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Sunday, July 03, 2011

Don't Hate!

A comment left on a different thread

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 . . . . . .
A number of years ago, I had a couple came to my home where they outlined their situation of personal financial woe and the went on to cast an "ayin hara" on our situation, which they summed up by looking around (at what they didn't have, we live in a pretty run of the mill home, although we love it and it is our mansion): my husband must have a very high income and our parents must have set us up quite nicely.

Was our income higher than theirs? Yes (and their income could have been higher with a different attitude and approach). But even when we had their not-so-shabby income, we were managing to save what they were managing to accumulate in amassing debt. Have we received more "help" from our parents? I have no idea and frankly it doesn't really matter. "Help" will only put you ahead if your behave with your money: earning with integrity, spending with frugality, and saving with determination. If money were to land in our lap tomorrow, our lives would remain the same. They've already spend the money that could land in their lap in their imagination.

Over the years I've met many people who believe that those doing well are doing well because of income. Over the years I've met many people who believe the reason some couples are ahead is because their parents are well-off and are helping. Over the years I've worked with many people who are just downright jealous. And, worse yet, their jealousy is completely misplaced because they do have a reasonable financial situation and with some creativity and discipline, they too could have a piece of that pie.

There are janitors that are quite comfortable and celebrities who are broke. One such celebrity-athlete who went broke was Mike Tyson:

Tyson had earned over $300 million during his career as a boxer but jewelry, mansions, cars, limousines, cellphones, parties, clothing, motorcycles and Siberian tigers eventually caught up to him. In 2003, when no more green came out of the debit machine, he had to file for bankruptcy, thanks to his colourful variety of debts including $13.4 million to the IRS and a $9 million divorce settlement to his ex-wife, Monica Turner. From 1995 to 1997, he spent $9 million in legal fees, $230,000 on pagers and cellphones, and $410,000 on a birthday party. In June 2002, he owed $8,100 to care for his tigers and $65,000 for limos.
Sadly, a lot of Mike Tyson's financial behavior--less the Siberian tigers as pet ownership is one area where you don't hear money being sucked out of the frum oilam's pockets--, is prevalent (albeit on a smaller scale, although as a ratio of income earned, perhaps it is on a greater scale) in our own communities.

Too much house for your station, too much car for your station, too much party for your station, too much tech for your station, too much clothing for your station. . . . and the formula is the same: broke. Income and assets be darned. They aren't the only part of the equation. In my experience, they are the less important part of the equation.

I do take the criticism I receive from readers very seriously and I want to make it clear that when I use real life examples of financial behavior gone wrong (such as continual borrow, the post that initiated this particular anon comment) it is **not** to make fun, but to give an examples of financial behavior that are ultimately destructive. I also have numerous posts on money saving tips too, all of which contain ideas that can be adopted by those who would like to achieve more prosperity and comfort.

I'd say that the commentor is just as judgmental as he (or she?) accuses the readership of being. I can only speak for my own household, but the comfort that we have achieved thus far isn't due to a silver spoon permanently lodged in our throats. At every juncture we have made deliberate decisions to live below our means, while the couple that expressed their jealousy of our situation, has and continues to make decisions that contribute to their financial woe. With a different relationship to finances, they too would be more comfortable.

Don't hate! Keep jealousy in check. Take notes when that jealousy emerges. **Learn new skills.** And maybe there will be a more prosperous financial future ahead.


Anonymous said...

If you want to encourage people to live within their means, on a wide scale, please become an advocate for alternatives to yeshiva education, such as homeschooling and judicious use of public school programs. Our community as a whole is going broke because people will not consider these alternatives.

Orthonomics said...

I thought I was an advocate of homeschooling and yeshiva alternatives.

Under the homeschooling tag:

Florida Cooperative and West Orange Cooperative:

Los Angeles Alternative Yeshiva:

Camp Cooperatives/Round Robins:

Anonymous said...

You aren't yet an advocate, you are a publicizer. An advocate has to go further and take on the active communal and rabbinic opposition to these alternatives. It's a daunting role, and I understand why someone might hesitate to take this on.

conservative scifi said...

The "silver spoon" I received was a debt free college education. Due to a combination of scholarships, work and parental support, I graduated with no debt. I then went to an advanced degree, but received a stipend which I managed to live on, by finding a very cheap apartment near school ($215/month), not needing to drive, etc. When I got married a year later, and my wife began working at relatively better wage (though low), we saved most of her salary. Even when she switched jobs to one in her chosen career, we saved most of her salary. Once I finally got my degree, we moved, and then finally had children. But because of our earlier frugality, we had the resources to afford a house with reasonable payments and live a reasonable lifestyle. It is possible, it requires effort.

Orthonomics said...

We do our own thing and I publicize. That is my form of advocacy. Perhaps that is weak advocacy. Are you going up against the opposition? Where would you suggest starting? In a lot of ways I think it is a non-starter to being yelling. Better to just make your own choices with confidence. If public school is a good choice for your child(ren), make that choice. If a co-op is a good choice for your family, make that choice. If homeschooling is a good choice, make that choice. If skipping camp is a good choice, make that choice.

And when someone in "establishment" asks where your kids are going to camp/school/pre-school, proudly say "we are enjoying our summer together" or "I formed a red-robin playgroup with some friends." Or, "I'm doing pre-school myself this year."

