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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Disconnect (Continued from last post)

A regular commentor felt that my last post was full of vitriol. If others detected that too, I apologize. I most certainly did not mean to convey such an emotion. I don't think that any feelings on the anger spectrum are particularly helpful in this debate. True, I have little sympathy for someone who places tuition in the same sentence as camp and making weddings. But that said, I absolutely recognize the strain of $20,000 a year of tuition in any middle income budget, especially in the budget of a family with six children to care for. (And, personally, I think it is important for us as a people and as a whole to "be fruitful and multiple.")

What I do think the letter underscores is that the way the scholarship system is designed leaves a lot to be desired. The letter writer is the receipient of a very large discount/scholarship. Yet he does seem not associate this discount/scholarship with receiving tzedakah, but rather goes on to demand that an elusive someone set up a tzedakah fund to help him.

I've never seen anyone complain that Bikur Cholim, which provides meals, support, and financial assistance, left them with some bills that they would need to meet independently. I've never seen anyone complain that Tomchei Shabbos allows families to be left without food during the week. I've never seen a family that received assistance in making a wedding complain that Hachnasat Kallah expected them to meet some percentage of the cost of the wedding.

Yet, somehow, tuition is different. Large a small donors give tzedakah throughout the year. Full tuition continues to rise making the cost of yeshiva even more prohibitive (and those who pay often scrap by without signing their child up for even a single extracurricular that would be in the interests of said child). And at the end of the day, there are people who receive substantial amounts of assistance screaming out that it is not enough.

But what I really suspect is that these families have tunnel vision. They see a massive $20,000 bill staring them in the face. That bill is so overwhelming to them, that they lack the ability to make a connection between their tuition that overwhelms them, the high tuition rates paid by other struggling families, the numerous fundraisers put on by the school, and the ongoing giving campaigns. There is a massive fee to be paid. That is what is first and foremost in the mind of the tuition payer (even the subsidized tuition payer), and it appears that there is limited understanding that such a massive bill is also being massively subsidized.

I do think that the system of scholarships/discounts needs to be overhauled. I think that the way things work today causes a great deal of consternation, anger, and even sinah that is completely counterproductive to actually tackling the issues on the table in the productive way.


tesyaa said...

This is what happens when people follow all the rules they've been taught since they were little.

Rule 1: good people send their kids to yeshiva; only goyim and people who nebech don't know better go to public school.

Rule 2: have a lot of kids, it's a mitzva.

Result: I was a good boy (or girl) and I followed the rules; why am I so broke?

(In other words: I did what the community expected; why isn't the community picking up the tab?)

Scholarships fuel resentment, but are only part of the picture. Scholarships will always exist, as long as the expectation is that 100% of children from frum families must attend yeshiva.

People will always game the scholarship system, however it's reconfigured, because in every society, in every day and age, there are people who freeload off of others.

True, the system could be improved a lot. But since educating a large family is very expensive, I don't think overhauling the scholarship system will solve the basic problem.

JS said...

Oy. First let me apologize. Vitriol was too strong a word. I meant to convey that you didn't have any sympathy for the letter writer and resented his attitude. Maybe it was just me, but I felt that you let other, similarly clueless letter writers off the hook in comparison to this poor guy. Regardless, my comment only stems from the fact that you always are very compassionate and thoughtful so the slightest deviation comes across as strong condemnation.

That said, I don't think there are many people in the yeshiva system who are truly happy. Those paying in full generally struggle as much as those on scholarship. Imagine two families with 4 kids where full tuition would be $60k. The first family makes $250k and the second family makes $100k. The first family receives no scholarship, the second receives $25k off the bill. I would posit that $60k for a $250k earner is just as difficult to pay for as $35k is for a $100k earner. In the end, everyone is just angry at each other. The full payer thinks he's pulling his weight why can't everyone else - and more so, their not pulling their weight increases everyone else's bill. The full payer comes to see everyone else as getting a "deal" and being "lazy." Meanwhile, the scholarship family is struggling and doesn't understand why those with more money aren't doing more to alleviate his burden - after all, yeshiva is a NEED, not a want and he's been told all his life that no one is turned away.

In short, the system is designed, in a sense, to engender hatred and jealousy.

I imagine there are 3 types of people who enjoy the current yeshiva system:
1) Those rich enough to not feel the burden;
2) Those gaming the system or who are genuinely so poor that they receive so much aid that they don't have to struggle to pay; and
3) Those who are lucky enough to be happy with what they have and not constantly covet everyone else.

Tough Love (aka Shlomo) said...

I'll reserve my true feelings for many scholarship recipients for another blog, but I will say here that I think there are far too many people gaming the scholarship system. You know who you are.

My name is Ira Needleman said...

