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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Tzedakah Marketing Gone Terribly Wrong

For once I am nearly speechless. I've written about tzedakah marketing campaigns centered around promises of miracles. I've written of tzedakah marketing that is simply obscene given the target audience. But this method of marketing will now top my list as the most tasteless and irresponsible of them all.

To promote tzedakah by guilting people about saving for retirement and creating mass panic about investments? Wow! I'm not quite sure what to say except that this is really low.

How can anyone possibly say with a straight face that the amount that Klal Yisrael (read: the frum community) places into retirement is "staggering" unless we are referring to staggeringly low? [Quote: "Let’s consider the net sum placed by Klal Yisroel in IRAs annually. It’s staggering.] You could say that a staggering amount is spent on tuition as well as debt servicing interest, cleaning help, camps, dating, weddings, sheitels, manicures, clothing, and even food. But retirement savings? No way, no how. I know highly paid professional couples that don't pay cash for their cars/minivans. Let's just say staggering[ly high] isn't the way I would describe the savings rate of the frum community!

Dear Editor,
I would like to suggest an excellent and fully guaranteed investment vehicle for this year’s IRA contribution. It’s called Klal Yisroel. It’s the oni who knocks at your door, it’s the local yeshiva that can’t pay their rabbeim, it’s the neighbors who can’t afford to make a wedding for their daughter, it’s the people in your community who have had their electricity shut off, it’s the many people facing eviction from their homes.

Let’s consider the net sum placed by Klal Yisroel in IRAs annually. It’s staggering. Can we collectively really afford to place that money in an investment that either will make or lose money, in an investment house that may or not be in existence when we retire? Is this prudent at a time like this? Can we find a better investment for our IRA? Permit me to present my suggestion:

Safety & Return: Hakadosh Boruch Hu Himself guarantees both the security of the
principal of our tzedakah investments, and a substantial return as well. To cite just one of numerous sources for this, the Torah tells us, “Aser te’aser es kol tevuas zarecha” (Devorim 14:22). Rashi tells us, “Aser bishvil shetisasher - Give tzedakah so that you become wealthy.” Rashi, with his ruach hakodesh, reveals for us the path to financial wealth. There are far more sources that can be cited to bring home the same point, but permit this one source to speak for them all.

Limits: We are free to invest as much as a chomesh, one fifth of our income, toward this guaranteed investment. “Beshuv Hashem” (Tehillim 126), once we have returned to seeing things with clarity, only then will we realize that “hoyinu kecholmim,” we were like dreamers. We were so wrapped up in our faith in the US banking system, which is weak, and the investment houses, many of whom failed and the rest of whom are weak, and had so much faith in the strength of America (uninvited guests dropping in on the President of the United States in the White House), that we completely lost sight of reality. Our faith was misplaced.

My friends, we’ve all been fooled. There is no stronger guarantee than the Torah, and no stronger Guarantor than Hakadosh Boruch Hu. Let’s begin by taking any
money we were going to place in IRAs this year and invest those dollars in alleviating the tzaar of Klal Yisroel. May I suggest we call the local yeshiva rather than waiting for them to call us? Let’s inquire whether the rabbeim and other staff members are up to date in their pay. Let’s take a deeper interest in the plight of the aniyim of our
community. Is there a local tzedakah fund that we can contact? Our rov probably knows which situations require the most immediate assistance. Let’s take a
deeper interest in aniyei Eretz Yisroel. The next time an oni knocks at our door, let’s try a little harder to focus on his plight.

Now, I’m not advocating a reckless abandonment of the US banking system. Rather, I’m suggesting that we place our IRA investments in a far better and more secure long-term investment, shoring up our more pressing needs right here in ouro wn Torah community.

These concepts are not new. Rather, they are the oldest and most proven concepts
in existence. Let’s be mechazeikeach other to reevaluate our priorities.
[Director of] Tomche Shabbos of Rockland County

Perhaps in response to the verses quoted I will quote birchat hamazon, "Please, Hashem, our G-d, make us not needful of the gifts of human hands nor of their loans -- but only of Your Hand that is full, open, holy, and generous, that we not feel inner shame or be humiliated for ever and ever." Yes, we have a lot of very pressing needs in our communities. And one of those pressing needs is financial stability.