I know this from experience: when you do something different, people who find out and talk about it.

I've taken plenty of criticism for not being "mainstream". Sometimes the criticism has been from family. Sometimes the criticism has been in public from educators when people realize my kids aren't doing the "proper" thing. I was yelled at by an educator who was insistent I was hurting my then 2 year old because he wasn't in school. Your kids are going to be academically behind and socially awkward (they are none of the above, and often far more socially adept). I've been told by camp directors that we can "work a deal" so my kids can have a "good time" during the summer. "Don't they deserve a nice summer?" Yes, they do and I'm capable of providing it!

I think there are other types of advocacy. My choice, for now, is a bit quieter.

Anonymous said...

I agree with commentator quoted.I used to follow this blog now I only glance at the headlines because I'm so fed up with the smug self righteous attitudes on this blog.Years ago this blog was about financial prudence now it is mostly just another standard "find fault in others blog".I would not of posted this comment on my own but once it was brought up I felt I would chime in.

Dave said...

Spending less than you make is the key.

Debt is corrosive, because it eats cash flow and reduces flexibility when issues arise.

Savings, on the other hand, increases flexibility when unexpected issues come up, and serves as a cushion against income stream issues.

That's pretty much all it comes down to. Spend less than you earn. You can attack it from either side, but "spending less" is often more likely to be under your immediate control than "earning more".

Orthonomics said...

anonymous-I have some of those coming up.

ConservativeScifi--My parents' frugality was my "silver spoon". Growing up, I had to deal with not having the things "everyone" else had. But when everyone else was scrambling around figuring out how to afford college, things came together for me: all the times my parents said no to things that didn't have long term value were to my benefit. I stepped into adult life with no debt except that which I owed to my parents for making life better for the next generation.

Mr. Cohen said...

Jealousy is not limited to hating people who have more money or more houses.

One Frum Jew who is MUCH better off than me financially has a fanatical hatred for me, even though I went out of my way to be nice to him, as much as possible. For over a year, I did not know why he hated me.

When I confronted him, he admitted that I never harmed him in any way, but he was insane with jealousy because my divrei Torah were much better than his, when both of us were guests in the same home for Shabbat.

This person is a social worker, trained and certified to help people with their psychological problems, but ironically, jealousy over this minor issue pushed him to fanatical hatred and the edge of a nervous breakdown.


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Mr. Cohen said...

Shevet Mussar, Chapter 19, paragraph 14:

The Holy One Blessed Be He does not settle His Presence on Israel except when they are united with one mind and without jealousy.

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Or simply for love of Torah any time?

To receive quick easy Torah quotes from a variety of classic Jewish Torah books, please go to:

Quick Torah quotes include:
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For Jews ONLY! Thank you!

JS said...

A few quick points before the main point:

1) Mr. Cohen, wish you would stop advertising unless you have SephardiLady's permission.

2) I can't understand those who are bashing SephardiLady over the content of the blog (or the comments). I don't see all too many people calling for frugality and sanity in the Orthodox financial world. Maybe the blog (and its readership) isn't perfect, but why not target those who are taking us a step backwards?

OK. Main point:

The biggest gift my parents gave me was financial responsibility - my parents were very frugal and worked like crazy to make ends meet. My dad worked 3 jobs at one point to get by. I also learned self-sufficiency - my parents never took a handout or sought out communal funds. I wasn't deprived by any means, but I definitely saw how hard my parents struggled.

That was another gift my parents gave me though they never intended to, perhaps. I really didn't want to struggle like they had to or to have my kids' choices in life limited by those struggles. Particularly, in order to go to the top university I went to, I had to take on $100k in debt and I had to live at home for a few years after college to help pay down that debt. Having that much debt was really scary and I didn't want that for my kids.

Another unintended lesson was from my wife's parents. You'd never guess anything was amiss, but they have tremendous debts they will likely never be able to pay. The stress this causes is just gut-wrenching: for them and their marriage and for us and my wife's siblings as we secretly worry what will happen to them.

My wife and I make very good salaries, but this wasn't always the case and we certainly didn't seem to be on this trajectory when we were dating or first married. Based on all of the above, we lived very frugally - saving as much as possible, driving a very old car into the ground (even continuing to drive it as our sole car long after we had the funds to buy a new car), and budgeting very carefully. And, I also read as much as I could on personal finance so I could plan properly and invest as safely as possible (mix of Vanguard index funds mostly).

We also busted our kishkas to find jobs that provided the greatest financial rewards for our respective talents. For me, that meant a complete career change and another degree (done while working). A lot of friends and acquaintances thought we were crazy given how hard we both were working (and continue to work) but I think the results speak for themselves.

Delaying getting married to I could pay off debts and have a job to support us and delaying having out first child certainly helped make it possible as well as it would have been impossible to log the hours we needed to work otherwise.

Although we certainly have more and nicer things now than we ever expected to, we're still just as careful with our money and don't spend the way I suppose some people would expect us to given our income.

In the end, it all comes down to spending less than you earn. The rest is details.

Anonymous said...

For those of us who believe we have a religious obligation not to wait to get married and wait to have kids and limit the number of kids, the math just won't add up unless we are given a helping hand. Living too frugally takes away some of the joy of life. I think some people have it tough and there isn't much they can do about it...some of us work hard and try to cut out extras and still barely make it month to month. You might say, get rid of your car! But I can't fit in a taxi with my kids, and I live in a place where it is too hot to walk. So how can I be a prisoner at home all the time (kids too little to leave home without paying babysitters)? It sounds simple, just work more, save isn't.

