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Friday, June 01, 2012

AMI Magazine Article Review: Duped

UPDATE:  Rabbi Fink has verified that this is a true account and that the husband blames the undisclosed student loans for destroying his marriage.

There is a scan floating around the internet of an article AMI Magazine ran from a now divorced father of four titled Do Us Part and readers have been emailing me and leaving comments hoping I will comment.  The article is titled:  That Was Not What I Signed On For, graced by a picture of a graduation cap.

There are no sympathetic characters in the story except the 4 children:  not the husband, not the wife, not his parents, not her parents.  But I have rachmanut for the couple who were duped by social factors and the husband who was most certainly duped by omission.  There are commentors at Torah Musings who aren't sure the piece is a real story.  I'm inclined to believe it is a real account because keeping secrets isn't a new topic of dating and marriage and

I'm curious what AMI's intention was in running the piece (it begins with the subject of student loans being a hot political topic now the author writes:  "In our case, my wife's degree came with a heft price tag--our marriage." If the article is supposed to be a commentary on student loans and their price to families, this isn't much of an introduction as the husband did NOT know about the student loan when he married and only found out about it  many, many months into the marriage (when the first bill arrived in the mailbox).

The absolute lesson any reader should take away from the article is that you must do into marriage with complete honesty about challenges and that being upfront is absolutely essential.  Dating couples should have discussions about finances and put their financial lives (or lack thereof) on the table.  When you are getting married, you should let your significant other know about your debts, health issues, and what have you.

While some might say the couple had communication problems (they certainly weren't pros), the omission of a large debt undermined the marriage right from the start.  I am of the belief that without trust, a marriage is severely damaged.  In the case the damage was irreversible.

The husband then writes:  "You might not empathize with my situation.  In fact, you might not approve of my--of our--lifestyle and our choices.  It was, however, our shared belief as a couple that I would continue to learn indefinitely without the burden of parnasa.  The the story unfolds of a marriage between the son of klei kodesh to the daughter of the town macher's daughter.  It seems that the wife's parents were known to be "well off" but they weren't.  As my readers understand, the macher with the "impressive house" might well be up to his eyeballs in debt while the thrift store shopping, coupon cutting, home camping family might well be "the millionaire next door."  You can't judge financial status by consumption, but most make that mistake!

My blood pressure rose on page 2 because I've seen this scenario play out so many times and it just isn't right.  "Rivi's parents went all-out.  No expense was spared to marry us off in style.  This came as no surprise since the Goldstein's were very well-to-do."  Yes, I've seen wedding pictures of couples on various forms of welfare following their marriage, unable to invest in much of anything that could better their situation, but the fresh flowers alone (paid for with a HELOC more often than not) could have jumped started a small business.  I know professional couples with very respectable salaries who are drowning in student loan debt whose parents made "the couple" quite a simcha certainly jumping over the 50K mark, moving towards the 100K marker.  But after the wedding, the couple must contend with the business of paying off student loans, trying to put together money for suitable housing for a family, and, of course, paying for childcare, daycare, and taxes, straining their homes and marriages.  While I certainly don't believe parents must help their children, Jewish parents tend to want to "help", but oftentimes the "help" is self-serving and not very helpful.  Making the kids a "night to remember" might make the wedding memorable, but after the wedding comes. .. . . marriage.  And marriage is hard work.

The sub-title of the article alone is telling:  "That Was Not What I Signed On For."  Where does a yeshiva bochur get the idea that you "sign on" in marriage?  And, if boys (and girls) are getting this idea, how can we reverse that mistaken assumption?  Sure, we sign on for a basic format--I married someone who shares a basic religious standard, leans towards the rationalist side of Torah, and is a professional.  I don't want to wake up next to someone who decides Uman is his Rosh Hashana destination and that day laboring would "suit" him more.  But, we have to be flexible in marriage.  If a wife was determined to be a homemaker for life, but the sewer pipe bursts, we'd be critical if she demanded the husband get an extra job to pay for it if she had the capability of picking up some employment while the children were in school.  The husband wants a "pass" because he signed up for indefinite learning without the burden of parnasa.

I get the feeling that the husband and wife never had much of a financial conversation during their marriage.  Even paying for daycare came as a surprise (!), and then they repeated the stressful scenario 3 more times.  While the story is written only from the husband's perspective, what a difference to their marriage it could have been if, instead of waving off the bill, the wife sincerely apologized for the omission and they planned together on how to tackle it.  What a difference it might have made if the husband and wife had discussed leaving the Lakewood area when it became clear the OT market was floaded and she would need to commute to Brooklyn.  Are there not other areas of the country with kollelim and openings for OTs?  What a difference it might have made if they weren't so passive in their marriage, but rather recognized that it is a "verb" not a "bed of roses".  For a population that criticizes Disney for the happily ever after conculsions, there are certainly a lot of romantics.

The husband writes he should have "repressed his resentment."  No, he should have had a conversation and the two of them should have figured out what to do b'dieavad.  The L'Chatchila Space Ship had entered into orbit long before.  Being passive is a pitfall and I think it is a culture pitfall in many ways.

Lastly, we've seen a rise in the divorce rate and I think it is terribly painful to see large families fall apart.  I will let my readers comment on having 4 kids in 10 years of a disinigrating marriage.  My own opinion:  when your marriage is in trouble, you get to work and you don't introduce more stress into it.  I believe most poskim would agree, but I have many friends who believe there are "no heters" and I'm no posek.

(You can find links to the story in the comments at Torah Musings, HaEmtza, and in my previous post).


The Bald Guy said...

"My own opinion: when your marriage is in trouble, you get to work and you don't introduce more stress into it. I believe most poskim would agree, but I have many friends who believe there are "no heters" and I'm no posek."

To me this is a matter of common sense, not heter v'issur...

The Bald Guy said...

It's the daycare thing that leads me to believe that this is either an untrue or heavily edited story. What, you think God Himself will descend from Heaven and watch your kids for you???

Orthonomics said...

Bald Guy, I am on the ground floor and yes, the price is very expensive and it is shocking to people. And people don't always realize the amount of care needed when you work, i.e. 40 per week does equal 40. .. . you might need 50 hours of care (or 60 if you are commuting to Brooklyn).

AztecQueen2000 said...

I think the author comes off as whiny and immature. Circumstances change. What if, G-d forbid, his wife had become ill and couldn't work? Would he still have divorced her? He needs to grow up and accept that being an adult means taking care of yourself.

Avi Greengart said...

I'm convinced this is true. Kids are marrying young without even the most basic financial education and there is rampant deliberate misrepresentation of people's true financial condition (people living beyond their means). The pressures of finances and four young children are certainly enough to break apart a marriage where the commitment to being a "full-time learner" was clearly more important than being a "full-time marriage partner." What's really sad is that this was entirely avoidable. There weren't any true surprises: no medical problems, special needs children, long term unemployment. Just a complete lack of understanding of the finances and communication required to raise a family on everyone's part.

JS said...

I'm very surprised you come down so harshly on the wife in this story. What's her big sin here? She didn't reveal her student loans? I really think it's a minor omission especially when she's the one who's doing all of the working. The author only cares because he views all of the money as HIS (even though he's not earning it). He sees every penny going to the loans as a penny less toward sustaining his fantasy life of sitting on his tuchus learning and not having to deal with the realities of life.

That's the nice thing about Yiddish, it lets you avoid reality. The "burdens of a parnassah" - you mean to say "the burden of real life that every single person on the planet has to deal with day in and day out except for you apparently." What a crock. I get so angry when I see Yiddish whitewashing what's really going on.

The guy has a tremendous entitlement problem. Or "magiah li" as they'd say in Hebrew - "it's coming to me", I deserve it, I'm entitled to it.

What's amazing is the author thinks HE comes across as sympathetic. Even more amazing is that this piece is meant to be a warning to other kollel families about student loans and wives and in-laws who don't fulfill their promise to pay for your learning. Simply unbelievable.

The guy sees everyone else as existing to serve him and is resentful when they don't do so. His wife works, but doesn't earn enough so he resents her. She had to take out loans to pay for her education (and who doesn't?) so he resent her. His kids require expensive daycare and yeshiva tuition so he resents them. He refuses to even acknowledge he created this whole situation!

