes that their children can no longer wear or that their children no longer like. (We are relatively poor.) At times, a bag of clothes will appear at our front door. My kids wear second-hand clothes. I love it. Some of the people who have passed clothes on to us have amazing taste, and the clothes are usually far high quality than I would ever be able to afford. But I think that I and my kids can enjoy the whole thing because I know that in my heart of hearts, if I need to, I could buy my kids a new outfit on sale at The Children's Place or at Old Navy. I just have more important things to spend the money on.

rosie said...

Ok, I do agree with SA that Pesach is shorter in Israel and there is only one seder. I am talking also about plugging in additional freezers and fridges which people do in America but I am not sure how many do in Israel. I have a son who lives in Eli (West Bank). Even though they have solar heat for water, they do pay a water bill and an electric bill and electricity is high. The house is heated with space heaters but luckily the winter is shorter. Diesel fuel goes farther in cars but it cost me $100 American dollars to fill my tank when I was there a few weeks ago. There is one store in Eli and although they try to keep their prices reasonable, there is no comparison shopping and it is an hour by bus to Jerusalem.
As far as suits, while most of us have several changes of clothes even if bought used, bochrim live in those suits and may only have one or two changes of clothes. After a year or 2, they are very worn out. Now maybe bochrim should stop wearing suits, give up learning, and join the IDF. At this point you could say that the whole religion should change to become cheaper.
One of the things that we make a brocha over is that Hashem clothes the naked. We are told that clothing is important to the individual and if we clothe a person we emulate Hashem. Of course, if we have to choose between feeding or clothing him, he will survive without new clothes. I find it hard to find used men's suits that fit and look nice. Many people would have a very hard time walking around in clothing that does not fit them or that does not look nice.
I am not at all opposed to cheap or used clothes and wear them myself. Bochrim that I know find plenty of white shirts for sale at the dry cleaners from people who left them there.
There are cheap men's suits but I don't know how long they wear and it gets very hot in Israel so polyester suits may be unbearable in the summer.

rosie said...

I also want to point out that in Israel, most clothing is line-dried. This means that they need enough clothing so that they can wear something while their clothes are drying. It saves money on electricity but means having more changes of clothes.

happyduck1979 said...

Clothing is a necessity as well. so long as those donated suits went to those who really need the new article of clothing (ie, could not reasonably make due with what they had anymore, I do not see a problem with clothing being given even when food is in dire need- it makes sense that a suit manufacturer would give suits and those are needed as well.

SephardiLady said...

This is the quote from the article I have linked to above:

"The initiative was suggested by Mr. Rennert's rabbi, Rav Aaron Bina, the rosh yeshiva of Netiv Aryeh in the Old City. He had visited Rav R' Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz, who explained to him the rampant deprivation and penury in the Torah world. He mentioned that in one Bnei Brak yeshiva, they are only giving bread and water for breakfast and supper. The administration also asked the students who could eat at home for Shabbos to leave the yeshiva, because of the yeshiva's dire economic state."

Mr. Rennert is NOT a suit manufacterer. If he was, I wouldn't have such commentary. In fact, there was a story rosie kindly sent me about Rockport and Florenshein shoes donating to needy bochurim. Absolutely fantastic! They have surplus shoes. It was wonderful that askanim secured the donation. People need shoes. And people need clothing too.

I'm concerned with the entire situation in Eretz Yisrael and right here in America. In general I'm a relaxed person, but I am involved with some community organizations both on a volunteer and professional basis and there is nothing to be relaxed about.

Commenter Abbi said...

"At this point you could say that the whole religion should change to become cheaper."

Huh? We're frum and my husband has worn suit three times in his life. Being frum by no means necessitates wearing suits. If these boys, or the families of these boys can't afford to buy suits, which are automatically much more expensive than a simple pants and shirt, than they need to practice Judaism in a less expensive way. They don't need to change religions- they need to change communities. It's tough luck if you can't afford the uniform that your particular community requires. But this has absolutely nothing to do with religion, and it's insulting to even suggest this. There is no halacha requiring frum men wear suits. The halacha is to wear clean clothes and look presentable, if that.


As for additional freezers and fridges- you should know from your son that most people have barely room for one fridge/freezer, where exactly would they plug in additional ones? As for additional electricity- true but we have no oil heating bills, like they do in America.

Many frum people I know live solely on water boiled from the sun, even in the winter- yes, it's tough, but that's what happens when you don't make a lot of money.


