Got Orthonomics in your Email Box?

Sunday, May 02, 2010

So What Can We Expect?

I probably should not have started my previous post with my commentary on the very wishful thinking that mass kollel could be preserved if everyone just started driving older cars, living in smaller digs, and cutting back on conspicuous consumption (read: weddings), because my musings really had less to do with kollel and more to do with lowered expectations and how lowered expectations impact character and community. Let's not fool ourselves into thinking that the root issues addressed re: supporting young kollel couples are not issues in the modern Orthodox community as well as American society at large! Lowered expectations indicate a loss of character which is certainly not a promising sign as we face the unknown in terms of the economy, national security, and more.

What I really thought to be the crux of the post was this quote (emphasis mine): "In this day and age, it is unrealistic to expect young couples to abstain from eating fleishigs throughout the week and to subsist on a can of sardines or a small piece of chicken on Shabbos. Nor can we expect very large families to be crammed into one-room hovels without heat, like many who learned Torah mitoch hadechak in previous generations (even here in America)."

I've heard enough about what we can't expect and I'd like to start hearing more about what we can expect.


Margaret said...

I think that , with serious frugality, you could probably get a lot closer to universal SAHMhood in those communities. But, given the high rate of childbearing among RW Orthodox women, having them be the family breadwinners is a particularly bad idea; their earning power is already severely curtailed because of the need for many maternity leaves. If you are going to have one partner not bringing in any income, it makes much more sense to have that be the woman.

Miami Al said...

I think it is unnatural to worry about the "expectations of young couples." If you are old enough to marry, you are old enough to start a household and take responsibility. If you can afford meat 7 days/week, go nuts, if you can only afford meat on Shabbat, that's what you get, if you can't afford any meat, you go to your parents for Shabbat or make do.

The first year of our marriage we were so poor (I had a business disaster right before the wedding), that our core diet consisted of a meal my wife called "tuna slop." One time, thinking it would trigger nostalgia, she made that for dinner a few months back, and it was so gross it went right in the trash, we couldn't smell it, let alone eat it.

Drop the entitlement, stop subsidizing those that can't afford their lives, and things will work themselves out just fine, AND FAST.

I grew up with FAR more luxury than all but the richest of the RW crowd, and I ate a meal called "tuna slop" 6 nights a week, because that's what I could afford. So worrying about these adults and their expectation... somewhere is the world's smallest violin.

Anonymous said...

Margaret: Earning power is also impacted if you don't get a degree or vocational training before you start taking leaves and/or go part-time. Even with very frugal living, unless you are going to mooch off of government benefits, then to have a large family you need one very good earner or 1.5 -two average earners. Having a SAHM where mom doesn't work at least part-time or from home is becoming a luxury for most Americans. Why should OJ's be any different, particularly where families need a lot more money to cover private school.

ProfK said...

There have been many societal changes across the centuries. The survival of many groups during these times of change was dependent on their ability to adapt to the new order.

The way I see it, the problems in some segments of the groups more to the right is that they are refusing to adapt to the necessities engendered by society today, or at least to some of those necessities. You cannot pick and choose which modern inventions/practices you are going to observe in a helter skelter way. None of the members of these groups would be willing to forego electricity, homes that are heated or cooled as necessary or being able to use a telephone. They expect they will get modern health care. They expect they will get to choose foods from the wide variety available at will today. They expect they will have access to all kinds of transportation options. They don't expect to sleep on the floor under straw-filled sacks.

Fine, but if you want all those things you also have to understand that there are other things that must come along with them, including training/schooling so as to be able to produce an adequate parnosah to provide them. You can't have things both ways--living as if there have been no changes and expecting to have the benefits of those changes.

Anonymous said...