He resents his kids to the point of being angry about having to still support them! He seems to think he divorced his wife and left his kids, why won't they just leave him alone to learn in peace!

Thing is if he wasn't such a self-centered jerk and was willing to think of others he could watch his own kids a few hours a day (imagine that!) and save hundreds a month on child care. He could work in a yeshiva and get a tuition break.

But, no, he shouldn't be bothered by real-life - excuse me, I mean, parnassah.

Anonymous said...

I read the story and my initial reaction was that the story cannot be true. It is hard to believe anyone would be so stupid, narcisic, and uninvolved in thir families finicaes to be "duped" by his wife, parents, and in-laws. Did he ever bother to read that Ketuvah he gave his wife under the Chuppah? It says he, not the in-laws or the wife, is responsible for the support of his family.

Where where the Rosh Hayeshivas and other Rabbinic leaders in watching this family emplode, leaving 4 innocent children?

Kollel is not a career nor an entitlement. We need to return to Reb Aaron Kotler's view of Kollel and limit it to those very unique types who will be groomed for communal leadership. Gadlus Batorah should be the mission of Kollel, not just a married yeshiva bochur program.

SubWife said...

JS, this is exactly what I wanted to say! He says "the check i used to write out for her loan". He! You know, it's HIS money and HE resents to pay for HER education, even though SHE, the wife, earns every penny.

I too think you are too harsh on the wife. She made a mistake of being brainwashed, well-meaning, immature and not well rounded in financial matters, expecting her salary to cover all the expenses, including loans. Many have made that mistake too. It's hard to estimate how much money one needs, until one starts living on his own. Unless someone shows him.

I think they would've gotten divorced or had sholom bayis problems regardless. He was not in it for marriage, but to fulfill his own dreams. If that didn't work out - he would be bitter. He was not ready to be responsible for his family and resented when he had to step up. She would've realized eventually that she married a jerk. Life would've thrown him plenty of things to be resentful about - her parents could've gone bankrupt, she could've gotten sick.

That is a problem. Kids marrying kids, feeling entitled and no one mentions responsibility to learning men these days.

megapixel said...

Another marriage bites the dust! I agree that this guy was feeling misled by the student loans. It seems that the wife was misled also, probably thinking she would earn more than she did, and that the loans wouldnt be a problem. (naivete is excusable in a young person)
HOwever, the mature thing to do was for the guy to say okay, here is the new reality. Gd put me in this situation, move on to plan b.
he talks as though he married her solely for her financial contributions. But he obviously liked her as a person or he wouldnt have married her. Now they are married have some kids, his next step should be to figure out how to make their marriage work.
Having four children and then putting them thru a divorce is terrible!
I believe this could have been avoidable.

Orthonomics said...

JS, I completely disagree with you that it is a minor omission and I don't think it any less of a minor omission because she was making the money. I'd say the same of a couple where they husband was the only one working. And I'd say the same if both spouses were working.

While I have absolutely nothing positive to say about a man (in age only) who has no needs for the burdens experienced by 99.99% of the population, there is nothing wrong with being reasonably pragmatic while dating. A super-sized student loan and living the kollel life for even 1 year, much less 3,5, or 7, or 10 years, simply do not mix.

I do agree with subwife that his attitude would destroy the marriage and I think Avi puts it well in saying the husband wasn't committed to being a full-time marriage partner.

I thought I came down equally hard on both of them and I came down on her parents too for playing a role by appearing to be people they really are not and never spelling that out in no uncertain terms.

JS said...


Agree with what you wrote. In the same vein as what I wrote above about Yiddish whitewashing things, this story could just as easily be about a guy who is an artist and poet and spends all day mired in his art. He spends his days pouring through books of poetry and studying how the Masters utilized light and perspective. He imagines himself above the workaday world and lives on a higher plane studying art and beauty. She's a hopeless romantic and is enamored with his dedication to the pursuit of truth trough art and poetry. She imagines him to be fully dedicated to his craft and desperately wants to achieve through him what she cannot do herself - she simply can't wrap her head around Shakespeare and Rembrandt like he can. Her working and supporting him is her way of contributing to their shared journey of discovery and unraveling the wonder of the world.

Or, if that's a bit too heady, he's a lifelong student devoting his life to mid-17th century French influences on the Japanese Haiku and she works to support her husband in his academic pursuits.

Or, kollelnik and kollel wife, if you prefer.

JS said...


It's pretty clear she went to Columbia's OT master's program in NYC. Some quick research indicates the program is 45 credits and $1400/credit. That's around $60k. That's really quite cheap as post-college degrees go. A law degree can easily be $150k.

I simply don't think student loan debt is that big a deal. First, almost everyone going to school (especially for a master's) has a student loan. Very few people have the familial financial resources to pay both a bachelor's and master's degree out of pocket. The theory is, you get a master's, you take out a loan, your salary goes up, and it's overall a good investment. The only problem here is she didn't figure how crowded the market was and thought she'd earn more. You can say the exact same thing about newly-minted attorneys - they just have 3 times the debt.

Second, most loan payments are not a lot per month assuming you live a normal lifestyle. This isn't ballooning credit card debt. It's relatively low interest loans. You can pay them off on plans that go out nearly forever making the monthly payments very small. The problem here is she wasn't living a normal life: husband doesn't work, 4 kids in 10 years, and private school tuition.

You'd be hard-pressed to find couples that "open the books" financially to each other before marriage. To not disclose a student loan is really a minor sin as far as I'm concerned. He's the ignoramus for not thinking someone in grad school may have loans (and given the low interest rates I know many people with financial means that take out the govt subsidized loans anyways since it's "cheap money"). If she had credit card debt I'd be more harsh on her.

Her loans didn't do them in. His obstinacy and selfishness did.

SubWife said...

I don't agree with you coming hard on parents. Just because it is assumed in the community that a) parents must support kids, b) that these particular parents will support the couple, e) that these people were rich, parents had any responsibility for any problems. Did the guy ever discuss finances with them? He was obviously looking to be "bought" because he heard that these parents were willing to "buy" the best husband for their daughter. If he was looking to sell himself, he should've been financially savvier. In the story we only hear about the girl willing to do everything she could to help him learn for as long as she could. No explicit promises were made either by her parents or by her on behalf of her parents. If anything, she was open that the checks from them would stop once she graduated. Why did the guy assume that parents would help indefinitely? Even if they could afford that?

Zach Kessin said...

I think I have to disagree with JS about student loan debt. First of all the assumption that after a masters you will earn more money is not always going to work out for you as this family found out. Not everyone gets that amazing job, not everyone even graduates!

The other thing is that student loan debt never goes away. It is not bankrupt-able yes you can pay it over a lifetime but I am not sure I would want to sign up for a lifetime of debt (actually I am very sure I don't want to do that). If nothing else it increases risk and the burden on the family.

Furthermore I would say that failing to disclose $50,000 of debt or whatever the number is is just crazy. That is a very big number in anyone's book.

That being said I think the husband here was a total Yutz. He seems to think that everyone else should break their necks so he can have a lifetime vacation in the Yeshiva.

ProfK said...

In so many divorces, we get a lot of "he said" "she said" comments. Here we are only getting one side of the story, with no way to verify that some, all or any of it is correct or that all the facts are being presented.

Lakewood is a prime example of today's shidduch process in action. Between the questionaires and the shadchanim and the dozens of people used for checking, none of what this man claims he didn't know would have been a secret. Either parents together or parents and the shadchan as middleman discuss who will pay for what and when before the ink goes on the ketubah.

Lakewood rabbanim are known for counseling their students about personal matters, and expect that their students will talk to them if there is trouble. Where do we see any mention of this man's having asked for some advice long before it came down to a divorce?

In short, there is an awful lot of information that is NOT presented that we would need to know before any comment would be valid. And before someone says that the magazine wouldn't publish a "false" article, yeah, right. There are many, many documented instances where a publication has deeply edited and just plain fabricated details so that an article presents what the publication wants it to present.

JS said...