As for your son's higher food prices- again, this is something that should have been considered budget-wise when they moved out there. It's a well known fact that yishuv supermarkets are more expensive than the ones in the city. But, again, this is probably balanced out by much cheaper housing in general and cheaper childcare prices.

(btw, I'm SA, that was just my work google/blogger account.)

Please reread the last line of Tesyaa's last post because she said it best. I'm sorry, Rosie, nothing about being frum requires spending a lot of money.

rosie said...

Why is it insulting to say that the mode of dress of heredi Jews is suits? To me it would be more insulting to insinuate that heredi Jews change their mode of dress to those of the modern Orthodox, especially if there are those individuals such as Ira Rennert who will donate so that they can retain their mode of dress.
As far as housing in Eli, they only pay $450 a month for a nice size house and if they had another freezer, which they don't, there would be room to plug it in. At this point though, their family is still small and they may eat some meals with her family in Jerusalem so they don't need more freezer space. It may be that in Israel women do not have the luxury of cooking and freezing in advance of the yomtov because of the lack of extra appliances.

ProfK said...

A notice from Yad Eliezer in the Jewish World Review, asking for help in feeding people for Pesach, said the following: "You can make a seder for one family for $36, or for 10 families for $360. Or you can provide a family with chickens for the entire Pesach for $60, or 10 families for $600." Now look at that $214 seder charge for a small family that SL has in this posting and ask yourself what is really going on. Has the costlier organization inflated the price for the seder, hoping to cover expenses for all of Pesach as well? Are they buying wholesale or retail? Or did they make that number up hoping to shock people into giving?

rosie said...

The real question is what do they consider a smaller family? If 10 people are eating for $214 that is $21.40 per person for the seder. For matza, wine, fish, soup, meat, side dishes, salads, and desert, and the seder plate items such as charoses, shank bone, etc. that is not terribly inflated. Basically what one needs to know is the number of adults eating and what is included in the meal. It would be more accurate to list an amount per child and per adult.

JS said...

I have to agree with Commenter Abbi in terms of suits. There's no "law" about wearing a suit to shul or even wearing a suit every day. Personally, I choose to only wear suits on yom tov and occasionally on Shabbat if I feel like it. For me, it has nothing to do with the cost, I just don't like wearing suits, especially if it's really hot outside. I couldn't care less what people think about me or that the shul refuses to give me an aliyah because I don't have a jacket on. In fact, I find it funny that I'm often better dressed in my pants, shirt, and tie than many of the people wearing a worn out, cheap suit.

However, there is no question that suits (even cheap ones) are more expensive than just pants (you have to buy a shirt and tie regardless of whether or not you wear a suit). It's also much easier to care for pants - you can just throw em in the machine and iron them. You often have to dry clean a suit, which is expensive.

Finally, we grew up on a mix of hand me downs and stuff from Caldors and the like. Even though I could probably afford beautiful clothes for my future kids if that were my priority, but thankfully it isn't. It just doesn't make any sense. Kids outgrow clothing so quickly and are messy. They just don't have the care and discipline that adults have to care for their clothing properly. Buying anything expensive for a child is just a waste.

triLcat said...

re: life in Israel

I certainly don't have the luxury of cooking and freezing. I have a "normal" size fridge/freezer, so I am limited to buying and cooking what I can fit.

A fuller fridge/freeze is a more efficient fridge/freeze.

Back to the original post - this money would probably be given out as opposed to giving out packages of food and clothes to families.

Unfortunately, it's an inefficient way to feed people.

Where I live, the head of the local charity organization goes to the greengrocers at the end of the day and takes the stock that won't be sold tomorrow for free. People donate packaged foods, stores will donate or reduce price for bulk sales, and overall, the organization gets the food cheaper than individuals will.

Likewise for clothes, an organization could get companies to give them a better price, could get them to donate some items, etc. Giving money seems inefficient. (especially when we're talking about men/boy's clothes where personal style doesn't really come into play)

Also, it should be acceptable to wear black slacks and a white shirt for bochurim in these times, as long as the clothes are clean. Full suits are really a waste, especially in the summer heat here.

The insistence on dressing like 1800's Polish nobility really doesn't have much to do with Yiddishkeit, imo.

rosie said...

In Israel you see so many different modes of dress as each group has its own customs. Apparently minhagim have their place in yiddishkeit and apparently Hashem wants families and communities to embellish the mitzvahs in their own way via minhagim. A minhag is considered like Torah. There are people who wear shtreimlach even in the heat because it is their custom. If there really is no way for them to keep their custom then that is one thing but it is not proper for those outside the group to denounce the minhagim of another group. If you don't want to contribute to them or have the means to do so then you are not obligated but we can't tell them to disregard their customs. If they decide to alter certain customs that has to come from within their group.

