Got Orthonomics in your Email Box?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

No Matter What Your Financial Circumstances

A reader of this blog kindly sent me this fascinating article from the NY Times. As the economic winds shift, the very pricey Reed College in Portland is finding that it cannot grant aid to all those in need and some rather unpleasant realities are sinking in.

Admissions are no longer contingent on academics, extra curricular activities, diversity, and whatever other factors play into picking the next class of students. In fact, the admissions staff was assigned with the task of removing 100 students seeking financial aid and replacing them with 100 students who could pay their way in full before acceptance letters were sent out. Additionally, the only students admitted from the wait list were those who could pay in full.

The money quote from the article is this: "Reed has for now cast aside its hopes of accepting students based purely on merit, without regard to wealth, and still meeting their financial need."

I'm afraid that this realization that Reed College is coming to is one that our own yeshivot and day schools will also need to grapple with. Stacking classes according to who can pay is an idea completely foreign to the Jewish world. Even the idea of minimum tuition has not been received well by all. And with the exception of preschools, I'm not sure that there are too many schools out there that charge a simple (low) flat fee as some other parochial schools do.

But, I'm afraid that if you don't make sure that each class can cover its direct and indirect costs, you will be left in the hole, unable to meet obligations, and ultimately unable to continue to operate. Just last week I pointed out the absurdity of an admissions process that leaves schools wondering just how much money they will have to work with come August/September, after staff has been hired. A pet peeve of mine is when budget planning begins with expenses.

I too am uncomfortable with stacking classes according to who can "carry their weight." If a numbers person like me is queasy, I can only imagine others would be completely repulsed. But, the alternative (admit, hire, and then worry about the money) leaves an entire 'system' at-risk. And, unlike Reed College, I'm not sure there are many schools sitting on endowments that can cushion them when money does not follow.

Readers: comment away. Let's try to keep civil too.

51 comments:

SuperRaizy said...

You're making a valid point. But what would happen to the children of parents who truly can't afford to pay full tuition?

Anonymous said...

SL: The difference between Reed College and the typical Jewish school is that Reed apparantly had enough applicant who could pay full tuition and enough on the wait list. I doubt that many of the day schools do. Also, the Reed applicants who need financial assistance might have other options like less expensive state schools or going to a community college and live at home and get a part-time job for the first two years of school, etc. For orthodox kids, there doesn't seem to be a plan B -- the equivalent of going to community college would be going to public schools with after school relious instruction. There needs to be a plan B.

Jendeis said...

Well, that's one solution.

Here's another approach: the Brandeis U. alumni are coming together to try to fund one full ride in 33 days. The effort is being spread through word of mouth (well, email). It's an interesting idea. Link to Brandeis S.O.S. (Support Our Students) Campaign.

HAGTBG said...

An entire system at risk? I'm not sure the current system would/could ever truly collapse if we presume people remain committed to sending their children to all-Jewish Orthodox schools.

Take Social Security: it won't ever go truly broke - rather when its intake can no longer match its expenditures, people's monthly payments will shrink but the program will remain in place (even if at only 75% of the intended amount). That means comparitive human suffering but the Social Security system will survive.

If the yeshiva structure is no longer financially viable because those richer can no longer back those poorer then individual institutions are indeed in danger as their budgetary assumptions are faulty, but the overall concept presumably will still survive, even if not at the same quality because there will still be an inflow of money to the persons providing the service.

So SL we should put things in perspective: if schools spend what they can not afford they will go bankrupt but we can assume other schools will take their place. The system will survive and your monetary assumptions eventually adopted. The only issue is whether its with the same entities performing those services now. That's where your advice comes in.

As for implementing long-term options for smoothing out the bad times - specifically an endowment - pushing the idea in the bad times or when people (usually the prospective beneficiairies) think the disaster is right at hand isn't really all that useful (just as starting to save at 62 for retirement would mean you're in deep deep trouble).

Miami Al said...

We didn't prepare for the famine during the feast... during the good years, the schools spent 105% of the income each year... When prepays come in for the following year, they were still paying expenses for the previous years. These bankrupt institutions are going to ripple effect through the community when vendors/employees go unpaid.

The schools let teachers get paid when working, across 9 months, or across 12 months... Did the schools escrow the money for the 12 month receipients, or did they just pay less and use the summer money to pay old bills. When the school tanks, some of the staff are going to lose a third of a year's salary... this will ripple through our communities.

There needs to be a plan B... There NEEDS to be after-school Judaic instructions, with a plan to get back to solvency.

