Monday, November 26, 2007

JO Review: Tuition vs. Kollel

Continuing my series (see previous two posts), here is the question posed to Rabbi Shmuel Feurst about priorities between tuition for younger children and weddings/post-marriage support for married children.

Question--Can a parent say, "I am supporting children in kollel. Therefore, I can't pay full tuition"?
Answer--One's first priority is to support one's children who are still at home, attending elementary school or high school. Married children are a second-level priority. When making shidduchim, a person may have to juggle funds, and hopefully, the tuition committee will have compassion for the parents, but that does not change the priorities. By halacha guidelines, Torah education of one's young children comes first, and afterwards, support for married children.

I am pleased by this answer. But does anyone want to take a stab at what "juggl[ing] funds" entails?

But ultimately, I'm not sure that financial issues play out so cleanly in reality. Evidence suggests that massive amounts of money are spent on weddings (engagement to post-wedding) and significant debt is incurred during this time period. Certainly, that debt eventually catches up and the schools are going to get a lesser piece of the pie because much of the pie has been already been eaten, unless I am completely off base and it is only the last marriage that gets debt financed?

There are a lot of things that could be discussed here, but that is what my loyal commentors are bound to do. So, I'm signing off for now.

Next up: Tuition vs. Retirement (the last of the four questions in the Jewish Observer Tuition Dilemma issue).


Anonymous said...

With respect for Rav Feurst, I think we all know "juggling funds" is newspeak for "run it up on your credit cards, then take out a home equity line to pay down the cards, then borrow against your 401k to keep from losing your house, then run extra expenses up on those credit cards........" You can either afford something, or you can't, so juggling funds responsibly means you stop paying for something while you pay for something else.

Abacaxi Mamao said...

I am usually the first to point out others' grammatical errors, but in American English, it is correct to put the question mark after the quotation mark, since the quotation is meant to be a statement rather than a question. Examples:
1. My sister politely said, "May I please have some pie?"
2. Isn't it irritating when little isters lack manners and say, "Gimme some pie pronto"?
I vaguely recall that British convention is otherwise.

I have nothing to say about this particular financial issue, being single, childless, debt-free, fully employed, and wary of accepting monetary support from my parents except when there are no other viable options (such as help paying for health care not covered by insurance). Except for the single and childless part, I feel very grateful to live in such circumstances.

DAG said...

Who has compassion for the people who have to raise the money for the scholarships the tuition committee gives? Rabbi Fuerst NEEDS to take this 1 step further. If Elementary and High Scholl education IS the first priority, we need to disassemble the Kollel system that is draining those institutions of their funds.

Orthonomics said...

Aryeh-Baltimore--I agree with your assessment as to what "juggling funds" means. The Rav certainly does not mean that one goes to the bank and liquidates some previously earmarked funds, or we would not be discussing having compassion on the parent since it only takes a phone call to have funds from a mutual fund or CD transferred into checking.

As we know, debt catches up to the debtor and soon enough the parents and the school will pick up the tab for young kids.

ALG-Thank you. I don't recall this convention, but stand corrected and took out the comment.

DAG-Where is your blog? And I agree with you that if K-12 is or 1st priority, than we are spreading ourselves too thin.

G said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
G said...

While the topics of tuition vs camp/vacation/chidren in kollel are all valid they are merely side issues. Kind of like emptying a pool with a cup when the real solution is opening up the drain.
The real topic is tuition for one's own children vs. kollel for oneself

Looking Forward said...

and this completely ignores the fact that one is not allowed to simply go in to kollel just like that...

but noone pays attention to that do they?

Halacha says that for children up to 13 the community is required to pay for them if their parents cannot pay for themselves, and even if they can pay they may compell the community to do so (obviously they're involved in the compelling but what ever). This includes torah scholars.

This is because the world is sustained by the studies of children under 13 (and not over.)

halachicaly there is no obligation beyond this, unless you have adaquate funds.

and for those who will never really understand well enough to give a psak, the rest are obligated to go to work.

Ahavah said...

I know that some of you think you know what I'm going to say, and there is certainly a bit of truth to the fact that young married couples need to step up to the plate and support themselves.

That being said, there is no denying that it is usually the parent's fault that their sons have reached adulthood with no real secular education and no marketable skills or crafts or any intention of going to a real college and study in an academic profession that will gain them market rate employment. Youths that are BT usually have parents who won't put up with that nonsense - they know they are on their own and act accordingly. It only seems to be frum kids who are raised from day one to think the world owes them a living because they are "serving" the rest of us by sitting on their posteriors "learning" nothing useful for their livlihood all day. There are not anywhere near enough "Torah" jobs for all these bochurim - and the rabbis running the yeshivas know that, and don't care, and the parents, if they have any sense at all, know that - and still don't care.

