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Sunday, November 01, 2009

Let's Be Honest

This week's Yated as well as last week's Yated featured letters from part time kollel wives of large families telling readership that it is possible to "make it" and be happy on a very, very limited income. I don't doubt the joy that the parents receive from their choices, but when it comes to the money situation, I find myself a bit annoyed because the approach is a bit disingenuous, for lack of a better word.

The letter writer from the previous week wrote about full-time working women (whom she accuses of buying fancy clothing and having lots of household help) end up forcing their husband's out into the working world quicker than the part-time teachers/secretaries/etc. Perhaps some of these full-time working women are unnecessarily materially indulgent, but even if they weren't, the mere fact that they work full-time work likely changes their kollel equation. Likely, the women working part-time in frum schools are receiving a number of government benefits that their counterparts working full time aren't receiving. Each income threshold you pass eliminates another government benefit, including benefits that people often forget about, namely the Earned Income Tax Credits (both Federal and State) that you don't have to apply for in the same way you apply for WIC or Food Stamps.

Full-time work (with no parent at home) normally require a great deal of costly around the clock child care or household help. Once you add in a commute and no longer work core hours, to say nothing of having care that extends to cover all of the many days the kids have off from school, you simply face a different financial equation than the wife who can work 3-4 hours a day 10-15 minutes down the street.

And, few people drop off used clothing to "rich" families.

The following is this week's letter. I wish I had the Chinuch Roundtable discussion discussing whether or not children are negatively affected. But, I think that after reading this, we can conclude that whether or not her children are being negatively affected, the SCHOOLS are being affected because she can't pay tuition. She might talk a nice talk about how important chinuch is and how teachers should be paid. . ... . . . but she isn't paying in full, on time, every time!

Dear Editor,
I enjoyed reading last week’s Yated Chinuch Roundtable discussion which focused on the kollel lifestyle: husbands learning, wives working, and the possibility of children being negatively affected. Many important points were mentioned, and I found them all very interesting. Please allow me to express some of my thoughts and feelings as a person living the lifestyle under discussion.

My husband has been learning in kollel for the past fifteen years. We have nine children between the ages of one and thirteen years. I work hard - very hard - at home and as a part-time teacher in a girls’ seminary. I love my life, and there’s no one else I’d rather be.

Our home, a four-bedroom rented apartment, can be described as “yeshivish.” It’s old and simple, warm and cozy, and I love being in it. So do my children’s friends, who are always welcome, including overnight and for Shabbosos. I don’t have to worry about anyone jumping
on the couch or ruining any furniture, because I got it for free, and it’s not too gorgeous.

We don’t spend much on anything that’s not absolutely necessary. Secondhand clothing suits us fine. We have some toys from here and there. What else do we need? Briefcases and even loose-leaves can be reused from last year, and when they can’t, we buy new ones (not the Hello
Kitty ones or whatever other expensive brand might be in style now).

The only thing I wish I had more money for is my children’s tuition. Their mechanchim are so dedicated and hardworking, and they deserve to be paid. The schools are so considerate. They politely mail us a bill every month, but they never apply any kind of pressure. I don’t like to take advantage of their kindness. I hope someday to be able to pay back every penny we owe them. That’s on my mind a lot.

If I had loads of money, I could send my kids off to day camp during the summer and enjoy some hours of peace and quiet to get my work done in the mornings. But that’s not an option, so instead we stay home and my girls make a day camp for the neighborhood children. It’s
fun, and it’s a lot of mess and noise, and yes, I do work much harder, and that’s okay. My children are content with what we’re doing. I’m not making this up. You can ask them.

We don’t have cleaning help. When there’s money available, I get much more pleasure out of paying the people who teach my children than paying somebody to wash my floors. I do what I can, and the house is not completely clean and neat. Some of your readers may be horrified
to hear that, but it’s the truth and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Life is too short and too precious to dedicate to something that doesn’t last, and a spotless house doesn’t last at all. Not with nine kids living in it. And even if somebody does manage to keep her house looking perfect, so what?
What’s so great about that?

People often comment that my children are so happy. I’m trying to analyze why. Maybe it’s a free gift from Hashem. Maybe they’re happy because their parents are happy. They don’t get many expensive presents or go on major trips (we don’t have a car), but we try to give them
little things here and there, and they’re very grateful. Once in a while, I sneak a treat into their briefcases at night with a note telling them that I love them. When they come home, they thank me happily. Once, we passed one of those outdoor rides - you know, those trains or animals
that move and sing when you insert two quarters. They jumped on, about seven or eight kids at once - on top, on the sides, in the back - and held on tightly as I put the money in. One of my little girls said, “Mommy, you’re so nice. You’re spending your money on us!” She’s such a
cutie pie.

My work outside of the home does tire me out, and yes, it’s possible that as a result, I have less time and energy for my children, but they don’t seem to be suffering too much. In fact, I asked
them once or twice if there’s any other family they’d prefer to be in, and they all answered clearly, “No!” (They also told me that probably all kids like their own families best.)

My work means a lot to me, but my family definitely comes first, and if my child’s class is having a Chanukah play or a graduation on a day that I work, I miss work and attend the performance.

Every word of Torah that my husband learns is a treasure, and I’m so happy to be earning it with him. I feel so lucky. Thank You, Hashem, for my good life.

I’m attaching a poem that I read at a fundraising tea organized by the PTA of my children’s school. Your readers might enjoy it.

Wishing all of Klal Yisroel joy and blessing always,

Chavie H.


mother in israel said...

Aw, I wanted to read the poem. :)

Anonymous said...

I don't get the point, entirely. I understand that the schools are negatively affected. But is the point that the husband should be working? That then, the wife wouldn't need to? From my standpoint, with a large family paying tuition, both parents may need to work, unless they choose and extremely spartan existence.

Anonymous said...

A fallacy of composition arises when one infers that something is true of the whole from the fact that it is true of some part of the whole.

Joel Rich

Anonymous said...

It's nice that people can be happy with little in the way of material goods BUT what this woman completely misses is that her ability to make do on a part-time job with NINE children and a husband who choses not to work is that the rest of us are working our butts off to support her life style. Her family must be getting all sorts of benefits like WIC, food stamps, medicaid, section 8, etc. So, not only are they not contributing to help those who would love to be contributing, productive members of society, but can't because of illness, disability, layoffs, old age etc. these people are living their lifestyle off of the backs of others, yet the only thing she expresses any regret about is not being able to pay more tuition. Pathetic.

Anonymous said...

So if there is something going on at her child's school, she says she skips work. Where is the non-working father? Why isn't he going to school events? Same re the comments about the cleaning not always getting done? Is Abba too holy to wash a floor now and then? It is very odd how this long discussion of family dynamics, finances and happiness only mentions dad once - the fact that he has been sitting and learning for 15 years. The entire letter is written almost exclusively in terms of "I" and "my" and most of the "we" our "our" references seem to refer to Mom and the children, not to the parents as a unit.

Offwinger said...

How nice of the schools to put no pressure on them and to be happy to accept their payments, whenever they can afford to send some $ in.

I'm curious: if you calculate out how much money they owe for 9 children, how long will she have to be working part-time to ever be able to pay it all back?

There are many commendable things here: the lack of materialism, the realization that children need your time and love rather than gifts and money (though note that the child's thank you is "you love us so much you'll EVEN spend money on us"), encouraging the children to work (creating day camps), caring more about the happiness in the home than the cleanliness, and saying "no" when you can't afford something.

On the other hand, there seems to be a complete sense of entitlement not only regarding the yeshivah education, but also regarding the job she does have! How nice for her to have a part time job that doesn't care if she skips out to see her kids's school plays.

I don't think this is disenginuity. I think the author simply has no clue what life is like for those of us working full time and paying ALL our bills.

ProfK said...

The mechanchim deserve to be paid? That I would agree with. But with what funds? The writer appears to be satisfied with a lifestyle of few luxuries. However, she doesn't seem to see the connection between the life she has chosen and the fiscal difficulties that yeshivas are in. While she writes nice words about the teachers in the schools, her actions--not paying tuition for 9 children--say otherwise. Would she feel so sanguine if someone were to point to her directly and say "You are keeping me from having enough money to live on, even with a simple life. Your choice means I don't have any." Or would she shrug and point out that there are people out there with money--ask them to solve the problem.

Anonymous said...

Despite all her protestations to the contrary about how great her life is, this lady does seem to have a bit of a subtle chip on her shoulder about people with more money who have cleaning help once a week, or buy some new clothes once in a while or take a vacation. What she ignores is the inconvenient truth that those are also the people who enable her to send 9 children to school while only paying a teensy bit of tuition. I think she also either is truly naive or rationalizes away the fact that most of those people who subsidize her children's tuition (and pay the taxes that subsidizes her lifestyle) do it through long hours of hard work, not by winning the lottery or through inheritances.

Anonymous said...

The first comment defending the women!

At least she is taking tuiton breaks for good reason. Granted someone there should get a real job and pay for the school, but how many people do you see are taking scholarships and going on vacations with nice cars. That is the real problem. If it was only a couple real devoted kollel families who live on nothing and choose that, then we, the public can support that in our school. However the real problem lies with the people who are taking scholarships and don't need or deserve it, as they are in big houses and sending kids to camp. And as for the anon who writes that the husband should go to school functions, if you appreciated Torah learning you wouldn't write that.

Esther819 said...

I'd also like to say something positive about her. Obviously she's naive. And obviously the community couldn't support multiple families all making the same choice as her. But I do like that she's at least living cheaply and simply. It is much more frustrating to read the letters you've posted from people whose kids have to go to camp and have everything that all the other kids do. At least in this case, it's possible that her kids will grow up to combine this frugality with some common sense. (Since none of her daughters will be able to replicate her lifestyle, since she can't pay to support their husbands in kollel.)

Anonymous said...

Anon: 12:25 Says "And as for the anon who writes that the husband should go to school functions, if you appreciated Torah learning you wouldn't write that." The two are not, or should not be, inconsistent. Torah learning to the extent of not fulfilling parenting duties is a mockery. Then it is Torah escapism. If you want to "learn" 24 hours a day, perhaps having 9 children is not such a good thing.

Anonymous said...

Esther: Why do you say none of her daughters will be able to replicate her lifestyle? This family doesn't seem to be living on support from the grandparents.

Esther819 said...

I would be very surprised if they aren't. Part of what I picked up from a brief period of living in the yeshiva world is that it goes without saying that your parents are helping you. So just because she doesn't spell it out, doesn't mean that's not where some of their income is coming from. (And even if they were a rare case, most men learning in kollel are expecting that support, which is a topic SephardiLady has discussed here before. Not that I think this woman has thought that part out. In fact, would be interesting to hear from her in 10 years after multiple children are of marriagable age all at the same time.)

Anonymous said...

OK Esther: You are correct, I should have given this woman more credit. It does sound like she is doing a terrific job with her children, and she isn't bemoaning her lack of cleaning help, camp, cars and new clothes. I'd just like to see a little more perspective on how this family's choices are costing others and that they couldn't do it without others.

LeahGG said...

Her mode of living simply isn't sustainable for the community as a whole - that's the fallacy.

I give her a lot of credit for doing without many things that I'm unwilling to do without (though I live without a car and my children's winter clothes just arrived packed in plastic bags, neatly outgrown by my sister's children, and I'm eternally grateful that she sorted them for me)

Bottom line is, her family is only taking out and never paying into the system. No matter how little they're taking, it's not sustainable.

Yes it's not offensive like the women with the bugaboos and perfect shaitels paying with their food stamps, but it's not a realistic way for a society to function.

Anonymous said...

How long are men allowed to sit in Kollel? Are there any time limits? Any work/service requirements? Any tests to see if they should still be there. 15 years sounds like an awfully long time. How does someone enter the real world and workforce after such a long time? Are there any transitional services?

