Private School or Bust
A number of years ago, we took a small outing to a small museum. There we met a most fascinating boy around 10 years old who was an enthusiast of the object in the museum. He was a nice boy and started to give our family a guided tour of the museum. We found out that this young boy was a weekly visitor to the museum and, as soon as he would be old enough, he was planning on working as an intern in their summer programs. The parents were quite engaging themselves and we ended up having a conversation with them about a number of topics. At one point the the conversation turned towards education and the parents told us that they wanted their children to only go a particular private school (which is incidentally super-duper high priced, or about double the cost of a tuition for a similar aged child in a modern Orthodox school), and because of this, they had chose to have only one child.
On the car ride back we ended up having our own conversation about the idea of really limiting a family because of private school tuition. There are limits, and then there are limits. I felt a lot of sadness for them (although perhaps that is not fair, because I have no way to gauge their inner feelings) and I even felt a upset that seemingly dedicated and committed parents would make such a nihilistic choice. I don't mean to be harsh, but such a decision seems so fatal and for what? To send your child to a private school?
I similarly feel a great deal of sadness for families in our own community struggling with the decision to have child #3. The comment was left on my blog motzei Shabbat by an anonymous commentor and I know they are not at all alone.
So sad, At lunch today with 2 other MO couples. All three of us acknowledged that we couldn't afford more than the two kids we already have due to Yeshiva tuition. All 6 of us already work full-time jobs. One of the woman was almost in tears b\c she really wants a third kid but can't afford one b\c her husband already works 3 jobs to make ends meet. This my friends is the state of modern orthodoxy. Enough said.
Comments such as these are very sad, perhaps because they are so easy to relate to. I don't quite know what to say because I understand the desire to be part of the kehilla at the very basic level which I will define as being a member of the shul and sending your children to day school/yeshiva. But I just don't know that it is a good idea to worship at the day school/yeshiva alter when the desire to expand the family is burning within you, to say nothing of the mitzvah of pru u'revu.
Day schools/yeshivot are already struggling to get by. There is a small stream of students who are leaving the day school system. More and more families that were once paying full tuition are applying for aid. The situation simply doesn't look great, although it is an open miracle imo that schools have lasted to this point. We have no idea if day school will be a reality for the majority of Orthodox families 5 or 10 years into the future. I could imagine a scenario where families such as the one referenced end up without both day school and a that third child that they desire so intensely.
Your thoughts? I am stepping away from my computer until tomorrow, so please be civil. I haven't dared touch the subject before and I don't want my first attempt to be my last.
Update: tesyaa has posted on the same topic based on the comment from my blog.
Sunday, December 27, 2009
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I don't feel "bad" for that family. They chose a smaller family size so that they could focus on giving that one child all the advantages. They made that choice willingly, and their child has tremendous advantages for it.
I knew plenty of families that made that call (stopping at 1 or 2) to give them advantages. Now those children, being more "precious" (yes all children are precious, but when all your eggs are in one basket, it forces one to be more over-protective) might have less exposure to risk, miss the opportunities to have siblings, but have other advantages. That's a choice that the couple made willingly, and see happy with.
Now for society, the choice of 1 or 2 is demographic suicide, but for the individual, it's a fine choice if that's what they want. The leadership of that society needs to make sure that through their policies natural growth exceeds replacement level (2.1/woman), but for an individual family, it's there choice.
However, when the Orthodox leadership makes jokes about tuition as birth control, and encourages a system that forces a 1-child or 2-child policy... well, enforced birth restrictions was how the Egyptians chose to control the Hebrews... and for a more contemporary example, the 1-child policy of China routinely attacked as a human right violation.
Creating a system that prevents observant Jews from having children... drop the word observant, and make those creating the policy not Jewish, and you have a genocidal plan and a war crime.
Yeshiva/Day School was a wonderful idea that no doubt saved Orthodoxy from assimilation and disappearance over the past 6 years. But as a stifling forced family plan, it now violates the human rights of Orthodox Jews. Enforced taxation on Jewish reproduction is a crime against humanity, and anyone pressuring or "forcing" people to send their children there (through financial pressure, social pressure, undermining conversion, etc.) should be treated as as the anti-Semitic scourge that they are, no matter how long the beard or Peiyos.
wow. those parents are in for a big disappointment if he does not become the next einstein.
oh wait. i'm paying tuition so my kid will be the next rav moshe. i'd better not be disappointed.
Miami Al makes very good points.
Choosing yeshiva or more children is about priorities. Unfortunately, under the current system we are forced to choose whether we consider it more important to have additional children or to send our kids to yeshiva.
There are, of course, many people who do both. But unless they are very wealthy, they’re relying on a miracle (or more likely, flyers distributed through the frum community lamenting the plight of the poor family with eleven children who are facing being forced to send their kids to public school, rachmana litzlan).
Incidentally, I’m not sure why you refer to the decision to only have one child in order to be able to afford expensive private school as “nihilistic.” Nihilism is the philosophic position that we are all insignificant and life has no real purpose, therefore it doesn’t really matter what you do. These parents had a very definite sense of purpose: giving their child the advantage of attending a top school.
I'm confused why people are in tears over only having two kids. I understand people are nurturing and want to have a family, but why in the world would you 'desperately need' a 3rd. Seems more like communal pressure to have large families for some reason.
You just can't view large families as a 'necessity' and complain that then can't afford tuition/living costs. It's simply untrue and unfair to claim that. It's a choice you're making for whatever reason (whether communal or personal) and you need to live with the consequences.
Most of you are Modern Orthodox so will consider limiting your family a sensible option, the only question is the number of children - 1 or 2 or 3. Right-wing or charedi families will never accept limiting of families. They will continue having from 7 to 12 children per family. As a result, Modern Orthodoxy will continue to recede as a religious movement because families are much smaller than in the frum world. The frum world will be the most active, will set the agenda, will provide the teachers for the Modern Orthodox schools. This is so self evident. Yes, make all the individual decisions you want. But realize micro decisions have macro consequences.
no doubt communal/social pressure plays a large role determining family size, but you can't overlook that there are people who simply love kids and want more of these precious gifts.
But in the end of the day it's still a personal decision to have a lot of children, it's not a need.
If the past few years has taught us anything it's that a lot of people want more of a lot of things, but you need to evaluate your budget and live within your means.
I realize children aren't just objects you can reduce to a line item in a budget, but people need to realize that 5-10 children families aren't a necessity and that there are financial consequences to their actions.
And what happens when the money runs out? Right now, the Chareidim are living off money earned by previous generations, money donated by other parts of the Jewish community, money provided by the government, and for some, money stolen through financial fraud.
The accumulated wealth has been wiped out. How much will the secular, Reform, and Conservative be willing to contribute?
I expect to see a three way schism of Judaism in my lifetime. The LWMO, Conservative, Reform, and Secular as one group. The RWMO and Chareidim as the second group. And the Meshichists as the third group.
I think we need to shift our focus from why a particular MO family may want to have 3 kids instead of 2, and focus on why a MO family wanting 3 kids needs to earn more than 99% of the general population in order to do so. While I don't want to get bogged down in precise numbers, suffice it to say that a family in Bergen County wanting to live modestly (with respect to house, cars etc..) and paying full tuition needs to earn a MINIMUM of $250k (but probably closer to $300k) to support 3 children in yeshiva (and still save for retirement and other necessities). How did we let things come to this and how can we fix the problem? That is what matters; not why any particular individual may want to have a 3rd kid.
"Right-wing or charedi families will never accept limiting of families."
i don't understand what this means. MOers that limit family size have made decision based on perceived financial realities. RWers don't live outside the bounds of these same realities. please share your secret for RW financial triumphalism.
i'm not being sarcastic here. yes, RW schools are cheaper (often significantly so), but doesn't the tuition burden catch up when you reach child no. 6, 7, whatever? what is your secret? why do you think the RW are better poised for longterm financial security?
(also, you should remember that jews are a minority of the world's population, as are orthodox jews within the jewish world, so you should be careful before triumphally predicting the demise of MO because of its relative decline.)
(also, the RW takeover of MO chinuch is a fait acompli, but it has nothing to do with our size. just our lack of respect/encouragement for the chinuch profession.)
why do you think the RW are better poised for longterm financial security?
my answer is that a significant segment of this community avoids paying taxes via cash businesses; a significant segment is able to avail itself of government funds by hiding income.
tesyaa - you wrote "my answer is that a significant segment of this community avoids paying taxes via cash businesses; a significant segment is able to avail itself of government funds by hiding income."
I hate to break it to you but I personally know of MO families who are in cash businesses and who lie to the local day school scholarship boards in order to get a break on their tuition. The right-wing/chasidish don't have a monopoly on this crime.
if this is happening on a wide scale I think you answered your question of why tuition is so high.
Tesyaa - I agree with you. I have acknowledged many, many times that scholarship abuse is one of a handful of primary reasons why yeshiva tuition is so high. (It by no means is the only reason though.)
I am highly skeptical about the premise of this story - that the people involved actually wanted to have more than one child (and would have been physically able) if not for the strong belief that any children must be sent to a particular school.
I certainly believe that the people told you this was there reason. However, it feels like something is missing here. Either these people could not have another child (or perhaps not without great cost, such as using IVF) or perhaps they didn't WANT another child (something that is hard to tell a friend, let alone a stranger!) or perhaps they didn't feel that they themselves were capable of giving everything they could to another child (and I don't just mean money/resources).