The problem plaguing social security, more people collecting, fewer paying, is happening RAPIDLY in the religious world. A generation or two ago, it was common for the second spousal income to be entirely for tuition... now we have spouses not working because with tuition assistance, there is no point. We have more "learners" not bringing in money. Students who a generation ago would have been pushed to go to a University and earn a good income are pushed to go to a Jewish school and enter teaching.

We have more children in the schools, and fewer earners supporting them. Combine that with the general economic wage reductions, and you have the current situation.

More money needs to come in, less needs to go out. Students need to be pushed towards careers that earn money, not careers that hide them from the real world.

A real cost cutting solution needs to be considered. One of the local evangelical schools starts at grade 3... Could we start Day School at grade 3, and do K-2 in public school with Sunday school Judaics and after school Hebrew immersion (two hours a day of all Hebrew)?

We need drastic cuts in costs fast, and a long term focus on more income... and the more income needs to be more work outside the religious world, not pushing for higher salaries within it.

If we are a serious people about continuity, we'd deal with this. The Catholic Church is serious, they shutter underperforming diocese, move resources to where they are performing.

We're the opposite, we pull resources out of the economically performing areas and move them to the underperforming ones, and we're all going to pay the price.

In the past, day school graduates were prepared for college and the path to success in America. Our schools are now worse than the public schools at this preparation. Orthodox ascendancy will stop in its tracks if we don't pare down to a level of financial commitment that families can afford.

Dual income families need childcare to work... that means rethinking schools that close Chol Hamoid, days before holidays, and travel time. That means summer camp (day camp) that starts right after school gets out. That means that scholarship committees "ascribe income" to the non-working breadwinner, and stop encouraging underemployment.

The wealthy lose 40% of their wealth last year, and the poor are demanding that they do more for them because they don't want to work... That's a recipe for disaster.

Anonymous said...

HAGTBG: You may be right that the entire system is not at risk. What is more likely is that with other types of secular private schools, the rich will still be able to send their children and some of the lucky poor will get scholarships. Some of the more creative and industrious members of the middle class will create some alternatives to how the school system currently works, and others will end up in public school.

Commenter Abbi said...

I agree with HAGTBG. I don't schools like Ramaz are going anywhere any time soon, precisely because they are endowed and very well prepared financially. The dinky local yeshiva surrounded by 5 other dinky in Boro Park? That's going down, along with the others, within the next five years.

quietann said...

I'm actually a Reed College alumna (and Jewish but not Orthodox.) They have a good-sized (multi-hundred-million-dollar) endowment that covers a lot of scholarships and grants, but like every other endowment fund, it's lost a huge amount of value in the past year, and if it's like most, the majority of the funds are tied up in non-liquid investments. (I work at Harvard, which has also been in the financial news, and this is what's going on with the endowment.)

At the same time, though, the college has added a lot of student facilities that folks in Higher Ed disparagingly refer to as "Country Club". This was done to keep up with the competitors, as the number of students for high quality, expensive liberal arts colleges is quite limited. There were some necessary repairs and additions, and the cost of a computer network/wireless capability was quite high (and often needing upgrading every few years.) But a lot of it was just fluff and showcase. I contribute to the college every year, with a stipulation that my donation be used for financial aid only.

Accountant said...

"Stacking classes according to who can pay is an idea completely foreign to the Jewish world. Even the idea of minimum tuition has not been received well by all"

If you divide the budget of an Orthodox school by the number of students, you get a $ number that is much higher than a large percentage of the parents can pay. Even if you tilt the distribution a little (i.e. some pay less/more than others) it would still hold true. The current tuition distribution is very uneven. If yeshivas actually do what Reed College is doing and only take paying students, a LOT of Orthodox kids will not be in Orthodox schools. I'm not judging whether that's a bad, good, or mixed outcome, but it would certainly happen.

Accountant said...

I'd like to see a calculation made of the overall sustainability of a full-time private yeshiva system for the entire Orthodox community from birth to post-college. It would have to have large error bars and loose assumptions, but it's very worth doing and I don't think I've ever seen it done.

What is the combined wealth/savings of the families that are relevant to the question? What is their income? How many kids do they have in total? How much does it cost to school that many kids per year? Note that scholarships, etc. are irrelevant to the calculation. It's a global question, so local redistribution doesn't affect it (unless, for example, non-Jews are donating to yeshivas).

I strongly doubt that the cost of educating all the Orthodox kids is more than the overall Orthodox income, but people have expenses other than tuition. What percentage of the income can we realistically expect to allocate to tuition?