Rabbi Fink says AMI told him it was a true story. Even if it's not, I think it's telling that the magazine intends it to be true to its readership and that no one is surprised by the story's details. Also, the piece is written by the husband - any "she said" is only going to make him look worse than he already does. I look at it as "things were AT LEAST this bad and probably worse since he may have left some stuff out that make him look even worse."


Maybe our perspectives are different. I see student loans as practically a necessity to earn the kind of salary needed to maintain a "frum lifestyle" without beggaring oneself to community for scholarships and tzedaka. Even without that though, if you work in a professional environment where a master's degree is a necessity, EVERYONE has student loan debt unless they have the unique circumstances of getting a HUGE scholarship or tremendously wealthy parents.

For example, do you know any doctors that don't have at least $100k in loans? Even if college was completely paid for by parents, you're looking at 4 years tuition at over $50k (not including living expenses). It's not rare for doctors to have over $250k in debt. Plus, they don't earn large salaries for many years as they complete residency (and maybe a fellowship).

Is it wrong not to disclose student loan debt? Yes. But, in the grand scheme it's not terrible. We have no idea from the story how much her debt was. I imagine it was in the $50k range. That's VERY much for a master's. Like I said before, I know lots of lawyers and doctors with debt in the $150k-$250k+ range. It's really not an absurd amount to pay off over time - IF you live a normal lifestyle. Kollel living with 1 income and tons of babies and expensive childcare and tuition, is NOT normal.

Her bigger sin was thinking she'd make enough money to cover this lifestyle. Not disclosing the debt was secondary. You know what, 50%+ of the frum community makes the same mistake - thinking they can live in an expensive area with expensive schools and have enough money to pay for it all. There's a reason everyone's on scholarship. They thought they could pay, circumstances changed (even if this was predictable), and now they can't pay.

Also, her not disclosing the loans just emphasizes this guy was after one thing: money. He thought her parents were loaded; he thought she'd be a big earner as an OT. All he saw were dollar signs. I'm willing to bet even if he knew about the debt it wouldn't have changed things - he thought he was entering a life of ease.

ProfK said...

Still a large sum, but the tuition rate for the OT Masters at Columbia is online. In 2020-2011 the charge was $1,058 per credit, with 32 credits for the degree. There was also a per semester charge of $300. Given that the wife began her degree far earlier than 2010, we can also assume that the tuition was somewhat lower. Even rounding the number and adding in interest on the loan, the total owed was in the $35K range, not 50K. Still not small change but that $15K difference is real money.

JS said...

Thank you.

I wonder if the student loan issue is a generational one or maybe one of what careers people you know have. When I hear $35k student loans I think it's laughably small. I'm far more accustomed to people having $150k+ student loans.

Should she have mentioned it? Yes. But it's a drop in the bucket. He figured her parents were loaded and paid for her grad school. That was the issue for him - it wasn't the loans, it was that his in-laws weren't loaded.

To him, the student loans represent the big lie - his wife can't make enough to support his lifestyle and his in-laws can't either. The student loans represent him feeling cheated and lied to.

I just wonder what the attitude would be if the roles were reversed. The husband takes out $100k in loans to go to law school. He marries a woman who makes it clear she wants to be a stay at home mom with lots of kids. She only wants to live near her parents. He commutes 3 hours a day to his job in the city. The commute is killing him. The wife wants "me time" and insists on paying for childcare for her kids so she can hang out with friends, go to the gym, go shopping, etc. She keeps pushing for more kids since she wants a large family. Money starts getting tight. She discovers he has a lot of student loan debt. He has a frank conversation with her and tells her we can't afford all this, you need to get a part-time job to cut back on other expenses. She resents him and tells him he knew she wanted to be a stay at home mom with a large family.

And the problem here is the student loan debt he didn't tell her about?

Anonymous said...

I think the mashgiach should be addressing this grave problem of his students 'entitlement' and that wives are to be treated as slaves rather than the internet.

Mr. Cohen said...

I believe that the Melech HaMashiach will come when Orthodox Jews spend as much on kiruv rechokim as they now spend on weddings and spend as little on weddings as they now spend on kiruv rechokim.

And on the Yom HaDin, G_d will ask us why we did not do exactly that.

Anonymous said...

I don't think the story reads like something written by a person who spent many years in yeshiva and kollel, but it reflects a situation that undoubtedly happens.

I also think the student loans and the allegation of deception are misleading. The wife might not have understood that student loans were something to be discussed before the engagement. She might have assumed that were no big deal or that the would have understood that to get a higher education there likely would be loans. Just like the in-laws did not deceive him. He assumed that because they appeared to be well-off, they would support him indefinitely.

The problem is the lack of financial education and education as to the need to make finances and future plans and expectations express and not the matter of assumptions. Young adults in shiducchim also have to be made to understand that the concept of living frugally and working hard for the sake of the kollel life sounds so romantic and holy when its discussed in the abstract is very different from living that life with multiple kids, a wife who works full time and multiple bills to pay - not just student loans, but rent, food, childcare, medical care, transportation, clothes, child care, utilities, tuition, etc.

One also has to wonder what is being taught in yeshiva/kollel if there are men like these who put their studies so far above their obligations to their children and wives.

Miami Al said...

I think the intended lesson is: "Being a top bochur isn't enough," you need to be crafty too, because these sneaky women have families that are faking wealth to marry daughters to top bochurs without supporting them.

Viewing this story as a quasi-morality play, the student loan debt was the cause of the problem, NOT because it was a large sum, but because it was evidence of the fraud. In his mind, his ex-wife and her family SIGNALED that they were wealthy and wanted a kollel-man, but it was a house of cards... her education was funded via debt (we're assuming just grad school, not sure, might be another 20k-100k from undergrad as well), and the family wasn't offering support down the road.

From the morality play view, the evidence for this is when after child two he asks her about cutting back hours. From HIS point of view, he looked forward to her throwing in the towel, realizing she can't support them, and turning to her parents. He was rooting for her to fail, that's why they didn't move to Brooklyn, he didn't take on child care responsibilities, or anything. She wanted to be a good Kollel-wife and he wanted her to fail as provider so her parents would make good on supporting him.

From that point of view, it's quite clear, if you are marrying for money, as he was, you need to make sure it is real. This woman's family threw up signals that she was rich, and duped him.

To me though, this whole story does beg the question, "Why did her family choose to signal this?"

I assume their daughter wanted Kollel-life, at least in theory, and parents wanted to get it for their daughter, but through that poor decision, they set their daughter up for a failed marriage.

It's about a year into the marriage (with a pregnant wife) where he learned that he was tricked, he thought he got a rich girl, and he just got an upper middle class girl, and the difference is huge. So he sabotages her career to punish his in-laws for their deception, only to learn that there is no gravy train.

I do see this side of it. I find his values abhorrent and disgusting, but given his values, he was cheated.

In South Florida, their are "fantasy car rental" companies that own RIDICULOUS vehicles that you rent out for 24 hours. The concept was to let middle class guys that could never afford a Ferrari celebrate their birthday driving one for the day.

If a 29 year old rents those cars, and instead of whipping around his midlife crisis, goes to clubs, gets them valet'ed, and basically uses them to fake being rich to get gold digging women, he's basically doing the same thing as this woman and her family did to snag a gold digging man.

I might find the gold digging women disgusting and therefore laugh that they get tricked, but I'd still agree that the guy in the Ferrari is a con-man.

That said, the stakes are a bit lower from a guy pursuing a one-night stand with a woman at a club than the "poor bochur" responsible for four children when he thought he was marrying for money.

Avi Greengart said...

Everyone was playing a big game of chicken, not realizing that none of the cars had brakes or working steering wheels.
The husband was waiting for his inlaws to start supporting him. They didn't have the money. True, he never should have counted on that in the first place, he never had any assurances that they would help, and even if he'd had assurances, a down economy or bout of inlaw unemployment could have negated any promises anyway. But his first inkling that his fantasy bankroll didn't exist was when he discovered the student loans. Why would she have loans if her parents were rich?