I think yeshivas would help themselves by showing parents some simple basics:
(A) we pay the rebbe $50k; their are 25 kids in the class, so step 1 you need to pay $2k.
(B) We pay the English teachers $7k per period; there are 5 periods per day. Your fair share = $1500.
(C) The principals, exectuive Director, secretary, etc cost $x, divided by 500 students = $XX.
(D) Our electric bill, heating bill, phone bill, etc = 4Y, your fair share = $YY
(E) Last, they can say there are lots of other expenses they are not including, but also add to the cost of the school.

Now when someone is paying $3,333 per kid, he will be much less likely to moan. Does he not agree the Rebbe should be paid $50k? etc?

Tough Love (aka Shlomo) said...

Ira Needleman,

Many of the admins in Bergen County get paid well over $250-300k in salary plus benefits. Exposing this dirty secret will cause more parents to moan, not lessen the moaning.

IRS said...

Ortho - I think many of us in BC have trouble identifying with the mindset that is exhibited in the original letter(i.e., I have as many kids as I can and the community will give me a scholarship) because that is not the world we were raised in / existed when we started out having kids. I don't know if the author of the original letter is MO / from BC but I suspect that the vast majority of scholarship recipients in our community don't think this way. I do sense based on the many comments on other blogs that there is a growing trend of young people moving into BC that do think this way and/or other moving in from different types of communities that do share this attitude. Not the majority but a disturbingly increasing minority. It is incumbent on the Yeshivas to separate these folks out and focus on giving to those really in need. I know some are - but certainly not enough.

JS - your analysis as usual is pretty insightful and on target. There is at least one additional constituency that could be upset - i.e., the well off who pay full tuition, contribute up and above their obligations, and are sick and tired about hearing everyone else complain (or being told they are the root of all evil). They actually have a legitimate beef - they presumably work just as hard as the 250k lawyers, could easily put their charitable donations elsewhere, but spend on the schools because they believe in them and, as a result are subsidizing everyone else (even the full payers), but still have to listen to all the whining and complaining.

Ira - theoretically transparency should make everyone happy in a logical world. Unfortunately, we don't live in a logical world, and the complaints aren't really about not understanding how the money is spend, more about 'I don't want to pay as much as I do'. There was an interesting article in the Boston Globe a few weeks back that discusses 'how facts backfire' ( Interesting read and shows how facts don't always help people make the right decision.

Shlomo - I've read the comments on the other blogs asserting that the administrators are making a fortune. Facts don't bear this out. Look at the salaries for the heads of school for Moriah and BPY based on their 990s. Max one admin per schools makes more than 200k. Most of these don't even have kids in school anymore - so no real tuition benefit. You can complain about their salaries if it fulfills you but this misses the point and certainly won't solve the problem.

Orthonomics said...

Thank you for your comments IRS. I'm not really writing for a Bergen County audience. I am (or at least was) more familiar with crowds that have good numbers of children and figure they will "work it out." Now I'm familiar with more schools of thought on this matter.

Orthonomics said...

Of course I do welcome the Bergen County audience. I'm just saying that I try to look at many different sectors as it pertains to the themes on this blog, not just a single segment. The original article is from the Yated. I post articles from many publications so long as they relate to my regular themes.

JS said...


Completely agree. I've pointed out elsewhere how ironic I find it that the "chumps" earning 200k+ complain about subsidizing the scholarship families while they themselves are being subsidized by the truly wealthy who fund the school. Even worse is that the "chumps" lash out at the wealthy for allowing the scholarship system to exist. Never mind, of course, that they wouldn't have a place to send their kids without them.

Point is: it's a lousy system but playing the blame game and engaging in class warfare isn't going to solve anything.

IRS said...

Ortho - sorry - my bad - didn't mean to be so parochial. I must be reading other blogs too much :-).

I do think that mindsets are evolving in BC as well in a scary way - potentially as the makeup of our community evolves. The schools / scholarship committees need to get ahead of this to protect the financial well being of the schools. More broadly, we as a community (Rabbis, other "influencers") need to work at changing the mindsets of those who think this way (or the next generation) before they bankrupt whole communities.

Son of Abraham said...


Class warfare only exists when some entity, like the government, or the yeshiva school system makes one class resentfull of the other by disparate treatment. Scholarship is such an act. Basically, there is a large upper middle class working very hard barely able to pay their tuitions and part of that stress is due to others not paying the same amount. That's disparate treatment and creates class warfare.

Upper middles reacting that and complaining is not class warfare. That's called class defense. It's easy to call it morally equivalant but it's not equal.

tesyaa said...

SoA - Take away the "yeshiva is the only acceptable" mandate, and you have a real solution. A community could choose to set up a low-cost Talmud Torah, and rabbis could speak out in support of families who choose not to send their kids to yeshiva for financial and other reasons. That gets rid of the need for class defense, as you call it.

