Got Orthonomics in your Email Box?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

"And if we have to pay them more, they are worth every penny"

A wonderfully positive movement has sprung up in recent years in numerous communities which fulfills the highest level of tzedakah. Job placement initiatives, job seminars, and mentoring are such important programs.

That said, I want to offer some comments on some of the comments of a meeting of the EPI (Emergency Parnassah Initiative) as reported by Matzav. And I offer these comments to only be constructive as I can presently think of no better way to invest in a community than helping individuals help themselves and their families. But, I don't think it is helpful to misrepresent what life is like in the rat race, especially when businessmen, professionals, and rabbonim have an opportunity to meet and share ideas. (I do realize that accomplished businessmen are involved in the movement, but nevertheless, it seems there is some sugar coating and ignorance being perpetuated, which might not ultimately be helpful).

A subject at hand at the EPI meeting in Brooklyn was "chang[ing] the mindset of the frum Jewish community about hiring Jewish workers" and "[addressing reasons] as to why some are reluctant to hire Yidden " Let's cut to the chase with some of the reported comments.

***The alternative is seemingly cheaper. However, many of today’s job-seekers are so desperate that they will work for the same price. And if we have to pay them more, they are worth every penny, says Mr. Wolf.

I'm thinking back to some of my business and accounting classes in college. If anyone walked into class thinking that being in business is a quick way to success, that myth was soon dispelled as we learned about average profit margins in different industries.

Simply put, profit margins in industry can be quit thin. Labor is usually one of the largest items on the Income and Expense Statement. When a business owner is dealing with profit margins as low as 1-5%, it is not completely honest to say "and if we have to pay [a frum Jew] more, they are worth every penny." Lack of reserves because one is engaging in generosity, and a business can falter. One over budgeted expense, and an entire business can go under. Generosity is wonderful, when one can afford to be generous. But as one of my guest posters wrote, "Most frum entrepreneurs are not making it big. The vast majority struggle." (Do see the entire guest post). The notion that someone in business, or someone with investments, is flush with cash is one that needs to be dealt with. This myth holds back more sobering, yet ultimately more valuable, advice.

It is nice to hear that some are so "desperate" for work that they are willing to work for Fair Market Value. But I know of few employers who want to deal with employees that feel entitled without the record to back up their salary demands.

***Often, employers are nervous about all the Erev Shabbos, Erev Yom Tov and maternity leaves that women in the frum community require. That need not be such a concern. Our Bais Yaakovs produce such a fantastic product in terms of skills, attitude and middos, that when one girl is out, the others come in earlier and leave later to cover for her and be sure the work gets done.

I think the use of the word "girl" says it all! The world of employment has changed a great deal since a business owner had a staff of "girls" sitting around to do this or that.

(Skilled) Employees are generally not "interchangeable" even if they have the best attitude in the world. Productivity is key in business, as are the relationships that even lower level workers develop with clientele, vendors, suppliers, etc. It is simply untrue that if one "girl" need to run out early on Erev Yom Tov, another "girl" can just take over where the other left off with the same productivity (see the Jewish Worker's comments on this very subject). And where the work is more skilled and involves customer relationships, it can be a liability to just assign someone else, even if productivity were equal and there were no issues with learning curves.

While employee pay shows up as an expense on the Profit and Loss Statement, not on the Balance Sheet, employees are better described as assets (or liabilities). Employers invest a lot of time and resources into their employees. They expect a return on their investment and ROI is normally subject to time. Developing relationships with clientele takes time. Developing functioning relationships within the workplace takes time. Developing enough institutional memory to be able to add value for the customer takes time. Developing a trusting relationship with co-workers, superiors, and customers takes time and is key. It is hard to look the other way when it comes to maternity leave every 18 months, even if one is legally required to do so.

Technology has been a real game changer in the professional world. Most professionals that I know of handle a lot of their own administrative work, often with only a few clicks of the mouse. Think about how different the modern day doctor's office is from the one of the past. Today, doctors are showing up to appointments with laptop in hand and taking their own notes during the appointment. Gone are the days of sending dictation to the office staff. Gone are the days of plotting height and weight on the growth charts for further evaluation. And as I discovered recently, gone are the days when the doctor would either give you a written prescription or have a staff member call in the prescription for you. Now, with a few clicks of a button, the doctor herself can shoot a prescription off to the pharmacy before you can put your shoes back on. No middle "girl" needed!

***Another worry some have is that a Jewish worker will learn the business and become one’s competitor. To become a competitor, this worker must be extremely accomplished and capable. If he is that good, he’s probably worth the extra salary and bonuses to make it worth his while to stay with the company.

I think the validity of this concern varies from industry to industry, business model to business model (can the business be reasonably protected by non-compete clauses in the contract?). What is easier said than done is the 'pay him more aspect.' I think a bigger concern that potential employers who work within the community have is confidentiality.

***Yet a different concern people raise is that it’s hard to fire a Yid. EPI is ready to shoulder this burden. Any employee hired through EPI comes with an assurance that EPI will take care of the firing if the need arises. EPI will then try to find the employee another job.

It is hard to fire someone in the community! And is a very calculated risk with great potential to backfire. I have no idea how EPI plans to do the firing for the employer. I'm simply confounded.

I am humbled by those who go out of their way to help create greater economic prosperity. But I'm worried that the advice isn't particularly great advice.


Mr. Esquire said...

As an management-side employment lawyer, I see so much wrong with all of this I don't even know where to start.

Orthonomics said...

Start somewhere Mr. Esquire and share your experience. I'm not sure it really matters one starts as there is a real problem that needs addressed and a lot of myths that are going to have to be dispelled to help address it sufficiently. As the article states, "economic survival of our community is at stake". It might not be my direct community or yours, but we all know people that are stuck in this rut of thought and action.

So share away.

JS said...

It's all good and nice to help out people in need, especially one's brethren, but the whole attitude and tone seems ripped out of the 1950's - it doesn't account for today's business realities and the attitude expressed towards women in the workplace is appalling. It hasn't been okay to refer to women as "girls" for decades already nor to view them as interchangeable cogs (which can only be true, if at all, if they are viewed as uneducated, unskilled labor). As a guy married to a professional woman and from a family of professional women, I found this very offensive. Further, it's the "girls" that are interchangeable, whereas it's a "he" that is extremely accomplished and capable to become a competitor.

Regardless, if someone is good and I was in a position to hire them, I would. I wouldn't hire a nincompoop just because he's wearing the right "uniform" and is a coreligionist.

And despite what the people in this organization may believe, a lot of frum Jews look specifically to NOT hire other frum Jews because they need people to cover during yom tov, early Shabbats, etc. You can't staff projects properly if everyone is out for Pesach.

Finally, I'm not sure how slim those profit margins are in some Jewish businesses. I remember meeting the head of the orchestra we used for our wedding and the guy had a ridiculous house with very ornate and expensive decorations. And I know several very well off caterers as well. As for the caterers, they hire cheap labor for all the food prep and wait staff and probably pay them minimum wage at best and then charge you over $50/hour for a mashgiach fee (a mashgiach who does no actual work other than schnorring a bagel and lox).

tesyaa said...

As usual, I agree with the thrust of JS's comment; and this thread is likely to veer back to the heated discussion we had about what are appropriate jobs for frum young men and ladies. Remember how some commenters insist that certain jobs are "undignified" (including but not limited to cleaning houses)?

Not everyone who is in desperate need of a job can expect an office job with a desk, congenial co-workers, and extremely flexible hours.

Miami Al said...

Okay, in a small business, it is possible that the firm has a single "girl" -- being a outdated and derogatory term for a generic office staff (but it's a term still in use). My wife with a Masters degree, professional experience, and several reports nearly lost it when she was referred to as "one of the girls in the office." You often still have an administrative person that handles all sorts of odd jobs, but the idea of a firm with multiple "girls" running around doing clerical work? Not since Windows 95 came into vogue.

Most entrepreneurs work EXTRA hard around Chagim, need to make certain that there is coverage when they are out, etc. It's very hard when others can "stay late on Friday" and finish...

