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Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Reply To a Honestly Frum

From Honestly Frum [orange]:

SL, from what I am gathering from reading you and Al and others is you believe that there is no solution to the day school tuition issue and we should simply adapt and send our kids to public school where necessary. I cannot buy nor stomach this answer. I think that there are solutions out there and we must do everything we can to insure our kids have a frum education.

I will once again clarify something: I have NOT recommended sending our kids en masse to public school. My posts on alternative schooling, with the exception of a guest post on virtual public schooling, the posts I have featured on alternatives have not touched on public schooling.

I have featured posts on homeschooling, supervised general ed through a charter school within the confines of a Yeshiva, cooperative schooling, and hybrid schooling in the Christian world.

When I started writing, I focused tuition posts primarily on ways that schools could become more efficient. For each year I've been writing, I've seen (high school) tuition increase over $1000 for each year I've been writing. I've tracked articles from all over the country and the trend here is the trend there. I have yet to see schools announce major restructuring or policy change (forming "school districts" to negotiate with vendors and ensure greater efficiency, offering joint classes between neighboring schools, shrinking administration, implementing minimum tuitions, capping lifetime aid, establishing year round/4 day/morning and afternoon schooling, mixed grade schoolhouses, or other efficiencies that have been tried in other schools).

At a certain point, I have come to more clearly recognize many of the market and social forces at work (someone could write a great PhD behavioral economics dissertation on the subject) and don't believe that the schools are going to lead the charge. I've come to realize changes are going to have to come from the grassroots. Parents who are sending a super-sized family to school for the same price that others are paying for one child, aren't going to lead the charge. Board members under the thumb of donors/directors/Rosh have their hands tied. Parents who are getting a better deal than they would receive in a single priced school aren't going to take up this battle. If anyone is going to take up the battle in the present, it will have to be me and you.

I too believe there are solutions, but I don't believe that those with a thousand reasons why suggested proposals will never work are going to be the movers and shakers. Additionally, the average educator (don't take this as a slam at all educators, I'm just stating an observation based on conversations I've had with those in the field) is generally biased against anything unconventional, be it a mixed grade/one room classroom environment to homeschooling. Heck, just keeping your kid out of pre-school at 2 and 3 years old and skipping camp generates plenty of criticism . . . . . . . .. Meanwhile, my biological clock is ticking. I can't hold off having another child while I wait to see solutions develop.

To me my kids education is far more important than putting an extra 15K away for retirement.

Perhaps you don't have parents or in-laws that are simply unable to keep plugging away at the job, but old age happens and watching parents deteriorate physically and mentally is a reminder to me of the importance of saving for the future.

If you can prove to me that my child will have the same level of observance if I send him to a charter school as if I send him to a Yeshiva day school I'll get behind it but until such a time I cannot bring myself to give my children anything less than a Jewish education in a Jewish environment.

Each of the alternatives I've explored would keep the children in a Jewish environment, although I could see supplemental experiences exposing them to a more diverse crowd.

Perhaps Co-Op and low cost school models work but public school should never be a substitution for yeshiva. At the same time that we have an organization like nechomas yisrael taking kids out of public school and putting them into yeshiva we have people in our communities complaining that yeshiva is too much for them so they are sending their kids to public school.

Kiruv is popular but quite pricey. Perhaps a topic for a future post. Of course we want children desiring a Yeshiva education to have that choice, but so many of our own, already committed families, are curtailing their own family size because of the mess we are in.

Are we not all willing to make any sacrifice, financial or otherwise, to insure our kids get a proper yeshiva education?

For years people have prioritized a Yeshiva education. We sent mom into the workplace. Grandparents helped out. Many people (grandparents too) borrowed against the equity in their home. Others went into credit card debt. Many skipped saving and passed the cost of teaching their children a vocation to the next generation. Now we have people in their mid-20's and 30's who are strapped by their own day care and yeshiva bills + their student loans. We have grandparents with larger mortgages on their home than I do. I think things are just coming to a head.

Your kids might turn out just fine from public school, but there is a much higher chance or assimilation in public school.

