Got Orthonomics in your Email Box?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Agudah Spokesman on Camp

A shame that comments were turned off at Cross-Currents on Rabbi Shafran's pieces sometime after "strike 3" because I'd really like to see the comments on the latest piece published in AMI Magazine and share at Cross-Currents: "The Camp Culture."


In this short piece, Rabbi Shafran reminisces about his camp-free childhood and makes the case that camp is not (gasp!) a necessity.  This is certainly a different tune that that of the prevailing American Orthodox world as a whole where camp is considered a necessity, often pushed by mechanchim at the forefront.  One reason is that torah learning might suffer.  Rabbi Shafran doesn't seem particularly concerned writing:


Did I learn as much Torah as I might have in a camp? Probably not. 


Rabbi Shafran even goes so far as to say this [emphasis mine]:



"Although several of our children attended summer camps one or two years here and there, my wife and I never considered the experience de rigeuer, or even necessarily in our kids’ best interest."


Parents have been told that camp is no longer a luxury, but a necessity.  Parents are told that camp is a necessary part of their budget and sometimes they are even advised to incur debt to finance the annual experience, that they can and should apply for more tuition reductions to provide camp, etc.  Just don't save for retirement, mind you!


It is quite refreshing to see someone influential say "no" this isn't a necessary, a summer in a less structured environment can be good for the child and good for the family:

"Considerable economic pressures faced by so many in the observant Jewish community these days are exacerbated by the psychological pressures born of once-luxuries relabeled as necessities. Parents’ emotional stability and sholom bayis can be negatively affected as a result. There will always be children who need a summer camp experience, because no parent is home during the day or for some other reason. But for some families, summer, with no word following it, might still have the makings of a wonderful time for a child."


I doubt this small piece will make much of a wave, but I do consider it to be significant.

My apologies for the lack of regular postings.  We are having a no camp summer as we always do, but so far there have been quite a few unexpected things that have come up and have kept me from responding to stories that have been sent my way.  


Happy Summer to the campers and home-campers alike.









95 comments:

Anonymous said...

Greetings,
I volunteer as our church accountant. This blog is very well written and helps me now more about what is going on in other communities. We have two 2 week overnight bible camps that cost $750 each. We know that his is expensive for some of the families so scholarships are given to make sure no child is left out. We do traditional camp activities (swimming, arts and crafts and sports) combined with Bible study and daily worship. Bo pressure is put on families to send their kids, but is is very popular. We keep costs down by using volunteers.and not having a lot of fancy stuff, just good old fashioned fun(sorry kids no computers).
Carl

Anonymous said...

I have been a casual reader of this blog for about a year and have noticed that there seems to be a lot more diversity in the readership. I am not orthodox but live a very Jewish oriented lifestyle. My kids have gone to a large Jewish overnight camp since they were 8 and are now young teens. The camp is heavy on Zionism and Jewish culture and has moderate Jewish religious content. The camp is fun and instills a strong feeling of Jewish identity. My kids are actually third generation campers and in my opinion have benefited greatly from the experience and are responsible and independent adolescents. The camp is heavily subsidized, around half of the kids get financial assistance and 10 percent attend at no cost to the parents.

Mighty Garnel Ironheart said...

There is a lot about the Orthodox lifestyle that is not necessary but has become perceived to be so.
And there is a hint of that in Rav Shafran's piece. Yes, yes, camp isn't necessary but he did send his kids to camp. Hmmmm.....

tesyaa said...

Orthonomics, I wish you would address further his point that camp might cause a boy's "Torah learning" to suffer. (I am sure he was not addressing girls' "Torah learning"). If a family has to choose activities for a son who already learns Torah 7 hours per day during the school year, do you recommend camp-like activities such as swimming and sports (with or without a formal program), or more hours of Torah learning?

Additionally, when he states that "there will always be children who need a summer camp experience, because no parent is home during the day or for some other reason", he makes it sound like that's a small minority of families, when it's probably the majority of families where both parents are working.

Anonymous said...

I'm a teacher, so I'm off in the summers, which means camp is not a necessity for my kids. I take advantage of all the local resources- community pool, library, museums etc. I also do a round-robin with other teachers and SAHMs.

My kids are not yet old enough for sleepaway camp, but I want them to be able to go for the experience (if they're into that). My oldest will be old enough next summer, so I told him his project for this summer (and during the year) is to make some money- dog-walking, lemonade stand, whatever he can come up with. My husband and I will match him dollar for dollar. We hope to come up with enough to send him for one month so that he can have the experience- which is a luxury, though one we hope to be able to provide.

GilaB said...

Anonymous 8:41 am - do you send your children to Jewish schools during the school year? For kids who don't go to Jewish schools, Jewish camps can be their major religious/cultural experience growing up. I'd argue that for those kids, camp might be more Jewishly important than for the children whose parents Rabbi Shafran is addressing.

AztecQueen2000 said...

I send my kids to day camp for one month. But they're homeschooled. (Usually, this shuts up the naysayers that ask "what about socialization?")

Anonymous said...

GilaB- yes, my kids are all in yeshiva/BY. We pay full tuition (I don't send my kids to the school where I teach). I come up with age-appropriaith te activities for the summer in both Torah learning and fun. I agree with you that camp can be a major part of Jewish identity, but the kids for whom that is true are generally not in Jewish schools at all, so the parents have no tuition obligations for during the year, and it's therefore easier to come up with the money for camp.

Anonymous said...