The idea of loading up my staff with unqualified people that I have to pay more because they want to disappear at 2 PM on Friday, the day before holidays when I'm out and it's a scramble, and thinks that he should learn the business from me to compete? No way.

Go start an in-community company, like catering, where the Rabbi prevents competition so you can make oodles of cash.

You're going to leak my trade secrets at Shul, bitch about me to people for being a mean employer, and generally ditch work for a late Brit Milah for someone you don't know because I'll "understand."

No way.

Even worse, when you get accommodated, what does the rest of my staff think? How many good employees should I lose because my over-entitled neighbor gets treated with kid gloves, and they decide that they can't get ahead in my firm because my neighbor has the inside shot.

Are these people for real?

Ezzie said...

AH. My head exploded.

I'll actually defend the only point that's possible to defend: The interchangeability one. IF (big IF) a company is really well run on a system (say a franchise or a large company with detailed systems in place), then it is theoretically possible to swap people in and out easily.

B&H is a very good example of this... and what's wrong with the rest of the piece. We know a ridiculous amount of people who are working at B&H now, and the theme from all of them is the same: It's a super-systemic company where nobody matters. If you leave, they will find someone else to take your spot. They offer you a salary of X, which is on the low end, with solid benefits, and that salary will cap out at Y after a few years. If there's no room to move up, they simply won't keep raising your salary (a friend was told simply "great job, but this is the max salary for your position - take a week of vacation as a bonus for a job well done" - no raise). Most people view it as a stopgap to gain experience and skills and then they'll move on to a better paying job.

A business plan I just wrote has projections for revenue and expenses. Just to give an idea, in Year 1 personnel costs (salary, FICA, workers' comp - no health) are 85% of revenues, reducing over time to 57% of revenues. [It's a service business so it is overall high, as revenue is based on number of staff performing services.] 57-85% of *revenue*, not profits. I don't know what business can afford to pay the difference between expectations in the frum world vs. market rate for staff or managerial positions.

Miami Al said...

On the plus side, the second part of the article was the great work the organization does.

Helping would be entrepreneurs with business plans, mentorship, and startup cash is a HUGE thing. Helping people with the skills and mindset they need is critical.

I'd like to know where one finds frum employees that "work until 10 PM to get the job done," the ones I know all decide to cut out early for a minyan/shiur/whatever to avoid doing work.

But maybe that's because we get the dregs in South Florida.

Bklynmom said...

OK, what am I missing? Why exactly does a frum Jew command a higher salary? How does an non-frum Jew rate then?
There happens to be another frum woman and a frum man who work where I work. I was asked this week if my schedule needs to be adjusted to the same degree as the other woman, because our support staff (non-Jewish all) know that she takes the day before, and sometimes the day after, every chag off. And demands Christmas and New Years Day off. And works half of Thanksgiving weekend (a 4 day weekend for us, we are lucky), but complains that it's her anniversary. And complains about all the cooking she has to do for the chagim because her entire family comes over. Other colleagues ask me why I don't have the same complaints (don't I have a family?), and why I keep quiet about the demands of my 4 children while she whines about her 3. The man runs out of work at 2 pm even for chagim that start at 7 or later. He has an hour drive. While I put in my hours and keep my family and religious needs to myself, I am lumped with them as far as "religious Jews at work" are seen. It's not pleasant.
My husband is self-employed and specifically looks to hire non-Jews for Shabbat and Yom Tov coverage. A few of his clients know she is smomer Shabbat, and he starts getting phone calls as we are saying Havdala--they know when they can reach him directly, but his coverage is seamless with the non-Jews covering for the 25 hours he can't.
Perhaps we are horrible parents, but in our conversations with our older children (a teen and a fairly mature pre-teen) we point out to them that to succeed in the professional world, they have to be outstanding at whatever they choose to do, to compensate for the negative opinion the frum have created in the work force. They run the risk of being paid less, not more, just because they wear kippot on their heads. Sad.

Orthonomics said...

Ezzie-Most certainly there are places where one can be interchanged. In fact, there are professional, higher paying jobs where this is the case too. My husband pointed out all of the professionals in his division can fill in for each other. But, there is little direct dealing with the public. I think the more important an ongoing relationship with a client or customer, the less interchangable staff is.

Miami Al-There is a lot positive that the organization is doing. Mentoring is key! I love that.

BrklynMom-Your example of the phone ringing during havdala is proff positive of just how important customer relationships are.

I had one heck of an interview with someone (Jewish) with a small firm that had a bad experience with a religious employee. His behavior was a liability to the firm and later a liability to future employees. If one wears the uniform, their attitude and approach becomes a representation of the community, for good or for bad. I couldn't accept a job with this tiny firm because I realized he needed more than I could give (I'm fairly certain he would have made an offer). I was a bit sad because I would have loved to learn his niche. I'm hoping that my interview re-opened his mind when it came to hiring Orthodox Jew. As a traditional Jew, he had an affinity. But he also has a business to protect and a family of his own to support.

Abba's Rantings said...

"I am lumped with them as far as "religious Jews at work" are seen. It's not pleasant."

i don't have this problem at work because of the nature of my work, but i did experience this in college and grad school. it was terrible.

Abba's Rantings said...

incidentally, le-ma'aseh, what do you all think is the proper time to tell an employer that you need to leave early on fridays (of course at a reasonable time). during the interview process (and at what point?), after being hired or when winter rolls around?

JS said...


Reminds me of the following story:

It was between Yom Kippur and Sukkot and I'm in class. The professor cold calls on a student with a kippa. Everyone in the class knows this guy is a slacker's slacker - never prepared, doesn't care, only in grad school because his parents are making him. On top of all that he's going through a religious crisis and isn't observant anymore. First words out of mouth after the professor's question, "Sorry, Professor, but it was just Yom Kippur and due to religious observance I wasn't able to do the readings." The Professor excuses him as the rest of the class groans and whispers to each other.

I made it a point the rest of the class to raise my hand and speak as much as possible so people could see another student with a kippa on his head wasn't going to make a lame excuse.

JS said...


I think it's easier for a man perhaps. I always wear a kippa on interviews and at work - I don't see the point in pretending to be someone I'm not. This way there are no surprises. The person sees my kippa and knows what to expect. If they don't want to hire me that's just fine, it would be an ill fit anyways. I don't mention the need to take time off at all unless they bring it up. In the NYC area people know what a kippa means. I just focus on showing them that I work hard and give it my all. When I later need to take off early for Shabbat or take off for holidays, I make that known, but I don't abuse it - I usually get home about 45 minutes to an hour before Shabbat/ Yom Tov regardless of the time of the year and I don't pull any shtick with day before yom tov or after and I don't take off chol hamoed or purim or whatever. I also work Sundays when needed and cover for coworkers on their holidays.

People are very understanding when they know you're not out to take advantage of them.

tesyaa said...

Abba & JS - it's a lot easier not to get tarred with the same brush when you work in an environment with few frum Jews. In my company there are very few frum Jews, but none of us gives a bad reputation to any of the others because we are all good workers. Once there's a critical mass, so to speak, of frum employeees, it's more likely that one person behaving badly will reflect on everyone.

Same with college. I'd expect Brooklyn College professors would have a different view of frum Jews that those at Stony Brook or Binghamton.

But these comments presuppose that there are frum Jews who are willing to go outside the norm and choose an environment where they won't be the only frum person, but they also won't have a huge "chrevra" of fellow co-workers or fellow students who are just like them.

abba's rantings said...


no time, but i could share plenty of similar horror stories from when i was in college.

"The person sees my kippa and knows what to expect."

even in nyc, you can't take for granted that potential employers understand the full implications of the kippah.

Anonymous said...

Abba: I think the time to tell an employer what accomodations you will need -- i.e. leaving early on Fridays, certain holidays off -- is after the job has been offered, but before you accept and start work. No one should assume, even in NYC, that people fully know that wearing a kippa means leaving by 2:00 on Friday in the winter, never being able to work Saturday, and having many holidays off.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand what it means to say that EPI will shoulder the burden of a firing. Are they going to pick up the severance pay? the employer's share of unemployment benefits? defend and indemnify the employer if there is a suit by the former employee?

