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Friday, June 03, 2011

Like Drugs to an Addict are Loans to a Debtor

As sent to me by a reader from a listserve in a major NY community. . . . .

An amazing opportunity, I think not. How about an opportunity that could leave someone else holding the bag? I don't think it is a chessed in the slightest to help people live beyond their means, even if it masquerades as hachnasat kallah. Here you have a family holding 3 jobs between them and they still need loans to make weddings. This, my friends, is a good sign that the last thing you need is another loan. Clearly debt has become a way of life.

Giving interest free loans is a hallmark of Jewish society, but (in my opinion) using gemach loans as such is a perversion of a mitzvah and only serves to denigrate the mitzvah. Interest-free loans are not supposed to promote dependency, but promote prosperity. If they are creating dependency and working against prosperity, then something is wrong.

But, you have to love the CAPS and the exclamation points!!!!!!!!!!

We are A"H making a wedding for our daughter on June 12th .

we have an opportunity to take out a gemach loan for $5000 for only $100 a month ! this is very rare- usually they want $300 a month or more!

we just finished paying off a $1000 loan for $100 a month and we are almost done with another loan for $50 a month.

we are already used to paying $150 a month and we have 3 jobs between my husband and myself. we are very very confident that we can cover this loan !

It would be such a HUGE CHESSED if someone would be willing to co sign this loan for us? we have one co signer right now but we still need ONE MORE .........

we need to get the application in by this sunday?

Thanks so very much for your consideration !

If you want to speak to me email me and i will give you my ph# or you can give me YOUR ph#?

69 comments:

Anonymous said...

Where was this originally posted?

raquel said...

Just to make you feel better, where I live (dati leumi Jewish communityin the north) there is a free loan society, but they have rather strict guidelines about who receives the money and what it can be used. You also need to prove them that you'll be able to pay them back. They require a postdated check for the full amount of the loan. Next time they send their guidelines I will forward it to you. It's a nice change from the usual

Orthonomics said...

Anonymous-A listserve in a major NY community.

Raquel-I'd love an email with the guidelines.

great unknown said...

I have a mesorah that the Chazon Ish was upset with this same issue. It is forbidden to lend a person money if you know he cannot repay [unless you are doing it as a subtle, hidden form of charity and do not expect/desire repayment]. This comes under the category of lifnai ivair.

Ponzi-scheming ever-increasing debt by running from one gamach to the next ultimately leaves a situation where a notice is posted that "the survivors of ploni are saddled with tremendous debts, and we must support them." According to the mekubalim, this is a classic cause of having to come back as a gilgul [not a pleasant thing.]

Anonymous said...

At least its only $5,000 they are borrowing for the wedding. Some people go much further into debt for a wedding.

I wonder what weddings would look like if the couple had to pay for their own weddings by working and saving up for them as a sign that they were capable and mature enough to start and support a household?

Zach Kessin said...

Co signing for these people will not being doing them a favor, really. If the bank is asking for a co-signer what they are saying is that they don't expect the debtor will be able to pay them back So if they bank doesn't think that they will be able to make the payments why should I?

I have to say of all the times I have borrowed money (Save once for a mortgage) it has never been a blessing in my life.

Charlie Hall said...

Bankers have a term for people who co-sign loans: Fools with pens.

And the answer to Too Much Debt is never More Debt.

The family involved should not be going to a gemach, they should be going to Debtors Anonymous.

Ariella said...

It's amazing to me that these people are marrying off a child and sound like teenagers -- both in terms of the style of writing and in terms of their argument. Teens are people who are generally starting out with a blank record, so to win the job or the loan, they have to come across as confident that they will prove themselves. However, in this email the family proves itself to have taken on loans from gmachs as a way of making it through. There is no real way out, just rolling from one debt to another with fresh cosigners. They claim confidence, but on what basis? So far they just make monthly payments but do not succeed in extricating themselves from these interest free loans altogether. They are fortunate to have obtained them, though, because if they were carrying these as credit card debt, the interest would have more than doubled what they owe when taking so long to pay.