Well said ProfK. I would also mention modern medicine and -- as someone in the Boston area where everyone has to boil their water until further notice due to a break in the primary water main for the system -- clean, readily available drinking water. I now will grumble a lot less when I pay my water and sewer bill. You can't have the benefits of the modern world without bearing some of the burdens. That said, unless you are going to start self-sufficieint farming communities somewhat like the Amish, I don't have much choice other than to take advantage of many of the benefits of modern life. I can't go into the woods and chop trees to heat my home (it's not allowed and I can't keep a horse to cart the logs in municipal limits), I can't legally just dig a well or fish wherever I want, etc. so I guess I have to be part of the modern world, somewhat.

Dave said...

I'll predict two things will happen over the next ten years.

One, income tax rates will rise (probably about 5% per tax bracket). There isn't another option, barring a few years under Clinton in the 90s, we've been living well beyond our means for 30 years. It's only a matter of when (or more frighteningly, if) the political will arrives.

Two, there will be more lifetime limits and enforcement on entitlement programs (again, as we saw start to happen in the 1990s), because while the American people will support a safety net to a greater or lesser degree, few support a safety hammock.

Ahavah Gayle said...

Anon 10:26

Whether or not being a SAHM is a "luxury" depends on your priorities, not your income. The median US income is $55000 and millions of religious women of all sects are SAHMs on this income - but you're not going to be living an upper middle class lifestyle. Having two working parents puts your family in a higher tax bracket and causes a great many collateral expenses for transportation, business wardrobe, takeout, childcare, etc. that disappear for SAHMs. Most people think they "have" to have the wife work because they buy far too expensive of a home and can't figure out how to get out of it. If they had just bought frugally to begin with, that would not be an issue.

As for what will happen in the future, demographers are predicting multi-generational households are going to make a big comeback. Falling median wages mean even college-grad young couples won't make enough to afford a mortgage and the US doesn't have anything like the number of 3 or 4 bedroom flats with w/d, etc., like Europe and Asia have for families. So young couples will have little choice but to live with and help support their elderly parents. For RW families, though, there will be far too many kids to pull this off, meaning most will be stuck being renters with inadequate facilities the rest of their lives.

Someone mentioned peak oil on the previous post - and it hasn't gone away, either. Even the US military is now admitting there will be US shortages by 2015 and probably permanent rationing by 2020. So the idea of living out in the burbs with two cars for hauling kids to school and two careers is going to die, anyway. What will emerge in its place is a more old-fashioned economy where the homemakers band together to provide childcare and eldercare and community services just as it was in heyday of Jewish Federations - volunteer civic groups providing most of the services we now think are/should be part of the paid economy that used to be part of the unpaid household economy. And this requires families to live close together, if not actually together.

Anonymous said...

Ahavah: Would you at least admit that a SAHM AND private school tuition is a luxury? Also, it depends how you define "luxury"? Finally, while the costs of having Mom work outside the home may be a substantial part of her take home income in the early years, it should be a decreasing percentage in later years. You also ignore the great risks to the family if only one parent -- the father -- is capable of earning a living. What happens when Dad gets disabled or laid off and Mom hasn't gotten the training and education and years of experience to enter the workforce at other than minimum wage if she can get a job at all in difficult times? Remember than many more men than women percentage wise have lost jobs the past two years.

Anonymous said...

"Whether or not being a SAHM is a "luxury" depends on your priorities, not your income."

As long as you are not getting government benefits or scholarships, that's fine. The problem is people exercising their priorities on someone else's back.

Anonymous said...

Please don't get me started on the "peak oil" issue. The right has refused to do anything serious about conservation and alternative energy for decades. Then, when rationing starts and the economy tanks again due to the cost of oil, they will blame environmentalists for not drilling anywhere and everywhere.

Anonymous said...

"The median US income is $55000 and millions of religious women of all sects are SAHMs on this income - but you're not going to be living an upper middle class lifestyle."

No, you aren't going to be living an upper middle class lifestyle. It also means no private school and summer camp unless you chose to take charity, no trips to Israel, no year after highschool in Israel, not being able to help support chldren while they are in college or Kollel, paying for your children's weddings, etc.

Anonymous said...