Anonymous said...

While its wrong and illegal to not hire someone because they are a frum jew it is equally wrong and illegal to favor someone in pay and hiring decisions just because they are a frum jew. While I understand that the point of the statement about their being worth it was to counter any negative stereotyping, the statement that a frum jew is worth more or should be paid more does not strike me as the type of statement that should be coming from an organization that is geared toward helping people get and keep jobs in the real world where some humility, being a team player and understanding that you have to proove your worth to your employer through performance are all key.

Dave said...

To this end, an employee should indicate his or her religious commitment (leaving early on Fridays, not working Saturdays, and being unable to work on holidays) at the time the job is accepted or immediately upon becoming observant if he or she becomes more observant while employed.

Source: ADL (

Anonymous said...

Or do what I do. It takes me 20 minutes to get from my office to synagogue. I leave work 30 minutes before shabbat on Fridays. When I leave my house Friday morning in the winter, I've got the lights set and everything ready, because I don't get home until after shul \ dinner.

I have some friends who leave at noon or 1. I find it ridiculous.

ProfK said...

By law, unless a job specifically requires work on Saturday and it is so stated in the job requirements (such as a job as a 2-day weekend lifeguard), employers must allow alternative arrangements for those who are religiously observant. Notification to employers should come only after a job has been proferred and accepted. Employees must understand that they can and may be asked to make up any missing hours they are accomodated with during the rest of the week. An employer would be within his rights to tell someone who leaves at @ on a Friday that the missing hours have to be made up M-T. In major accounting firms where weekend work is required during quarterly tax time and end of tax year time, frum Jews who don't work on Friday night or Shabbos can be expected to work Saturday night and Sunday.

The Supreme Court made this decision decades ago based on a case brought by COLPA on behalf of a frum nurse who was fired from her hospital for not working a Friday night or Shabbos day shift. Since other weekend shifts were available, the Court ruled that the hospital must accomodate the religious worker by offering another shift.

Religious accomodation is not a freebie and far too many frum people who abuse the accomodation, giving other frum people a black name.

Anonymous said...

ProfK: You may have overstated the law a tad. According to the ADL website, an employer only has to provide "reasonable accomodations" unless to do so would create an undue hardship upon the employer. What is reasonable and what would be an undue accomodation can be very fact specific. "The EEOC has interpreted this to mean that an employer can show that a requested accommodation causes it an undue hardship if accommodating an employee’s religious practices requires anything more than ordinary administrative costs, diminishes efficiency in other jobs, infringes on other employees’ job rights or benefits, impairs workplace safety, causes coworkers to carry the accommodated employee’s share of potentially hazardous or burdensome work, or if the proposed accommodation conflicts with another law or regulation.

For example, an employer probably does not have to train a part-time employee at substantial cost in order to cover for another employee who is unable to work on Saturdays. Also, if a collective bargaining agreement is in force which sets forth rules regarding seniority and assignments, it may be an undue hardship to ask the employer to violate that agreement. An employer is also not required to pay premium or overtime costs in order to accommodate the religious needs of employees. Some employers do voluntarily pay these costs; however, this is up to the employer."

Dave said...


It is a little more complicated than that. For example, if shift selection is based on seniority, the courts have held that employers do NOT have to give precedence to religious beliefs when assigning shifts.

Likewise, if the costs of accomodation are more than minimal (adding an extra employee to cover that time, paying overtime to other employees), the employer does not have to do so.

Finally, if the employer offers an accomodation ("ok, you work Saturday night and all day Sunday"), and the employee wants a different accomodation ("I work an extra 2 hours each day Monday through Thursday"), there is no requirement that the employer choose the employee's prefered alternative.

Miami Al said...


Absolutely, the employers have plenty of rights. However, most people aren't assholes. Most people, when hiring someone, want them to join their organization. Reasonable accommodation should be pretty straight-forward.

Seriously, growing up, the Jews always covered shifts for the Christians in late December, the Christians covered for the Jews in September.

Rarely, upon hiring someone and realizing that there is some scheduling difficulty, does one change their mind.

Now, for junior, hourly people, this might not be the case. However, no Frum organization is going to ACTUALLY help Jews get jobs that they consider "beneath our dignity," so I presume it is higher level stuff.

Actual shift work, that's for the .

Dave said...

Oh, one other note.

Businesses with fewer than 15 employees are not subject to these rules.

Anonymous said...

Hi - management-side attorney here again. You are wrong Dave. That may be true under Title VII and certain other FEDERAL statutes but the threshold for certain state discrimination laws is much lower. For example, in NJ even a business with ONE employee may be subject to a discrimination lawsuit.

Dave said...

Oh, sorry, you are correct.

I lived for so many years in States in which there were no employee friendly State laws that I reflexively think in terms of Federal law.

Anonymous said...

no worries Dave. I do it for a living.... assuming you don't there is no reason you should have known that. But yeh, most states in the Northeast and and West Coast are extremely employee-friendly. Then there are some other flyover states which essentially have no state discrimination laws and rely entirely on the Federal Laws. These are good states to be in if you are running a business (but not if you are a lawyer since the hodge-podge of state laws in NY and NJ help keep my (tuition) bills paid since companies keep getting in trouble)

Larry Lennhoff said...

I've been fortunate in my last two jobs to be able to work from home on Fridays. I make it clear that I don't take this for granted by frequently volunteering to come in if the situation warrants, and also be regularly work Sundays if needed when deadlines look.

When I worked for a very small company that needed 24 x 7 coverage. Everybody had to take one night a week to be on call and weekends we rotated who had to take coverage. The deal I worked out with my manager and co-workers was that I never had Friday night coverage, always had Sunday night coverage and rotated normally in Saturday night coverage. During the summer the start up time for Saturday night coverage was pushed back from the usual 7PM to whenever Shabbat ended when I was going on duty. It worked out fine.

AztecQueen2000 said...

I think the key is to realize that our religious obligations can be a burden to our employer, and to show not only a lack of entitlement, but a sense of gratitude. For example, when I worked for an insurance company, I left early only on Fridays during the winter. However, I came in earlier, worked through half my lunch break, and the minute the clocks changed back, so did my schedule. I understood that my request was an imposition on my employer, and tried to work out a "win-win" situation for all of us.

Anonymous said...

Back to your original post. There seems to be a misconception here that secretarial work is a thing of the past. Technology has reduced dependence on secretaries, but not eliminated the need for clerical help. Lucky me. When I started as a legal secretary some 30 years ago, I was paid $2.50 an hour. The technology revolution cuts both ways. There's a need for people to do typing work, but on the computer, you need to know many different software programs and be able to manipulate them fluently and quickly. You need to problem solve and troubleshoot, on your own. And you're working for five attorneys, not two. As a result, my salary is now over $38 an hour. My law firm (predominantly Jewish but not frum) offers 5 weeks vacation after ten years, $4,500 firm contribution to profit sharing plan (it adds up!), 8 sick days, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur off when they come out on weekdays. (I can't imagine why a woman would want the headache and stress of being a lawyer when you can be a legal secretary.) We have a large number of excellent men who are legal secretaries. By the way, paralegals make less than legal secretaries, I guess it's the prestige factor. No prestige for me! I prefer the paycheck.

Most important was my decision early on never to work for a frum firm. I saw quickly that frum employers were paying very little because they were offering the benefit of frum accommodations. They didn't have to compete for employees, frum employees gravitated to them so the employers could pay far less.

I applied to a well established Jewish law firm, working for a religious attorney who hired me because he saw I was observant. I had the benefit of working for a frum lawyer in a nonfrum, but predominantly Jewish professional environment.