Anonymous said...

I am curious -
How many of the people commenting here have a) more than 3 kids and b) how many have teens and older?

Anonymous said...

How many of the people commenting here have a) more than 3 kids and b) how many have teens and older?

We have K"AH five kids, ages 3 through 9.

Mark

rosie said...

As far as food distribution to the poor, it is probably correct to say that giving the stores money to give food on credit or giving vouchers to stores is the most efficient. Look what happened this week to Tomchei Shabbos in NJ. It was closed for health dept violations. Lots of food was disposed of.
I like the question that anonymous posed. We are BH parents of mostly grown and several married children.
Those teenagers can really eat and their friends come over and really help go through that food!

Teaneck resident said...

Tomchei shabbos has some structural inefficiencies which do not make it the cheapest way to provide food for the poor. I personally have attempted to donate scrip (which is provided as Shoprite giftcards) to the organization and they have refused it. The reason? because shopping at shoprite takes dollars away from local merchants, who charge literally twice as much for the same food. Regarding clothes, I have repeatedly attempted to publicize the Children's Place Outlet and have been met with the same comment: if we shop at children's place outlet, we take money away from local merchants.

tesyaa said...

I'm not sure how I feel about Anonymous's question. I b"h have a large family, but I don't like the judgmental attitude in the frum community that assumes that the more kids you have the frummer you are. With respect to the issue at hand, of course a larger family will spend more than a smaller family, but there's still no reason to go overboard.

rosie said...

That is what I do agree with; what tesyaa said about going overboard. I do agree that the frum community needs to be as concerned about being baal tashgis as they do about all other mitzvahs, minhagim, and chumras. There is a tremendous amount of wasted money in the frum community. I guess that most posters here differ in what they feel is a necessity. There are absolute necessities such as food and enough clothing to be modest and warm and then there are psychological necessities such as clothing that looks good on the person or identifies him as part of a group. There is food that avoids death by starvation and then there is that by which we celebrate a holiday. And there are expensive clothes and foods that are wasteful and go overboard.

Anonymous said...

...." The Rabbonoim that suggested donating suits noted that the bochurim are being fed with bread and water only for breakfast and dinner.


I think that what happens with suits is that they have a cheap suit manufacturer who donates lots of unsold suits. Who knows what these suits look like but they are probably unsold from several seasons ago and are not worth much anymore. They probably could not sell those suits anyway so they donated them to the bochrim. That is my guess. I personally buy cheap clothes so I agree with anon that expensive clothes are not necessary. Still, a new suit of clothes is a reason for a shechechiyanu brocha and part of the experience of rejoicing on a holiday. "

since yeshiva studetns all wear black suite and white shirts, whats wrong with wearing a suit that may be old but never worn. styles shoulndt matter to them
even if the suit was 'old' it probably was never worn and i would hope, a shehechayanu could still be said.

Avi said...

Most of us are on this blog because we are comfortable in old clothes and discount stores.

Rosie, I'm on this blog specifically because I'm NOT comfortable in old clothes and discount stores, but my religion-related expenses are so high that we are forced to make changes in lifestyle, work/life balance, and purchases.

Anonymous said...

Teaneck resident - Tomchei shabbos has some structural inefficiencies which do not make it the cheapest way to provide food for the poor. I personally have attempted to donate scrip (which is provided as Shoprite giftcards) to the organization and they have refused it. The reason? because shopping at shoprite takes dollars away from local merchants, who charge literally twice as much for the same food. Regarding clothes, I have repeatedly attempted to publicize the Children's Place Outlet and have been met with the same comment: if we shop at Children's Place outlet, we take money away from local merchants.

This is absolutely disgusting.

Shabbat Shalom everyone!

Mark

rosie said...

Avi, I am in paradise. The neighbor across the street cleaned out her closet and gave all the stuff that she is to big to wear to me! I now have a closet stuffed with her old clothes but I think that is great. I am saving the environment.

ora said...

The Yad Eliezer price ($36 per person for a seder) and this price aren't so radically different. A "larger family" in the hareidi community is probably 6-10 kids, so that $404 would be feeding 8-12 people. Not so bad.

It does still seem pricy to me. They're probably including nice food (meat, wine, etc) and hareidi hashgachot, which tend to be more expensive.