My kids attend a Conservative Jewish Day School as well as a Jewish overnight camp.To be honest, from my kids' point of view, the camp is more influential when it comes to their Jewish identity.That I feel is because children their age learn better through hands-on activities not from reading and the camp really is fun and encourages positive psychological development. Knowing a lot of kids my children's age, I could imagine them becoming and turning off to religion if they had to spend their summer studying something that from their perspective is not relevant.

Anonymous said...

Some children need camp, others don't. I didn't want a structured environment as a child and teen and didn't enjoy the one day camp experience I had. My sister loved camp and begged her parents for Camp Sternberg. I didn't go to camp til I could go as a specialty counselor and set my own hours.

I think it's relevant to Rabbi Shafran's opinion that he grew up not in hot Boro Park or Flatbush, but in verdant Baltimore, where we didn't need to go to the country for fresh air like New Yorkers did. We had plenty of trees and backyards to play in and improvised swimming pools to cool off in the heat. I also grew up in Baltimore and knew of the Shafran family. I don't think Noach Shafran feels the need for camp because he grew up the same way I did - camp was an extra, unnecessary because our city environment was benign, rather than concrete-filled and blazing with heat.

Anonymous said...

Pardon me, I meant Avi Shafran, Noach must have been his brother.

RWer said...

Mighty Garnel: Since I have a different understanding of Rabbi S than you do, let me try to rephrase him: "Camp is not a neccesity, though I did send my kids (as a luxury) since I could afford to." Cna you now explain your "hmmmm"?

The bitterness from the posters on on this site to anything RW seems to be getting worse. and "dan lkaf zhus" seems to be compeltely nonexistant.

JS said...

The "problem" as I see it is in the conflict between camp and school in terms of paying for the respective services. Calling camp a necessity is problematic because it puts it on the same level as schooling. It allows parents to seek scholarship dollars from the schools in order to pay for the camps. At the same time, it puts the schools in a bind since they're not allowed to categorize summer camp the same way they would categorize a vacation. Because there isn't enough money for school and camp, the result is inevitable but unsurprising: the amount charged by the camps and schools is raised to subsidize all of the scholarships.

A lot of the talk about camp being a necessity comes from rabbis and others in leadership positions with financial ties to summer camps. I recall reading an article from the director of NCSY stating that not only was camp a necessity, but schools must treat it as such for scholarship purposes. Absent from the article was the fact that NCSY runs two summer camps.

The summer camp issue seems to stem from the idea that children need to be immersed in a Jewish environment 24/7 and that the home environment is unsuitable for this (or, at least not optimal). This is why sleepaway camps are so prevalent over day camps and why many children attend for the full 2 months.

Of course, in many communities the issue is simply everyone else is sending - do you want your kids to be left out?

Where all this money comes from is simply beyond me. In speaking to a friend with 2 children, I was told school costs $35k with all the fees, lunches, building funds, etc. Each kid goes to sleepaway camp at $8k/kid + incidentals. Total cost for the 2 kids is around $65k/year and the kids aren't in high school yet. MO community and just 2 kids. My friend's entire post-tax salary goes to pay for this. Everyone in the community does the exact same thing - many pay using some combination of scholarship, debt, and grandparents.

There's a problem when it takes around $65k/year to raise 2 pre-teens in the manner your community expects.

JS said...

Oops. That was supposed to be $55k/year.

Miami Al said...

JS,

It's only a problem if you expect your members to have 3+ children...

The impending death of the Conservative Movement isn't a result of lax standards, intermarriage, or any other boogymen... it's low birth rates.

The resurgence of the Reform Movement stems entirely from patrilineal descent and picking up intermarried Conservative Jewish families. Left to their own devices, patrilineal descent wouldn't solve anything, their birthrates are too low.

MO's Rabbinic leadership is laughing about tuition=birth control while they birth control themselves out of existence.

Regarding "not a necessity but I sent my kids," I also read that entirely that as it was a luxury he partook in a few years, but not an annual necessity. That said, given all the "well, technically that is Kosher, but I'd never eat it" and similar nonsense, I'm not shocked that someone read that as a slight on the Yiddishkeit of those not sending to camp.

Anonymous said...

A positive overnight camp experience can change the course of a child's life. It can broaden a child's horizons and give him/her and an opportunity to grow and form new friendships. To be honest, most modern day kid who don't have this experience spent their time in front of the computer or TV. Some of them don't even go outside for days at a time. What a waste. Camp does not need to cost a fortune, but, as with day schools and yeshivot, modern day amenities and administration salaries add to the cost. An issue that seems to be unique to the orthodox Jewish community is a lack of money relative to lifestyle expectations. As has been addressed by others, the lack of money part of this equation ties back to a failure to encourage education leading to a professional career.

JS said...

Al,

Yes, if you expect small families with large incomes, it's not really a problem. However, I don't think that is the expectation (though, many families are at least doing the small family part).

I know my friend is frustrated. While completely acknowledging they live a luxury-filled life, they still find it incredibly stressful and recent job insecurity has made them very nervous. Their financial situation is a house of cards - they can afford the schools and camps without scholarship, but don't have any savings. Something will likely have to give in a few years when high school tuition arrives which is nearly an extra $7k or so per kid. It's also difficult for my friend knowing one entire salary is devoted to tuition and camp.

It's interesting since my wife and I were talking about families in our MO shul and how many kids they have. Many people in our age group seem stuck on 2. Those that have more often had twins as their 2nd and 3rd so it's hard to say it was by design to have more than 2 kids. You'll typically see a 6 year old and a 4 year old, for example, and the parents will say that right now they're "waiting." So, maybe they'll have a 3rd, but seems unlikely given the parents' ages (mid to late 30's) and the fact that things just get more expensive as kids age.