So I don't see the need to seek out frum workplaces. I think law firms would accommodate Shabbat-observant people who were excellent at what they do. But you've really got to be a star. You can't be a slacker. Expect to work the week of what I call "goyish chol hamoed", meaning the week between Christmas and New Year's. Work up to the very last minute on Friday and live near your office so you can get home quick. Have everything ready at home so you can jump right into Shabbos.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:50: Great comment. As a lawyer, there are many times that I would gladly trade my job for that of my secretary, but I fear that I could not do half the job that she does. I would note however, that with the exception of experienced patent secretaries, you are on the top end of the pay and benefits scale and it takes several years to reach that level (at least for the city where I practice). The flexibility your firm has shown also may not be as available in a smaller firm where there are fewer secretaries to help meet that Friday 5:00 p.m. deadline which, if not met, could mean hefty malpractice liabilities.

Also, many good and experienced legal secretaries were laid off during the financial crisis.

Anonymous said...

That is so true, Anon. 12:55 pm about layoffs. We laid off I believe 4-6 secretaries two years ago. I thought it was completely random, that by some miracle I had been spared. But our office administrator told me the choices were not random, that it was based on ability. I am grateful that I have the skills to remain in my job.

I see what the attorneys in my firm go through, both the associates and the partners - the associates who work long hours at often tedious assignments, and the partners who have to satisfy demanding clients, figure out how to get their bills paid, and bring in new clients. The law firm world has changed drastically since the recession.

Also, I'm working in trusts & estates now, a low pressure environment; you could not be a litigation secretary and be frum, no way.

I know of a frum law firm in another city where the secretaries are all non-Jewish so that they can work after the attorneys leave early on Friday.

I'm very fortunate I got into this field years ago and am not starting out now. My field may not be as viable for a young Shomer Shabbos person.

Orthonomics said...

My apologies if I implied that secretarial/administrative work is passe. It certainly is not. It is extremely necessary. But staffing is slim, as anonymous indicates and skill and efficiency are key. As I wrote "The world of employment has changed a great deal since a business owner had a staff of "girls" sitting around to do this or that. " Emphasis on "this or that."

Skilled employees are crucial. My audit division had about 75 auditors from new recruits to managers. We had 1 receptionist/secratary and 3 administrative assistants, each with a different responsibility for publishing and distribution of reports. I couldn't do what they did. I'm certain they assisted each other as needed. But greatest efficiency is achieved when they work on their function.

Our office operated on a slim budget and efficiency was important. If they had to pick up work because this one had to run here and there, I'm certain budgets would have been overrun. I was the head of an audit team that overran its budget because of certain unexpected demands. An office can meet an overrun here and there, but for the most part needs to have employees who are up to speed on their duties. Planning billed hours means being able to rely on regular staff. And even if the "girls" have a great attitude and are willing to come in early and leave late, will the budget cover overtime pay? Maybe not.

Bottom line: Reliable staff is key. If you aren't reliable and consistently efficient, good middos and attitude won't make up for that fact.

Anonymous said...

We do not have overtime among my five attorneys. The only overtime is in a major pinch where it is justifiable to be billed to the client. Such as a time urgent project where my boss asks me to work through lunch. It's passed through on the client's bill, not a firm expense.

Productivity is key in every position. You must be, and be seen to be, productive.

That means no posting on Orthonomics during working hours! (Ouch!)

Anonymous said...

Reading this blog is enlightening. I assumed when I was younger that Orthodox Jews led superior lives due to their following the laws of the Torah. As I leaned more, I found that they are no better than anyone else. So if this is the case, why cling to an outdated set of rules that seem to hinder the development of a functional lifestyle?

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:50: You make a great point about men working as legal secretaries. 99.9% of the legal secretaries I've seen in various firms I've worked at, both large and small, have been women. Meanwhile their husbands tend to bounce from job to job and layoff to layoff because they have worked in traditionally all male positions, such as construction and other skilled trades and sales, that are highly susceptible to ups and downs in the economiy, while eschewing women's jobs that are far more stable, and often more lucrative. Men fared far worse than women during the recent recession. My advice to men is if you aren't going to get an advanced professional degreee, you may be better off doing "women's work", such as secretarial, public school teaching (ok salaries aren't always great, but you get a pension) nursing, and the various "therapies" like occupational and speech therapy. You will also be doing a great service since male public school teachers are important to children as role models, and many male patients are more comfortable with male nurses than female. Same with OT and ST. If you have the right personality for and interest in a particular area, you are doing yourself a disservice by not considering some of the traditional female fields. There are lots of other advantages. Just think, a familiy where both parents are nurses can earn 150K and schedule their shifts so that all or most of the time, someone is home with the kids.

Mark said...

My mom is a nurse. After she graduated college as an RN, she searched for jobs all over the NY area and almost every place required alternating weekends including Saturdays. Most places were very hesitant to even discuss the issue of not working Friday nights or Saturdays. In the end, the place that was most accommodative was a Christian hospital called Alexian Brothers, they were a delight and had no problem at all with her working most Sundays and all the Christian holidays, but never working Friday night or Saturday. They were amazing employers.

Abba's Rantings said...


"and the various "therapies" like occupational and speech therapy."

if you live in new york that party is over. i think it would be poor advice to tell a young person to go into ot/pt/st.


unfortunately law and reality don't always go hand in hand

Anonymous said...

Abba - Are you saying "that party is over" because the "therapies" are oversaturated with frum women? Every young girl I know is studying or doing speech or a therapy. I have been worried about oversaturation.

Anon. 9 pm: Yes, you are right about men going into nursing. I'm hoping a young man who is married to a close relative will consider nursing - he's been learning and I would be very happy if he helped his RN wife to have a lighter schedule by picking up the parnassah ball. Yes, nursing is an excellent choice. His wife found a job right away in an out of town city where they live. Luckily, most frum young women have not yet joined the nursing bandwagon. They will, though, and then the field will again be supersaturated. I'm so glad my relative got into the field early.

And that is a major professional problem for frum young people: They move in crowds. They do what their friends do. So their job choices are dictated by this principle. That's a safe choice. Because of frum demographics, it leads to huge competition and overcrowding of these fields. Then the young women wonder why they can't find a job, or have to travel far outside Lakewood and work in a public school (not a first choice job, rejected by other frum ladies).

Very few young people think for themselves because of the Frum Principle - do not do anything unusual.

Anonymous said...

For those considering nursing and think the field may be saturated, remember that with the continuing shortage of primary care and internal medicine drs., there are going to be more and more opportunities for nurse practitioners and other advanced practice nurses. Being a nurse practitioner requires more experience and education, but the pay is greater and it also often means working in a drs. office where you can schedule your patients so you come in early/work late a few days a week and then don't see patients Friday afternoons. You can start out as a regular RN and then go back to school for your masters to become a nurse practitioner. Some nurses also get their masters of public health and then go into health care administration. In other words, nursing can be a starting point for a variety of health-care related careers.

Abba's Rantings said...


"Are you saying . . ."

the typical frum girl (shoot me) going into the therapies plans on doing early intervention home care (either as main job or as a sideline) because this is the most financually lucrative part. this is because new york has historically been *very* generous in approving children for early intervention therapy, paying for it in full (as opposed to in NJ,for example, which requires a specific diagnosis, parent copays, etc.), and paying well.

for the past few years they've been working to reign in these therapy costs. every year govt. proposes parent copays, expensive licensing for EI therapists, etc. until now these have not passed, probably because of fear of parent backlash. but ask any frum girl in the field and they will tell you that it has been harder and harder to get EI patients beause they started cracking down on approving patients. and over the last year they've also moderarely cut back on how much the govt reimburses for EI cases, although not by much. (not as important, but the weekly paperwork for reimbursements has become more burdensome too)

but now there's big the first big change. EI therapy sessions used to be mandated in half-hour blocks e.g., 2 x 30, which means two 30-minute sessions/week and therapists were paid sixty-something dollars per session. now they are mandating it in 1-hour blocks, e.g. 60 x 1 (even though 1-hour sessions may not be beneficial for many EI patients) and for this hour reimbursing only 80-something dollars. that's a very real pay cut. that's a very real pay cut, sure to cut into the budgets of all the frum girls who do EI cases. worse yet, as the pay differntial bewtween EI and "regular" therapy jobs disappears and the case loads continue to shrink making them harder to get to begin with, there will probably be a saturation problem as they all start competing for other types of therapy jobs (which of course can then stagnate the salaries in those fields). (also note that at the same time they've been cracking down on approvals for non-EI children, which also makes it harder to build caseloads and furthers the saturation problem)

that is the understanding of someone who isn't a therapist and could be wrong

abba's rantings said...

