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Thursday, November 11, 2010

How does a yeshiva not pay rent for 2 years?

Hat Tip: A lot of readers. Thanks! And a thanks to a reader who suggested the title: "How does a yeshiva not pay rent for 2 years? That should be the headline. Its an embarrassment."

Excerpts from YWN. My comments in [orange]:

In the latest sign of the meltdown of the economy, one of the leading girls yeshivas in Brooklyn, The Yeshiva of Bensonhurst, was evicted from their premises late Tuesday night on Avenue M in Flatbush. [Can we stop pretending that these rash of school closing is a result of the economy? Certainly, the economic downturn hasn't helped, but the issue just detracts from what can and should be controlled. In particular, it should be quite clear that when a Yeshiva falls over 2 years behind in rent and holds a minimum half a million dollars in liabilities, that the bigger problem is that there is no proper management].


According to sources at the NYPD, the 400 plus girl school was over two years late on rent payments and owed over $500,000 in rent. Another source added that the yeshiva was legally evicted by the Marshall in June of this year. However, despite this, the yeshiva illegally returned to take possession of the premises. [The $500,000 number keeps popping up in each of the recent school closings].

Sources say that that leadership of the yeshiva did not inform parents until the very last minute that their children would have nowhere to go and many children showed up to a closed yeshiva yesterday. Parents of Yeshiva of Bensonhurst students are understandably fraught. One parent asked YWN, “How could the yeshiva take $5,000 in tuition for my daughter this year when they knew that they were being evicted from the yeshiva? I am really upset and don’t understand where my tuition dollars are going if the yeshiva is not even paying its rent.” [I am in pain for all of these parents who, with no warning, watched their school close overnight. It is a terrible breach of trust.]

Local elected officials were unsuccessful in their attempts to stop the eviction. Councilman David Greenfield told YWN, “I was saddened to learn of this unfortunate situation. After my office received a courtesy call Tuesday night from the NYPD informing us of what was happening, I personally reached out to senior NYPD officials who informed me that there was nothing that they could legally do to stop this,” Greenfield explained. “This once again highlights the terrible financial challenges that even our most successful yeshivas are grappling with in these harsh economic times,” Greenfield concluded. [As sad as this situation is for the parents of the girls, I find it abhorrent that a public official would try to stall an eviction, especially after two years of back rent is owed. Sure, there is a sad day when you have hundreds of girls without a school mid-year. But, what about the landlord? A commentor at the YWN did some homework and writes that the landlord currently owes $86,696.43 to NYC. Additionally, public officials have a fiduciary duty towards all of their constituents and here you have a landlord who is nearly $100K behind in back tax to the city. I simply don't understand how a public official can take a position of trying to stop the eviction when the landlord himself is sinking and the City of New York is owed over 85K in back tax and counting. While other commentors call for financial support for the school, I'd say the landlord himself is the most deserving of a "bailout" after two years of underwriting the school while parents paid tuition not knowing the Yeshiva was stiffing the landlord on rent.]

UPDATE: The newest article of this school closing eviction saga does not state, as the article linked to above, that any public officials attempted to stop the eviction. I don't plan to cover the blow-by-blow articles from YWN but it appears as through the public official named above is volunteering his services for mediation.

40 comments:

Zach Kessin said...

OK I'm confused,

The school is $500,000 behind in rent, they are evicted from their building, they move back in illegally, and when they are evicted again they are surprised .

This officially qualifies under WTF?

Anonymous said...

Appalling.

Miami Al said...

For an elected official, here is some simple math:

400 girls = 400-800 parents -- if you figure around an average of 2 girls/family in the school (400), if you figure 1/family (800)

400 students = 50 staff/faculty members, add another 50 for spouses...


So between 500 and 900 voters in this small area are adversely impacted by the closing...

OTOH, the landlord is only a handful of voters...

Democracy = Two wolves and one sheep voting on dinner...

Ezzie said...

What Miami Al said, plus: By doing it this way, it's a much bigger story. Now they can hope for public pressure (poor kids can't go to school) plus perhaps more donations (oy the poor kids can't go to school).

Twisted, but effective.