If you have a family with one earner making $55K and three kids, you are on scholarship - even at a reasonably priced school. After taxes and rent of let's say $1000 per month, I don't see how you can afford even $20K for tuition. So you are on scholarship.

Anonymous said...


You can expect the average kollel man to have a remarkable diligence and strength in concentration, after spending years of intense-multi-hour study-sessions. (how many of your professional colleagues can do that?)

as a proof, those who go on to law school often outperform the overwhelming majority of their class despite the handicap of a weak high school education and no post high school secular education.

Those who go for a professional business degrees enter respectable MBA programs by demonstrating thier analytical strengths in outstanding GMAT scores. They succesfully hold their own in their Masters-level studies.

The ones that don't pursue a 'profession' use their intellegence and persistance (far greater than most americans . . and dare I say non-yeshiva students) to accelerate the learning curve in their field of choice (be it building supplies, ebay sales, nursing homes, mold removal, landscaping, residential moving, importing etc. . )

The network developed in kollel and the commitment among frum jews (MO too I hope) provides them access to opportunities that would put most college career centers to shame!

No they may not make it to the executive office of fortune 500 companies having missed out the opportunity to attend Harvard. They may not become doctors but that doesn't bother them because that is not their goal!

They may be weak in certain areas but they still have a decent shot at making a decent living (60K-90K) that is adequate in the communities they reside in. (We might be tempted to be jealous of the $5K tuition).

And finally, while you may think Hashem doesn't demand or expect one to go so far out on a limb (and you are probably largely correct) I hope you don't view it as unthinable that Hashem might sprinkle a little extra measure of good fortune anbd success on those who demonstrate such extraordinary commitment. (yes the majority of kollel men and their remarkable spouses do sacrifice material pleasures to varying degrees for the sake of the cause of learning Torah).

Please if you want to complain, complain about your own subculture (MO) within orthodox Judiasm not the 'other ones' that just smells like sinas chinam.

DAG said...

Anon 9:24, do you have a source for any of these assertions (Yeshiva students in law school, etc)?

Do you really think Yeshiva students are that much smarter than the e average professionals in America? Do you think they are better than MO high school graduates?

As a person who was both in the highest level Bais Medrash shiur in Yeshiva and a top Phd program I am afraid to say the level in the Yeshiva was far below the PhD level work.

I have also had long conversations with profs from the Jeli program in Chicago in which it was quite clear that the Yeshiva boys do NOT stack up to normal Grad students at Loyola.

Lincoln said...

I am married to one of those kollel guys who go to law school. He did well on the LSAT, and got in to a good school. All confident, he swaggered off to his first classes and was shocked, shocked to be outperformed, outclassed, outwritten, and outgraded by any and every other member of the various ethnic minorities that make up NYC. Yes, he did succeed. But it took a great deal of catch-up and a lot of help from me (an ivy leaguer) to get there. Yes, kollel guys have "hasmoda." What they don't have is the skills you need to get through school.

rosie said...

I was born at the end of the baby boom and my father bought a starter house with his GI loan. It was $13,000. He thought he would keep it for 5 years and sell it when the family outgrew it but we were still living in it when I got married. It was not until my grandmother moved in that they bought a bigger house. Big houses in the suburb had become a status symbol and he couldn't keep up with the Joneses.
My prediction is that smaller homes will be back in vogue in America, regardless of family size or religion. Being over-mortgaged will be out-dated. Buying used goods will be more in vogue due to so many online venues such as ebay and craigslist. People will take a greater interest in cooking than in eating out. Cities like Detroit will bring back the street car and mass transit will take the place of owning multiple cars per family. It will be more common to receive routine health care in pharmacies from nurses at a cheaper cost. Probably online courses will continue to replace classroom courses and possibly learning by remote will be a way to cut the costs of education.
Americans have been living an inflated standard of living for decades and it will probably have to be deflated for most people.

mlevin said...

Rosie - I know who is taking all online courses and it is not cheaper than going to class, she just has other responsibilities and is unable to have a rigid schedule demanded by regular classes.