"because this is the most financually lucrative part."

just to clarify, EI evaluations is the most financially lucrative job, but these are one-time gigs and not too many therapists rely on evals for their bread and butter work

Anonymous said...

Abba, I understand the entire situation from your post. Muvan me'elav, as they say.

It's just as I thought. Speech therapy has been a government funded golden goose which has enabled thousands of kollel couples to earn a living. The government is funding expensive, probably unnecessary early intervention and this has led all these young girls to sign up for speech therapy.

This is a real boondoggle. The demand for early intervention is from parents, yes, but also from speech therapists, who see the danger that their golden goose or fatted calf is being put on a diet.

So it's as I thought, as I suspected. This is why our government has no money for so many necessities, why our infrastructure is crumbling, our railroads a national disgrace, and we are printing money.

Thanks for explaining it all to me.

Miami Al said...

There are two issues:

1. A Frum attraction to government largess
2. Dangers of a monoculture

Despite rightwing voting patterns, the Frum establishment has an utter fascination with government money. I'm sure people will connect this back to something in Europe, but it seems more likely that he has post-WWII Democrats living in New York City, the statism of living off that political machine has been internalized.

You see this in latching onto any program for the poor and building a system that is intertwined with machine politics and political corruption. Long gone are the days of Jews being aspiring business builders, it's now aspiring political hangers on.

And in good times, there is lots of government money to dole out. In bad times, straight corruption is the easiest to cut back on. This makes the Frum community hyper-cyclical: MAJOR boom in boom times, MAJOR bust in bust times. All tourist/construction areas like Southern California and South Florida function that way, but the New York Frum culture has a strange ability to take a luxury that becomes affordable in a super-boom, and make it a requirement that strangles people in a bust... silver candlesticks, year in Israel, 13 years of private schooling, all extremely rare 2-3 generations ago are now requirements.

A good leadership creates negative feedback situations (when economy is roaring, push for more savings/tzedakah, endowments, etc, when economy is tanking, use that to cushion the fall), our leadership is creating positive feedback situations, that is TERRIBLE.

Was any of the boom-time Kashrut money (flush times, everyone wanted certification) invested into technologies that make Kashrut cheaper (databases, webservices to verify a product's status, etc), or was it used to line peoples pockets. In bad times, is certification the easy thing to cut for manufacturers?

The second issue is the most dangerous, but hardest to avoid. The self-ghettoization of Orthodoxy higely lends itself to Group Think. The Internet, rather than creating geographical bridges to help, has reinforced that trend, with separate websites and forums.

In biology, you learn that a monoculture with limited genetic diversity is more susceptible to plagues, diseases, etc., as it spreads through the homogenous population. In economics, you have a similar thing.

If EVERY MO is a doctor, then changes that clobber doctor's salaries 10% hit the community by 10%. if everyone is diversified, you can whether changes.

A culture of all-software developers would have been clobbered by the Indian outsource craze, a scenario that didn't hit the MO community that hard, because of limited exposure to that field.

tesyaa said...

As a parent of special needs children I'd hesitate to call EI a government funded golden goose. I'm sure there is some overuse of EI, but as Abba points out, in NJ there are copays, which can be hefty, based on income level. Do we really want to go back to the dark ages when disabled children were not educated and left to rot in institutions? It may be cheaper for society not to; but even if EI and special education services cost society more overall, there is some argument that improving the quality of life of the most vulnerable members of society is a worthwhile goal.

Anonymous said...

Tesyaa: I's sure everyone here agrees fully with you on the importance of excellent and available special education and other services for all special needs children. That does not, however, mean that there is overpayment and overuse of some providers.

Anonymous said...

Tessya: I would also note that the group think or group trends that Miami Al discusses may also be highly detrimental to good special services. If every "girl" does into education or occupational or speach therapy because that is the thing to do rather than because that is where her skills, intellect and passions lie, then we aren't getting the best pool of providers. Similarly, by making this "girls'" work, we are losing out on many talented men.

Anonymous said...

Tesya, I did not mean to single out special education in my earlier post (Anon. 1/17 10:23 a.m.), but speech therapy and other therapies. It's obvious that our community's care for special needs children is what makes us humane.

Further to the 11:25 am post above: Young women and men who might go into nursing, a field where there is real legitimate need, are being diverted into speech therapy, a field where the need is not readily apparent and there is overuse.

Abba's Rantings said...


"I did not mean to single out special education in my earlier post (Anon. 1/17 10:23 a.m.), but speech therapy and other therapies"

for special ed/needs kids, the therapies are part of the educational process. in NJ (or at least in certain parts, e.g., teaneck afaiu), they will not mandate a therapy unless there is a specific diagnosis. simply having a delay or generalized difficulties, is not enough.

in NY there is no official requirement for a diagnosis (although i'd bet it will get there), but even in NY therapy for school-age children (i.e., not talking EI here) is mandated for the purpose of ameliorating academic impediments. e.g., OTs will work with kids to improve handwriting because this is an academic goal. or PTs will work on stregnthening with a child who is unable to transition in and out of a desk.

"Young women and men who might go into nursing . . . are being diverted into speech therapy"

speech (and other therapies) are very amenable for mothers who want to make decent money working part time and be home for the kids. nurses have crappy schedules.

Bklynmom said...

Anon 1:17--from what I undestand, in NYC the job arket for nurses may be saturated. I have had two nurses fresh out of nursing school and eager to work as a nurse in any setting (one a single frum young woman, the other a mother in my child's yeshiva) ask me if I knew of any job openings (I work in the healthcare field). I think there are plenty of nursing job opportunities in other parts of the country, but in NYC that seems to not be the case. I have not yet confirmed this with anyone who tracks these trends, but anecdotally I'd say look before you leap into nursing if you intend to stay in NY.

Abba's Rantings said...


are you talking about NPs?

Mike S. said...

While I agree with Al's general point to a large degree, the OU does run a major database on kashrus, without which much supervision would be practically impossible.

Job categories is yet another area, like Al says, where the confusion of obedience to halacha and social conformity has caused trouble.

Abba's Rantings said...


"The government is funding expensive, probably unnecessary early intervention"

for some it is necessary, for some it probably isn't. unfortunately that's the nature of any free program (health related or otherwise).

when i was growing up no one knew if you were getting therapy. it was an embarassment. today everyone knows and it's an embarassment if your kid *doesn't* get it. but it doesn't mean that there aren't plenty of kids who really need it and benefit greatly from it. it sucks that in the effort to reign in the costs, there are kids that will get totally screwed. with regard to the specific new cost-cutting measure i mentioned above mandating hour-long sessions, this will be to the detriment of many kids who would otherwise benefit from shorter sessions.

Anonymous said...

"speech (and other therapies) are very amenable for mothers who want to make decent money working part time and be home for the kids. nurses have crappy schedules"

This remark is truly perfection. So well stated. So reflective of the character of the poster. I hope there are no young women out there who actually want to pursue a profession where they are needed, where they are useful. Where they are doing meaningful work that is essential. That's nursing and nurse practitioner and physician's assistant. The therapies are another form of government dole. Correct me if I'm misinformed.

tesyaa said...

There are plenty of cases in which therapy is not "the government dole". Many parents pay privately for additional therapy, at a rate of $150 per hour, or more. Many adults need speech therapy - stroke and accident victims. Same with occupational and physical therapy. Let's not generalize too much, that nursing is "essential" and therapy is not. What about registered nurses who work as "baby nurses" for well-heeled new mothers who don't want to wake up with their babies? Is that more essential than a child receiving early intervention?

Again, please, let's not generalize.

Dave said...

