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Thursday, January 28, 2010

That Would Be Too Easy!

Another letter to the Yated. While cyberspace is filled with buzz about how the tuition crisis is going to be fixed (or not fixed, as the case might be), we can't even take one of the most basic steps to help parents out: coordinate winter breaks?!

What I'd like to hear from my readers: what schedule changes would help you reduce additional out of pocket expenses? Although I'm resigned, I'm still hoping that bloggers can provide a productive forum.

Dear Editor,
I would like to address the issue of different school schedules for midwinter vacation. I feel that this is a problem that can be easily rectified. Most families send their children to an average of three different yeshivas or schools. This could mean three different weeks of midwinter vacation. I feel that this practice is unfair both to the parents- many of whom are working - and to the children. If a child is the only one in the family who attends a particular yeshiva/school,
then he/she has no siblings to spend vacation with. In addition, parents cannot take off so
many days from work to accommodate the various vacation schedules. Unfortunately,
this may cause children old enough to be left home to be bored and unsupervised.

I suggest that within a community, all of the schools should get together and have the identical midwinter vacation schedule. This would enable parents to take off a few days from work and spend quality time with their entire family. A vacation is meant to be enjoyable, and I feel that one vacation schedule for the entire family would accomplish this.

I hope that all the yeshivos and schools will read this letter and take heart.
Thank you.
A Frustrated Parent With Three Different Vacation Schedules

Coming from the accounting field, I personally can't think of a worse time for vacation than mid-January.


Honestly Frum said...

This suggestion is Kefira. How dare this person suggest that the boys and girls schools give off the same time. That could lead to taaroves which could lead to G-d only knows what. They should find the person who wrote this and throw their children out of yeshiva!

tesyaa said...

This will never happen. If one school adjusts its schedule to match another school, people will think that the first school is tacitly endorsing the second school. Then the debate will start: "Did you know that School 1 changed its schedule to match School 2? But School 2 is so much more modern! Wow, School 1 is definitely letting its standards slip!"

This is the reality.

dvorak613 said...

Long-time reader, first-time commenter. If I have the time, I hope to comment more often :-)

Vacation should be the last week of December as it is with the rest of the world. Problem solved.

I went to one of the few yeshivas that gives off during that week, and somehow, I turned out perfectly perfectly fine frumkeit-wise, despite having off on (horror of horrors!) xmas and new year's day. And no, not having school on those days is not an acknowledgment or tacit endorsement of those holidays; it is called "we-live-in-America-and-in-the-real-world-xmas-and-new-year-are-your-big-days-off".

Anonymous said...

Tesyaa, I strongly disagree. There are reasonable ways for this to be discussed centrally, matching up schedules, AND saving face for all.

Unfortunately, this may be hardest to accomplish in larger communities where there are numerous schools.

One method would be for community rabbanim and or various school boards to meet together, and agree on a set schedule. My getting each school to shift some of their vacations (winter, yom tov, etc...) all can be seen as working together, each giving in on something, and ending up with a fairly cohesive schedule.

While some of the above comments are hopefully tongue in cheek, we need to be positive and reinforce to the administrators of our institutions that it is valuable to us (the clients/families...) to have a more cohesive schedule.

Miami Al said...

I'm with Dvorak, the Yeshiva week was one of my first turn offs to the Jewish educational world. Guess what, Thanksgiving through New Years is a slow time if you're not in retail. The end of December is dead. It's a nice quiet time to do paperwork at the office, but no business is conducted, nobody is on the other side of the phone, it's a dead time.

January, business comes roaring back. And that's when you expect us to take a vacation?

Yup, 12/25 is Christmas Day, and 1/1 is "Feast of the Circumcision," don't want that to be your holiday slow season, move to Israel. If you are in this country, how about a wee bit of compassion for those of us that earn a living that goes into supporting these institutions.

ProfK said...

And yet both boys and girls schools are all off for chol hamoed sukkos and chol hamoed Pesach and the world hasn't ended yet.

Esther819 said...

Some parents can't take any days off work except on the secular holidays. In fact, I imagine I'm not the only one who had extra vacation days last year (because of yomtov being almost all on weekends) and has ZERO vacation days to spare this year (because of yomtov being entirely on weekdays). Or hourly workers like my DH who makes barely over minimum wage, and if he doesn't work he doesn't get paid. I can't even comprehend throwing different days off for different kids into that mix. This is yet another example of "the system" being completely divorced from reality.