It's not just about the absolute cost (i.e. "having enough money for it"), but whether people will tolerate it. If being frum means spending every penny beyond subsistence living on tuition, people will leave. Frumkeit grew in the last few decades because the economic boom made it possible to be frum and live a comfortable lifestyle. If that changes, and maintaining a frum lifestyle becomes unaffordable or extremely painful, people won't be frum. Remember that bazillions of frum Jews stopped keeping Shabbos so that they could keep their jobs. Don't think today's frum Jews are any different: economics is a hugely motivating force.

So: do we, as a community, have the money to realistically fund universal, birth-to-marriage private schooling? And what will happen if we don't?

SephardiLady said...

I apologize for saying ALL schools. Not every school will be in danger.

SuperRaizy-You raise a painful question that needs to be dealt with. . . what about those who can't pay anything?

Accountant-Great proposal and you make a good point about tolerance. We can't expect everyone to have the same tolerance level.

Currently, I think the biggest danger is higher tuition paying parents finding alernatives. . .I know some families who are going to give homeschooling a run. I support them fully, but it does mean money leaving the schools. And no one is waiting in place to pay full.

Accountant said...

SL, thanks. I think they don't do the calculation because they don't want to know the answer!

I don't blame them; I'm not innocent in that either. I don't really want to know how many people today would leave frumkeit if being frum created extreme economic hardship. As you said, not everyone has the same tolerance level--but how many at each level?

tesyaa said...

I'm told that in New Rochelle, where there is a push for a Hebrew immersion charter school, there was an appeal from the YI pulpit to raise $500K in yeshiva scholarship money so that those choosing the charter schools would stay in yeshiva. I imagine many of those choosing the charter school could somehow manage to afford tuition, but feel that enough is enough. There is only so much mesirus nefesh one can make, and like SL and Accountant say, everyone's level is different.

On a separate note, I spoke to an administrator friend who was indignant that parents would apply for a scholarship when they have 401(k) savings. She believes (and apparently it's her school's policy) that the retirement accounts should be drained first. SL, do you recall from your scholarship sources if this is standard policy? I know you don't feel that way personally...

SephardiLady said...

tesyaa-I do believe many administrators see 401(k)s in the same light as Bahama vacations.

The time will come when they will wish people traded in a lot for a 401(k) because we have an aging generation that probably doesn't have enough money to support themselves at a basic level, to say nothing of continuing to contribute to their grandchildren's tuition.

I do believe that retirement is a no-no in some schools. I'm told in other schools that a "reasonable" amount is fine. But, what is "reasonable?"

Avi said...

The wealthy lose 40% of their wealth last year, and the poor are demanding that they do more for them because they don't want to work... That's a recipe for disaster.

If... maintaining a frum lifestyle becomes unaffordable or extremely painful, people won't be frum. Remember that bazillions of frum Jews stopped keeping Shabbos so that they could keep their jobs. Don't think today's frum Jews are any different: economics is a hugely motivating force.

These two snippets from the comments are sadly brilliant.

Anonymous said...

I agree on the 401(k)'s. The problem is the high tuitions/lack of sufficient funding means that schools and families are forced into being in constant crisis mode where it's hard to think beyond this month's bills and plan for the future. The current generation of 20-mid 40 year olds may be getting a lot of help from their parents and grandparents. The problem is that they will not be in a position to help their children and grandchildren (let alone met their own needs as seniors if 401(k)'s and retirement are discouraged) and that's when things come crashing down.

Anonymous said...

SL: How can retirement be considered a no no? For many, it's not optional. They might as well try to outlaw aging.

GilaB said...

I think SL meant [savings meant for] retirement, rather than retirement per se.

ProfK said...

GilaB, while savings for retirement might be part of it, there is a segment of the far right who "assur" retirement as a non-Jewish concept. Forget about whatever learned discourse they use to prove their point about this--the cynic in me says that of course they have to assur retirement--they know where the money is coming from and can't afford to lose it.

Anonymous isn't wrong that a lot of people don't have a choice--their job retires them, not vice versa. Yeshivas don't want to hear this fact, along with a lot of other facts they don't want to know about.

Anonymous said...

I find it striking as to how many baalei teshuva who are reasonably smart and well educated have chosen to give their children a far more inferior secular education than they had.

I can understand how they would want to provide them with the religious education they never had, but why is that diametrically opposed to the secular education component? Their children are so much more poorly equipped to deal with the outside world on professional terms. They have far less earning potential. It's true that it is a ticket to frumkeit disaster.

Education is the key to economic opportunity and upward mobility. The frum community, its high schools and its rebbeim had better get out of the mindset that a high quality secular pre-college and college education is universally evil and that everyone needs to get married and have babies asap - and instead seriously weigh whether the natural consequence of that mindset,ie, a collapsed day school infrastructure, a community on welfare and stampedes of people leaving the fold,is worth it.