I suspect, however, that the combination of a ready stream of government funding and "socially approved career for frum women" is what made those specialties so popular.

The latter may remain, but the former will not.

States are cutting programs to the bone (or out of existence), and that trend isn't going to reverse any time soon.

Abba's Rantings said...


a) i'm not sure what's wrong with wanting a job with a good schedule.
b) my impression is that there is an overuse of theraphy services, but this doesn't mean that therapists don't also provide needed services. people are born with all types of problems, they have strokes, get into car accidents, etc.

Bklynmom said...

Abba's--no, RNs, fresh out of nursing school. NPs, as far as I know, are in demand.

Ahavah Gayle said...

A few thoughts after reading all these very good comments:

1. The medical/theraputic industries are probably not a good career choice because less and less people can afford private insurance and fewer and fewer companies are offering health coverage to their employees. Medicare and Medicaid are in dire financial straights. Some markets are already oversaturated with medical and theraputically trained persons, and this will drive down wages as it spreads to other geographic areas. Simply put, there will be a greater need for healthcare as the baby boomers age, but less resources to pay for it. Wages will necessarily fall.

2. Ditto with legal and other "secretarial" type remaining jobs. Too many people chasing too few jobs means wages will fall. I myself interviewed for a legal secretary position - a small group practice wanted someone with medical billing and transcription experience, and was only willing to pay $8.50 an hour for it. I didn't take the job, but somebody did. This is in a county with much a much higher median wage than the rest of the state. That tells me there are desperate people out there that will work for way less than $38 an hour, and they will be the driving force of wage levels.

3. Right now, with median wages the way they are in most states, it actually takes 3 adult wage earners to sustain a household. That number will soon rise to four. That means multi-generational or multi-families (living in what are considered single-family homes) will have to become the norm for households to be in any way economically sustainable. This is something most frum communities, especially, are not prepared to accept - nor do I think most "middle class" communities of other sects of Judaism are prepared for this unavoidable eventuality. Even with real estate prices falling as they are, annual pay is falling faster.

I agree with the comment above that too many people, especially observant people, feel they are too "good" to take jobs in some steady but low-prestige industries. It will take some desperation to dislodge that worldview, I'm afraid. With even the cost of college fast becoming unaffordable (even with student loans, which seem now to be only a path to life-long debt servitude anyway, in this market), most average people are simply going to have to lower their expectations. That's not going to go over very well, to say the least.

Dave said...

Where are you getting the notion that across America, the average household requires 3 adult wage earners to sustain it?

Ahavah Gayle said...


Average cost of housing + average cost of utilities + average cost of transportation + average cost of food = more than the median wage of 2 earners in almost every geographic area now. That's why everybody's in hock to credit cards and other usurers. It might not show so much in households where both spouses earn more than the median, but the upper middle class is fast shrinking. Those mcwallywort jobs that are replacing manufacturing simply don't pay enough to support a family. For example, the median wage in my state is about $25,000 now - the median 3 bedroom home is still in the $200,000 range, minimum. Here in my county you can't even get a starter home for that, really. Someone with a $50,000 household income simply cannot qualify for a mortgage on a $200,000 house - it was trying to do just that that has caused the foreclosure crisis in the first place. Even the slightest financial bump in the road causes bankruptcy at that point, as many millions have found out the hard way. You can't pledge that much of your take-home pay toward housing costs. It's too high of a percentage of your income. But most people have anyway. It can't go on and isn't, really - banks are now simply refusing to give mortgages or restructure people's mortgages. So the only way they will be able to buy a home (or even rent one in many places) is to have at least 3 wage earners - soon to be 4 as median wages keep falling.

Anonymous said...

Ahava raises some good (but very depressing points). The statistics on the ever increasing earnings gap between the very rich and everyone else and the shrinking middle class bears this out. What we are failing to do is to get comfortable with living with less, whether its smaller homes, smaller/older cars, fewer clothes or fewer gadgets. I actually think that the multigenerational household Ahava refers to is not such a bad thing. That's the way most people lived for most of human history and the way many people still live now in many parts of the world. Now its honor your mother and father, but G-d forbid not under the same roof.

Dave said...

This is one of those places where the difference between average and median may be significant.

I compared the median rent to the median house hold income in a major metropolitan area near me...

And it's not out of whack.

Fair market rent for a 3 bedroom apartment in the city is around 21% of the median household gross income.

If you bought during the housing bubble, you're underwater.

If you have a major medical expense or a loss of employment, you're in trouble. One is because of the way the American system of funding health care evolved, the other because Americans as an aggregate haven't bothered to save money for a generation.

Abba's Rantings said...


"I hope there are no young women out there who actually want to pursue a profession where they are needed, where they are useful."

i'm not sure how different this is than the rest of us in other professions who chose a profession primarily based on personal utlitarian considerations rather than a potential contribution to the greater good

Anonymous said...

Tesyaa, stroke and accident victims is one thing. But early intervention speech therapy sounds to me like a luxury, funded by the taxpayers. I am hearing a lot of complaints about how government reimbursements are going down. The complaints come from speech therapists whose income is being reduced, and who are faced with the terrible prospect of their husband having to work!

Can we afford to support kollel families who are being funded by government paid work?

Anonymous said...

If grandparents live with their children, how will that increase income? Grandparents will then be subsidized by their children.

Anonymous said...

A great deal of your happiness in your work is based on your feeling that you are helping people. At least for me. And I'm being well paid! It goes beyond utilitarian considerations. I started out working for personal utilitarian considerations, and ended up enjoying my work! I'm not saying you should choose a field you don't like because it's helping others. But being needed is emotionally satisfying. I guess you don't understand.

Anonymous said...

I was responding to Abba above.

tesyaa said...

Anon, do you really think an autistic child deserves therapy less than a stroke or accident victim? I think there may be biases at work. To the degree that an autistic child can gain functionality, the child may live a productive life; marriages may be saved (being a parent of an autistic child is very stressful); not to mention if the mother can return to work because her child is functional, there is an economic gain.

I wonder how much exposure you have had to disabled children, most of whom have potential but cannot achieve it on their own. Why do you feel a person who suffers a stroke or an accident is more deserving than a child born with a disability?

Miami Al said...


Three groups:

A) Stroke victims, were functional, lost it, this helps them regain, largely paid by insurance, no controversy

B) Disabled kids - if it can help, wonderful, not sure why the state should pay for this instead of insurance/parents, but okay, but useful therapy

C) Spoiled Rich Kids - Kids who are slightly below average, or merely average, parents lobby for a diagnosis to get "special treatment," use programs to get free vouchers to private schools not available to honest parents...

C is where you have push back. It's tragic if C is allowed to either crowd out A & B for dollars, or cause total alienation of the service.

I think that there is also some doubt that the seemingly uneducated and untrained Kollel wives have any actual skills to make a difference, particularly in an insular community that shows up with their hand out and redirects taxpayer money into their own community's pocket with seemingly little oversight.

Anonymous said...

Tesyaa, the question is how much the government can fund. The disabled child deserves as much as the elderly stroke victim. The issue is, can the taxpayers afford to supply every important need?

There are many unsupplied needs that are going unpaid for by the government. When I have to visit my elderly mother in a distant state, I ride a decrepit train for 25 hours that bumps along in the night, with terrible accommodations. I wonder why the government can't afford decent train service like in Canada.

I am not comparing my need to yours, G-d forbid, an autistic child cannot compare to a mere inconvenience. Perhaps it's a bad example, but multiply it by bridges that collapse, our monetary system being ruined by printing worthless paper, government debt paid for by our children. These are complex issues, and I understand you are thinking of your child and not of complex economics. But I don't think the taxpayers will be able to justify providing your child with paid care if it means other essential needs are going unmet.

tesyaa said...

I think that there is also some doubt that the seemingly uneducated and untrained Kollel wives have any actual skills to make a difference

I agree that I am wary of therapists who get their coursework via videoconferencing at their seminaries so they don't have to set food on an actual university campus with men. I do not use these therapists, and my school district would almost definitely not hire them.