Zach Kessin said...

Also remember that the co-signer is fully responsible for the debt (That is after all the point). And when the person you co-signed for defaults, which they will, the creditor will come after the co-signer as they are the ones in the deal who have money.

Anonymous said...

I would probably send back like this:

"I would be more than willing to co-sign your loan as a chessed. However, as I am sure you are aware, Halacha says it is assur to lend someone money who might not pay back, due to Lifnei Iver. Being that you have multiple loans, I have to be worried in this case. Therefore, in order to secure your payment, I will need a Mashkon (collateral) worth at least 150% the amount of the loan, to be stored in my safe deposit box at the local bank. Your wife's diamond ring, jewelry, leichter, etc. can all be used as such collateral.

Mazel Tov, and may you continue to have simchos."

The reason they have no problem taking out the loan is because there is no immediate downside.

Anonymous said...

Wow. What a judgmental bunch. I suspect that everyone on this board commenting negatively has a very comfortable income and assets. We don't know what this family's situation is, why they have needed loans (i.e. are they bouncing back after a period of job loss, illness, etc., did they have a family calamity), we don't know how they live. We do know they have been making the payments on their prior loans and have paid one off and are almost done paying the other small amount off. We also know that they are working and not, for example, sitting in Kollel. No doubt debt should be avoided, but would you rather that this family schnorr to pay for the wedding? $5,000 is relatively modest for a wedding. We live in and support a culture (orthodox judaism) that tells people its simply not acceptable to have a wedding in your living room with 15 people present and tea and cake, and then criticize people for taking out a loan that they intend to pay off. Would your attitude be different if the daughter being married off is the granddaughter of an elderly holocaust survivor whose dream before dying is to dance at her granddaughter's wedding, so the parents want to have a small hall with some music?

JS said...

Is it any wonder there's so much financial shady business in our communities - whether it's lying on tuition scholarship applications, cheating on taxes, stealing from fellow Jews, MLM scams, etc.?

This is exactly what happens when an entire community is living far beyond its means.

Some go the honest route of going to gemach after gemach, taking out home equity loans, racking up credit card debt, and raiding retirement funds until there's nothing left and they default. Others take the less honest routes of lying and cheating and scheming.

The one thing they all have in common is that they're all living beyond their means.

When are people going to realize this lifestyle is a cancer in our communities that leads to so many sins and so much heartbreak?

tesyaa said...

We live in and support a culture (orthodox judaism) that tells people its simply not acceptable to have a wedding in your living room with 15 people present and tea and cake, and then criticize people for taking out a loan that they intend to pay off.

WHY is it unacceptable to have a small, affordable wedding? Is it contrary to halacha? (of course not). I thought frum Jews were bound by halacha, not silly ideas of what a wedding "should" be.

Would your attitude be different if the daughter being married off is the granddaughter of an elderly holocaust survivor whose dream before dying is to dance at her granddaughter's wedding, so the parents want to have a small hall with some music?

Why not contact the poster and find out the circumstances? If this were really the case, I hope they'd be willing to share the details with a potential cosigner.

Given that there have been several other loans in the past, I agree with Orthonomics that this appears to be a pattern, not a one-time deal based on real need.

Anonymous said...

Its not just the weddings that create the financial problems -- its tuition and marrying and starting families at such young ages. How many of you criticizing this family are willing to say that we should get rid of yeshivas and rely on public schools so people don't have to resort to gemaches and other forms of debt?

Miami Al said...

Ya know, my family has a good income and good assets, and my wife and I have gone through our patterns of debt. First time was early in our marriage when starting a business, thankfully it worked out, and I spend 18 months chasing 6-month 0% balance transfer deals until I paid it off.

Second time was after a couple of kids, higher expenses, a business failing, then losing a job in the recession. Credit card debt piled on because it was hard to cut expenses fast enough, and some were debts accumulated during the real estate boom on home improvements.