Anonymous 9:24 - Not sure which universe you just came down from, but in this universe $60-$90K is not big money, especially for a lawyer or business school grad who outperformed everyone in his class. What you described is a bunch of bologna and I don't thing anyone here is buying it.

Miami Al said...

Some of that is selection bias. It is MUCH harder to get into a professional program from Yeshiva than from college. Therefore, those going that route are the top in their class. Assuming they are going to mid-tier NYC area schools (i.e., not Columbia), then you are comparing the top 5% of the Yeshiva system with the 2nd Quintile of moderate schools (21%-40%), and the mid-lower range of top schools.

So do I believe that the top 5% of the Yeshiva world can out compete the second quintile of midrange schools or the 3rd or 4th Quintile from Columbia? Absolutely.

However, do I believe that the top 5% of the Yeshiva world are outcompeting comparable students from other schools, not without evidence.

A properly trained Talmudist SHOULD be able to excel, however, from what I have seen of the "graduates" of this path, they simply do NOT have the rigor that they should.

Any solid education should sharpen the mind and train one for what can be done at law or B-school. The graduates of the Yeshiva system that I have encountered simply haven't shown that they have engaged in the rigorous study that one would expect, since the Yeshiva system seems to be very dependent on rote memorization instead of deeper analytical thought.

I have no doubt that the best of the best have that deep analytical study, just as a deeply trained student of philosophy or mathematics have done so. However, from what I have observed, most of the programs simply don't have that level of rigor, which is a problem with the system, not the people within it.

rosie said...

Online classes might cost the same as brick and mortar class but there is no dorm fee and it costs nothing to get there in terms of transportation and clothing to fit in on campus is not an issue either. For the average American trying to send kids off to college in the fall, staying home and learning online would cost them less.

DAG said...


I think part of the problem is attitude. I have observed too many Yeshiva boys who THINK they are a LOT better than they are 9see Lincoln’s post) Try that in Grad school, and you won't last long, esp if you are in a good program with top students.

I also like to say that if we compare Yeshiva students to College students who paid a similar tuition rate K-12, OR are receiving paid Fellowships for Graduate level work, we would find that the Yeshiva students are far behind.

As to your post, are you sure that it is the top level yeshiva students that are going on to law school, etc? I really do not know what dynamic is in play in the decision of some Yeshiva students to enter the professional world via Graduate education vs. those who decide to stay in Chinuch (or look for jobs that do not require Graduate education).

Anonymous said...

How do people get into graduate or professional school without a four-year college degree? Are there a few law schools or B schools in NY that do not require a real B.A. or B.S. first?

More to the point -- how does this discussion about whether or not kollel guys can do well in law school have anything to do with SL's post?

tesyaa said...

rosie - would you be in favor of online education instead of boys' mesivta high schools? After all, there is a cost to dorming that wouldn't be incurred if these young boys stayed at home. And if an online curriculum were developed, the boys could learn without a rebbe. Are you in favor of that as a way to cut costs?

rosie said...

Tesyaa, my grandchildren may not have a choice about where and how to learn. Their parents were yeshiva educated themselves and some are struggling financially. Online education may be the wave of the future. I would personally favor that over putting parents through the financial stress of doing the impossible.

DAG said...

Anon 9:01, most of those Yeshiva boys have BTL's from their Yeshivas which are accredited by AARTS

Anonymous said...

The Frum community needs to expect a lower material comfort level going foward (unless they decide to pursue much more higher education). The money is drying up and our community is becoming poorer (on per capita basis).

rosie said...

The frum community may not be alone in cutting back on material comforts. I recently read that somewhere in the neighborhood of 300,000 teaching jobs nationwide are being cut. Many companies are laying off, cutting back on hiring, cutting pay outsourcing, or closing. Will health care reform cause cutbacks in medical staff hiring? Anyone know or can anyone guess? The average credit card debt is about $8000 (or at least it was) and debt is a big issue for all Americans who have access to easy credit. We live in a debt riddled society that can't figure out how to live on less and frum people are just as plagued with it if not more so.