Where will these families turn when they are no longer able to work? That's right! Us. And a note on the 20% rate we are allowed to give. There are many different opinions as to what ma'aser can be used for. Those that count tzedakah and tuition or partial tuition as ma'aser likely need not worry about hitting that 20%.

Trying to guilt people out of putting a little something away for their own future needs: Tasteless and irresponsible.

And with that note, a friendly reminder that you have until tax day 2010 to fund your IRA or ROTH IRA. In a recent post, the letter writer looking for solutions stated: "At this point, we need a lot of money just to get by, no matter how simply we live. We have children to feed and our expenses are only growing." If she only knew just how expensive older age can be she'd plotz. Having some hands-on knowledge about such things I will state unequivocally that we NEED community members to be saving for their future. Aging isn't inexpensive.


Anonymous said...

Oh. My. G-d. Magical thinkin rules.

Mike S. said...

More than that; it isn't even halachically correct magical thinking. Most posekim take the reference you cited and the parallel one in Navi ("haviu et ha ma'aser el beit ho otzar...") that says reward for ma'aser is the one exception to the prohibition against "testing" God to apply specifically to agricultural tithes and not to tzedokah.

tdr said...

The truth is we have pretty much no hard data about the flow of money within the frum world.

What does the recent unofficial survey put together by serandez indicate about how much people are putting into retirement? At least about people who obsessively read blogs like this one (speaking of yours truly!).

But really, other than anecdotal evidence, we have no idea whether it is staggeringly low, staggeringly high, or pretty much in line with the general population. I'd love to know.

For a long time I've been thinking that some centrally recognized organization needs to do a comprehensive financial survey of money flow in our community.

Without that it's all speculation.

At what rate does the general population fund IRA's or 401k's?

Sima said...

As a thirtysomething with 4+ kids, I don't know anyone with substantial (or even meaningful) retirement savings. How on earth does one save for retirement when one is paying stratospheric tuitions, utilities, mortgages that may be extremely high, and all the other costs of keeping your head above water? I don't mean luxuries -- our circle is quite modest in its standard of living -- but raising a (frum) family today is expensive.
All that aside, where does the author of that article get the idea that this concept makes any sense at all? I'm not terribly clever financially (I'm a liberal arts girl) but giving money you (may) have earmarked for retirement to tzedaka instead seems to be a surefire way of relying on those sources of tzedaka once you have grown old. Yes, bitachon and all that, but I was raised that one does one hishtadlus while having bitachon that the hishtadlus will be successful. I certainly won't be giving to that tzedaka.

jdub said...

I am a 30-something (ok, late 30-something) with 4 kids, all in day school, with tuition, utilities, mortgage (thankfully, bought in 1999 before the bubble). I have maxed out my 401(k) since 1998 when I entered the private sector. My current firm matches dollar for dollar up to 6% of my compensation. I have significant retirement savings. Nearly everyone I know in the same situation has significant retirement savings. How?

1) I'm a partner at a small law firm (not one of the ultra rich firms). I drive a 10 year old Corolla. my minivan is 7 years old. Both paid for.

2) we take a big vacation, about once in never. Ok, not true, we've gone to Israel once with the kids (and our first time in 15 years of marriage).

3) if we don't have the money for it, we don't do it. Our couches are hand-me-downs. We don't have real bedroom furniture (still using the set my parents bought for me when I was 9, just with a bigger bed).

4) we don't eat out much. twice a month at the pizza place is about it.

5) our house isn't outfitted as a pleasure palace for the kids. No Xbox, playstation, etc. We have one computer (although we just bought a second because there were too many users).

6) Dining room set is an heirloom (read: hand me down).

You can (indeed, must) save money. But where are you making cuts?

Ariella said...

just when you think, "it can't get any lower than this," someone comes up with something that does.

gavra@work said...

Jdub: Good for you, but I have realized that most people can not live like that. Mistapek B'Muat is a lost art.

SL: Desperate people do desperate things.

Anonymous said...

jdub: It sounds like you are making terrific and responsible choices. What would happen however, if you had to choose between maxing out your 401(k) or making any 401(k) contribution and being able to send your kids to private school? Unfortunately some parents have to make that choice as well as other tough choices.

BTW - How do you get a 401(k) match if you are a partner? Isn't that just the partners paying themselves?

Anonymous said...

