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Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Maddening Dependency

Look like the New York Priority 7 after school voucher plan is finally going to be cut as of December 31, 2010. The representatives of select Brooklyn neigborhoods haven't let this welfare program for which the majority of the receipients are Orthodox haven't let it go down without a fight.

The latest press release is maddening. From the press release: " In fact, by ACS’s own admission, over 70% of children in Orthodox neighborhoods like Boro Park and Williamsburg are eligible for free childcare; however, only a fraction of those needy children actually receive it."

We know that the level of dependency is ridiculously high, but 70% eligibility for free childcare? I have no idea how ACS came to this figure, and I really hope it is highly, highly exaggerated. But even if it is exaggerated, it doesn't point to anything positive. I also find the reference to Chanukah in the article nauseating: "“On the last day of Hanukkah, we were hoping for better.” Gelt in exchange for continued and fiercely protected dependency, not quite the Maccabees of old or Yosef ensuring that the Egypt plan for the days of famine? With such references, I guess we can be glad that the wasn't slated for closure on the last day of Pesach.

57 comments:

Ariella said...

I hate to say it, but the reason why so many can be eligible is because their parents' income is not necessarily all on the books, especially if they are in "cash" businesses. Even for those who are in, say, teaching, the income is sometimes paid directly into that school or another for tuition without passing through the individual's account and the tax rolls.

Anonymous said...

In SOME LIMITED circumstances, tuition reduction programs may legitimately be tax-free under section 117(d) of the Internal Revenue Code.

megapixel said...

dude you are always preaching that tuition is the killer, financially, for frum families.
Well this is a program that helped alot of families cope, legally and legitimately. as far as i know the program was for children who have two working parents. so it is not just another welfare type program enabling people to sit on their tushes. These are families that the mother and father are both working and presumably they have to prove that when they apply for the program. who better to get a helping hand than someone who is clearly willing to work. WHy would you denigrate people on this program?
I also find it very disturbing and cynical that the first comment is automatically presuming that people are cheating.

Ariella said...

Megapixel, I didn't say all people are cheating. I am simply accounting for how such a high percentage of people can qualify for such a program. Have you ever been a store where people pay for huge purchases in cash? It's not just because the store owner and customer agree to such a deal to cut out the sales tax; it's because they get a lot of their income in the form of cash that they prefer to spend directly rather than depositing in a bank account. Some people I've dealt with have paid me in cash -- something I never request -- for the same reason. Then there are those who give in many individual checks from their customers directly to schools to pay their tuitions -- again that way nothing flows through their own accounts. That is not everyone, but you would be absurdly naive to believe that everyone plays it completely straight.

Meag said...

It's fairly common for small businesses to practice some degree of tax evasion. My parents were always very strict about reporting all income, but I looked over the books of a number of small mom and pop stores when we were looking to buy another and I was shocked by how common evasion is/was. Many people gave us "official" books which matched the tax returns we got from the IRS but also gave us unofficial books or intimated that there were substantial non-reported cash returns.

I also had a lot of freelance clients offer to pay me in cash so that I wouldn't have to pay income tax. And in the music industry, where my husband works, it's common for people to take all or most of their freelance side income as unreported cash. This isn't just a frum thing and it would not surprise me if many families are eligible for welfare only because of unreported income.

Alex said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Orthonomics said...

megapixel, please read this:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/13/nyregion/13vouchers.html?_r=1

I think you are incorect about the requirement for two working parents.

Miami Al said...

Underreporting of cash income is common. Even those of us relatively diligent about it are unlikely to have always been perfect... Look, if < 5% of your revenues come in cash, you probably don't have cash controls in the business, and you probably occaisionaly pocket money and forget it.

This isn't about perfection, this is about an entire subculture based upon it.