I think the Orthodox community has to come together to collectively come up with a plan to secularly educate its best and brightest males who are not destined to become rebbeim, together with its best and brightest females. Give them web-based distance learning classes with great teachers and curricula to upgrade their education while they are still in day school. Put pressure on the day schools not to passive-aggressively sabotage these kids' admission to good colleges - have them come up with action plans and hold them accountable for those goals. Then it has to figure out how to come together to provide housing options so that college students can go to top schools and not have to live in the coed dorms. Yes, they will be exposed to the opposite gender in the classroom and some will inevitably leave the fold. Then again, people leave the fold for any number of reasons, including a feeling that they've missed out on a lot that the world has to offer. Anyway, everyone has to work together so that Baltimore families can house out of town kids going to Hopkins and NY families can house out of town kids going to Columbia, etc. Then there has to be a mechanism put into place for parents to still supervise and set up the dating situations in families where that is expected.

Who knows - maybe a side benefit of all these out of towners working together could be a softening of the shidduch crisis, in that mothers from different cities will naturally meet each other and be networking on other issues, rather than contacting each other under the anxiety and pressure-ridden situation of finding a spouse for their kids:-)

Zach Kessin said...

So: do we, as a community, have the money to realistically fund universal, birth-to-marriage private schooling? And what will happen if we don't?

I'm pretty sure the answer to that is a huge "NO". As for what is going to happen that is an interesting question, and I don't know. Its one thing for somewhere like Reed College to say we need more people paying full tuition, the folks who don't get it can try to get in elsewhere, and there are less expensive options like state schools. The problem the Orthodox world has is that we have said all the cheaper options (Public school, charter schools etc) are unacceptable.

The community has to stop waiting for some sort of financial miracle such as vouchers and figure out how to bridge the gap between what people want and what can actually be afforded. Ideally before everyone goes bankrupt. If we let things go on the way they are going we will have an economic catastrophe of epic scale.

To be honest I don't see change happening on a large scale until things really hit rock bottom.

Anonymous said...

ProfK: For many retirement also isn't a choice due to health and disability. Sadly, I know people who had to stop working in their 40's or 50's due to accidents and medical problems.

SephardiLady said...

Click on the tab "retirement" if you want to get a feeling of where I stand. But in short: retirement is the focus of our savings. It is a must do in my own playbook and I think that saving for retirement from as early as possible is of benefit to the klal even if some consider such to be a "luxury."

I've said before, we shouldn't call it saving for "retirement," as that is somehow a loaded term to some, but saving for "old age." We are all getting older!

Avi said...

@ProfK - what I've never understood is how the yeshiva world can tell bochrim that they can't work because they need to learn Torah, and tell parents and grandparents that they can't stop working to learn Torah themselves. Why is work assur for the bochrim and Torah assur for the parents?

Anonymous said...

Avi, excellent point!!!!

I wonder if the root of the problem is simple human selfishness on the part of the bochurim (and the system they end up supporting)?

Mark

Anonymous said...

Mark: I don't think the bochurim are inherently selfish - this is learned behavior. They have been indoctrinated into believing that work is bad, that the full-time learners support the whole world and therefore they deserve to be supported by others, etc. The parents who are paying chose to send their children to schools that taught these attitudes, although there probably are some parents who did not understand the attitudes being taught or didn't feel that they had a choice of schools. In other words, parents share some of the responsibility.

Miami Al said...

Some of the issue is a short term economic reality... older people make more money than younger people. Assume Moshe is a lawyer with 5 children that chose a rightwing school for his kids. His oldest "graduates" from a year in Israel, whatever when he is 45. Now, because he didn't save when younger (paying tuition when he was younger, etc.), Moshe with his 200k income (good income for a lawyer, not great, but reasonable for a "peak earning year." To put away for retirement to support his lifestyle, really starting at 45 (finally dropping a tuition payment), he should save 20% - 25% of his income... or $40k - $50k/year.

If he supports his child and young wife (and child) while his son is in Kolel for $25k - $35k (the after tax equivalent of $40k-$50k, assuming he can shelter it from taxes). Now, if he supports his son in Kolel, he can't save for retirement this year. If he doesn't support his son fully, he'll still need to partially support him ($10k-$15k) because he can't make more than $20k this year... So we support the son fully, and push off retirement one year. When kid two is ready, he's making a little more money, so supporting two of them is possible, but still no retirement savings...

Basically, all four of his children, working entry level jobs, make less than he does in one year. His "pushing off retirement" by one year, is more effective for the community, in that year, than all four children starting their career... that's the trap...