Miami Al said...

JS,

Yeah, I am shocked that amongst the "modern" set, (professionals, graduate degrees), 2 kids seems to be the norm... 3 is considered a large family...

At 3 kids/woman, you need a 70% retention rate to be at 2.1/woman replacement level... So you need 70% to be heterosexual, marry a Jew, remain Orthodox, and have children... Given that the American Spinster Rate is up to around 33%, and the "historic" spinster rate is 25%, that seems like playing Russian Roulette...

If Modern Orthodoxy drops to 2.5 children/women, you need an 85% retention rate...

Anonymous said...

What a marvelous new coinage, the American Spinster Rate! Love it. The American Spinster also provides extra funding to her extended family, so is a resource rather than a problem. Only to herself, of course, if she sees it that way. An extra income for one and an earner who cares about her family is a positive. Not in favor of spinsterhood in principle, but once you are an American Spinster, you might as well make the best of it, and contribute.

Mighty Garnel Ironheart said...

RW'er, here's my point plain 'n' simple: listen not to what the spokesman says but watch rather what he does.
How many times have we heard speeches about how all frum Jews are really in the same community? And where do those speakers daven?
How many times have we been told that black hats are nice but not necessary. But the daughters of those speakers, what do every single one of their husbands wear?
Rav Shafran writes a nice piece but he sends his kids to camp and that tells me more than the rest of the essay.

Mark said...

Anon 8:02pm - The American Spinster also provides extra funding to her extended family, so is a resource rather than a problem.

Modern American Spinsters move out of their parents home in their 20's. They move to places like the upper west side where they search for a mate. And they usually do NOT provide funding to their extended family, in fact, in many cases, their family provides funding to them (to afford rent, etc). When they grow older and spinsterhood begins to become more permanent, they live on their own and hopefully support themselves, but they rarely provide support for extended family. The same applies to males, I suppose they are called confirmed bachelors or something like that.

Mark said...

Avi Shafran seems to indicate that only some of his kids attended camp, and only occasionally. Here are the quotes:

"Although several of our children attended summer camps one or two years here and there"

"So their summers, like mine, were largely unregimented. And, necessity being the reliable mother of invention, they alleviated their boredom by devising their own ways of keeping busy. As a child care provider, my wife had the good fortune of summers “off” and would treat our children to occasional summer day trips. During my teaching years, I would take them to the park to play. But for the most part, they found creative quarries to mine in their own figurative backyards (and literal backyard)."

abba's rantings said...

JS:

"Each kid goes to sleepaway camp at $8k/kid + incidentals."

well it comes down to choice. even if one is committed to sending a kid to sleepaway camp, it doesn't have to be to seneca for $8k. dora golding costs less than half that. with schools people can claim they don't have a choice if they want to keep the kids local. with camp there are options.

abba's rantings said...

AL/JS:

MOers certainly have fewer kids than their RW counterparts, but what is all this talk about 2-kid MO families? seriously, have you been recently to teaneck, woodmere, west hempstead, edison, etc.? these days almost no one in these MO heartlands stops at 2 kids. *many* with 3-4. 5 not as uncommon as some make it out to be.

Anonymous said...

I feel that summer camp is part of an overall trend in the frum community to replace parental influence with rabinical influence. The extended school day, summer camp, and out of town yeshivas seem to encourage children to spend less time with their families and more time under rabinical supervision. What used to be an arbitrary choice is now considered mandatory.

Anonymous said...

I did not read his aticle- I try to ignore his material since he never allows comments. But- remember he grew up in Baltimore which is very different than NYC. Yes, it's hot here in Baltimore too, but BY has a huge pool, playgrounds are abundant, air conditing is typical, and the need to get away to the mountains is not pressing.

JS said...

abba's

It's completely their choice and they recognize that. They want sleep away camp for their kids and they want to send to the same one their kids friends go to. That said, it's not like saving a few thousand on summer camp would suddenly make a 3rd child more affordable (though they'd have more of a financial cushion).

Nearly all of the MO (mostly LWMO to be more precise) families I know have 2-3 kids. Very rarely have I seen 4 or 5 (or more). Again, a lot of people have consciously stopped at 2 with the "official story" being that they're waiting when people are rude enough to ask.

These are mostly "younger" families in the sense that the parents are in their mid to late 30's. Most got married mid to late 20's, waited a few years and then had 2 kids, so their oldest is around 6-8.

Maybe it's influenced by the recent economic downturn and the fact that one of their kids was born into it.

It's hard to get real data on this issue since everyone's opinion is based on anecdotal evidence. I know looking at my shul it's mostly families of 2-3 kids and those with 3 or more typically have twins thrown into the mix.

Of close friends who are still in the baby making business, so to speak, I don't hear anyone talking about 4 or more (i.e., it's not being planned that way).

Anonymous said...

Aspiring to an upscale lifestyle and a lack of the funds needed to acquire said lifestyle seems to be a major cultural theme in 21st century orthodox culture. I am not orthodox but had positive feelings toward a Torah based lifestyle until I started to meet real life orthodox Jews. I was shocked at the emphasis on materialism and superficiality I found. I was also shocked at the level of hypocrisy and tendency to cover up accurate elements of the culture that are uncomfortable but necessary to explore. In my own mind, I separate this from much of the beauty contained in the Torah, but it seems as if those who should be living lives closest to the Torah in reality lives lives that, while true to ritual, are diametrically opposed to the spirit expresses therein.
Jonathan

Anonymous said...