Absolutely true. This is why we need a grassroots movement to help create viable alternatives. The right-wing Christian community has established homeschooling networks, fully prepared curriculums, and homeschooling conventions taking place in convention centers. There are hybrid schools and low cost schools. If I were a business-minded educator, I'd open a one room school (I need to find the policy paper I found on re-establishing one room schools in large metro areas for educational and cost benefits. Where is that paper?)

Is this a risk you are willing to take? I sure am not and will spend every last penny I have to do what I can to make sure my kids are raised in a proper Jewish environment.

I think this is the difference between the camps. While I don't know if I have what it takes to homeschool and I have some concerns regarding the viability of this for our family, hence my interest in a more cooperative agreement, I believe that our home is a great environment for our children and that the closer that I keep them, the better off they will be. We might not be the biggest talmudei chachamim, but I'm not afraid to take charge of a greater portion of the chinuch our children receive, be that education for a 3 year old or a 3rd grader. Between the two of us, I do believe that we have what it takes to raise Jewish children. Perhaps this is because my parents both took charge of my Jewish education, weak as it may be, and much of my general education because they thought that too many of the (public school) teachers were too lenient when it came to editing papers. My parents decided that if the teachers weren't going to mark up my papers with enough red ink, that they would take over where the teachers left off. My father supplemented my education by assigning me reading. So, I guess I have a mesorah for taking charge.

And I don't think I need to spend every last penny to raise our kids in a proper Jewish environment. I'm very confident that there will be other parents who are going to be looking for alternatives and that we won't have to go down the path alone.


Anonymous said...

If you can prove to me that my child will have the same level of observance if I send him to a charter school as if I send him to a Yeshiva day school I'll get behind it but until such a time I cannot bring myself to give my children anything less than a Jewish education in a Jewish environment.

Nobody can "prove" that a child will have the same level of observance if you send him to Yeshiva day school. So how could you prove it elsewhere?

In fact, from the observation of many anecdotes, students do not end up at the same level of observance as their parents (who are MO). A substantial number become more observant, and a goodly number become less observant. And some remain the same as their parents.

Also, there were many other good points made at Honestly Frum. To me, one of the most important points was how much good are we doing if we teach our children the precepts, yet in the process, prevent ourselves from observing some of the most important precepts that we are teaching them. For example, educating our kids this way, doesn't allow us to fulfill the mitzvah of pru urevu to the best extent we can, and doesn't allow us to fulfill the mitzvah of tzedaka properly. And other mitzvot are compromised as well. Not to mention some very small segments of our society that engage in criminal activity (and the associated chillul hashem) to fund the schools.


Miami Al said...

Being an adult is about making choices. Sometimes two or more things that we value come into conflict.

The following are all valued in Judaism:
1. Jewish Education
2. Having many children
3. Giving Tzedakah to help the poor

While the RW world values #1 and #2, I haven't SEEN any indication that the right wing values #3, they have chosen to become poor, and there is no effort to contribute, just take.

The MO world values #1, but punted #2 and #3.

When you punt important Jewish values and mitzvot, how do you have the right to call yourself Orthodox?

Yeshiva at any cost violates Torah, any Rabbi that advocates it and ignores the violation of Jewish law it causes is NOT an Orthodox Rabbi.

Lion of Zion said...


RW jews may not contribute to our causes and organizations, but it is not fair to say they don't give tzedaka. my impression is that they probably outgive MO jews (even if only percentage of income rather than absolute dollars).

i can't even recall ever hearing an MOer (at leat in my circles) mentions "mayser"

Lion of Zion said...


"the importance of saving for the future."

this is one thing that scares the crap out of me. i don't live extravagantly, but at this point i will probably work until i die.

Stacy said...

Everyone here seems to take it as a given that if you send your kid to yeshiva they will end up frum. To Honestly Frum, you could scrimp and save, and deny yourself retirement just to send your kid to Yeshiva, and chas v'shalom your kid could STILL go off the derech. Investing in yeshiva education to keep your kid frum is anything but a sure thing. If I pay off the mortgage I know at the end I'll own my house, or if I save for retirement I know I have some money in the bank to (hopefully) retire one day. Yeshiva education is a high risk investment.

miriamp said...