Do you believe that yeshiva is the only appropriate place for an Orthodox Jewish child? If so, you implicitly believe in the scholarship system. You may say that people should limit their family size, but if that's the case, some couples may not be able to afford any children at all. That's hardly morally defensible. And in any case, any children already in existence are facts on the ground.

We need a cheap alternative to yeshiva, and if it's not homeschooling, it's going to involve the public education system. Call it a charter school if you like, but it's still public school, with all the requirements and government intervention that today's yeshiva parents don't want and don't have to deal with.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in a modern orthodox environment and was educated in public school. Every time I read a post like this it makes my blood boil. I understand the desire to have your (our?) children educated in a Jewish dayschool. I also understand that a frum Jew has certain expenses that others don't (kosher food is more expensive, for instance).

However, at some point, we can only stretch things so far. If you want to live a frum lifestyle, if you want to live in a certain neighborhood (one with an orthodox community, walking distance from shul, etc...), if you want to send your children to dayschool, then why are we refusing to have a realistic conversation about limiting the number of children we have.

I don't mean to come across as overly harsh or not compassionate, but if you can't afford 4 kids, then stop at 3. Life is about choices and its about time we, as a community, recognized that we can't have our cake and eat it too.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:54: Not everyone is willing to reduce family size and unplanned pregnancies do happen. However, it should be a no brainer that some of the other "must haves" must be open to greater consideration. If you want multiple children and want them in private school and don't have one ultra-high earning spouse or a lot of inherited wealth, then plan on some or all of the following: both parents working full-time most of the time, waiting a few years to have kids until the parents have completed school/grad school and have some job experience and savings, renting instead of buying, living outside the greater NY/NJ metropolitan area (perhaps even starting a new community in a low cost part of the country with some of your college or yeshiva classmates), and making sure that you get the education and training for the best-paying jobs that you can given your intellect and other skills. I understand why for some people family size and alternatives to private school are not options absent a real disaster. I cannot understand or sympathize with these same people insisting on the full best-case MO package (only community X, sahm or part-time mom, 40 hr/week jobs, home ownership, big weddings, lavish simchas, summer camp etc.) and I can not sympathize with parents and educators and leaders who are bringing up youth to feel entitled to have it all.

Dan said...

The readers here just dont seem to get the fact that most haredim will not have only 2-3 kids because they "can't afford more".
In the US haredi world, most people WILL have 5-7 kids, because we hold that you should have as many as you can manage, even if it means being on scholarship.
You guys can disagree with that, but saying over and over "why these people keep having kids if they can't afford" is just pathetic.
We have a different hashkafa, please respect it.
[Parenthetically, I grew up MO and became haredi when I realized the inconsistencies in the MO world.]

Paying Parent said...

heehee- like there are no inconsistencies in the chareidi world. That's funny :)

That aside, the Chareidi concept of having as many kids as you can without considering finances or anything else fundamentally hurts the structure of the community. The education of children is harmed since there is little money to fund the Yeshivas, home lives are hurt by financial stress, and the community has such an overwhelming amount that are out of work or on scholarship that they can no longer support themselves. More and more "alternative finance methods" are becoming "mutar"- tax fraud, tax evasion, theft (as long as its from goyim), selling kidneys on the black market....
You have to wonder the effect of theses practices on the morality of the community as a whole.
The chareidi community has the double edged sword of only encouraging a non-worker kollel lifestyle.
You want to be chareidi? Go ahead, but when you knowingly have more children than you can afford you are in effect stealing from your neighbors.
There is no halachic perogative to have your neighbors be responsible for your bills so that you can sit in yeshiva all day.

Offwinger said...

What we need is a lot more emphasis on Item #10 in the Decalogue/Ten Commandments. Do NOT covet. If you're looking for a solution to class warfare, that's it. DO NOT COVET. This is not a monarchy or dictatorship. While the gap between the haves and have nots continues to grow in all communities (Jewish or not), the halachic response is clear.

The obligation is first and foremost on us not to desire that which does not belong to us. Yet time and time again, people look to "blame" someone else for creating the system in which economics classes are stratified. Can scholarships exacerbate bad feelings or even create a stumbling block on not caring about what someone else has? Sure. However, this does not free anyone from the PRIMARY responsibility of not coveting.

Next we need a serious look at the rampant materialism in our community or communities. There are many ways in which the American consumerist mindset is present in almost every "sect" of Judaism, and it is sad how many of these practices and values are being ret-conned as jutified for Jewish observance.

As pessimistic as it may sound, I don't see anything changing until the unsustainability catches up with enough people to prompt grass roots efforts regarding the true necessities of an observant life.

Lion of Zion said...


"We have a different hashkafa, please respect it"

why do i have to respect every hashkafa?

Lion of Zion said...


also, this is unfortunately not just a haredi issue (although it may be more exaggerated there) and if you look back at the comments you'll see that you were the fist one on this post to drag them into it.

Lion of ZIon said...

that should read "first one"

Miami Al said...