Anonymous said...

Rosie: I don't see a cut-back for jobs in the health care area. However, the types of jobs and pay might change. I see huge potential and growth for certified nurse practitioners and physician assistants and other types of nurses. Geriatrics is also a growth area. Why do so many frum girls go into speech or occupational therapy, but not many (that I hear about) into nursing. Both frum men and woman should be getting r.n.'s and then moving on to certified np (for those who don't want to go to med school that is.) Its a big wave of the future with good pay and benefits and the ability often to work off hours so one parent can be home after school, etc.

mlevin said...

Rosie - there is cutting back in medical community too. I know nurses who are unemployed or are in fear of losing jobs, doctors complaining of low pay and etc. But that has nothing to do with debt. Our government has declared a war on profit. They think it is wrong for drug companies to make a profit and they think that doctors charge too much.

At the same time I do not like your pessimistic outlook. Yes, may be there are people who are debt, but it's not a credit card's fault. It's people fault. I love CC and never been in debt with them.

Housing cannot possibly be coming down as long as people are moving into this country. Yes, there will always be Detroit, but overall, real estate will be great because people want to achieve the American Life.

The other thing you are talking about is lack of money, but you are forgetting that money doesn't disappear, it just shifts from one owner to another. Yes, many people lost theirs, but others found money and suddenly became rich and want to build those houses and drive big cars and fly their own planes.

rosie said...

I know 2 frum men in nursing school and several frum female nurses. It is truly the profession of the future and except for kohanim, it is a worthy profession for frum men. Schedules can be arranged around Shabbos and there is much versatility in the profession. There are scholarships available and after pre-reques and 2 years training, a person can take state board exams and then work while getting a BSN. The pay grows with training and experience. The male nurses in training that I know are chassidishe. One wears a shtriemel and the other is a Chabadnik.

mlevin said...

Anonymous 10:34 - frummies don't go into Nursing because it is not tznious. Nurses have to touch people of opposite sex and they have to see, touch and study the reproductive parts. Very few frummies, who were raised from birth to think that these things are Asur, are willing to go and learn them anyway.

Anonymous said...

mlevin: Money did "disappear." The lost values in real estate and stocks and bonds did disappear, the lost wealth was not just transferred somewhere else. Thos high values were a product of perceptions, supply and demand and expectations about where prices would move in the future -- once those perceptions and expectations go down, the wealth disappears. Yes, a few people made a killing by jumping back into the market when it was at the bottom (after getting out near the top), and some people who are now buying depressed real estate will make some money off it in the future, and the architechts of the bubble and those at the very top dealing in creating CDOs and credit default swaps are still making money (now they are betting against Greece), but that does not mean that a lot of wealth has not disappeared.

rosie said...

Anon, you saved me the trouble of answering mlevin, but I'll do it anyway. The wealth may now be elsewhere; not in America. Yes there are the newly wealthy who build homes with 800 square foot closets but they are probably greatly outnumbered by the newly poor. While credit card debt does not plague everybody, like excess body weight, it does plague the majority.

mlevin said...

Anonymous/Rosie - haven't you ever hear about selling short. Many people predicting the collapse, sold short and made a killing watching the stock market plunge. Those people right now are staying low, because our government declared a war on wealth, or they moved out of the country, but the money is still there.

Another point if America was really poor, than we wouldn't have a problem of so many illegals trying to get into this country.

Yes, there are people who lost their wealth, but it doesn't mean that the future of America is full of gloom and doom and we should get ready to subsist on sardines (unless they come from the gulf of mexico)

Anonymous said...

Re: mlevin -- that's why it's called a bubble - when it pops there is nothing there.

As for more people moving to the u.s., have you not noticed a massive anti-immigrant sentiment underway. It will discourage not just undocumented workers, but documented workers as well. The u.s. is becoming somewhat less attractive to well-educated immigrants. While that may not be true for jewish immigrants (think immigrants from Russia and Israel) I'm not sure we are going to continue to attract the best and brightest from other countries with our growing xenophobia.