Ariella said...

On this: "hey politely mail us a bill every month, but they never apply any kind of pressure. I don’t like to take advantage of their kindness. I hope someday to be able to pay back every penny we owe them."

Knowing how schools operate and how scholarships are granted, no doubt that this family would not have been assessed full tuition. Schools would not ask for $10K per child on a family with 9 children that has an income likely far below $100K a year. I can't know what the scholarship amount is, but it likely would be set to an amount the schools consider doable for this family. But this sounds like they are not even paying what they have contracted for. The bill means very little to them. If it truly were hopeless for them to pay what the schools assess, they should ask for a scholarship review.

G*3 said...

> Bottom line is, her family is only taking out and never paying into the system.

There are those in the yeshivish world who would answer that the husband's learning is what they are paying into the system. To their way of thinking, it is the learning that keeps the world going, and Hashem only gives money to working people so that they should be able to support kollel families. We should be thanking them for the privilege of supporting them, for the opportunity to have some small part in the great zechus this man brings to klal yisroel thtough his learning.

> But this sounds like they are not even paying what they have contracted for. The bill means very little to them.

I'm sure this women wouldn't dream of going to a barber, getting a haircut, and telling him she'll pay when she can. Using servives without paying for them is stealing.

LeahGG said...

G*3 said...
There are those in the yeshivish world who would answer that the husband's learning is what they are paying into the system. To their way of thinking, it is the learning that keeps the world going, and Hashem only gives money to working people so that they should be able to support kollel families. We should be thanking them for the privilege of supporting them, for the opportunity to have some small part in the great zechus this man brings to klal yisroel thtough his learning.

not the point - the point is that if EVERYONE does what he does, the system collapses. It only works if there's an arrangement by which X% of families do what they do and Y% of families support it. Since there is no set arrangement, the system is not sustainable.

Anonymous said...

I think it's self-indulgent to learn for so many years.

Anonymous said...

Why do I say self-indulgent? There are lots of non-monetary perks associated with learning -- kavod, etc, not to mention discounts at kosher stores and stuff. Many of us would like the opportunity to do something other than our jobs (that's why it's called WORK)

Anonymous said...

G3 said "I'm sure this women wouldn't dream of going to a barber, getting a haircut, and telling him she'll pay when she can. Using servives without paying for them is stealing."

While I have issues with this lifestyle, it sounds like it is not stealing because obviously the tacit arrangement with the school is that they will treat the children of these kollel families with kid gloves and let them pay what they feel like. The understanding at the barbershop is very different. The family, however, will have a rather rude awakening if the school's finances change and they have to tell families like these that tuition (even if reduced) has become mandatory.

Anonymous said...

LeahGG said...
Her mode of living simply isn't sustainable for the community as a whole - that's the fallacy.

Bingo-the fallacy of composition!
Joel Rich

Anonymous said...

It sounds like this is a terrific Mom. One of the questions I have about this lifestyle, however, is whether the children are also exposed to other role models, i.e. full time working Dads, and are being taught that there are a range of valid and valuable options for when they grow up.

Anonymous said...

I feel really sorry for this woman. She obviously cares about her kids and appears to be a good mother, but her husband is not pulling his weight as a father and partner. The kollel way of life might make sense of a small number of gifted learners or for a very limited number of years. However, my experience is that many guys use studying as a way of avoiding adult responsibility. I have several friends who barely have any interactions with their kids and who really spend much of their "studying time" socializing.

Anonymous said...

Anon: I agree with your comment, but in a weird way I feel a little sorry for the father too. Somewhere along the way, teachers and others convinced him this was the way to go. Now he's probably in his mid or early 30's, and has no marketable skills (although presumably he should be able to teach in a yeshiva)or experience. How do you transition into a different role? The thought of trying to compete for and get and maintain a job must be very scary. Kollels do not do these guys any favors by letting other than a very select few linger for more than a few years. There should be a set period of time, like college.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 8:49:
The dirty little secret of the kollel world is that many of the young men who chose to study full time do not belong there. I was a kollel student for 3 years and then got a full time job after we had our first child. My wife and I would often talk about how much real studying some of the guys did and how it seemed like they were really taking advantage of their wives.

Anonymous said...

Sephardilady, how do you get access to yated online?

Anonymous said...

It's always amazing how the schools are so generous on the backs of their full tuition payers. Nothing will happen to scholarship abuse (as mentioned above) and structural entitlement mentalities until the full tuition payers so enough is enough and they are tired of breaking their backs for others to not pay full tuition. Until then, we live on in "the tuition crissis"...

Anonymous said...

It is logical that her DH cannot attend the school plays because he cannot take off from kollel. Many kollels, particularly those that pay decently, enforce strict attendance policies. As they should.

Anon 9:00, I am sorry that you had such a bad kollel experience but I know many serious kollel learners who really do learn during the time.

Anonymous said...

"It is logical that her DH cannot attend the school plays because he cannot take off from kollel. Many kollels, particularly those that pay decently, enforce strict attendance policies. As they should."

But SHE misses work ... surely her employer would like her to be there. IF she is entitled to a paid time off benefit, why do kollelim not provide a similar benefit?

Anonymous said...

Annon 9:00,
It seems that you spend alot of time talking to your wife. Perhaps if you spent more time studying you would have done better at the kollel. I am not married yet, but I intend to spend my time studying and let her take care of things at home. I think that is the way things should be.

Commenter Abbi said...

Anon 7:01: if you really think that's the way things should be, you had better make that very clear to your wife before marriage, because that attitude is a recipe for a very unhappy marriage for most women getting married today, no matter how much the "want" to support a kollel guy.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:01: Shouldn't husbands spend a lot of time talking to their wives? If a husband spends 40 hours a week in Kollel, isn't what happens there and what is being learned going to be a topic of conversation when he gets home at night, or is it supposed to be a secret man's club not to be discussed with women? Do you not expect your future wife to share with you how her day went and her frustrations and accomplishments?

mother in israel said...

Not to mention, anon 7:01, they are your kids too and not solely your wife's responsibility, no matter how you divide responsibility for their care. Maybe she can file a written report. :)

Anonymous said...

Anon: 7:01: If you really want the traditional marriage where the wife "takes care of things at home," then doesn't that mean the husband has the traditional role of getting a job and supporting his wife and children? It sounds like you want it both ways.

Miami Al said...

I will commend her for a positive outlook and focus on her children. It sounds like she is a good mother with happy children, that is quite an accomplishment. Most of the right-wing families I know have bitter mothers and absentee mothers, so props to her for being a good mother.

How they balance parenting isn't my concern, that's between the two of them. We have a much more egalitarian family, family income is approximately 60-40 and household chores are about 40-60, and we're both equally involved in parenting, but that's my family, not hers.

My issue is that she doesn't "get it" in terms of the economics of what they are doing. Her choice isn't "sacrificing household help" or "summer camp," her choice is "not paying her bills" and "having others support her." Whether it is EITC, WIC, Section 8, free private school, donated clothing, discounted food, etc. So I find her somewhat snarky comments about "luxuries" a joke, she isn't CLOSE to being able to support family + luxuries, so "giving up luxuries" isn't what she is giving up. There should be more appreciation to those sacrificing to cover her and her family, not expecting appreciation for her "doing without."

Jewboy said...

Anon 7:01 said:"It seems that you spend alot of time talking to your wife. Perhaps if you spent more time studying you would have done better at the kollel. I am not married yet, but I intend to spend my time studying and let her take care of things at home. I think that is the way things should be."

I wish you much success in your marriage with that attitude.

Dave said...

You don't want to work, you don't want to care for the children, and you don't want to talk to your wife.

Some catch you are, Anon 7:01.

Anonymous said...

I believe that men are advised not to spend too much time talking to their wives as women are seen as such talki is seen as taking time away from the study of Torah. This is not just my opinion! My father has studied at a kollel for over 20years, and my mother has never complained about it, and I demand the same from my future bride.

Julie said...

I am not a catty person. But there are always exceptions to the rule.

Huh? I can't figure out what you just wrote. Perhaps you should have someone who speaks a standard form of English go over your comments so that they make grammatical sense.

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:23 I have a feeling you are posting in jest just to wake the rest of us up on a Monday. However, if you are serious, please show this post and the comments to your future wife so she will know just what she is getting into and what your "demands" will be. If you are not both in agreement with your views, then Shalom Bayit will be rather difficult.

Anonymous said...

Unreal. Her "simple, happy" lifestyle is essentially being supported by the teachers of her children.

If they weren't, in essence, doing their educational work for free, I suspect she and her 9 children, stuck in their apartment all day, would be a lot less happy.

They are essentially living on a tacit form of communal tzeddakah funds...and this is of course, a high form of tzeddakah since the recipients are apparently unaware of the help they are receiving.

nuqotw said...

Anon 3:23

There is a chiyyuv to provide for your wife and family. How are you going to do this in kollel? (Relying on tzedaqah is *not* providing.)

A husband who doesn't talk to his wife, doesn't work, and doesn't help with the kids is no husband. He's another kid his wife has to take care of.

Jeffrey said...

I once asked my Rebbe (now deceased) who was a well known, scholarly, MO Rabbi, about the propriety of a well intentioned individual learning full-time in kollel and availing himself of the various government public assistance programs. My Rebbe replied that although it may be legal to do such, it is not Kavod HaTorah to do such. Even B'nei Torah are meant to work. We sometimes forget that many of Tanaaim and Amoraaim mentioned in the Gemara had professions that we might consider beneath us, such as being a blacksmith.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm the only one, but I'm loving the troll!

Anonymous said...

maybe the guys doesn't talk to his wife but he was home at least nine times

Anonymous said...

I know this is pshat and greater minds have discussed the requiremnet to work but on the surface u have
Sheshet yamin taaseh melachtecha .
If one doesn't work aren't violating that mitzva

Anonymous said...

Manya Shochet says:

Good for you for pointing out the assuptions this woman omits. I'm getting tired of hearing people who CHOOSE to depend on charity excusing their behavior by claiming they "live simply". If you're living on somebody else's tab, you darn well OUGHT to be living simply, but even the simplest lifestyle requires some income, unless you're living in a tropical paradise.

Many people like her appear to assume that "going without" in and of itself works like those carbon footprint offsets.

Be satisfied with less, but for heaven's sake, learn to be satisfied with working for a living.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the other parents don't mind subsidizing the tuitions for kollel families. These parents are people who chose to send their children to schools that obviously teach the same values as the family in the post, including the desirability of kollels. Same for the teachers who chose to work at these schools. Maybe they all are happy to contribute to the system.
A few, however, might have unwittingly gotten into the system not understanding it or not having other choices.

Jeffrey said...

This is an excellent example of why minimum tuitions are necessary. To begin with, I'm sure that the tuitions at the schools involved are probably very low (maybe 4000-5000?). But even with a low minimum of $1000 per child, a message would be sent that are consequences to one's choices. If one chooses to have a kollel lifestyle, fine; but you can't expect everyone else to fully subsidize those choices. Then again, I don't think the schools in question want to send that message.
The concept of a minimum tuition at a MO school that charges $15,000per child probably isn't meaningful. The overwhelming majority of parents are paying way more than the "minimum."

Anonymous said...

Jeffrey: How can a school that likely doesn't provide a good secular education, discourages higher education and promotes kollels turn around and say but you have to pay a minimum tuition if that will mean fewer and fewer men sitting in Kollel? Wouldn't that be somewhat inconsistent?

Jeffrey said...

That's exactly the point when I wrote, "Then again, I don't think the schools in question want to send that message."
A minimum tuition at such a school might have the effect of having some kollel men who are on the fence to consider employment. But the much bigger problem is that I'm guessing once you factor in all of the public assistance & freebies one gets for learning in kollel, you'd have to be earning upwards of $40,000 (maybe more?) to break even. And this probably isn't going to happen for most kollel guys who don't have any skills or motivation.