Here is the thing, the tax rates on low earners is VERY low, effectively 0 for families with kids (beyond FICA). If you aren't paying FICA, you aren't earning credits towards social security... for upper earners, this wouldn't matter, but lower earners are heavily subsidized by the system, and get out far more than they put it... the upcoming retirement crisis will be exaggerated by this.

In addition, when you have unreported cash, there are limits to what you can do with it. With reported income, you can shield money in an FSA, HSA, IRA, 401(k), 403(b), etc., reducing taxible income AND building up a pile of equity.

When you have cash, you can spend it, primarily on consumer goods. So you can use it to buy a nice Shaitel, but not stock in IBM. That's how you end up with people on welfare and loaded up with "bling." It is very common in certain minority cultures in inner city environments.

It's just NOT a great cultural peer group for Frum Jews to adopt.

JoelC said...

No group is immune to incentives, particularly easily quantifiable economic incentives.
The poor incentives that are increasingly sapping the collective will of our (orthodox jewish) society are just a part of the slow collapse of the work ethic in the larger society we are part.

http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/255012/why-work-veronique-de-rugy

Dave said...

That does not answer:

1. Why are we seeing this in a culture which prides itself on isolating itself from the normative culture? Moreover, one which has no problems diverging strongly from the normative culture?

2. As a corollary, why are we seeing this amongst Orthodox Jews, but not amongst the Amish?

3. How does this explain the uniquely Orthodox dependent behaviors? I have never heard of poor Christians from around the world flying to America to beg money to purchase expensive apartments.

tesyaa said...

Why are we seeing this in a culture which prides itself on isolating itself from the normative culture?

Dave - in the big cultural picture, Orthodox Jews don't diverge from their local culture. In small cultural things, yes. In terms of overarching cultural trends, no.

Miami Al said...

Dave,

1. Because the isolation is largely on insignificant things, like television (you can get a TV + antenna for < $50 at Walmart and watch/not watch), and not on major things, like expenditures of massive amounts of money on expensive clothing.

2. We might be. I have read various things online about problems with drugs and alcohol in Amish communities... of course blamed on outside influences, but I don't know that they don't have problems. We just don't pay attention to them. That said, the Amish are actually isolated, because they don't live/work in the major commerce centers. Jews are urbanized, which requires some integration.

3. Well, Christians certainly beg for money, but yes, it's generally to help "the poor" and other groups, not themselves and their children. However, in the 1980s, Irish Catholics came to the US to beg for financial support for their anti-Union activities. But there is no corollary to the bizarre beg for money to buy an expensive piece of property.

Dave said...

Al,

For (2), I was referring to the dependency culture issue. Whatever other issues the Amish have, I don't think anyone questions their work ethic.

JoelC said...

Dave,

In response to your questions:

1)I would not say orthodox Judaism ("OJ")(and I am assuming we are generally referring to the yeshivish/chassidish portion of Orthodoxy) does not "pride itself" on it's isolation from the surrounding culture. I think isolation is one strategy used to preserve the unique values that Judaism is intended to embody. However, the isolationist tendency is balanced by countervailing proclivities including: economic necessity, a drive for education, and a tendency to gravitate to the professions requiring such eduction such as medicine, accounting and law (more in the yeshivish community than the chassidish). This is not to discount the strength of the isolationist instinct but that instinct is far from monolithic and nearly every OJ family contains members who represent points along the isolationist/integrationist spectrum.

2. I frankly don't know alot about the Amish but I would posit two reasons why OJ differs from the Amish:
a) The Amish do not educate their children past 13 years old. I would suspect they do not share the OJ reverence for education.
b) The Amish make their retreat from the modern world a central tenet of their lifestyle. While the isolationist tendency is undeniably important in OJ society, it is justified as necessary for other reasons, such as avoiding interaction that would lead to intermarriage or because integration might tend to weaken faith. Although these are important, these stricures are not the raison d'etre of OJ.