A related problem, is that while people shouldn't compare themselves to others to covet their stuff, they can compare themselves to others to figure out how they are doing, relatively.

I see a lot of strange comparisons made in Frum circles for the purposes of self congratulations.

I see people without cash pounding down shots of expensive liquor, and saying delightful things about how "goyim" will drink anything to get drunk, and we only drink good stuff... Why the upper middle class Jews are congratulating themselves for drinking better booze than poor people, I do not know, but the primary market for single malt scotch is NOT Kiddush club, but wealthy gentiles that appreciate good liquor.

I see people screaming about how they would be rich if it wasn't for Yeshiva tuition, while at the socioeconomic point where they might be using private school regardless. I knew plenty of professional families (doctors, lawyers, etc) that sent their children to private schools, and plenty that used public schools. The latter lived in nicer houses than the former, but the former didn't resent their choices. By making Yeshiva "mandatory," people don't see a luxury that they are paying for, but an unnecessary expense.

The screaming about the leased Hondas on the Bergen County blogs is a little bizarre, I don't know ANYWHERE else in the world that a Honda is a status symbol, it's reputation is as an inexpensive import. I would guess that most of their colleagues in their income range drive BMWs, Mercedes, Cadillacs, and Lexus vehicles, all seen as "high status," not Honda.

The cost of our holidays is not out of line with our non-Jewish "equals." Wealthy gentile families will host dozens of people for Thanksgiving and Christmas, plus spend a small fortune on gifts for the latter. I don't know how Pesach/Sukkot stack up (Sukkot ought to be the cheapest, dwell in a booth, how that is a huge expense is beyond me), but it seems pretty comparable.

The fact is, we embraced materialism and tried to channel it into a Mitzvah, and an expensive wig became a sign of "modesty" plus fancy designer "modest" clothing and other nonsense, and suggested that everyone needs to do it.

I doubt that upper middle class Orthodox Jews spend more on clothing/dry cleaning than upper middle class Protestants, but plenty of middle class Orthodox Jews seem to spend a fortune matching the upper middle class Jews dollar-for-dollar.

We live in more economically diverse communities, which could be a good thing, but not when combined with group-think for spending decisions.

Families making 80k/year, 150k/year, and 250k/year may all live in a 2 mile diameter, but they shouldn't expect to have the same lifestyle.

Plenty of families beg, borrow, and steal to get into a "good" school district, so I don't see how the scholarship system is dramatically different from that.

People need to understand the decisions that they are making, make them comfortably, and without jealousy.

There is ZERO Halachic obligation to have the same size house, brand of stroller, or "brand" of clothing/hair covering as your neighbor, who may or may not have substantially more/less money than you.

Lion of ZIon said...


"Sukkot ought to be the cheapest"

i guess you don't buy a mehudar arba minim for every male 13+ y/o member of the family (and chinuch sets for the little kids).

i'm also told that סכך mats are quite expensive (and something else that now gets a hashgocho) and need to be replaced every few years (i don't know what's wrong with the old bamboo sticks)

feeding large families and many guests insane amounts of food (that may or may not have been purchased at the local overpriced kosher grocery) adds up.

finally there are the entertainment expenses for hol hamoed at all the typically overpriced venues. (alternatively, if you don't have the luxury of taking off from work you may have to pay extra day care expenses)

tesyaa said...

LoZ, you'll be happy to know that we've been using the same schach mats for about 17 years and they're really none the worse for wear - don't believe everything your neighbors tell you :)

tesyaa said...

But yes, it's nauseating that people buy themselves luxuries and call it a mitzvah.

You're not buying expensive mahogany furniture - you're buying "seforim shranks" because it's a mitzvah to have so many Jewish books

You're not buying an unnecessary wig, but a human hairpiece that is a thing of beauty and adds glory to the ancient near eastern practice of female haircovering

You're not buying unnecessary appliances - it's simply too difficult to keep kosher with only one oven, sink, and dishwasher. You need at least 3 of each...

You're not just buying a stroller - knaynahara, you'll have many, many children so you need to buy THE VERY BEST QUALITY so it will last forever (or until you get tired of the pattern - I mean, that plaid is so 2007)

You're not just buying clothing you'll only wear once a week - it's lechavod Shabbos, and of course, you need something extra special for yom tov - so what if it's only 3 times a year

You're not just planning a party - it's a simcha! Go all out to show Hashem (and the neighbors) how important it is to you!

Got anything more to add?

Dave said...

We won't even get into the barbarity of "pounding shots" of good whiskey.

Paying Parent said...