Miami Al said...

An idea I've been toying with, perhaps the Kollel and the Yeshiva should be merged? Research Professors, primarily researches, aren't a bad analogy to Kollel learners. The top guys at Kollel should be publishing their insights, making the knowledge available to the people that are supporting them.

Further, a research professor teaches 4 courses/year, which is two courses/semester, normally twice/week 1.5 hour lectures. Could Kollel men each be responsible for teaching in the Yeshiva, one hour/day, as part of their Kollel work?

I think you've find more support for them and their lifestyle if the Kollel men, primarily focused on learning, were imparting 1 hour/day to students, and 1 hour/week to adult education, and expected to publish semi-regularly. Why not have Kollel publications, similar to academic ones, preferably with an online component. In that regard, the scholarly component would not just be engaged in self indulgence, but also sharing their insights with the Jewish people.

As an added benefit, one that wasn't capable of teaching OR publication would be encouraged to cease being full time Kollel and begin to help support the Yeshiva world.

You'd cut back on the costs of running the Yeshiva, be able to increase the stipends spent on the scholarly class, and you'd also make room in the Kollel for gifted scholars instead of using them to shield people.

Publish or perish, if you aren't cut out for the society of the mind, join the rest of us out here in the real world.

I'm not against Kollel per se, as long as it is a path for the exceptional scholars to train and become the next generation of scholars... but doing it for everyone has created a depend class that is a problem.

Anonymous said...

The only way to ever encourage self sustanence is to get rid of welfare programs nationwide. The kollel world is the same as other ethnic groups that have permanently latched onto the "Great Society" of 1965. The only difference is the religous justification and holier than thou attitude of the recipients in the Yeshiva world.

EP said...

Miami Al, your comments are lucid and your ideas make sense. This is a fascinating conversation. The kollel wife is obviously a very fine person and mother who has not clearly thought through the consequences of kollel life for the community as a whole. And then it is possible she lives in a city with a small religious-yeshivish community where the kollel families are few and uplift the religious level of the community as a whole. That is a very different type of situation than one where everyone is in kollel. As many here agree, it is when kollel is the choice of too many that it is resented by those who are working.

Anonymous said...

if we exchanged the work kollel for "lower socioeconomic welfare pindividual or father", and said they didnt want to work and then told this story to people in the kollel community, i am sure they would be complaining about the "blacks and hispanics and white trash" (obviously in a yiddish phrase) ripping off the government adn stealing and why cant they work.

Anonymous said...

Why all to kvetching about the kollel. Most kollel wives are proud of their husbands. I blame the negative comments on the recent growth of feminism in the frum community. I typically study from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm, and then return at 8:00 pm and stay until 11:00 pm. For this I get a small stipend. My wife works part-time, we get a tuition reduction for our kids and qualify for food stamps and a voucher for our apartment and free medical insurance. We do not just get some big check from the government. We are educated people and are not by any means "welfare" low lifes. As I see it we contribute plenty to our community and then some.

Anonymous said...

Miami Al,

Many kollels do publish kovtzim regularly with scholarly articles (pilpulim) written by those learning in them.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 1:57
Where do you get your apartment voucher from and your free health insurance? Is it funded by government benefits like your food stamps? If so, then can you appreciate how taxpayers who go to work everyday and have the stress of getting a job, meeting deadlines, satisfying customers and bosses and often doing work they don't enjoy, instead of sitting and studying a subject they love may feel just a tad annoyed at people who chose not to work?

gavra@work not cheftza said...

Anonymous 1:57

Have you dealt with the halachic ramifications of a tuition voucher/reduction? Did you ask someone who has no negius what you halachicly MUST give up in order to retain that reduction?

If you did, please point me to your rav. I would like the same heter to join a kollel and live the easy life.

Anonymous said...

We sacrifice on a daily basis for our community. Our children and my wife wear hand-me-down clothes, we hace no car, and stuggle just to get by. Is it not better for "government benefits," which are more limited than most assume," go to a Kollel family than a bunch of "welfare types."

Miami Al said...

Anonymous Kollel guy, it seems to me that your children are sacrificing to indulge your desire to self indulge instead of supporting them. It seems your community is sacrificing to benefit you, not the other way around.

America's limited social safety net is designed to help people that need help, not to support people intentionally needing help.

I'm much more sympathetic to a single woman with limited opportunities, economically and socially, who finds herself pregnant at a young age, getting supported, preferably for a temporary period of time, to have her children in a safe environment. The "welfare types" you are talking about are generally people with less opportunity than your family, and they are people that I personally would like to see be given opportunities to improve their station.

Blaming it on feminism is a little bizarre, since the big feminist push toward equality was the ability to enter the workforce and possess legal standing to have opportunities previously only available to men. It would appear that you are the true feminist, choosing the life of the supported spouse previously only open to women.

I assume that I've just been trolled...

gavra@work not cheftza said...

Anonymous 2:31.

If you told me you had a second job after Kollel & worked 80 hours (40 kollel, 40 job), I would believe you. Otherwise living a life that forces others to support you (by tuition reductions) requires a shaila to a non-nogyah party, which it does not seem that you have done. The fact that you are at a computer during your lunch and not learning suggests to me how serious your "job" is.

also if you are 1:57 please use a name or sign at the bottom.

Jeffrey said...

To the anonymous kollel guy (I have my doubts as to whether he actually exists because you'd expect him to be learning now):

Why don't you refer back to my post yesterday @ 5:35pm. Even assuming your intentions are pure, I have to question whether your decision really represents Kavod HaTorah. Not only does the Torah not prohibit working, working is encouraged, and some would say mandated. I assure you that many greater Torah scholars than you worked in various simple jobs to make ends meet---you won't be the first.

Perhaps those few who are really talented and serious should be in kollel full-time, but i don't think its for your average person, or even for your above average person.

Anonymous said...

Jews pay taxes that support government assistance just like the goyim do so why shouldn't we get some of the money returned to our community. My rabbi also recently had a shiur on feminism, and he explained how it has diminished the value that some women place on their husbands Kollel studies. By the way, he explained that traditionally many women in Europe worked to support their husband's studies and were respected by the community for doing so.
Yosi HaLevi

gavra@work not cheftza said...

Yosi HaLevi:

You still haven't said a word about the tzedaka you accept from others (and the teachers, who don't get paid on time because of people like you & the Yated letter writer) via tuition assistance.

If Chillul Hashem is not relevent to you, then I (personally)actually agree regarding the gov. funding. For that (C"H) you must once again ask your Rav (who you call rabbi?)

Commenter Abbi said...

SL, I wish you had featured quotes on your site. Maybe make this an ironic tagline for your site?

"Is it not better for "government benefits," which are more limited than most assume," go to a Kollel family than a bunch of "welfare types."

Miami Al said...

Yosi HaLevi, best of luck for you and your community. The government subsidizes the lifestyle, and other than voting, petitioning our government, or violent revolution, we don't really have options to shut them down. The government supports dependent lifestyles, and I can't be too shocked that a lifestyle has evolved to take advantage of it. The Orthodox community has supported this lifestyle, culturally, financially, and structurally, so complaining about its existence is pointless. I urge structural changes to help change this, but short of that, this will continue.

Personally, I refuse to give funds to Chareidi affiliated organizations, and I urge other Modern Orthodox Jews to do the same, because the structural problems will not change until the incentives change. Hoping that they will "wake up" and change is a fool's errand, they have glorified what we condemn, so the social structure supports this behavior. It's no longer charity, it's enabling.

That said, the peak of Eastern European Kollel was 400 people. Our entire service/structure is based upon an assumption that not everyone is learned... the repetition allows someone that is illiterate to say Amen instead of being able to read the Brachot, Kiddush in Shul serves travelers, but also one not able to make it for oneself or ones family, etc.

Your Rabbi, in regards to feminism and Kollel, is simply spinning a falsehood. Feminism encouraged women achieving equality with men, primarily professionally. Feminism enabled the Kollel life, which barely existed before feminism opened workforce doors to women.

Orthonomics said...

And then it is possible she lives in a city with a small religious-yeshivish community where the kollel families are few and uplift the religious level of the community as a whole.

The poem (that I did not attach) was read at a Brooklyn Bais Yaakov tea. I presume she is in the Brooklyn area.


I blame the negative comments on the recent growth of feminism in the frum community

Are you kidding? You should be thanking feminism! If it were not for feminism, women would not have the access to education and jobs that make it possible to support their husbands, and the first question would still be "can he support a family?" not "how does she plan to support me?"

For this I get a small stipend.
Excuse me!! That stipend comes from donors within the community. Besides for the military academies or playing college football/basketball, I'm not sure where else an undergraduate can receive free tuition AND a stipend.

Yes, you study long hours. Yes, Torah study is extremely important! But, there are plenty of people who work extremely hard, under great pressure, to learn their trade and they pay for it. The whining is not attractive in the least.

Your peers who went the college route likely paid for their education through a combination of work-study and student loans. Many of them will be paying off their education for the next 30 years.

My wife works part-time, we get a tuition reduction for our kids and qualify for food stamps and a voucher for our apartment and free medical insurance. We do not just get some big check from the government

Uh. . . that is a pretty "big check." Why not price out the before-tax value of the food stamps + apartment voucher + medical insurance. And they you can price out the before-tax value of the tuition discount.

We sacrifice on a daily basis for our community. Our children and my wife wear hand-me-down clothes, we hace no car, and stuggle just to get by.

My kids wear hand-me-downs and thrift store clothing too! So do I for that matter! Plenty of families endure the massive tuition bills by living like "college students" for life. I'm sorry, but you sound extremely ungrateful.

If we didn't have to get to work and/or drive our kids to school (no busing) here, I imagine the cars (paid for over 10 years ago) could go and we could eliminate an $800 a year insurance bill.

I think the words you are looking for are:


I'm not against kollel as a whole. But I certainly have no interest in supporting an entitlement attitude.

Dave said...

Is it not better for "government benefits," which are more limited than most assume," go to a Kollel family than a bunch of "welfare types."

You are a bunch of "welfare types." Worse, you have no aspirations to leave it.

Generational welfare recipients with an entitlement mentality -- that is precisely what you are.

ProfK said...

When you can't win an argument using logic and facts then for sure why not throw in "feminism" as the root cause for dissatisfaction with the Kollel life. And that is the prime example of "biting the hand that feeds you" with a vengeance.

Commenter Abbi said...

Dave, that's what completely astounds me. That he really thinks his family isn't "welfare types"!. They are the ultimate welfare type!

Ariella said...

Dave is correct. Jews have absorbed the entitlement culture. Some even boast of milking the system. I was told that one of my relatives, currently living in Israel, planned to get American citizenship (he actually grew up in the US where his parents still reside) with the intent of getting a benefit of $1000 per child. He has a dozen. And he doesn't learn in kollel full-time, he earns money by shnorring for an organization that pays him 40% of the take.

EP said...

Sephardi Lady - I realized after I wrote my post (speculating that the kollel lady lives in a small community) that I was mistaken. No small community has a seminary! I see she does live in Brooklyn. This is a highly provocative conversation, very interesting, and I've enjoyed reading. By the way, among the best years of my life were when I was studying at a major university in the 70's with a full tuition merit scholarship and a small stipend. I lived at home with my parents, used their car, paid for gas I used and gave my mother $20 a week for food. I supplemented my income by writing articles for a local Jewish magazine. I was in kollel, a secular kollel, enjoying reading, studying, writing, all supported by a generous university and my parents. So I understand the desire to learn and the joy of learning - but I did so for only a few years when I had no adult responsibilities.

Orthonomics said...

EP-Easy to miss considering reader is most likely to focus on the tone.

Anonymous said...

Just an exercise.