Part of the issue is protecting the kids from their parents influence. I know of several families who go away for the summer, and who are not exactly all that observant when they leave town.

Anonymous said...

Anon. 6/21/12 - 6:17 a.m.

You are meeting the wrong people. Search out sincere Orthodox people. They will inspire you as true exemplars of the ideals of the Torah. There are such people; I grew up with them and know them still. Some of them are my own relatives. Good luck in your search. I also encounter phonies and as soon as I realize who they are, I scoot out and continue my search for the Real Thing.

Dave said...

Anonymous 9:40am:

I would, but I still haven't finished tracking down the Real Scotsman yet.

Anonymous said...

Summer camp can be a positive experience for a lot of children and reinforces Jewish identity. I also know several families where the mother and children go away for most of the summers and are minimally observant while they're away from the community.How one can keep kosher for a months on an island community with few Jews is beyond my understanding but according to them it;s easy, Of course these people are major donors so no one questions how them when their talks of eating at Wendy's. So I can easily see where their is pressure in some quarters to properly educate future leaders of the community.

Reader said...

"A shame that comments were turned off at Cross-Currents"

You can see comments on it (including from myself) at http://matzav.com/the-camp-culture

Anonymous said...

Jonathan:
My personal observation is that a lot of Orthodox Jews feel trapped by the lifestyle and just go through the motions, but I'm sure that it you keep looking you'll find what you're looking for. Summer is not the best time of year because things are more relaxed. So if I were you I'd think about getting more involved around Rosh Hashana. A word of caution is that it is sometimes hard to keep up appearances and this can cause stress for some people.

Anonymous said...

"If Modern Orthodoxy drops to 2.5 children/women, you need an 85% retention rate"

Not true. As you are discounting new recruits from Ultra Orthodoxy, Conservative etc.

abba's rantings said...

JS:

That said, it's not like saving a few thousand on summer camp would suddenly make a 3rd child more affordable"

3 kids x 5k/per kid savings = 15k savings. where i come from that's nothing to sneeze at. actually, it should be enough to afford that 4th kid

"Nearly all of the MO (mostly LWMO to be more precise) families I know have 2-3 kids . . ."

i don't expect you to identify where you live. but could you state which very large MO communties you feel this description applies to (broadly speaking)? obviously we're both speaking anectodally, but i can't believe that we are speaking anectodally about the same communities. in the large communities i mentioned (e.g., teaneck, woodmere) stopping at 2 kids is highly unusual, at least as far as i can tell.

Anonymous said...

Just wondering - why is camp a necessity? Just spoke to a partner in my (prestigious) law firm who lives in Teaneck and is MO, and his four children are NOT attending overnight camp because he told me they can't afford it. Genug. That's the answer. Why are people doing things they can't afford? If a partner in my firm can openly tell me, an employee, that he can't afford overnight camp, why are so many people from the rarefied precincts of northern New Jersey unable to admit to their neighbors (and tell their kids) that they can't afford overnight camp? What's the big deal? I don't go on vacations I can't afford. Why should your children?

JS said...

Abba's,

The friends I'm talking about have 2 kids and are long out of the baby making business. They live in the Five Towns. They spend about $17k-$18k/kid on yeshiva when you factor in the fees, building funds, lunch programs, trips, etc. They spend about $8k/kid on 2 months of summer camp and other incidentals. Dropping their summer camp costs by even $5k/kid (and I'm not sure how this would be done), would save $10k - not enough to cover another tuition (and not factoring in camp for kid #3 either).

Besides, we all know a kid is a lot more expensive than an annual yeshiva tuition payment.

The real issue is this couple is financially comfortable (or at least as comfortable as can be reasonably expected) and realized that a 3rd child would push them over the edge. She would have to work full time and not see her kids as much, they'd need more child care to watch the kids when she couldn't be there, they would need to ask for scholarships or try to get money from grandparents.

They are financially independent and have "basic" luxuries. They don't want to live paycheck to paycheck. They don't want to have no "extras." They don't want to live with their hands held out to the yeshivas, camps, and grandparents.

I get that.

So, they stopped at #2. I know many others in Teaneck and in the Five Towns that have done the same (and they're not shy about talking about it). Many more than this group are stopping at #3. I see far fewer families having 4 kids.

I think those with 4 or more are some combination of: financially well off, have grandparents paying some bills, don't mind getting scholarships as much, or more religious.

When you're talking about $22k/kid ($17k yeshiva + $5k camp, including all incidentals), I don't see why it's so shocking that people are stopping at 2-3.

Miami Al said...

I'm definitely seeing that amongst the "baby making parents," say couples 25-35, 2 and 3 are both "normal," 3 is large, 2 is small. Amongst the more RW set, I still see the occasional 4, but it's rare.

Amongst the older parents I see in the same neighborhood, 3-4 is normal amongst the LW set, 4-5 is normal amongst the RW set.

But I don't see ANY 38-55 year old parents with two children (except families that adopted and started late in life).

What's funny is that the cost of kids isn't only Yeshiva, it's expensive to raise an upper-middle class child in this country. The only thing with tuition costs is that we've doubled the costs per-child w/ mandatory 14-15 years of religious education, then shocked when birth rates dropped.

But my quick observation (as in, look around me), I've seen a drop of 1 child/family in the current birthing parents from the prior ones. It's probably less than a full child drop (more like .6-.8), but definitely looks like a drop.