3)I believe the Israeli economic model has always been even more redistributionist that the American system. I feel that the dependent behaviors we are increasingly seeing in American OJ are similar to what is already present in Israel. These behaviors are very common in Europe. If you have been following the news in European countries that have tried instituting minor austerity measures, you will see that dependency almost invariably creates a culture of entitlement. My only point is that the OJ community is not immune to this.

Bklynmom said...

There is another way to under-report the family income. There are frum couples who never legally (secularly) marry, so on paper you have a young single mother with a bunch of kids. This makes her eligible for all sorts of social services. I don't know if that has any bearing on the numbers in this case, but it makes a larger-than-expected number eligible for food stamps, medicaid, WIC, etc.

Anonymous said...

I am a Jewish but not Orthodox mental health professioanl who works in the Orthodox comunity.My observation is that many Orthodox Jews simply do not see the value in putting in an honest day's work for an honest day's pay. They often work in jobs where they get paid under the table and then use their low incomes to qulify for government programs. They are also the first ones to complain about the long wait or "low quality" services that are available to them at our clinic which funded by Medicaid. I personally think that this stems from an extremely self-centered world view that, I hate to say, is encouraged by many Rabbis and the Yeshiva culture. It's especially disturbing when parents who proudly lives off the government insults my hard working African American coworkers and will not let their kids work with them because they are shvartzas.

Miami Al said...

Racism and laziness is NOT unique to Orthodox Jews. There are plenty of lazy racist Catholic and Protestant white Americans.

The difference is, in the Christian enclaves, those people are looked down upon by the rest of the population, dismissed as rednecks, poor white trash, etc., etc.

Orthodoxy has defined the backwards and primitive as the "most religious."

Walk into a Modern Orthodox school that isn't super loaded, and you'll find plenty of Rabbis that fit Anon 6:25's description. So University educated parents with graduate degrees and solid professional credentials spend a fortune sending their children to a place where they are told to stand up out of respect every time one of these tax evading, program abusing, racist, poorly educated slobs walks in and out of the room that dismisses the child's parents as "am haaretz" and "balabassim."

There is ZERO parallel for that...

And you have upper middle class white Orthodox Jewish children with educated parents running around making racist statements when their parents would never talk that way, and it's a HUGE problem.

Anonymous said...

So what's wrong with wanting what is best for your little ones? We are just as entitled to government funds as the blacks and puerto ricans, and our children are smart and want to learn.

Abba's Rantings said...

regarding the amish, i took a continuing ed class recently on health services in an amish community. officialy they shun government aid and pay out-of-pocket for health expenses. no medicaid/medicare. (some are starting to turn to private insurance, but still not common)

AL:

"The difference is, in the Christian enclaves, those people are looked down upon by the rest of the population, dismissed as rednecks, poor white trash, etc., etc."

the more important difference is that in the non-jewish world this abnormal living situation is not sanctioned by religion.

BKLYN MOM:

"There are frum couples who never legally (secularly) marry"

in NYS it is illegal for a rabbi to perform a wedding if the couple does not also get a civil marriage license

Miami Al said...

Anon 10:28,

"So what's wrong with wanting what is best for your little ones?"

Nothing. We're just stunned at the lack of willingness to work hard to earn the best for your children. Applying for government programs may be less effort than working, but certainly not giving them "the best."

"We are just as entitled to government funds as the blacks and puerto ricans, and our children are smart and want to learn."

Sure thing. Just understand that if you run your culture like inner city New York Black and Puerto Rican enclaves have run theres, expect similar results. You may think that a Yiddishe Cup is somehow a magical defense against cultural decay, we'll see in two generations.

But I see ghetto slang, fancy clothing and inadequate nutrition, and lousy education in all three communities...

This anti-government nonsense sounds like 1970s Black Liberation lingo against "The Man," how did that work out for NYC Black America? You want your children to live in a world like them? You have a STRANGE definition of "the best."

Bklynmom said...

Abba's Rantings--
Yes, it is illegal, but it is still done. You can perform religious marriage ceremonies without being registered with the state to perform civil ceremonies.