Now, if the children started careers, they would all be able to build up their earnings, but in anyone year, it's easy to support them because he makes more money... and by the time he's in his 60s, his children have mediocre job skills, and can still only earn $25k-$40k, but if he works one more year, he can support them... So when Moshe can't work, the system collapses, but each year Moshe goes to work to support his children, and each year the children are one year further in life but NOT career. When Moshe has to hang in the towel at 75, his middle age children can't support their families, and he can't support his lifestyle on social security, Moshe gets depressed, has a heart attack, and the kids split the sale of the house, which buys them 4 years...

That's the trap, and we're kicking it down the road.

Impressed and disappointed said...

Why are the best and most insightful discussions of one of the most pressing issues in the frum world taking place on a blog??! Where are our leaders, our institutions, our media? Why is this not being addressed directly and seriously by people in positions of authority??

The cynic in me says that the quality of conversation here on this topic is because it's anonymous, while the situation is so bad no one wants to put their name on the truth. Or worse, because the responsible leaders are well placed in the status quo (how many of our leaders are roshei yeshiva?), and any realistic solutions would change or diminish their power and standing. :-(

Lion of Zion said...

"The cynic in me says that the quality of conversation here on this topic is because it's anonymous"

imho, this is the number one reason why nothing will change.

Anonymous said...

Impressed-

How long did it take until we adressed at risk kids? Drugs? Abuse?

Is it because we didn't know about it or we didn't know what to do about it? Or maybe we didn't want to ask for help? Or face harsh realities of change?

Unfortunately, we don't have a good track record at addressing reality. It usually take some casualties before real action happens. This will probably be the year of serious casualties.

Anonymous said...

"imho, this is the number one reason why nothing will change."

Oh, things will change.

Charlie Hall said...

"The Catholic Church is serious, they shutter underperforming diocese, move resources to where they are performing."

In Washington, DC, the Archdiocese is converting Catholic Schools to Charter Schools.


"The frum community, its high schools and its rebbeim had better get out of the mindset that a high quality secular pre-college and college education is universally evil "

That very idea is a chidush. Jews in Europe attended university starting in the 15th century; I have never seen any rabbinic objection prior to the 19th century. And of course many great rabbis were university educated.


"The community has to stop waiting for some sort of financial miracle such as vouchers "

Our leaders have been unsuccessfully pushing for vouchers for over four decades. And the public support is just as low today as it was in the 1960s. Everywhere a voucher program has gone to referendum, it has lost, usually by landslide margins. It doesn't help that the most outspoken voucher proponents are people who are open about their desire to destry public schools in the US.


"I don't think the bochurim are inherently selfish - this is learned behavior. They have been indoctrinated into believing that work is bad"

What is amazing to me is that the parents of these bocherim send their kids to yeshivot and beit yaakov shools that are responsible for this indoctrination -- and then complain about the cost of sons and sons-in-law in kollel!

rosie said...

Generations ago, most Jews were self-employed. They owned shops or small farms or had a skill but they worked enough hours in the day to support their families and then they went to learn. Apprenticeship took place in late childhood so that early marriage did not prevent the man from earning a living. Working did not prevent Torah study and people who could did both.
In the US today, working often means non-Jewish or non-shomer Shabbos employers that must adapt to the observant Jew and to a certain extent, him to them. His times for Torah study must take a back seat to the needs of his non-Jewish employer.
To those who never entered the non-Jewish work force, this idea is very foreign and usually rejected. Work is viewed as an evil that should only become a last resort.
Therefore discussing how to get those without any secular education to send kids to college is a real flight of fantasy. It would be more realistic to get them into vocational programs shortly after marriage.
Another thing to realize is the great emphasis that the Torah itself places on Torah study and the teaching of children. Without Torah study, Torah observance rarely survives. There were generations that left Yiddishkeit because they lacked the knowledge to practice the religion. There was no money to send them to learn. The elderly often taught cheder because they could live on less money. They were not the most patient teachers and some kids left yiddishkeit because of their education.
Basically every generation has had challenges with parnassah and chinuch and Torah study and how they dealt with it determined how observant the next generation would be.

Lion of Zion said...

ROSIE:

"Without Torah study, Torah observance rarely survives."

historically jewish practice was mimetic, not academic.

yes, jews were more literate and educated than their neighbors, but that's not saying much so don't exaggerate our scholarly inclinations. most pre-modern jews could not even afford a single gemera and its not clear how many could even understand it anyway.