Dave said...

On the bright side, non payment of rent is at least better than resorting to tax-fraud (Spinke, Deal) or extortion (Balkany) as a business plan.

JS said...

Why so much approbation for the public officials? I'm more disgusted by the "rabbis" who kept taking tuition from the parent knowing they were going to be evicted and who never even bothered to tell them what the truth was.

Miami Al said...

JS,

Because nobody expects moral behavior from Rabbis. They expect machmir ritual behavior and a meticulous observance of the Halacha, but not upstanding behavior.

Nobody bats an eye at Rabbinic corruption...

Except, of course, the 60% of our children that, statistically speaking, will NOT be Orthodox.

Anonymous said...

"Except, of course, the 60% of our children that, statistically speaking, will NOT be Orthodox."

Really that high? These number are ridiculous unless there is major socail upheavel in the general US society.

Miami Al said...

Anonymous 8:49,

That's the historical "OTD" rate teased out of the Jewish Population Study from 10 years ago.

Basically, using birth rates and affiliation, when you take the Currently Orthodox, and subtract the Baal Teshuva population, approximately 40% of Jews that grew up Orthodox currently affiliate that way.

Keep in mind, affiliating Orthodox is a stronger statement now than in the past, the Orthodox population is MUCH more reclusive and is married and pregnant younger than 1-2 generations ago.

But historically, about 40% of Orthodox youth will be Orthodox adults.

Perhaps the intensive educational approach has raised that up to 60% or 70%?

Hareidi success is birth rates, birth rates, birth rates, NOT retention.

Anonymous said...

Al,

I dont know who came up with your "historical OTD rates" but they're pretty ridiculous.

If you had any familiarity with contemporary haredi orthodox communities, you'd know that for the past 2 generations in most families, at most you have 1 kid OTD out of 4-8 kids. Haredi families with more than 1 OTD are highly unusual, and plenty don't have any OTD kids at all.

And I'm talking about overwhelming evidence. If you only personally knew some of the thousands of graduates of Torah Vodaas, Chaim Berlin, etc, who now have kids and grandkids there, you'd see how OTD is not even 10-15% of the population.

OTOH, in the MO world, the OTD rates are much much higher, despite the fact that the criteria to belong in the group is much more lenient. Out of 24 kids in my class 20 years ago (at a Mizrachi school), maybe 8 people (33%) can be considered to currently have a meaningful connection to G-d at this point (that includes learning, davening with cavana, keeping basic halacha and having a basic desire to serve Hashem). Oh, I forgot to mention, out of those 8, 6 became haredi...

Anonymous said...

One reflection on this situation is that it is simply not possible to provide a private education at 5k per without significant fund-raising / a "sugar daddy". I've heard many people argue that the 12k-18k yeshivas should look to Brooklyn and Flatbush as examples of how "to do it better". Seems like these schools are heading for disaster - charging below cost - and would be a disaster for other schools to emulate.

demographer said...

40%? fuihgettaboutit!

Here is a simple test, which I did when trying to determine the divorce rate. Add up all your cousins from both sides. How many marriages and how many divorces? Ask all your closest friends to do the same. The answer we got was consistently between 5% and 15%. Higher than my parents generation, but not 50% or other nonsense numbers being bandied about.

Do the same thing for OTD. Maybe we can do that study right here!

Abba's Rantings said...

AL:

i think that there is a considerable OTD stream that gets overlooked (covered up), but a "historical 40% rate" doesn't tell you what is going on with the curent generation. unless the JPS breaks it down further by age cohort.

Abba's Rantings said...

ANON:

"Out of 24 kids in my class 20 years ago (at a Mizrachi school), maybe 8 people (33%) can be considered to currently have a meaningful connection to G-d at this point (that includes learning, davening with cavana, keeping basic halacha and having a basic desire to serve Hashem). Oh, I forgot to mention, out of those 8, 6 became haredi"

so you know how to read minds (and motives)? can you tell me what i'm thinking about your comment?

1st Anon said...