Anonymous said...

Our Torah values will prevent us from becomming like the blacks. Because of our values, the goyim look up to us and do not begrudge us getting the support we are entitled to. There is nothing wrong with our culture, but I can see where those who chose the take the easy road and work in a fancy job instead of make the sacrifices that go along with a Torah true lifestyle might be jealous.

Anonymous said...

Troll alert - please do not feed the animals!

Ariella said...

Anonymous, really it sounds like you take the opposite view and are saying this to satirize the view of those who take the path of low "on the books" income and the benefits that follow.

JoelC said...

I was going to try to respond to Dave's comment but Miami Al's tendentious and ad hominem remarks ("tax evading, program abusing, racist, poorly educated slobs") make me uncomfortable about participating in this discussion.

Orthonomics said...

Miami Al-Please keep the rhetoric to the minimum and disuss the issue at hand, i.e. the economic incentives and how they are hurting a community.

Joel C--I appreciate the link very much. Thank you.

tesyaa said...

SL - it's unfair for you to single out Miami Al when numerous posts on all your comment threads stray very, very far from the "issue at hand" (whatever that issue is for any particular thread). Miami Al writes well and he doesn't use profanity. I enjoy his comments.

Anonymous said...

I personally enjoy reading Miami Al's comments also. He agree that he does write well and wonder what his educational backgroud is. MO I assume.

JS said...

I'll second the support for Miami Al. I enjoy his viewpoint and I think it always adds to the conversation. He's always polite and never uses profanity. I think if people take issue they can respond by showing why he is wrong. It bothers me that when someone points out the failings of certain segments of frum culture they need to be cautioned, but if someone made comments showing how MO culture is bankrupt and not truly frum and just cares about money, etc. it wouldn't raise an eyebrow.

People needs to stop being so sensitive and simply respond to arguments. Unless a person is being abusive or profane or insulting I don't see the problem, personally.

Miami Al said...

Tesyya, JS, thanks for the support.

SL, I'll back off. I don't think that I'm out of line given the rest of the discussion, but it's your forum, not mine.

Orthonomics said...

Miami Al,
I enjoy your commentary and do value it. Sometimes a comment works in that is a bit over the top and I thought that the one comment referenced was.

That said. . . I happen to see eye to eye with you on exactly where we are headed if we copy other cultures with severe dependency issues which is why I keep coming back to the issue. I also have friends from such communities that are far more strident on such matters because they have lived the destruction. We don't want to go down that road and I'm afraid we are way too far down that road.

JoelC said...

I value the views expressed on this forum and I generally agree with the substance of MA's views.
That being said, as a black hat/chareidi, it is hard for me to participate in a discussion were my friends and family are referred to in an insulting manner. I am sure if you put yourself in my shoes you will be able to empathize with my discomfort

Tesyaa, not to put words into our hostesses mouth, but I think the emphasis is on keeping the focus on the "ISSUE at hand" as opposed to getting into an unproductive offensive descriptions of a class of people.

JS, I have been reading this blog for years and I honestly don't recall any such invective being used regarding MO Rabbonim. In addition, I am perfectly happy to respond to arguments (when I disagree with them) but saying I should ignore any insults and just respond to the arguments is not very fair or realistic.

Again, I value this blog because I largely agree with issues that are raised here. I only hope you are interested in hearing from people who bring a different perspective than the MO viewpoint that is typically presented here. In order to facilitate that, it would be helpful if we kept the discussion about the issues.

JS said...

Joel,

I meant my comment as an example, not to reference any comment that was made recently or in the past. I think blogging (and commenting on blogs) requires one to have a thick skin. I appreciate that Al's comments offended you and I understand where you're coming from. That said, I think the nature of the medium is such that a comment is made that perhaps tens or hundreds of people may see. It is doubtless that someone will be offended, particularly when the issue is heated or controversial. In such cases, unless one has been personally insulted or the point is purely ad hominem, I think it's best to just refute the argument made or simply point out the person is resorting to lowest form of argumentation.