Ironically, the Masorti Israeli families around me seem to have no compunction about more children, so I think the assumption that non-Orthodox American Judaism is dying off is probably premature. While this crop of Israeli-American Jews all affiliate with Chabad, I wonder if their children will or float off to Conservative Synagogues like I saw amongst a lot of the children of Israelis when I was growing up.

Anonymous said...

The young Modern Orthodox(MO) (25 - 35) people in my neighborhood (silver Spring) most will end up with 2 or 3 children. A few might end up having 4 or 5.

Some of the more slightly older MO couples have more 3 - 5.

High housing costs, high day school tuition and economic worry are driving birth rates down.

Anonymous said...

I have been a causal reader of this blog for a while. I am Jewish but not orthodox and seriously wonder why any intelligent person would choose to live an orthodox lifestyle. In my state, data indicates that the median Jewish household income is twice that of the general population and ample assistance is available for a Jewish overnight camp and day school in one chooses, In our personal situation, which is not unusual,we receive a 50 percent scholarship for camp and day school tuition. There are also people in our community who pay $1000 for tuition at our kids' school and go to camp for free. I think that many of the financial issues talked about on this blog stems directly from the decision orthodox Judaism made to distance itself from 90 percent of the Jewish population that it not orthodox and is doing quite well financially. By the way, I know several MO couples who are less religious that I am but who maintain this lifestyle because they are afraid of what their neighbors might think.

Mr. Cohen said...

Years ago, I was asked to donate tzedakah money to help a Jewish child attend summer camp.

Since I never went to summer camp, I am not convinced that it is necessary, and I did not donate; I gave to NCSY instead :-)

Avi Greengart said...

In our MO neighborhood, many young couples are stopping at 3 for cost or personal reasons, but 4 and 5 are quite common.

right winger said...

being a Lakewooder, although not the most RW of Lakewooders, I have some input for all of you. FYI the average cost of camp in RW circles is $2K per month- most people I know send for only one month (and are grateful!) a far cry for the 8K of the MOs. and tuition here is under $5 for elementary. The average family size is 8 kids. Although I have less than that, feeling like a little bit of a slacker, my neighbor is expecting her 13th - gd bless her. Her kids do NOT go to camp until they are old enough to go as staff.
anyway, clearly that is the answer to all your dilemmas - come over to the dark side! You'll be able to afford as many kids as you want.
Welcome!

Dave said...

anyway, clearly that is the answer to all your dilemmas - come over to the dark side! You'll be able to afford as many kids as you want.

Up until the music stops.

And by music, I mean "programs".

Two things are going to happen. One, governmental programs are going to be reduced. Two, taxes are going to be increased, especially on the more affluent. Look at the number of Republican candidates for Congress this election cycle who are not cyning Norquist's tax pledge -- something unheard of in recent years.

The combination is very bad for anyone whose version of histadlus is es kumt mir.

Dave said...

Wow, I managed to combine cynical and signing without intending.

Apparently my political commentary is coming with guest commentary from Dr. Freud.

Orthonomics said...

No offense right winger, but at 7K per kid--camp + tuition, no food or closthing--things don't sound any more affordable.

8 kids at 7K is $56K. And you are expected to pay for shadchanim, shidduch dating, "support", FLOP or a wedding.

Thank you for the welcome!

Mark said...

No offense right winger, but at 7K per kid--camp + tuition, no food or closthing--things don't sound any more affordable.

It's a lot, LOT, worse than that. Those $5k schools turn out kids that are essentially useless out in the real world. It will be difficult to impossible for them to find a real job to support their family when the time comes (and it comes very quickly in that society).

Anonymous said...

There are teaching jobs for Lakewood kollel men whose wives no longer have the strength to work and care for five children. Those men have to take an expensive course, from which they are hopefully going to be placed in a job. There are Lakewood kollel men who have been placed in teaching jobs - on Long Island. Their commute is 2-1/2 hours each way. They plan to remain in Lakewood because they can't afford to leave - the HUD apartments are fantastic bargains and perfect for a large family, and they certainly can't afford unsubsidized housing in the affluent communities they are working in. How will they continue to qualify for HUD housing once they are working? Have more children! They will remain under the poverty level. But they do find jobs eventually, many in teaching through this program that "teaches teaching" and has sewn up what job market there is for limudei kodesh teachers. So you have to pay to get a job a 5 hour round trip commute away. The sociology of it boggles the mind.

right winger said...

I wouldnt dare suggest that you adopt the kollel lifestyle!! For a guy with a good job, these numbers are more affordable. And not everyone here lives on govt programs...
you guys are judging all of us by the one or two stories you know.

right winger said...

please dont say that the reason people have babies is so they can stay under the povertly level.
thats just asinine

Anonymous said...

I don't think the poster was saying the reason people have babies in Lakewood is to stay under the poverty level. They have babies because it is natural and they love babies. But it also provides the benefit of remaining eligible for government programs, including the most important, low cost housing. Staying under the poverty level is a side effect of having large families, and it has economic advantages as long as government programs continue.

cb said...

I'm not sure where you're getting the idea that most of Lakewood lives on low-cost housing. My understanding of the situation is that HUD stopped accepting new applications in 2004 and there are still more than 1000 people on the waiting list.

Anonymous said...

I did not mean to imply that most of Lakewood lives in HUD housing. But many do, after years on a waiting list, if they got on the list before it was closed in 2004.

Anonymous said...