Abba's Rantings:

Re: "OTD stream that gets overlooked (covered up)", that's indeed a good conspiracy theory that you can use to try to pretend that haredim have bigger OTD rates, but when you know lots of haredi families over a period of decades, you'd know as a fact that the rates are not more than 10-15%. Adults OTD may move away, but as kids they were around and friends know about them even if they don't live in the area anymore...

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:34 says: "maybe 8 people (33%) can be considered to currently have a meaningful connection to G-d at this point (that includes learning, davening with cavana, keeping basic halacha and having a basic desire to serve Hashem)."

Don't you mean only 8 are "orthodox." No one else can say who has a meaningful connection to G-d. Perhaps a tad arrogant to say you can only have a meaningful connection in the way I define a meaningful connection. And, the way I define "G-d."

1st anon said...

Abba's Rantings:

"so you know how to read minds (and motives)?"

no, I can't, but when people disregard and transgress the Torah constantly and openly, it'd be hard to say that they have a meaningful connection to G-d.

Let's put it this way: "a meaningful connection to G-d" was a euphemism. I could have stated it in much clearer terms.

Anonymous said...

To Anon 10:37:

I meant "meaningful connection to G-d" in the way that it's understood by the classic jewish texts, such as the rishonim's commentaries on Chumash, the Talmud, the Shulchan Aruch, the mesilat iesharim, the derech Hashem, the shaarei teshuva, etc.

According to all those sources, one who disregards the word of G-d constantly and openly ("the word of G-d" as understood by them) is clearly not seeking a meaningful connection with him.

If you spit on your mother every time you see her, I'd have a hard time saying that you love and care about her...

Anon 9:34

Abba's Rantings said...

1ST ANON:

"that's indeed a good conspiracy theory that you can use to try to pretend that haredim have bigger OTD rates"

please don't put words in my mouth. i've never written, here or elsewhere, implicitly or explictly, that haredim have higher OTD rates. but oh yes, as we know from your other comment, you're the one who knows how to read people thoughts, so you must know what i think deep down but choose never to write.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:34: Probably all humans who are not psychotic can agree that someone who spits on their mother doesn't have very good relationship with her. Only a teeny percentage of people would agree that not wearing a kippa, eating shellfish or picking up sticks on the Sabbath has anything to do with one's relationship with G-d or that G-d even cares about such things.

Abba's Rantings said...

1st ANON:

if tonight you tell your rav that you wasted 10 minutes on a busy erev shabbos online participating in a blog forum with frei jews, do you think he'd approve or tell you that you would have better spent the time learning or otherwise preparing for shabbos?

Abba's Rantings said...

1at ANON:

"If you spit on your mother every time you see her, I'd have a hard time saying that you love and care about her"

on the topic of mothers . . .
i hope you show your mother and father some hakarat ha-tov even though they sent you to a mizrachi school. or do you think that they too spit on god by sending you to an MO bastion?

1ST ANON said...

I'm mekaiem veahavta lereacha camocha by talking to you. If I didn't care about you, I wouldn't be writing this, I'd be working...

I hope that we can all be as close to G-d as possible, but we need to make the right decisions and be willing to sacrifice for that goal.

If you see that a road ends in a cliff, don't keep going just because others have gone before you and many are coming behind...

Anonymous said...

Is a tsunami of frum school closing about to happen? In 10 years will 50% of Orthodox students not be in a Orthodox school?

Shabbat Shalom!

1st ANON said...

Abba's Rantings:

Not sure I appreciate you bringing up my parents in the conversation, but I do have a wonderful relationship with them and try to honor them as much as possible. They are quite proud of my commitment to Judaism, by the way.

Also, there's no transgression involved with sending kids to an MO school, by the way. G-d bless all the wonderful parents of those kids.

I don't judge individuals. But, as a thinking person, I do look for trends to base my decisions on. Given that, I wouldn't send my kids to my alma mater, given its failure to impart a genuine love for the Jewish religion (that includes jewish law and practice) among its alumni...

Anonymous said...

If I didn't care about you, I wouldn't be writing this, I'd be working...


Unless you are self employed, you are misusing your employer's resources by blogging instead of working...

Anonymous said...

Anon,
thanks for caring too.

don't worry, i'm not misusing anyone's resources..