I do understand the concern that this person, "marrying off a child" is this immature in their writing. That said, this isn't a huge extravaganza for a 0% interest rate at a low interest loan.

Honestly, compared to all the people I know that have money borrowed at 14% - 25% interest, sometimes much more than $5000, plus one of them is moonlighting, I think that this couple is handling their financial problems quite well and responsibly.

They are living beyond their means, but most Americans do. I wish them luck.

But I wouldn't co-sign for their debt.

tesyaa said...

There is no indication that they are making a $5,000 wedding. They may be making a $50,000 wedding, and want fancier dresses. They may have already maxed out their credit cards.

If the wedding is June 12 (and if the post is fairly recent), they have already committed to most of the expenses. Now they are looking for a way to pay for what they have already purchased or contracted for. That seems majorly irresponsible.

Anonymous said...

Tessya: There is no indication that they are making a $50,000 wedding either. Given the very short engagement period in some OJ communities, I am not as concerned about the timing as if this were an MO wedding planned a year in advance.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps a course in budgetting and debt management should be a prerequisite to a gamache loan, or better yet, should be mandatory for all young men and women before they get engaged.

Miami Al said...

Tesyaa,

Also, given their pride in having paid off a $1000 loan @ $100/mo and another @ $50/mo, I don't think that they have already laid out 10s of thousands... it sounds way more like they simply have no idea of how to budget, spend, or save, and use gemachs to pay over time (and given the interest free loans, economically speaking, why should one save up ahead instead of paying after).

Orthonomics said...

I suspect that everyone on this board commenting negatively has a very comfortable income and assets.

Perhaps the reason that some people are more comfortable is because they operate their financial lives in a completely different manner.

JS said...

"Perhaps a course in budgetting and debt management should be a prerequisite to a gamache loan, or better yet, should be mandatory for all young men and women before they get engaged."

What's the point of budgeting and debt management training when everyone is living beyond their means? In the frum community it's more often a case of how to push off the debt or spread it out over multiple people (e.g., grandparents).

It's all very simple. To many expenses, not enough income. But, good luck getting an entire community to move away from the things that tend to cost the most (yeshiva, weddings, expectation to buy items for children, etc.) or to do what is necessary in the "outside" world to better ensure high salaries (good colleges, pursuing high income careers in the "secular" world, marrying a bit later, putting off kids a bit, etc.).

Sure, you have individuals who are smart enough to not follow dangerous trends and paths that leads only to financial ruin, but as a community we're not there yet.

As for this particular guy, sounds like he's just taking advantage of small interest-free loans. Granted the purchases are for dumb luxuries, but that's his prerogative. It's also the community's prerogative to lend out money for this nonsense. The stupidity goes hand in hand - in this case, the community thinks it's doing its members a mitzvah with these loans for luxuries. Oh well. Just like this individual's finances are slowly collapsing, the community's will slow collapse too.

It says volumes that this is where individuals and the community see fit to spend and allocate money.

JS said...

"I suspect that everyone on this board commenting negatively has a very comfortable income and assets."

You know, I was thinking about this as well. Thank God, my family does well and doesn't have to deal with issues like this. However, your comment got me thinking about what I would do if I was in this guy's shoes: wedding coming up and not enough money for the "standard" affair. And you know what? I wouldn't go out and borrow money. I'd make a scaled down affair even if that meant a BBQ in the backyard with a CD player for "live" music.

It's pretty interesting to me that it's seemingly the ones with money to burn, or at least the ones who aren't in financial straits, who tend to be the most frugal and the least willing to spend money on these kinds of things.

Anonymous said...

I thought a wedding at home with 15 people an excellent idea. My parents got married that way in 1951. They had about 15 people and got married in my mother's aunt's large apartment.