Take the Torah learning out of this and substitute ANYTHING else in, i.e. Medical learning, law school, etc.

I can't imagine that anyone would be okay with a mother working PT with 9 children, sending her kids to private schools for what she can pay "and hoping to pay the teachers when she can afford it" so that he husband could keep learning forever.

Yes, Torah is important. But as I work a full-time job, married but sans children, and my husband and I struggle just to make our ends meet, I couldn't justify the attitude of "I will just pay AmEx back when we can afford it" or "Thank Gd that the Power and Water is so nice to me". Why are the children of today so entitled? We really want to ask?

Anonymous said...

As a Conservatve Jew who does volunter work for our local Federation and who knows little about the Kollel system, I find some of the comments on this thread shocking! I thought that Orthodox Jews would be against taking handouts whether they are from the community or the government!

Dave said...

I recognize your culture shock -- I ran smack into it myself when I found the Orthodox blogosphere.

If you want to be truly horrified, read the comments about financial crimes, benefits fraud, and tax evasion, on VIN or YWN.

Anonymous said...

Concervative "Jew"
I'm sure that you mean well, but you should avoid making negative comments about a system you do not understand. I study long hours and consider this a service I provide to my community. If my community cannot provide enough support for me and my family, then as an American citizen I am entittled just like any other citizen to apply for benefits. As I look at it better tax money go to a person who is providing a service than to an unwed mother or drug addict. In case you don't know, it is considered a great mitzvah to support a Torah scholar.
Yosi HaLavi

Dave said...

I would much rather have my taxes go to support an unwed mother trying to build a better life for her children, or a drug addict trying to get clean, than to a someone who has decided to shirk any responsibility and thinks that he is doing me a favor by letting me pay for his family.

Commenter Abbi said...

I will add that I'm much happier giving my tzedaka money to organization that help autistic and disabled children and cancer research than kollelim. So glad i'm not on anyone's shnorring list!

Yosi, the only way you could help me would be to get off your butt and get a job. If you want to help me by learning, than learn after work.

Julie said...

I don't know about you all. But the more I read, the less happy I am being part of the frum community.

jdub said...

I've long since made the decision that when my kids are grown, if they decide to go into chinuch, I will help them out if I am able to do so (assuming their spouses don't make the doctor/lawyer levels of income necessary to live in most orthodox communities). I would not spend a dime to help a child learn in kollel. Rabbonus and teaching is one thing; learning endlessly is another.

Yosi HaLevy -- gezunte heit. I don't see learning on your own to benefit nobody but yourself as benefiting a community.

Anonymous said...

Please don't think that all of us in the kollel system agree with Yosi. We are not on government benefits and I know plenty of other kollel families that are not on benefits either.

Miami Al said...

Julie, it's terrible, because those of us in the observant community are all here for one reason or another. I try to avoid being in the "frum community" as much as possible, to avoid being a part of the negative connotations... and we have to be VERY careful with our children.

Look at Michael Vick, top of the world, but because he didn't leave the "ghetto culture," he was destroyed. I don't see a huge difference between his fall and those tied up in the criminal and quasi-criminal actions I see... including unregistered marriages to get welfare, etc.

Offwinger said...


Why the quotation marks around the word Jew when you address the poster at 1:04 PM? Is he or she not a REAL Jew to you? What kind of kollel are you in if you have not learned about areivut yet?

As for the benefits, every American citizen is entitled to apply for benefits, but they are not necessarily entitled to collect them, just because their own community can not fully provide for them.

The only reason you are able to collect benefits from the taxpayers is that you are subjecting your children to this dependent lifestyle, and while the taxpayers are willing to let you be homeless & starve, it actually cares about your children.

Do not delude yourself. As important as Torah study is, you are not providing a service to society in general. You are not collecting welfare because it's a "great mitzvah." You are receiving benefits to support your children, because the US is not so heartless as to let children suffer for the poor choices of their own parents, whether those parents have drug problems or other problems, like a major sense of entitlement that is a massive chilul hashem that makes others ashamed to be frum.

Anonymous said...

I am not Orthodox but have great repect for those who lead an observant life and study Torah. I have to agree with the person who volunteers at his/her Federation that I too am shocked by Yosi's comments. Is he representative of the cummunity or just one bad apple? I keep reading all of these stories about corruption in the religious community and to tell the truth it is very sad.
Ari Lawrence

Anonymous said...

kollel guy,
You r able bodied with a working mind and presumably a functionng body without any disabiitied. You are cqable of working just choose not too. Unlike the drug addict or unwed mother u don't seem to do anything but care for yur self. The drug addict even if he choses to be one is not mentaLly or physicaLly as a rule capable of working amd neither may the unwed mother be able to.
Others ( read nonjews) may not be haappy supporting drug addicts or unwed mothers but see it as part of society helping out the infprtunaate.
You are Not unfortunate or disabled. U can be sure they don't see a benefit or need for a healthy 20-30 something sitting on his tuchas "learning" , having babies and living off the hard working sweat of the goyim.
This is not Russia in the 1800s where people had to be cnniving amd devious to survive. U liv in a great country which for the most part treats u with respect and gves u opportunities.
Ths is a chillul hashem. It would wondeeful to see what the nonjews would have to say if this wwere in the post or times.
Jews cheat the system. What a suprise.

Anonymous said...

I am shocked at the comments coming from other frum Jews on this thread regarding the Kollel life style. At my Kollel, I am actually very well regarded by my rabbi and other students. I do not mean to cause any harm, but this is a life style I have chosen. I do not see anything wrong with taking benefits that are due to me and my poor family as a citizen and my community does not begrudge me the support I need to continue study Torah. I think that it's a shame that we are so worried about what the goyim or nonobservant "Jews" might think. At this point, I would have to make at least $45,000 just to break even, and that would take me away from my precious study of the Torah. I hope that those who are so critical can some how understand things from a poor Kollel students perspective and give us a little rachmunus.
Yosi HaLavi

Orthonomics said...

Yosi-You are getting your own post because you deserve a post of your own (by the way-did you wife write the Yated letter?).

THANK YOU should roll off your tounge a lot more easily. It is easily to think you might be a "Jew" since there doesn't seem to be an ounce of thanks in your blood. You call your kollel stipend "measly" even though the klal as a whole is breaking their back to support Jewish education. Parents are breaking under the tuition burden and paying tuition isn't high on your list. Your sense of entitlement for government funds is ravenous. And you don't want to bother to go out and work because you would need to make $45K to "break even."

Nearly ever commentor here knows what it is like to be a "poor (college) student." And, you know what? Plenty people are being crushed by their college loans years later. If you walked out of kollel tommorrow, you wouldn't owe a penny.

Plenty of men and women making respectable salaries have to take additional jobs just to pull off tuition, and you can only think about how much you need to "break even."

You are living a life of dependency. I can appreciate your Torah learning. I have no appreciation for a super-sized sense of entitlement that is not coupled with modim.

Anonymous said...

Benefits that r due u?

Who owes it to u?

Anonymous said...


Stop using quotations marks around Jew. You yourself are a disgrace to the Jewish community. You take advantage of hard working people in your community, you fail to provide for your children preferring others to do it, and you are ungrateful. Do everybody a favor, learn a trade, and study Torah full time. Stop taking advantage of others. It's a shame what's going on, only the most gifted should be encouraged to study full time.


Anonymous said...

I meant study part time, of course! It's getting late


Anonymous said...

Someone who is kollel and has many children should NOT have time to read blogs -- and shouldn't even own a computer!

That said, all you people out there who are against kollel: please be aware that some people in kollel do it ALL on their own - when I got married, I supported my husband for a few years - NO, we did not take a kollel check, NO, our parents did not give us money, NO, we did not get any sort of welfare, and NO, we did not ask for a tuition break. We did not eat meat, buy flowers, or give our kids art classes. The kids wore a mix of hand-me-downs and clothes bought on sale. We did not go on vacation. We owned one set of linen. When we had three kids, my husband got a part-time job. We were able to do it by working hard and because we were "fortunate" to have a few thousand dollars won as a result of a lawsuit resulting from injuries and some inheritance money left by grandparents. But everyone assumed we were "on the take" - people routinely asked me how much the kollel in my husband's yeshiva paid, and I always said, I don't know, and left it at that. One person once asked me, how could you not know? and I said, we never got any. So DON'T assume everyone learning is on the take, some are just rich kids whose parents want to support learning, and some people do pay for their own madness with their own money...
Also, many men who are now in kollel, have many kids, and no skills, are kind of trapped. How do you expect them to get out of it now?

Anonymous said...

I've been a Kollel wife since my wedding 8 years ago. I work very hard to support my family and I love my job. We even save several hundred dollars a month for the future. We do not have any debt, and do not own any credit cards. I do not get any benefits, neither parental nor governmental. My husband and I both agree that the moment we would have to ask for handouts or the moment we couldn't afford the basics like food or clothing, my husband will leave Kollel.

I love my lifestyle, but there is no one responsible for my family or my 4 children besides my husband and myself. The moment I have to ask for a tuition break or take advantage of a government program, is the moment that my husband will be leaving Kollel.

If someone is content with living a non materialistic lifestyle, that's wonderful for them.
If someone works very hard but can't make ends meet and qualifies for WIC LEGALLY, that's wonderful for them.
But don't go on about the importance of a kollel lifestyle, and then take advantage of other's hard-earned (yes, earned) money. You can't have it both ways. Pick a lifestyle and go for it all the way. And if you can't do it, rethink your choices.


Anonymous said...

Dear Anon 6:02,
You make some good points, but my wife and I have limited secular educations and cannot command profesional wages. An older guy at the Kollel, who is a retired accountant, gives us free advice on what benefits we are entittled to. He's the one who told me that I'd have to make at least $45,000 just to bresk even with the benefits he helped me get. By the way, I got a free laptop through a local program for low income adults. I'm actually very serious about my studies and only use it when I have free time. I also do see myself as being a greatful person who knows that HaShem and my community blessed me with a great opportunity.
Yosi HaLavi

Anonymous said...

Yosi isn't a real kollel guy. He's just trying to get everyone's goat. He can't even recall how he spelled his name on this post.
At 11/3 2:52pm he signed his post "Yosi HaLevi." From there on its been "Yosi HaLavi."

Dave said...

You mean in order to stop leeching off of the taxpayers you'd need to get a job? The horrors.

The American public has made it abundantly clear that while it is willing to pay for children (who are not to blame), and it is willing (albeit sometimes grudgingly) to help people out of povery, it has no tolerance at all for people who have no aspirations beyond living on the dole.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like this guy being taught how to work the system. He would be a total idiot to use his real name because as he might correctly suspect he or this so called accountant might have a date with an IRS agent in the near future. By the way, I am a CPA and I really doubt that he gets over $45,000 from the government. But a do suspect that they might be plaing games with the earned income tax credit.

Anonymous said...

By the way I'm not frum but have a lot of frum client who are and who very honest. However, to "Yosi" and his buddies I guess that I'm just a "Jew."

Anonymous said...

hey, any language analysts out there to help me out? I would venture that " Yosi " is a 27-30 year old single MO female professional who has lots of fun trolling us. No kollel guy would call his Rosh Kollel or Rebbe his "rabbi" or not get that the issue with his blogging online is the "free laptop" from a local charity. He calls his learning "his studies" and if he's real, I'll eat my hat (well, tichel)

Offwinger said...

Troll? Quite likely.

A 27-30 year old single MO female professional???

That's a very specific description for the kind of person you think would troll in this way, and it tells us far more about you than the poster known as Yosi.


Anonymous said...

Hate to burst your bubble CPA, but I doubt that the IRS is targeting Kollel students. I for one think Yosi is a real Kollel student because he thinks just like my 23 year old cousin and his friends who expect handouts. I also know a social worker who also tries to let these guys what they can get from the system. He looks at it like it's a mitvah. We need to avoid thinking that these people don't exist or saying they're just trolling because there are all to many Yosies in our midst.