Light of Israel said...

Have to be Amen corner here.

Vacation would best be end of December. It seems so silly that the parents are home from work in December when kids are in school and then have to take off in January when work gets busy.

JLan said...

The MO school I work at has off for what's generally the standard public school winter break (last year it started one day later than the public schools, giving off Dec 25th but not the 24th, because giving off the 24th would have been a longer break than desired...this year, with the calendar pushing forward a day as it always does, it started on the 24th).

Being in the NY area, we also give off for President's day (the public schools here have President's week off). Except, due to a vote by the parents, we give off the week prior to President's Day plus President's Day itself.

Honestly Frum said...

Prof K, that is why we have BaHaB!

LeahGG said...

For places where they rely on buses, there are no buses on Dec 25 and Jan 1, plus non-Jewish staff wants those days off. More reason to make that the "winter break"

tdr said...

Thankfully this year all my kids are in school at the same time. Last year, I had a pre-schooler with a different vacation than the other 2. Both my husband and I only get paid when we work. What a juggling act!

My kids are about to go back to school next Monday. In order to work my full hours, not have to pay a sitter (which is incredibly expensive for the whole week), AND to spend some time with my kids, I am working 2 to 4 hours each day. Starting last week on motzei Shabbos and through next Sunday. Today I'm here from 4:30 to 8:30 so DH can go to work at 9.

I am lucky that I am allowed such a flexible schedule (I work in the IT world).

I feel real accomplishment that 1) I will have gotten in a full 40 hours, 2) I got to take my kids on one substantial day trip to D.C., and 3) I didn't have to pay a sitter.

I am additionally thankful that I love my job so to come to work at such crazy hours is not the torture some people might think it is.

DH and I always say that if the schools want you to pay the tuition, they have to make it possible for you to work!

Anonymous said...

Although this January wasn't too bad weather wise, January usually tends to be much colder and snowier, and icier than December meaning its a worse month for day trips and for kids to be able to play outside.

Offwinger said...

The obvious answer is to give break in December, like the rest of the world does, and as noted above.

But no, schools think they are proving a point by having school on Christmas. Even in years that Christmas and Chanukah overlap, schools contort themselves to ensure that the days they give off for Chanuakah are NOT Christmas.

As Leah points out also, there is no busing on those days. Public transportation is also extremely scaled back (for those who use it). So you have parents who are actually off, and they are told to spend their mornings and afternoons carpooling to make a point. Guess that? That point is not the importance of family or kibbud av v'em.

For those who would point out that mid-January is a natural divider for the school year, because students miss more time in the fall with chagim, that's a non-starter. No one is saying that the semester end must match break.

ProfK said...

Offwinger makes a good point "For those who would point out that mid-January is a natural divider for the school year, because students miss more time in the fall with chagim." This is more than balanced out with Purim, Pesach and Shavuous in the spring, so that a late January break results in a forshortened spring term.

Reality is that most parents work in secular jobs and the time from December 24 to January 1 is when the majority of them could manage better if their children were out of school.

As noted above, there are some parents who aren't going to be able to manage the time off with their kids no matter when the schools schedule a break. The time from when school ends in June until camps start, both sleep away and daycamps, also presents them with a problem, as does the time from when camps end until school starts. Chol Hamoed of Sukkot and Pesach is problematic for them. Those parents have a year-round scheduling problem.

conservative scifi said...

I think it is not only winter break, but also "professional" days and other nonholiday breaks which should be matched. My kid's "community" day school finally, this year, matched the local public school calendar for almost all breaks (except for the Jewish holidays, of course, but the public schools spring break perfectly overlaps Pesach this year). This means that with kids in both, rather than having rotating days off, the kids are either all home together or are at school.

In a larger community, it seems incumbent on the schools to coordinate schedules completely. Anything else is ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

There also is lost educational time and/or additional expenses for the schools and students when the non-jewish secular studies teachers (and even some of the non-OJ jewish teachers with kids in public school)take off for Dec. 24 and 25th and other days. Either the kids don't get the secular classes or the school has to pay for substitutes.

Bob Miller said...

Why does there have to be any winter break?

Does someone have the illusion that parents are wealthy snowbirds?