Today, the children of any two of the parents' siblings equals 15 people. And they have seven siblings each or so. That doesn't count their own 7 children, their children's spouses and small children, who are many. Then there are their friends from shul, cousins who they want to keep up with, elderly aunts and grandparents. 200 people is a modest number for frum families. And this is a modest affair!

200 people would not fit in even a large apartment, nor would they be happy or comfortable, since many are from out of town.

Why do they have so many children then? Because they value children more than rational money management. There are those who are managing very frugally with 7 children, but they are not living your lifestyle. They are not going to gemachs. You don't hear about them because their problems are not interesting or fodder for blogs. No one wants to read about right wing chareidi people who are managing with a minimal lifestyle, no air conditioning, 15 year old cars. It's just not interesting.

Orthonomics said...

On the contrary. I'd happily welcome posts from parents of large families who are living without debt and meeting their obligations. It would be great to hear how families keep their budgets under control and pay for expenses out of pocket.

There is one such blogger and I've learned a lot from her about asking for bulk discounts, going to Goodwill, etc.

Dave said...

So, get a ring, a kesubah, a couple of kosher witnesses, and have everyone go to a Public Park!

And if you need food for it to be a proper wedding, make it pot-luck. Unless this is a tight nit family that must be at the wedding, but won't eat each others food.

Zach Kessin said...

Would your attitude be different if the daughter being married off is the granddaughter of an elderly holocaust survivor whose dream before dying is to dance at her granddaughter's wedding, so the parents want to have a small hall with some music?

No it would not, they still can't afford this wedding. (The fact that the bank is not willing to give them a loan makes that clear). I don't care how much they want it, they can't afford it.

Going deeper into debt each year for this or that will always end in disaster sooner or later. Or at least poverty.

Dave said...

(Tight-knit even. I really wish Blogger allowed for editing of typos)

Anonymous said...

Zach - we don't know that a bank won't give them a loan. We also don't know that they have been going deeper into debt. We know they have paid off prior loans. Maybe this family is maxing out their 401(k)'s to get the most out of their employer match and maximize their savings and are just being wise taking out a small interest-free loan.

Would everyone get off their high horses for a minute.

Dave said...

The original poster has likely maxed out their current income potential (three jobs between two people), and are keeping things going by continually taking out loans.

A charitable loan organization wants not one but two co-signers (and the loan will take 4 years to repay).

And you think they are socking money away in their 401(k) and just doing this to maximize their employer match?

Zach Kessin said...

Well if they bank would give them the loan they would not have been asking for a co-signer.

If you want to borrow money to make a wedding you can't afford that's your choice, but please don't ask me to help you into the land of stupid.

Anonymous said...

Zach - You are only assuming, without foundation, that they were turned down for a bank loan. Would you take out a bank loan (probably at 8% or more) if an interest-free gamache loan were available?

I'm sure it makes you feel good to call these people stupid, but we just don't have enough information to make that assessment. I hate to put down people who may have been born into a certain lifestyle and expectations that limited their options and imposed certain expectations on them. Yes, some may break away from the pack, but until you have been daring enough to defy conformity and community expectations and suffer the consequences, don't judge others. The fact is that the M.O. world moves to the right and thereby encourages and supports lifestyles that lead to many of these problems.

Dave said...

If you are old enough to be marrying off your children, you are certainly old enough to be responsible for your own decisions.

JS said...

Anonymous,

I don't quite get what your point is. You seem to be saying we shouldn't judge because communal pressures are very high and it's difficult to swim against the current.

I think communal pressures are only high for those that care about these sorts of things. If you care what everyone else is thinking or saying, then yeah it's a huge deal. If you consciously decide you couldn't care less suddenly there is no pressure.

Everyone talks about what their friends will think if they go against the flow. Newsflash, if these people chastise you they were never your friends to begin with! Get yourself some like-minded friends or friends who don't mercilessly judge you.