Anonymous said...

I think that we as a community are way too quick to dismiss the bad apples. I also know several family members who think just like this guy. If we do not take these attitudes seriosly and address them then things will never change. As a start, we have to stop encouraging young men to view full time Kollel life as a viable alternative to work and make sure they get an education and the skills they need to support themselves.

Miami Al said...

I think we've been trolled, and the author is trying to spin more and more. However, I think that they got the entitlement part down...

The estimate of $45k from the retired accountant? Sounds reasonable to me actually.

Assuming that they are really gaming the system:
Medicaid: crappy insurance, but a family plan costs at LEAST $1k/month to have low copays that matches his non-payment as now.

Section 8 housing voucher: probably grabbing $800-$1200/month in section 8 benefits.

Throw in Food Stamps, handouts from Jewish charity organizations, etc., we're up to another $500 a month. He'd probably be expected to kick in $500 - $1500/month in tuition if he was working.

I see $3k - $3500/month in "benefits" that he's grabbing, right off the top of my head... that's $36k - $42k/year to replace that with honest work. That's aggressive amounts of benefits, but that doesn't SEEM unreasonable.

Keep in mind, their meager income no doubt qualifies for the Earned Income Tax Credit, so he's at a negative tax rate. Move him up to support himself, and he actually has to pay taxes.

My back of the envelope calculation of $45k break even for a family in dependency, not down on their luck. He's a professional beggar, not a single mother trying to survive.

That's ignoring the fact that he probably doesn't pay his 30% of adjusted monthly income for section 8, there are probably professional Kollel slumlords that have colluded to drive up "market rates" so they can get by on the Section 8 voucher alone.

These aren't people in the safety net, they are professionally poor.

Anonymous said...

Where to I sign up to get on the gravy train? It frosts me that there are people who are so open in there willingness to live off the hard work of others. My understanding is the it's even worse in Israel. I got a pushke in the mail yesterday for some yeshiva trying to raise money for poor but deserving Torah "scholars" as if Israel did'nt have enough to worry about!

Deena said...

Just imagine if he took the time, energy, and cunning he uses toward NOT working and put them towards a career? He'd do very well!

I agree with those who say he's a troll. But sadly, I think he's an accurate representative of that sector of society.

Margaret said...

Re: Scholarships with Stipends

They exist, but they're rare. My fiance is on a full (room+board+tuition) five-year one, but it has tons of conditions attached that means few student even qualify. He has to major in an instrument in our school's conservatory and complete a major is math, computer science, chemistry or physics. He has to maintain at least a 3.5 GPA. He has to live on campus and have no dependents. And those are the conditions he has to meet to keep it. In order to get the scholarship, he had to be one of the best students in the entering class of freshmen; I think he's the only one in his year on that particular scholarship. And while the stipend generously covers the cost of his textbooks, it won't cover pocket money.

It's also time-limited; if he doesn't complete his degrees in the allotted time (by May), the money stops. It's not in any way comparable to the kollel life.

Anonymous said...

I am not a troll and this is intended to be a serious suggestion for Orthonomics. Maybe we can have a serious discussion on how to get entittlements from the state and federal govenment to better support our poor. This is not a joke, there are actually "entittlment social workerss" that help low income people get the benefits they are entittled to. The government offers these benefits and we should not be shy in at least seeing if we might benefit some how. Many of these benefits are intended for the working poor and I have a feeling that those who work part-time and study might qualify. Many of the comments on this blog seem to be from middle and upper income people who are judgmental of the poor and those who need to use their wits to get what they need for the government.

Margaret said...


I am going to say this very slowly, so listen carefully.

There is a difference between incidental and planned poverty. Incidental poverty is when you are working a legitimate job, and still not making ends me. Incidental poverty is when you are ill and unable to work. Incidental poverty is when you are in college and have a low income for a period.

That's not what long-term kollel life is. The kollel is a world of able-bodied young men who WON'T work. Not only won't they work, they are no en route to working and not being on benefits any more (through, say, being in college, or working a poorly paying job with the hope of advancing or earning more or landing something better).

We should talk about how to support the vulnerable people in our community, ensuring that those who are ill or disabled or who have fallen on hard times do not go cold or hungry. What we should not do is enable generational poverty, laziness and dependency.

LeahGG said...

entitlements are meant to support those who CAN'T support themselves, not those who choose not to.

If you want to study in a kollel, then either find someone (individual or group) who is willing to support you, knowing that they are giving their support to THAT, or find a way to support the lifestyle yourself without sponging off of others who give with the intent of helping those who got into a bad situation unintentionally.

I know a family where the father disappeared (disappeared - ie. leaving her aguna/ no life insurance/no child support/worst case scenario in my opinion) when the kids were 2,4, and 6. The mother worked her tush off, but she hadn't planned on working full-time and didn't have great job skills, and the grandparents kicked in some help, but together with her salary, it was barely enough to cover food and rent.

I'm happy to donate money for families like that to be able to send their kids to yeshiva and even camp so that the kids can have a good experience and the mother doesn't have to worry so much when she has too much on her plate already (In their case, at least one of the kids earned his scholarships to camp by waiting tables at camp)

As long as there are families like that needing help, how can a family with two able-bodied adults choose to accept charity without working for every penny they can reasonably earn first?

And, btw, it is NOT below a bat yisrael's honor to wash toilets. If you can poop in one, you can wash one out.

Anonymous said...

I hate to bring politics into it, but with the direcion this govenment is going it might be smart to take a look at what the government has to offer. I believe that some benefits actually apply to families making around 3 times the poverty level. Once again this is not a joke, perhaps our shuls could offer workshops led by real social workers on how to access these services. This is not czarist Russia, and we are as deserving of a piece of the government pie as anyone else.

Margaret said...

Don't you get that there's a difference between taking the benefits you are entitled to, and planning to do nothing BUT take benefits?

Furthermore, the fact that some other groups may choose to do that does not excuse the kollel-leech lifestyle.

LeahGG said...

allow me to be clear - food stamps, welfare, wic - it's charity.
You are taking from someone who earns more money, not from some amorphous "government"
The more people who take benefits, the higher taxes have to be to pay for the benefits.
When you take welfare, you're taking it from the pockets of wage-earners.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps those "wage earners" need to learn to think about the country as a whole and not just focus on their own needs. Taxes will be going up soon enough, and all I'm saying is we should position ourselve to get our fair share. I think that many of the people on this blog are very intelligent, and if we put our heads together we can benefit from what is avaiable anyway

Anonymous said...

By the way getting more from the government would take pressure off Jewish charities.

Margaret said...

But it doesn't solve the issue of the appalling middot you're planning on teaching your children.

Margaret said...

You know how the frum community will be best positioned, both financially and socially? IF ABLE BODIED COMPETENT ADULTS ARE WORKING.

Suppose the government programs go through, and the money is available. Then what? You will teach your children that laziness is the best option, that a life where nothing earned, nothing accomplished is best?

Anonymous said...

Why spend all of your time working when you're going to get taxed at 50 percent of your income. Better to take it easy and spend more time with your children and studying. Accomplishment comes from things other than work. It might be smarter to get with the program and study what might be available. Work is a just a means to an end if the govenment is willing to provide and let us do other things why not go for it. I understand that this is actually what they do in countries that belong to the European Union and they seem to get along just fine.

Margaret said...

You know what else is more important than money? Teaching your children values and good behavior. By not working, you're teaching them that laziness is the appropriate way to live. Just because you CAN get away with not working does not mean you SHOULD, or that it is BEST.

Dave said...

Perhaps those "wage earners" need to learn to think about the country as a whole and not just focus on their own needs.

They do. Otherwise you'd have bupkis and your children would be left to starve in the streets.

The difference is, while the taxpayers are not going to let children starve, and are willing (mostly) to help people get back on their feet, there is absolutely no support in America for handouts for people to lazy to work.

For that matter, if I found out about workshops for how to sit in Kollel on the taxpayers dime, I'd forward the information to the media myself. If it takes public disgrace and making the public face of "lifetime entitlements" an Orthodox face, so be it. It needs to end, and it needs to end now.

Anonymous said...

I believe that value place on work is a Protestant idea not a Jewish idea. The value we place on work comes from the influent of the larger culture. Although many of our great rabbanim worked menial jobs. They did so because they lived in circumstances where if they didn't work they didn't eat. Given the choice, they would have spent their time studying and davening. We live in a country where one can live reasonably well without having to worry about money to survive especially if you're smart about it. This would definitely free up time to study in a Kollel or spend time with your family without taking from the community per se. However, we need to learn more about how to access the benefits that are becoming more and more available.

Anonymous said...

A life on public support is not for everyone and of course we need those who gain pleasure from work to keep the system afloat. However, some people will put forth effort even if they pay more in taxes and that money can be shared with those who are produtive in other ways. In today's culture,I don't think the media would are one way or the other if an influx of Orthodox Jews started to get more of the governmental pie. Once again we are an intelligent group, but what we need is to get over the embarassment factor and learn concrete steps that will allow us to benefit. One might call this the new economy of the 21st century.

Dave said...

In today's culture,I don't think the media would are one way or the other if an influx of Orthodox Jews started to get more of the governmental pie.

Really? You think that the American taxpayer is going to be thrilled to be paying for Orthodox Jews to sit in Kollel while raising enormous families?

Anonymous said...

As I noted, our culture has changed rather dramatically in the past few of years. Many people take from the government without a negative world being said. Many Black churches have entittlement social workers, not a joke this is a real job classification, come in to teach people how to maximize their benefits. We need to get over the perception of ourselves as the outsider and access the benefits that are available to all other Americans!

Dave said...

As I noted, our culture has changed rather dramatically in the past few of years. Many people take from the government without a negative world being said.

Yes. Why the American public was so supportive that both the Democrats and Republicans put caps on welfare.


If anything, support is going down because people are sensitive to both taxes and debt. You can get support for government aid that is designed to lift people out of poverty. You want the government to fund a deliberate lifetime of poverty. That isn't going to fly.

You can't even get other Orthodox Jews (who believe there is value in having people who do nothing but study the Torah) to support you. You aren't going to get support from anyone else.

What you are going to do is help shift the image of Jews to being leeches on hardworking Americans who consider that they have more important things to do than support their own children.

You'll also further the alienation that continues to grow with the larger branches of Judaism in America, who still hold in many ways to the immigrant striver mentality. Because clearly, what the Orthodox community needs is for the Jewish Federations to decide that they aren't going to take money from secular, Reform, and Conservative Jews who work, and give it to Orthodox Jews who won't.

There are two things that have blocked this thus far. One, I think block voting and a sensitivity to charges of anti-semitism have precluded investigations of benefits fraud in majority Orthodox communities in New York and New Jersey. Two, news which challenges the narrative takes time to break through. The public face of welfare entitlement was the "black welfare queen" (despite the fact that historically speaking, the majority of American welfare recipients were white). It will take a while to shift that public face, but I'm sure you can manage it if you keep on the path you're on. Lobbyists already got Chassidic Jews classified as "historically disadvantaged" in the 1980s, making them qualified for affirmative action. It just isn't widely known in mainstream society. Yet.

I suppose the only saving grace here is that the levush for the lifelong schnorrer has become so readily identifiable that the rest of us won't suffer as much for your idiocy.

Anonymous said...

With Obama and the Democrates in power, things are changing fast. Orthodox Jews will not be the only group lobbying for more so we won't be the "public face" of welfare. By the way, there is no shame is sharing the wealth of this great nation. By the way, many religious Christians actually admire us, and I believe that they would support our studying a suject that they also view as holy. We have to be proactive once again so as a group we do not miss an opportunity to benefit.

Anonymous said...