I find it far more plausible that an MO couple is finding that anything more than 2 children is financially too hard than the notion that the people SL met really wanted to have a child and were stopped ONLY from a sense that the proper education was too costly.
Personally, I would rather have fewer children and give them MORE. But when I say more, I mean more of my attention and energy. I know there are parents in large families who are able to give each child the individualized attention that child needs along with the lessons that come from sharing and being part of a larger family. There are many people who are NOT capable of this. I'm one of them. Beyond that, children are born with different needs. There are some children who are better suited to be growing up in a large family, and some whose needs are such that they can't function as well in that environment.
That's the problem in having a community norm that expects a particular family size and denigrates the other choice, whether it is in favor of only large families or small ones. It is not right for everyone. You may be "sad" for this family, but I have a strong suspicion that they are making what they believe is the right choice for their family, and you're projecting your idea of the "right" family size onto them.
If MO leaders are serious about their future, then they will fix the school spending to what people can afford. It is not a good long term strategy that in order to not be a beggar, you need to make 300k per year.
I don't think that they are serious and I think the status quo is just fine by many MO leaders. If they were, they would be doing something about tuition costs. The status quo of killing the frum jewish middle orthodox class is the current system and is viewed as acceptable. Like dummies, we follow this silly planning until the money runs out.
Making the middle and rich class pay for things is a great idea, until the middle and rich class runs out of money. Then what?
I think people need to have realistic views of their own limits—including the limits on their ability to mold their children’s futures. If you (as a prospective parenting couple) want six children with full knowledge of the kind of lifestyle parents with six children tend to have, great! Go for it! If you believe that having more than one kid in your household is going to stress you out (economically or emotionally) beyond your capacity to deal, stop at one!
But these decisions should be based on your assessment of yourself, not on your predictions about how an unborn child will turn out, or about what aggregate growth rate would be best for the Jewish (or Orthodox or Modern Orthodox or whatever) community as a whole.
To the extent one is punished by the Almighty for only having one or two children, I wonder if the Almighty will punish the yeshiva administrators for their roles in preventing people from multiplying.
Back for a few minutes in between work. I will address a few comments:
I'm confused why people are in tears over only having two kids. I understand people are nurturing and want to have a family, but why in the world would you 'desperately need' a 3rd.
I don't know why you don't think a family can feel incomplete without a 3rd child, especially where a 3rd could be the difference between fulfilling a the mitzvah of pru u'revu and not.
Right-wing or charedi families will never accept limiting of families. I do not see this as a factual statement at all. Plenty of RW families do limit family size and I know of RW parents that wouldn't mind seeing their own kids slow down. And plenty of RW rabbonim are "lenient" when it comes to spacing children, etc.
But in the end of the day it's still a personal decision to have a lot of children, it's not a need.
Just an important note: This post is about "small families," not a parent with 8 kids dying to have a 9th. While I do know there are people with a drive to have very large families, I'm not looking at that drive which is not as relatable as adding a 3rd child (even if not everyone can relate).
A lot of people toss around the fact that you need $250K or maybe $300K or more to make it in the MO world. Well, my spouse and I do make over $300K, so I thought I'd give our perspective.
Yeshiva tuition scares the heck out of us even with our large salaries. Collectively, we have a lot of debt, both in student loans and in mortgage debt. Right now, we are very comfortable. We saved money living in apartments and recently bought a house. We put off having children in order to be as financially secure as possible before doing so. We wanted to build a nest egg and buy a house first. We knew that if we had children immediately we would be financially ruined because of child care, reducing work hours (and salary) to care for the children, and, most importantly, tuition. We would never in a million years qualify for tuition assistance. If anything, the expectation, once people find out our professions, is to make large donations.
We would like to have at least 4 children. However, we feel that we are trapped to a certain extent. We know that the number of hours we each work now is completely unsustainable once we have children - at least if we ever want to see our children. Yet, we need to continue earning around our current salaries to pay off debt and afford tuition.
Until now the worries have been off in the future, but now we're trying to have kids and the worries are more immediate. Although we hope it will never come to this, we would sooner consider public school than limiting the number of children we have. Since both of us make roughly equal salaries, home schooling isn't really an option.
Our only hope is that we have built enough of a financial cushion during our childless years and made enough smart decisions to weather the rising tide of yeshiva tuition.
How did we let things come to this and how can we fix the problem?
Disgruntled, I'm afraid the free market will fix the system and we might not like the fix. There are so many interests emeshed in the current system and few willing to step outside the norm.
I certainly believe that the people told you this was there reason. However, it feels like something is missing here.
This very nice non-Jewish family blew us away when we started talking about local schools and they told us what they did. We were NOT asking about their choice to have one child (and never, never, never would inquire about such a personal matter). I can only relate what they said and the feelings it invoked. My husband still remembers the conversation the same way I do. I double checked with him.
But these decisions should be based on your assessment of yourself, not on your predictions about how an unborn child will turn out, or about what aggregate growth rate would be best for the Jewish (or Orthodox or Modern Orthodox or whatever) community as a whole.
I absolutely agree that every family needs to makes an honest assessment, but growth is important and from time to time you see leaders in the Reform and Conservative movements stressing its importance despite the criticism it garners.
Children give us a chance to stretch ourselves, and I think that there are many people feeling trapped because they can't strech a bit.
Good post. However, I find it hard to believe that people are actually limiting the number of children they are having. After all, don't schools give significant scholarships for those who need it? Given the high rate of assistance, I just don't see why you'd not have a kid if you truly want to. I think most anecdotal talk about tuition limiting family size is just talk or a justification.
Believe what you want, but many people feel that it is wrong to have kids and than ask your neighbor to pay for their tuition (i.e., it is wrong to have more kids than you can afford). I honestly could write forever in response to your comment but I will leave it at that for now.
Who feels that it is wrong to have kids and then ask their neighbors to pay the tuition? Most RW Orthodox will certainly not hesitate to have a 3rd child even though the tuition may have to be paid by someone else. While everyone hopes to be able to be givers rather than takers, if taking allows a child to enter the world, many will make the choice to take. As long as there is somewhere to take from, many people will continue having children. This applies both to Jews and non-Jews who get government or charitable support. They don't waste time worrying about who will disapprove.
Rosie - you wrote "While everyone hopes to be able to be givers rather than takers, if taking allows a child to enter the world, many will make the choice to take."
That is fine but then I should be given a "choice" to only cover the cost of educating my children at yeshiva and not have to subsidize the cost of other people's choices. I need people to seek my "approval" to have more children, just don't ask me to subsidize their tuition.
"However, I find it hard to believe that people are actually limiting the number of children they are having."
Most people pay less in tuition then it costs to educate their child and the rest of the money is raised. If someone is paying more in tuition than the cost of educating their children, some schools will give a tax receipt for the portion of tuition that is a donation to pay for other students.
I may not like paying taxes so that others can work less and collect food stamps but I am not given the choice of not paying and they are given the choice of having more kids. I agree that it isn't fair but those who have babies on my dime are not asking me if I want to pay or not or if I think it is fair.
The percentage of tax dollars that goes to welfare programs is very small.
The percentage of tuition dollars that goes to educating the children of others is very large.
The "welfare" lifestyle of the government is pretty crappy, and while there is still SOME culture of dependence, it is generally just a safety net in most places.
The "welfare" lifestyle of being supported in the Frum world is quite good, you can earn no money and live like a middle class American.
That's why there is WAY more resentment here than treating it as food stamps.
I think it's also not seen as a parallel because for most of the posters here, we know plenty of families that have more children than they can afford and shift the burden to us. We don't personally know ANYONE that's on food stamps. I realize that in your community, some struggle to get by, others take government benefits, and it's seen pretty neutrally. We're just totally detached and in different worlds economically.
There is still some bushah about having to rely on food stamps to feed your family. There is, for the most part, little busha left about forcing your neighbor to pay for your kid's tuition. In fact, I hear people bragging at shul kiddushes about how much scholarship they were able to squeeze out of their school this past year.
I think that if enough big tuition payers went to the day school board and said that they would pull their kids out or refuse to pay more than the cost of their own kids' tuition, someone would listen. They don't want to lose you. I have used the threat of withdrawing children when I was not happy with what the school was doing and they listened because I was a full tuition payer. If you feel that others are taking advantage, get together with others who feel the same and protest.
Al, if your kids are not in day school, how is the burden shifted to you? Also, you don't seem like the type that allows yourself to be taken advantage of.
It's interesting that no one is answering the question of what they would do if/when they have to choose between not having another child but keeping the existing kids in the day school system and having more children but placing your children in public school. Arguing about parents who don't pay full tuition isn't going to make the problem go away. I suspect that there are already parents making these choices.
Well the three parents at lunch (from the blog post) seem to have made their choice.
Anon: 7:05 - true, but those considerations were not based on religious beliefs and being part of a community that shuns families who send their children to public school.
I always say that the best reason to make Aliyah is day-school tuition.
Come to Israel, where religious education is part of the public school system!
It's not only limiting family size. I just heard from a friend about how she has to send her child to the only day school that will give her decent financial aid, and her son is getting a horrible education there and no assistance with his special learning needs. This particular person is considering public school but so many other people in similar situations keep sending their kids to the day school even when there is academic and/or social damage to their child, because "we have to go to day school".