As for not getting on your high horse and judging favorably and what not, I suppose you could be right, but the facts strongly suggest otherwise: a couple with 3 jobs, 2 previous loans, 1 still being paid off, begging a community listserv for help, a time is of the essence appeal, the gemach wants 2 co-signers (apparently this is a new requirement because they took out 2 loans previously or the previous co-signers have refused to co-sign this additional loan). That doesn't exactly scream well-off or financially savvy people looking for low-interest loans. What it says is 2 hard-working people doing their best to get by but their expenses are still too high due to various luxuries and they see public begging and borrowing as better options than simply doing without and dealing with the social consequences.

Look, I feel bad for them, I really do. But don't make them out into some frum Warren Buffets.

Mr. Cohen said...

Are we Jews repeating the mistake of the ancient Romans?

“Social status was defined in part by the food served at a banquet. The more numerous, varied and expensive the dishes a host served, the more impressive he seemed to his guests.

It was not unusual, therefore, for some people to spend more than they could afford on food for such occasions, causing them to go into debt.”

SOURCE: The Roman Empire, chapter 3, page 35, by Don Nardo, 2006

Zach Kessin said...

Zach - You are only assuming, without foundation, that they were turned down for a bank loan. Would you take out a bank loan (probably at 8% or more) if an interest-free gamache loan were available?

No, but I would not take out any loan. Every time I have It has caused me pain. You are right I don't know a bank has turned them down but It would be a safe bet.

And for the record my Step-daughter is getting married next month, we are paying cash for it.

Avi said...

Agree that hopping from loan to loan is a poor way to live (or a way to live poor). Taking out loans is a sign that you are living beyond your means.

That said, taking out an interest-free loan that you are certain you can repay to perform a (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime mitzvah doesn't seem *completely* crazy. Co-signing a loan for someone you don't know off of a listserv so that they can go into debt to perform a mitzvah? *That's* completely crazy.

Anonymous said...

I feel the same way as most of you. However, if we are taking everything the letter-writer said as true then there may a case to call this tzedaka. If it is tzedaka then it is a mitzvah regardless of how poor the recipient's decisions were.

The Halacha states clearly that one should NOT co-sign a loan that is being taken out for business opportunity. In connection with what Orthonomics wrote, if this were a gemach loan to "promote prosperity" they would have no business asking for a co-signer.

However, I doubt that everything in the letter is a true representation of the situation. If so, you are left with at best a bad idea and at worst a scam.

Zach Kessin said...

Talk of the Nation just had a story on co-signing: http://www.npr.org/2011/06/07/137036466/mcardle-warns-never-ever-cosign-a-loan

Anonymous said...

If everyone spent only what they could afford, there would be a different type of peer pressure. For example, when my kids were young, I had home based birthday parties for my kids. I was making a statement, to others, that it was OK to have a home based birthday party. When my kids went to college, we sent them to " the cheaper" city/state school. Now I noticed a lot of kids in our community going there. I realize both these examples probably do not apply to this wedding family, but what they do when they cannot afford something, will also show others, by example, what the options are. And that it is OK to "cut corners"
I have a cookbook, The Brooklyn Cookbook ( I am originally from Brooklyn!). In it they feature a picture of what was dubbed the football wedding. People would rent out a community hall and serve sandwiches at the wedding. Since they would call out- who wants a "meat" sandwich and then throw it to that person who wanted it, it was called a football wedding. If more people were to do this type of wedding , this would become the norm and affordable. ( OK, perhaps a little fancier and modified!).
One of my kids is getting married soon. We give each child who gets married a set amount of money for the engagement party, wedding and any Sheva Brachot we make. All expenses come out of this lump sum ( we keep a ledger of the expenses) and they get to keep any money that is leftover, if there is. ( If they exceed the amount, they have to pay us back- but that has not happened yet). All 3 of my kids will get the same amount- money we can afford to give, in cash. If the "other side", in the wedding, contributes, great, if not, this lump sum most cover the entire affair. Bottom line: we set limits based on what we can afford- not based on appearance.