As for keeping to the issue at hand, it's obviously not my call, but I often prefer when conversations in the comments veer off track - if a particular topic isn't getting people to comment, then let them comment on something that they find interesting.

Miami Al said...

JoelC,

What do you think of the Rabbis from your community that get employment at MO Schools? Are they the best and brightest, or are they drop outs from the Yeshiva World?

Are they likely to be insisting on parsonage for their reported pay, despite not acting in a clerical role? Hell, a few RW Rebbetzins had convinced a prior HR person to give them parsonage, despite a lack of ordination.

A friend who teaches in one of the rightish but non-Chareidi schools here has described both Rabbis and students referring to the janitor as "the Shvartze."

A Rabbi came into the business office to have his pay reduced so as to keep qualifying for a certain government benefit (while this is certainly responding to economic incentives, decreasing income to get a benefit is somewhat abusive of members of the poor). The Rabbi/Rebbetzin being unmarried and her collecting government benefits for single mothers wasn't common, but it wasn't unheard of -- but our less generous state benefits are probably a part of it.

Sorry, the behavior described by the Anonymous commenter I was referring back to is relatively widespread, even if not the majority. The Black Hat Rabbis that find employment amongst MO Schools tend to be the dregs of your world, and many of the negative stereotypes out there.

I find it extremely problematic that the least enlightened part of the Yeshiva world is imported to impart Torah on the Orthodox world, bringing the negative, backwards, and possibly criminal behavior forward as not only normative Orthodoxy, but as "more religious" behavior.

I have no idea what is widespread in Chareidi schools. I know what I have seen in a handful of south Florida MO schools, and I do NOT like what I see.

Anonymous said...

Amen Miami Al. I worked as an administrative assistant at an MO Yeshiva in the midwest and personally witnesses some to the financial games you referred to in south Florida. It was as if they felt that state or federal law did not apply to them which suggests that they are either very naive or arrogant.

Ruthie

Dave said...

Now that we've finished discussing Miami Al's choice of words, I'm curious as to your response to my questions.

JoelC said...

Miami Al,

1. In the NY/NJ area the Charedi rebbeim in MO schools are typically some of the most capable and personable graduates from Charedi Yeshivos. MO schools provide higher salaries and far better benefits than even the most stable Chareidi institution. I can think of many articulate, knowledgeable and scholarly Chareidi background rebbeim in MO schools and I certainly do not think they compare unfavorably to the rebbeim in Chareidi schools (other than possibly at the Rosh Yeshiva level where the status and patronage opportunities attract the very top level of Chareidi scholars). Does not the staff at YU demonstrate this point?
I would not be surprised if this did not hold true in "out of town" MO schools because of clannish nature of Chareidi society which causes those who have the option to avoid going away from the NY/NJ or other very large Orthodox communities, leaving less talented options for out-of-town MO schools seeking to find rebbeim who are Talmudic scholars


2. Regarding parsonage:
Please find below a link to an article regarding the parsonage exclusion.
I suspect you have more of a Chareidi background than some others on this site so you might be aware that yeshiva rebbeim consider counseling and presiding over religous functions an integral part of their job description. In addition, "smicha" is not necessarily a rabbinic ordination. I think many rebbeim have studied talmud for the same amount of time as other clerics take to get their ordination. Many yeshivas will grant smicha upon request and it is not clear to me that such ordination would not qualify for the parsonage exclusion. In sum, I think there is at the very least a non-frivolous position that rebbeim qualify for the parsonage exemption.

http://www.jlaw.com/Articles/Demystifying.pdf

3. Racism
I know I am going to get slammed for this but most of the shiurim I attended in yeshiva were given in Yiddish. What would be the politically correct way to refer to an African-American in Yiddish?
I myself would certainly not use the term "shvartze" and I don't deny that there is pejorative intent by some of the Chareidim who use the word, but I would suggest that its use is most similar to the term "black" used to refer to African-Americans by some older people. In other words, it is a word that had no intrinsic derogatory intent other than the fact that the people who used the term had racist views that were normative at the time.
I know this is a controversial and complex issue and I am not explaining it as well as I ought to. I would sum it up by saying that I don't deny that the Chareidi community is insular and therefore prone to use hurtful language and harbor some level of relatively intolerant views about minorities but I don't think it reflects any deep hatred or disrespect for minorities.