Yikes. Would someone fundraise by telling people not to pay their rent or mortgage or utility bills? By telling people not to save for retirement, you might as well be telling many people (i.e. those without other sources of wealth, pensions or children who can/will care for them in their old age) not to have a place to live or what to eat in their old age. Granted, some people over-save, but far more probably aren't putting enough aside. Maybe that's not a big problem for the frum community since with large families the next generation will hopefully care for and support their parents in their retirement years, but not everyone can count on that either.

Offwinger said...

Ok, now you're just posting stuff to make my head hurt!!!

I feel like we're playing a game where you have to spot as many errors as you can in the picture. You know, the kind where the guy wearing a hat on his hand, pants on his head, the cow is saying "woof-woof," etc.

- abuse of the term "investment"
- equivalency of *all* tzedakah requests, combining people with no electricity or losing their homes to those making weddings for children
- failure to cite any evidence of the amount being saved in retirement
- mis-stating what the Torah cite means vis a vis providing tzedakah and for ones own needs
- failure to note current expenses people have that already serve as tzedakah toward the 20%
- considering housing as "investments" (good strawman!)
- considering US banking as "weak"
- including White House party-crashers as relevant to...anything?
- abuse of what emunah and bitachon mean
- complacency to the fact that many yeshivahs are NOT meeting payroll, rather than outrage

And, of course, the big one you've highlighted SL...
- Considering retirement to be a luxury, not a NECESSITY

Because when people get old, they obviously do not need food, money or shelter. Or anything else.

So, did I get them all? Did I miss anything???

Anonymous said...

Gavra - I disagree. It's not so hard to live like that. I could have sworn that jdub was describing my lifestyle -- except that he forgot to mention the duct-tape holding my 25 year old couch together, and the correle ware that serves as my "good dishes." The problem is when people get used to a much different lifestyle at a young age -- i.e. buying newlyweds all new (and high end furniture), getting used to designer clothes, etc. It may also be that different people have different tolerances for risk. Knowing I have a little something saved for an emergency makes me sleep better than having a new couch or a new car.

G*3 said...

> - including White House party-crashers as relevant to...anything?

It’s an equivocation fallacy. He’s trying to equivocate strength vis-a-vis banking with strength vis-à-vis security agencies.

In a culture suffused with stories of tzaddikim finding money under their floor after going broke and davening to Hashem to save them, this sort of thing makes perfect sense. After all, are you saying that God won’t provide for you in your old age? Heretic! Its not your money. Hashem just gave it to you so that you can redistribute it to aniyim and tzedakah organizations. Isn’t investing with the Borie Olam a much surer thing than investing with petty mortal men?

Really, haven’t we all heard this before? The letter writer just took it to its logical conclusion.

Ari said...

Why is Magical thinking so prevalent in the community? This sort of thing makes me shake my head.

Avi said...


You sound nice, but you and I are obviously not friends. :) Most of my friends are fully tapped out paying tuitions, (day) camp, taxes, mortgage, food, braces, shul dues + building fees, home/car repairs, and making modest (really) bar/bat mitzvahs. When retirement saving has come up, the typical response is that they put some money into the 401K, but they know it's not nearly enough. The plan: fund retirement once the tuitions end. Nobody even thinks about saving for college - in many cases, college is cheaper than high school, so why bother saving for it when you're maxxed out paying for elementary school today?

gavra@work said...

Anon @ 941:

Or mine as well (although our Elantra is only 3.5 years, we got it new for 9.5K!), but "people" in general (especially in the frum world) have not been taught/given the ability to live beneath their means.

The difficulty is mental, not the actual penny-pinching (,squeezing, and then using the rind & pulp as well)

Offwinger said...

The sad thing is that there is never a more valuable time to fund your retirement than when you are YOUNG. That way, the interest has time to compound.

Early marriage + immediately having children = keeping people from saving precisely when they can at the greatest value

rosie said...

Our retirement took a real hit when the stock prices went down so there is no guarantee that retirement money will be there when a person retires.
I suppose that in an earlier generation, starvation was such a threat that anyone with money gave today and didn't worry about tomorrow. Now however, we are being asked to spend our retirement money for tzedukah for weddings and tuition. It just doesn't wash.
I doubt that very many people are going to give their retirement money to tzedukah but if they do, then may Hashem help them.

ProfK said...

