The tuition rates for attending Jewish schools are rapidly reaching the breaking point. A small percentage of parents – those who pay full or almost full tuition at schools – are subsidizing the rest of the parent body who cannot afford the astronomical amounts that are termed full tuition. But that group of people – those who can and do pay full tuition – is a rapidly diminishing breed. Instead of addressing this problem – the true time bomb that threatens the future of Torah education – we spread our wealth so thin that we are unable to help the situation.
Focusing on that, how did it become that way? One obvious culprit is a creation called Askanim. Ma rabu maasecha Hashem! These are the gatekeepers and social engineers who are both the diagnosticians of the ills of our community as well as the technicians who deliver the therapy. They know what is best for the masses and exploit the name recognition of great people, filtering information in both directions. Believe it or not, here was a time in history when great Rabbinic luminaries answered their own phones, opened their own mail, read newspaper, and penned their own signatures after carefully reading the paragraphs above it. But, more importantly, they lived in the communities for whom they led, paskened for, and inspired. (It would make a great doctoral dissertation to pinpoint the year and place when the period of the Acharonim transitioned into the era of the Askanim.) While we have some great Poskim with encyclopedic minds covering the breadth and depth of Torah, they are prevented from developing the other main attribute of previous Gedolei Hador, which is “getting it”. As a result, we have a disconnect that spans not only across oceans but also across the street within one’s neighborhood. It is certainly possible to have Kavod Hatorah, while at the same time stipulating that thanks to the Askanim, many of the Torah giants should be seen in more limited roles.
Avremel, you don’t make weddings, Hashem does!”
“Reb Lazer, that’s either Baal Teshuva talk or Breslever talk. We don’t think like that. We have to raise the money ourselves!”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Here’s a man of 48, born into a Chassidic family; he learned in cheder, in lower yeshiva, in upper yeshiva, and then for another seven years in rabbinical kollel before he had to go to work to pay his bills. It was pitiful to see such a person with beard, long sidecurls, a long coat and Chassidic knickers with black socks living a life completely without Hashem and devoid of emuna.
Avremel had tears in his eyes and his upper lip was quivering. “Where in the world am I going to get 300,000 shekels in 7 months? It’s impossible!”
“Li hakesef ve’li hazahav, ne’um Hashem!” I quoted the Prophet who tells us that Hashem has all the gold and silver. If we need money, we go to Him. “Why not try talking to Hashem?”