" There were generations that left Yiddishkeit because they lacked the knowledge to practice the religion."

when masses of jews started leaving yiddishkeit, in most cases it was probaly because they finally could leave (i.e., a "neutral society" finally emerged where a jew could leave the traditional jewish community without the requisite apostacy).

Lion of Zion said...

ANONYMOUS:

"Oh, things will change."

not as long as you continue to post anonymously

CHARLIE HALL:

"Jews in Europe attended university starting in the 15th century"

over the centuries a few hundred jews came to italy (especially padua) to go to medical school. that's it. (and there was tension before the 19th c.) it's not any fairer to say that this was a normal course of action than to say that rosie's revisionism idealizing the primacy of learning in the insular yeshivah velt is accurate.

"What is amazing to me is that the parents of these bocherim send their kids to yeshivot and beit yaakov shools that are responsible for this indoctrination -- and then complain about the cost of sons and sons-in-law in kollel!"

uh huh. what do we expect is going to happen after 12+ years of sending a child to a RW (or pseudo-MO) school.

rosie said...

LOZ, what part of history are you referring to? For 500 years, the gemorrah was passed along orally until it was being forgotten and finally compiled. If you look at history, there were many times and places where Jews were leaving yiddishkeit and not because they were "finally" able to. Look at the Chanukah story! The Jews had an easy way out of yiddishkeit but fought for it anyway. I don't know where you get that Judaism is mimetic. Read pirkei avos or even say the tefillah eilu d'varim where it says "the study of Torah is equal to them all". During which part of history was the learning of Torah unimportant?

JLan said...

" If you look at history, there were many times and places where Jews were leaving yiddishkeit and not because they were "finally" able to. Look at the Chanukah story! The Jews had an easy way out of yiddishkeit but fought for it anyway. I don't know where you get that Judaism is mimetic. Read pirkei avos or even say the tefillah eilu d'varim where it says "the study of Torah is equal to them all". During which part of history was the learning of Torah unimportant?"

Chanukah, in fact, is the story that proves the rule, since a) a number of Jews clearly were leaving the religion at the time and b) even after the Hasmonean victory, Jews continued Hellenizing apace. Keep in mind that those same Hasmonean dynasty you're complimenting ends up with people like Alexander Jannaeus and John Hyrcanus within a few generations.

More to the point (and I think Professor Hall's point), all throughout Medieval Europe, Jews could NOT easily assimilate. There was nowhere to just "leave" Judaism to, as there was no real secular lifestyle available. Converting to Christianity was a possibility, but it meant cutting yourself off from everything and everyone you've known and then living under suspicion for the rest of your life, since many wouldn't believe that you had sincerely converted. It's not until the 17th century in the Netherlands (c.f. Spinoza) and even later in the rest of Europe (mid 18th-19th centuries) that Ashkenazi Jews had the ability to leave Judaism without a) converting to Christianity, or at least without converting in any way but pro forma, and b) living under suspicion for the rest of your life.

tesyaa said...

Yes, JLan, I agree that there is a difference between the historical facts of the Chanukah era and the "Rebbee Hill" version of the Chanukah story :)

Charlie Hall said...

"it's not any fairer to say that this was a normal course of action "

I didn't say it was the norm; I said it engendered no Rabbinic objection! And as you pointed out, there were hundreds of cases.

(Later in that time period, other Universities besides Padua started accepting Jews. And by the early 19th century, Rav Hirsch and Rav Hildesheimer attended universities in Germany.)

Commenter Abbi said...

"I think the Orthodox community has to come together to collectively come up with a plan to secularly educate its best and brightest males who are not destined to become rebbeim, together with its best and brightest females."

Gee this sounds like Modern Orthodoxy.

rosie said...

correction: The oral law did not become the Gemorrah for 1000 years after the Torah was given rather than what I previously stated as 500.
Reformed Judaism began in the early 1800's and Jews had already been leaving the shtetlach for a more secular life and had already started discarding mitzvot. Many had in fact converted to Christianity. The movement was a response to this phenomenon. There obviously was a secular society to flee to.
Remember also that there were different times and places. There have been Jews in America for at least 200 years and had no problem assimilating.
I am just saying that no one should downplay the role of Torah study because the yeshiva of Rabbi Akiva had thousands of students.

Yael Aldrich said...

Abbi,

I agree that it sounds like Modern Orthodoxy, but in that description, we see that this movement also has its issues. To consciously educate (secularly) the "brightest and best males [and females] not destined for the rabbinate, you leave large groups of average Jews learning what? This could be a reason why many of those who identify as MO are not Jewishly learned (even after 12+ years of an expensive MO education) and have no intention to become more so.

There is also concern in MO that MO's best and brightest become lawyers, MDs, and other well-paid secular workers rather than Jewish educators/rebbeim/morot.