Al, I don't know why commercial insurance plans rarely pay for developmental therapy at ages 0-3(with some exceptions; mandates are changing this in some places). Given this reality, though, there is an expectation that the benefits from early intervention will make the costs of future government-funded care significantly lower (Medicaid, SSI, etc).

As for preschool and up, it's very beneficial to have therapy in an educational setting so educational needs can be addressed. In fact, educational needs must be demonstrated in order to qualify for in-school services.

And as I pointed out, many parents pay privately for additional therapy for their disabled children.

As for spoiled rich kids, there are surely some "gaming the system", as you imply, but there are others who really need the services yet appear OK on the surface. It's like the heart or cancer patient who looks perfectly OK on the outside, yet infuriates passersby by using a handicapped parking tag.

tesyaa said...

But I don't think the taxpayers will be able to justify providing your child with paid care if it means other essential needs are going unmet.

Just as Medicaid pays for nursing home care for seniors who need it who impoverish themselves (purposely or not), children who are not given the chance to meet their potential will be a very heavy care burden to the government, for many, many years. If an autistic child can be given the functionality to work in a job as an adult (whether or not he or she will be able to live independently or in a group home), he or she may actually provide economic benefit to society, instead of being a huge net cost.

I mean, are we discussing the merits of the entire social security program? I know many frum Jews view social services and FDR as evil incarnate, but that's a whole different discussion.

Dave said...

State based safety nets are being dismantled all across the country.

The money isn't there, and the voters are not willing to increase taxes (see also, one of a continuing reasons why vouchers are a pipe dream).

Moreover, low tax states are not immune. Texas is facing a $27 billion deficit in the next biennium.

When funding for primary education, fire, police, college education, and, well, pretty much everything else, is being cut back hard, early intervention for children is not going to be somehow exempt.

tesyaa said...

Dave, I've been using early intervention and/or special education for many years; I've seen the cuts in services and increases in costs (i.e. copays for EI), and dealt with them.

I'm sure there will continue to be cuts. Just not sure why nursing homes for seniors who transfer their assets (and keep their homes) is more of a worthy need than education/therapy so that a child has a chance of being independent and not a drain on society.

I mean, seniors with Alzheimers are already dying and will never be productive again, if you want to make a real cost-benefit analysis. But we care for them and try to give them quality of life, regardless that they're a current drain on society.

Dave said...

If nothing else, Social Security / Medicare are Federal Programs. Completely different pot of money.

tesyaa said...

Early intervention and preschool special education receive a large amount of federal funding. And isn't Medicaid (for impoverished seniors and others) at the state level?

Social Security does NOT pay for long term care costs.

Dave said...

Medicaid is State and Federal.

States are cutting their share of that to the minimum required to keep their Federal money.

I would expect to see that pattern for pretty much everything. The last three years have been spent cutting back on program spending. We're now at eliminating programs entirely.

Anonymous said...

Also seniors vote. 0-3 year olds do not.

Miami Al said...


If if makes you feel better, I have NEVER heard a negative word about programs for intervention in children from outside the Frum bubble.

I totally believe that the "get my kid OT/ST" nonsense is in all of New York Jewry, since whatever nonsense we are doing, they tend to be as well, but they have smaller families and less insular usage.

However, some reason a wealthy family on the UWS getting treatment with the "best" occupational therapist in the City seems a bit abusive, but a family of 8 children in Brooklyn all getting this therapy from their cousin's friend from Seminary with an online course seems like a lot of sucking on the government teet.

And I'd HATE for EITHER group of abusers to destroy a program for autistic kids, but the group doing it 8 kids/family is burning the cash faster than the snotty couple with their one perfect child.

Anonymous said...

Tesyaa, I'm afraid Dave is right. Government benefits are being slowly but surely reduced so we do not end up like Portugal and Greece. The economics are more than I can explain on this blog. Tesyaa, you are deserving of government help. Poor frum people in Lakewood are deserving of help, but welfare was cut off and the family I know of had to turn to private tzedakah and even (nebech) work.

Government benefits are being reduced. We have a Republican Congress. Obama is figuring out how to mollify them and get votes from conservative independents. It doesn't look so good for government benefits.

Anonymous said...

"even (nebech) work"??!??!?!??

Really? What are we coming to?

tesyaa said...

I am not unfamiliar with complex economics. Also, I admit that my comments are influenced by my personal experiences. I have not yet heard an explanation of why stroke and accident victims are more deserving of help than children born with disabilities. That was really my main question today, and I haven't heard an answer. Many stroke victims won't improve much with therapy, but they get it anyway. I'm sure their families feel passionately, too.

Dovy said...

>n the end, the place that was most accommodative was a Christian hospital called Alexian Brothers, they were a delight and had no problem at all with her working most Sundays and all the Christian holidays, but never working Friday night or Saturday. They were amazing employers.<

My wife and some other frum women worked for the Archdiocese of Newark.

Dave said...

Americans are notoriously resistant to cost/benefit analysis on core issues, as demonstrated by the hullabaloo over the nonexistent "death panels".

Yes, we might get a better return on investment for early intervention on a child than for post-stroke therapy for an octagenarian.

But then, we'd also likely see a better return on investment if we took all of the Medicare funding and put it towards health care for children.

And we'd absolutely see a better return on investment if our tax dollars went to provide a new generation of Americans with strong training in science and engineering rather than on Social Security.

But we don't do that.

We provide health care for our seniors (along with Social Security, for that matter), so that they can enjoy a well earned retirement.

Hard work. "Earned". Those are powerful symbols in America. And that's why we're not going to take an elderly stroke victim and deny them care, even if the same dollars might be more efficiently invested in a child.

Anonymous said...

Tesyaa, are you unable to pay for the help your child needs? Can you appeal to your family to help you? Family can be a lifesaver in these situations.

Anonymous said...

Tesyaa, I hear your question which has not been answered. It is the question my little ones ask - why does he get and I don't? It's a good question. The answer: Life isn't fair.

A better question is: How do I get the best treatment for my child? Where do I go? What doors do I knock on? What walls do I knock down?

A family I know with a disabled child had the parents move to another state with better treatment options and sent the child to live with the parents so the child would be able to go to a school and receive treatment. (Yes, this worked, great results.)

You should not think about the unfairness of it, though it is tempting to do so. Devote your energy to problem-solving.

Anonymous said...

Tesyaa, to clarify: By parents moving to another state I meant the child's grandparents who retired and moved in order to care for their grandchild.

tesyaa said...

Thanks for the well-meaning advice! I am not flailing, helpless, or bemoaning my fate. Most of my comments on this thread were in response to those who called therapy services "a golden goose" or "the governmnent dole". I tried to point out that most people would not consider this to be the case if they had a relative who was in an accident or had a stroke.

Even when services have to be cut for economic reasons - it does not imply that those services had no value in the first place. That was my main point, which everyone seems to have missed.

Miami Al said...


Nobody is suggesting that the programs are a golden goose for the children benefitting (I do question why it's the state and not insurance paying, but again, that's not a golden goose issue).

However, if someone with a high school diploma can do a 12-18 month "online course" and get certified in this field, and lift their earnings from 25k/year - 80k/year, that's a TREMENDOUS ROI.

In a normal market, that should bring more therapists in and drive wages down.

In a government market, the wages are fixed, and more people in the field means pushing more diagnoses until the budget explodes. When the budget explodes, the compensation is cut in one swoop, instead of gradually like a market.

In Frum Culture, once something becomes "the path" people are stuck in it.

I knew plenty of gentiles making 100k-250k/year dealing in real estate/mortgagees in the bubble. When it collapsed, they left the business.

The Frum Real Estate/Mortgage guys I know are STILL in the business, unable to make a living. When asked, they'll say things like "This is the only thing I know" then bemoan their fate... these are guys between 25 and 35, plenty of time to retrain (albeit, not if you can't take time to go learn a new trade because you have day school bills to pay and tons of shiurim to attend when classes are offered, the shiur/poker combos are my favorite).