"However, I find it hard to believe that people are actually limiting the number of children they are having."
I could name names. I have a hard time believing that anyone doesn't believe this.
A couple of points:
1) Tuition assistance may be readily available, but in many cases only if the family has exhausted any cash savings it may have. I've heard that schools are also requiring parents to dig into their retirement accounts before giving assistance. If you want to put a little money aside for retirement (or college), forget about receiving tuition assistance. So yes, many people realize they will not get tuition assistance.
2) I predict there is going to be a heck of a lot less "shunning" of families who send kids to public school. My guess is a lot more people are interested than are actually doing it. And it may be the path of least resistance if the alternative is trying to change the current day school system.
For our part, we have two kids and, due to catastrophic illness, are earning less than 100K. (one of the reasons we decided not to have more). At this point, we are sick of grovelling for financial aid and are seriously considering moving out of the community to put our kids in public school (another problem is that in many areas, due to the fact that the local children are not using the public schools in the neighborhood, kids have to be bused in -- leaving the otherwise perfectly acceptable public school UNACCEPTABLE due to the types of kids they attract). We are currently visiting the schools in these areas to a) see if we can 'pull off' being frum in a not-so-frum area and b)to see what our other options are. It is really breaking our hearts, but we CANNOT continue to live this lifestyle while teaching our children to live within their means (and without having a decent retirement). Incidentally, we could live off the salaries we are making quite nicely if we did not have private school tuition. and, please, no more lectures on 'bitachon'.
Anon at 8:03 -
You hit the problem on the hear with respect to public schools. If every MO family in Teaneck (and perhaps Bergenfield too) were to send their kid to public school (and Talmud torah in the afternoon) this would go a long way towards solving the crises. I bet if everyone in Teaneck sent their kids to public school at least 50-60% of the school would be shomer shabbos. Problem solved.
You hit the problem on the hear with respect to public schools. If every MO family in Teaneck (and perhaps Bergenfield too) were to send their kid to public school (and Talmud torah in the afternoon) this would go a long way towards solving the crises. I bet if everyone in Teaneck sent their kids to public school at least 50-60% of the school would be shomer shabbos. Problem solved.
A dozen years ago I was very friendly with my non-frum boss who lived in Teaneck. He said the exact same thing at the time. He also thought it would be great for his kids who were in public school there.
What Teaneck really needs is for all the local Rabbis of the MO shuls to show some backbone and encourage their constituents to send their children to public school in light of the unduly heavy burden being placed upon them by the day school administrators. It will never happen though because in my opinion they are all in bed with eachother and have little incentive to rock the boat.
...or perhaps they are concerned that the kids will not stay frum?
What makes you think that the kids of this generation will stay frum despite going to public school when the overwhelming majority of those in earlier generations didn't?
I'm sure you can bring me examples of kids who went to public school and are frum and those who went to day school and are not. That isn't the point.
Did those of you who are advocating public school ever attend public school as a frum child? I became a BT as a young teenager and went to public school until I could transfer to a frum school and found the experience quite difficult. I had difficulty making friends since I didn't share their typical American teenage lifestyle. As difficult as it was for me, it was even more difficult for those kids from frum families. I chose to have mesiras nefesh to be different--they did not and really suffered from it.
About two-thirds of a certain graduating class of a certain yeshiva in Northern NJ are not shomer shabbos today (about 15 years post-graduation). So why not take your chances with public school?
So send your kids to a yeshiva with better results.
Keep in mind that the purpose of a yeshiva education is not only to keep out negative influences, it is primarily designed to give a comprehensive Jewish education.
Anyone who has ever observed a class at an after-school Talmud Torah program can see clearly that it does not accomplish that goal. As a rule, the education is on a much lower level than even the weakest yeshiva and the students do not want to be there. You average student who has attended a full day of school and has three hours of homework at night has no desire to sit in an after-school program for a few hours.
Also, even if the child manages to stay frum, as I wrote in my post above it is very hard on a child to be frum in public school. It is very hard for a child to be left out of social events such as school dances, to be forbidden from going out with friends on shabbos, to not be able to go out to eat with friends, and being able to date the non-Jewish boys or girls that they have crushes on.
I meant "not being able to date"
if I was able to do it over - I would never have settled in Bergen County, NJ - ground zero for the yeshiva tuition crisis - I wanted more children - but had to limit becuase of yeshiva tuition - I believe that this is true for the majority of BC orthodox residents - anyone who does not know this - is either living in Lakewood or under a rock or both
BC Yeshiva Tuition = upper middle class parents subsidizing the lower middle class and the poor to the standards of the rich
"BC Yeshiva Tuition = upper middle class parents subsidizing the lower middle class and the poor to the standards of the rich"
Well said my friend. I too wish I had not settled here in ground zero.
With all due respect to those complaining about Bergen County tuition, Bergen County is one of the richest counties in the nation - without regard for the frum or non-frum. So it's not surprising that tuition is expensive.
so Tesya - if you live in BC you automatically get to earn $400,000 a year to pay the tuition ? Tesya - Median houshold income in bergen county is $65,000 a year (half earn more - half earn less), avergae HH income is $114,000 per year - but that number is skewed by the very wealthy - the median is a better indicator - even $114,000 is not enough to pay tuitions ranging from $15,000 to $25,000 per year per child after tax. Where do you live Tesya ?
Why are you so annoyed, Anonymous? I understand it's difficult in paying tuition. All I'm saying is that a lot of things are expensive in Bergen, including tuition.
Anon 9:00 PM - What makes you think that the kids of this generation will stay frum despite going to public school when the overwhelming majority of those in earlier generations didn't?
What makes you think that it was the public school attendance that caused them not to be frum when they grew up? Don't you think their parents level of frumkeit (and the side issue of some of their parents being "angry" at God in the aftermath of the Shoah) also had a lot to do with it?
And if a few wealthy (frum) folks skew the numbers, they are also increasing tuition by demanding services and perks and nice buildings for their kids.
Median HH income in Nassau County - $89,000
And tuition is high in Nassau too, right?
One last thing about Bergen County - what good alternatives would you have if you left? I imagine there are reasons you didn't choose downscale ommunities like Elizabeth or Passaic in NJ or Yonkers in NY. I'm thinking out of town would be a better bet, but in most cases salaries are lower out of town also.
I'm sorry to say, but it seems that a day-school education is no guarantee that the kids will stay frum. Unfortunately, there are a lot of kids exiting the system and turning tail as fast as possible. Or, even more sadly, staying religiously observant but feeling very bitter about it. I'm not sure which is worse.
"About two-thirds of a certain graduating class of a certain yeshiva in Northern NJ are not shomer shabbos today (about 15 years post-graduation). So why not take your chances with public school?"
is this true? which school?
There's another option that no one's mentioned and IMHO is a good option for those who are really struggling with 2 in yeshiva system vs more in public school. send kids to public school up to 8th grade and yeshiva high school - get tutoring to keep up with Judaic studies. Kids can start NCSY at 7th grade even if they're public schoolers.
From experience (by default, this is what happened to me and most of my siblings), the social aspects really come into play much more in the teen years. I'll admit that it isn't ideal, but you lose some in the elementary school years. High school years are simply much more formative.
The other thing is that you have to be much more focused on what you do in your home. You have to make sure to make brachot aloud before and after every meal with your children, because they won't get it automatically in school. You have to push your kids to daven with you in the mornings. Take your sons to early minyan with you, etc. It's hard, no doubt, but it might actually have MORE meaning if they see that you make the effort rather than just expecting the school to do it all for you.
Is there a commitee to study this problem? who will make practical recommendations?
Anon 9:16 makes some great points. Kids who are expected to be frum while attending public school might be miserable. It may not be fair to put children in this situation just so the parents can have the big family they have always dreamed of. I'm not saying public school can't work, but at a minimum, there probably needs to be a critical mass of children from observant homes in the public school so these kids are not alone. Alternatively, as someone else suggested, use public school till about grade 6 and then day school for the years when adolescent turmoil and peer pressure would make public school the hardest on the sole (or almost sole) frum kid.
Their doesn't seem to be any disagreement about how bad the tuition situation is and what it causes when compared to Modern Orthodox Jewish community values. Sounds terrible.
Could it be that the leadership is so out of touch not to hear the cries of the people? Is the MO rabbinate so set in their ways and the schools so socially entrenched that alternatives are not demanded en masse by the people?
I suspect if there weren't any scholarships available change would come quicker as the absurd pricing with built in subsidies would become more obvious.
Anyone want to nominate a rabbinic or lay leader in Bergen County to lead real change? When NNJKIDS was launched, all we heard was fire and brimstone how terrible the situation was. Many people stepped up and gave money. One pulpit rabbi in his pitch spoke passionately on the topic that no family should think about yeshiva tuition in family planning.
But now, 6 months later, NOTHING has changed in the BC yeshiva system. There has to be alternatives besides public schools. We need school reform. Where us the fire and brimstone now? The real test of leadership is fire and brimstone when reform is needed not fundraising. Fundraising fire and brimstone is cheap and easy.
If the schools, for example, were housed in shuls, would all be lost? I know that there are legacy costs and buildings owned but someone has to start thinking beyond next year's budget / tuition. What can be done if the schools want to be around in the next generation?