Anonymous said...

Mr Cohen:
While you are busy promoting your Torah site, I would like to make you aware that the Torah teaches us that it is a sin to annoy other people on purpose. Nobody here wants to read your ad for your Torah site. Stop posting the thing, we all hate it. Torah is great, we got the website and will check it out sometime, but STOP POSTING IT!!! It is rude, annoying, and wasting our time. SL, please ask this man to stop it.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:59, if everyone marries young and has a ton of kids and feels a religious obligation to provide them with a private school education, who will have the money to lend every couple a "helping hand"? Just asking.

SL, will you comment on the financial ramifications of young marriage and lots of kids, or are you going to be playing to the Chareidi crowd?

Orthonomics said...

Mr. Cohen,
I like your quotes, but please take off the advertisement part. Thanks.

Anonymous-How will you provide the support for the next, bigger generation?

Anonymous above, I believe it is a religious obligation for a man to have a way to support a family before marrying. The ramifications are obvious.

Anonymous said...

SL, please explain how the ramifications are "obvious". If a man plans on having as many children as physically possible, how could he ever marry under your scenario? What man can be sure of being able to support 8 - 15 children?

Does your scenario expect a mother not to have to work until her children are school age? If so, you are out of step with American life today.

If the prevailing Chareidi mentality believes in young marriage, large families, and limited secular education, are you in step with today's Chareidi mentality? More to the point, do you dare to criticize it?

Izzy said...

I have been reading you blog for some time now, and I find the general tone of your posts and the comments to be very judgmental. A good recent example of this is the post on people choosing day school over dental care for their children. That is a difficult choice that I hope to never have to make, and I would never be critical of someone in that situation, just thankful that I am not there myself.

Abba's Rantings said...

"That is a difficult choice that I hope to never have to make"

If you know of a child in the northern NJ area whose parents are choosing between dental care for the child and tuition, please email me at for a referral to a pediatric dentist who can work it out reasonably with the parents.

Mr. Cohen said...

Dear Orthonomics Moderator,

Please email me at:

Mentioning Orthonomics Moderator in the subject line of the email would help.

Mr. Cohen

rosie said...

Most blogs that I have seen often degenerate into the MOs vs the Chereidim, with MOs usually being resentful of chereidim. The reasons for this have been repeatedly spelled out so it is not necessary to spell it out again. So far, I haven't come upon any blogs where the bloggers are Chereidim that have resentment of the MOs. That being said, there is need for inroads to be made into re-introducing frugality to chereidim. This does not necessarily mean that they must stop being chereidim and marrying young and having lots of kids. It may mean that they may have to live a less materialistic life, leave the tri-state area, or find cheaper alternatives to traditional yeshivas. Of course, people have choices and while ultimately the whole society pays for everyone's choices, sometimes people are forced by circumstances to make other choices.
People went through a period of looking the other way at the chereidim when the movement was small in America but now that it is large, the problems are coming out, hitting the press, and chereidim have been forced to realize that they must play by the same rules that the rest of the world plays by, all the while recognizing that Hashem cast the Jews in a different role than the non-Jews have.

Orthonomics said...

I have been reading you blog for some time now, and I find the general tone of your posts and the comments to be very judgmental. A good recent example of this is the post on people choosing day school over dental care for their children. That is a difficult choice that I hope to never have to make, and I would never be critical of someone in that situation, just thankful that I am not there myself

How would you reword my post to make it less judgmental? I'm happy to work on the tone of the blog because I'm more concerned about the message.

On the latter part of your statement, I just don't see the difficultly when it comes to cutting spending vs. health. . .except that cutting spending is difficult because it is so ingrained.

If I replaced dental care with a parent facing cancer, would you conclude the post to be judgmental?

When it comes to dental care, it seems that there is some sort of cultural thing I'm not getting. I don't know a single Jew, frum or not, who doesn't turn over every stone for something like cancer, running to the best hospitals and doctors, etc. I don't a community that would not step up and take over where the parents must leave off so that can defer any big life changes until another time.

I feel like I'm missing something here. Is it that tuition is the be all and end all even when health is failing. . . or is somehow dental work viewed as less important and therefore the choice is a hard one? Enlighten please.

Anonymous said...

Just came home from a family barbecue yesterday - what a spread! Hamburgers, hotdogs, buns, bottles of soda, salad, cole slaw, cake, fruit, all the trimmings. The entire extended family was there, many from out of town. That evening I overheard the husband and wife - I did not press my ear to the keyhole, I couldn't help but hear - as they made a list of every item of food they bought and the cost of each item. Soda - $1 a bottle. etc. I realized the huge generosity of this large chareidi family and the careful and prudent budgeting that went into every dollar they spend. A functioning family is one with a budget, a do it yourself mentality (another member of the family does major home renovations himself though he is a Torah scholar - these two skill sets are not mutually exclusive), a willingness to work together, and children who know to ask for nothing. This family also goes camping, takes family vacations in the least expensive state in the nation, and as a couple go to popular beach resorts - in the dead of winter. Today, the 4th holiday, the father was working from home tutoring all day, as he had all last night. This family functions because they are disciplined. Kol Hakovod.