LOZ - yes, us too -- my husband has no plans to retire, and I'll probably go "back to work" once all the kids (however many more we have by then) are finally back in school. (My home business is currently only good for pocket money, but growing it once I don't have littles at home is also an option.)

Miami Al, we value all three. I guess we're "left-wing yeshivish" (I hate those labels, but we don't consider ourselves "MO"). We're committed to bringing our large family up in the Yeshivah world, preferably in Yeshivah Day School, and 10% of our income (sometimes more) goes to tzedakah -- a large percentage of that to the school and other local organizations and charities, some to more national/international tzedakas. (Like Mesila and ARMDI, for example)

Sephardilady, our OOT day school is making those cuts -- there is a minimum tuition, and one of the administrators, who has been with the school for at least 30 years will not be returning next year -- the school was open about it being for budget reasons and not that they're unhappy with her at all. They also don't stick to the limudei kodesh in the morning/limudei chol in the afternoon schedule, in order to make better use of staff, and the Judaic Studies Principal even teaches English at the middle school and high school levels. (She has a Master's in English Education, so even though she's the Judaic Studies Principal, this actually makes sense as a way to best use available resources.)

miriamp said...

Stacy, at least for us, the home environment is the part that is supposed to "keep" our kids frum -- the Yeshiva is for them to properly gain the knowledge they'll need to do so, and to keep them in an environment where everyone else is keeping mitzvos (at least in theory) to make it easier along the way.

Now that I've said that, homeschooling could certainly accomplish the same thing for many - but for some kids, I think it helps more to hear it from their Rebbeim and Moros than "just" from Mama and Daddy. For my kids, it's reinforcement.

Miami Al said...

miriamp, it sounds like your school is serious about being part of the future of Jewish education. Ours down here are not, they are mostly serious about overpaying teachers that work part time, more and more administration, and looking at anyone with 4+ kids and pays full tuition as a mark...

Look at the events in Haiti, and we've been so self absorbed with tuition that we haven't even stopped to bemoan that we can't do more for them.

I've laid out how I would reorganize the schools, based on the Catholic model that may NOT have 100% enrollment anymore but seems in better shape than we are... and we're NOT at 100% enrollment when you look at all Jews, and considering that we fund raise from all Jews, get students from non-Orthodox homes, and take Federation money, not looking at ourselves as part of the Jewish community as a whole is a bit dishonest.

I also think if your target was 80%, of Jews in Day School, instead of 100%, you could do MUCH better. In the example of Bergen County, if you tossed the 20% of students that had the least business living in Teaneck and going to school there, and consolidated to 4 schools, I think you'd cut the tuition struggle dramatically.

Life is about choices, and we'll only survive as a people if we are prepared to make them.

Chaim B. said...

>>>Nobody can "prove" that a child will have the same level of observance if you send him to Yeshiva day school.

There certainly is proof that day school education dramatically lowers the chance of intermarriage and increases long term committment to Judaism more than any type of religious educational programming (e.g. Hebrew school). See the research done by Prof. Alvin Schiff. Of course, there is no guarantee how your individual child will turn out, but you play the statistical odds and daven for the best.
I see no reason why coopertative schools or homeschooling are not more popular options other than the herd mentality. I do think, however, in the upper grades chavruta learning and a good Rebbe are irreplacable. Interestingly enough, though, some of the greatest minds of the past generation, e.g. R' Moshe Feinstein, the Chazon Ish, were not produced by the yeshiva system but were self-taught. I chalk that up more to the eccentricity of genius than anything else.

JR said...

"For years people have prioritized a Yeshiva education. We sent mom into the workplace. Grandparents helped out. Many people (grandparents too) borrowed against the equity in their home. Others went into credit card debt. Many skipped saving and passed the cost of teaching their children a vocation to the next generation."

Just wondering. Tell me, how come when I went to a religious elementary school and high school in the 70's into the early 80's, my father was able to support his family on his own, three kids, full tuition and many mothers did not work, certainly not full time?