Anonymous said...

mlevin: I suspect you may be a bit out of touch with the common joe. Most people were not selling short. How many people were selling short with the funds in their 401(k)'s and IRA's? -- my guess is less than 1%. No one is saying there still isn't a ton of wealth at the very top or that the u.s. is on the brink of collapse, but there is a large loss of wealth and confidence. Many jobs simply are not coming back. More training and education, as well as modified lifestyles and consumption is key for most people.

Orthonomics said...

I'm really not all that interested in whether or not Yeshiva bochurim can succeed in law school: some can and do.

What I'm interested in is the lowering of expectation in American society in general and our society in particular and what that is doing to our culture, character, economy, and national security.

When I hear from educators that we can't expect a certain level of behavior or performance, I wonder if we are shooting ourselves in the feet. I don't care that my children may never me x, y, or z. If the school is bothering with a subject or extracurricular, I believe that the subject matter and discipline should be taken seriously. When I hear from kollel advocates that we can't expect young couples to live modestly (a lot of us are living on the slim to pay tuition), I wonder what kind of character and strenth, or lack thereof, we are inculcating. Worthwhile things are worth sacrificing for.

mlevin said...

First - the massive anti-illegals sentiment is not new. It's just that there is more crime lately associated with them in those border states and they decided to take a matter into their own hands.

The well educated immigrants come to this country all the time. Just look at our university or hospitals. It is more and more dominated by Chinese immigrants and Indian immigrants.

This is still a country with the best research facilities. Yes, the uneducaed poor will be most affected, but who cares. They decided to raise their children without education, well, they should reap whatever they sowed - seeing their descendants living in poverty be it frummies, evangelicals, blacks, hispanics or bold-headed bigots.

gavra@work said...

Rosie: and the current graduating class of Beth Israel Nursing school has TWO graduates with jobs lined up.

If you're not willing to move out of NYC, hospitals are not hiring (they are firing!), and anyone who was at St. Vincents would be more qualified.

(to the point) Yeshiva boys will be able to demand a subsidy from their in-laws as long as the girls are desperate. UO teaches them to be desperate, and if you're not married by 21, there is something wrong with you. Why should the boys stop getting what they can out of the situation created?

mlevin said...

Anonymous - it doesn't matter how many people were selling short, the point is that they made a bundle in the process and are left with lots of money. That means that money did not disappear, it just shifted owners.

You want some of that money, do some research, see which areas of our industry have the most potential and learn how to get into it. That is how you insure your survival not by promoting doom and gloom or saying if we just save a bit more. Go to where the money is and make some.

rosie said...

Gavra, the nursing students that I know are in the midwest. Jews might have to leave NY. The rent is so ridiculous in NY that to plan to raise a family there is absurd. Few people can afford to own homes there. It comes back to the fact that the future of the frum community is to spread out and form new communities and not to ghettoize.

Anonymous said...

What's SAHM?

tesyaa said...

Anon - acronym for Stay At Home Mother.

Re law school - I think it is significant that kollel men have an expectation that they can succeed in any field, such as law, as soon as they decide to quit kollel. Unrealistic expectations feed current and future behavior.

Anonymous said...

Ortho: I agree with most of what you have said about expectations, but I don't think its that bad. I went to public school a zillion years ago and have several relatives who work in public schools and friends with children in public schools. What is being taught and tested in public schools is light years beyond what it was when I was there. What school children and high schoolers are expected to master keeps improving. Yes, kids of every stripe seem far more spoiled than when I was young, but doesn't every generation complain that the next generation is spoiled and indulged? If high schoolers aren't working as many part time jobs as they used to, its in part because they now have 3 or 4 hours of homework a night and adults are fighting for the part-time minimum wage jobs that teens used to take. I also see a lot of encouraging things -- Work colleagues who give up some of their very limited and valuable vacation time to work in a soup kitchen for a week, repair leaky roofs for the elderly poor, or building a habitat for humanity house -- and their teenage kids doing that work with them. I see people at work giving up their lunch hours to tutor at a local school and I see kids organizing fundraisers for Haiti. Yes, this may only be a small group and there are plenty of spoiled youths and adults, but its not all bad.

gavra@work said...