Goodness knows I am not saying that certain aspects of MO hashkafa could not /should not be transmitted to the RW world, but it goes both directions.

In my opinion, it will take Rabbis/leaders/people who can see both sides of the road and merge the two so Orthodoxy (in its myriad forms) can survive and thrive. This will take people who are willing to buck the system. I will do my part to fight the messed up system, will you?

Anonymous said...

Tael - Goodness knows I am not saying that certain aspects of MO hashkafa could not /should not be transmitted to the RW world, but it goes both directions.

Exactly!!!!

The problem is that the flow is only occurring in one direction. The MO is absorbing quite a bit from the RW, even to the extent that many of the Rabbeim that teach their children are RW. But there is almost no flow in the other direction regarding the need (and methods) to have at least some level of secular education to enable the earning of enough income to support a family.

Mark

Miami Al said...

Yael wrote, "not destined for the rabbinate, you leave large groups of average Jews learning what? This could be a reason why many of those who identify as MO are not Jewishly learned (even after 12+ years of an expensive MO education) and have no intention to become more so."

I don't know, maybe they should learn how to be a Jewish father (or mother), raise their children to be good people and good Jews, earn a decent living to support themselves, and maybe enjoying life along the way?

anon426 said...

I admit to becoming increasing disillusioned for the need of my kids to have a full-time jewish day school education. Two of the major costs of this to us are

1 - Choosing between any savings and our kids' primary school education. Savings for: retirement, emergency, major home improvement projects, vacation.

2 - Inability to get out of debt in a timely way. mMjorly stressful.

3 - General stress on the family. neither parent has enough time for each other (stress on shalom bayis) or for the children.

Sometimes it feels like we are having to choose between having a full-time day school education for the kids and a happy, torah-observant home. Where the parents are largely going through the motions because they are too stressed and tired to do it right. (e.g. sleeping all day on Shabbos. no shul. barely a seudah.)

No matter how much schooling you get, who would aspire to live like that when they grow up?

Miami Al said...

Anon426, I think you raise an excellent point. The growth in Orthoodoxy over the past generation has been attributed to many things... but the economics has been ignored.

America has been going through a religious awakening (look at the growth of Evangelical Christianity), which spilled over into the Jewish world. Maybe some was Kiruv and other innovations, but it seems more likely that this general American trend would spill over.

The affordability of Orthodoxy also increased... more and more products carry a Kosher designation, growth of national meat distribution brought costs down, and generally cheaper food costs in America spilled over. Over about 250 years, food has gone from nearly 100% of income (agricultural society), to 4% of income (about how much of American labor force is in agriculture). So even though we pay more for meats and cheeses, it's on a smaller fraction of our income that two generations ago.

So if not working Shabbat burdens families less, and Kashrut costs premiums are pretty minor, it's a great time to be Orthodox...

The exception to this is schooling, that was a cheap community sponsored option two generations ago that was used by some of the population, that has become a nearly universal expensive product that sucks up huge amounts of money.

I agree with some others... historically, when religious Jewish life sucked, and alternatives existed, Jews left religious life and disappeared. This recent upswing in religious life corresponded with the economic changes in America than made observance affordable, a change that is being wiped out as our leadership runs up the educational costs and demands no alternatives.

Five years ago, I though that Orthodoxy was on its way to ascendency in American Jewish life, as the others intermarried and low birth rated themselves to death. After 5 years of 4% - 5% over inflation tuition hikes, that Orthodoxy just got a lot less affordable. 5 years of more young families without college degrees, trade skills, and earning power, and incomes are down.

I told my wife three years ago that the Day Schools were done with the next recession, because if they couldn't pay down debts and build an endowment in good times, they were dead in bad times... well here we are, let's watch.

Commenter Abbi said...

Yael, although you ended your post with a seemingly compelling challenge, I'm not sure how much it really means. What am I doing to fix the messed up system? I'm living my life in Israel to the best of my abilities, spending conservatively, saving money because we don't spend half of our salaries on day school, bringing my children up to value modesty, chesed and ahavat yisrael. Short of living my life as close to my ideals as possible in order to be a better role model, I'm not sure what is to be done for the system other than letting it die.

The charedi way of full time learning for the majority and no secular education is a dead end. If it doesn't die now it will in a generation or two. There simply isn't enough money going in and I think sooner or later there will be a sizable rebellion against the the overly restrictive way of life. And since I think this is not the way the Torah is meant to be lived, I really have no problem seeing it die.