The inlaws were waiting for the husband to leave kollel, get a job, and support the family. But he had spent his entire life preparing to do nothing other than learn full time, so his earning potential to support a 6 person family was non-existent. Plus, he sounds like a jerk.

The wife was somewhat aligned with her parents, waiting for him to get a job. But she must have known that jobs for high school graduates with no appreciable skills don't fall from the sky - or perhaps she'd been taught that they do. It does seem like some of our Yeshivot - especially the more RW ones - teach magical thinking / somechin al haneis as lechatchila, and taking responsibility/planning/working as b'dieved.

aaron from L.A. said...

Here's an idea:
When husband and wife are getting married,a contract in addition to the Ketuba( which is never honored by the husband in any case) should be given by the bride's father to the chosson promising that if he divorces his daughter,the father-in-law will continue to provide support for the groom until one of them dies.I'm sure such a contract will find ready approval from just every sector of the kollel world.
It is,after all, just horrible to imagine having to go to work after being convinced you are " super-duper-special" because you study Torah(when not in the coffee room).After all,work is for suckers.

Anonymous said...

Article sounds like it was written by the wife's mother (i.e., the mother in law) to make the ex-husband sound like a jerk. Or she handed her story to a real writer. I have to express my admiration to the writer of the letter - it's really subtle, well done, self-absorption perfectly portrayed, self-justification. It's obviously a professional job, no kollel guy writes so fluently. I have no idea if it's true or not, but it cannot have been written by the kollel man who professed to have written it. It's simply implausible that the husband would portray himself in a negative light. I'd also suggest it was written with all the "horror story" aspects of kollel life included, to illustrate the ready pitfalls of relying on parental wealth or the support of your wife. At any rate, it's a great piece and it deserves kudos.

JRKmommy said...

While financial problems can cause stress in any marriage, that wasn't the #1 problem here.

The fact that the husband had an outsized entitlement complex and appeared to be completely self-centred, without any regard to his wife, was the major issue.

He admits that he never actually asked about his wife's finances before the wedding. He simply assumed that the inlaws had paid for the expensive education. He also simply assumed that they were wealthy and prepared to support him forever. He wasn't "deceived" by anyone except himself.

He is clearly filled with resentment. The solution would not have been to "repress" it, but to realize that he had no right to be resentful at all. Disappointed, maybe, but not resentful. He had no claim to the money of his inlaws, so it was none of his business if they spent it foolishly. The student loan is what financed the education that enabled his wife to work in her career and support the family.

The picture that I got from the article was of a kollel wife working as hard as she can at her career and caring for 4 children, while her husband, instead of being grateful, blames her and her family for their financial issues and gets angry.

How can someone who is such as yeshiva star lack such basic middos? What is wrong at Lakewood that none of these rabbis would have pulled him aside and told him to think about his wife's feelings and save his marriage?

Anonymous said...

If anyone was deceived, it was the wife. She probably thought she married a mentsch. Instead she married a jerk. This is a "top bochur?" Oy vei!

Anonymous said...

My son is a kollel student. We took out loans to support his studies and now we can't repay the money because of a job loss. He now demands that we pay for a trip to Israel. We have no extra money but do not want to deny him because he has always been a good boy. Any advice?

Orthonomics said...

Anonymous--Tell him NO and deliver him a copy of the classified ads so he can get started on his job search. You might also want to let him know that you made a poor decision of financing his studies and that you are now both without money and with debt and that he must be serious about becoming self-supporting.

Most importantly, you should not feel any guilt. Are there not "good boys" who work?

Anonymous said...

If Anon 6:29 is not a troll, tell your son that the Rosh Yeshiva/ whomever is telling him to go to Israel should pay. You will not.

Avi Greengart said...

Anon 6:29,

Tell him: "We can't afford it. The truth is, we never should have taken out loans to support you in the first place, because loans have to be repaid, and now our income has dropped and we're struggling. But that was our mistake, and we'll live with the consequences. And while it is difficult, we can't be too upset about this financial mistake because we are proud of how you used that money to grow in Torah and yirat shamayim. With Hashem's help, our income situation will improve, and we'll be able to pay off all our debts. But we certainly can't go further into debt that we're not sure how we'll repay - that would be stealing! We're sorry that we never taught you the basics of Orthonomics, and we're really sorry if you think that you're entitled to unlimited financial support without regard to the reality of our financial situation, but even though you're understandably disappointed, so are we! Please remember that we love you very much."

...if he so much as kvetches about this, you should point out that kibbud av va'aim is a dioraita, and that if he can't behave with derech eretz, spending more money on him to learn torah would clearly be wasted.

Phil said...

This story is as good as the one from about a year ago, in which a girl's impending engagement falls through at the last minute because the boy's parents, who have money, demand that her parents commit to a certain amount of Kollel support to demonstrate their appreciation for this "prince".

My reaction to this story is the same as to that one: Both scummy sides deserve each other and they, as well as all those who promote this crooked system, will spend eternity together on the bottom floor of Hell.

The only difference here is, pity the poor children but other than that, I have no mercy on any of them!

Anonymous said...

The story sounds very made up.It seems written solely for the purpose of to playing up to to every negative stereotype about Kollel people demanding support.

Anonymous said...

"We have no extra money but do not want to deny him because he has always been a good boy"

Please stop infantilizing adults. Your son is not a 'boy' anymore, he is an adult who needs to take responsibility. He signed a ketubah and had a Bar Mitzvah!

Phil said...

Yup, there they go again at AMI magazine, making up crazy stuff because they hate Kollel...

Anonymous said...

We also have a son in Kollel. We told him that we would prefer that he go out and get a job and study part time. We got daily calls from his Rosh Yeshiva trying to guilt us into providing unconditional financial support. We did not take out any loans but did agree to provide support for one year. This proved to be a financial hardship because I got prostate cancer and had to go on disability. Our son to his credit talked about getting a full-time job but he was made to feel horrible by the Kollel rabbi who told him that he had made a commitment and needed to stick it out and "not make excuses."

Anonymous said...

Jake; That Kollel "Rabbi" is just protecting his job, more then can be said for your son.

In my yeshiva days I know cases where the Rosh Hayeshiva told kollel types that they needed to "move on" and enter the work world. Most did.

Learning full time is not for most, supporting one's family is for everyone.

Anonymous said...

I am sick of the constant Kollel bashing on this site. It is a worthwhile choice for many young men. It should not, however, be a commitment one makes for more than 4 or 5 years. Parents really need to do their research before they say no. I get a nice stipend and look at it as the same as if I went to a college for 4 years. so lighten up folks. My mother and father are 100 percent behind me and other parents should be supportive as well.

conservative scifi said...


Unless you get smicha and become a Rabbi in congregational/education/real world environment, 5 years of kollel is not the same as 4 years of college, particularly if the college degree is in the hard sciences, business, or engineering. An engineering or math degree (or education degree) is a specific credential which tells an employer that you can do a particular type of work. Kollel provides no such indication.

That isn't to say that for those who can afford it, Kollel is inappropriate. But in the example above, where the husband didn't want to work, the wife couldn't earn enough money, and the parents couldn't/wouldn't help, the husbands intrasigence (sp?) resulted in an unnecessary divorce, leaving at least four children in a broken home, with even less resources for their adulthood. How is that better?

Anonymous said...

Dear Jake:
Assuming what you say is true and that you are not exaggerating your situation to make the Kollel look bad, I would advise yo to make an appointment with your son's rabbi and explain why you can't honor your commitment. You suggest, however, that get disability payments and are not destitute and the rabbi does have a point that your son should learn to keep his commitments. I might also suggest that perhaps your wife get a part time job if she doesn't already have one. I work in the business office at a large Yeshiva, and we hear hard luck stories all the time that turn out to be exaggerations of the real situation So excuse me for my skepticism.

JRKmommy said...

Anonymous 10:50 and 12:02:

It is not "bashing" kollel to say that parents shouldn't feel forced to go into debt to subsidize their grown children for years.

If it is important to some parents and they have the means - fine. Treating it as an entitlement is not.

When a sudden disability strikes, EVERYONE in the family has to adjust to the new reality. Why shouldn't this apply to a son in kollel?

Anonymous said...

