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Sunday, February 07, 2010

Refreshing

Excuse me for beating this subject to death, but I just received my tuition schedule for next year. . .

"Always raise tuition. Parents must know what to expect in the future. They will always find a way to pay."

Honestly Frum has posted a sicha on the parsha from Rav Ozer Glickman, YU Rosh Yeshiva, which is quite refreshing, not particularly because there are tangible solutions we can implement tomorrow offered, but because he has acknowledged certain realities that I haven't seen acknowledged elsewhere.

One acknowledgement he made is that "[t]here cannot be money for everything." While such a statement should be self-evident, our communities as a whole have been operating with an assumption that there is always more money out there available for the taking and it is just a matter of cornering that money. I can't think of a community/metro area I have either lived in, or spent considerable time in, that has not grown its infrastructure in recent years. Perhaps it is a new school. Perhaps it is new programming or staffed positions within existing schools. Perhaps it is a new shul or a newly renovated shul. Perhaps it is a new mikvah. Perhaps it is a new kollel or kiruv staff. When I look around I see a growing infrastructure and a shrinking base of available funds. Furthermore, the Rabbi states re: scholarships, "And if every Jewish family deserving of help asked for tuition relief, the yeshivot would not have the resources to respond."

Another acknowledgement he made is something I have not heard stated too loudly: "[There are voices in the Orthodox community that eloquently and intelligently raise these issues. Some appeal to the rabbis to fix this problem]. Rabbis sadly usually don't know much about finance and economics." This statement should give parents who are waiting for someone else to do something some pause.

I found it very comforting that Rav Glickman, while addressing the need for Rabbonim to stress tzniut in regards to displays of wealth, did not come down hard on parents as a whole. He states, "The answer is not belt-tightening in the Jewish home. Many families have already cut way back, eliminating any luxury whatsoever. One just has to sit down with young families with elementary school commitments and listen." Granted, there is plenty of belt-tightening left in many a household, but as a frugal, coupon cutting, home cooking, thrift store shopping, thermostat adjusting mom who has only spent $5 for a single manicure in her lifetime, I can appreciate this.

When it comes to solutions, the Rav acknowledges that there may be some areas for belt-tightening. He does make mention of small class size. His bigger recommendation is that shuls constrain their budgets. My readers are welcome to comment on this idea further. I don't think spending on shul programming where I am is beyond the pale, nor do I believe that lessening the spending by a large chunk would make much of a difference vis a vis tuition. Perhaps some different decisions could have been made in the past, but a more expensive mortgage than perhaps minimally necessary isn't what is driving up school tuitions into the stratosphere.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't expect more Rabbis like him to pile on.
How many R.Y.s used to be high level bankers?

tesyaa said...

Although it's true many families have tightened their belts, you would never know from what you see in popular frum stores these days as people buy supplies for mishloach manos. All that spending just for fancy packaging! Which leads me to believe that the pain is not widespread enough yet...

megapixel said...

tesyaa, why cant we go back to the day where you plop a hamentash and an orange on a paper plate, put it in a plastic bag and tie it with a twistie?

Bklynmom said...

Just like we (and I totally agree with you, Tesyaa) think they pain is not widespread yet, the powers that be at the schools don't believe it either. Frum stores are expensive, bursting with items that are by no means necessary for frum families to survive, and filled with customers.
When a neighbor who is very open about receiving large amounts of aid from her son's yeshiva offers my kids a snack of $4.99/box cereal imported from Israel, I just can't help wondering. Yes, $5 is a drop in the bucket, but somehow I don't think it's her only extravagant purchase. For every dollar spent, one has to make a choice--is this item needed or wanted? Would this money be bettter spent on my child's education?
The community, too has to make a choice. Schools or other causes? What does the community truly need? What does it want?
On a different note, on the front page of this week's Jewish week is an article about the plan to open as many as 20 Hebrew charter schools by 2015. The plan is spearheaded by the foundation that started the Hebrew Language Academy in Brooklyn. Maybe, just maybe, there will be some options down the road. Maybe my children will be able to afford to remain modern orthodox. Maybe they will even be able to splurge on some treats while educating their children...

Anonymous said...