This family who wants to take out a loan for a wedding-Is this their last child, or their first of many? When this couple gets married and has kids, will their future kids be raised in poverty?
I am asking these questions rhetorically, but cycles that are unsustainable must break at some point.

jewinjerusalem said...

The comments here are very disappointing. Personally I don't belive in borrowing for a wedding either. But, why such harsh criticism. It's always been an acceptable thing to borrow something for this purpose.
Why does everyone know their personal business? Who says they went to a bank? A free loan is a great thing. Who says they have other debt?
FYI the Chazon Ish says the biggest mitzva in co-signing on a loan is when the borrower has nothing. Yes it's a mitzva. It could be one should advise the borrower that thi sloan is not a good idea for him.
Someone says to do it in the backyard. Everyone always gives such advice until it's their own kid. Do you really think we should look at 1951 as an example of what to do? Do you own a TV? Radio? Computer? Other conveniences? Maybe you should live like the lifestyle of 1951.
The halacha is clear! One has to restore someone to their former stature in life. Even to provide horses to ride before him. This is clear. So now we have someone who just wants a small loan. He's not asking for a handout. And all of you have to cut him off at the knees.

jewinjerusalem said...

The comments here are very disappointing. Personally I don't belive in borrowing for a wedding either. But, why such harsh criticism. It's always been an acceptable thing to borrow something for this purpose.
Why does everyone know their personal business? Who says they went to a bank? A free loan is a great thing. Who says they have other debt?
FYI the Chazon Ish says the biggest mitzva in co-signing on a loan is when the borrower has nothing. Yes it's a mitzva. It could be one should advise the borrower that thi sloan is not a good idea for him.
Someone says to do it in the backyard. Everyone always gives such advice until it's their own kid. Do you really think we should look at 1951 as an example of what to do? Do you own a TV? Radio? Computer? Other conveniences? Maybe you should live like the lifestyle of 1951.
The halacha is clear! One has to restore someone to their former stature in life. Even to provide horses to ride before him. This is clear. So now we have someone who just wants a small loan. He's not asking for a handout. And all of you have to cut him off at the knees.

Anonymous said...

I would like a clearer explanation about the halacha of "restoring someone to their former stature". Does this mean that if someone lives beyond their means for many years and can no longer afford to do so, the community must provide? I am sure that this is not the intention, but commenters love invoking this "halacha".

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:20: You make a good point about setting standards -- and keeping them low. Being from New England, I am familiar with the old yankee mentality of shows of wealth being considered tacky. I know people with seven figure incomes (and much larger bank accounts) who drive 10 year old beat up compact cars and wear shoes with worn soles and have faded upholstery on their couches. They aren't misers, just frugal. They give to charity but don't spend on themselves.

I see too problems with the orthodox community. There is not the old money frugal mentality because there are not a lot of old money families to set an example. More important, people are willing to scrimp on themselves, but not on their children. While that is understandable, they are not really doing their children a favor if they are not teaching good financial habits and are raising expectations by excess spending on things like weddings, sleep away camps, year in Israel and material goods.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I don't think we should go back to the lifestyle of 1951. We should compromise at say, 1952, a very good year. No air conditioning, 1949 Chevy with no radio and manually opened windows, save up for what you buy, boys expected to go to college and support their families. As my mother once said, "Pregnancy is wonderful! It makes a man ambitious." Having children was in1952 connected to the father earning a living. My father graduated from YU before he was qualified to get married. My mother was looking for a "college boy" who could afford to support a family. 1952 was a wonderful year!

Anonymous said...

I will amend my comment. A better year was 1955, when the Salk polio vaccine was licensed.

Avi said...

"Do you really think we should look at 1951 as an example of what to do? Do you own a TV? Radio? Computer? Other conveniences? Maybe you should live like the lifestyle of 1951."

