Friday, May 26, 2006

Talk About Condescending

Update: I am not erasing my post below. However, the author of the post that I was responding to, claims here that he was trying to make a completely different statement about tuition issues than I (and others) thought he was trying to make. Quite honestly, I'm confused. He is the owner of a newspaper and, as such, I can only assume he is trained to make his points in a crystal clear fashion, especially when writing about issues of great sensitivity. I used to document hundreds of pages of processes, observations, and testing and issue reports with finding and recommendations based on my work. If the work was sloppy or wording was not accurate and understandable, I could be assured that it would show back up on my desk with notes of displeasure attached. Those of us who are offering our opinions to the J-public should treat our work as if it was being reviewed by a supervisor.

The editor of the Five Towns Jewish Times, Larry Gordon, seems to be responding the the outrage the Five Towns that Orthomom reported on here.

I found the below extremely condescending and I hope I understood him correctly. He seems to imply that the problem families who are struggling is having is the inability to prioritize their expenses. While there are people who are quite wasteful in our communities (and who might be receiving breaks), I can tell you about higher-income bracket families who struggle to pay the utilities bills after tuition is paid, don't send their children to camp, drive one car, and haven't ever made a sit down meal for a child's Bar Mitzvah. I can tell you about decently modest families who are carrying more mortgage on their homes than they started out with many years ago and are of retirement age. I can also tell you about modest families that put their living expenses on the credit card after they pay for tuition and the debt they are in would make a credit counselor's head spin.

As for the second highlighted comment about speaking Executive Directors regarding the situation of those who are not shouldering enough of their burden, I'm not 100% sure where he is going with such a comment, but the administrators of our schools design the all-intrusive scholarship forms that analyze practically everything under the sun (from the WIC/Food Stamps you are receive to the make and model of the car you drive) except perhaps the value of the sheital sitting on your head. If the all-intrusive scholarship form is not detailed enough, than they need to "reform" it rather than pontificate that the klal lacks integrity.

He writes: (Note: I corrected spelling and highlighted the portions I am concentrating on).

On the matter of a local Yeshiva raising tuitions by 15% without any advance warning or notice, one has to wonder who makes these decisions and how are they made? Clearly, if the decision to introduce such a significant tuition increase was being made by people who can be identified with the average middle level income earner and they believed that such an increase was needed, there still might be objections and complaints but it would have certainly been more calmly accepted.

The odd thing is that just about all Yeshiva boards are dominated by personalities in upper level income brackets. When it comes to paying Yeshiva tuition and the struggle that exists therein for many, one needs to understand the process and what it means to prioritize one's expenses in life along with the matter of pride that is involved in so many large families who are challenged to make ends meet but who sacrifice mach so that they can pay their children's tuitions.

In talking to Executive Directors at our Yeshivas it becomes clear that annual tuition increases-whether subtle or extreme-are always analyzed because of the belief that far too many people who are capable of shouldering a greater portion of the cost of Yeshiva education are getting disproportionate scholarships and tuition breaks. As usual that which is needed more than anything else is a little more honesty and integrity. Look around at what is happening in communitieses like ours around the world and you should continue to acquire a greater appreciation for the simply priceless value of a solid Yeshiva education.


Anonymous said...

I think - in the first paragraph, he's not saying the people who are struggling aren't prioritizng expenses, but that the rich people on the board have no experience prioritizing expenses and thus cannot truly understand the issues that regular people have.

Anonymous said...

There is an enormous gulf that has developed between The Haves and The Have Nots in Orthodoxy, and given the fact that both the boards and press are controleld by those with wealth, they really have no concept of working on a government or academic salary, or being a divorced father paying child support,etc

More to the point, and this need be said particularly regarding Larry Gordon and many, many in power in the Five Towns in particular -- they were born with silver spoons in their mouths and never had to work an honest day in their lives. I do not belittle their accomplishment of turning $2mm into $5mm, but these families simply have no concept whatsoever what a real, live no yerusha family contends with financially today -- this is a taboo that must be finally spoken aloud, particularly in the Five Towns. The leadership of the community comes almost exclusively from Wealth From Birth families, and have pushed the cost of yiddishkeit beyond all capacity of normal families. Then they heep scorn and ridicule and rid the community of the "lesser desired", making way for more born to wealth brooklynites to move in and replace the original residents.