4. I don't agree that a Rabbi decreasing his salary to qualify for a benefit is abusive to the poor. If the Rabbi can qualify for those benefits, I would think he is poor himself. I agree that it is harmful to the Rabbi and his family when he increases his dependency on govt handouts but abuse seems an incorrect word to describe that situation.

5 Regarding your general issue with the importation of "unenlightened" Chareidim to teach in MO schools, I believe it simply is an outcome of the relatively large supply of Chareidi rebbeim who spent time in Kollel purely learning Talmud. The MO system is more geared to producing pulpit Rabbis. I have had surprising success in getting change implemented in my sons yeshiva by discussing the problem with the hanhala, other parents, faculty and basically anyone who could listen. If you think your children are not being educated properly, I bet you and other parents could get the situation changed. If, on the other hand, you have personal issues with the Chareidi lifestyle that is causing you to resent the fact that local schools employ Chareidim, I think it will be a harder sell.

JoelC said...

Sorry Dave, I will repost when I have some time.

Miami Al said...

JoelC,

If you are talking in Yiddish, than Shvartze is no more derogatory than referring to someone as black in English (calling someone the black, however, would be pejorative, I don't know Yiddish grammar enough to suggest similar comments). Further, in Yiddish, the term goy for non-Jew is similarly reasonable.

However, in the English language, Shvartze is a Jewish idiom that corresponds not to black, but nigger or similar terms. Goy, in English, is a derogatory term for gentile.

Quite frankly, there is ZERO reason to be speaking in English, and refer to someone as shvartze or goy until doing so derogatorily.

Parsonage is designed for clergyman serving a congregation to be able to live there. The classic example was the issue of housing a Protestant minister. Often they would live on the same property as the church, and when the income code was established, that would be "in kind" compensation, this prevented it from being taxable.

Given the requirement for an Orthodox Rabbi to live in short walking distance of his Shul, it is completely NON abusive for the Shul Rabbi to have parsonage, at least in as much as to cover the housing premium of living in the Orthodox neighborhood instead of a similar one, and possibly to cover the entire housing cost.

However, for a school teacher, clearly there is no obligation, in working at that school, to live in any particular Orthodox community (small communities with a single Shul are different), making it at a minimum abusive of the provision in the tax code, and possibly fraudulent. I'm NOT a tax lawyer, but I believe that parsonage is used FAR more liberally in the Jewish school system than is permitted by law.

Regarding Chareidi Rabbeim. While Charedi and Orthodox practices have considerable overlap, in terms of Kashrut, Shabbat, etc., and similar religious inspiration (Torah Mi Sinai, etc), the views, outlooks, values, and beliefs of the two groups are completely separate. To pretend that they are the same "religion" as the term exists in English is silly. While we fall into a demographic group, we have far bigger differences than many Protestant denominations of related lineage. I think that importing Chareidi Rabbeim to a MO school, as well as building the MO School system modeled after the Chareidi Yeshiva, was and remains a colossal mistake, one that the MO community is paying DEARLY for... the MO world is both economically downwardly mobile, suffering from generational wealth destruction, and an intellectual vacuum -- NOT because the MO world can't provide an intellectual framework, but because they have abandoned it, replacing it with half a day of "real school" and half a day of Charedi Yeshiva that "doesn't really count."

JoelC said...