Leaderless, the MO Orthodox leadership hears the cries, they just don't care. They don't care about the struggles of their laity, they think it is whining. They do care about getting the respect of their right-wing peers, the ones whose schools THEIR children attend, and the ones whose families THEIR children intermingle with.
Otherwise, when the Hebrew language charter was created in South Florida, the MO Leadership would have explored that as a pre-high school compromise. A way to cut tuition costs dramatically (even if just for K-5 or K-6) and lighten the burden, especially for years in which the religious education is largely songs and art projects that could be before/after school.
LeahGG, that's a good point, and what you are supposed to do. A child may learn HOW to be observant in Day School. A child learns TO be observant from their family.
Judaism is a living and breathing culture and religion. Sending them to school to learn about it and not practicing makes it about as meaningful as sending them to a school that focuses on learning the ancient Mayan religion, they learn it academically but not how to live it.
Actually, it not just a matter of personal preference for observant Jews. There are halachos about having children. Just one is not a fulfillment of the mitvah of pirya verivya. A couple may not be yotzeh with even two or three children if they are all of one gender. Of course, there are also people with only one child who would have liked a larger family but did not manage to conceive again.
I'm wondering why all of the comments seem to suggest the only choices are MO school vs. public school. Perhaps an alternate might be to send kids to a right wing school and try to supplement their secular education with after school stuff.
My inclination is that for those who are (rightfully) concerned about the influences and peer pressures of public school, a right wing school might be a better choice, even if the hashkafah isn't your own. I'd have to think that right wing school + after school secular enrichment is better than public school + after school Talmud Torah
In at least some "out of town" areas, there is little cost difference between modern Orthodox schools and right wing schools. I'd agree that is another possibility, but not in every area.
You can separate the MO leadership into different categories. Much of what I would call MO "leadership" is of a generation where their children are no longer of school age. In fact, it's their grandchildren who are attending the more right wing schools you speak of!
The Rabbi at my MO shul is absolutely wonderful in practicing what he preaches. He believes in true Torah U'Madah, and his young children go to the MO yeshivah. He is not a Charedi-wannabe, and he openly speaks in our shul (and invites other scholars as well) who focus on how we shouldn't view that as authentic Judaism.
That said, he ALSO doesn't earn enough money from being a shul rabbi alone for his family to live in this particular eruv/community, and I'm not sure it would be enough, even if he didn't have the costs of sending his young children to the MO yeshivah (his costs are not yet so high, but will increase as the children get older). This MO Rabbi supplements the family income with a job.... teaching in another MO yeshivah!
He may be more learned, but our Rabbi is just like us, experiencing the same crunch of anyone who is not rich in the MO world.
Furthermore, if he was to pull his own children out of yeshivah to send them to public school, because who better to educate his own kids in Torah (his wife is no slouch in Torah learning either!), and then advocate this for the community (with supplemental learning through the shul), the Rabbi would find himself unemployed very quickly - at least from the shul job & quite possibly from the yeshivah. While the less wealthy, younger MO members of the shul might applaud someone being willing to grapple with the hardships of the MO "mandated" choices, the more wealthy, older generation, the ones no longer paying yeshivah tuition, would view him as being too radical. Some of these people complain about kids going to Israel coming back "too frum," so we are talking about a largely MO, anti-Charedi membership, and they still would have a major problem if the Rabbi really did take on fighting the yeshivah system as a cause. And I don't think the yeshivah employers and board would be happy either.
So who are we really expecting to "solve" our problems if the next generation of leaders is caught in the same quagmire???
10:16 here again.
Let me elaborate. I'm not endorsing a Chassidishe Yeshiva where they barely have any English. But, for those who live in Bergen County, perhaps sending kids to Monsey to a school like Yeshiva of Spring Valley is an option (The last time I asked it was about $7000-$8000, but i could be off). Or how about Breuer's in Washington Heights? I'm sure the secular studies is weaker (maybe even much weaker) than your average Bergen County Modern Orthodox School, but why can't you supplement the secular studies? Certainly this is a better option than public schools and after school Talmud Torah?
I realize these schools hardly fit the so called Modern Orthodox Torah Umada ideal, but the reality is that the Modern Orthodox leadership has failed at facilitating the education ideal of Torah Umada through exorbitant tuition.
If you're living "out of town" where there only a 1-2 schools in town this suggestion might not be viable. But overall, if I had to make a choice of sending mu kids to a right wing school and being able to put money away for retirement, versus modern orthodox school and no retirement savings, it's a no brainer. Retirement wins.
Breuer's has financial difficulties and might welcome Bergen Cty families, but I don't know about YSV, which has plenty of students and might be unwelcome to have "modern" families, especially from outside Monsey.
Sorry, "unwilling" in the second clause, not "unwelcome"
Anon @ 10:16,
If you believe in MO as a genuine ideology, there is no question that public school + supplementary Torah is superior to right wing yeshivah + secular supplement.
The public school education is neutral when it comes to ideology. It teaches tolerance and respect for all different choices. It is deficient in Torah content and learning skills. That can be taught in a supplementary program.
A right wing yeshivah education is not neutral when it comes to ideology. That is the problem. It's not about short-changing secular subjects in content and skills. Yes, that is important too, but that can be supplemented. The real problem is that the charedi ideology is affirmatively disagreeing with the MO philosophy and approach. Teachers and rebbes are educating the children that the ideology of their homes and parents are wrong, as a matter of what it means to be frum and follow the Torah. Parents are left with two poor choices: telling the children to accept/listen to the rebbes (which means that the kids are learning that their parents are not doing things correctly) or telling the children that the rebbe/teacher is wrong (which means that the kids can not give the teacher/rebbe full respect and accord).
If this sounds abstract, let me give a clearer example of what happens when an MO family sends a child to a more right wing yeshivah. I sat at a shabbat table where a second grader gave a dvar torah about Parshat B'shalach. The child spoke about shirat ha'yam, and talked about how Moshe and the men sang & danced, while the women played instruments. An adult at the table asked the child, "what about the women? Did they sing too?" The child replied, "No, they didn't. Because women don't sing."
Wonderful. The Torah clearly states in the text that Miriam and the women sang. The child was taught stories instead that the women did not sing, because apparently a RW concept of the proper role for tzanua women doesn't include singing. Despite the fact that the Torah very clearly and explicitly states otherwise.
What does the parent do? Does the parent pull out the chumash? Not teach the child that Miriam DID sing? Pretend that the child misunderstood the teacher?
I know this is a more egregious example, but it is the type of conflict that creates between MO homes and RW schools, and the "counter-programming" to public school is, quite frankly, a whole lot simpler. The school doesn't teach religion. The home does.
I would rather work 8 jobs then send my kids to a far-right yeshiva and have to answer questions about why Daddy doesn't wear a black hat to shul or why Daddy thinks its ok to eat Empire chicken.
For some people, the situation is not merely a question of sending to high priced MO school vs. a more moderately priced RW school. Someone wrote the following in a comment on the Divrei Chaim, ". I'm not going to make my POST-scholarship tuition bill of $96k this year. My kids will either have jobs or do nothing this summer. (Except for the one in special ed 12 months/year.)"
I know this family. They are not sending to the most expensive school are not living in the most expensive neighborhood. They have a large family, which includes triplets and quite a few singletons of their own and adopted children. The costs for just their living expenses must be huge, and on top of that, they need to come up with just under 100K -- WITH SCHOLARSHIPS-- to cover a tuition bill.
Anonymous 10:16 here.
To Offwinger: I understand your comments and don't necessarily disagree. I think though that there are all sorts of right wing yeshivas and we shouldn't be too quick (myself included) to assume they all teach in the manner you described. Certain schools are more fanatic, other schools are less fanatic.
My personal feelings are that the peer pressures and other issues that a frum kid would undoubtedly encouter in public school are much scarier that what the kid would learn in a right wing yeshiva. I'm sure that you and others can point out certain kids who went to public school and turned out fine and other frum kids who got turned off the derech from a right wing yeshiva. truw enough. I don't know that I would extrapolate to the universe from these examples.
To Anonymous: Your commenst illustrate that you might be as fanatic as those in "far-right" yeshivas. Only you are fanatic about some things and others are fanatic about different things. I can respect your personal preferences, but I'm not sure that you've ilustrated the inclusiveness that the modern orthodox schools are supposed to be teaching.
Anonymous 10:16; the Anonymous you describe as fanatic about other things does not say it is wrong to avoid Empire chicken or to wear a black hat, merely that he doesn't want to have to answer why he doesn't do it. The modern school tolerates those who eat all kinds of chicken and those who wear hat and go hatless. The RW school is much less likely to do so.
And just to add to Ariella's comment, I am concerned that people will accuse the family with the large family and $96K bill as being irresponsible. I also know this family, and just imagine what it is like to adopt Jewish special needs children who no one else will have [and provide community members with all sorts of support and advice for their own special needs kid.] Please no criticism of people who do incredible chessed and step up to the plate when no one else will.
I think the biggest issue I would have with sending my kids to a "far-right" school is that these schools preach that one must avoid members of the opposite sex at all costs. There is even a supposedly MO yeshiva in Bergen County where kids supposedly can get in trouble if they are caught talking to members of the opposite sex (and I am talking about during recess or lunch, obviously not during class time). I encourage my children to have healthy and supervized friendships with members of the opposite sex and I wouldn't be able to deal with Rabbis at RW schools teaching my kids otherwise and poisoning their minds.