I would just like to clarify the "Honda" thing. The Honda Odyssey is one of the best MINIVANS on the market. It retails for upwards of $35K and getting it used is no metziah because it barely declines in price unless it is REALLY old or has alot of problems. By comparison, the KIA Sedona and Dodge Caravan retail for about $20,000 and you cvan get a barely used one for about 12K.
Which one do you think is the number one minivan purchased by kollel families and the like (according to a very popular Jewish car dealer in Brooklyn)? The tier 2 cars? Nope.
Also, people resent that these same families asking for scholarships are LEASING their cars- why not? a new model every 1-3 years! And after all, you can write it in the "necessary expense column of your scholarship application.
It is not coveting what my neighbor has. I am very happy with my KIA. It is resentment that I am subsidizing the financial irresponsibility and whims of my neighbors.

tesyaa said...

But the Jewish world is a subsidizing world. (Although you can opt out. You can't opt out of paying property taxes.) The price of admission to the frum world is subsidizing others. That's just not going to change.

TL Shlomo said...

"I am very happy with my KIA. It is resentment that I am subsidizing the financial irresponsibility and whims of my neighbors."

I hear you. My life in Bergen County has become nothing but subsidizing the wants (not NEEDS) of scholarship families.

Miami Al said...


I built a framed out Sukkah for $800 that lasted for a few years, and was built like a house. Got bored with it, did a PVC one for $200 that I didn't like (used too small of PVC), but you can put together a Kosher Sukkah on the cheap.

Down here the most common "roof" is palm fronds, that you can either gather up from your palm trees, or pay someone that run around, gathering them up for a few weeks and delivers them inexpensively. The Shul puts slats of 2x4s, which in irregular wood (stud quality) is pretty cheap.

Was running the numbers on installing a permanent Pergola in on the house, complete with fans, lighting, and a sink... I think it would be a nice addition to the back yard, but it's a $5k-$6k project with permits and everything (Miami-Dade code is strict for Hurricane reasons), a minor home renovation... not the requirement to fulfill a Mitzvah.

Seriously, "Etrog Sets" aren't THAT pricey... does the holiday cost money, absolutely, holidays cost money. Having a set for EVERYONE is certainly not required, you can give it to each son in turn to fulfill the Mitzvah, and if they want to own their own, perhaps they can pick up some odd jobs in your neighborhood over the course of the year to find $35-$50 to own their own set.

I understand the desire for a young Jewish Adult (13+) to own their own set for the Yom Tov, that's a wonderful desire, but if you want a set because you're an adult, you should save up and buy a set like every other adult.

Again, this is all taking expensive luxuries that are NOT required and indulging... I don't think that anyone should be denied the right to whatever luxuries they can afford, but pretending that it is "the cost of being Frum" is absurd.

Good thing non of these young Yeshiva Bachorim could ever experience time travel and see how their "recent" ancestors lived in Europe, they'd be appalled to know that their relatives weren't frum, single stoves, using the communal oven to make Chulent, scarves for head covering... they might as well be converts given how "not frum" their shtetl relatives were.

Miami Al said...


"You're not just buying clothing you'll only wear once a week - it's lechavod Shabbos, and of course, you need something extra special for yom tov - so what if it's only 3 times a year"

Don't unique to Jews. It's not like there is a phrase in the American English language "Sunday Best" or "Church Clothes" that look surprisingly similar to our "Shabbat Clothes," complete with fancy dresses for the girls that they don't wear during the week, suiting for boys that outgrow every few months.

And none of them would replace their "Sunday Best" in the fall/spring when the weather changes... no way... none of them buy their children clothing for Easter... and I don't see department stores filled with those horrid sweaters that are a staple of Americana Christmas.

People have special occasions, they dress them up, that's NOT unique to Jews. It's not unique to Jews that we give it a religious overtone either...

What's unique to Jews is that we use a foreign language to name them, and logic runs out the window.

Read a personal finance column from November - January:
November: Do not go over board on Christmas presents, save during the year
December: Do not go over board on Christmas presents as the sales pick up
January: You got the credit card statement for Christmas costs, now how to pay it down quickly so you don't run up a debt next year doing the same thing

Our over indulgence is in the spring... but the obsession with new clothing for Pesach coincidentally overlaps with when the seasons change for clothing, and everyone's Easter clothing is out on sale.

Seriously guys, this isn't unique, it's American life.

Offwinger said...


You left out:

- fine china and crystal. For yom tov. And another set for pesach. Heh.

- a 3 bedroom house is for paupers and just married young couples only, because in your large family, kids can't share rooms

- purchasing many books instead of using a library (after all - with so many children, the books go through wear & tear)

- each family owning a comprehensive "library" of sfarim, instead of using the shul beit midrash

- fancy food baskets are mishloach manot

And if we're going to play the "I remember when..." game for sukkot:

Growing up, we didn't have bamboo mats. We cut down and bundled our own schach from a nearby public marshy area. Eventually, they started treating the area our schach came from with pesticides and toxins. Only then did we switch to mats.

Lion of Zion said...