RYNJ just mailed out requests for $950 application fee and will not tell us what tuition will be until the spring. they state that it is common courtesy for parents to send in the application fee on time apparently they do not think it is common courtesy for the yeshiva to tell parents what the tuition will be before they commit to another year of tuition

Anonymous said...

If you want to know the source of the yeshiva tuition crisis and why bergen county is ground zero for it here is the money quote "I remember one of the outstanding leaders of a flagship yeshiva in Bergen County.., saying sincerely, "Always raise tuition. Parents must know what to expect in the future. They will always find a way to pay."

polina said...

TESYAA:

"Although it's true many families have tightened their belts, you would never know from . . ."

or from the long line of cars waiting to park at pomegranate thursday night for the honor of grossly overpaying for shabbat food.

Bklynmom said...

The Jewish community as a whole, at least in New York, spreads its money among many causes.
Is Hatzolah vital to the survival of the Jewish people? Why do we not trust the city paramedics or band with the many volunteer ambulance organizations already in existence? Because a non-Jew might touch us?
Is Oorah vital to the survival of the Jewish people? Kiruv is nice, and may result in a few kids growing up Jewish. But for every one of those, how many kids may have to leave yeshiva because their parents can't pay? And do you need their flashy, expensive kiruv? Our neighbors are Oorah "clients" and we frequently accept delivery on their packages and mail when they are away. A lulav/etrog set Fed-Exed, a Chanukah "party-in-a-box" Fed-Exed, huge, shiny, expensive invitations to events. Even if the stuff they send out is donated, Fed-Ex does not donate its services to Oorah, does it?
Now, I am not saying that those organizations are not important, but in times of extreme financial stress, what is important? Where do the community's priorities lie?
And what happens in the next generation? If those of us putting our children through the yeshiva system now manage to do it, how will our children manage with the increasing costs and us as a generation unable to help them because all of our money is going towards their education now?
Do you "save" one life (literally or figuratively) or thousands?

Avi said...

megapixel,

Actually, simple shalach manot are fairly common here - and I live in Teaneck. I'm not suggesting that everyone here is like SL and has never had a manicure in their lives. But there are plenty of people who live simply, don't buy Shabbos at Maadan, don't take vacations, don't eat out much/at all, don't have cleaning help, don't drive new cars, don't have expensive shaitels/wardrobes, don't own the latest gadgets, and don't make major repairs to their homes. They're forced to live this way because they "only" have family income between $100 - $200K, and to live in Teaneck they have to pay a high mortgage even for a small home, extremely high property taxes, high state taxes, high federal taxes given their income, shul dues, and private school tuitions.

observer said...

"Why do we not trust the city paramedics or band with the many volunteer ambulance organizations already in existence? Because a non-Jew might touch us?"
No. They have Hatzoloh because too many people DIED waiting for NYC's paramedics to show up. While it's a bit better than it was in some areas, it's nowhere near good enough. I'm not just talking about outrageous incidents like a couple of paramedics who refused to carry a patient to an ambulance, causing her to lose extra blood because she had to walk, or another pair who refused to help a woman who collapsed in front of them because they were on a coffee break. I'm talking about the fact that on a consistent basis Hatzolo shows up minutes before 911 gets anyone out (and generally does a better job) on calls where minutes matter.

observer said...

You are right that high mortgages are not the reason why tuition costs are high. But, high mortgages DO affect things, because they affect how much disposable income you have. If you are spending 1/2 your income, instead of the generally recommended 1/4 - 1/3, that is money you simply don't have available to spend elsewhere.

Bklynmom said...

Observer--
There is a limit to the amount of money available in the Jewish community to support all its causes. The community, as well as the individuals, have to decide what's most important now.

frumskeptic said...

bklynmom- Hatzolah I think is super important. I know teh few times when I was at shul and both hatzolah and 911 were called, hotzalah arrived *MUCH* faster then 911, and all those times were shabbos/yomtov when you'd think the Jews would be slower...

Oorah on the otherhand, I completely agree with you. MOst BT people I know (myself included) became frum without any interference of the "kiruv" system. People who will become frum, do so at their own accord, those who wont, are a waste of public funds, that should be going towards KEEPING people ALREADY in teh system FRUM.

frumskeptic said...

hatzalah wasnt called for ME, but I was there... just clarifying. But still, I was there to witness that hatzolah came MUCH faster.

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