I live outside the NY/NJ area where the kollel lifestyle is affordable. We get a stipend from the kollel, food and rent subsides, and free healthcare. I teach a couple of classes at the local yeshiva, and my wife helps out at local simchas. It is a nice life without much stress, and plenty of time to study. My advice would be to look outside the east coast area if you're interested in a quality life.

Anonymous said...

The cost of living can vary a lot from state to state. It would be helpful to learn about more affordable parts of the country and which states offer the most generous benefits from those in Kollel studies. I live in the midwest and get around $650 on my EBT card for a family of 6..

Anonymous said...

People need to think for themselves and not rely on the advice of " a rabbi". I personally feel that my kids gained more from being in a religious overnight camp than they did from being in day school. And i really do not care if they only have 1 or 2 sessions of learning because when i went to camp i didn't pay attention anyway. it is the atmosphere, the "ruach" that leaves an impression on the kids.( Besides, the kids need exercise- there is a problem with obesity in the US).
i would, and I actually have put one of my kids in public school, but i think it was the sleep away camp ( read: the fun part) that left the lasting impression- with the exception that my public school child was criticized for going to PS,lol!
This is quite a system. Mothers and fathers are expected to work long hours, so neither parent is around. then, because no parent is around, you need to pay day school, camp and more, to raise your child and be a good influence since you are only around on shabbos... Yes, I am MO, but I told my grown kids they are welcome to send to (hush!) PUBLIC SCHOOL. And if the rabbis are so concerned, then start an after school program...

Anonymous said...

I recommend Cincinnatti for its relatively new kollel, which originated with a group from Ner Yisroel in Baltimore. If your plan is to support yourselves in learning by government benefits, you will have to do that research yourself. If your learning rests on denuding taxpayers of much needed funds, your learning is staeting ofdf on the wrong foot and you will lack true ruchnius in your life. It is simply unfair to learn on the backs of hardworking Americans, including readers of this blog. Your entire basis of learning is flawed from the outset. If you can't learn without government benefits, you need to get an honest job, or first get training for an honest job. Then you'll see how hard taxpayers work and how much is taken from us to pay for YOU to learn. Is this fair to us? In fact, maybe you shouldn't go to Cincinnati. We have enough kollel "students" to support. Maybe you should learn by day and learn for a parnossoh at night, then you will be ready to work when your wife has five children and is exhausted and worn out at 26.

Anonymous said...

I am so ignorant of government benefits that I don't even know what EBT stands for in the previous post! Too busy doing an honest day's work.

Anonymous said...

EBT is a supplemental food program where you get a card, similar to a credit card, that has a monthly amount of money put on it by the state. Approximately 60 percent of the population of a local yeshiva participates in this benefit. I personally have to problem with this benefit going to the disabled or those who are down on their luck. but for this population it almost seems like a way of life.
Ruthie

Anonymous said...

Ruthie,
Stop being judgmental.The benefits are already there so why not take advantage of them? My shul had a workshop to help us learn what benefits we might qualify for.You might be surprised what's available.

Anonymous said...

With the summer here and schedules a little more relaxed, this is a good time to learn more about how to access entitlement benefits. It might surprise some that if you are resourceful combined federal and state benefits for a family can easily exceed what one might end up with if you have a job that pays $50000 to $60000. In my situation, my children qualify for a camp scholarship that I wouldn't have known about if I didn't do my research plus free breakfasts and lunches during the school year.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anon July 1 11:25 am:
I have been to Cincinnati and, while it seems to be livable, one of my concerns is the level of support you can count on. I know that there are a lot of Germans and reformed Jews which makes me uncomfortable, but thanks for the tip. I really need a kollel program that gives students a stipend.

Anonymous said...

I am the judgmental one. I believe judgment is in keeping with the Torah, to close your eyes to what is right and honest is to lack integrity. To speak out is to act with honesty. Others have different opinions and they may speak out too, they of course benefit from benefits and never have to work! I am in a different position, I work for a living, and I pay for the benefits you so blithely consume, just looking for a city with the best benefits. Boy, are we lucky you passed on Cincinnati! We'd have to pay for your children in our day school. You've done us a favor. Go somewhere with better benefits. And yes, I am judging you and all benefits consumers as freeloaders and anti-Torah.

Anonymous said...

You don't know us so you are being judgmental. We give a lot to our current community but are drowning financially. I teach as does my wife. If government benefits are available, and we partake there is nothing wrong in my opinion. Better that we get support than someone who might waste the money on something foolish.

Anonymous said...

A perfect rationalization. I give little to the community but I am not a burden. You are a burden, as the many people who describe how hard they work to pay for people who are subsidized have attested. They do not see you contributing to the community, but coming in, taking over, and as a kollel leader said in my presence, "We intend to make this community over. We are going to make it frum." And the modern orthodox are going to pay for your takeover. This is what you consider contributing to the community.

I don't know you and I am being judgmental. You are illogical; there is no need to be acquainted with a person (who has revealed himself eloquently on this public blog) to make conclusions about his character. That is what intelligence and judgment are for - to draw logical conclusions based on evidence. And by the evidence, you are little interested in learning, and much interested in being subsidized. And you have the chutzpah to praise yourselves as well! You are drowning financially because you have chosen not to work at a remunerative job. You have chosen to be underemployed, which is what teaching is. I know a teacher, and he works extremely hard, giving bar mitzvah lessons and tutoring in addition to teaching, and his wife works, and they are not going around looking for a community that will give them government benefits!

Why should I sympathize when by your own words you have writ your own character? A dedicated teacher you may be, with a sense of entitlement and feeling of superiority.