The focus here is on tuition. Seems to me that that is a narrow focus. What has changed in one generation that has made frum women who want to be home, go out and work because they need the money? And I'm not talking about kollel families. I'm talking about families in which the husband is working too. In today's Beis Yaakov schools, girls are deciding which "career" to go into: speech therapy, graphic design etc. When I was their age (70's into the 80's), most of us looked for jobs (not careers) to occupy ourselves until we got married: secretarial jobs, teaching jobs, computers. My, mostly yeshivish crowd, was not focused on a career.

Anonymous said...

JR, what you are describing is not limited to the frum world. There are many more American women in the workplace than in the 70s, period. We who grew up with moms at home think of that as the norm, while it was a short-lived post-war phenomenon. I'm glad women have the opportunity to work, part-time or full-time, and take control of their financial situations.

Dave said...

There isn't proof. At best there is correlation.

But unless you can isolate day school attendance from everything else, you can't show direct causation.

In another generation or so, you'd have a much better chance of showing proof, because of the current move to a divergence of educational choices in the Orthodox community.

Honestly Frum said...

If the answer were so simple I think a solution would have been found years ago. We now find ourselves with a problem that took us 20 years to get into and we are trying to get out of it in 3. I agree that there need to be alternatives to the current education model, but those too take time to set up and each one of these require startup funding which is currently lacking. I think that instaed of focusing on how to destroy the current model and take unneccessary risks with our children's future, we should work within the current system until such a time that a new one is put into place.

I think that the grassroots are working hard behind the scenes to make significant changes to our education models but what do we do until they are in place?

My home is a great environment as well but what I teach at home must be reenforced at school, esspecially at a young impressionable age. Unfortunately, given the stresses to simply stay afloat I would venture to say that most of us spend far less time with our children than we would hope to, meaning that the 7 hours a day they are spedning in school GREATLY help shape who they are. I would rather roll the dice and send my kids to yeshiva and worry about them staying on the derech than roll the dice and send them to public school.

I truly hope a solution comes soon to our communinty, but I fear that without some significant comprehensive changes to the current model we are risking many of our children's futures.

Just one man's opinion.

ProfK said...

Miami Al,
Everyone is entitled to their own OPINION as regards what is wrong with our present educational system and how to fix it. But please do not present as fact that which is your own opinion and NOT based on anything more than your own PERSONAL experience with some people you know or your own personal thoughts on the matter.

A real logical fallacy when you said, "The MO world values #1, but punted #2 and #3...When you punt important Jewish values and mitzvot, how do you have the right to call yourself Orthodox?... Yeshiva at any cost violates Torah, any Rabbi that advocates it and ignores the violation of Jewish law it causes is NOT an Orthodox Rabbi." For one thing, there is no "one" MO world--that term covers a widely diverse group of people with many different practices. But even assuming that the label has some general meaning, the MO punted #2 and #3? All I need to disprove that statement is one example--and my family qualifies for that example re giving charity to the poor-- and I've got thousands. The so-called MO can and do have families above 2-3 children and they do give charity to support the poor, not to mention donating to all the other worthwhile tzedakas. Also, kindly present your qualifications for deciding what violates Torah and what the requirements are for being an Orthodox Rabbi. If you present yourself as an expert then I can reasonably expect that you have some education/training to back up that expertise.

I am not saying that you aren't entitled to your own opinion, but please stop presenting that opinion as if it were incontrovertible fact and anyone who can't see that must be, perforce, an idiot or not Orthodox.

ProfK said...

My experience re working mothers is quite different from yours. My mom and my mil both worked outside the home. Of 6 aunts only one did not work outside of her home. Of my parents' first and second cousins, all the women worked outside the home. Some worked together with their husbands in family businesses and some worked separate outside jobs. It's not just today's BY girls who are looking for professions. Of 39 family members in my general age group and younger a decade there are exactly two women not working, and halevi everyone should be making what their husbands earn. I managed to be a SAHM only until my youngest was 8, and even there I was working from the house.

Check sociological data and you'll find that no women worked outside of their homes before today is a real myth.

Ely said...