To say this is a lousy solicitation letter would be to give it more credit then it deserves. That it bases itself on the assumption--a patently false one--that retirement is not a frum concept is mind boggling. So no one needs to fund a retirement because they are never going to retire?! Our banking system is corrupt and dying? Is that unlike our organizations in Klal, too many based on hot air and cotton candy, and who are heading for a major implosion?

To Anonymous who said: "Maybe that's not a big problem for the frum community since with large families the next generation will hopefully care for and support their parents in their retirement years, but not everyone can count on that either." And this care and support will come from precisely what money? Since savings for the future are ossur, how will these families find the $50-100K+ that their parents might need in older age? And that amount of money doesn't fund a "rich" retirement. And c"v if illness strikes it won't come close to being enough. And that's parents plural--his and hers.

You didn't miss anything Offwinger except mentioning the irony of having organizations, a whole lot of which are poorly run, poorly organized and whose funding goes more to overhead than to relief, tell us how to adequately organize our financial affairs. Leaves me to wonder if this director, should he get an impacted wisdom tooth, would consult his car mechanic on the best procedure to follow. I'd bet not. Yet he thinks that consulting a rabbi is the best way to get financial advice.

As the saying goes, just what is he smoking?!

Joseph said...

TS of Monsey is an amazing organization - I can vouch for it first hand. However, their pitch regarding retirement was a bit silly. After paying (full) tuition for my kids, there is no money left for much of anything else, even a worthy organization like Tomchei. Too bad my kid's Yeshiva (specifically, the administrators who pad their pockets with 6 figure salaries) are taking all my money.

conservative scifi said...

While Joseph is undoubtedly correct that TS of Monsey is amazing, this appeal is simply the logical endpoint of these tzedakah appeals. I agree with SL that these sorts of appeals are crazy.

It is amazing that a conservative (not in New York/New Jersey) Jew gets multiple daily solicitations from orthodox charities. I don't know what list I'm on, but no one, (except maybe Bill Gates or Uncle Warren) could donate to every charity which sends a soliciation. The waste of postage alone is "amazing".

Further, many of these charities rely on magical thinking, as pointed out by Offwinger. Once you promise some tzedakah, something good will happen to you or something bad will be averted. While some of these coincidences might be real, I agree with the earlier point that it is our efforts which may afford us success (of course with God's will). While our efforts may be ultimately unsuccessful, if we don't try to save for retirement or get a good job or study torah, then of course we won't achieve any of these tasks.

RAM said...

The ideal written material for a good charity would illustrate its actual allocation of funds received from donors, using true case studies and charts. It would not say or imply that the donor could solve all his life problems by giving. Nor would it say or imply that great rabbis favor this charity over other worthy charities.

Offwinger said...

Conservative scifi,

I receive my parents' mail, as well as my own.

It is horrific how much bulk rate mail of tzedakahs I wind up throwing out every single week. I get pretty much everything in duplicate, sometimes more.

rosie said...

Joseph, those 6 figure administrators are the answer to Tomchei Shabbos. Let them pay for it. It is nice to know that there are rich people in the community who can give. That way the poor and struggling can save for retirement.

Joseph said...

Rosie I agree. I am so frustrated with the Yeshiva tuition system and the scholarship abuse that goes on and the inflated salaries of administrators. I keep searching for answers but come up empty(and no, I can't send them to public school). I can't understand why a normal mainstream MO Yeshiva can't open up in the NY Metropolitan area and charge a fair amount for tuition. I also am bothered by the fact that so many schools let teachers and aides send their kids for "free." Of course, there kids aren't going for free, they are being paid for by me (just like I am paying for all the kid who are on scholarship even though their families take vacations, have cleaning ladies and drive nicer cards than me.)

gavra@work said...


Due to me living in a two family house, I have gotten 5! copies of the same Tzedaka letter, all with different names (and sometimes multiple times addressed to myself with variations (Rabbi & Dr., Mr & Dr., Dr. & Rabbi, Mr. & Mrs., etc.).

And every one goes into the circular filing cabinet.

rosie said...

What happens if you contact the tzedukah and report multiple mailings or ask to be removed from the list altogether?

Critically Observant Jew said...

rosie: since many of these organizations have very limited clerical staff, unless you really try hard (and often), you won't be removed from their list.

Elisheva said...