Orthonomics said...

SL, please explain how the ramifications are "obvious". If a man plans on having as many children as physically possible, how could he ever marry under your scenario? What man can be sure of being able to support 8 - 15 children?

Does your scenario expect a mother not to have to work until her children are school age? If so, you are out of step with American life today.

If the prevailing Chareidi mentality believes in young marriage, large families, and limited secular education, are you in step with today's Chareidi mentality? More to the point, do you dare to criticize it?

How long have you read the blog? I don't believe I play to any particular crowd. I'm not a hold off children person. I'm even uncomfortable with the idea of marrying and holding off children for long periods. And while I like children, I am not tooting the family-planning-is-assur horn either. People can and should make decisions that make sense.

To answer your question,

There are many Americans people who marry young and have lots of children and support their large families. Catholics and Mormons come to mind.

So, yes, I think a man can marry reasonably young and have a nice, large family.

Can they marry in a "regular" wedding, dress fashionably, live 3 blocks from the shul of their choice, have lots of children, send all their children to private school, sleepaway camp, and post-hs yeshiva/seminary, and do everything the you or I might do? NO. . . .Of course not. And that is ok.

Anonymous said...

It's very important to lead a modest lifestyle for maras ayin purposes. Why display wealth when your neighbors may not wish you well, will not admire you, and may harbor secret hatred toward you? Do not display your assets in a community where most people live frugally. I say this because there is so much jealously out there, so much resentment of others. Avoid the jealousy by living a simple lifestyle.

rosie said...

I agree with anon 5:17. People are better off flying under the radar. Didn't the owner of the Walmart chain drive some old pick-up truck? Isn't there a book called The Millionaire Next Door about humble folks who don't flaunt their wealth?
Just because a person has money does not mean that they have to spend it.

Ariella said...

There was an excellent post on this at
You don't have to be a college graduate to benefit from the advice.

Izzy said...

You could start off being less judgemental by not implying that parents who are forced to choose between dental care and tuition are abusive parents because you dont agree with their choice. I could easily say that parents that would choose dental care and send their children to public school are horrible parents because they don't care about their children's spiritual well being, but I would never judge people who are forced to make that decision. Comparing dental care to medical care for cancer patients is a total straw horse. It's not a cultural thing, it's a medical thing. No serious comparison can be made between the two situations, because one is much more serious and acute than another.

The original commenter said...

SL: I am the person who posted the comment about judgmental comments that is the subject of your post. I was not calling you judgmental, I was referring to some of the comments. Your posts tend to be quite balanced and noninflammatory. I apologize if I suggested that you were judgmental. However, I do stand by my observation that many of the comments were judgmental. I think some (perhaps many) readers come here to read about people with bad financial habits so that they can feel better about themselves.

It may also surprise you to know that although I emphasized with the person seeking the $5,000 loan and thought some of the comments were over the top when people do not know all the facts about this family, I myself would never take out a loan for a wedding. I had my own wedding at someone's home. No caterer, no florist (some store bought flowers), an off the rack dress, no band an no hall. We waited until both had good jobs to get married, never had loans other than a mortgage and small student loan -- cars are always bought for cash and are purchased used. Althoug b'h" we have a very good income and savings, I know that an illness, a layoff, a family crisis could put many of us on the edge even if we do everything right financially and live frugally and simply. I am just suggesting we tone down the comments and show some compassion. If people really want to help others lead a less economically stressed life, self-reighteousness is not the way to send a message such that people will listen.

tesyaa said...

There are many Americans people who marry young and have lots of children and support their large families. Catholics and Mormons come to mind.

I don't find this a useful comparison. Many of the Catholics who have large families today are immigrants, who are more likely to be beneficiaries of charity and social services. (Many American-born Catholics are nonpracticing, at least where it comes to the Church's strictures on birth control).

We all know that Catholic education is available for way less than yeshiva. I don't know about Mormon schools, but I'd imagine in Utah most Mormon kids go to public school, given that most of the population is Mormon.

Also, many Catholics send their kids to public school, and don't expect to send their kids to even K-12 private school. (In the early 1980s when I went to public high school, every year there was a large influx of 9th graders who had attended parochial school through grade 8 only).

Finally, lots of Catholics and Mormons are willing to work in jobs requiring manual labor, unlike some frum Jews who prefer not to get their hands dirty. They really have more job opportunities open to them, from a cultural standpoint.

Dave said...

Mormon culture places a very strong emphasis on hard work, financial probity, and a cultural emphasis on "pioneer crafts" that involve a lot of food storage and thrift.

Mormon doctrine *requires* that all members maintain substantial supplies (food, fuel, other consumables, and cash) at all times. There is in fact, a religious requirement to save.

Anonymous said...

Mormons are required to tithe to the LDS church; in return they get free college tuition at BYU - Brigham Young University and the benefits of membership in a community which is well, unique. They have their own "JCCs" free to members, as well as responsibilities such as running children's programs on certain nights of the week. Industry and thrift are essential tenets - the symbol is Utah is the bumble bee. Big drawback - no coffee with caffeine! I've lived in Utah for work and was very impressed with the Mormons, especially with those who didn't try to convert me!

sh said...

Tesyaa...I think most of what you just said is making her point

rosie said...