"I would just like to clarify the "Honda" thing."

a few months ago my 5-year-old, who is very into cars and can identify makes and models (and even engine size sometimes), asked if honda oddeseys are only for jews (or if all jews drive them, i forget the exact question). at the time i thought i was funny, but in the context here it's interesintg to observe how kids grow up under the impression that certain things are jewish requirements.

(just for the record, in the long run i think it makes more sense to buy a honda than a dodge.)


" you can put together a Kosher Sukkah on the cheap . . ."

i hope you realize i don't consider all those sukkot expenses to be legitimate ones.

Lion of Zion said...


"LoZ, you'll be happy to know that we've been using the same schach mats for about 17 years "

why should i be happy that your soup is full of spores that dropped from your mold infested mats? or that your family thinks they are mekayem a mitzva with mats that have outlived their halachik life cycle (or may not conform to the newest hiddur/chumra)?

(again, at least this is what i'm told)

Miami Al said...


"each family owning a comprehensive "library" of sfarim, instead of using the shul beit midrash"

I used to joke that the easiest way to tell if someone was a Rabbi or not was to look at their bookshelf... they all own the same books, but the Rabbi's looks like his are worn from use, everyone else's look pristine and new...

I stopped making that joke when I noticed how many Rabbi's have a Pristine set as well.

tesyaa said...

Seriously guys, this isn't unique, it's American life.

Well, I wish frum American Jews would just admit this. In all seriousness, the frum world does a great job of imitating the non-Jews while simultaneously treating treating them like a sub-human life form. That's what bothers me.

Dave said...

I think you will find very few Churches in this country where the men hang out during services getting hammered on liquor.

Paying Parent said...

"(just for the record, in the long run i think it makes more sense to buy a honda than a dodge.)"

It depends. If you care about depreciation because you dont like driving a car for over 5 years- go with the Honda. You can sell it for closer to the proce that you bought it at.
Otherwise, go with the Kia- it has a better warranty, similar expected maitenance expenses, similar features, but is MUCH cheaper at the outset.

aaron from L.A. said...

Isn't there a scholarship evaluation service that colleges use to help determine the ability of parents to pay for their children's schooling?Why shouldn't day schools subscribe to the same service?That way,less enmity is created because a qualified and neutral third party makes reasonable recommendations.

JS said...

"Families making 80k/year, 150k/year, and 250k/year may all live in a 2 mile diameter, but they shouldn't expect to have the same lifestyle."

This and tesyaa's comment on such matters as spending on a "simcha" and not a "party" together sum up so much of what is wrong, financially, in our communities.

And the response is to tell the wealthy to cut it out and cut back. Frankly, they are not the problem. It's everyone else with all the coveting and trying to keep up.

Miami Al said...


Sorry, that's part of the Jewish core. The Priests of Ra in Egypt practiced circumcision and wore 4 cornered garments with fringes (all white).

Hashem mandated circumcision for all, fringes for all, and an expensive blue thread!

Aping the goyim and running up the costs seems to be a core part of Judaism.

Agreed, we need to acknowledge it, so we can at least deal with the financial consequences of it.

Izzy said...

One factor to consider is that there would not be a market for yeshiva day schools like there is now, were it not for the fact that people believe that there is a religious imperative to have children, and a religious imperative to send these children to yeshiva day school. I cant imagine there would be even 25% of these schools in the US, were it not for that fact. I am a college and grad school educated professional living and working "out of town." Very few of my colleagues send their children (if they have any, most don't until their late 20's/early 30's) to private schools, they send them to their very decent local public school. I would do the same, if I did not believe there were a religious imperative to do otherwise.

Many of the rabbis and teachers who are involved in yeshiva day schools are the same people who believe in, and preach, these religious imperatives. So from the perspective of the parent/consumer, it is not unreasonable to expect that the same people that are "creating the market" for this very expensive service, and are involved in setting the costs for these services (by deciding what these services will include), should be making efforts to make this service more affordable. Some of the commenters on this blog might not believe these are religious imperatives, but the schools themselves (and I don't mean the people making tuition decisions) do.

Miami Al said...


Apple has a giant marketing department dedicated to establishing the "cultural imperative" to have white ear buds on your MP3 players (a few years ago), an App-filled smart phone, etc... and if you don't think that for their target demographic, these are "needs" you are missing the purpose of marketing.

Yes, the religious leaders with a financial stake in Jewish education have marketed it as an imperative. Expecting them to take a lead in removing the "profit" for themselves and their colleagues from the market is a bit silly.

JS said...

"I cant imagine there would be even 25% of these schools in the US, were it not for that fact."

I've wondered that myself. If, as requested numerous times on the "Chump" blog, there was a critical mass of people willing to send to public school and rabbis were supportive of the idea and said so from the pulpit, how many people would actually send to public school? How many would stay in yeshiva?

Maybe I'm completely wrong, but I actually don't think the numbers would change all that much. I think a lot of people would stay in yeshiva. The complaints, imo, have nothing to do with the supposed lack of options (or options the community supports).