"Why shouldn't this apply to a son in kollel?"

Because he's in kollel. Duh!

All Orthodox resources must be devoted to three things: kollel, yeshiva, weddings.

Mr. Cohen said...

Orthonomics moderator, I clicked on the link that says Daniel Schonbuch, but that blog no longer exists.

Zach Kessin said...

I will admit that academically I was kind of in a weird place. I was able to go to Brandeis and pay $0 in Tuition due to my father's job (my sister got the same deal at Stanford). I did graduate with about $10k in loans that have long since been paid off (Thank G-d). I also do not have a masters and honestly have no desire to get one. I am a computer programmer and for me having a MA/MS would be of minimal value. I thought about getting one once but opted to not do so when I signed the contract to write my first book, around the Tel Aviv tech world having written two books for O'Reilly gets you a lot farther than a Masters does. (Just google my name for details)

I think we should remember that Tanach says "The Borrower is Slave to the Lender" and I don't fancy being a slave to anyone even Sally May. In addition we seem to have come to the point where it is considered normal for a 18 year old to decide to borrow $100,000 or more for school. Now if that same 18 year old with no income wanted to borrow $10,000 for anything else we would tell them NO WAY, but for school sure no problem. As for why the banks are willing to do this it is because the loans are not bankruptable and short of death do not go away ever.

Now to go back to the original article I think the student loan was not the problem but a side issue. The problem was that the husband and wife both have very different (and equally unrealistic) ideas about personal finance, and they never took the time to get on the same page. In this case the student loan was just a symptom of a deeper problem which was a lack of communication and unrealistic expectations.

Personally I can say that since my wife and I took the time to do Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University we have not had a single fight about money, now we can talk about it calmly and figure out a plan between us.

Anonymous said...

A lot of people who do not worry about their debts because they figure that they can always declare bankruptcy if things get out of hand. A friend from shul boasts all the time about his fancy, "first class" trips to Israel. He's unemployed and uses loans against his house for such expenses. He will soon be paying for a "first class" wedding for his daughter who is planning to marry a "scholar" who has no real world experience. The young man is actually a very nice guy, but I think he might be making a lot of assumptions about his future bride's family that simply are not true, as he is talking about buying an apartment in Jerusalem. I am truly worried about this couple but keep my mouth shut.

Zach Kessin said...

Well if you debt is secured with your house and you declare bankruptcy they take your house!

Plus running up debts with the intent of just declaring bankruptcy is probably legally fraud and is definitely sign of a general lack of character because lets be honest it is stealing. Oh and bankruptcy stays with you forever many places will ask "Have you ever declared bankruptcy so even if it was 20 years ago you have to say so (again failing to do so is fraud)

How did we get to the point where this is considered normal and good?

Anonymous said...

I hate to say it but I fear that the issue of presenting oneself as having more that one really does seems to be big in the Orthodox community. I went to two $50,000 Bar Mitzvahs and one $100,000 wedding this year. The families threw amazing parties, but I know for a fact that all three families went deep into debt to pay for the celebrations, The father of the bride told my brother that his "financial plan" is to declare bankruptcy because of his staggering debt. He's okay with this because his understanding is that his daughter can keep the gifts and he was able to impress his family. I really wonder sometimes if this is what Judaism has evolved into in the 21st century?

Anonymous said...

Bankruptcy can give you a chance to start over with a clean slate. Perhaps this might be a good future topic for this blog. It would be interesting to hear what readers think about using bankruptcy as a financial planning tool and if it is okay to use bankruptcy to take care of debt one takes on for a worthwhile goal. I've been told that a bankruptcy only stays on your credit rating for 7 years.

Orthonomics said...

Clearly I've expanded my readership! Of course it is not "OK" to borrow what you know you can't repay just because you've deemed the cause "worthwhile."

Orthonomics said...

And a P.S.: Banctruptcy is a great way to make sure you will never advance in a profession, get a security clearance, b trusted with other people's money.

anon426 said...

Zach Kessin - you don't know me but I used to work at OReilly in the early 90's. Who was your editor on your books?

I also happen to agree with everything you've written here regarding student loans, bankruptcy, Dave Ramsey, etc.

When you said you had also written a couple of OReilly books I wanted to give you a shout out.

back to the article...
I think the article's author can be viewed sympathetically or critically depending on how you feel about that whole lifestyle.

It reminds me of a billboard I saw once in Texas for a poltical candidate. I could not figure out whether it had been put up by the candidate or his opponent. It read

So-and-so is in favor of gun control.

Anonymous said...

Giving the future of kollel some thought: Children always react to their upbringing in some way, often to do the opposite, or if not the opposite, then to alter their behavior in response to the problems they see their parents having. I spoke to a young old woman with a number of small children and whose husband, after many years in kollel, is finally studying for a profession. After another year of schooling, he will have to use his earnings in the first year of work to pay off his student loan. The wife will have had to work full time for the first 8-9 years of marriage.

The oldest boy resents this, and it manifests itself in certain things he has said. When I asked him, "Where's Ima?" he answered, "Ima's sleeping. Or working." Ima is always exhausted. He has not failed to notice this, a very intelligent and thoughtful boy. I asked the mother, if you had it to do again (meaning kollel), would you do anything differently? She told me she would have asked her husband to study for a profession at night while learning by day, because taking up professional study post-kollel has added 3 years to her obligation to support full time. She realizes this is not fair or wise.

She will let her children know that they can study in kollel, but they should study at night for a profession. Multiply this situation by many others.

And the oldest child, the one who resents his mother's continual absence, will not make the same choices when it comes to marriage. This is only speculation. But children often react against what their parents do or do not do.

For example, I spent my youth in carefree spending because my mother overemphasized the importance of saving. I figured, my mother went through the Great Depression, a one time calamity that influenced my parents so much they are exaggerating the importance of saving. So I didn't save until much later, when I finally woke up to the realization that the future is NOW. And the Great Recession made me laugh ruefully at my former foolishness.

Since I didn't listen to my parents, perhaps today's younger generation will modify the teachings of their parents and rebbeim based on their own experiences. The days of indefinite kollel are numbered.

Anonymous said...

My father-in-law filed for bankruptcy 5 years ago after running up big expenses on a boat and not getting paid money owed. He is a self-employed electrical contractor, and bankruptcy certainly didn't affect his business at all. A lot of contracts have found themselves in similar circumstance. It is similar to those who find themselves in foreclosure situation because they borrowed too much on a house. This is the new normal, A client paid me $700 borrowed from a rabbi's discretionary fund, left the state, and declared bankruptcy. I got paid for the service but the rabbi is our $700. The client's justification was that the service was a necessary. The rabbi was upset but was understanding and let it go.

Avi Greengart said...

Anon 4:26 - yes, fraud and theft happen. If that's the "new normal," we're in terrible trouble. Giant flood / Sodom type trouble.

Of course, when we get punished for letting theft and fraud run rampant, someone will blame the Internet or tsnius...

Anonymous said...

To take on debt knowing that you can't pay it back and them declare bankruptcy It might be unethical in some people's minds but it's not illegal?

Anonymous said...

Those who blindly follow the rules are the first ones to be beaten down by the system. If you are cleaver, it's easy to game the system and come out ahead. My family were big time smugglers in Lithuania. They realized that that Czar's laws were bogus and made a fortune which allowed my great grandfather to spend his life studying. I don't think that his ideology was unusual for the period.

conservative scifi said...

Anon 9:16

Are you saying that the laws in the US are bogus? Are you saying that it is fine to borrow money you have no intention of repaying? While I may be a sucker for following the rules, I think I'd rather be a sucker than a "player".

aunt of nephew aka female life actuary said...

It may be legal, but I am pretty sure it is not halachicly permissible.

Zach Kessin said...

anon426 My editor is Simon St Lawrence but I have also worked with Andy Oram.

I will say publishing with O'Reilly has been one of the best moves I have made. Of course it took me several years to get there but it was time well spent

Nephew of Frum Actuary said...

aunt of nephew aka female life actuary said...
It may be legal, but I am pretty sure it is not halachicly permissible.