You guys do know that there are 2 types of Mormons. The other kind are polygamous and their men do not work. Their wives either work or collect government money and each man has several wives. Some live in trailers and some live in multi room houses. Most of the girls get married at age 16 to older men. They are not anything to model.

JS said...

I can't understand the strident comments here against SephardiLady/Orthonomics. I don't get how being thrifty and frugal is a MO or Chareidi value. It should be a Jewish value and part of being tzniusdik and appreciating the good that Hashem has bestowed on us.

There may be different cultural aspects to being MO versus being Chareidi - style of dress, customs, number of kids, etc. But, why does that change the fundamental principle of being careful with our money?

Certainly having 8 kids, marrying young, yeshiva, and learning are going to make it very challenging to get by, but life is about choices. If that lifestyle is deeply meaningful for spiritual and religious reasons, then it should be worthwhile to sacrifice other things for it. It's no different, l'havdil, if someone really values super expensive cars and other luxuries - if the money isn't there for everything, something has to give, sacrifices have to be made.

But, those sacrifices have to be made in a Torah way - after all, isn't ironic to cast aside Torah in order to live a Torah lifestyle? We can't lie or cheat or steal. And we can't sacrifice the health of our children.

In my mind this is all this blog has been trying to say.

rosie said...

JS, you are 100% right!

Dave said...


Yes, there are splinter sects of Mormonism (a tiny fractional minority) that along with multiple marriage, child marriage (and in many cases forced child marriage) also work to maximize their governmental benefits (by doing things like not recording religious marriages, avoiding work, etc).

I don't recommend using them as an role model any more than I would recommend using any other religious group with an aversion to work and a love of government benefits as one. And that's before we get to the even less savory habits.

anon426 said...

I think SL does a great job of presenting information and opinions in a non-judgmental way. That is one thing I like about the blog.

And I do think sometimes the comments devolve into smug self-righteousness. But usually when that happens those commenters are called on it and they tone it down.

Sometimes commenters make broad-sweeping unflattering comments about large swaths of the population that are based on perceptions and not on actual facts. You don't have to take this information as truth just because someone posts it online.

However, it is a turnoff to read some of these types of comments repeated over and over.

Lastly, I think the dental care vs. tuition is a red herring and I'd be surprised if this is indicative of any kind of trend.

Miami Al said...

If a parent picked up work that they did from home Friday night or Saturday night to pay for Yeshiva, you'd all judge them on it.

If the parents started eating non Kosher meals at work (think law firms/accounting firms that order in dinner after 7 PM, I'm sure in NYC they'll order Kosher food, not so elsewhere), to save money to pay for day school, you'd all judge them.

So why is judging them for putting their child's HEALTH at risk. We're not talking cosmetic issues like braces, we're talking SERIOUS medical care, rotting teeth, etc., things that, like cancer, can spread and become serious and life threatening.

So I am completely comfortable calling these people abusive parents, because they are engaging in child neglect. Your religious views are protected in America, you are NOT allowed to use your religion as a cover for medical neglect. You also can't reject a blood transfusion, if needed, for a minor child, or any other medical decision based on religious views.

tesyaa said...

It does appear to me that the more right-wing groups are less willing or able to choose between large-families-young-marriage and private school.

Reading the 200KChump blog, it seems that the MO who have to choose are choosing smaller families, though public school is still mostly beyond the pale.

The mainstream chareidi view is that compromising on either large families or private schooling is completely unacceptable.

If the blog is supposed to be about making financial choices, how do you deal with a segment that won't make compromises, and looks to other segments to make up the difference?

The MO sector definitely has issues, but overall has a more realistic picture, I think, of the financial realities.

Also, I think that camps and fancy clothes are the real red herrings - if these were the only communal splurges, there would be little need for a blog like this. The real reason for the frum world's financial distress is tuition, tuition, tuition. Even some of the alternatives touted on this blog are a "bargain" at $8,000 per child, per year. Some bargain.

JS said...

To add to my comment above about sacrifices, tesyaa is 100% correct that tuition is the 800 pound gorilla and that cutting coupons or using rewards cards to save $5 here and $1 there is not going to bridge the gap between earnings and tuition for the vast majority of families.

But, if large families, getting married early, yeshiva, learning, etc. are important to you, sacrifices have to be made if you're going to make ends meet. Maybe that means living out of town. Maybe that means no summer camps. Maybe that means all hand-me-downs and a spartan lifestyle. Maybe it means working several jobs. You get the idea. But, somehow there needs to be sacrifices made to live the kind of lifestyle one finds deeply rewarding if there aren't sufficient resources for everything else one may want.

Many of the people on the 200kchump blog, for example, seem to deeply value living in an expensive enclave of Bergen County with all of its accoutrements. They also deeply value their extremely expensive $15k+ yeshivas for K-8. They don't have the resources to cover the lifestyle they want, so they sacrifice having more children and having the luxurious lifestyle they think they are entitled to.

Maybe those on the right don't agree with the sacrifices those on the left are making and maybe those on the left don't agree with what those on the right are sacrificing. I imagine someone MO would look at someone Chareidi and think it's a shanda the kids are wearing clothes from a gemach and don't have the latest gadgets. And I imagine someone Chareidi would look at an MO family and wonder how they could value expensive sleepaway camps and vacations more than having more children.