"...should be making efforts to make this service more affordable."

Why should they be making efforts to make the service more affordable? They tell you have a religious obligation to send to yeshiva, so why not raise the costs and accrue the benefits of a higher salary and more benefits? I'm not saying this is necessarily happening, but I don't see the logic in what you said if I'm understanding you correctly.

Anonymous said...

Suggesting that you can only have as many kids as you can afford is elitism. You are saying that only the smart people or the successful people have the right to populate the next generations. After all, only people with money will have children, and all the "nebach" ones who just barely make a living will be the end of their family line. Sweet.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, forgot to put that in the ending of my previous post.

Dave said...

You mean as opposed to the rest of history, where having more children than you could afford meant you got to watch them starve to death?

Izzy said...

When I used the word "expect," I did not mean "regard as likely to happen; anticipate the occurrence or the coming of," I meant "to look for with reason or justification."

My point was that the original letter writer, to whom Orthonomics responded, may "expect" a scholarship in the sense that they feel entitled to one, and I was providing a possible justification for that sense of entitlement.

Anonymous said...

JS: I agree that in the short-term, most of the schools would stay in business. For better and worse, there is a herd mentality and many people are afraid to be out ahead of the crowd. It takes a strong person to buck peer pressure. Also, many people are not confident that they can raise children who will remain observant without a 24/7 support system and indoctrination program. Finally, some orthodox communities are in public school districts that do not have the best schools, thereby reinforcing the fear of public schools.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:18 - No one is saying don't have any kids, but stoppingat 2 or 3might be a good idea for some people. Some people have to stop at ) or 1 or 2 o3 anyhow due to health and fertility problems, death of a spouse, divorse, etc. Who said life was fair and everyone gets to have as many kids as they want.

Dan said...

To Paying Parent:
"heehee- like there are no inconsistencies in the chareidi world."
Yes, there are many inconsistencies, but to me they seem smaller. In my haredi shul, most yidn seem to have a sincere desire to know the Dvar H' and keep it, every aspect of it, bein adam lamakom and bein adam lachavero. I just didn't have that feeling in my prior MO shuls. I'm not generalizing and I know there must be exceptions out there but that was my experience.
"when you knowingly have more children than you can afford you are in effect stealing from your neighbors"
Sorry, but that is not the view of most haredi poskim. Therefore, it's futile to keep making such claims when commenting on stories about haredim.
"More and more "alternative finance methods" are becoming "mutar"- tax fraud, tax evasion, theft (as long as its from goyim), selling kidneys on the black market...."
You may have convinced yourself that it's a widespread problem among haredim, but it doesn't look like it is to me as an insider (Disclaimer: I live in the Midwest. I can’t speak for other areas) . Most haredim that I know are scrupulously honest - my haredi car mechanic neighbor will never fix my car without charging taxes on it, and I'll declare and pay taxes on every out-of-state internet purchase in my tax returns, even though many people don't do it.

Dan again said...

To Paying Parent:

"There is no halachic perogative to have your neighbors be responsible for your bills so that you can sit in yeshiva all day."

Again, a silly generalization. In my Midwest community, 90% of haredim work and learn in the mornings and evenings only.

To Lion of Zion:

"why do i have to respect every hashkafa?"

You don't, just like you don't "have to" have good middos, you don't "have to" keep mitzvos or serve H'.
When I said that you should respect the haredi hashkafa, I was under the assumption that you desire to "have" the things above. My apologies.

tesyaa said...

Dan - I think there's a difference between respecting and agreeing with a hashkafa. Sure, people should treat others with respect, regardless of their hashkafa. Agreement is a different matter.

Dan said...

You're absolutely right. That's why I found the comment "why do i have to respect every hashkafa?" quite ridiculous.

Paying Parent said...

Dan- so let me get this straight. When we are talking of MO communities that are sincerely concerned with halacha, they are "the exception". However, when we are speaking of Hareidim who promote learning AND having a parnassah, pay their taxes and do not try to foist their financial responsibilities on others, that is "the rule".
You are aware that most Chareidim do not live in the Midwest, don't you? Perhaps your community is the exception.
From here in NY we are constantly bombarded with Chareidim trying to get others to pay for their lifestyle- whehter it be Boro Park, Lakewood, Kupat Hair in Israel, etc. Their rebbeim constantly come out against teh "learner/ earner" lifestyle, except of course when they want a donation. They try to get us to invest in "easy money" schemes. They apply for government aid that they are not entitiled to- are you aware of the high incidence of "single motherhood" in Lakewood? Something tells me that these communities are slightly larger then yours. But of course, I must be "generalizing."

tesyaa said...

Brand new post:

Dan said...

Paying Parent- When I said "exceptions", I meant that in my experience they have been exceptions.