Anonymous said...

Personally, It works better for me when my kids are not off during the late dec holidays - too much competition for vacation days.

Anonymous said...

I believe that in Baltimore they do coordinate. In fact, this year, one school changed their chanukah vacation to match the other schools

Anonymous said...

Good point Bob. Particularly if there are fewer than the 180 days public school students get.

Anonymous said...

Maybe if the schools started coordinating on vacations, it could lead to other coordination - group bulk buying of supplies and insurance, sharing curriculum coordinators and course materials, etc.

Avi said...

This is a HUGE issue that the schools don't seem to understand at all. I do not have yom tov off, that's what I use my "vacation" time for. January is brutal, with sales kickoff meetings, trade shows and major product launches on opposite sides of the country, employee evaluations, and tons tons tons of work. So naturally my kids are all home. Naturally.

1st choice: no break at all, and some form of childcare on any non-public holiday or Yom Tov that you do give off.
2nd choice: last week of December. I truly don't care that there's a holiday for non-Jews that week. I. Don't. Care. I live in this country, I'm off several days that week, and I'd like to spend that time with my kids and not have to scramble like mad to cover random times the schools give off when I have to work.
3rd choice: if you have to do a week in January, can you at least do it the week with MLK Day in it? Some of us get off for that.

There is one bright point to the current schedule that matches the public school calendar: when we start sending some of our kids to public schools because we can't afford tuition for all of them, at least all of them will be off for winter vacation at the same time.

ProfK said...

Just a bit of historical perspective--this midwinter break is a fairly new "invention." Back when I was in public elementary school we got off on Dec. 25 and on Jan. 1--period. When I got to high school my junior year we suddenly were getting off the time from Dec. 25 through Jan. 1. There was no Presidents Day back then--Lincoln's Birthday and Washington's birthday were "celebrated" on the real dates, and schools were open. Obviously was no MLK day either.

CUNY began the day after Labor Day and went straight through until noon of Dec. 24. We then returned on Jan. 2 to finish the term and then take finals. Depending on the number of finals you were taking you would get anywhere from 1-3 days off and then the next semester began again and went straight through until mid June.

This push for all the days off and vacation days is more new than old. On my first job we had only 7 legal holidays, and one week paid vacation was far more the rule than two weeks, certainly for the low people on the totem pole.

Anonymous said...

My FIL was in industry and had no choice but to take off time in December because sometimes entire industries shutter the windows. Naturally his children had the 3rd week of January off.

aaron from L.A. said...

the problem is that the last week in December has for so long been known as Chritmas vacation.The answer is simple;call it Saturnalia vacation and remove the stigma!

Orthonomics said...

I think the left took care of that concern already. Now few even utter the word Christmas

Julie said...

I agree that the breaks should be coordinated between the schools. But I LOVE January vacation. I work in the healthcare field, and the end of December is when I absolutely, positively must be at work. It is only fair to the non-Jewish employees who have to deal with my taking off all that time in September and April. I love taking off a week in January and spending it with my kids. The museums are quiet, and the library is open everyday of vacation. My kids finish the first semester, have a break and go back to school for the second semester. It works out beautifully.

megapixel said...

I agree w bob miller - there should be no mid winter. the kids were just off for chanuka
and that is why they cant have midwinter in december-- too close to the chanuka vacation!!

Miami Al said...

Seriously, why not just give off for Chanukah, period? Why the need for a January break? Last week in December is good for us in business, but anytime in December is probably fine.

Shevy said...

Both our Orthodox and community day schools (and our Jewish high school) are open during Hanukkah and close for the same winter break the public schools get. I think in part it's because the secular teachers *must* be given statutory holidays off.

What really gets me are the endless ProD days, Parent-Teacher conference days and the like, where the kids are either off for a day or get off a couple of hours early.

My youngest usually ends up coming to my work or my hubby's on ProD days (and we get significantly less work than usual done). Of course, now that my eldest daughter is back on maternity *she'll* be the lucky one with her little sister!

aml said...

Why bother with a break at all? Sukkot and Pesach aren't enough? Isn't the "mid-Winter break" mimicking the public school calendar anyway? Do they have such a break in Israel?

But I agree with dvorak613 and the others... stop being silly... if you want a break, make it the last week in December. You're proving nothing and most parents are already going to be off at least Christmas and New Years.