With Obama and the Democrates in power, things are changing fast. Orthodox Jews will not be the only group lobbying for more so we won't be the "public face" of welfare. By the way, there is no shame is sharing the wealth of this great nation. By the way, many religious Christians actually admire us, and I believe that they would support our studying a suject that they also view as holy. We have to be proactive once again so as a group we do not miss an opportunity to benefit.

Dave said...

With Obama and the Democrates in power, things are changing fast.

Do you actually pay attention to the proposals made, or do you assume that if they are called socialists by their opponents, they must want to support your goals of not working?

Health Reform (which will pass, in some form) will help the working poor. Note the word working.

College Aid will certainly go up. Of course, you aren't going to college.

Unemployment benefits were just extended. Of course you have to work (and work "on the books") to qualify for unemployment.

There is no support anywhere in the American political mainstream (and invective notwithstanding, Obama is mildly left of center, not radical) for paying for lifelong support for those unwilling to work. None.

Yes, there are groups lobbying for more government funds. There always are. There always will be. But there is no support for lifelong idle hands.

And you say the religious Christians admire you? Somehow I doubt they're admiration is for your living on the public dole. In fact, I daresay that most of them aren't even aware you're doing that. And if they become aware, oh, I'm sure they'll continue to support Israel. But they won't continue to support you. Remember, the Evangelical community has that "Protestant work ethic" that you were disparaging earlier.

Anonymous said...

I agree that Obama is only mildly left of center but he might just be a transitional figure, and perhaps with some the proper persuation this country can be moved further to the left. For the time being, however, this but a dream for many of us. What we need now is to learn how to benefit as many others are from an increase in govenmental support. There is no shame in a life of study. It is possible that with the economy as it is values will change for the better, from my perspective, and we will have a return to long-term support from the government which we can use for our communities benefit.

Orthonomics said...

The Orthodox community is probably more skilled than any other community in getting all sorts of government benefits. We have "entitlement specialists." The 5Towns Jewish Times runs paid ads asking if you qualify for entitlements. Askanim help young married couples in Williamsburg qualify for credits. We have a "mesorah" on entitlements and it is hurting the character of the kehillah.

I will NOT endorse turning our society into a "welfare society." Dependency destroys the dependent. It destroys the family. And it will ultimately destroy the community.

I think we can see this happening already. I'd rather be poor and pulling myself up by my bootstraps than dependent on government.

"Give me liberty or give me death." We don't need to invite the government into our homes by making more wards of the state.

Orthonomics said...

Anonymous-My advice to you is to start reading some history books (especially about life under the state in Russia) and economics classes. You are deluding yourself if you think that "we" can go learn in kollel while the American public supports us.

The Declarations and Constitution are a brillant documents. Freedom of religion and small government go together.

You want a nanny state, be prepared for the government to control your religion. You won't be allowed to learn in kollel.

Anonymous said...

I do not live in the NY/NJ area and was unaware that there are programs available to assist those seeking to access governmental support in your area. I guess it depends on your values. If you do not find that work add to your life, then you might not find dependence on the government to be such a "bad thing." I do not necessarily think that a "nanny state" as you call it and freedom of religion are mutually exclusive, especially if you can portray your religion as one that is persecuted. Also the Contituion if open to interpretation by the courts. Legistlation and the consent of the majority is not necesarily needed for societal change. Witness the success of the gay rights movement. Better to be in front of change than behind it.

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:51
Yur right that we aren't in czarist Russia.
We may be headed toward soviet Russia

Anonymous said...

"By the way, many religious Christians actually admire us, and I believe that they would support our studying a suject that they also view as holy."

This is delusional. Yes, some evangelicals support the Jews and Israel because they believe it furthers their Messianic vision (which is not OUR Messianic vision).

I think Anon has to be a troll - his writing is much too good for a kollel boy. (He even claimed he does not have much secular education!) No way is he for real. Not to say that others don't think like him, but we're entertaining him too much.

Margaret said...

I'm inclined to agree. Anyone who can make a reference, however vague, to Weber's writings on the Protestant ethic has more education than they're letting on.

Miami Al said...

Tesyaa, evangelicals support Israel because of a dual covenant ideology primarily, and messianic goals secondarily. I have friends that are evangelicals, and while they are happy to chat religion and their church has a relatively high opinion of observant Jews, they aren't primarily messiah focused when it comes to Israel. The only people that say that Evangelicals support Israel to fulfill their end of world fantasies are liberal Jews suggesting we rebuff evangelical support, not actual evangelicals say it. Also, their Messianic vision isn't actually that different from ours until the "inflection" point where we enter the Messianic Age, the build up is pretty similar and the identity is in dispute, but we're on the same page for the process.

Religious Christians do admire us, because we live out our religion. Mormons also admire us. Educated Catholics educated post Vatican II admire us. If you're religious, how do you not admire people living it out? The Kollel crowd is NOT what they admire though.

Dave, to the secular Jew, we're all just Orthodox Jews, religious fundamentalist and a bunch of crooks to boot. To the gentile, we're all a bunch of Jews. They don't see a huge difference between any of us.

To the secular world, the religious types are all the same... or have you noticed that nobody on this thread knows the difference between Protestants, Evangelics, or Catholics?

Dave said...

So, as a secular Jew, I have to disagree with you.

First, my opinion of Orthodox Jews prior to the last two years could have pretty much been summed up as "the same as me, only they take the rules seriously". Discovering that that wasn't true was very much of a culture shock. (*)

Second, one of the reasons I read this blog (and a handful of others) is to remind myself that there are parts of the Orthodox community that are pretty much what I had expected.

Third, while I would agree with you to a degree about the admiration, I don't think it would be true if they were reading the comments on VIN or YWN. And while those may not be a fair cross-section of the Orthodox community, there is enough corroboration of the cultural norms (**). It saddens me that I would be more comfortable going into business with a Mormon than with an Orthodox Jew. Not because I feel defensive, but because all of the Mormons I have known have placed an enormous emphasis on personal probity.

Oh, and fourth. As a secular Jew with a life long interest in comparative religions (***), I've found that in many discussions in the Orthodox blogosphere, I've had a far better understanding of Christian doctrine and sectarian differences than the religious in the discussion (****).


(*) I found the Orthodox blogs in the process of searching for Yiddish blogs, and ended up fascinated. And occasionally horrified.

(**) I look at community reactions. When financial criminals (including those who have outright defrauded the poor) are given honors and "welcome home parties", but someone selling some treif chicken is run out of town on a rail, I have a good idea of where the communal values are. This is especially true in communities with high levels of social pressure and cohesion.

(***) Spending some formative years in the rural south also gave me, I think, a better handle on religious beliefs in the more conservative branches of Christianity than I would have had I remained in New York.

(****) One fellow kept insisting that Protestants didn't believe in the Trinity.

Chaim L. said...

I know he's a troll, but this made me laugh:

"A life on public support is not for everyone and of course we need those who gain pleasure from work to keep the system afloat."

First of all, he's trying very hard not to actually come out and say "we need to screw those who work out of their hard-earned cash."

Does the kollel crowd really think that's why most people work- because they "gain pleasure from it?" Many people do enjoy their jobs, but most people work so they can earn money and put food on the table, and not be forced into the shameful situation of accepting handouts. You see, Anonymous, most of us would be horrified to live the lifestyle you take such pride in.

Anonymous said...

I never claimed to be a "Kollel boy." I have a secular education and have an interest in studying at a Kollel. I find if interesting those who might not agree with someone on political ground choses to attact them on a personal basis instead of on the merits of their ideas. I sometimes listen to the Rush Limbaugh Show, and, although I disagree with him. I find the way he argues a point interesting and find it offensive when those who disagree make personal attacks. It is easier to dismiss one as a troll than to think about the merits or lack there of of his or her point of view.

Anonymous said...

By the way I became Orthodox in part because of my interest in life leaning politics. You might be suprised that there are other observant Jews who have a similar economic view point to my own. I just an more open about the idea that we need to educate ourselves to take advantage of opportunities that might make themselves available in the next few years. It is better for me to do so within a Jewish context because many of the non Jewish activist I have encountered seem to harbor negative feeling about Israel, and I am an ardent Zionist.

Anonymous said...

To Chaim:
It is a matter of a person's perspective if you are "horrified" by another person's lifestyle. Some might find being an Observant Jew or Christian horrifying or going to work everyday horrifying, or being a Republican horryfying, etc.

Miami Al said...

I think Anonymous has hit on a point, this isn't economics, it's politics. The hard working, educating, compensated Yidden on this blog are frustrated that people not willing to do the hard work want the spoils of our efforts. We're happy to give to charity to help others achieve, but only if it comes with a thank you and an appreciation. We're appalled at those around us that feel entitled to the spoils of our labor.

Our problem isn't with Kollel... we just find them frustrating because we see them as "one of us" that could simply get an education, join the upper middle class, and help row the boat, and don't understand why they are content to be an anchor.

We see our country changing from the one we grew up in (or grew up with stories about), where one could pull themselves up by their bootstraps and achieve. Even our politically liberal supporters are arguing for health care from an economic perspective, frustrated with the status quo, not a morality of helping those that don't work. We find ourselves losing our country, becoming a European socialist state, so we lash out at those that say, "Hey, there's a gravy train, I'll hop on instead of working." Instead of saying, "we need to halt the gravy train so they stop," we criticize those that do it.

It was depressing to see an Obama supporter claim that she won't have to worry about her mortgage once he was elected. It's depressing to see that the "Kollel solution" is benefits experts, not jobs and training. It's just depressing, and we feel powerless to stop it.

Anonymous said...

What I find most concerning is the fact that this lifestyle is a guaranteed downward financial and community spiral into complete financial dependency.

Will these children learn skills to be self sufficient or will they follow in their parents footsteps and rely on others?

How many generations can this lifestyle be perpetuated through before the "system" collapses on itself?

Additionally, on a tangential point, the fact that tuitions are out of control robs those of us paying outrageous tuitions from the obligation to save for the future.

Whether that future is "tomorrow", when someone loses their job, or decades later when they can no longer work (retired).

I believe it is asur to rely on miracles by spending every last penny of disposable income to pay tuition.

I even had one school tell me that I should pay full tuition by not saving any of MY hard earned salary in my 401(k) plan.

Now, how is that for obscene!

Anonymous said...

Dave - Lobbyists already got Chassidic Jews classified as "historically disadvantaged" in the 1980s, making them qualified for affirmative action. It just isn't widely known in mainstream society. Yet.

This is very interesting to me, do you have any links to source material that I could look at?


Dave said...

The Satmar were able to get "Hasidic Jew" added to the Commerce Department list of disadvantaged minorities in 1984 (right after the elections).

Anonymous said...

It most certainly is politics. Tzedaka is not not charity and you should not expect a thank you for it. It is working for a more just society, where the poor do not have to bow down to the rich. Once again, an increase in government assistance given to the poor will make an Orthodox lifestyle more affordable for the masses and take control away from the rich. This is why many upper middle class people are against this idea. No more honors at the annual dinner and extra influence with the Rosh Yeshiva because you're seen as a "major donor."

Anonymous said...

Annonymous 2:12,
Your posts makes sound like a socialist/communist. How does this fit with your being Orthodox?

Anonymous said...

Why does Anonymous 2:35 think that being politically liberal and being Orthodox are incompatible? Personally, I am repulsed by some of our Orthodox, reactionary, racist friends who do not care about social justice.

Anonymous said...

Socially, Orthodox Jews tend to be politically conservative, but that is a social leaning, not a halachic one.

Margaret said...

I agree. I also see a distinct difference between being left wing and supporting this particular entitled mindset.

Anonymous said...

its your major donors that build your buildings and give you most of the funding. the government is not going to do that for you so before you all become maoists and hang the 'rich' both literally and figuratively, dont throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Margaret said...