We try to contribute to our 401k's the amount that gets us the maximum company matching, and nothing beyond that. Why should we throw away that free money?

The next Jewish crisis will be the retirement crisis - people too old to work with no retirement savings, and their children overextended with tuition, etc. so they can't help out. I think it was ProfK who said that.

Joseph said...

Why aren't yeshivahs required to post online how much money their administrators are getting paid? I mean if I am going to be paying them insane amounts of money, I at least should know where that money is going? These are not-for-profits, not mega-corporations. I bet if parents who pay full tuition knew how much waste and fraud went on at yeshivahs they would revolt for real.

Anonymous said...

Offwinger's comment about the importance of starting to save for retirement when young is something that everyone in their 20's and 30 needs to know due to the benefits of compounding. Heck, even kids with summer jobs should think about setting up IRA's even if they are tiny. I didn't know anything about saving for retiremnt until well into my 30's and its harder to catch up. At least in my generation, IRA's and 401(k)'s were brand new, and our parents didn't know to teach us since they actually had pensions and assumed everyone would. There is no excuse now to not be teaching young people about retirement savings early and often, even if they can only put aside modest amounts. Of course, this may not be what some of the tzedaka organizations have in mind, but its very dangerous for those organizations to think only about short-term needs.

rosie said...

I am glad that they didn't suggest terminating life insurance policies so that people could pay for neighbor's kids chassunahs. I wonder if they are also against savings accounts or just IRAs. I wonder if those who suggested giving to tzedukah instead of investing in IRAs did that themselves. I also wonder what they think of folks who give 20% and still have IRAs. They didn't suggest giving more than 20% although there might be people who theoretically and halachically could. Lastly, I wonder what they are doing to help the poor get on their feet financially that does not involve others going into old age penniless.

Anonymous said...

"Why aren't yeshivahs required to post online how much money their administrators are getting paid?"

Required by whom? You may have noticed that these institutions answer to nobody.

"These are not-for-profits, not mega-corporations."

They may formally be "not-for-profits" but they are very much for the profit, ahem, salary, of the folks that run them (Roshei Yeshiva and their cronyist unqualified administrators).

I believe that the only answer to these issues is true not-for-profit, community-run schools with strong community boards running the show in a transparent manner.

How and when such a thing might happen is anybody's guess. Most people, especially in the "frummer" communities, don't want to challenge the rabbonim/families that run and get rich off the existing institutions.

BaltimoreYid said...

My 78 yo aunt in Boro Park (ir HaKodesh, lol) still works as a secretary. She doesn't do it because
she loves it she works because years of the orthodox lifestyle has left her w/o enough money. Beginning this year my wife & I are doubling our 403B's and to hell with what what anyone thinks. The lesson learned from my aunt has finally sunk into my brain.

Anonymous said...

ProfK: I hope you are not serious that even with children, parents need 50-100K/year to live off of in retirement. If they live with their children (or in subsidized elderly housing if they are eligible), have medicare, and at least one member of the couple gets social security, then I hope they don't need 50-100K on top of that. Not too many people will have retirement savings sufficient to generate that. Yes, there are added expenses if they need home health care aides, and medical expenses not covered by Medicare, and certainly it would be nice to travel (health permitting) and funds for some leisure and recreational activities, but 100K/year? Ouch.

Anonymous said...

Baltimore Yid: That's very sad. Many 78 year olds are not physically capable or working and sadly, many people won't hire someone over 60. Even getting a job in your 50's is tough even in a good job market.

Anonymous said...

I believe it is Genaivah for Orgs to participate in consortium raffles while pretending that it is their own raffle:

ProfK said...


No, I wasn't kidding about the figures. I've done some postings on this subject and people widely underestimate what it can cost when you are older. You think medicare and social security are going to be enough? You think that most married couples are going to want to move in with one of their children, even assuming that is possible, and give up their independence? My mom is in her 80s. Her supplemental insurance and catastrophic care policies cost her about $16K a year, and that is for one person. SL once posted that she knows someone who works as a health aid making about 54K a year--keep that in mind if someone needs 24/7 assistance. Have we talked about food and clothing yet? Or maybe that taxes will be owed on the income? Let's not even mention the cost of medications. Added in any "entertainment" expenses, such as phones, cable, newspapers/books/magazines, hair cuts etc.?