Most Jews live a life that they want to. I would rather have the majority of Orthodox Jews leaving day school and building a productive happy life with whatever they picked up in their 13 years there than what's going on in the charedi community today- the pretend ostentatious trappings of upper middle class life when pretty much nobody can afford it, topped by a veneer of learning. I don't believe there's all that much actual Torah knowledge behind all that "learning". It's a facade and most people know it. Sooner or later, facades have no choice but to fall.

Anonymous said...

Miami Al - America has been going through a religious awakening (look at the growth of Evangelical Christianity), which spilled over into the Jewish world. Maybe some was Kiruv and other innovations, but it seems more likely that this general American trend would spill over.

There are also far fewer Jews "angry" at God in the last two generations than the one before that. Life has been very good for Jews comparatively.

Mark

ShanaMaidel said...

1) Objectively, University endowments (and even fine Prep school endowments, Ramaz included) can have gift money restricted in the endowment. Although Harvard keeps mum on how much over the past decade, it is pretty clear that a large portion of their endowment is restricted. Harvard is the largest charity in the world. Beyond the massive drop in endowments, the restrictions alone are hugely limiting for any organization in non-profits to work with.

2)Dorms are of critical importance to the social life of many campuses. Many top rated schools (including mine, but I am not saying which) require students to live in the dorms their freshman year for that reason. I think my university started to only after discovering that commuter students did better at school if they lived in the dorms the first year.

Further, one of the main reasons to go to a "Good" school is not primarily for the education. Although they can get top teachers (I have had some great ones and some lousy ones.)

You go to a top ranked school to meet people like you for some particular area of thought. You are more likely to meet people who will become "famous" on some level


That being said: If you know what you like- apply by department from the beginning for both undergraduate and graduate. Many schools do have top ranked departments worth investing in if you love a subject, and live in a state, or have access to the scholarship money.

3)Stop the comments about the non-jews. Make close friends with the non-jews instead. They are not scary people, and are often far more sensitive to you and your needs than a lot of the Jewish people, even Orthodox people, at times, because they come in with few to no preconceptions, and want to like you for you, in exchange for you liking them for them. The most important friends I have had in college have either been not Jewish or not religious, and I admire them for having middot that are not readily apparent where I grew up. Kol hakavod to them! I met them through dorming life, or just the sheer fact that I lived on campus and had access to campus life.
TBC

ShanaMaidel said...

In Part my previous comments lead me to:

4)The tuition in Reed and many of these schools were also a signaling device of prestige. A number of schools could accept more applicants paying full if they lowered the tuition- but it make the school look bad. The NYTimes wrote about this two years back.

Frumness also fits into this modality/college placement also fits into this worldview.. Similarly, we used college placement or overly frumness of our schools as forms of prestige as a signaling device that "This place was a good place to go," for our elementary, middle, and upper schools. Considering that these are not currently complementary goals- what should be the signal behavior? Why? What value systems go into it? What kind of educational stresses?




5) My father's synagogue, the one he grew up in, Temple Shalom, in Milton MA, had a Talmud Torah program. They studied its graduates after it closed down when the community aged out. Turned out it was a disaster. Not that day school is any better. The last NJPS has a whole set of slides that mentions the following, slightly more than 50% of currently identified Jewish people who grew up Orthodox, stay Orthodox. You want to flip really expensive coins? It speaks well on us that there is an organization called Footsteps in the Bikkurim Incubator, alongside Tav Hayosher.

You might want to take a global step back first and ask a more primary question- what makes someone Jewish- before going and frittering dollars away. If I had money, I would restrict a gift, because the current system is a disaster at actually creating thriving Jewish people, let along thriving Orthodox people

What would be a good, objective standard for an active Jewish person? An active Orthodox Person?

Moving on

As a note: Neither frumness nor College placement means a child has actually learned anything. Can the child effectively read, write, and assimilate information across a variety of media in a variety of subjects (mathematics, Judaics, the liberal arts, including actual art, the sciences.) Can the child ask good questions, and cans/he search and evnetually find good answers on his/her own with encouragement? Can s/he seek encouragement, partnerships, even if the situation does not seem optimal? Those are questions central to education. Yeshivas and Day schools across the spectrum fail at sparking children the creativity to want to learn in any subject, let alone a dual curriculum. Answering these questions are the difference between long term success in a variety of fields, let alone Judaism. These sorts of question hopefully will inspire some reader here how education, both formal and informal, plays into the idea of what makes for an active Jewish person. Come up with good answers as a collective- and you will have sparked something.

Blogger said...

If you want your ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend to come crawling back to you on their knees (even if they're dating somebody else now) you need to watch this video
right away...

(VIDEO) Get your ex CRAWLING back to you...?