Well, yes, seeing as both tesyaa and I have owned up to being Maoists and having plans to kill all the rich people, you're spot on there with that advice, Anonymous!

Commenter Abbi said...

Much of Halacha is actually very socialist: The whole concept of halacha, leket, peah, Shmitta loan laws- those are all socialist.

Being a socialist is very compatible with being Orthodox.

Also, I love when pple use the scare tactic of "Our taxes are going up to 50%!" Hate to break it to you, but combined state and federal taxes have been above 50% in many states for years. Those pple have just gotten no return on their taxes (state or federal services/health care) that their "socialist" European counterparts have gotten. That's the crime.

And yes, you've been trolled.

Anonymous said...

Why is everyone still responding to the troll?

Are you that desperate for an opportunity to bash chareidim that you will jump on someone who is quite clearly a troll?

I have wondered why the MO commentators on this blog are so obsessed with attacking kollel when it has only a nominal effect on your community (if you don't support it, don't give money to them, problem solved). It seems to me that you are using kollel as a scapegoat to avoid having to look at the problems within your own community--entitlement included.

Anonymous said...

Kollel has a far reaching impact on the entire frum community, MO included.

Anonymous said...

Why? If you don't approve of it, do not give tzedaka to support it. The kids from yeshivish kollel families are not going to MO schools so it shouldn't effect your tuition.

Also, in my experience the amount of couple who are still in kollel by the time they have school-aged children is quite small, and many of those who do can do so because their wives have professional jobs with decent salaries. Also, even if everyone were to quit kollel tomorrow it would not solve the financial problems in the Yeshivish community, and certainly not the ones in the MO community.

So while the kollel issue plays a small part of the overall picture, it does seem to me that kollel is used as a scapegoat for all of the community's financial problems and prevents people from looking at other real issues.

After all, it is so much easier to blame others.

Anonymous said...

Not only do the kollel learners not earn enough to support themselves, requiring outside support: they also don't create future donors. Of these self-professed incredibly intelligent kollel learners (many of whom boast that they could be top lawyers if they only wanted to), maybe some of them could become benefactors rather than charity recipients.

Anonymous said...

Also, in the MO world there are many children who become right wing. I know of several cases where parents would prefer not to support kollel causes, but don't want their children and grandchildren to starve.

Aaron said...

"Being a socialist is very compatible with being Orthodox."

Find me a source where tzedakah beyond 20% (twice maaser) is legally compulsory?

50% taxation being halachically advisable? Permissible? Find me a source.

I've joked that the root of egalitarianism, equality, is "egel". When push comes to shove, an egalitarian will always promote the golden idol of equality above halacha.

Aaron said...

Modern socialist ethos: "What's mine is mine and what's theirs is yours."

Taxation is legal theft. The government can't spend a dime that isn't seized by threat of fines or force.

Critiquer said...

Ariella wrote: And he doesn't learn in kollel full-time, he earns money by shnorring for an organization that pays him 40% of the take.

Would you call someone who fundraises for a presidential campaign a shnorrer? How about a fundraiser for a prestigious cultural organization, would you denigrate that person with the title of shnorrer?

Critiquer said...

I am very taken aback at the bitterness expressed by many posters towards those learning Torah who receive government benefits. I understand some of the frustration but what is sorely lacking here is an appreciation for Torah study.

The United States government has an appreciation for Torah study for they exempt divinity students from serving in the army! Likewise, if someone opts to study Torah and apply for government benefits, the government rules are such that if he complies with their guidelines, he is entitled to what they offer.

If you oppose these government rules, work to change them. But to denigrate people for receiving that which the US government provides seems unjust to me.

Aaron said...

Exemption from military duty for divinity students I understand. Not a living stipend, which is properly in the domain of charity. If the gov't taxed less, there'd be more for charity.

Europe proves that the more socialism and government, the less charity.

The bigger the gov't, the smaller the individual.

No counterexamples.

Legislators get votes by promising benefits... not by creating healthy honest industries capable of fulfilling their promises. Pirke Avos is pretty clear that politicians don't befriend anyone except for THEIR OWN benefit.

Whoring our votes for stipends that ought to come from tzedakah and not the government isn't good midos. Taking from the government also is a recipe for inviting hostility from those who don't agree with those government programs. Would you want your tax dollars to be increasingly diverted to Wahhabi-friendly madrassahs should their voting population grow sufficiently?

Be VERY careful about the policies you're advocating. They can and WILL be used against you.

Aaron said...

I'm also concerned about the ease that a tyranny of a majority can impose their will on the other 49.999%.

If democracy is an ultimate value, then if the GOP gets power, why shouldn't they be allowed to tax Democrats only?

Taxation policy should require a super-majority of 2/3 and there should be a sunset law on all entitlement programs. If the entitlement is good, it'll be renewed. If it doesn't get a substantial majority, it really shouldn't be renewed.

I'm 47 and I know the math is clear that there won't be Social Security for me. Social Security is a scheme that would make Madoff and even Ponzi himself blush. It is sold as taking wages from us now to be returned to us later when, in fact, it's used to pay current recipients. The narcissistic boomers ahead of me will bleed all entitlements dry.

John Adams correctly observed that all democracies eventually commit suicide. Once prosperous, politicians make increasing promises that can't be sustained. When you're consistently spending more than you're earning, it's a recipe for financial collapse.

As Margaret Thatcher also observed, socialism fails when you run out of other people's money.

The mentality of entitlement is morally and financially crippling. Always has been.

Miami Al said...

Tesyaa, that's a cultural problem, in part from theoretically modern Orthodox schools hiring Rabbeim who are Chareidi or Charedi leaning. It's often pointed out, by Charedi sympathizing individuals, that even at the great Religious Zionist Yeshivot, the Rabbeim are all wearing black hats.

Hiring someone for their qualifications, regardless of the ideology and religious persuasion, is a good liberal value, possessed by Modern Orthodox parents. We want to be judged at work on our output, not our Kippot, so we extend the same view to our teachers. The problem is, while we are employed for our skills, we are expected to "check our Jewishness" at the door. While we can dress as we choose (within reason), we have to act like professionals.

If a Rabbi is a Charedi Rabbi at home, but a Modern Orthodox Rabbi at work, I'd have no objection to their teaching Judaism in the schools. However, when they are teaching Charedi Judaism at a modern Orthodox school, they are creating the problem you allude to.

Yael said...

Who hires those Charedi rabbis for MO schools? The board or hanhala (whoever hires the rebbeim/moros) is certainly MO. The problem is that the MO world (like all educational institutions save PhD programs) will not sacrifice its best and brightest to become teachers!

Teachers in elementary and secondary schools make a cruddy salary and have little to no respect from the community, so smart MO kids become lawyers, MDs, computer professionals, individuals in the finance industry, etc. So these school have to get people to teach at low salaries but have the education needed to babysit/educate their children. Where do they get them -- the charedi world.

Miami Al and the other MO posters, are you going to give up your salary, perks, and respect to teach your (MO) children in your (MO) institutions?

Critiquer said...

Exemption from military duty for divinity students I understand.

You may understand it but plenty others would howl about "our boys going to fight" while others sit safely and study.

Actually, the Torah says we support the Priests-Levites with our tithes and other priestly gifts in exchange for their service in the Temple (Numbers 18:21-31). And most of the time they sat and learned. The Rambam (laws of Shmittos and Yovel, 13:13) says that any Israelite who so chooses, can devote himself to serving G-d like a Levite.

Considering the tenor of the comments thus far, I'm surprised that nobody has yet to suggest that unless parents can prove that they can support a child without government assistance, that having a child or an additional child be made illegal!

The way the law is set up now, you don't have to defend having the number of children you have and you can apply for benefits you may be entitled to. So it seems that many people commenting here are angry at US law and are taking it out on law-abiding citizens.

When a man has a job as a teacher in a yeshiva and does not earn enough to provide for his family of 4, 7, 10 or more, the US government does not say, "Who asked you to be a teacher? Get a different, better-paying job!" Yet posters here would castigate that teacher for not choosing another, better-paying, profession!

LeahGG said...

Critiquer, I disagree - It doesn't matter what job you choose. In my opinion,you don't have the right to have more children than you can care for. It's one thing to ask people to give you their cast off clothes that they'd otherwise throw in the trash, but quite another to ask for their hard-earned cash, when they've made responsible choices and you haven't.

Miami Al said...

Yael, but here's the thing. If I hire a computer programmer, whether they are Jewish, Christian, Catholic, or Muslim, they show up to work and write code to the company standards or they lose their job. If I hire a doctor or nurse, regardless of their religious beliefs, they are expected to practice to the standards of the profession. We accommodate religion, in that an Orthodox Jew works late Monday - Thursday, and leaves early on Friday, and works Sunday instead of Saturday, an observant Muslim employee might take a few short prayer breaks, and work a bit later to accommodate, and nobody cares that the observant Muslim/Jew eats different food at the office.

I'm NOT suggesting an ideological test for Charedi staff in a Modern Orthodox school, that would be unfair discrimination. However, they should be teaching a MO Hashkafa, or they should not draw a paycheck from a MO institution.

This is NOT the fault of the Charedi employees, this is the fault of the organizations for NOT teaching their staff the values of the organization, giving guidelines for imparting them, and terminating staff that violate them.

How many would howl if an Algebra teacher, who happens to be a Christian, were wearing a Santa Clause tie in December and talking to the kids about Christmas, or wished the students a Merry Christmas? We'd be outraged at "missionary activity" in the school, yet a Charedi Rebbe can encourage a MO student to attend a Charedi Yeshiva in Israel, and people celebrate it as "my son has become so religious."

The MO schools aren't MO, just religiously lazy.

Dave said...

When a man has a job as a teacher in a yeshiva and does not earn enough to provide for his family of 4, 7, 10 or more, the US government does not say, "Who asked you to be a teacher? Get a different, better-paying job!" Yet posters here would castigate that teacher for not choosing another, better-paying, profession!


The American voters are unwilling to let children starve because their parents are irresponsible.

That is not the same thing as being willing to subsidize people who won't work (i.e. kollel) or being happy about subsidizing people who deliberately have children they cannot afford to feed (your example).

Critiquer said...

they should be teaching a MO Hashkafa, or they should not draw a paycheck from a MO institution.

Terrific. So MO schools will lose chareidi teachers and they will have to staff their schools with their own people whom they aren't even willing to pay a decent wage. Proof: if they paid a decent wage, they wouldn't have to hire chareidi teachers! Seems that MO parents don't value their children's education enough to pay top dollar to their own graduates so that MO young people look forward to teaching in MO schools.

A hashkafa is not something you don and remove like your socks. A hashkafa is your weltaunshauung, your values. Someone who is not true to their values is not someone you want teaching children. Or do you ...

LeahGG said...

Interesting - several of the teachers at Frisch had kids at the school, a few were former students, and one or two of my classmates went on to teach there. Guess Frisch is really an exceptional school.

OTOH, everyone teaching at a school at least has a job, so their hashkafa isn't a sit-and-learn-and-don't-do-anything hashkafa.

Miami Al said...

Critiquer, yup, and you check your "weltaunshauung, your values" at the door to your employer and do your freaking job. Your views, values, religious or otherwise, are yours, personally. The staff at the school is paid to impart the school's curriculum and values, not their personal ones.

Proselytize on your own time and money.

Anonymous said...

The thing is that it is sometimes hard to define what is a MO value versus a Chareidi value. While some cases are clear cut, others are not so. For example:

1. A teacher encouraging one of the best gemara students in the class to go to yeshiva and get semicha instead of going to college

2. A teacher encouraging a student to take on something commonly done among many MO but not done among others, such as a girl only wearing skirts.

I could easily imagine a MO teacher doing either of the above, but if a chareidi teacher were to do so it would be considered by some to be inappropriate.

