Thursday, June 14, 2007

Fur Roadblocks

Hat Tip: Ari Kingsberg for pointing me to the Wolf's Post who gave credit to DAG who pointed readers to the Machberes section of the Jewish Press

Plenty of blog ink has been spilled about ridiculous engagement and wedding gift expectations, but I just can't pass up leaving another note on the subject. This time the note is from the Chassidish world. The Jewish Press reports about a meeting in Williamsburg, Brooklyn dedicated to getting the cost of marriage under control. It reports (emphasis mine):

On Monday, June 4 a large assembly took place, of Williamsburg Satmar yeshiva students, all of marriageable age. The focus of the meeting was the ongoing effort to stem the accelerating costs of marrying off children, particularly the cost of a shtreimel. Traditionally, the father of the kallah purchases two shtreimels for his future son-in-law. One, more expensive, is an elegant shtreimel meant to be worn under the chuppah, as well as for special occasions. The second, somewhat cheaper, is called a raigen shtreimel meant to be worn in inclement weather, thus preserving the other more costly shtreimel. The price of a first class, top-shelf shtreimel has exceeded $4,000.00.

The students at the meeting, future chassanim agreed to become part of Ateres Chassanim, and will not accept any shtreimel costing more than $1,200. The less expensive shtreimel is made from less rare furs, a distinction that only an experienced furrier could determine. This is a giant step in the battle to tide wedding expenditures.

Chevra Kol Chassanim, was recently established for students at the Kiryas Yoel Yeshiva for the specific purpose of “eliminating the pressure and high costs” of marrying off children, with its first target, the traditional chassan shtreimel. They, too, agreed to cap acceptance of shtreimels
to the $1,200 level. Both Ateres Chassanim and Chevra Kol Chassanim are admirable initiatives in the battle to limit unnecessary expenditures in the marrying off of children in chassidishe communities, very much in line with the “Simcha Guidelines” effort in yeshivish circles. Chassidishe communities, and Satmar in particular, are more cohesive, and the prognosis for successfully reducing luxury spending is promising.

Now I won't make any economics predictions about whether a group of bochurim will be successful in bringing down the price of a streimel, nor will I dare suggest that Satmar do away with the minhag of wearing a streimel. What I will say is: who put the bochurim in charge?

I respect the bochurim for taking steps to help bring down the cost of getting married. But, the idea that a future chatan thinks he can dictate the terms is just downright scary! It hardly seems tzniut, nor does it seem to jive with the concept of kibud av v'em.

Here in my world, when someone gives you a gift, the correct response is "thank you very much," not I've picked out the [item of choice] and you can go pay for it at your convenience.

But, of course, the social expectations of the Orthodox world have made it so that gifts aren't really gifts. In both the Chassidish and non-Chassidish (even Modern Orthodox) world, providing gifts is an exercise in meeting social expectations. While we all have expectations (e.g., a diamond engagement ring is standard), there is a point where one should just say dayanu!

Ariella blogged about her son's 7th grade class being taught what they will receive when they get married. (For those out of the loop, a chatan can expect an expensive watch among an entire laundry list of other gifts).

While parents throughout history have provided their children with gifts upon marriage, creating inflated social expectations (applied nearly equally across the board) is highly insensitive. But socializing our children to expect these gifts is cruel. Should they not receive, they will believe they are missing something. Should they receive, they won't be able to fully appreciate the gift. On top of that, many young couples don’t even have a reference point to appreciate what they are receiving.


Lion of Zion said...

"even Modern Orthodox"

i can't speak for the other communities, but among mo it really depends where you live and your circle.

Orthonomics said...

I'd say that the more modern a couple is, the more independent they are from these expectations.

However, I would most certainly consider my SIL's IL's modern Orthodox. But, that didn't seem to free my IL's from buying all the things that they were informed were their responsibility. (I don't think my IL's were unhappy about it, but at the same table where the $20,000 vort I blogged about was discussed, they rehashed who buys what like it was Torah M'Sinai).

Anonymous said...

*rolling eyes* ---- my parents didn't even bother to come to my wedding, let alone get my chosson a gift. Didn't learn till years after I married him that a watch was traditional--- at some point he did need a new watch so I got him one for a birthday or Channukah or something and it was REALLLLLY expensive--- about 75 bucks maybe. :) I DO think it's nice to get your chosson or your kallah a gift---- I got him a tallis which he still has today---- but I don't think it needs to come from the in laws.

Lion of Zion said...

"I'd say that the more modern a couple is, the more independent they are from these expectations."

good point. there is also the age issue.

we were not into the whole gift thing. indeed we pretty much made our own wedding (i.e., independent?) and we got married a bit later than "normal" (but not unusually late)

aside from the ring, we did exchange gifts in the yichud room. i gave her a necklace ($200?) and she gave me the encyclopedia judaica on cd-rom. i am a hoarder/book collector and she was afraid i might bring home the whole set one day. the cd takes up much less space.

(i actually inherited the full set a few years later, but i put it in storage in a friend's house.)

Unknown said...

How about (for those who can afford it) donations to support the scholarship funds or operations of the chassan's yeshiva in lieu of the "less necessary" gifts?

BrooklynWolf said...

Ari Kingsberg for pointing me to the Wolf's Post who gave credit to DAG who pointed readers to the Machberes section of the Jewish Press

...Chad Gadya, Chad Gadya

Seriously, when eeees and I got married, we were poor young kids. I actually didn't even have a ring yet when I proposed (I used a candy ring -- I'm very lucky that she accepted :) ). She got me a nice watch for our engagement, and I eventually got her the ring. When we got married, I also got her a nice pair of earrings (in addition to the wedding ring, of course). But that was it. I didn't expect anything big and neither did she.

The fact that she was giving herself to me was the biggest gift that I could have received. As long as I had (and continue to have) that, then I'm happy.

The Wolf

mother in israel said...

This touches a sore note as I just lost my engagement ring. I hope it will turn up. It's insured through our home insurance, but still. . .

In communities with arranged marriages it makes sense to have all of these things spelled out. Everyone even knows which family's seder the young couple will attend after the wedding. Laying things out like this means that there are fewer arguments. I agree that some of the expectations are ridiculous.

Gifts are often not really gifts. When you attend a wedding you are expected to give a gift. And even if a gift is spontaneous and from the heart, it still obligates the recipient in some way.

Ariella's blog said...

Mother in Israel is right on the point that these "gifts" are misnamed, as they are bestowed out of a sense of obligation rather than as an expression of affection. Unfortuantely, many people think of "gifts" in that way. I know that many parents continue to bestow very generous "gifts" of money, furniture, etc. on their children, but there are very obvious strings attached. In fact, some people operate through life that way, giving generously but with the expectation that they can make particular demands in return. It becomes a quid pro quo: "I spent money on you, so you must be nice to me." That is not to say that people should not be appreciative of what others give them. But the ones who give should be thinking about the possibility of establishing a relationship that is not based on monetary assessment.

mother in israel said...

Newsflash! I found the ring.

AriSparkles said...

where did you find it?!?!?

Ariella's blog said...

Very strange: I didn't leave the comment above.