This is halacha? This is Orthodoxy?

orthomom said...

Sephardilady, I completely agree with you on this post. I'm not even sure I fully understood Mr. Gordon's post either, but whatever I got offended me. I think the problem is more far-reaching than simply a matter of prioritizing. As I said on his blog, a family with a ostensibly generous yearly salary of $200,000, who has 3 boys in the Yeshiva in question, will be paying over 35% of their take-home pay on tuition. I can't begin to imagine how that becomes a matter of prioritization when bills have to be paid for food, shelter, clothing, and transportation.

Orthonomics said...

Anon-I'd like to think that is what Larry Gordon is saying is something different and I originally questioned my interpretation (although, my husband read the same post and felt it was extremely condescending).

HOWEVER, both Orthomom and me have posted our comments and he has approved them (Larry Gordon moderates comments) and he has not rebutted our interpretations. To me the silence says something.

It he met something different, he should clarify them.

Anonymous said...

FWIW, Mr. Gordon, a well known Chabad messianist apologist has created a "newspaper" that now seems to have both the best and worst of the Jewish Press and Yated Neeman. I suppose he deserves some sort of kudos for such a dubious accomplishment.

That being said,Mr. Gordon's comments and your responses are some of the reasons why we never considered moving to the Five Towns. Your comments and others on the OU "Tuition Initiative" were right on the mark. People who have never sweated about any bills really have no understanding about how the tuition crisis or that a yeshiva education is a communal responsibility to provide for all-especially those who have financial issues and problems. The absence of any participation of parents who sweat tuition checks and other bills every month really show how of touch that well intended commission was with reality. FWIW, I know of one very fine MO school in that area that will work with parents who are experiencing financial difficulties.

Orthonomics said...

Anon-Apparantely you are correct. Mr. Gordon has now posted a clarification. It certainly brings to light how important it is to make our statements crystal clear for our readerships. I will certainly take away that lesson.

(Note: I have posted an update, as is appropriate.)

Anonymous said...

Larry Gordon has blocked the following comment for whatever editorial reason. I ask that it be posted here to provide it appropriate daylight in this discussion:

I could not disagree more strongly with the remark that the Five Towns is an "upscale" community. For those of us who reside/resided along the railroad tracks in Hewlett, Woodmere and Cedarhurst the Five Towns is/was a very affordable suburban community --until the absurd local costs of yiddishkeit are added to the budget.

The education demands on these homeowners represents a percentage of family net income that is simply impossible and never before experienced thirty years ago at HILI/Hillel/HAFTR/YCQ. This is strictly a function of the Born to Wealth boards demanding percentages of net income that no one actually living on a budget can hope to pay.

The Five Towns are not an "upscale" community, and that remark is more offensive than Larry Gordon's original statement. It comprises a very mixed community of over 50,000 people, and an education clientele streching to Oceanside/Long Beach and up into West Hempstead and even (shudders at the socioeconomic implications) the lovely shul in Elmont.

The fact that in the present Five Towns power hierarchy that would tolerate creation of a Red Shul all of thesee people are invisibile is an dreadful indictment of the ruling class that was never tolerated when the local Rabbinate was Klapperman and Lebor.

Anonymous said...

former five towner - you imply that the yeshivas are engaging in price gouging, which is uterly ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

Orthomom - try paying for 4 tuitions on half the income you used in your example. I love my kids schools, I love some of my neighbors, but I have come to see after living here 3 years that 5T is not the sort of place that welcomes middle class families.

Anonymous said...

To Former Five Towner:

Larry Gordon did not inherit wealth - his father, Yochanan Gordon, was a Yiddish journalist at a time when Yiddish was in a worse state than it is now and his work was not well compensated. Unless he married someone who inherited wealth, whatever he has is his own.