Abbas Rantings said...

1st ANON:

"Not sure I appreciate you bringing up my parents in the conversation"

then don't accuse people of "spitting on their mother" as a description of their purported relationship with god.

"I'm mekaiem veahavta lereacha camocha by talking to you . . ."

so this is your answer to my question about how your rav would respond to you? he would support you in this endeavor? why don't you ask a shaila tonight?

in case you don't understand my point, it is this: i have a problem with people using a religiously banned medium to promote a message that questions the halachic propriety of others' behavior and the sincerity of their religious beconvictions. some would call it hypocrisy. i'll just leave it as cognitive dissonance.

1st ANON said...

"a religiously banned medium...hypocrisy"

It's only hypocrisy if you misunderstood the statements against the internet put out by haredi rabanim.

Most haredi rabanim have no issues with someone at his workplace checking a website that has no inappropriate images or content...

"why don't you ask a shaila tonight?"

Being haredi does not mean that I have to ask a rabbi about everything.

Anyway, it was a nice try. Better to frame me as a hypocryte than to actually address the topic that I brought up, which was the incidence of OTD in different segments.

Oh, and re: "a message that questions the halachic propriety of others' behavior", i'm sorry, next time i see my buddies eating bread with an uncovered head and without brocha rishona and achrona, i'll not question the "halachic propriety". rather, i should just put my kid in the same school, expecting a different outcome, right?

Anyhow, have a good shabbos and please forgive me if I hurt your feelings. May we all be together with achva vereus in ierushalaim soon.

rosie said...

when studies are done about Jewish demographics, "Orthodox" might only mean people who attend an Orthodox synagogue but are not otherwise observant. There are people who grew up in such congregations that went conservative or reform when they left the old neighborhood. If Orthodox is defined simply by affiliation, then the rate of retention is very low.

Mike S. said...

One cannot sensibly address OTD rates without a clear definition. Is a person who publicly identifies as Orthodox but sins in private OTD? How about the Spinka Rebbe? What about someone who is nominally Orthodox but will avail him or herself of "kulot" not approved by the rabbonim of any Orthodox group (say, eating in a nonsupervised vegetarian restaurant, or cheating on his taxes)?

The JPS relies, as I recall, on self definition for both upbringing and current status, which is a clear definition but allows for wide variation in standards. It also does not distinguish among Orthodox subgroups.

The traditional halachic criterion was chillul Shabbos b'farhesia, which various rabbonim have defined (I have heard this from many sources but as near as I can tell it originated with R. Chaim Brisker) as when the rabbi is watching. But I have also seen other prominent rabbonim muse about the applicability of that standard in a society where most Jews are m'challelei Shabbos. Certainly every moder authority I am aware of agrees with the Chazon Ish that we no longer apply the rule of "moridin v'lo ma'alin" to such people.

JS said...

Not to get in the middle of an interesting OTD debate, but here's something I noticed:

I didn't see any talk of teachers or rabbis unpaid. No calls to collect 5 months of back salary.

It would seem the school paid all of its staff, but not the rent.

So, you pay the Jews, you screw the goyim.

Mark said...

JS - So, you pay the Jews, you screw the goyim.

I think I read that the property owner is also a Jew. Now you know how they got so deep in the hole.

Miami Al said...

Rosie,

Their are certainly people that identify as Orthodox that are not "Frum." Frum Yid broadly defined as Shomer Shabbat, Shomer Kashrut, & Shomer Taharat Hamishpacha. The best Greek term for this would be Orthoprax -- correct practice, but that's a bizarre blogosphere world of agnostic/atheist "Frum Yidden." Orthodox being defined as belonging to an Orthodox Shul -- Correct Beliefs.

Essentially, if one thinks that you should be Shomer Shabbat, but personally isn't, that person is indeed still Orthodox, even though they aren't Frum.

If we define OTD as, formerly Orthodox, no longer Orthodox, then the retention rate has historically been very low.