So a parent who has declined to raise their kids with a proper sense of their place in the economic world can't just walk away from the mess they made - they have to be pro-active in fixing it (as they should have been doing since the kids were small) and that may mean some financial support while the situation they caused gets corrected.

Cutting kids off who have no means of possibly supporting themselves because you made them that way is not right.

G said...


You are absolutely right. Each family has the right to make their own decisions and has to live with the resulting realities.

What is not right is when those families come onto other people.

Ahavah said...

"What is not right is when those families come onto other people."

You're not wrong, of course, but letting kids starve isn't a hot idea, either. So let's think about this - question, class:

What "conditions" should be put on able-bodied men who want charity for their family but don't work full time?

Should we ask them to...

Look for a full-time job?

Be assigned some sort of work-fare?

Trade school, or apprenticeship in a skill/craft, or professional college program?

Stop having children for the time being?

Sell assets to reduce debt, and if so, which kinds of stuff (i.e. what is "too much" stuff)?

Liquidate any savings put away for weddings, bar/bat mitzvot, etc. to pay debt?

Enroll the kids in the cheapest available private school instead of the one they're now in if it isn't the least expensive?

Public school?

Homeschool? - (a kollel/yeshiva guy ought to be able to handle a prepackaged program, after all)

Restrict services such as outside laundry/dry cleaning? Cell phones? Take-out? Lawn mowing? Housekeepers?

Where do you all think the lines should be drawn, and why? I would be interested to know.

G said...

Nice try, reversing the question.

That's the whole point. Their family, their issues, THEIR decisions.

G said...

"letting kids starve isn't a hot idea, either"

Your damn right it's not, and as soon as THAT becomes the bottom line as apposed to other things alot of these issues will clear themselves up.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I don't think this situation is going to change anytime soon. Not enough people are truly hurting for anyone to open their eyes, look around, and say something is seriously wrong here. I think the only ones saying something is wrong are those on the outside looking in who are fed up with all of the shlichim knocking on their doors and the myriad mailings they receive asking for tzedaka - all while they struggle to make ends meet and pay tuition.

You can see it in these "responsa" from the rabbis. I have never seen such wishy-washy answers: "well, maybe, it depends, juggle funds, one should consult their rav, etc etc etc". Not a single definitive answer in the bunch. At this point there are too many people donating funds to these families, too many parents supporting these families, and quite frankly, too many rabbonim making a good living off of these funds.

Nothing will change until the money truly dries up. And right now the money hasn't dried up. Kollel families like the one in the previous post (woman, six kids, doesn't want husband to leave the kollel) are not yet truly hurting - even though we would argue otherwise. A family truly hurting stops having kids and goes out to work. Right now it's still "sacrificing for Hashem" and "Hashem will provide for his faithful servants".

I blame the rabbis honestly because I think the kollel families are just doing what they were taught (most from an early age) was the most honorable and beautiful thing you can do with your life. Many of these families won't even go to the bathroom without their rav telling them it's OK. So nothing will change without rabbis taking a serious stance on these issues. It's the rabbis who are truly at fault here for encouraging a society of poor families with no marketable job skills reliant on communal funds.

Unfortunately, it seems no one is even planning for when the funds dry up and when that day hits there's going to be unspeakable suffering in our community because these people will not be in a position to help themselves.

DAG said...

I erased my blog....a malecontent discovered my identity.

There are not enough Torah jobs for these Kollel men, but worry not, we will juts make more. That IS why we have multiple organizations tackling the exact same problems in the exact same communities.

David said...

It's one thing to have the whole community support the Vilna Gaon zt"l. It's another entirely to support lots and lots of people such that the percentage of people not contributing financially is an appreciable fraction of the number supporting them. BIG problem.

Charlie Hall said...

"they may compell the community to do so "

With the posssible exception of some chasidic communities, that does not happen in the US today.

Anonymous said...

DAG beat me to it. The kollel system is TOO LARGE. It is draining the community of funds, that would be better donated to k-12 chinuch.

So what is the community doing about it? Torah U'Mesorah, the so-called National Society for Hebrew Day Schools, just hired a new executive vice president, a Rosh Kollel from Australia. They have announced they will now be expanding the American kollel system - instead of being dedicated to day schools, their original mission.

Why are they doing this? Economics. Kollel is a rabbi full employment plan, for all the Rosh Yeshiva sons and sons-in-law for whom kollel is the only option. There's more money in kollel, than there is in k-12 chinuch.

Who is there to protest this? Almost nobody. Small, voiceless children were not present at the Aguda Convention, so Rabbi Fuerst was not asked, Is there too much kollel?

Elliot Pasik