Hubby and I are heading into retirement fairly soon. It is possible to save what is needed, but only if you do what we did, which is start right from the beginning of the marriage to plan for later. Every penny we put away is a penny we won't have to take from someone else. If my choices are to give 20% of my money to support others now or put away 20% of my money so no one else will have to support me later, I'll choose option #2.

Miami Al said...

Joseph, they are, they are 501(c)3 organizations. Check their listing on Guide Star. They don't file a 990? Notify the IRS, they fine them for not filing the informational return (no taxes, non profit)... They have to list their top 5 employees.

However, I believe that they can hide what they pay the Rabbanim calling it parsonage, despite the fact that parsonage only applies to "Churches" (including synagogues, we're a Church under the law) and the ministers in a pastoral capacity.

Zach Kessin said...

You know if there was any level of mechanical know how in the frum world I would expect a long line of designs for Perpetual Motion machines and the like.

DAG said...


Religous schools need not publish their 990's, and religous orgs that do publish their 990's hide behind the Parsonage to make it appear that they are paid less.

Joseph said...

I went to Guide Star website and came up empty as to finding any substantive info on any of the 4 MO major dayschools in the area where I live. What a scam these dayschool administrators are running at our expense. I wish they were more outrage but most people don't care because 1) they make enough money where the high tuition doesn't really hurt them that much; 2) they don't make that much money so they are on scholarship OR 3) their wives work at the school so they go for free or at a heavy discount. This leaves very few people like me who make enough where I can't get a scholarship, I don't make enough where the tuition doesn't really hurt me, and my wife does not work by any of local yeshivahs. If enough of us who pay full tuition would threaten to pull our kids of of these schools we could finally force these schools to lower tuition. The cost per kid at the local dayschools ranges from $15-17k a year per kid. Who has that kind of money????

Anonymous said...

Joseph, we are in the exact same boat. I am sick to death of paying for extra assistant principals and mechanchos and assistant nursery directors. Not to mention rebbe's wives installed as secretaries. I'd love to threaten to leave, and public school doesn't bother me one bit, but my husband would have a problem with that. If your wife doesn't have a problem with it, I say go for it.

Anonymous said...

I work in the nursing home industry.You can not imagine the efforts people make to ensure that they (officially)DO NOT have money in order to have to have the government pay for their, or their parents stay.On another note seeing this being done by people who for decades were busy railing against 'those kollel people on programs' has dramatically altered my viewpoint towards both programs and the people who rail against them.

Anonymous said...

Anon, actually now it's much easier to get Medicaid for NH and still hang on to a lot of assets. The spend down requirements have been loosened considerably.

But yes, I too wonder about people who have one political orientation and suddenly have self-serving reasons to switch their allegiance. The desire for big government programs plus low taxes is causing big problems for the country and the next generation.

JS said...

Well, Frisch posts data, This is from 2008:

1st number is compensation, 2nd number is contributions to employee benefit / deferred compensation

Officers and Directors:

Principal: $247,732 + 43,037 + 54,000 (expense account)

Executive Director: $139,705 + $47,418

Director of Finance: $128,960 + $3,383

Top 5 highest paid employees other than above:

Director Student Life: $101,113 + $87,328

Associate Principal: $130,991 + $18,392

Associate Principal: $110,250 + $25,130

Associate Principal: $76,147 + $57,654

Chair Science Department: $117,489 + $11,761

They claim 0 other employees are paid over $50,000. (I doubt it).

Annual Tuition per student: $21,250
Annual family obligation: $750

One time capital fund assessment per family: $2,500

One time building find assessment: $2,500

Obscene and ridiculous.

JS said...

About $1.4 Million Dollars per year for the top 8 employees.

Not bad, Frisch. Not bad.

EP said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Tasteless and irresponsible.

And probably forbidden (Assur) as well under the rule that one may not put oneself in a situation in which one will require communal tzedaka in the future. And that is EXACTLY what not saving for retirement does.

Shabbat Shalom and Chanukah Sameach everyone.


Yehudis said...

"My 78 yo aunt in Boro Park (ir HaKodesh, lol) still works as a secretary. "

That's terrific. Sounds like you would prefer seeing her sitting outside her house doing nothing like so many seniors do in BP. The tremendous decline so many experiece upon retirement is reason enough to keep active.