Offwinger, fair enough, the Shul Rabbi can't be supportive of what the younger families need, since the wealthier older generation, the ones that pay their salary, already struggled and paid Yeshiva tuition.
While the big wig may academically realize that tuition is, after inflation, twice what he paid, in practice, he did it, and doesn't want it disparaged by making an alternative acceptable.
Thank you for a wonderful example of why a modern Orthodox family would not want their child in a yeshivish school. If one is ACTUALLY modern Orthodox, then sending your child to a Chareidi school makes about as much sense as sending them to one run by the Reform or Conservative movement, while we may all be Jews, we do NOT all share a religion.
Regarding peer pressure... I think people need to acknowledge that K-12 is a WIDE range, and the issues of peer pressure comes into play at different points.
Public schools catering to upper middle class children do NOT have problems with sex and drugs in elementary school. There is no peer pressure in Kindergarden. There are issues that crop up in middle school, and others in high school, but this "all or nothing" approach is the killer.
As someone that attended public schools, there really isn't any pressure to do anything, at least through at least 6th grade.
6 years of private school for everyone is much easier to handle than 13.
another example of a RW vs modern school - my thought on the internet (and I know many families in my community who feel this way) is that we keep the computer in a prominent place in the house so there's no secrecy. Nothing is hidden, and it's very much a part of daily life. By contrast, a friend who has children at YSV is quite concerned about her children using the internet. She and her husband have laptops which are kept hidden from the children, the children are practically never allowed to use the internet, and are trapped in the 1980's using encyclopedias to do their research for school... I see this as big problem.
If you send your child to a school like this and they are told to do a homework assignment and come up with an answer that is correct, will they be penalized because it is obvious that the answer is newer than 1985?
Will you teach your child to lie about it if they saw a Disney movie over the weekend?!
Anon 10:16 and 11:02: You raise some good points. There is a lot of fear mongering about public school. Depending on the area, most public schools are quite good with committed, excellent teachers and good students from good homes that want the same things for their children as jewish parents do -- i.e. to grow up to be healthy, happy adults with strong family values, a good work ethic and to be good, moral people who contribute to society. The peer pressure and concern should not be so much about drugs and alcohol, but about ideas that some MO's might disagree with and exposure to things like teachers wearing short sleeve blouses, evolution, a 13.5 billion year old universe, inherent equality of all people, respect for same-sex couples and their children, etc. However, many evangelists have problems with some of these things too (although not the short sleeves) but manage to send their kids to public school.
I am curious at to thoughts ppl might have as to the best way to organize a mass peaceful protest in Bergen County (perhaps in a school parking lot or in a shul) over the unbearably high cost of yeshiva tuition. We could arrange speakers to talk about how the crises has affected them, we could display power points showing the inflated salaries of administrators and demonstrate other easy ways to roll back the high cost of tuition. I bet we easily could get 50-60 families to show up at such a protest. I have contacts in the media that I could call in advance and we could really make this issue front and center in Bergen County and FORCE the administrators and local Rabbis to once and for all deal with this problem. Any thoughts or suggestions would be most appreciated.
In some of the way- OOT locations there are some chabad-run schools that might be good alternatives. These are schools that largely attract local BT's, some MO's and the kids of the area shluchim -- I'm not referring the to Crown Heights yeshivas. These OOT schools tend to be reasonably priced and have the chabad non-judgmental/ all are accepted philosophy so there is a lot less chance that a child will be ostracized or penalized due to computer usage, going to a movie, etc. although there may be some issues to watch out for.
regarding MO sending kids to RW schools to save costs:
last year we were very unhappy with my son's pseudo-MO school. for a couple of days i thought about just sending him to a RW school. i won't be happy there either, but at least its cheaper. but . . .
1) we would never even get an interview
2) i can deal with a watered down secular curriculum (which i sometimes think is overated anyway). i can also deal with him learning what i consider is wrong or nonsense. jewishwise i have no probelem telling him his teacher is narrowminded, wrong or even an idiot. (face it, some teachers in every school are idiots and there's no reason to pretend otherwise with your kids.) but i wil not stand for schools dictating what goes on once my son leaves its holy precincts. i will live and raise my son as i wish. and this is the difference between the RW school and the public school.
re. public schools, opponents look at the worst ones and extrapolate from there to spread fear. but just like in jewish schools, there is a wide variety of public schools. my wife works in an excellent elementary public school in brooklyn that beats any local jewish school by all academic and non-academic measures (obviously not in terms of yiddishkeit). there is also the new charter school here, which i've heard positive things about from a parent (again obviously discounting yiddishkeit).
Wow. Once again a lone voice raises Aliyah somewhere in these 80+ posts and nary a response.
Lots of ranting and railing about Jewish education in America and where, pray tell, is the willingness to jump the sinking ship and head towards the shore of the Promised Land? Life is wonderful here, folks. Our large families receive free Jewish education, socialized health care and we benefit from a solid economy and high quality of life.
Leave your Bergen Counties, Nassaus and Baltimores behind along with your tuition headaches. Wouldn't you love to be the commenter to this post who absolutely cannot relate to these issues as at all relevant to your life?
I am stuck in Bergen County. My wife won't move because she has family here and my job isn't easily transferable either. So being that I can't move to Israel right now, I am working tirelessly to provoke our leadership to do something about this problem. Why do Bergen County residents need to make over $300,000 to make ends meet?
oh, *that* solution. Where your kids get a real education, you don't spend all of your money on it, and when the kids go 2 feet outside their school in the month of December, they don't get assaulted by red and white reminders of how different they are??? (just by yummy smelling reminders of the miracle of not assimilating!)
That's not for Orthonomics readers, Calev. They want to complain how bad it is in galus rather than look for geula.
I went to public school until 7th grade. Then I went to Yeshiva high school (Frisch, if anyone cares) Then I went to Bar Ilan University. I've been back to the US to visit 3 times. The only reason I'll ever go back is because my aunt and my stepson still live there. For everything else, there's overseas shipping.
Anon @ 11:45
"The peer pressure and concern should not be so much about drugs and alcohol, but about ideas that some MO's might disagree with and exposure to things like teachers wearing short sleeve blouses, evolution, a 13.5 billion year old universe, inherent equality of all people, respect for same-sex couples and their children, etc. However, many evangelists have problems with some of these things too (although not the short sleeves) but manage to send their kids to public school."
I'm curious if you know anyone who is MO, because my MO peer group universally agrees that children should be taught about:
(2) a universe that is billions of years old;
(3) inherent equality of all people; AND
(4) same-sex couples and children should be respected.
At our shul, we do not believe that the Torah view is that the universe must be literally 5770 years old. We do believe that all people are created in Hashem's image, both Jews & gentiles, the "frum" and "not frum" alike. And we think that people who are gay and lesbians should be respected as people & welcome in our shul, and that tolerating people does not mean that we are also violating halacha, just as we treat all people with derech eretz, whether they keep shabbat or kashrut or any other mitzvah.
We also believe that our children can learn in the presence of teachers with short sleeves, and that they can learn to function in a world where they can encounter women wearing short sleeves. We may or may not encourage our own children to wear short sleeves, but at the core, we believe that what makes a person tzanua is measured by more than the total centimeters of skin above an elbow that is exposed.
I do not purport to speak on behalf of all MO Jews, but the "concerns" you raise are patently false from my perspective, and the fact that they are raised at all further highlights the difference in ideology between the MO and RW charedi world.
Leah, speaking of *that* solution:
I was up in Megiddo today with a group of high schoolers from Netiv Meir (HS in J-lem) who chose Eretz Yisrael Studies as their "major" (here HSers focus on one particular discipline while, of course, taking coursework in others areas of study). These kids have been all over E"Y during their HS years as they study Tanach and Jewish History -- they LIVE our heritage and receive a Jewish education that is absolutely unparalled elsewhere. Today they jumped from Shlomo's fortification systems to Achav's unbelievable water access tunnel with total mastery over the source material and archaeological site.
Such nachat. Such joy in educating my children here. And a sadness for Jews in America who miss out on so much and suffer needlessly.
I'm sure many of us here in Bergen County wish we could make Aliyah right now and leave the burden of yeshiva tuition behind. But you have to accept that life isn't always so black and white (or blue and white in this case) and not everyone is in a position to just pick up and go.
Look. Not everybody, including myself, had all the t's crossed and i's dotted when I contacted a shaliach and started the aliyah process. It's a leap of faith for just about everybody, sometimes a painful move, but necessary for the good of our nation. I have heard innumerable times that "not everybody is in a position to just pick up and go." Life ain't meant to be an easy ride -- we have to struggle and leave our comfort zones to do the right thing. Aliyah is the personal and national responsibility for every Jew. A nice benefit is quality affordable Jewish education for our kids. But I've said it before and I'll say it again, and I hope somebody will hear: better to be pulled than pushed.
Aliyah is the personal and national responsibility for every Jew.
Aliyah is certainly an option for people. And if it makes sense for them and for their family, gey gezunterheyt.
I do not agree, however, that it is the responsibility of all Jews to do so, or even that it is "good for the Jews" for everyone to make Aliyah.
Please folks, Aliyah is a great thing but it isn't going to make the tuition crises go away for the majority of people in the USA who are not in a position to make Aliyah right now.