Aunt actuary, the term you are looking for is "לֹוֶה רָשָׁע, וְלֹא יְשַׁלֵּם". It is a Pasuk (In Tehillim)

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Is there anything wrong with manipulating the system, provided that one does not break the law of course, if it is done for a higher purpose (i.e., the pursuit of a Torah education)? I guarantee that this this type of manipulation takes place all of the time and has taken on the status of a minhag in some communities.
Yonah S.

Dave said...

Is there anything wrong with manipulating the system, provided that one does not break the law of course, if it is done for a higher purpose (i.e., the pursuit of a Torah education)?

"Whoever thinks he will study Torah and not work and will be supported from charity, profanes G-d's Name, shames the Torah, darkens the light of knowledge, causes harm to himself, and takes his life from this world. For it is forbidden to derive benefit from the Torah in this world."

Nephew of Frum Actuary said...

"Whoever thinks he will study Torah and not work and will be supported from charity, profanes G-d's Name, shames the Torah, darkens the light of knowledge, causes harm to himself, and takes his life from this world. For it is forbidden to derive benefit from the Torah in this world."

They don't believe in that part. Torah Uber Alles, even Hashem (C"V).

queenbee said...

Yonah S., it's not called "manipulating the system", it's called "stealing" which is against the law and against the Torah. See the comment by anonymous at 4:26 PM yesterday. The guy who declared bankruptcy essentially stole $700 from a rav. What "higher purpose" could that possibly justify?

Anonymous said...

I should have been more clear. The manipulation of the system that I was describing is directed toward non-Jewish agencies. This sort of thing happens all the time in my community, and I would hardly say that those who do it are profaning G-d's name. After all many halachically based rules do not govern are dealings with non-Jews.

Yonah S.

Orthonomics said...

**government of the people, by the
people, for**

The government is our government, funded by our money. There is most certainly a chillul Hashem!

At first I thought my new poster was a troll. I'm now just sad that this "logic" exists. It is anti-everything Torah and yashrut.

Anonymous said...

Yonah is correct. This is our religion. Let's not let our preferences for modern Western culture blind us to that fact.

It's sad, but true, that if you call yourself Orthodox, you accept this reality (that many rules of decency do not apply when dealing with non-Jews - this is halacha). If you don't like it but still want to follow halacha? Don't worry, you are Conservadox, or something like that.

(And of course, halacha doesn't acually require that you treat non-Jews differently than Jews, at least in monetary matters. It just allows it.)

Phil said...

Fact: Borrowing money with no means of paying it back is stealing according to Halacha.

Fact: Cheating a non-Jew is stealing according to Halacha.

Fact: Using legal means to "game" the system, even if not stealing according to Halacha, will almost always result in Chillul Hashem.

Fact: None of the above is allowed according to Halacha, even to fund Torah learning.

Didn't our parents and schools teach us this?

queenbee said...

Yonah S., who do you think funds these "non-Jewish agencies"?
Us suckers who pay our taxes, that's who.
You want to be a ganuf, be a ganuf, but don't come here justifying it and pretending it's a perfectly legal and clever manipulation of the system.
And which rabbi of yours said it's halachically mutar to steal from non-Jews? Do you think it's a kiddush Hashem when bearded Jews are photographed doing the walk of shame for insurance, welfare and Medicaid fraud? Yes, absolutely they are profaning G-d's name. And if such thievery is rampant in your community I can only advise you to heed the words of Chazal who said "Bimakom she'ain anashim hishtadel leheeyos ish". Or MOVE.
I have a son with a developmental disability. Much of his medical and therapeutic care is covered by government funding or our private insurance. When Medicaid talks about needing to cut spending, or our insurance premiums go up, it is due in part to the ganovim in your community. If you like I could email you a picture so you can see the face of a child who is being harmed by their actions. And all of us are suffering because of this fraud. It is stealing our money, and it is stealing our good name and reputation.
Has a yeshiva education really come to this?????

Dave said...

This sort of thing happens all the time in my community, and I would hardly say that those who do it are profaning G-d's name.

I would.

Since your community apparently doesn't hold by the Rambam, let's stick with Pirkei Avos:

"Good is Torah study together with a worldly occupation, for the exertion in both makes one forget sin. All Torah study without work will result in waste and will cause sinfulness."

JS said...

From the comments above it seems like Orthodoxy is heading in two very different directions all because the cost of an Orthodox lifestyle is so incredibly high.

As the costs go up, the justifications for the less than honest means by which some people obtain that money go up.

An entire hashkafic system based on money and what you can and can't do to get it.


Miami Al said...


I think you're seeing the ramifications of breaking off from the Jewish people. I'm sure the Karaites ALSO thought that they were the only people adhering to Hashem's words. Their sin was not being wrong, their sin was separating themselves from the Jewish people.

The Yeshivish and Hassidic worlds have recreated Karaitism. They have chosen to redefine Judaism into their new, literary based religion, where service to Hashem is completely replaced with learning Talmud.

You see it in the language, they KNOW that they can't split off from Klal Yisrael without sinning, so they redefine Klal Yisrael to include them, and push everyone else out.

The words of Chazal and Rambam are clear, and you see the manifestation of it. We were warned that benefiting from Torah study in this world would lead to sin, but people thought that they knew better. Sure enough, they chose Torah study w/o work, and the result is theft, just as they were warned.

aaron from L.A. said...

If you want people to stop stealing just tell them there is an obscure MINHAG not to steal.That will get get the attention of those people who don't really take the actual Torah that seriously anymore.

Phil said...

Yes, or that it's a SEGULAH not to steal!

Anonymous said...

Like it or not halacha permits us to treat Jews and non-Jews differently. You can do as you please, but manipulating a non-Jewish agency, is allowed, and my argument is that this is behavior is justified if what one gains is something of higher value like a Torah based education. There are many in my community who feel as I do and see nothing wrong about doing what we can to support something of value. Perhaps, I'm just more open about expressing it.
Yohnah S

Dave said...

I must admit, I didn't expect to find someone who was on a higher level than the Rambam and Chazal on the Internet.

What are the differences between your brand of Judaism and Reform? Reform is honest about changing things, does not appear to fund its communal institutions with mechanisms ranging from the merely dodgy to the outright illegal, and has much better food.

queenbee said...

I'm still hopeful that Yonah is a troll. His spelling and grammar are too good.

Phil said...


You must be a troll.

The Halacha is clear in that Geneivas Akum is forbidden, whether from an individual or from an agency. Supporting Torah with such funds constitutes a Mitzva Habah B'aveira as well as a Chillul Hashem.

JRKmommy said...

Yonah - how do you define manipulation the system without breaking the law?

Fraud is against the law.

Deliberately running up debt with the intention of declaring bankruptcy can cause legal problems.

OTOH, deliberately organizing one's life and finances in such a way as to take advantage of government programs, tax breaks, etc. to which one would be entitled if one is perfectly honest during the application process is not a problem. For example, if maternity leave benefits and monthly payments for children in lower-income families are available, it's fine for a family to take this into consideration when deciding on when to start having children and if one or both parents should work.

JS said...

Ah, maybe we're heading in 3 different directions:

1) Those whose hashkafa justifies taking from others (especially non-Jews) to fund Torah learning

2) Those whose hashkafa justifies purposefully impoverishing oneself to take advantage of various government programs and other charities

3) Those who think #1 and #2 are pretty lousy ways to go through life and not Torah values.

Pretty amazing working for a living is being relegated to a "bidieved" approach to Orthodoxy.

Anonymous said...

Yonah S.
I know you are for real because I personally know a lot of guys like you.I attended a RW yeshiva and as an adult work hard and play by the rules. To be perfectly honest, through, your sentiments were not all that unusual among several of the guys I new who made a life of Torah "learning." It have been "off the derech" for many years, but I do seem to remember that there is a double standard with regard to how Orthodox Jews are expected to treat other Orthodox Jews and what is permissible when it comes to Non-Jews and, if I'm not mistaken, Jews who are not Orthodox. i have several relatives in business who definitely go by two different standards. Just because you don't like something doesn't make it part of our history. This sentiment is also one of the reasons I'm not Orthodox anymore.

queenbee said...