That is also part of the "expectation", to be able to live in Lakewood or NYC. Many girls at that point (of graduating) if they are lucky are married, and if not are looking to get married, but either way will not move out of the area.

The expectation to live in NYC or lakewood may be an even bigger issue (and can solve many of the problems) of living within your means.

rosie said...

Gavra, did I understand you correctly? Did you say that living in NY or NJ can help Jews to live within their means? How is that possible? Everything, or nearly everything is higher priced there. How many NYers grow their own vegetables in the summer?

Miami Al said...

Just cut the subsidies, let the chips fall where they may. Communities should employ Torah scholars that they need and can fund, not create make-shift work.

The economy is going through a realignment, and those are never pretty. The modern stress is that realignments that used to happen every 50 years started happening every 20 years and now every 10.

Plenty of people made unheard of money in the dot-com era. Plenty of people made unheard of money in the real estate bubble (18 year olds hustling and making $250k/year). There is ALWAYS opportunity.

Those that graduate in a recession have 10 years of their careers stalled out, bad timing sucks, but it can be worked around. The trick is being ready to take advantage of the next movement.

And the fast money is made FAST, in a few years of moving fast. If you wait for the Gedolim to tell you what career to pursue, the opportunity will be gone by the time you are ready to take it.

The private school for all and we exempt housings/leases is a problem, because young families are over-leveraging into biggers houses/cars (the tax code also encourages this), which limits flexibility.

The lower your fixed costs, the easier a time you have making changes to take advantage of things.

When I was 21 and starting out, I could go 6 months with no income to start a business (I was still in school so my housing was covered), in my 30s, because my fixed costs are so high, I can't do that.

We're fighting tooth and nail to lower fixed costs (settling debts up as fast as humanly possible), because the lower the fixed costs, the more flexibility you have.

Children are always expensive, but requiring private school that saps EVERY "disposable" dollar from the family REALLY limits you. The emphasis on super early marriage/kids also limits your flexibility but doesn't limit it. One of the most successful guys in my B-school class had his first child at 17, he went to school while working to support his son and instead of spending college screwing around, he was super responsible.

You can adapt to ANY situation, but you need flexibility. The more rigid our community, the less flexibility, and the less adaptable we are.

Communities, like biological organism, depend on adaptation. We are happy to list the societies that persecuted us and are gone, while we're around, but we have to remember why we succeeded and they didn't, adaptation.

Lose the temple, create a community in exile. Lose the second temple, create a post temple religion. Get thrown out of Spain, become merchants trading between Europe and Africa. Thrown out of Western Europe, create a society in Eastern Europe. Nearly annihilated in Eastern Europe, create new societies in America and Israel.

Every time we lost a major war, and I consider the Shoah the Jewish people losing a war, no less than Belgium lost to the the Nazi advance, we found a way to adapt and move on. We were demolished by the Nazi Germans, so were the Poles. They spent 50 years under Soviet Oppression, we spent 50 years building a culture in America and Israel. Our survival is not just divine blessing, it's an adaptable people that created a new society where ever we could, instead of being stuck in one place and getting occupied.

Staying in NYC may be just as economically suicidal as refusing to leave Eastern Europe before the German tanks arrived was physically suicidal.

But the Jews that thrive in the new economy will create a new Jewish culture, and we'll talk about live in the "old city" of Brooklyn with nostalgia... certainly that's what happens in Miami, despite the people nostalgic for NYC live in bigger houses with nicer cars and better lives than they ever did in NYC, that's why they left.

gavra@work said...

No, exactly the opposite, living "in town" is harder. But girls have no choice whan their husbands expect to live in Lakewood, or if they hope to get married to someone who will learn there.