I think you're misinterpreting some of these comments and taking them to the extreme. The solutions Miami Al and SL are proposing ARE reforms to the current system. They are not calling for the collapse to the entire system (it could come to that if reforms aren't taken).

We all agree that the current system is not sustainable. And by the "current system", I mean an education system that relies on donors to fill the increasing debt our schools incur every year.

Reforms such as:

1) Creating "school districts" to negotiate better insurance and health care rates
2) Separating the scholarship/fund-raising arm of the school so that tuition is based on operating expenses and scholarships are given based on what money is donated to the external organization(s).
3) Rearranging the schedule so that Jewish studies is not always in the morning for all grades so that schools can maximize the time of their teaching staff

...and others ARE reforms to the current system. These reforms (especially #2) would have a long term effect in our Yeshiva school system but isn't that the point? Why talk about improvement if you're not willing to change?

Miami Al said...

ProfK, the recent call for keeping more and more of Tzedakah in the communities, the call for excluding people coming into our communities to fund raise, these are all attempts to limit Tzedakah until the "schools are funded." In only looking at direct effect, we've walked away from Jewish values because the Day School has crowded things out.

My issue is that when the state of affairs causes one to not keep Jewish values, there is a problem.

The local Modern Orthodox Rabbi would never support, encourage, or condone the level of family planning that occurs here... but he makes jokes about how "we have birth control in Orthodox Judaism, it's called tuition."

That's NOT funny. That is a tax on having Jewish children.

So he fights the charter schools, insists on no alternative to Day School, and watches his community practice birth control.

Does anyone dispute that the day school financing mechanism results in the following:
1. Discourages overtime, second jobs, and other ways to bring more income in since the scholarship committee takes it all?
2. Encourages employment in the Yeshiva over better paying work elsewhere because of tuition perks (pre-tax payment plus discount)
3. Results in children going to less competitive colleges since Yeshiva won't consider college expenses as necessary for scholarship and colleges won't consider private school -- UNLESS the grandparents can pay college directly and bypass the scholarship committee
4. Results in under saving for the future, which will result in fewer elderly Orthodox leaving large sums of money to community causes.

In addition there is a serious issue that nobody is dealing with. Most Jewish "communal" organizations are funded through non-Orthodox sources. While we may not use them entirely, we do benefit from them. There are fewer and fewer non-Orthodox Jews, they are more likely to assimilate, intermarry, etc. The pile of people to do Kiruv to is shrinking, and the pile of money coming from those sources has a finite lifespan.

The net effect of these changes is downright scary for the future of Orthodox Judaism, and nobody in a position of power seems OPENLY concerned.

Miami Al said...

Ely, thank you.

Honestly Frum, there are economic reasons that the schools are as screwed up as they are AND GETTING WORSE. You don't want to discuss them, you just want to say "our best minds could come up with solutions."

If you change the perverse incentives, the situation will get much better VERY quickly. Tuition increases at roughly 2x wages, that isn't sacrifice, that's going off a cliff.

I have suggested structural changes that would:
1. Reverse tuition increases
2. Increase wages

If we increase wages and lower tuition, crisis averted.

However, as long as the economic disincentives to earn aren't removed, we're screwed.

Please note, I haven't said a word about Kollel in this... they aren't our problem.

Miami Al said...

But Honestly Frum, you keep dismissing it as "if it was easy, it would have been done."

Why do you believe that? I'm serious about this.

The GOAL of the system has NOT been cost effective Jewish education. Keeping tuition costs down has NOT been a goal.

One of the schools here, upset that families that could give more weren't, hiked tuition one year 20%, not because costs went up, but to appease donors that felt others were free riding.

Look at the economic forces driving the system. The schools have functioned EXACTLY as those would predict.

Cost effective Jewish education is no more difficult now than 20 years, but 20 years ago, nobody really cared, now its an issue, because each year of tuition increase = 2x wages resulted in fewer and fewer full payers, so fewer and fewer of the parents CARE about cost controls.

Tuition Talk said...

The problem with the line of thinking is that yeshiva is the be all and end all of Jewish education, that without yeshiva we'd all give up frumkeit in a heartbeat. It's simply not true.