I agree with you entirely, but somehow I doubt that Yonah S. is referring to benefits "to which one would be entitled if one is perfectly honest during the application process". I think "without breaking the law" is a euphemism for "without getting caught". But I hope he answers your question.

Anonymous said...

Meir says
This whole argument is totally against the Torah.
It is not correct to make one's lifestyle dependent on others however legal it may be. No difference if it's dependent on Jews or goyim. Hashem doesnt need our learning, he can manage without, meaning it shouldnt come at all costs. We are in this world to learn even under hardship. Otherwise we would be angels in heaven. That is what hashem wants, not for us to get out of it by stealing whatever other name you come to call it. Yes if one cant make parnoso that is different, but if one can, he should rather do that than so called learning. How many of our great people resolved to this. None that I can remember. Those who weren't acting rabbis didn't live off others.

Chana said...

Yes, there are differences in halacha governing interactions between Jews and non-Jews (the prohibitions against speaking l"h and charging interest come to mind), but I've never heard any claims that "manipulating a non-Jewish agency is allowed." (Well, never heard any claims from a source I'd respect, a rabbi, etc. Anonymous internet commentators are a different story.)

As far as taking advantage of legal loopholes/ government aid for which one is legally qualified? I wouldn't say that someone who's studying in yeshiva and taking food stamps is stealing. I'm not qualified to issue a psak on those matters. (For the record, our very black-hatted, white-bearded, Lakewood-based yeshivish rav does not permit his kollel students to receive government aid. I have heard of exceptions being made for extreme circumstances or unusual need, but there is definitely a significant portion of people in the yeshiva world who do not receive government assistance. And of those who do, the vast majority of them are not qualifying by cheating or lying, and I do not know of any rabbanim who permit such actions.)

Anonymous said...

I am not Orthodox but have taken several Jewish history classes in college. I think what some posters are referring to when it comes to Jewish and non-Jewish relations relates to the Jewish experience in Eastern Europe. At that time, Jews were outsiders and blatant discrimination ruled. This I think led to a double standard when it comes to how some Jews might have viewed business relationships with their non-Jewish neighbors. It is possible that this behavioral pattern has carried over to more insular communities in the US even though it is not rooted in religion.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:02 AM-I am Jewish but not orthodox and work as a social worker at a Jewish social service agency in NYC. Sadly, there does seem to be a lot of finagling among more observant Jews when it comes to applying for benefits. For example, not reporting income from side jobs. There also seems to be a pervasive entitlement mentality at work, as clients often talk about spending a lot on things I certainly can't afford, like 5-star trips to Israel, and then 30 minutes later complain to the office manager about a co-pay that they are required to pay.

Miami Al said...

Anon 6:02:

Two totally separate Jew/Gentile relationship periods, both of which were negative.

The Mishnah records Roman occupied Judea after the destruction of the Temple, relations were "bad" but not horrible, the Romans weren't actively putting down rebellions at that time, they had done so. The Gemara records Jewish presence in Babylon (and to a lesser extent, arguments imported from Judea), where things were similar to the Mishnah. So the "classical" sources records a time when Jew/Gentile relations were bad, and the government was unjust, this is when the halacha was codified.

The Eastern European experience was another bad one, particularly as the Jewish European experience was coming to a head. As European country's in the wast were granting citizenship to Jews, the Eastern European Jewry was becoming more backwards as their best and brightest left, and the surrounding countries were becoming relatively backwards. This is the period that Hassidism and the "Litvish" model dates to... Jew/Gentile relationships were HORRIBLE and the Jews involved were backwards and uneducated as the educated Jews left. This is the time period you are talking about.

The latter was a particularly low point in Jew/Gentile relationships, and as a result the current "interpretation" of Halacha became much more dishonest. The idea that Jews in modern, transparent, just states should adopt the behavior of Jews surviving under dying monarchies run by corrupt officials is quite frankly, bizarre, and a recipe for turning Jews into a Nazi-era stereotype of Jews.

In contrast, Rambam wrote under a relatively benevolent government and his writings do make a distinction between Jew/Jew relations and Jew/Gentile relations, but his differences are much more focused on ritual differences and minor business ones, not the license to steal that the 21st Century Jews invented to explain the criminal past of Eastern European Jewry.

queenbee said...

My great-grandmother was involved in smuggling and even spent some time in jail back in Eastern Europe, but I was always told it was out of necessity and because other professions were closed to Jews. It was never glorified as a clever way to beat the system and to allow her husband to learn full time while avoiding work (he did work).

Now, the relatives who were in the Chicago mob are another story but we don't talk about those...

Anonymous said...

Greetings- My name is Carl and I'm a new reader. I am a Christian and started to read Orthonomics and other Jewish blogs to learn more about Judaism. I didn't know any Jewish people growing up, but always thought highly of them and consider myself a Zionist. I must admit to be a little taken aback by some of the comments I've read so far but will hang in there. A friendly suggestion would be for you to include a glossary of commonly used Hebrew words for those of us who are new.
Thanks and keep up the valuable service.

queenbee said...

Welcome Carl and thanks for the reminder to write in English. I need to work on that. Just to clarify, I used the word "ganuf" which means "thief"

Some common terms:
Halacha = Jewish law
Hashkafa = philosophical outlook
MO = Modern Orthodox
RW = Right Wing (aka Ultra-Orthodox)
parnassa = income, a living
Rosh Yeshiva = head of yeshiva

You can also usually google such terms but I realize that's cumbersome.

confused said...

Forgetting the argument about Kollel, support and buying a spouse, my question to the articles author is simple:

Who will support your grandchildren?

Lets assume of the 4 kids, 2 are girls. If you are learning in kollel and your wife is working as an OT, who will provide when your 2girls want a "learning boy?"

Phil said...


There's no confusion here at all. You have just identified the incredible hypocrisy of the whole criminal enterprise: daughters of Kollel men can't get married because their fathers, who bought into the system, can't support a son-in-law! Grandparents have to support multiple generations and can't ever retire!

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:48 am:
I can't believe that as a social worker you posted confidential information about a trip a patient took to Israel on the internet. Isn't that a violation of HIPPA laws Miss High and Mighty Social Worker?
Yonah S.

That's a good one said...

Yonah, I have had training in the application of HIPAA laws and if the client is not identifiable, there is no breach. But I congratulate you on being familiar with HIPAA!

Anonymous said...

I have been a regular reader of Orthonomics for awhile. I personally feel that it's positive that this blog is expanding its readership and that it's interesting to read about how other groups handle financial matters. As with all blogs sometimes you attract "odd balls" but please don't judge the entire Jewish community based on what these people post.

Anonymous said...

I am a new reader and, while I am Jewish, I am not Orthodox. I work as an office manager at a private speech pathology clinic in an area with a fairly large Orthodox community. I am impressed with the knowledge of many of the posters and take them at their word when they say that Judaism does not allow for fraud. However, from what I have read and my personal observations, there seem to be a lot of individuals who play around with the rules. In our office, most of the patients pay what they owe on time. However, this pattern often does not apply when it comes to our Orthodox patients. We are literally owed thousands of dollars. The owner is an excellent clinician and gets a lot of referrals from a local boys' school, He does not want to send these patients to collections because he feels sorry for them. This is, however, affect our own ability to pay our own bills. The owner did call a local rabbi who said that he would not help because Dr. S is not "religious." So from my own perspective it is confusing how people who would never dream of eating a piece of bacon could walk just walk away from their financial obligations. This might be a good topic for future discussion.
Keep up the good work. Your blog is very information and well written.
A frustrated office manager.

Avi Greengart said...


No offense, but this may not be the best site for you - it's not just a blog about Orthodox Judaism for Orthodox Jews, it's a blog about one facet of Orthodox Judaism (economics) for Orthodox Jews. If you're looking to learn about Orthodox Judaism, may I suggest a broader, more accessible site? Try

Also, keep in mind that there are comment trolls everywhere on the Internet. There was another site covering tuition concerns among Orthodox Jews, and when the site imposed restrictions on commenting without identification, it became immediately obvious that all the venom and vitriol came from a single nutcase who may, as the Internet legend goes, have actually been a dog.