Fair question. I'd like to have an upper middle class 2011 lifestyle. But if you're going to have that lifestyle AND 3 - 5 kids AND private schooling you need enormous amounts of income. Only rich people can afford to have that many kids, send them all to private schools, and have meat for dinner, an iPad, and live in a single family home with high property taxes. If you are not rich, then, yes, a 1951 lifestyle (or portions of it) may be necessary. People lived in apartments, did not own two cars, and had dramatically less expensive lifestyles. I wasn't alive then, but my grandparents told me that the memory of the Great Depression was still fresh (or the expulsion from Europe for many of their peers), and there was no sense of entitlement or easy credit enabling people to overindulge. Do I want people to live that way? Of course not. I think everyone should have a smartphone and a silver menorah and catered weddings for 500 guests. But can we all live that way, without material sacrifice? Of course not. We aren't all hedge fund managers, though that's rapidly becoming the standard everyone expects for frum life.

Ariella said...

If we had ratings on comments here, I'd put 5 stars on Tesyaa's.
<>
In fact, back in Europe, the custom was to get married on Friday so that the Shabbos evening meal would do double duty as the wedding dinner. There were no bands, no photographers, probably no flowers, but those were, certainly, frum weddings.

Miami Al said...

Ariella,

They weren't Frum in Europe. Most people didn't learn, most women didn't cover their hair.

Avi said...

...and weddings in Europe could lead to mixed dancing.

Mark said...

The whole thing stinks. Why are they looking for a random person on the Internet to cosign their loan? When a person needs a cosigner, they look first to family, then to friends, then neighbors or members of their shul.

No random person is going to cosign any loan. That's just silly.

Anonymous said...

Miami Al said...
Ariella,

They weren't Frum in Europe. Most people didn't learn, most women didn't cover their hair.

Don't confuse the lita with Poland re womans hair covering - but prior to 1900 all the shuls and shtiebels were full of people learning after work - even in Lita until the isms swept Europe.

Miami Al said...

Anonymous 1:44,

The only reason that the Shuls and Shtiebels were full is that they were TINY relative to the populations at the time.

Anonymous said...

Al

Please don't try to rewrite history. There was no work to be gotten - or practically no work - life was hard - but even the most unlearned said Tehillim, other mishnayos, eiyn yackov etc..Every trade supported a shtibel or bais medrash and if the shtetl was too small to have a shul - guess what? They said tehilim at home. Everyone who was capable studied and those who couldn't said Tehillim.

Miami Al said...

Anonymous,

You are SERIOUSLY overestimating the level of Hebraic literacy in pre-War Europe.

If the Jews of pre-War Europe were anywhere near as dedicated as your revisionist history suggests, then you wouldn't have seen 70%-90% drop-out rates each time it became available.

Our ancestors definitely preserved our culture and history, albeit with a serious turn toward mourning and away from celebrating, but to pretend that Europe was filled with unemployed but Hebraically educated Jews is just plain revisionism.

Julie said...

Al,

Seriously overestimating the Hebraic literacy in pre-War Europe would be to say that all the men were learning gemara with rishonim at night. But anonymous is correct. The majority of Jewish men in 19th century Europe were at least semi-literate in Hebrew. They could read the Hebrew of the siddur, sefer tehillim, and pirkei avot. People left the community because life was hard and they believed that life would be better outside the community, not so that they could learn to read.

Miami Al said...

Julie,

Most men could read enough Hebrew to pray with the community. Semi-literate would be putting it fairly, likely able to get through the Siddur such as existed in their town and Tehillim would be fair.

Suggesting that "shuls and shtiebels were full of people learning after work" is pure fantasy, unless suggesting that they were full because they were tiny and uncommon.

Much of the bad Hebrew grammar in the differences in "Nusach Sfard" does NOT attest to an extremely literate community.

Anonymous said...

My maternal great grandmother who came to this country from Poland in the late 19th century, was illiterate - could not read or write in any language. She spoke only Yiddish. My paternal grandfather who came to this country 100 years ago, on the other hand, was learned and religious. He came from what is now the Ukraine. He was from a lineage of chazzanim, and that indicated Jewishly educated in Europe. Just one experience, but it varied depending on the intellectual level of the family, whether man or woman (women were less likely to be taught to read!) My maternal grandfather was always religious in this country as well. He rejected the communism so popular in the 1930's among Jews because it was atheist. Does anyone else have any other examples from their families?