As and aside, clothes can be more expensive here. We don't tend to have lots of rich people giving away their kids old Old Navy or Gap clothes, or second-hand stores, or other popular methods of saving in America. So it's not so reasonable to say, "my kids wear hand-me-downs, why can't they" -- not many people have hand-me-downs to give (I do have hand-me-downs, they all came from Americans living here). That said, prices are reasonable overall, IMO.

Overall I think different organizations have different aims... this one seems to be hoping for rich Americans to sponsor a nice seder for some poor families. Which IMO is a good cause, just as (as rosie put it), helping a kallah buy or rent a beautiful dress isn't a waste just because there are more pressing needs out there.

Hopefully the organizations that are helping people with even more basic costs (eg, eating real food and not just bread and water) are giving lower estimates and pitching to a wider crowd.

BTW there might be a yeshiva in Bnei Brak that only feeds people bread and water but I'm not sure that means "the food situation is desperate" on a national level. There are some extremely poor communities here, but OTOH the standard (hareidi shaliach) portrayal of Eretz Yisrael as a 3rd-world morass of starvation and despair is hardly accurate... while we have been hit by the economic crisis too, BH I think most people are able to afford much more than bread and water.

Oh and -- food prices are totally different in a real 3rd-world country, I don't think you can compare. Even living off of rice and beans costs more than $30 a month in Israel, as it probably would in America.

rosie said...

I know that this topic is winding down primarily because #1)a lot has been said already and #2)I have to start cooking and #3)there will soon be lots of people here but:
#1)Holiday food is tied to our fondest memories of our Jewish identities. I still remember my grandparent's seder with her chopped liver to put on matzo and her helzel (stuffed chicken neck skins sewn shut with a needle and thread).
#2)Despite the economy, there are still people out there blowing money on stupidities. These people have the means to give to others. Maybe some of these recipients are not people who live off of others but maybe they are victims of terrorist attacks or have some real tzoris and could use a bit of brightness in their lives.
#3)While we don't have to give to every cause or give the full amount asked or expected, we cannot say that because we don't need something, that it is not a need for someone else.
#4)While I am all for making a memorable yomtov for my family, I draw the line at spending to "fit in" with the neighbors. My suit wearing bochrim sons are still wearing their suits bought before Tishrei. I don't buy custom wigs and wear the cheapest of the cheap clothes unless the neighbors give me stuff. We didn't buy Shabbos from the caterer. Our chol Ha Moed splurge may be a trip to the zoo if we can coordinate grandchildren's naps. Other than that it will be the public library and public park. Oh, and I forgot to mention, my kids are more frugal than I am.

Al said...

Rosie, nobody is suggesting that Haredi communities have to change their customs that they can afford. However, if you can't afford it, time to change customs. Minhag is like Torah is a Haredi line, but not something that everyone here is comfortable with.

Suiting is expensive, overly hot (forcing more spending on AC for comfort in warm climates, but was useful for keeping cool in cold climates), and requires expensive maintenance. The suggestion that wearing new suits is important for people that can't afford food strikes many here as terrifyingly backwards.

I have a similar situation to Avi... I'm not comfortable living like I'm poor... so I won't do it. My family makes nice money, and we enjoy our life and provide our children with advantages. I started reading this blog because of what I saw going on around me as absolutely insane (I'm BT) and curious what others do.

$400 for a seder for 10 people? I think we fed 20 last year for less than that... Fish, we do a round of salmon (last year grilled, this year probably poached), $8.99/lb, so that's probably $2/person (not everyone wants fish, and a quarter pound is plenty for an appetizer). Chicken soup had a whole chicken or two ($10-$20), onions, carrots, potatos, sweet potatos, etc... Probably cost another $2/person because vegetables were expensive last year. A bunch of vegetable side dishes, cucumber salads, etc., are $3/person. Add a serving of chicken for all (8 oz, half a pound) is $1.50, and a small serving of meat (4 oz./person) is another $3 or $4 depending on cut...

That's through a meat heavy festive meal for $11/person... At 12 oz of meat/person, that's two "servings" and is PLENTY of food for people. Anyone who wanted Kugels and other nonsense needed to provide it, and we had plenty that went uneaten... :)

rosie said...