If we define OTD as formerly Frum, no longer Frum, then the OTD rate might be lower, perhaps dramatically. However, the corollary to that is that there are WAY fewer Frum Yidden than anyone wants to admit. The demographic surveys put Orthodox Jews at 10%, if you throw out everyone affiliated that isn't fully practicing, you probably lose 50% of that number (most of Chabad, peripheral families that join a Young Israel, most members of Sephardic Congregations, etc.)... while that will lower your OTD rate, that also moves the grouping from "observant fringe" of Judiasm into a small cultlike group at < 5%.

That said, suggesting that one could determine the divorce rate or OTD rate or any statistical grouping based upon them, their friends, and their cousins really demonstrates the educational level of the one proposing that, NOT any statistical numbers.

With the OTD rate, it's not a conspiracy to "hide it," it's survivorship bias. The people you encounter are the "still Frum" people. If OTD is influenced by family upbringing, etc., it should cluster... i.e. if the Hareidi OTD rate was 50% (it's not, just supposing for simple math), you wouldn't have two families of 8 with 4 OTD and 4 Frum, you'd more likely have 1 family withe 7 Frum/1 OTD and one with 5 Frum/3 OTD because of correlation.

Basically, because you only interact with still-Frum Hareidi Jews, you get a survivorship bias that prevents you from meeting the OTD Hareidi Jews.

There is also a reporting bias. If your cousin is a divorcee with 5 kids whose husband left both Yiddishkeit AND NYC, do you think people know that he is OTD, presuming that the kids visit him and he dresses the part when visiting them? Why would anyone talk about his OTDness that would trash his children, when you could talk about his moving to Cleveland instead.

Ortho

Chaim B. said...

>>>I simply don't understand how a public official can take a position of trying to stop the eviction

I think I am reading the same article as you are, but I don't see where it says that the Councilman tried to stop the eviction. He checked with the NYPD, found out it was legal, and says he is saddened -- what's the problem with that? If he was really good he would try to see if there is some room for mediation between the sides -- wouldn't that be the best course of action?

Orthonomics said...

Chaim B.
The article I linked to above says:

"Local elected officials were unsuccessful in their attempts to stop the eviction."

You might be reading the newest installment regarding mediation here:
http://www.theyeshivaworld.com/article.php?p=75332

This newest article was published after I pointed to the news story.

I don't have any issue with a good faith mediation.

Orthonomics said...

Continued. . . . however, I do think that in the case of a different public official who seemed to come out swinging at the schools, that it is important to realize what the economics of running private schools are. In other words, I don't think you can accomodate everyone as Hinkind seems to demand.

First and foremost, I think should be the protection of customers that paid up and vendors (and teachers, if any) that are owed money.

megapixel said...

re: the cousins theory:
On the chassidic side of my family, I know of NO cases of OTD. (ie, none of them are openly OTD)
on the "yeshivish" branch:
some siblings have definitely moved to the left of how they were raised, but are still frum.

on the MO side:
one uncle in jail, one cousin married to or shacked up with a shaigitz. Two cousins veered off and then came back on shtark and are learning in kollel for multiple years now.

Meag said...

The oft bandied 50% divorce rate IS accurate, but it's a case of "there are lies, damned lies and then there are statistics."

It's 50% of ALL marriages that end in divorce. But that isn't evenly spread among the population. about 40% of first marriages end in divorce, but 2/3 of second marriages do, and fully 3/4 of third marriages do. People who are bad at marriage are often bad at it several times over, and this changes the statistics. Beyond that, divorces are concentrated heavily in certain sectors of the population. For college educated white people, the divorce rate is not that different than it was in the 1950s. For poor whites without a high school degree, the divorce rate is well above the national average. On the whole, 50% of marriages end in divorce, but that doesn't mean that half of the people you see and know will end up divorced--we usually move among people who are socioeconomically similar to us, rather than among the whole spectrum of society. Did you really think that divorce rates in Orthodox circles, where divorce is still fairly stigmatized, would even begin to approach the rates in mainstream America?

RAM said...

Large communities with multiple schools in dire straits may need to apply pressure to effect mergers (and possibly orderly liquidations) that will allow proper Jewish education to continue. This assumes a unified community leadership, which is not always present. It also assumes that capable administrators are available in great enough numbers.