Miami Al said...

Anonymous 1:38:

An educated grandfather from a line of chazzanim does NOT indicate Jewish education in Europe. It indicates a educated clergy in Europe.

The increased education of the laity in American Frumkeit has resulted in the end of the professional Chazzan in America, since the honor is bestowed upon the community.

aaron from L.A. said...

To Miami Al:
I think you're wrong about chazzanut.Despite all its positives,it was the ba'al tshuva movement which hastened the downfall of chazzanut in America.I have never met a B.T. who appreciates or has any patience for Chazzanut;not one.Israel is full of people that can daven for the omud,but chazzanut is still appreciated there.

Anonymous said...

An educated grandfather from a line of chazzanim does NOT indicate Jewish education in Europe. It indicates a educated clergy in Europe.

Chazzanim had gotten a bad reputation as many were not only not scholars but many werealso not religious.

Mr. Cohen said...

"Only about 3% of Eastern European Jewish society consisted of scholars.

The rest were ordinary Jews who were certainly not intellectually prepared to defend Judaism in the age of science, progress and equality."

SOURCE: Chapter 2, page 29 of: Off the Derech: Why Observant Jews Leave Judaism, by Faranak Margolese, 2005.

"…there were only three, yes just three, Yeshivot in all of Europe."

SOURCE: http://hamekubal.blogspot.com/2010/04/why-rabbi-cant-answer-question.html
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marblefinder said...

I would love to know the name of the blog about raising a large family, asking for discounts and going to Goodwill.

Thanks

artspromo said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Orthonomics said...

http://oceansofjoy.wordpress.com/
Homeschooling mother of 9 who doesn't like debt and has some good financial tips.

Anonymous said...

there were only three, yes just three, Yeshivot in all of Europe."

This is non factual!!

Post 1850 and on had a dozens of yeshivos throughout western and eastern europe..if not over a 100.(There was Mir,Volozhin, Telz, Pressberg,_over 3 already- grodno, maltch, Brisk Berlin,many in Warsaw,Ger,Lublin,mucachevo etc)

Prior to that there were tens of yeshivas. + countless shteibels full of young men learning until the advent of WW II.

AztecQueen2000 said...

aaron from L.A. said...
To Miami Al:
I think you're wrong about chazzanut.Despite all its positives,it was the ba'al tshuva movement which hastened the downfall of chazzanut in America.I have never met a B.T. who appreciates or has any patience for Chazzanut;not one.Israel is full of people that can daven for the omud,but chazzanut is still appreciated there.


I'm a BT, and one of the only forms of Jewish music I consider "music" IS Chazzanus! It's beautiful stuff.

megapixel said...

the comment about chazzanut is patently ridiculous. it seems to me that there is an upswing in interest in it among the younger generation. Chazzanim like helfgott and great musical accompaniment has raised this art from the prior level of scratchy records with the occasional organ in the background.
BTs have nothing to do with it.
my young teenagers love this stuff!


re the original topic, people who manage day to day expenses but cannot swing the occasional big expense borrow a few bucks to cover it. I dont think 5 Gs is alot of money. and if done responsibly can be repaid given some time. Its not as if they are buying an apartment for their child.
everyone here is very quick to jump on other people and condemn them. chill!

Orthonomics said...

I think there is a big problem when parents who are marrying off their children need a 5K loan for a wedding.

A 20 or 25 year old borrowing 5K for a car to get to and from work and to and from the store and appointments is one thing. I wouldn't co-sign for that car, but I might gift a car.

A 40 + year old couple marrying off children who can't swing 5K and needs to find a co-signor is another matter and problematic. What else is seriously underfunded?

megapixel said...

come to my house, you'll see...