I'm not saying one is right and one is wrong. All I'm saying is sacrifices are necessarily being made.

Those sacrifices should be informed by Torah values as I said above. More clearly, sacrificing your child's health (or your own) isn't a Torah value I have ever heard of nor one I imagine any competent rabbi would endorse.

Anonymous said...

Excellent summing up of the situation, JS. Family member out of town told me tuition is $10,000 there. Sounds like a great improvement over New York area, but for him it is very difficult as he has 7 children. Being chareidi is definitely a sacrifice. But they feel a lifestyle of two children and fancy gadgets would sacrifice their children.

Nephew of Frum Actuary said...

Tuition is a non starter, since there is no solution (that I have seen) other than home schooling, or opening a strict prep school (which will still have the costs, but at least you will get what you pay for!), like Ramaz.

JS commented that "sacrifices have to be made if you're going to make ends meet". The Charaidi world is going in that direction as well (verrrry slowly), in the form of (begining to start) pushing Middle America over NY/Lakewood. Will it be enough? Who knows.

As far as my silver spoon, My Grandfather ZL got from the camps the line "Arbit Macht A Lebin Ziss" AKA "Work makes the heart go sweet", and made it his own for 60 years. My work ethic is my silver spoon.

Anonymous said...

Many of us MO don't want more than 2 or 3 children and it has nothing to do with tuition. I have a variety of personal reasons for not wanting more than 3 children and they have nothing to do with tuition. Let's just not pretend that it is all about tuition.

Avi said...

Look, tuition is certainly the largest expense in our community (RW and MO alike). But I also think people use tuition as an excuse for financial irresponsibility and to shirk personal responsibility. After all, if there isn't anything you can do to realistically cover a $70,000 tuition bill, then what difference does it make if you cut costs on food, housing, or personal items? You're never truly going to make ends meet, why try? Hashem - or the scholarship committee - or VISA - will provide.

Anonymous said...

We have to solve the tuition crisis!!!
It is creating stress, misery, and hatred among Jews.
Why can't some rich donor fund a k-8 school for 200 kids in Brooklyn? Charge $3000 per child, that gives you 600K right there, and get 2 million to cover the rest of the budget.
Great fantasy, right?

Anonymous said...

It has been pointed out to me that donors more readily fund social halls for shuls than contribute to scholarship funds for schools. My informant told me he has tried to speak to a synagogue rabbi and ask him to emphasize kehilla giving to the schools - that is, even people without children in the schools should support the day schools. But none of the rabbis he has approached agree to mention the responsibility of all members of the community to support the schools. My informant tells me that having 100% parental responsibility for tuition is unfair; that the entire community should contribute. That worked in Washington Heights where there was a kehilla system. But it's a good idea in any community, especially where there are single professionals who have disposable income and have hopefully, recently benefited from the schools themselves.

Anonymous said...

He also mentioned that a rabbi told him donors may prefer to renovate a synagogue than contribute to schools and their preference, of course, is decisive. I wonder why they feel this preference if they do indeed. I wonder why rabbis do not ask their communities to support day schools. The rabbis may not want to court "controversy" - i.e., alienate the wealthiest congregants. But why giving to the schools would be controversial is hard to understand.

Dave said...

But why giving to the schools would be controversial is hard to understand.

Well, they aren't really communal institutions. Or rather, in many cases, they are communal institutions when it serves them to be, and they are private institutions when it serves them to be.

aunt of nephew aka female life actuary said...

When the schools wont open their books it makes it hard to want to give to them.

Miami Al said...

Let's see, school's often have a Hashkafa that is to the right of the parent body that sends there, since parents are comfortable with a more right wing orientation as "more frum" and nervouse of a left wing orientation as "not religious enough."

Big donors tend to be older, wealth accumulates over time, not having children in the school, and likely are to the left, since communities slide rightward as younger and more rightwing families move in.

It might be a bit controversial to give to a school that calls you a Jewish goy.

Avi said...

Why is it hard to imagine that a donor would be willing to fund a social hall rather than a scholarship fund? The social hall is only a one time commitment, and usually a manageable amount for someone fairly wealthy (judging from the naming rights shuls sell, most big donors to shuls are in the $50K - $100K range). In the fantasy above, you are asking for someone to come up with $2 million every year indefinitely just to partially fund one school! You'd need to be a billionaire to have any real impact on a broad scale. In your fantasy, who's the billionaire? And who's the billionaire for the kids in Queens and Teaneck and Skokie and... Besides, throwing money at problems is not always the best way to solve them. There's no guarantee that people will go to your subsidized school. There's a subsidized girls high school here that is in danger of closing due to low enrollment. What's the problem with it? I have no idea. I just know that being less than half the cost of the other school isn't good enough. Even the Bill Gates Foundation -- with the combined wealth of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett -- isn't trying to spend its way to better education, it's funding studies to find what methods are most effective.

Besides, in my neighborhood there are plenty of people who could afford full tuition if they hadn't bought more house/car/camp/latte than they could afford knowing that they would have tuition expenses.

Or they would have more income if they chose to work more, but the schools discourage working more by refusing to offer aftercare that would enable both parents to work a full day. They also do themselves no favors by offering scholarships to parents with no sense of personal responsibility -- any additional income "just goes to the school." Yeah, it does. And it's your responsibility to pay your own bills, so get moving. Oh, wait, there I was being all judgmental again.