As Mark pointed out above, I don't know very many people who remained at the same religious level of their parents after yeshiva. As many people as I know who became more observant and/or RW, I know a lot of people who no longer do anything or are far less observant than their families. There are no guarantees in life. The two biggest factors are: 1) Family environment and attitude to Judaism; and 2) Whether the child is particularly vulnerable to outside influences. In terms of #2, I have seen many people with weak senses of self go off to yeshivas and get "brainwashed" frum and the opposite - people going off to secular universities and getting "brainwashed" non-observant.

I think yeshivas are a starting point, not the end of the matter.

Anonymous said...

The problem with the line of thinking is that yeshiva is the be all and end all of Jewish education, that without yeshiva we'd all give up frumkeit in a heartbeat. It's simply not true.

Agree 100%. People point to the early part of the 20th century as proof that children from "frum" immigrant homes became non-observant because they went to public school. First of all, many children from those generations who went to yeshiva (e.g. Torah Vodaas) also became nonobservant. Second of all, many of their homes, although nominally shomer shabbos, were not deeply committed to Torah, unfortunately. (As Rabbi Wein describes it: their frumkeit was "a mile wide and an inch deep"). And although we have an economic crisis today, it can't be compared to the Depression era. There are a million reasons why we can't extrapolate from what happened 60-100 years ago to today's world.

And there are plenty of "frum" children today in both the MO and RW world who go to yeshivot their whole lives and become nonobservant.

Honestly Frum said...

I think the difference in the conversation boils down to this. I see Yeshiva education is a must, not a right, not a privilege, but a must in order for Orthodoxy to survive. I recognize just as much as everybody else that the costs have gotten out of control and that the system needs total overhaul and reform. Miami Al, you say that If you change the perverse incentives, the situation will get much better VERY quickly. Which perverse incentives are you talking about? Teachers pay? There is no uniformity on this issue, every school has their own structure (maybe there should be some). The scholarship and funding model? I also agree that it is broken and that the entire yeshiva funding model needs to go from a parental focused one to a communal focused one. Taking the scholarship burden off of the rest of the parent body in most cases only brings the cost down by around 10-15%, now although this is nothing to sneeze at it is but a dent in the problem. Much more fundamental changes need to be made across the board but until said changes are made there are people in the community who are wiling to struggle to make sure their kids are in Yeshiva and there are others that will pay extra out of their own pockets to make sure that no one else’s child needs to go to public school for economic reasons. Your and SL arguments are good and I see both of your reasoning but I think that we are going back and forth over personal hashkafot and the conversation is going to continue in a circular motion.

Anonymous said...

there are others that will pay extra out of their own pockets to make sure that no one else’s child needs to go to public school for economic reasons

"Economic reasons" is the sticking point. Who determines what these are? It comes down to needs and wants, in most cases. SL is unique, I think, in that she chooses to live within her means, save for retirement, and not expect anyone to foot the bill for her. Most people, as long as they are convinced that "someone else" will help foot the bill, will not make the most wise economic choices.

Anonymous said...

Shut down CAJE immediately and things get better.

You say there is no uniformity, but if you stray outside CAJE guidelines, you don't get CAJE contributions to the 401(k) and health care, so you have to stay in their guidelines.

Federation dollars also come with strings attached.

The decisions by the schools are more correlated than you think, since the global communal organizations encourage the bad behavior.

And you're wrong on the 15%. Again, look at the bad debt line, where they give $10k in scholarship and demand $10k more than a family can pay and let the family not pay $10k. So they gave $20k in scholarship but called it $10k.

The problem is MUCH bigger than you think.

Honestly Frum said...

tesyaa, agreed but I fell like our schools have been setup like this. So we need to work with the existing model until such a time that it changes.

ProfK said...

Miami Al,
"the recent call for keeping more and more of Tzedakah in the communities, the call for excluding people coming into our communities to fund raise, these are all attempts to limit Tzedakah until the "schools are funded." Perhaps in your community but not in mine.