The reason people here are not talking about aliyah is NOT because we are not aware of aliyah. We are not talking about aliyah, because we are discussing ways to provide a Jewish education in AMERICA. You'll notice. We are ALSO not talking about yeshivah education in the UK or in Canada.
I have no intention of disparaging aliyah. It's a mitzvah. More of my family are olim than not. And there is a decent chance that I will probably make aliyah someday myself. Yes, I know this sounds like "some of my best friends are olim," I have no method of laying out my own circumstancs without giving up my identity here.
That said, aliyah is NOT a solution to solving the problem of yeshivah tuition or Jewish education in AMERICA. So your sarcastic efforts to suggest "Hey, why didn't anyone else think of aliyah? Oh right! They are lazy Americans who want everything handed to them" are thread hijacking in this context. Aliyah HAS been mentioned on this blog before, and it is routinely presented among the choices for affordable Orthodox living, despite the fact that it is *not* an easy economic route. So it is not ignored or beyond our comprehension.
Furthermore, people who are currently not making aliyah are not encouraged to make aliyah by having olim tell them to suck it up and do what's good for our nation. If anything, telling people that the problem is that they just don't have enough emunah and aren't willing to "struggle" is flat out insulting. You have no idea exactly what circumstances other people are facing. You act as if it is simply about people being willing to leave a comfort zone, rather than having any awareness of what might be holding someone back (leaving elderly parents who need care, for example, is NOT merely leaving a "comfort zone").
You may think you're helping convince people to make aliyah or giving necessary "tochacha" to those ignoring the mitzvah here. But your strong arm approach "suck it up! life ain't easy" without any sensitivity to the particulars that people face just makes everyone tune out. It just undermines anyone who is offering genuine support and advice and help about making aliyah. It's an "anti-shlichut" approach.
Offwinger, I couldn't have said it better myself. I too have a compelling reason why I can't make Aliyah now and don't appreciate efforts to suggest that Aliyah is the answer for every MO American struggling with tuition right now.
"I do not agree, however, that it is the responsibility of all Jews to do so, or even that it is "good for the Jews" for everyone to make Aliyah."
Well, Dave, it certainly ain't good for the Jews to drive yourselves to bankrupcy over trying to educate your kids. Or, for that matter, to sadly limit your family size because you can't afford those ridiculous tuitions.
But ingathering all Jews together to our homeland seems to be good for the Jews (or at least that's what I'm praying for during shemoneh esreh when I say "and gather us together from the four corners of earth"). I dunno -- is there some other way to understand that tefillah? And if you yourself don't believe it -- well, then, this tuition crisis shouldn't apply to you because you why would you send your kid to a yeshiva day school where they teach children to believe in the values espoused by formalized Jewish prayer?
How about we call the "Aliyah" issue a draw and go back to discussing real viable solutions to the current crises in Bergen County and elsewhere in America?
But ingathering all Jews together to our homeland seems to be good for the Jews
For the past 2000 years or so, the Diaspora has saved the Jews. Jews were already spreading across the late Roman Republic and early Empire before the Roman occupation.
For all of our history since then, what has saved us is that we were spread out to the point that there was never a time when a single nation or ruler could destroy us.
Putting all the Jews in the world in one place continues to strike me as unwise.
Is it just me, or does anyone else think the aliyah guy is trolling for fun?
But Dave, you have to have "emunah" that that won't happen (just like my neighbor having 6 kids on his $70k a year salary has emunah that I will pay his kid's tuition, which I am currently doing).
your aliyah panacea is ridiculous, but i did chuckle at your signature. i'll give you that.
Sorry, Offwinger, Aliyah is simply NOT on the radar for most Orthodox Jews living in America. To argue otherwise is spurious, even if perhaps your personal situation might indicate otherwise. I've spoken to enough people who have said point-blank that they're not willing to live their comfort zones, to strike out to new language and culture and make a go of it -- who have told me point-blank that they're not interested in a struggle -- for me to know that defensive posturing is a coping mechanism for many who simply have no will.
Anyway, no hijacking here -- if you think there's a solution to Jewish education in America, go exaust your options. We'll keep fine-tuning the educational apparatus here to maintain them as attractive options for when you (or your children, or grandchildren) make the move.
100 comments on this thread but not one real practical solution on how to solve the crises in America. I am now more depressed than ever that we will never solve this problem.
Has anyone is Teaneck considered sending their kids to school in Passaic? From what I've heard, costs are much more moderate than Teaneck. The secular studies might be weaker, but its not like a fanatic yeshiva in Lakewood or Brooklyn. Also, isn't Rabbi Shechter some religious adviser to the school? Rabbi Schechter might be right wing, but practically all of the rabbis in Teaneck are followers of his.
The larger the number of people who need to sign on to any solution, the less likely it is to happen.
Any practical solution needs to be workable on a small scale, and then, if it succeeds, it would be more widely adopted.
That being said, one of the biggest impediments I can see takes the form of two words. Pas nisht.
The more social pressure is used to require certain behaviors for social acceptance, with anything that isn't being done by everyone else being "pas nisht", the harder it is for small groups of people to try different solutions.
For Modern Orthodox bergen county residents who would like a cost effective alternative, there are currently a few students going to the MO school in Staten Island, Jewish Foundation School. It is HALF the tuition of Bergen County schools and the current students find in academically and hashkafically equivalent to the Bergen county schools. The downside is the 40 minute from Teaneck, and keeping up local friendships. But for an average savings of $20,000 (after-tax money) for 3 children, it is a great alternative for parents who want academic excellence and a modern orthodox haskafah. It might be worth the hassle.
how much is JFS?
"100 comments on this thread but not one real practical solution on how to solve the crises in America. I am now more depressed than ever that we will never solve this problem."
quite a few practical solutions have been suggested here and elsewhere. it could be that none are perfect, but then again i don't beleive the existing schools were perfect to begin with (tuition aside). just pick the solution that best suits you.
Wanting affordable Jewish education for your children is not a good enough reason to make aliyah. Living in Israel is so much more than not having to pay a tuition bill. It's a completely different life (and let's be honest, not an easy life)and you can't blame people for not wanting to pick up and move halfway across the world. You might not have to worry about tuition anymore, but if your salary in Israel is much less than it was in the US, you might end up with even greater financial difficulties living over there.
Aliyah is an admirable goal for people who really want to do it for the right reasons- wanting to live in a Jewish state, etc- not just because you want cheaper tuition. I'm a little tired of seeing aliyah touted as a solution to the tuition crisis. Most people aren't interested in aliyah, and that's entirely understandable- so why not accept reality and focus on solutions for the majority of people who would rather stay in the US?
There is no practical solution: Either put up, shut up, or move out. (And in the meantime, advise your children that if they want to maintain this lifestyle, they better be making at least 150K apiece depending on the size of the family they want--oh, and don't plan on death, getting sick or sudden unemployment)
"advise your children that if they want to maintain this lifestyle, they better be making at least 150K apiece depending on the size of the family they want"
$150k??? Are you kidding me? If you only make $150k you are ensuring that you will be on scholarship and relying on others kindness to send your kids to yeshivah. Try $250k minimum if you want to have four kids.
JFS is $6,500 per kid.
Education is as good as any local Bergen County elementary school. Some of their graduates go to TABC and Maayanot (two of the Teaneck MO high schools) and do very well there. Many go on to Yeshiva of Flatbush in Brooklyn.
No solution is perfect but as has been written above, the current situation's downsides, is well documented here.
Definitely worth looking into JFS for anyone who is tired of paying so much more for the same thing. The main problem with JFS for Teaneck / Bergenfield residents is the social aspect for kids and parents.
Maybe that's what the leaders could work on. More social events for elementary age kids events. What strategies can we implement in the community to make kids who go to the "odd school" feel better and strive locally too while still going to JFS?
I bet if a bunch of kids went to JFS, the Bergen County schools might consider real change.
Solution #1: Homeschool*
Solution #2: Small Co-op*
Solution #3: Larger Community co-op
Solution #4: Internet-based learning/classrooms as foundation for home-school* OR bricks & mortar buildings for "regular" schooling at lower cost (e.g., the way Chabad educates the children of shluchim)
Solution #5: Public school (charter or "regular") + private tutoring in limudei kodesh
Solution #6: Community-based Jewish education intended to work in conjunction with public school (charter or "regular")
Solution #7: Lower cost 75% day school/yeshivah intended to work in conjunction with supplemental home-schooling*, co-op* or tutoring in secular studies
Solution #8: Lower cost full-time yeshivah, achieved by options including:
- limited administration/staff
- minimum tuition for every child
- class sizes above 20+ students for every teacher hired
- full time teachers get full-time pay; part-time teachers get part-time pay, no benefits
Solution #9: Combining existing schools with overlapping demographics and discarding excess overhead, supply, resource and building obligations. Accepting the trade-off in commute/travel time for children.
Solution #10: Recognizing that preserving some ability to weave through some these different options as children grow older (or to meet the needs of different children) makes a lot of sense, rather than needing to commit to one option for good. And accepting that there is no one perfect way to provide a Jewish education!
Note that an * identifies those solutions that are premised in home-schooling or small co-op learning range from very easy to very challenging, depending on host of factors, including state of residence, parental career choice & other dynamics
For sure at least 250k+ especially when high schools in BC are $22k+ per kid.