Dave said...

It might be a bit controversial to give to a school that calls you a Jewish goy.

Be fair. If you're wealthy enough, you're just one check away from turning "Jewish goy" into "teyere yiddishe neshuma".

Anonymous said...

More cynicism. As a childless graduate of a midwestern day school with discretionary income, I would be happy to give my school $1000 for tuition scholarships. I would also be happy to organize a mailing to all the school's graduates who are in my position - without overwhelming responsibilities - asking them to join me in giving our school $1000 earmarked for scholarships for large families. Why doesn't someone give up their summer vacation and do this? Hey - why don't I???

Anonymous said...

Avi, I reread your post. I'm not talking about one philanthropist, but about a lot of smaller donors from a source previously untapped and unappealed to - people who don't have children in the schools but who are aunts and uncles and extended family, people without children of their own. What's the argument against asking, organizing, an appeal to people who can afford to help but are not aware of the need? When I see my extended family with 7 and 8 children, and I see the way they live - I'm not seeing lattes, expensive vacations, expensive anything. I'm seeing a lifestyle stripped to the essentials. We without children have more money, those with children have more happiness. Maybe we can make a fair exchange?

Anonymous said...

What makes you think aunts and uncles and extended families have not been appealed to? Schools make a real effort to reach out to people they view as possible sources of cash.

Why not offer your extended family money in a direct way, as a gift?

Avi said...

Anon 7:11 (please choose a name. Makes conversations easier),

Oh, I know. Tuition can crowd out nearly everything else, even - especially when - the family is being responsible. I have friends who are responsible, and it means that they are living in a tiny/undesirable house or an apartment and working longer hours/multiple jobs and don't have the iDevices and vacations and time home with their children that their neighbors do.

Expanding the donor base is definitely a worthy goal, both to people without children, people with grown children, and people outside our specific branch of Orthodoxy (this is something the RW do well, asking MO for money. MO used to do a better job asking unaffiliated Jews for money, they don't seem to even try any more other than invite the honoree's coworkers to the dinner).

I'm all for fundraising and lowering costs. But at the end of the day, people have to make decisions on what do to with their lives and their money. There is way too much sheepism, where people are afraid to do things differently from the communal norm. Sometimes the norm "bar" is simply set too high. Sometimes people need to understand that they aren't "normal enough" and need to choose their own path. Aliyah, home schooling, choosing lower cost schools, public school + tutors, moving to a lower cost area, changing your career, lowering your expenses... there are almost always options available. I'm not for a minute suggesting that you won't need help from Above even if you change your circumstances, but hanging out and waiting for Eisav to come and kill you is no way to plan. You split the camp, send gifts, and then you pray.

Anonymous said...

I'm not afraid to do things differently. I have nothing of the sheep in me. I plan to call the Executive Director of my former school and ask him whether the demographic I've described has been targeted, and if not, discuss how to identify people who don't have children in the school but would be interested in contributing. I will offer my organizing abilities as a volunteer. I can write a mailing piece and the office staff can send it out to people identified (for example, through the Eiruv directory) as the target demographic. By the way, I know nothing about direct mail - but it can't be that hard to learn. I'll quickly find out from the Executive Director if this has already been tried, if there's no point in proceeding. But I'm an action person, and the pervasive negativity that I see here - oh, this can't be done, no one will go against the crowd, single people won't give money - you all have challenged me to a task I never would have considered if in a more benign environment. I was born to do what others don't. I may have found a cause.

Anonymous said...

I'm Anonymous 6:45, 7:11 and 9:16. My posts seem to have led to a long period of silence. I have single-handedly and unintentionally stopped the conversation dead in its tracks. Come on, isn't the idea of volunteer fundraising for my school a "fantasy", at the very least unrealistic, at worst, lunacy? Or is it so realistic that it is beyond criticism? I can't believe that!

My conversation with the Development Director of my school was productive. He was glad to speak to someone who was interested in raising money, targeted to a specific demographic. He is giving my name and number to the Ladies Auxiliary head, and I hope we can brainstorm together how to fundraise among people who don't have children in the school.

Dave said...

Honestly? Knock yourself out.

I don't think the math works out (figure the number of childless people in the frum community, figure scope of the problem, and add in the annual increase in tuition costs, and you are at best treading water -- if you managed a miracle), any more than NNJKIDS math works out.

But it's not my effort, and it's not my money, so go for it.

Anonymous said...

Good luck!

tesyaa said...

Anon, you didn't stop the conversation dead in its tracks. Threads peter out on their own, and most regular readers had already had their say. If you want more of a response, why not offer a guest post?

I was intrigued by your line saying "I know nothing about direct mail - but it can't be that hard to learn." Maybe, maybe not, but some direct mail professionals might look askance at that statement.

Anonymous said...

Tesyaa, that's a good point. That's why I will I've been thinking of asking the administrators at the school that they involve a professional marketing company owned by a religious member of the community to get some advice. We will enlist whatever professionals are willing to help on a pro bono basis.

My issue at this point is, how do I identify the demographic of childless members of the Jewish orthodox community? How do I cross-reference the Eiruv directory with the alumni list? The Eiruv directory tells me who is not married. The alumni directory will tell me the strength of their potential interest in the school.

Miami Al said...