Keeping tzedaka money in the community here means not only funding for the schools but also for our Ezras Achim/Bikur Cholim, for our Hatzalah, for our Kosher food pantry, for our neighbors and families in need. It means raising funds for the little one who got cancer and his parents are drowning financially. It means taking care of our neighbors who are out of work through no fault of their own and need us. In the New York area those who are coming into our communities from outside to fundraise are doing so for yeshivas outside of our area more than any other type of tzedaka. The majority of these mishaluchim are not coming to raise funds for feeding the poor. Those requests come in by mail or phone for the most part.

Donations to tzedaka organizations are down and the main reason is not that schools have to be funded first. They are down because people just plain don't have the same amount of money that they used to have and their families and the concerns of their families come first.

Please also keep this in mind--a lot of people are looking at tzedaka organizations with the same eagle eye that they are now looking at yeshivas with. For far too long we have had such organizations, both national and local, that have been poorly run and with far too much overhead. Monies donated to these organizations don't all go to fund the actual cause. There is a huge amount of over duplication. With finances tight people are also looking to donate to those organizations that are the best run and with the least amount of overhead.

Orthonomics said...

Honestly Frum-how about I have you answer some questions so we stop going in circles.

What is so terrible about homeschooling or co-operatives, especially in the lower grades? What would be so terrible about helping to provide parents who are willing to take a greater stake in their children's education with some resources to do so? Why must cradle to grave education in established institutions be the only answer?

Honestly Frum said...

SL, I have no problem with these models, in fact I think they would probably work better than many of our yeshivos, but until these models are set up I think we need another option. A Co-op is a great idea as is homeschooling (although I am not sure if these will work for every family) cradle to grave education might not be the best way but my main point is that I see first hand that my kids get so much for being in a yeshiva setting the entire day. It is the ideal torah umada model. For me it teaches them that everything they do, from limudei kodesh through limudei chol, all comes back to kedusha. As an example, my son's non jewish, first grade english teacher sent home a science project dealing with tu b'shvat. I hate to go off on a tangent here but to me these things are so improtant to their religious development that until I can find something to take the place of the current system I am going to continue to go with it. The financial model might be broken, but I do not think the educational one is (at least not for us).

JS said...


I have to disagree with your last point. Personally, I don't want my kid's English teacher basing lessons around the Hebrew/Religious calendar. It's just now what I think a secular education should be about in the same way I wouldn't want my kid's science teacher teaching evolution alongside Hashem created the world, etc.

Honestly Frum said...

JS, OK, personal preference. There was an article in the last Meorot journal by rivkah kahan the principal of Maayanot, I recomend you read it.

Miami Al said...

JS, I think HF's story is awesome, and the thing most lacking in the Jewish education system...

However, I'd rebalance what is taught when. I think that 40% of the "Judaic curriculum" is filler... we decided that it must be "dual curriculum" with half-and-half days, and when we run out of material, we're done.

If I were made Dean of Day Schools, I would scrap "dual curriculum" and create a "curriculum" that is modern and Jewish, which would include secular subjects with a Jewish basis, but I'd also include not Jewish sources and there impact on Jewish thought.

To pretend RAMBAM wasn't impacted by Greek Logic and Astronomy requires redacting a chunk of his attempts to reconcile it with Torah.

I'd have 1.5 hours of social studies and have World History AND Jewish History covered. I would have Hebrew as a language taught like we teach English with a focus on grammar and literature, NOT as a foreign language, with an attempt at REAL immersion (teaching Math and electives in Hebrew, for example).

I'd guess you'd end up around 33: Raw Jewish subjects, 50% secular (to cover everything), and 17% kind of hybrid, where it is a secular subject area but covers Jewish thoughts in there... i.e. If you run an Ethics elective that uses Western Philosophers, you could bring Jewish Philosophers and Pirkei Avot, so increase the house by a third and cover more material.

That's how I would design a Jewish school.

Honestly Frum said...

AL, sign me up. I recomend you read the article I quoted above. If you e-mail me I can send it to you.

Miami Al said...

HF, that's my HOPE with the charter school. They can't teach "religion," so no spirituality, Halacha, etc., but language and culture are fine and on the table. The more they push to make the school more "Jewish," the more they'll find a way to incorporate Judaism into the subject matter.