And don't tell me I'm being judgmental. When I don't know how wonderful you are. What a hoot! By your own admission, you are wonderful.

And the last line: Better you get the money than someone who might waste it. They're giving out free money, and in addition to the foolish spenders, the intelligent spenders like yourselves will get. Your dole will not affect or reduce the money spent on idlers. It will only create a frum entitlement class.

What do other posters feel about the entitlement rationalization above? Is this man and his family worthy of $50-60,000 government subsidy because he has chosen a poverty lifestyle?

Anonymous said...

I am a social worker for a Jewish organization. I have worked here for 10 years, and you would be surprised, at the number of frum families where there is an effort to keep income below a certain level to qualify for certain assistance programs. The figure quoted above of $50000 to $60000 sounds a little inflated but it depends on where you live. I have to problem helping those who cannot otherwise fend for themselves but there are almost always individuals who are relatively young and healthy.on like any other group I have worked with, what gets me it that there is often is a feeling that they are superior to others.

Anonymous said...

It might be interesting for this blog to explore the economics of kollel life. I receive tuition, a small stipend plus breakfast and lunch. In exchange, I teach 2 classes at a local boys yeshiva. My wife does calligraphy and makes mitzvah trays. We qualify for subsidized housing, medicaid, and food subsidies. We figured out that we clear around $37,000 a year with everything put together. It is hardly a life of luxury. Attendance is taken at the kollel and studies can sometimes go to 11 at night which can keep me from helping out with the kids.
Ben-Zion

tesyaa said...

What are mitzvah trays?

Anonymous said...

She does small scale catering like making veggie and dairy trays for bris milot. What I was trying to point out was that most kollel live very modest lives and are not just free loaders. It is not our fault that our lifestyle choice doesn't afford us a 6 figure income and that we need outside help to sustain ourselves
Ben-Zion

Anonymous said...

"It is not our fault that our lifestyle choice" - that phrase intrigues me. You are saying you have chosen a lifestyle that means you need lifelong outside help, meaning help from whatever community of earners and workers you land among. You are saying it's not your fault. You are saying you have made a choice. These two statements are self contradictory. Meaning that if you made a choice, as an adult you take responsibility for that choice instead of (whining, I know that's a powerful word but it's the one I mean) "it's not my fault". I know kollel families live very modestly. That is their choice. It is not their "fault" in that they should not be blamed for living modestly, they should be praised. They should be blamed for considering themselves entitled to community and government subsidy for their lifestyle choice to live lives that do not include any plan to be self supporting.

I remember a case in which a professional man who was getting divorced turned to subsistence farming and told the judge who was deciding child support - Your Honor, I'm a poor subsistence farmer. I can't pay child support." The judge said, "You have the capacity to earn much more. You don't have the right to choose a poverty lifestyle and expect your wife or the government to support your children." The "subsistence farmer" by choice lost the case. He was required to support his family. He went back to his professional job.

Dai lachkima b'remizah.

Anonymous said...

Also: Your comment that others earn six figure incomes - what a hoot! You actually believe that non-kollel families are earning six figures! That the alternative to kollel is wealth.

The frum people I know who are working are earning far less than six figures, and are struggling to live lives of dignity. But you see, they have integrity. You have a skewed view of reality, in that you feel others owe you because you are superior people. The five figure earners with six children who are self supporting on meager means, working long hours, are the ones I admire. They don't have their hand out like you do. When did the world change so that people are openly proclaiming their entitlement to "outside help". My father would hang his head in shame before announcing publicly that he deserves outside help. His self sufficiency was his badge of pride. You have no pride. I do not find you admirable.

Anonymous said...

Ben Zion-You and your wife sound life a resourceful young couple to me. I have posted on this blog before and was beaten up for being a little too honest when it comes to expressing my opinion. One has to do what one has to do and I like your idea about a blog dedicated to the economics of a "kollel lifestyle." Resources are slim in most Jewish communities so I would advise you to play it straight with scholarship committees and the like. When interfacing with state case workers, if you have one, it has been my experience that they are expected to give assistance to those representing diverse groups and you might be surprised how helpful they can be. I would also advise you to be honest when discussing your situation with them because they are there to help you and many respect those who are religious and follow what they call the "old testament." Above all don't let those with negative attitudes get you down.

Yonah S.

Anonymous said...

Yonah, your comment stands without criticism because all the modern orthodox posters who have been complaining about their poverty for years on this blog are curiously absent this "holiday" weekend. Could it be they are on vacation? Now there's a conundrum (mystery): So poor, but on vacation? Hmmmm....

Anonymous said...

Yohan,
Helpful giving away the money of people who actually work for a living? It amazes me how many kvetches post on this blog. SL often offers good advice like an orthodox version of Suzie Orman, but I often wonder about the readers and how representative they are of the larger community. Personally, I am not orthodox and thinks its rather sad to read about some of the attitudes out there.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the suggestions that a blog posting related to those who live a Kollel lifestyle is long overdue. In my area it seems to be a growing phenomenon and I wonder if on some level its growth might be related to the poor economy and increased government support I know a lot of young families who use food stamp programs not as a stop gap measure, but as a part of their family financial plan. Unfortunately, many of these couples, while well versed in Torah, seem to be economic illiterates and they would definitely benefit from more information especially as they start to have children.

Anonymous said...

My 62 year old father recently attended a retirement workshop at his shul and one of the speakers was from the local social security office. He told the crowd that they often provide speaker for workshops but that very few orthodox synagogues make the request. I understand that its fairly easy to get on disability now and if I were at the vent I would have asked if you can study at a kollel full or part time and still qualify for this benefit? If anyone out there knows the answer, please let me know.
Jake

Dave said...