Anonymous said...

Those who feel midwinter vacation should coincide with Xmas should learn the relevant Gemoras and Halachos , see why (e.g.)Rav Moshe Feinstein rejected the idea of doing so, on Halachic grounds.Then we'll talk.

LeahGG said...

Get your head out of the sand. We're in a crisis. People are talking about having to send their kids to public school. Any measure that can save yeshiva parents (and yeshivas) a few hundred dollars that hopefully can be funneled back into the system should have its drawbacks compared to the very real possibilities of children going to public schools or parents going into more debt.

Thus, having Torah studies and secular studies all day instead of Torah morning/secular afternoon should be considered, and having a break to coincide with when non-Jews have breaks should be considered. If these measures can relieve even a little of the burden, they shouldn't be thrown out because the alternative isn't "no winter break in Florida." The alternative is going to be people in their eighties/nineties and infirm who are unable to support themselves going into bankruptcy or Jewish children going to public school.

jbaltz said...

@Anonymous 1553

A few points of order:

1) Since we're all in the dark here, why don't you point us to some of the "relevant Gemoras and Halachos" so we can better discuss the issue?

2) If it's so issur to have break at that time (so that, for example, students who rely on school buses to get to school aren't put out just because it's 25 Dec or 1 Jan), why did schools used to have breaks at that time? Were we all that much less frum?

3) If it's so issur to have break at that time, why do prominent yeshivot (Ramaz is one, Maimonides in Boston yet another--I just checked on that one) still have break at the end of December?

Having break coincide with the secular school break has so many benefits (parents are otherwise off, non-Jewish staff can have off without burdening parents with picking up that slack, parents can time their days off with their kids, parents who have children in college can have some common time together) that all the "reasons" appear to amount to "just DAVKA".

Julie said...

Could someone please acknowledge my reality? IT IS EASIER FOR ME TO HAVE MY KIDS OFF IN JANUARY. I recognize that this is not the case for everyone. I know that there are other people would prefer that the kids have a break in December or no break at all. It is not an issue of halacha, but one of convience. I like January break.

Miami Al said...

Julie, health care, with uniform annual needs, results in the Jews working on Christmas Eve and Christmas and around then to cover for gentile co-workers. For entry level professionals, it is probably also helpful when seniority doesn't give them the 12/25 - 1/1 week off.

HOWEVER, for all of us in the "business world" or the "legal world" (which are two big chunks of Jews that the schools want to pay bills), December is dead time because everyone is taking a vacation and visiting family.

People in my neighborhood are amused that we normally end up for dinner at my parents on 12/24 or 12/25, NOT because it's a holiday, but because my cousins are all on Winter Break (either school or college), and take it as an opportunity to come to Florida and visit my parents. My dad is on call, but no has office hours, plenty of college football games on, and generally easy day to let the kids play.

Running the school with secular teachers off, maintenance staff missing, bus service not available, for what freaking purpose? What point are you making? The schools here all close for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur and are respectful of any Jew that takes off for other holidays, so what's the point?

Note, the 1950s are over, Eisenhower is no longer the President, and Americans support a system "multiculturalism," or at LEAST tolerance and respect, we should do the same.

Note: the holidays have names, the gentiles are respectful with ours, if you DVR a program from Rosh Hashana, you'll see Happy New Years with a Menorah mentions, and Happy Chanukah stuff during the holiday, etc. Further, the X substitute for the symbol used to represent Christ in English (which isn't in the ASCII standard), you're not avoiding mentioning their holiday).

LeahGG said...

Julie. Good point. The entire Jewish school system should be arranged in accordance with what is best for you rather than what is best for the majority, even if it costs hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Jewish community as a whole and means that dozens of Jewish children go to public school.

Anonymous said...

A few years ago, the schools in the Five Towns changed from having vacations at the same time to avoid boys and girls hanging out in florida. This has caused a fair amount of resentment among working famillies who wouldn't be going to Florida anyway and are allready using alot of vacation days for YOM Tov

profk_offsping said...

I never had any sort of Yeshiva break when I was in elementary school (and I attended three different yeshivot). And the only reason I had even a few days vacation in the winter at my Bais Yaakov-type high school was because we ran on two terms and got a few days after finals finished. And I was a high-schooler, so my parents didn't have take off from work to supervise. Most of us spent winter break sleeping after cramming for finals anyway.