I've spent 20+ years exclusively in MO shuls and I've tried MO and haredi shuls in the Midwest and New England but, I guess you're right, maybe NY/NJ is a different ballgame...
[Parenthetically, in my community houses cost 120-150k, maybe we behave differently since the financial pressure is smaller?]

I was mainly addressing your attack on people who have kids even once they know they'll be on scholarship. It's something accepted in the haredi world, and even though most decent haredim (which in my experience are the majority) will do their best to pay their bills (my haredi chavrusa has a day job and a night job to pay a $40k tuition bill) , we all accept the fact that we won’t impose limits on family size.

And, personally, even though I pay full tuition (and live an extremely frugal life as a result), I like the fact that everyone in my kehilla is allowed to have 6 kids without others saying bad things behind their back.

You’re right, the system isn’t perfect, but I’d much rather send my kid to a simpler school where everyone has large families, then tell my neighbor (directly or indirectly) that he can only have 2 kids because he “can’t afford”.

Check out the Ramban in chumash on the destruction of Sdom and the gemora in Sanhedrin that talks about it. It’s an eye opener.

Miami Al said...


Beyond regional differences, another thing to consider is how much lower your tuition seems to be.

Part of the anger spilling out from the NY crowd is that the people are on scholarship, are in very expensive MO schools, and aren't looking at less expensive schools. Combined that with the public materialism that is NYC life, and you have a disaster.

Judging by the accents around here, I'd guess that almost nobody from the Midwest goes on Pesach vacation in Miami Beach, whereas it is filled with people from greater NYC including families on scholarship (with their parents paying), teachers and administrators with their large chunks of vacation, etc.

Some is straight coveting, but some is a frustration that they believe they are paying a premium for people that make "bad" choices, and therefore their life is negatively impacted by them. If the scholarship families ran around with sackcloth on, it wouldn't be an issue, but because it's a cause for bragging, people are quite upset.

Dave said...

Me and my brother against my cousin, me and my cousin against the world.

I would suggest that the reason there are fewer issues in communities with smaller Orthodox populations is because the community is too small to support it.

Once you get enough people for exclusionary groups to be self-sufficient, they seem to inevitably occur.

Dan said...

Miami Al is absolutely right.

I just get frustrated when people focus their criticism on the number of kids, assuming everyone should just limit their family size, when the issue goes much deeper than that, and involves to a great extent an overall lack of frugality when it should be imperative.

I give thousands of dollars to charity every year (Turbotax always tells me that my tax return may arouse suspicion by the IRS, since the % of donations is so high) and pay full tuition, yet I buy as much as I can in dollar stores (including clothing) and I have a 10+ years old minivan.

Let's respect that haredim won't limit their family size, and focus on suggestions on other areas.

Mike S. said...

I get kind of tired at all the complaining. I myself have complained when school administrators have teased my kids about ancient cars we drive to pay tuition, but that is not about the tuition but the behavior.

If yeshivas are so overpriced who is stopping you from opening one that will provide equivalent service for less, take all the business and make a tidy profit? Nothing. If you value yeshivah education, do what you need to pay the tuition and stop complaining. And if you don't, find some other way to educate your kids. The notion that others should work for less so that you don't have to pay so much for their services is childish. Does anyone talk like that about plumbers or personal trainers?

There are many ways to make ends meet and I don't feel any need to tell someone else who to do it. One can limit family size, be content with much less, homes school, prepare for and seek out highly paid work, etc. What I do have little patience for is the notion that one needn't even try to balance the budget because the community must take care of you. It is true that tzedokah is a mitzvah, but Chazal are quite clear that one shouldn't rely on it.

Mike S. said...

"who to do it" should have been "how to do it"

miriamp said...

Dan, thank you for stating your opinion.

I stopped complaining about the way everyone picks on large families a long time ago, because I was taking it very personally, but not changing anyone's mind at all. (We don't fit in a minivan.)

I think MO and Chareidim in NY/NJ ARE different than MO and Chareidim everywhere else in the US, besides being distinct from MO and Chareidim in other countries and distinct from those in E"Y, so drawing all these broad sweeping generalizations just doesn't work.

People in NY -- please realize that the tuition crisis is worse in NY precisely because many people really want to leave, but they don't want to give up the perks of living in NY/NJ (multiple kosher restaurants, shuls and schools right next door, kosher clothing stores, multiple kosher groceries, frum neighbors) so they spend too much money pretending they are elsewhere (fancy cars, clothes, dishes, furniture...) or actually going elsewhere (vacations, bungalow colonies, summer camp). And these people who would really rather be elsewhere make it harder for everyone else by "raising the standards" so to speak.

At least, that's what it looks like from out here.

RAM said...

There is a motivation to put kids in yeshiva and there is also a motivation to keep them out of public schools. Two separate things. Kids not suited to a yeshiva, or who can't be funded enough to attend a yeshiva, need alternative paths under proper Orthodox Jewish auspices.