So, you have decided to intentionally build your "lifestyle" to be a parasite on people who work.

Look, if you are going to pick a treif lifestyle, go ahead and pick a treif lifestyle. Certainly the food is better.

But pretending to be holy while ignoring Chazal completely and sponging off of people who actually work for a living, that's just wrong.

Remember: Safety net, not hammock.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised the blog owner has not weighed in. I'm guessing that she's busy with summer activities, not that she tacitly approves of the mentality that it's ok to take from others in order to "learn". Hopefully we'll hear something from her at some point.

Anonymous said...

Jake,
You can always call your local social security office and ask your question. You can make an anonymous call if you don't want them to know who you are.

Miami Al said...

The SSA doesn't care if your work is meaningful or not. Just did you collect wages, receive a W-2, and pay FICA, or did you collect earned income and remit self employment wages.

Whether you dig a ditch, serve as a General in the army, or learn in Kolel, the SSA doesn't really care/judge.

If someone is willing to pay you for your efforts and you pay taxes, SSA records benefits.

Nephew of Frum Actuary said...

For those who are looking for a Kollel style "how to make it" economic blog, I would suggest "penniless parenting", which is from a frum lady in EY (I believe).

To all those dissing the Kollel families: Remember those 5K tuitions from Lakewood etc. that teach nothing? No secular studies after 6th grade (if that)? How can you expect someone to get off benefits if they only have a seccnd or third grade level of education?

Blame the parents, but Nebuch on the children. It is no different than other cultures that dismiss "the educated man's ways" in favor of their own, to their loss. It is very difficult to catch up when you are so far behind.

Orthonomics said...

Blog owner is experiencing small emergency and does not approve of miking the system. If you want a blog for that. . . start your own! The Hirshian view of independence is one I share. Not familiar, explore these ideas.

Anonymous said...

What does "miking the system" mean?

In the absence of all the poor modern orthodox, struggling under their tuition and camp burdens, lying under wafting palm trees on their summer holidays, the blog has been taken over by the kollel frummies, who have suggested it focus on kollel economics. Namely, how do you finagle the system to get as much government money as you can? How do you get on disability so you can learn in kollel? That post was a classic! And to think non-Jews are reading it, and thinking we are all this way.

Anonymous said...

I think the comment was meant to read "milking the system"

Anonymous said...

Jake,
If you have a disability, it is to no one;s benefit if you do not seek out help. If you have a child with a disability, there is also a program called SSI but I think you have to be under a certain income level to qualify. My nephew has add and his parents contacted a lawyer than helped them qualify for around $750 a month. This boy attends a sleep-a-way camp and the money helped pay his tuition.

Anonymous said...

I think you can study at a Kollel and get disability at the same time as long as the Kollel does not pay a stipend or perhaps only gives you free meals and a tuition waver. That arrangement might actually benefit the Kollel. I am of course assuming that you are really disabled. I also agree with a previous poster that it's not fair to pick on kids for the actions or lifestyle choices of their parents.
Shabbat Shalom
Eyal

Anonymous said...

Kollel families should look into supplemental social security income (SSI) programs if you suspect one or more of your kids might have a disabling condition like ADHD, as the monthly income you get can really make a big difference in what you might be able to provide. We used the money for camp and tuition.

Anonymous said...

Disability! The latest kollel technique! This is rich! The modern orthodox blog taken over by those too disabled to work but not too disabled to learn gemorah. The children who are given diagnoses so they can qualify for government paid summer camp.

I want my appendix out, too!

"Thank the Lord you are well." And so good night said Miss Clavell.

Anonymous said...

So she turned off the light.
And closed the door.
But that isn't all there is -
After Shabbos there'll be more.

Anonymous said...

At our yeshiva many of the families already receive SSI payments. You have to be below a set income to qualify and get a doctor to fill out some forms saying that your child has a disabling condition. Many of the boys qualify with ADHD. If you have several children in this situation, I suppose that a family can make a lot of money on this program. A lot more adults are also qualifying for disability payments than in the past. I think this is because unemployment benefits are running out and there are no other options. This is not a situation that one should make fun of. Guidance is what is really needed to make sure that benefits go to those who are in need.
Yaakov

Anonymous said...

Yaakov,
You raise some good points. A question I have is what happens to children on SSI once they turn 18? Do they and their families have to give up their benefit or do they apply for adult benefits? My neighbors' son gets some kind of benefit because he has something called "aspergers" and this allows them to send him to an overnight camp. His parents worry all of the time about what will happen to him when he gets older.

Anonymous said...

I am reporting all comments on this blog that encourage fraudulent applications for SSI, disability, and "diagnoses" to the Attorney General of New York. Your ISP numbers will identify your identities. I suggest you not encourage fraud on this blog. I am taking action tomorrow to have the posters on this blog who are advocating taking advantage of the system, encouraging fraud, identified and their cases reconsidered in light of new evidence. That evidence is the statements they have written publicly on this blog, which indicates they may well have obtained benefits by fraud.

queenbee said...

On a related note, here is a recent article in crosscurrents about how the frum middle class is increasingly being asked to subsidize the kollel families, through increased tuition. http://www.cross-currents.com/archives/2012/07/06/a-new-ugly-wrinkle-in-the-tuition-crisis/

Anonymous said...

http://thepartialview.blogspot.com/2012/07/as-siyum-hashas-nears-many-frustrated.html