Al, what type of wine did you serve? It looks to me that most kiddish cups hold 3.5 to 4 ozs and everyone who is old enough drinks 4 cups. That adds up to nearly 16oz per person as I said before. Fresh fruit is a nice desert but melons cost and that is what most people serve. Potato starch cake is not cheap either. Shmura matzo (we paid $15 per lb plus shipping) is very important to some Jews as are suits. Now as I said before, if it is a matter of absolute survival and there is no other choice, a person should give up their minhagim but it does not appear that it has reached that level. I guess if it does, you will see cheaper minhagim develop.
I see that some groups are already opting for cheaper simchas and are applying rabbinic and group pressure to force change.
I agree with you that there is insane spending in the frum world but I am thinking in terms of things such as designer clothes (for anyone but it is especially annoying to see it on babies), high end strollers, seminary in Israel or another foreign country, expensive simchas, overnight camp, custom sheitels, fancy Purim baskets, buying more food for yomtov than people can reasonably eat, high end home renovations among other "requirements" for frum living.

tesyaa said...

Rosie, start cooking already!

triLcat said...

cooking? I'm still in the throes of cleaning!!!

In Israel, fruit & veggies are inexpensive.

You can make a mousse cake (bake it to prevent salmonella) with no potato flour or box involved.

I've seen wine as cheap as 12sh/liter ($3)

hand shmura is a serious expense, and I, again, believe that chicken or turkey is a reasonable expense for chag.

Commenter Abbi said...

trilcat i'm with you- still working on the cleaning and shopping aspect of this whole thing (I'm down to dairy and odds and ends)

Al said...

Rosie, didn't bring up the wine... Hagafen Wines, $30/bottle, went through a bunch of those... :) My dad brought a case over, he's a big wine drinker... I happen to be really partial to the Barkan Pinot Noir or Cabernets...

OTOH, if you drink Moscoto and other sweet wines, there are PLENTY of cheap options. If you are begging for money, you're probably not drinking $30/bottle wine...

I think that your attacks on Frum life aren't fair, because you are attacking things that people generally can afford. If you are paying $60k/year in private school tuition, you have earnings.

Sorry Rosie, but if you are playing in the minor leagues professionally, the 100K+ land, you have to look like you're on your way to the big leagues, not a strange recruit from a sandlot league. If you think that designer clothes are optional for the professional families, than you don't understand the lives we have to live to support our lifestyle... which is none of your concern until you ask us for money to support yours.

The "high end" issues you take issue with are NOT part of Frum life, they are part of upper middle class America. The ones you are defending are "frum" costs.

At my local produce place, Cantalopes are 99 cents, Honeydew $1.29, and Watermelon $2.50 (these are the small ones, but add some grapes and I have a variety of fresh fruit for desert at $1 - $1.50/person. You can absolutely get the wine costs down to $2-$3/person if you want.

If you can afford suits, wonderful, do what you want. If you can afford designer clothes, wonderful, enjoy them. If you cannot, do not buy them. There is no requirement to where designer clothes... requiring suits is absurd IF YOU CANNOT AFFORD IT.

To have an expensive house, private school for all kids, and expensive meats every night is NOT a cost of being frum, it's part of upper middle class America, and your criticisms of upper middle class families living that way is silly... if you chase them out of Frumkeit, have no doubt that secular America will welcome them with open arms.

Your defense of luxuries that poor people cannot afford as "Minhag" is ridiculous. Desiring charity for food when you cannot afford it is reasonable, expecting suits and drycleaning when you are in poverty strikes me as inappropriate to say the least.

tesyaa said...

Wow, I'm not in the same camp as either Rosie (who complains that being frum demands all sorts of unreasonable expenses) or Al (who claims that if frum people can't live an upper middle class lifestyle, they'll give up their frumkeit). But these are certainly interesting positions, and it shows how different people's perspectives are depending on where they're coming from. I personally don't see the need to have either the luxuries of the upper middle class (who have smaller families and mostly *aren't* using private schools, but live in communities with great public schools), or to take on expenses that frum people think are de rigueur (such as expensive chumras, bugaboo strollers, Italian leather shoes for toddlers, etc).

Al said...

Tesyaa... during enlightenment, when Jews were offered entrance into the secular world, they left in droves. When the Jewish world competed, they started retaining.

When Jews in America were offered entrance into "gentile society," they left in droves, until the Jewish world competed with Jewish country clubs, Jewish schools, and Jewish social clubs.

Orthodoxy's recent ascendency started when the Jewish world started offering comparable lifestyles to the gentile world, or do you think that the wealth of Kosher certified products has had NOTHING to do with an increase in Kosher consumers.

Every time the Orthodox world has told Jews that being Jewish means your life sucks, and the gentile world welcomed Jews, Jews fled Orthodoxy. Every time the Orthodox world had leadership that said, "Being Jewish is more fulfilling than the gentile world," Jews stayed or returned.