Abbi said...

It cracks me up when frum Jews write Xmas. X is the Greek abbreviation of Christ!

Anonymous said...

Why is there a two week break for Succos? I definitely remember having school between Y"K and Succos and on Chol Hamoed. The schools dont need to have regular classes, but can have programming for the Yom Tov.
Regarding winter break, many of these kids are 6-10 years old. They need a break. They cant go 5 straight months. But it should be in January. The only reason vacations are in December is b/c of Christmas. Thats not our holiday. If you are going toleave yeshiva over this, you are not that committed to it.

Anonymous said...


It is beyond the scope of this blog to discuss the issues of Yeshivos closing on the last week of December. I am merely pointing out that there are Halachic concerns with doing so.And the readers of this blog are not learned enough to brush them away.If anyone doesn't respect potential halachic issues, please don't respond as I'm not talking to you.

LeahGG said...

Here's an idea - since yungermen are raising such higher quality children, they should run programs for the children of those unfortunates who have to work during January vacation. Then everyone can benefit from these higher quality individuals and since the balabatim are subsidizing the yungermen's children's tuition anyway, the yungermen should be happy to help.

Miami Al said...

Anon 7:27, perhaps you can enlighten us as to which holiday we have that falls out in the secular calendar at the end of January? Hey, this year you can claim Tu B'shevat, but that's absurd.

End of December, and in reality, ANY TIME in December, is the slow period for American business. Correct, the reason that Winter Break takes place when it does is Christmas and New Years, which most American Jews (non-health care workers) are off for anyway.

So do the break over Chanukah, and start the school year a bit earlier... or is Labor Day another one of those sancrosact holidays that is critical to the American Jewish experience.

Start school on/around the 1st of Elul, RH/YK, do NOT close for Chol Hamoed... if need be, shut down secular education and run a religious less plan AROUND the holiday, make it optional and let people working use it as supervision for children so they can work. Run through Chanukah (based upon the need to break the calendar up, you can shift your starting date + days off for Sukkot around to have the 2nd Quarter / 1st Semester end in the first half. The second Semester could then get a Purim break (4-5 day weekend, not a whole week and a Pesach break, and still finish up by the beginning of summer.

Sorry, wanting to actually have my kids around when I'm not working is clearly foreign to some people, but I like my children and would like to spend time with them. The last week in January is INSANE for anyone that actually works for a living ANYWHERE by the professional Jewish world or health care.

jbaltz said...


In re: the anonymous poster who claims that it's "beyond the scope of this blog to discuss the issues of Yeshivos closing on the last week of December", you could certainly point us to references that we could all pick up and read: Igros Moshe to start. I've not asked you to engage in a disputation, but to simply provide the sources. At least that way we great unwashed masses could better understand. Otherwise it just looks like another newfound chumrah.

And likewise, there are prominent yeshivot who do give off time at the end of December. You don't have to be abiding by secular holidays to give off then; it could simply be more convenient for all involved.

In re: Anonymous who posted about "If you are going to leave Yeshiva because of this", well, if you're going to leave yeshivah you're obviously not committed to it. But there's nothing wrong with complaining and working towards fixing (perceived) problems with the way the yeshivot do things. These are institutions, and are by no means are they, or their administrators, infallible. But "it should be in January" -- why? Why not have off when other schools (like, for example, universities) are off as well, so that families could have extended time together? Or so that the yeshivot could let their non-Jewish staff and/or faculty have off for THEIR holidays? Or so that the parents who might actually hold jobs that are off during that week (or who have time available to them) don't have to scramble to find child care during mid-January (when they might not have available vacation)?

There are so many available reasons to give off at that time that do NOT involve celebrating non-Jewish holidays that to insist on having school open during that period is just doing it "davka".

(I say this having had to deal with this first hand this year, my oldest goes to Ramaz who had off at the end of December, and my next two attend a yeshivah with a mid-January break. We got no time together as a family.)

For that matter, why do many schools wait until Labor Day to start back up? Why do some of these same Yeshivot who insist on being open in late December close for Memorial Day? Why not have classes on Thanksgiving day? (Yes, I know, some of the further-to-the-right yeshivot already do this, but Brooklyn is not the whole world.)