Critiquer said...

Your views, values, religious or otherwise, are yours, personally. The staff at the school is paid to impart the school's curriculum and values, not their personal ones.

Then start paying MO teachers to teach.

We are talking about teaching Judaism here, which is about teaching Torah values, not personal values.

Dave said...

We are talking about teaching Judaism here, which is about teaching Torah values, not personal values.

The implication of this is that you don't think that Modern Orthodoxy is Torah values.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know if the situation is better in Israel? I've read that the government there has started to crack down on Yeshiva students who refuse to work. We are thinking of making Aliyah, but the idea of paying high taxes to support a bunch of slackers makes us sick.

Anonymous said...

I have never been to Israel, but my understanding is that the situation is worse there. My brother a MO guy became more observant to study for free at a Yeshiva there. He gets free tuition, free room and board, and free everything else! What a life.

Anonymous said...

I would be concerned for your brother if I were you. When I was a young man, I met a charismatic rabbi at the Kotel who conviced me to study at a Yeshiva for free. Although I was not religious, I gave up my chance to go to college and spent the next 6 years studying. It was only after my father died that I came to my senses, but by then it was too late. I live in the US now but work at a job that is far below my abilities because I do not have a degree.

Anonymous said...

I find it ironic that most posters think its morally abhorrent to choose to be a net reciever of public/tax funds. Wouldn't the majority of orthodox Jewish families (4+ kids) become net-receivers of tax funds if there were school vouchers?

Not sure why we seem to be comfortable with being net recievers in that context but not for "kollel families".

More broadly, the moral issue here has been discussed by leading rabbinical authorities. The acceptability of being a reciepient of public fund (via a kollel lifestyle) is based on a conbination of (1) the importance of torah study and (2) the need for the rebuilding of torah infrastructure following the devestation of that infrastructure in the holcaust.

Another improtant point here, is that the majority of kollel families BELEIVE that they are contributing more than their share to society via the merit of their torah study, which based on the words of chazal and seforim. I beleive that too. If you disagree call them (us) fools or zealots, but its simply incorrect to catogarize the value system as pro "schnorring".

Avivah said...

Instead of bashing those who make different choices than we do, it would be far more productive to focus on what each of us can do to improve the situation. Complaining and blaming others because you feel powerless and don't want to take responsibility for the poor choices you made (see anon 3:17 directly above for one example) has no value and just keeps you stuck where you are. It's far more empowering to look for where we can make a difference.

The level of venom and vitriol that is regularly directed at the kollel community on this blog is horrifying. It's become clear to me over months of reading that it doesn't matter what the supposed agenda is, bashing chareidim is the answer.

Whether one agrees with the financial stability of the kollel approach or not (and I don't think it's financially sustainable on a large scale), denigrating and attacking those who are dedicated to full time Torah study is unwarranted. It's not only offensive, but false to assume that everyone in kollel is living off of government money.

Plenty of people engage in low paying research, for example, and I doubt any of the commenters would have an issue with that. Why? Because they'd say that the researchers were accomplishing something. Those who study Torah full time are also accomplishing something. Every action has an affect on some level, whether it's seen or not, and the study of Torah is of positive benefit to the world. You may not value it - fine. Don't send your money in that direction. Don't encourage your kids to learn in kollel. But stop casting about for a scapegoat for all the problems in the Jewish world.

Is every single person in kollel on the ideal level of intent and actualization? Clearly that would be impossible. Is every person in college there for the 'right' reason? Maybe not 'right' as some would define it, but they're all there to fulfill their personal goals. We allow for the differences in approaches when it comes to college, but when it comes to kollel we don't? Let's aim for intellectual honesty and consistency in the discussions here. That would be interesting as well as productive.

It would be nice to see some ahavas yisroel practiced in the comments section of this blog. Let's try showing some respect even to those who think and live differently than we do.

Anonymous said...

Avivah, I'm all for ahavas yisroel, but I just want to say that most students are not paid for going to college. Many of them take out huge debt, and work nights and weekends to pay for college and support themselves. Research is different, in that the programs are extremely selective and if results aren't achieved, funding is not unlimited.

Anonymous said...

Also, I'd add that most college students don't have a family to support. Many people wait until their degree is finished in order to get married. I recently met a frum woman who didn't get married until 30. She didn't really date until she was done with her master's degree. It wasn't that she put it off, but she found she could not focus on her graduate studies and dating at the same time. You may find that morally unacceptable, but people are different.

Dave said...

I have two big objections.

First, I have a strong objection to twisting a safety net into a hammock.

Second, I have an objection to people who want to make decisions, but never deal with adverse consequences.

You want to live in one of the most expensive parts of the world? There are consequences to that decision.

You want to eat expensive food? Find a way to pay for it. I was reading some contemporaneous essays on life in interwar Lithuania, and one thing stood out. In many of the rural areas, being well off meant that you could have butter with your potatoes during the week. Forget eating meat every day, milchig was luxury.

You want to have a large family? Make sure you can feed, clothe, house and educate them.

You want to send your children to private schools? Either make a lot of money, or have fewer children. Or don't send them.

You want to pursue a career that is low income because it is rewarding? No problem. Accept that you will be forgoing other things for that.

This notion that you should be able to do whatever you want and have whatever you want is incredibly destructive, and is devoid of any notion of personal responsibility.

Growing up means realizing that choices have consequences (good and bad) and accepting the consequences of your actions and choices.

Dave said...

Oh, one other thing.

The Kollel system as it exists is not an immediate post-war creation. As far as I know, it dates back to the Vietname war; and was to keep young men out of the draft.

But that is, I suppose, a less noble lineage for the institution.

Miami Al said...

Dave, most of our modern higher education system, our ranks of professors, etc., dates back to the Vietnam War and staying out of the draft.

Near universal college education: the well to do sheltered their sons in college, and the GI Bill benefits put the returning soldiers on equal footing.

The "Kollel" world of Eastern Europe was peaked at 400 people. I think it's save to say that the Jewish people rebuilt the infrastructure and then some.

100% on the personal responsibilities. Two friends of mine completed their PhDs and are now post-docing. They find the research rewarding. They are 30, no children yet, because they had to finish schooling, and they still make less than their high achieving friends did right out of undergrad.

I have ZERO issue with the choices that they made. OTOH, if they had 6 kids, demanded private school paid for by the "community," and were otherwise net "takers" because of their choices, I wouldn't approve.

What the Kollel defenders miss is that NOBODY condemns the right of an individual to make choices that result in less income more a happier life. The objection is those that choose to make less income and expect others to pay for them, a point you make quite well.

Kollel may or may not have merit, that's anyone's personal ideology. However, rigging the system to become a welfare dependency cycle is another matter... and expecting that you should be able to teach that ideology to my children is an outrage... an outrage I direct at the MO Schools, and why I don't have children in them...

Critiquer said...

The Kollel system as it exists is not an immediate post-war creation. As far as I know, it dates back to the Vietname war; and was to keep young men out of the draft.

R' Aharon Kotler, who began the kollel movement in America, died in 1962.

Dave said...

The system as it exists now, with Kollel and lifetime fulltime learning as a universal ideal, was not, so far as I know, the social imperative that it has become prior to the Vietnam war, when studying for the ministry guaranteed immunity from the draft.

That is separate from having any kind of a Kollel in America.

Critiquer said...

The kollel movement in America has steadily grown since R' Aharon Kotler started it. It's greatest growth has taken place long after the Vietnam War. The growth is due to 1) a greater emphasis in girls' schools on the ideal of supporting a husband who is learning and girls continuing their education in seminaries that promote this ideal, especially in Israel 2)a growth spurt in the frum population

The vast majority of those learning in kollel in America are not learning for life or even for 10 years.

Miami Al said...

Critiquer, it's a three step process.

1. Establish Kollelim as an "ideal"
2. Prepare people to support semi-permanent Kollel
3. Fill Kollelim with this people

A few historical facts... High school education, as a supplement to secondary education, was rare until the beginning of the 20th century.

Higher education was rare until WWII.

Higher education became MUCH more prominent during the Vietnam war, and plenty of religious institutions were set up to let men "hide" in seminary to avoid the draft.

The growth in American Evangelicalism can be traced to this time period, since you had turned out far more divinity students than could be absorbed in the existing Protestant religious framework.

The Yeshiva World's lack of historical records and opposition to such information, see Making of a Gadol as a prime example, makes many of their claims suspect. Unfortunately, several generations of intentional cover ups and people don't know what is real or not.

Back to the point, the Chareidi bashing is counter productive... I like to focus my bashing on the MO enablers, since they are my only concern. If it wasn't for MO institutions propping up the Chareidim, I'd have no more objection to them than I do the Amish or any other fringe group. The problem is that Chareidim, through propaganda and birthrates, are slowly grabbing hold of Jewish community resources, a Jewish community they generally despise and deny exist.

Critiquer said...

Unfortunately, several generations of intentional cover ups and people don't know what is real or not.

Cover-ups about hiding in yeshivos to avoid the draft? Back up your assertions please. And since long-term learning in kollel was limited to very few people in the 60's into the 70's, please explain what the draft has to do with anything.

I like to focus my bashing on the MO enablers

They are the MO administrators of schools and the MO parent body. This is a blog about money. Want to focus your bashing on another topic? How about starting your own Sinas Yisrael blog so we are not subject to your despicable remarks here.

If it wasn't for MO institutions propping up the Chareidim, I'd have no more objection to them than I do the Amish or any other fringe group.

Your choice of language to speak about your fellow Jews is offensive. Perfect for your Sinas Yisrael blog.

The problem is that Chareidim, through propaganda and birthrates, are slowly grabbing hold of Jewish community resources, a Jewish community they generally despise and deny exist.

On the topic of money (which is what this blog is actually about), what Jewish community resources do you think chareidim are 'grabbing' from? And are they grabbing or is the money being given and are the givers entitled to give where they please?

Ahuva said...

I have nothing but admiration for people so dedicated to Torah that they live a life of poverty so that they can dedicate themselves to that *provided that they don't take from taxpayers.*

Honestly, I'd be much more willing to support the Kollel system financially if its members pledged not to accept governmental assistance. Public assistance was NOT intended to give a free ride to intelligent, able-bodied adults who are perfectly capable of bringing home a paycheck. Cheating the system is a chillul hashem that discourages many Jews from becoming more religious!

I suspect that this blog has a number of readers that feel the same way.

Avivah said...

>>The problem is that Chareidim, through propaganda and birthrates, are slowly grabbing hold of Jewish community resources, a Jewish community they generally despise and deny exist. <<

Miami Al, it seems you're so caught up in your own hostility and negativity that you can't see anything else, no matter what the objective reality is. Jews living a Torah based life are taught that everyone is judged by the Almighty, that one should strive to 'love others as themselves' - the opposite of despising and denying the existence of others. As a fellow Jew, you'd be welcome in my home for a meal anytime, along with plenty of others who don't and haven't shared my religious views.

Please, stop the hostility - towards the MO also - anger and resentment aren't going to solve our communal challenges.

Anonymous said...

Why should Orthodox Jews voluntarily exempt themselves from benefits that are available to every other citizen? Getting your fair share of government benefits, is not chillul hashem. My wife is a social workerin NYC, and I know for a fact that the government provides support to those who make certain choices that do not conflict with ethics. The parents might very well choose to study or volunteer for their church part-time, and still get a Section 8 voucher or food stamps. These hardly bad or irresponsible people.

Anonymous said...

"Cheating the system is a chillul hashem"

What cheating are you referring to? There are guidelines and if you qualify, you get government assistance.

My father, now in his late 60's, worked in corporate America for decades. He paid a fortune in taxes. He has no problem whatsoever with kollel members or anybody eligible receiving government assistance. If the government offers it and you fit the criteria, you are entitled to it.

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