But doing Real Estate deals on behalf of other Frum Jews (since things like mortgage commissions/buyers agent fees are pretty fixed, everyone used "our" guys) was easy, it became acceptable.

Same thing will happen in OT/PT. When the golden goose (for the therapists, NOT the patients), is destroyed, we will have an entire generation of Frum women trained in these fields, with 3-5 children and no time to retrain, and stuck in poverty.

You can't even have the "community" help them out, because you're going to smash EVERY frum family from lack of diversity.

Somehow, a daycare/job training facility for working moms, so kids can be watched while they train, just isn't on anyone's hashkafic radar.

Anonymous said...

Miami Al, there are daycare facilities for frum working moms. A wonderful one (my sister worked there) was closed down by the state due to an apparent safety issue I am unclear about. All those mothers had to find another daycare center for their children on a day's notice. And my sister and the other caretakers are on unemployment. Lose-lose, as they say.

Miami Al said...


I mean, a facility where working moms could come, drop their small children off downstairs, and go upstairs for retraining. Not finding a full time facility, just an opportunity for them to learn new skills, retrain for a new profession, and have day care for the 2-3 hours that they are in the class.

If a family finds themselves out of work, needing job retraining, telling them to pay for weekly daycare while they are trying to get up to speed is laughable.

This would be an investment in the community increasing its income.

Always a new Chumrah to spend money, never a new effort to make it.

Anonymous said...

I see - that's an excellent idea. Why don't you contact Agudah and suggest they add a daycare component to their existing job training programs?

Anonymous said...

Tesyaa, I was the one who gave you the "well meaning advice". It's painful for me to tell a woman with an autistic child with special needs that she feels entitled. But I think you need a reality check.

I am not willing to subsidize your special needs child. Multiply me by many more people in this country.

Is it surprising that I assumed you must be a person in great need if you were so intent on government subsidy, so resentful at having a copay? So indignant that you might actually have to make a contribution to the education of your child?

My 95 year old great aunt used to take the bus to go shopping. My father asked her, "Do you still take public transportation?" She answered spiritedly, "Certainly not! I take the bus and I pay for the bus." She was affronted at what she thought was an accusation that she was on a "public program", i.e., public transportation.

No longer is anyone embarrassed at being on public subsidy. Everyone is boasting about getting on "programs", and those who are not lucky enough to be on the dole are highly indignant and intent on proving they are worthy - worthy meaning not independent, not proud, not capable. They are helpless! They need help! They need help more than anybody else! They should go to the front of the line.

I have been reluctant to tell you how it is. How others see your claims. Claims they are. Claims that will not be respected, rather deplored.

My great aunt was too proud to be on "public" anything. Why can't you contribute to the education of your own child?

Abba's Rantings said...


"She was affronted at what she thought was an accusation that she was on a "public program", i.e., public transportation. No longer is anyone embarrassed at being on public subsidy."

reality check: she was on a public subsidy. bus/subway fares don't cover the cost of public transporation and require public subsidies. i am indignant that my taxes paid for her bus transporation (a service i don't need). why didn't your father drive her around?

Dave said...

Roads are publically subsidized as well.

Anonymous said...

Dear Abba,
Thank you for the reality check. My father lived far from her, she was in Miami. Because my great aunt took the subsidized bus, she remained in excellent health til very late. All that walking and climbing stairs and exercise kept her in amazing shape. She enjoyed being independent, unlike today when we crave dependence. She died in 107, having lived through 3 centuries - from the 19th century to the 21st. I attribute it to taking the subsidized bus, which she was happy to contribute a copay for. She did not gripe at having to pay for the bus. She was proud of it. She was proud of being capable.

I hope I do not have Tesyaa's challenges. But I will be proud to pay a copay for services that are otherwise subsidized. I will consider it only fair. I have a different attitude than all of you. I do not assert claims and entitlements. I guess it's the example of my great aunt.

Miami Al said...

Anonymous, no, you don't assert claims and entitlements, you take them, then suggest you aren't claiming them.

Tesyaa didn't whine about entitlement, she said that interventions for special needs kids wasn't a "gravy train," it was the difference between a permanently disabled person and a person able to be part of society.

The kids that need these programs (actually need, not rich Jewish kids whose parents want free money) might find this the difference between spending life collecting social security disability and being a functional adults.

The difference between someone needing to live in a home when their parents can't care for them anymore and someone that can maintain an apartment and hold a job, even if it is bagging groceries, is massive from a human condition and also financially massive.

Copays discourage abuse, they also reduce usage from those that need them. Even small co-pays make a big difference in that regard. When it comes to adults, fine, when it comes to children, there is definitely a pause. If a child has drug addict parents, do really want them choosing between therapies that can make them functional and more drugs?

Punishing children for actions of the parents works "economically," many parents will shape up enough to work it out, some will not. You have to weight those costs very heavily.

Anonymous said...

Miami Al, Are you suggesting that the writer with the autistic child is drug addicted? Tesyaa sounds pretty functional to me. What I objected to was the indignation at having to make any contribution at all to the education of her child.

As I grow closer to qualifying for a senior citizen discount, I realize that one's social support system is essential when you are raising a handicapped child. You must have people around you who feel responsible for you personally and want to help you, and you need help. That's why it is helpful to be married - your inlaws can help you raise the child. That's why you must be part of a religious community, where your community will raise funs to help you.

But government programs such as speech therapy are a "gravy train", as the father of two speech therapists told me. He expects the gravy train to come to an end, but until then, he's happy his daughters can rake in as much as possible from government payments. If this is the attitude in America today, woe unto us.

Private tzedaka and help from family is more dignified than asserting entitlements to strangers.

tesyaa said...

I would be happy to leave this alone, but where did you read into my comments that I am indignant? This is where Internet discussions go awry, because people read into a conversation things they would never mistake in real life.

And until it was obvious that people were assuming I had an autistic child (I do), I never mentioned it in a personal way. I merely mentioned autistic children and compared them to accident and stroke victims for therapy purposes. Everyone assumed (correctly) that I was making a personal reference. I have made references to Down Syndrome children in the past, but I do not have a child with Down Syndrome.

Are the speech therapists treating Gabrielle Giffords on the gravy train? If her medical care exceeds her insurance policy's lifetime maximum, she may qualify for a Medicaid waiver. (Just speculating here). Is that asserting an entitlement, or a way to receive appropriate needed care?

Anonymous said...

Private tzedaka and help from family is more dignified than asserting entitlements to strangers.

In that case, Anon, your family should have provided your great aunt with a private car and driver.

I'm sure no one in your family has ever used any public service, even a subsidized utility company. It wouldn't be dignified.

Are you going to accept Medicare when you reach the appropriate age, or will you finance your medical needs privately?

Miami Al said...


"Miami Al, Are you suggesting that the writer with the autistic child is drug addicted? Tesyaa sounds pretty functional to me. What I objected to was the indignation at having to make any contribution at all to the education of her child."

Do you really have that little reading comprehension?

Or do you believe that Tesyaa is the only parent with children benefiting from the state's support of children with special needs.

Tesyaa will do what is necessary for her children.

A drug addict may love their children, but NOT enough to overcome addiction.

A co-pay simply asks Tesyaa to pony up, whatever, Tesyaa will do so. A co-pay will discourage the abusers I encounter that take advantage of these programs. A co-pay will also kick kids that need help but have grossly irresponsible parents out.

That's the tradeoff, less abuse, more needy kids neglected.

Intentionally misrepresenting what people write is extremely dishonest.

Eileen said...

I did not misrepresent what Tesyaa wrote. I merely interpreted her assertion that a copay was a shocking imposition upon her, one she resented hugely. If she did not feel that way, she should have written herself and clarified her views and told us she is proud to pay a copay. Instead she told us she has no interest in contributing a penny to the education of her special needs child. I interpreted this as presenting claims and entitlements. Nothing I have read since in this post has changed my view as to Tesyaa's basic feeling of being ill used and deprived of the dependence she feels entitled to due to misfortune.

Blogger said...

eToro is the ultimate forex broker for newbie and professional traders.