I'd like less Yeshiva, more Jewish Prep School... and I mean Yeshiva as in, modeled after nineteenth century Jewish education from Eastern Europe, that's NOT how I would impart Mesorah to my children, that's NOT how my family did it, and that is WHY I am hopeful for the Charter.

The Charter's Judaics program is NOT Yeshivish, but deals a lot with "Meta" Jewish stuff, like "why be Jewish" and the "rituals" of Judaism. While older students may need more, that's an area that I think our existing schools are lacking in, because they just kind of assume it. If kids knew a few fewer Rashis and a few more reasons "Why be Jewish," we might have a lower Off the Derech rate (or again we might not).

BTW, If you're not familiar with the concept of Deadweight Loss, please try to research the matter. My concern with our economic manipulation is that there is a LOT of it, and I think that that is the fundamental flaw in Orthodox Jewish Economics.

JLan said...

"I'd have 1.5 hours of social studies and have World History AND Jewish History covered."

I teach a combined World (really Western for the most part) and Jewish history curriculum at an MO day school, with 6.5 periods/week (instead of the standard for our school, which is 4.5 periods/week per class). So Rambam gets tossed into the context of Islam and the Jews under Islam, with some comparisons to Islamic scholars and references back to Aristotle's doctrine of substance and accident, which we covered in Greek history. Another example of the links would be 19th c. Judaism, where we do a quick survey of Western Jewish thinkers (Spinoza, Mendelssohn, Geiger, Frankel, R' Hirsch, and the Chatam Sopher) after we've done Enlightenment thinking, as all are part of it or reacting to it.

Of course, this school is also one of the worst offenders in the "tuition higher than the Burj Dubai" categories, so I'm not sure that it helps.

Miami Al said...

JLan, good to know that there is something up there... just frustrated that there isn't a school like that in greater Miami.

I find the number of Jews who don't know what was going on in the world and therefore what was being borrowed back and forth sad... and a little scary...

Commenter Abbi said...

Al, you don't get it. If you want that kind of creative, higher level critical thinking going into your kids' Jewish/secular history curriculum, you have to pay price. You can't expect bare bones, rock bottom tuitions and excellent, creative, stimulating curriculum.

I also had an excellent joint Jewish/Secular history course for my first three years of high school at Ramaz taught and developed by a high level Phd. So, no wonder it costs a fortune to go there!

Miami Al said...

Commenter Abbi, I've never suggested that I want a bare bones, no frills education for my children. I have suggested that you could do that for $6500-$8000. I have also said that I do NOT want to pay $15,000 for a $7,500 education because our schools only collect 50% of tuition.

Ramaz is priced competitively with secular prep schools in the area, right? Our Jewish schools are priced 25% cheaper than the prep schools, 33% more than the Catholic schools, and resulting in kids that if they leave for public school are behind grade level.

I don't want my kids in a crappy school. However, if you are charging what you charge, offer a great education. I'm NOT interested in offer paying to subsidize others getting a private school education.

The Day Schools are NOT reasonably priced for what they offer.

Lion of Zion said...


do your students take the jewish history "ap" exams administed by YU? if yes, what is the success rate?

JLan said...

LoZ- They don't. I know of a few schools where they do take those tests (Flatbush is one of them), but it's never been something our administration has any interest in, and it's not something we particularly care to mold our curriculum around. Combine that with the variety of schools our students end up at (YU isn't unusual, per se, but it also isn't the dominant choice by any means), and our decision not to do so seems reasonable.

Ariella said...

People will misread your argument if they feel it goes against their own. I didn't take away from your piece that you were advocating everyone sending their children to public school just to save money. I saw it as a realistic assessment of the financial situation in light of limited funds and rising tuition costs. Personally, I would not opt for public school. But, honestly, I believe that kids can get a perfectly good (possibly even better than when enrolled in a yeshiva or day school) Jewish education in a homeschooling or cooperative schooling setup. The idea of taking charge of one's child's education is key here. A parent cannot abdicate that responsibility even when shelling out $20,000 a year per child.

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