"To go back to the tzedakah appeal. The ideas - trust in Hashem, giving tzedakah as the best investment - were what we were taught as small children in my Bais Yaakov. Many stories about pious men who had magical windfalls as a reward for their tzidkus (saintliness). But these were stories for children."

This is just the kind of comment that makes me wonder whether this blog is for frum people or not. Bitachon is baloney? All the statements throughout Tanach, Chazal, the Rishonim etc. are stories for children? Sounds like heresy to me. I really wish that anti-Torah, anti-Orthodox comments were deleted from this blog so frum people will feel comfortable here. Or is this blog meant for irreligious, frum-hating people?

Mike S. said...

Actually the Frisch numbers seem quire reasonable to me. The principal has a $247,000 salary plus benefits to run a $16M school (according to the 2008 form 991) In the private sector a manager of that big a business unit would probably be making twice that. And I don't know the qualifications of the science department chair, but I pay freshly minted PhD scientists a package that is bigger than his (or hers, as the case may be.)

I see nothing obscene or ridiculous about it at all. These people are as entitled as anyone else to a market wage. Sure it is hard to pay the tuition. That's why everywhere but the Jewish community, private school is considered a luxury and most families in the schools have 1-3 kids. A normal multiplier for an efficiently run labor intensive business like a school is about 3-4 times direct salary--i.e. a classroom should bring in 3 times the teacher's salary. If a full time teacher is making $60K that would mean around $200K. If Frisch collects the 2/3 of the nominal tuition that my kids' school does, and the tuition is $21K that would correspond to a class size of 15 per classroom. Don't know if that is in fact their class size. but it doesn't seem crazy.

Anonymous said...

Can someone explain to me why a high school principal needs an expense account? Is the quarter million salary not enough? Am i the only one who thinks this is an outrage?

Orthonomics said...

That's terrific. Sounds like you would prefer seeing her sitting outside her house doing nothing like so many seniors do in BP.

BaltimoreYid specifically said she does NOT enjoy the job and does it only for the money. I agree that it is in the best interests for seniors to stay active.

"Bitachon is baloney?" Of course bitachon isn't baloney and few commentors would say so. But in terms of how we approach the issues of earning a parnassah and preparing for the future, chazal was fairly clear we don't rely on miracles. More modern day chachamin such as the Ben Ish Hai actually says that a wise man saves 50%. Hopefully I can quote the source in a later post. I think there is plenty out there to support planning ahead.

Orthonomics said...

Ariella writes: just when you think, "it can't get any lower than this," someone comes up with something that does.
It is truly incredible.

JS said...


This isn't the "private sector" it's education. Lawyers at big name firms have a starting salary of $160,000. They are generally required to be in the office about 70 hours a week, figure about 10am till midnight most nights. That's about half of what this principal is getting.

On second thought, I don't even know why I brought up a lawyer other than to comment on your "private sector" comment.

The real comparison is in education.

In NYC, which has very good teacher compensation, a teacher with 8 years experience and a master's degree makes $75k.

The head of the entire NYC public school system makes $250,000.

It's not apples and apples to say a CEO in private sector can make $500K or whatever. Look at education and see what teachers and administrators could make in public schools. Then compare that to what some of these teachers and and administrators make in yeshivas.

Chancellor of all of NYC public schools makes $250,000 and the principal of Frisch makes $350,000 when you factor in other compensation and expense accounts? Come on.

Joseph said...

In addition, there is no reason to have only 15 kids in a high school class if that means that tuition will be unaffordable to 90-95% of people. Why not have 25 kids in a class (like what used to be the case), cap the number of administrators and their salaries? This would go a long way towards beginning to solve the tuition crises.

Critiquer said...

I wonder whether any of the people writing here have learned Shaar Ha'Bitachon in the classic Chovos Ha'Levavos written by a Rishon.

He says that someone who has bitachon does not expect that profit or loss will accrue to him unless G-d wishes it to. For the person who has bitachon there is a disconnect in his mind between what he does to earn money and the money he earns. He goes through the motions of earning a parnassa because he is supposed to, but he does not believe that it is his efforts that are earning him the money.

Sounds to me like the comments here and elsewhere on this blog are all about "kochi v'otzem yadi" - "my strength and the power of my hand have made me my fortune." I am not reading statements that express the belief that Hashem decrees on Rosh Hashana how much a person will earn in the coming year or any statements of bitachon whatsoever.