Direct Mail is REALLY REALLY REALLY hard.

If done wrong, you pay first class postage and get clobbered. If done right, it can work.

The math isn't hard:

Response Rate X Price (average donation) = Revenue
Printing + Postage = Cost

Plus the fixed costs of developing printed materials and testing to see what works.

Shooting a letter to all alumni, cheap. Maximizing the profits after expenses, hard.

Not sure how well Frum charities do with the direct response game. A bunch do it, so that would imply that it works, but given how many Frum charities are shell games to enrich the insiders, they might break even or lose money but give "parnossah" to their brother in law, the printer.

Anonymous said...

Please be very careful about how you target the childless. Remember that most of those without children are already going through a lot of silent misery due to their childless or single status. Some may be spending a fortune on fertility treatments or attempts at adoption. Some who are childless because they are young and are saving up before starting a family so that they can be self-sufficient should not be expected to deplete their savings for those who chose a different path. Those who are older may realize that they need to save a lot more for retirement/disability, etc. than those with children because there will be no one to move in with in the event of hard times and no one to care for them - do basic chores, drives to dr. appointments, laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, etc. when they are too old/sick to do so so they will need to pay for people to do what grown children would otherwise do for their parents.

AztecQueen2000 said...

Additionally, a school which is free to accept and reject children seemingly at whim cannot truly be called a communal institution. While it is true that private schools can set their own standards, it could be insulting to hit up those parents whose children would neve be accepted into the school.
We have to decide if our schools are truly communal institutions or not. A shul is a communal institution because anyone can daven there without a lengthy interview, questions about lifestyle choices, or a background check into the attendees' lineage and finances. The same cannot be said of many schools.

Miami Al said...

Targeting childless alumni:

Pretty straight-forward. You talk about historical events that happened at the school and how wonderful it is providing opportunities like the ones that they received for other children.

There is no reason to get into their childless state, that's creepy, they don't need to know that that is why you are targeting them.

Targeting childless community members:

You give a story about some great Tzaddik that funded a Yeshiva for the children of the poor and how wonderful it was, acknowledge that they don't have children in your school, but talk about the good works you do in the community.

It's all about what you'll do with the money and why they should give to you, it's not about them and their fortune/misfortune.

Orthonomics said...

When I was single, I supported a lot of shul programming. I gave a bit to schools to.

Before we had kids in school, we paid regular dues and a few extras to the shul and gave to area schools.

Now that we have kids in schools, we give what is left to give after paying basic shul membership to organizations that help people stay afloat such as bikur cholim ad tomchai.

If my anon poster succeeds in getting more people to support K-12, great.

Anonymous said...

Thanks all for your comments. I don't really intend to do "direct mail". I intend to do individual letters, written personally, on school stationary. I will volunteer to do the writing, mailing, and pay for 44 cent stamps. Why? Because the first thing I do when I see a bulk mail stamp on an envelope is throw it out. I also throw out any envelope where my name is on a label. Anything that looks like a mass mailing, throw out. I plan to hand address every envelope and enlist my large family to help.

Thanks for the advice about how to speak to people without children. As someone in that position myself, I do not look at childlessness as a tragedy as you do. I do not view people without children as nebechs. Thanks for all the advice, though.

Bklynmom said...

Any community that has more than one school will be split in their support of those schools. The more senior members of the community may be more willing to donate to their grandchildren's schools (or may already be paying those grandchildren's tutions) than the local community schools. While I have a serious problem with more and bigger social halls, and Hatzholah dispatch centers being built, I have no idea how to get people to give that money to Jewish schools instead. The Jewish future will not be assured by social halls or by Hatzolah, but it may very well be by Jewish education. Living in Brooklyn, though, I am fairly certain that anyone (other than my family)donating to a Jewish school will not be donating to a school my children attend--modern, co-ed, emphasizing strong secular academics along with Judaic studies.

Anonymous said...

I sent my child to public school because it was the best choice for her. However, I have personally seen at least one other family, who also chose public school, cover it up.( I only know about it because my daughter saw their child there!). I have also seen another family choose the "socially unacceptable" day school and at that child's Bat Mitzvah, they sat there thanking the principal of the "socially acceptable" one. My child, at the time also went to the socially unacceptable school-so I was horrified at their cover up and have never felt respect towards that family again.
I may not have the guts to confront Rabbis etc over the sustainability of day school and its tuition implications, but I freely tell people where my child goes to school and I do not cover it up when my child goes to the socially unacceptable school ( which was a much ,much better school) and I do tell people that my daughter went to Public school ( she has since graduated and I have no regrets- and yes she is frum!).
As SL says, I answer honestly and confidently, so others may know that they too ultimately, have a choice!

Dovy said...

>If the blog is supposed to be about making financial choices, how do you deal with a segment that won't make compromises, and looks to other segments to make up the difference?<

What happens in a mixed community like mine, when those not willing to compromise with reality need the local tzedakah orgs to bail them out and there's no money for the chumps like me who might fall on hard times here or there or have a medical emergency where we need, r'l, a helping hand?

btw, the Word Verification that I have to type is 'synat'. Go figure!! :( / :)

Anonymous said...

It is very sad that I am getting spammed by the group, this is a hillul Hashem and terrible. I try to opt out and the link does not work. Someone should really be ashamed of themselves... prosecuted and jailed.

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