Dave,

Chareidim do not "pride themselves" on being isolated from the outside world. They believe certain firebreaks are necessary to preserve the unique Judaic message. This is reflected in halachic requirement regarding eating and drinking. However, this is balanced by a recognition that Judaism has always been is intended to be a moral and intellectual light onto the nations. While it certainly is arguable, (and I agree in some instances) that the pendulum has swung too far in the direction of isolationism, anyone who learns Talmud and Pirkei Avos and knows how central the Rambam is to the development of our current halacha understands that there is a strong integrationist element to Judaism. Although I freely admit that my knowledge of the Amish is sketchy at best, it seems to me that isolationism seems to be almost the raison d'etre of the Amish lifestyle.

As to your last point regarding meshulachim from Israel, I would posit that the phenomenon stems from the kinship that Jews feel for one another in spite of geographical distance rather than some unique culture of dependency. I would agree that Israeli Chareidim are even more dependent that American Chareidim but I think that may be attributed to the even more redistributionist ethos and policies of the State of Israel from its inception.

Miami Al said...

JoelC,

You are obviously a very intelligent and educate man, it comes across in your writing and logical development. I believe that in your study of Talmud, you have clearly understood the different pulls in Judaism between internal isolation, integration, etc. None of us in the more "anti-Chareidi" side of this would disagree with you on this matter, as we absolutely feel that push and pull in the classical Jewish sources.

However, on the ground, that is NOT what we are observing happening in the Chareidi culture. Perhaps part of the problem is simply the bell curve of intelligence, where the Charedi Gedolim have bubbled up from the Top 1% of the Intelligence bracket, so much of this is obvious to them. However, for that middle 80%, I'm not seeing people feeling a tug toward separation and integration, we're seeing a backwards hidebound approach that looks towards myths of Eastern Europe to explain strange behavior.

Nothing demonstrates this more than Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving was extremely popular with immigrants, as it is the quintessential American Holiday, presents no cultural challenges for Jews or Gentiles, etc. The MO world relays the story of the Rav having Shiur early so he could go visit his family for Thanksgiving.

Meanwhile, the world talked about the "more religious" families not celebrating Thanksgiving, and people who grew up with Thanksgiving and don't celebrate it now dismiss it as "sentimentality."

Jewish law has always felt a pull towards, Halacha Only as well as integration, hence the Halachic imperative to obey the law of the land. Serving the Turkey on the Fouth Thursday of November may not be a legal requirement, but the Supreme Law of the Land here has absolutely declared it a national holiday of Thanksgiving, so how does that jive with this trend towards avoiding this holiday and rejecting the country that has given Jews more religious freedom and economic opportunity than anywhere else?

How does increasing opportunities for Shabbat observant employees jive with the observed downward mobility from a Chareidi world that is eschewing college education while a prior generation advocated Torah Learning by Day, College by Night?

You clearly feel the challenges, but how do we explain a culture that seems to not be feeling the challenge, and following extremism in a certain direction.

Jewish Law clearly recognizes a secular Kingship, with both a Brachah for seeing a king, and an acknowledgment of celebrating the king's holidays, for example a new coronation. Every July 4th, Americans celebrate the anniversary of declaring that the Kingship of American belongs to the people, not a hereditary Monarch, how can the Chareidi world refuse to acknowledge that celebration?

JoelC said...

Miami Al,

To someone as sensitized as you and I to the connotations of the word "shvartze" it certainly is inexcusable to use that word. On the other hand, after years of employment on Wall Street, I still find myself translating Yiddish into English in my head while talking. For someone who has never left the yeshiva world, I could understand that the filters might not be in place to avoid using that word. I would not conclude that anyone who uses the term "shvartze" is a prima facie racist.