Lowering expectations has to apply to whom you will marry as well, and there is no rabbanis or seminary that is willing to tell that to a girl.

Anonymous said...

Miami Al: I'm please that Miami works for you and I agree that clinging to NY and a few areas around the NY metropolitan area is bad. However, the end of your post seems to suggest that having bigger houses and nicer cars is the goal. Until we get away from those items as goals, there will be fundamental problems. I would love to see as goals being satisfied with modest homes and cars and posessions (with modest defined as no more than the american median family); having satisfying careers that leave time for family and community and volunteer work; and supporting yourself and your family while saving for a reasonable retirement and the rest going to charity.

Anonymous said...

Had Shabbos lunch with a frum kollel couple with 3 children, ages 4 and under. They served vegetarian chulent, and very small slices of deli wrap. No chicken. Almost a meatless Shabbos lunch. Their few pieces of furniture were bought second hand. The mother is wiped out from working nights full time while the father learns. He's looking for a chinuch job but there are no openings, not in their city nor even in California or Texas or wherever. The image of kollel couples with high expectations of entitlement that many of you write about does not fit the kollel couples I visit. This particular couple is in a bind - not on programs, no family money, self supporting, with only one income and that tenuous and dependent on an overstretched mother. The children are bouncing off the walls. The couple is young and self reliant and sensible. I hope the father will realize the need to get serious vocational training very soon.

tesyaa said...

The image of kollel couples with high expectations of entitlement that many of you write about does not fit the kollel couples I visit.

It's an "in-town" thing. I think what you described might be typical for an out-of-town kollel couple.

Anonymous said...

It's a sad situation here. Even with the most modest of lifestyles, the children are being deprived of a mother and the father is under or unemployed. His career goals are focused on a saturated field, open only to sons-in-law of day school principals at this point. I hope these young men are able to reassess their career goals in the light of a different reality. Adaptability is essential for survival. I hope the young mother is given some meaningful assistance from the father of these children.

In Lakewood, the situation is quite different; the goals of young families are focused not on jobs for the men even after years of kollel - their goal is getting on Section 8. A young Lakewood wife told me that the only trouble is how long it takes on the waiting list for the housing program. They spend years living in illegal basement rentals waiting for Section 8 to come through. One father said to me, "The Lakewood kollel couldn't survive without Section 8."

Ahavah Gayle said...

Anonymous May 2, 4:22:

And? What's your point? None of those things are necessities of life, they are ALL luxuries. And thinking they're not is what has ruined RW communities and bankrupted everyone. Living within your means - without charity - should be the norm, not the exception. And with the vast majority of industrial jobs moving offshore, there will simply NOT BE jobs for every adult American. The level of jobs available is likely to return to that of the 40s and 50s - half (mostly male) adult employment. That's a statistical fact. There's a chart on my blog if you'd like to see it. So the question is what are families with working women going to do when THEY can't work, not what single earner families will do, because single earner families will be the vast majority of families within a decade or less.

Ahavah Gayle said...

No, we're not on scholarship, we homeschool - another thing millions of religious women of average income do all over the country. We have not only never accepted charity or scholarship, we raised 4 natural born children and one foster son on less then $60,000 annually.

BubbyT said...

gavra@work said...
" But girls have no choice whan their husbands expect to live in Lakewood, or if they hope to get married to someone who will learn there."

We live in a wonderful "out of town" city, which is not Lakewood, which has a reputable Yeshiva Gedola. Girls leave teaching jobs in midyear because "their husbands expect to live in Lakewood". What about responsibility? What about finishing out the school year? Can't a boy learn in a Yeshiva which is not Lakewood for a few months?
Another thing I heard in this town is that girls are afraid to start going to school after sem for degrees like OT, speech etc, which they cannot transfer to NJ to be more eligible on the shidduch scene because some young men won't even consider girls who are in the middle of schooling because they won't consider learning elsewhere (besides Lakewood) for her to finish.