When did being rich become the only way to be Modern Orthodox in Bergen County?
"When did being rich become the only way to be Modern Orthodox in Bergen County?"
When the local Rabbis fell asleep at the wheel and let the yeshiva administrators play us all like cheap violins.
Note that JFS only charges the reduced rate to out of towners, eg Bergen County and Brooklyn residents. Staten Islanders pay full freight. The justification is that the classrooms are half empty anyway, so the reduced tuition collected is all income. I heard this personally from someone who is intimately connected with the school.
"JFS is $6,500 per kid."
is that all-inclusive, or just for tuition? (that is about what my son's non-inclusive tuition is)
is there transportation from brooklyn?
yes, I think there is transportation from Brooklyn
Why do so many MO's decide to live in Bergen County and other parts of the country that are so expensive? I suspect that it's because many of these people who are complaining are making very high salaries that they can't make elsewhere and even after paying tuition are still better off than the majority of americans. We are comparing ourselves to our collegues who don't pay private school tuitions and/or have fewer children. However, who said that you can have it all - private school for multiple children and an upper middle class life style. Why not be content with private school and a middle class life style?
I just don't get it...who is to say that private school IS better in totality? Yes, formal education is important, but so is your family, your chevrah, etc. I have an aunt who sent all 3 children to private school, and nothing "extraordinary" has come from that...any more than my siblings and myself and our public school education. We all still went to camp, shul, Israel...
I think many people are aware of the various solutions that have been bandied about. Offwinger just posted several of them. I think that people like to complain, but at the end of the day, few are willing to step off the ledge and see what happens (for the record, my wife and I don't have kids yet, so take this with a grain of salt - I understand how difficult it must be to "experiment" with your kids' education).
I think any realistic solution has to be as similar as possible, from a parent's perspective, to how they handle yeshiva. In other words, it needs to be as simple and hands-off as possible. A parent that is used to putting a kid on a bus in the morning, waiting for the kid to come home in the evening, and then sitting to help with homework isn't suddenly going to change their entire routine just to save some money. A working parent isn't going to stop working and become a home schooling parent or become part of a coop. It just isn't going to happen. The solution needs to be "turnkey."
Thus, for example, lets say people decide that public school plus Talmud Torah is the best option for kids K-5 and that full yeshiva is the best option 6-12. You have to come up with a solution that is as hands-off as possible. Thus, ideally, you would take the kids to shul in the morning before public school where a parent (or a rabbi or someone else hired) would lead a children's service for all kids. When completed, transportation would be provided to the local public school (either by the township or parents). The kids would then get secular education at public school (and with enough numbers, the school would be sensitive to Orthodox-specific issues such as kashrut). Transportation would then be provided back to the shul (again, public bussing, parents, etc) for a course taught by the rabbi or other hired person(s). Finally, transportation back home.
This isn't meant as a detailed solution, but to illustrate how whatever solution is proposed it needs to be workable for the parents - it can't require the parents to alter their schedules or lives too much to become chauffeurs or teachers.
Personally, I think the above is a workable solution if enough people participated.
Yeshivas are far from ideal, tuition aside. I think people need to start seeing yeshiva education itself as a compromise on the ideal. This will help people look at alternatives honestly.
"Why not be content with private school and a middle class life style?"
The problem is that in order to put food on the table and pay utilities you need to earn $250k+ so your assumption that people are upset because they are not living UPPER-middle class lifestyles is flawed.
"Most people aren't interested in aliyah, and that's entirely understandable"
Sigh. Understandable, maybe, but I can see the divide between Israeli Jews and Jews living elsewhere widening every day. We're not some prosaic backwater quaint curiosity; we're your future, and we feel it's too bad that you're leaving it to your future generations (may they all receive Jewish educations, even if you wring yourself out providing them) to be the ones to make the move.
Calev - Are you for real?
I think most live in Bergen County or other expensive areas because it is close to where they grew up, it is where all their friends are moving, and they don't know what other options are available. They're also used to the "speed" of those communities (the social structure) and like all the conveniences such as lots of shuls, restaurants, schools, etc.
In terms of cost, I don't think many realize until it is too late how stifling the costs are. It's one thing to hear about high tuition costs, it's another to have a bunch of little kids, and a huge tuition bill in your hand.
Also, I think most people are just resigned to their fate. They don't see another option. Their parents did it, so they should be able to (and should) do it too. Plus, grandparents will help out a bit. Debt will be resolved later. Retirement is a long ways away and will be figured out later.
Finally, these people do have excessive expectations of what lifestyle they should be living (and some make bad mistakes because of it), but on the whole I don't think it's a huge problem. I think the biggest issue is summer camps, pesach hotels, and Israel. However, I qualify that because in many cases it is grandparents paying for this, not the parents themselves. It's a separate debate as to whether grandparents should turn over the money to schools instead of vacationing with their family.
"However, I qualify that because in many cases it is grandparents paying for this, not the parents themselves. It's a separate debate as to whether grandparents should turn over the money to schools instead of vacationing with their family."
Nothing gets my blood boiling more than this excuse from people on scholarship who go away for pesach or send their kids to summer camps. If administrators had a backbone, which they have proven time and time again that they do not, they would demand that this money be turned over to the school or else their kids will be thrown out of school - end of story.
You hit the nail on the head. The easiest change is the one that is the least to change.
That is the appeal of JFS. It is "turnkey". No need to change your lifestyle at all. Kids on bus for same 40 minute legnth as the local schools (just cover more miles).
Only requirement is social. Parents need to step up and till this date, not enough parents have done that.
Abby, I see your point 100%, but there are two sides here. Parents' blood gets boiling when we see administrators and office staff who are superfluous and are obviously a patronage hire (e.g. rebbe's wife). Yeshivas shouldn't be taking parents' money to provide jobs for people who are unable or unwilling to work outside the frum community.
Tesyaa - I agree with your point about patronage hires (which represent about half the hires in Bergen County yeshivahs) but two wrongs don't make a right.
If grandparents pay for pesach or anything more than the least expensive summer camps, I say deduct that amount from any awarded scholarship.
Why do other non-family members have a great obligation than grandparents to pay for the children's yeshiva education?
That abuse is outrageous! We should teach our children by refusing to subsidize those misguided choices that wrong is wrong! Those families are not poor, they are elaborately stealing from you!
I don't disagree, I think it is an abuse. But, you have to admit it is different for a parent to pay for some luxury as opposed to a grandparents paying for that luxury for their children/grandchildren - especially if the money never enters the parents' hands.
The parents are under an obligation to pay tuition, not the grandparents. Thus, it is a lot harder to curtail this issue or rightfully assert that the money belongs to the yeshiva (or that the parents should have reduced scholarships and should get the difference from the grandparents to give to the schools).
"I think that people like to complain"
unfortunately a lot of the complaining is to the wrong people.
most of us here are basically preaching to the same tuition choir.
but when it comes to complaining where it could count, we shut up.
i think some of the alternatives that have been touted are viable and reasonable, but why reinvent the wheel? why not try and fix the existing institutions? because this would mean that instead of typing away anonymously to a like-minded chevreh we would have to reveal our identities and make a stink in the principal's office.
simpler to sit back and complain to each other.
I see no reason to count what grandparents pay for camp or trips. People who have worked hard and have saved up should be free to spend their money as they see fit. Aren't family values and kids spending time with their grandparents important even if that mean they fly the family to florida for pesach. What makes you think that the grandparents are going to donate to the schools what they otherwise would have spent on the grandchildren? This is just going to turn off a lot of grandparents, many of whom are already jeopardizing their retirements to help out their adult children.
At the risk of exceeding my posting limits for the day, I'm going to agree with Anonymous. People who give money voluntarily, as opposed to being bound by a contract, want some control over what its being used for.
It's like when our school was building an ambitious project and people asked why they couldn't have trailers instead. The answer was that the donors would retract their pledges - they wanted their names on a real building, not on trailers. You can't expect a high degree of control over money that's being given voluntarily.
What is sad is that you hit the perfect solution, "reduce the amount of scholarship given." This way, everybody wins.
The parents whose bill is 50k and get 30k in scholarship and pay 20k, will lose 5k in scholarship for their Pesach trip. The school can announce this publicly.
Now, the grandparents aren't going to pay that bill in addition to Pesach, and the parents don't have an extra $5k, so they'll pay the same 20k. So now the school reduced scholarship by 5k, increased bad debt expense by 5k, family went on Pesach with the grandparents, everybody wins!
The full paying parents without grandparent support know that the school stuck it to the scholarship family. The school didn't have to throw out the family and lose the $20k they pay, and the family still pays the same $20k that they could before.
Doesn't solve the tuition crisis, or collect an extra dollar for the Yeshiva, but it solves the anger and bitterness of the full paying parents!
LOZ: Some of us have tried, fought hard to make changes, and been fired and harassed for it. One of the local Jewish papers started looking into the abuses at the school, the schools colluded to avoid giving the information (required by law) and called his Rabbi to put pressure on him to back off. The employees that stood up to this process were fired (albeit in a careful manner, don't touch salary, just pull tuition reduction, kick kids out of classes, etc.), and the paper went out of business after losing advertisers... which I'm sure wasn't from any of the pressures.
At a certain point, you throw in the towel and find another way to educate your children. And if that means that myself or my children are considered "non-frum" so be it... better to be honorable, have integrity, keep the mitzvot and be "non-frum" then lying and cheating to be "frum."