Avi Greengart said...

Office Manager - if your boss wants to be charitable, that's great. I know of stores who extend credit to needy individuals and deliberately never collect. However, if he stops feeling sorry for them or thinks that the non-payment is due to fraud, not poverty, then by all means send them to collections.

Anonymous said...


Welcome. But I would like to stress that if you want to understand the Orthodox Jewish World and particularly the Haredei world the blog world is not the place for you because (1)a more idealistic member of the Charedi world would not be on a blog (2)The people on opinion blogs are much more self righteous, judgmental and fault seeking then the people you would meet in real life in a Orthodox Jewish community and have to be taken with major helpings of salt.Reason (2) is a major cause of reason (1)

Anonymous said...

The patients I was commenting about are capable of paying but choose not to. My boss' grandparents were Holocaust survivors, and I think that some of his patients use this to make his feel guilty because he is not an outwardly religious person. One the patients acts as if he owns hims something because his son "studying on his behalf." I am in the middle because the money really is needed to pay for our overhead. My main point was that it seems that there seems to be a huge disconnect between what is taught and what is practiced in the Orthodox community when it comes to how people are treated as opposed to keeping rules like not eating ham or bacon.
A frustrated office manager

Miami Al said...

Office Manager,

Your problem is with your boss, not the Orthodox patients. You're not in the middle. Your boss has a religiously discriminatory policy of not collecting from a certain segment of the population because of a perceived ethnic affiliation with them. Take it up with your boss.

Extending your animosity to the patients simply risks you turning his reverse-bigorty into your own bigotry, which clearly isn't something you want to have happen.

It's his business, if he wants to let his clients disrespect him because "his son is studying on his behalf" or whatever, that's his call, not yours.

But, clearly he is recruiting patients that won't pay their bills because of some perceived benefit to him... perhaps he simply likes being mistreated by allegedly "Orthodox" Jews because that makes him more comfortable in his lack of observance, who knows, there is no need for you to play armchair psychologist.

People do dumb things because of a perceived connection, in this case his ethnic one and perhaps a religious connection 3+ generations back.

These people are not refusing to pay because of "religious reasons," these people are simple con-men engaged in a affinity scheme, and your boss is the victim of it.

Same reason most victims of black crime are black, most victims of Latino crime are Latino, and most victims of Jewish crime are Jewish, people lower their guards when there is perceived similarity.

Anonymous said...

Miami Al, you are right on the ball, once again.

Anonymous said...

I have often wondered why it is that those who would never even dream of watching a ball game on TV on a Saturday afternoon think nothing of "manipulating the system." A former student of mine had a clinical practice that included a large number of frum families. She expected to be paid and sent out invoices at the end of the month, but very few of her frum patients paid up. Her experience was not unusual, as I have had similar trouble with the frum patients I have seen over the years. I am always very clear from the start that there is a set fee that needs to to be paid and bills were sent out regularly. An issue inherent to my field is that patients sometime sue you if you take them to collections or counter sue if you take them to small claims court. I actually ended up calling the rabbi at a school that was referring to me and told him to take me off his referral list.This might be just a set of isolated experiences but I've read so many other instances of this behavior that it makes me wonder about what the priorities are in the modern day frum community. My personal feeling is that a lot this behavior stems from a sense of narcissism that seems to be reinforced by the Yeshiva educational system.
Thank you for listening to my rant.
Dr. B

Anonymous said...

Solution to the problem: Most doctors nowadays ask for payment up front, at the reception desk, even ask for cash, not checks. This solves the problem of collection. Clinicians often don't have the business smarts they need to deal with people who lack ethical character. They will "lose" those patients with a "payment first" approach. Or if it's dentistry and you don't know what the patient will need, put up a sign on the desk that says "payment is expected at the time of service in cash or credit card." This relieves the clinician from being a collector, the threat of being sued, and he also drops a lot of "takers of advantage". Those who don't pay will find some easier mark.

Anonymous said...

Dear Orthonomics:
You could do a whole blog dedicated to medical economics issues. I am the speech pathologist and my office manager, Sarah, posted a couple of items about our practice last week. I specialize in stuttering and have 3 associates who work with me.

To clarify a couple of points made by Sarah, we have all patients send out a contract and send out bills on a monthly basis. Unfortunately, our serves are often not covered by insurance, which can make our service expensive. We do not believe in punishing children for their parents behavior and have a policy of never turning away a child in need.

Most people, believe it or not are honest, and will pay something even if its not the full fee. A very disturbing pattern, however, it that it always seems to be Orthodox parents who refuse to pay. One father actually said that I would have to take him to an Orthodox religious court to resolve this issue. As Sarah stated, I ended up calling a local rabbi who said that he couldn't help me because I'm not religious. He added that he appreciated what I did for the boys his school and suggested that it should be my "pleasure to help" his students.

I have several friends who are dentists and psychologists who have received similar treatment. So I suspect that his is an established pattern with families in our area.

Dr. Barry S.

Orthonomics said...

Dr. Barry S.

I am well aware and the same frustrating issue of non-payment you have is experienced time and again within the community itself. I've written many posts about non-payment and the issue is one that affects doctors, other medical professionals, lawyers, accountants, teachers, grocery store owners, etc, etc, etc.

Please take action and protect yourself. I know that protecting yourself can be a double edged sword. You have a living to make and mouths of your own to feed.

And, I'm not certain the Rabbi who claims he can't help because you aren't religious could help if you were.

For me, the issue of non-payment is one of the most frustrating cultural issues out there. I hope you can institute policies and procedures that will help your business. Do know that there are many, many Orthodox people who share your frustration.

Anonymous said...

Barry- You are a speech pathologist- not a real doctor. I for one am glad that you provide the service that you do, but when time are tough you have to make hard choices. I know that many disagree with me, but Torah learning and the costs associated with it are a higher priority. Fortunately, my children are healthy, and I really mean this, it is good to know that there are people out there like you.
Yonah S.

Zach Kessin said...

Yonah S.

There is a difference between going without and going to doctor (or speech therapist) and receiving a service and not paying. That is theft plain and simple. If you are able to afford sending your kids to Yeshiva by theft you need to go back to yeshiva yourself, because clearly you did not learn that the Torah says DO NOT STEAL

queenbee said...

Yonah S. writes:
"It is good to know there are people out there like you"
translation: It is good to know there are pushovers I can steal from who won't sue me. Because they're not "real doctors" anyway.
Dr. Barry S., are you still feeling so charitable to these folks?

Anonymous said...

We don't believe that children should have to pay the price for their parents' money problems. Being proactive can prevent bigger problems as a child grows. I have an issue with those who deliberately game the system. The sad thing is that we see people from all demographic groups and the group that most often has trouble paying professional fees are Orthodox Jews. I have friends who are dentists and psychologists who tell me that similar things also happen in their practices. One of the rabbis who refers to me often makes it seem as if I owe him something and I might add that many of the parents of the kids at his school definitely have entitlement issues.
Dr. Barry S.

astonished said...

I am shocked because this holy, holy ben torah ultimately admits that he married his wife just for her (or her parent's) money... and that he divorces her just because she did not bring him enough money...

At the beginning, he states that the "shidduch" had extraordinary midot, and he never really contradicts this statement. The problems came because she could not be milked as she should have been milked.

Are these the lofty ideals of the torah world?

Not to speak of the fact that he signs a contract (ketuba) and is never ready to fullfill it.

There fore I do not understand, orthonomics, why you state that the wife is not likable: she did everything she could, she did not want to milk her parents, she took responsibility for her student loans. I don't think she is the problem.

What really makes me jump is when he resents her paying back the student loan WITH HER OWN MONEY!!! Hello?

This said, I think that tuition costs are outrageous in the US. Everyone should be entitled to free college-education... This loan system is really destroying many young families (not only jewish)...

RWer said...

ortho - it is clear from his last commetn that Yonah S is just trying to get folks mad. Please remove his posts.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to Orthonomics for removing Yonah's posts. They were a shanda and I am mortified that this blog is being read by non-Jews who think his views are characteristic of all Orthodox Jews.

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