I'm not reading statements here that express the belief that no matter how good an education one gets, how much effort a person expends on earning a parnassa, or how wise an investor and planner a person is, the only determinant as to how much he will earn is what Hashem decides.

I wonder what the writers here would have said if they were living in the desert with Moses and Moses said to them: Hashem says that when you enter Israel you shall let the land lie fallow for an entire year and G-d will bless you so that you have plenty to eat in the 6th, 7th, and the year following the Shemitta year.

I'm afraid that in line with the comments here, the "Desert Blog" would have comments like:

He's gotta be kidding! How absurd! Farmers are not allowed to work their land for an entire year?! That's suicidal!

For that matter, the "Desert Blog" would also have comments bemoaning the halacha that there could be no saving up of the manna. You got what you needed for that day and that was it. Nothing in the pantry or fridge. Nothing in the bank. This went on for 40 years and a portion of manna was preserved so that hundreds of years later it was shown to the Jewish people and they were told that Hashem would provide for them just as He did for their ancestors in the desert.

Mike S. said...

Well you can argue all you want about class size. I know in my kids' school, if they proposed to raise the class size and lower the tuition proportionately, part of the parent body would jump for joy, and part of the parent body would scream bloody murder. Because some are struggling to pay the bills and others are able and happy to pay for the small class sizes and extra attentionfor their kids. Each school has to make its choice; you can't satisfy everyone.

It is true that senior positions in government pay far less than they do in the private sector. (Although you are comparing the salary + benefits + expencse account of the Frisch principal to the salary of the NYC school chancellor--he gets benefits and an expense account, too) Which is one factor that contributes to the revolving door with its attendent problems. Mid-level jobs tend to pay better in government. 11% of NYC teachers make over $100K; I doubt that is true in any yeshivah or day school. I am not sure whether the public schools or private sector is a more relevant comparison for a Jewish day school, but I don't see how you can say the numbers are completely unreasonable--they aren't.

Anonymous said...

Mike S:

If a parent was receiving tuition assistance and the proposal was to raise class size and lower tuition, do you think that parent would be jumping for joy? It's unlikely that they would get to pay less, yet their kids' benefits would be cut. Don't you see the problem, that it's not just that some are strapped and some can afford everything, but some can afford small class sizes on another person's dime?

Joseph said...

Tesyaa - I couldn't agree with you more. In fact, that is why we had trouble getting a low-cost Yeshiva off the ground in Bergen County - lack of interest!!!! The rich people are happy paying the crazy tuition and all the people on scholarship weren't interested in a low-cost yeshiva since all the local yeshivahs already are low cost for them since they are on scholarship.

Bklynmom said...

There are plenty of families who receive tuition assistance but still have to pay more than they can comfortably afford. And a great many families who can and do pay full tuition are squeezed by it. While I do think the reasons you state play a role in why some families were not interested in a low-cost yeshiva, I think other forces are also at work. I do not know what those forces are. I do know, however, that two of my children attend a moderately-priced, "no-frills" yeshiva and are receiving a fine education.

Joseph said...

"Bklynmom" - Of course many people on scholarship still have trouble making ends meet and paying reduced tuition (that is a given). However, having said that, if they are only paying 50% of tuition, why would they be interested in having their kids be guinea pigs at a startup school whose list tuition is 50% of the prevailing rate at the other schools? My point is that they have no incentive to join b\c they already are paying the same tuition as would be charged at the new "no frills" school.

On a side note, I also belive that "other forces" were at work in making sure that a low-cost yeshiva did not get off the ground in Bergen County. Maybe when I have a bit more time, I will post a comment on this.

Mike S. said...


Well, there are some who are happy to have their kids benefit at others' expense, and others who would be very happy if the tuition were reduced enough so that they would be able to afford to pay full tuition and not have to ask for a break. I am confident that among both those who pay a reduced tuition and those who pay full tuition, their are some parents who would favor large class sizes and lower tuition, and others who prefer the smaller class sizes.

UAG said...

Does everyone remember when MO Rabbis started reminding the klal to to be more modest in their wedding celebrations? That took guts right?

How about some Rabbinic leaders take a real gutsy position and advocate that the schools only spend what people can afford so that many people can start to afford full tuition? Yes, they would get slack from some people, but wouldn't that be brave of them?

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