As far as the use of the parsonage allowance, I would quote Judge Learned Hand who stated;
"Anyone may arrange his affairs so that his taxes shall be as low as
possible; he is not bound to choose that pattern which best pays the
treasury. There is not even a patriotic duty to increase one's taxes.
Over and over again the Courts have said that there is nothing sinister
in so arranging affairs as to keep taxes as low as possible. Everyone
does it, rich and poor alike and all do right, for nobody owes any
public duty to pay more than the law demands."
I disagree with your contention that the use of the parsonage exclusion by Rebbeim is clearly abusive and possibly fraudulent and I don't see why a group of people who take what may be an aggressive tax position should be tarred with the "tax cheat" brush. (As an aside, they certainly have a better argument than Charlie Rangel who got a slap on the wrist and ten minutes of backslapping from this colleagues in Congress).

I can't speak to what the MO community should or should not be doing but I would observe that some of the problems with downward mobility in the MO community simply can be attributed to regression towards the mean. If it takes 200K to reach subsistence level in the MO world and the average family income in the US is 100K or so, its going to be hard to avoid some downward mobility. You can rail all you want about how Chareidim are causing your kids to be poor but the hard fact is, it is very hard for children of wealthy parents to be as motivated as their parents or even their poorer peers, no matter how hard you try to teach them otherwise.

Dave said...

Average American household income is around $50k/yr.

JoelC said...

Dave, you are correct. I got lazy about commenting (or, industrious about my paying job) and didn't look it up. Just makes my point stronger.

Miami Al said...

Reversion to Mean is a statistical phenomenon, not a cause.

Amongst the secular Jews I know, I don't see the downward mobility I see around Frum community. That said, it could be selection bias, I don't associate with downwardly mobile people, with the exception of those I associate with because they happen to be frum and happen to live in my neighborhood.

Dave said...

As to your last point regarding meshulachim from Israel, I would posit that the phenomenon stems from the kinship that Jews feel for one another in spite of geographical distance rather than some unique culture of dependency.

And yet the Mormons, who are fully engaged with the normative culture, and who have as strong an emphasis on helping their brethren as Orthodox Jews (and what appears to be a much stronger emphasis on helping people who are not their brethren than Orthodox Jews), have a formidable work ethic. (*)

(*) Interestingly, some of the Mormon splinter sects which practice polygamy do seem to have a high degree of governmental dependence.

Dovy said...

>So what's wrong with wanting what is best for your little ones? We are just as entitled to government funds as the blacks and puerto ricans, and our children are smart and want to learn<

Speaking of blacks at least, don't you think our gov 'owes' them something for helping to keep then down for much of American history? Was that done to Jews as well?

Re Miami Al's comment re yeshiva rabbeim: My kids attend a right-of-center yeshiva in NJ and two of the last four rabbeim were real dregs: sarcastic, small-minded, bigoted and other 'ma'alos' as well. I often wonder: Doesn't the school realize the resulting damage they're doing to the kids? I guess not.

Anonymous said...

My kids attend a MO Yeshiva in the midwest that had a real bigot for a Rosh Yeshiva. He used to mixup the custodians names and ended up just calling them the Shvartzas. He was from Israel so there was no excuse that he was just using the Yiddish term. A few but not most teachers picked up on this and also started calling them the Shvartzas. Once again these teachers were not exactly Yiddish speakers and also harbored other prejudiced beliefs. My kid was actually made fun of by one of her teachers because she told her that I had an African American friend. The teacher asked if his name was Sammy, as in Sammy Davis Jr.

Anonymous said...

Miami Al had an interesting point about secular Jews and downward mobility. I am not religious and have been doing alright despite the econonic down turn. I was encouraged to get a good education and enter a profession. I am in the medical field and used to see many low income frum patients for free. Invariably these people were not in the least bit bothered by the fact that they received substatial govenment assistance and were in no way looking for an opportunity to better their economic situation. Sorry to say this but I really feel that Orthodox Judaism tends to attractive to Jews who can't think independently and who cannot find success in the real world perhaps because they really do lack a work ethic or I hate to say it are generally not as bright as less religious Jews.

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