Actually, if we're REALLY serious about things, we'd move to a cheaper area and start a new community. It wouldn't even have to be too far from existing communities to create an opportunity for tremendous savings in housing costs & a chance to create a new school or accepted option in education for younger children (while having more $ to afford the expensive existing schools for the older children until the newer/cheaper school can take over for all ages).
In this regard, Chabad puts most of us to shame. Almost every MO Jew I know has nearly zero desire to be a pioneer, even if we're talking about a minor difference in commute time and perhaps a 30 minute drive to kosher pizza.
More important: Would you move somewhere that still has to build an eruv? a mikveh? work out the arrangement to have a sefer Torah for the new shul?
In Israel, there is a precedent for people to start a new yishuv from scratch. In America, so many act like we must live in an existing community, no matter the cost. I don't exclude myslf from this either. I was bummed when I learned that a more OOT community that I was eyeing has fizzled. Rather than moving there and hoping to participate in its revival, I chose a more "comfortable" place (e.g., established shul, eruv, mikveh and much much higher cost!).
So, no, this pioneer approach is not a solution for those desiring the "turnkey" approach to Jewish communal living. But that's what we'd do if we really wanted to CHANGE how we live our lives, instead of just complaining and hoping someone else finds the magical unicorn of Jewish education. I'd love it if through this and other blogs those of us who felt the same way COULD identify an area to settle and develop, but no, I'm not holding my breath.
"I see no reason to count what grandparents pay for camp or trips."
You can't be serious. Why don't I simply transfer all my assets to my parents, have them pay for vacations, nice cars etc..., and then go to the scholarship committee and show that that I have no assets and need a big scholarship?
People who accept expensive gifts from grandparents while on scholrship are stealing from their neighbors. It is that simple. You can try and justify it however you want but it doesn't change the facts.
Disgruntled: The schools should count any assets/money given away, just like medicaid does a three-year look back to see if any assets were given away to try to become eligible for medicaid, but that's not what this is about. If you are arguing that funds from grandparents should count as part of the family's income, you might have a point, but that should only apply if the funds don't come with any strings or are used for things the family would otherwise buy themself like groceries, rent, etc.
If the grandparents are willing to pay for camp but not give the family money for school and the family wouldn't otherwise send their kids from camp how does having the grandparents pay for camp hel the family to pay more tuition? It sounds like someone may be a tad envious?
It's called Waterbury. And even though it is not MO per say, it's on the left side of the Right Wing. They are even for going to UCONN.
OOT is a possible solution.
To Calev: Not sure if you are a troll, but if not, you would be just as unhappy if we moved to Israel and started asking you to buy apartments for our daughters, as well as supporting our learning. And you would be correct.
I will not elaborate further (as to not join your brothers in spying :-), but there are religious reasons not to live there as well.
Becoming a JFS fan...
I just called the school.
Tuition for Bergen County residents is $6,500 for everything - there are no extras, no fees, no family fees, security fees, registration fees, etc. Tuition for Staten Island residents is $7,650.
Staten Islanders do not pay for transportation so the school discounted the "out of towners" price to make the totals comparable.
There is transportation from Brooklyn. I think they have about 40 kids from Brooklyn.
"If the grandparents are willing to pay for camp but not give the family money for school and the family wouldn't otherwise send their kids from camp how does having the grandparents pay for camp hel the family to pay more tuition? It sounds like someone may be a tad envious?"
Because 99 out of 100 grandparents would, if FORCED to make the choice between paying for their grandkids to go to an overpriced hotel for Pesach or go to yeshiva, would pay their grandkids tuition if the alternative was that there grankids would have to otherwise go to public school. My point is that the schools should not allow parents who accept these large sums from grandparents be on scholarship. This might not be "fair" but it sure as hell is fairer than forcing non-relatives (i.e. neighbors of your kid) to pay for your kid's tuition.
"I will not elaborate further (as to not join your brothers in spying :-), but there are religious reasons not to live there as well."
I didn't know Neturei Karta allowed its followers to access the internet.
Anon5:06 - should they also count the money that the grandparents spent on the parents' wedding, bar mitzva and bris since they should have been saving that for the grandchildren's education instead of wasting it on simchas?
Far be it from me to suggest a post, but I, for one, would love to hear from someone who sends their children to JFS.
I would especially like to hear how in the world the school offers such low tuition. Was there some huge donor? Do they have fewer administrators? Not offer scholarships? Less "extras"?
I just don't get how they can make a yeshiva that is basically 50% the cost of other MO yeshivas.
What's the catch?
140 comments! SL rocks!
JFS exists. It was built a long time ago. The school wants to hang on despite declining frum population in Staten Island. I did hear they charge closer to 10K for Staten Islander, although a different poster heard to the contrary.
Staten Island does not have a thriving young frum population. The school is in survival mode; not sure if some donor or endowment is helping make this happen. But if the locals pay full freight and the out of towners are marginal, filling up half empty classes, that's why tuition for out of towners is so low.
It is a heckuva a long way from Bergen to SI, maybe if the kids travel before rush hour it doesn't take too long. But if your kid gets a fever in the middle of the day, it's a LONG drive to pick him up.
I heard the kids can only keep it up for a year or two before the traveling is too much.
I think it is only right that the next time local Rabbis talk about NNJKIDS that they give equal airtime to the notion that local day school tuition is a scam that robs those who pay full tuition blind.
I taught in public schools and believe me, you might as well go to Las Vegas and shoot craps if you think your kids have a good chance of retaining their frumkeit. It isn't just drugs/alcohol, it is constant profanity in the halls, sexual behavior everywhere, violence and intimidation. You are really kidding yourselves. So your kids might have high SAT scores but they will never recover from being in a spiritual war zone, with few exceptions.
"It isn't just drugs/alcohol, it is constant profanity in the halls, sexual behavior everywhere, violence and intimidation. You are really kidding yourselves. "
Sounds very much like the yeshiva I attended when I was younger. Not kidding.
Sorry Tesyaa but your facts about JFS and SI are erroneous. JFS is not close to 10K a year for SI residents--in the mid 7K range for full tuition and all expenses. Hanging on by a fingernail? No, but it has always been a smaller school in its 1-8 population. Many parents choose to send to the Mercaz schools--separate boys and girls schools--here. However, JFS is part of the Mercaz family, something that Arthur Schick took care of many years ago when Mercaz was still called RJJ. Strangely enough we didn't need anything like a NJK program here. The community, left, right and all the shades in between, has always supported the JFS and Mercaz, regardless of where we sent our kids, and we still do. Every shul has appeals for the schools and they get answered.
We don't have a thriving young frum population? Perhaps you need to check your facts. Tons of young frum couples here. A few of our kids who moved into Jersey have moved back home to SI thanks to the double whammy of NJ real estate taxes and yeshiva tuitions.
Right now the stagnant real estate market is part of the further growth problem, but that is a problem everywhere. Young couples are having it harder in general in buying homes due to tightened lending by banks.
Anonymous 6:10 - Can you elaborate on where you taught, when and what grades? I don't think your observations hold true for all public schools, or even the majority.
AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME!!!! ...Ask Oorah if they'd be willing to supply a few more monkeys to take over the jobs of high-priced school administrators.The monkeys will be happy to work for peanuts and Oorah can then recover the cost by auctioning off the administrators....Yeah,I know,but they laughed at Montesori,too.
ProfK: Glad to hear the SI community is thriving. After following your blog, I've wondered why more people don't move there.
One reason may be that we aren't an easy community to place under one label. Some people have erroneously labeled us as strictly MO because the YI is the 3rd largest YI in the country. The label doesn't fit really well. Plenty of YI members who elsewhere would fit into a more right wing crowd. Plenty of shtiblach here as well as an Aguda, and they don't fit the mold either. Lots of "modern" people davening at the shtiblach. What we are is a very tolerant community without the machlokes religiously that you see elsewhere.
Another problem is our public transportation system--it costs more in transport costs here than in the rest of the city and yes, a car is really a necessity.
We also aren't a really restaurant oriented community--we have a few and it's more than enough.
Housing-wise our prices aren't rock bottom but they represent a bargain when compared to large Jewish centers in the rest of the City. Our real estate taxes and insurance costs are also lower than most of the rest of the city.
Everything being said, if you are determined to stay in NYC then SI should certainly be looked at. With super rare exception, those who settle here wouldn't want to live anywhere else in the city.
For those of us stuck in Bergen County, can you provide us with more details on what a modest but nice house in walking distance to a shul costs in SI?
Some of the criticism of the Rabbinate for the tuition crisis in Bergen County is certainly warranted, but I haven't seen much criticism of the Boards of the schools. Shouldn't everyone be directing their criticism to the Boards? Wasn't it the Boards that allowed a situation to be created where an average family can't afford to send their kids to Yeshiva?
This reminds me of a comment a friend once told me: for the large part, Board members are wealthy machers who aren't aware of the plight of the middle class. I could easily see the Board wanting to make a school into a prep school with all the bells and whistles without considering what this will do to the middle class
"Some of the criticism of the Rabbinate for the tuition crisis in Bergen County is certainly warranted, but I haven't seen much criticism of the Boards of the schools."
You make a good point. In fact, of the few members of the Board of Yeshivat Noam that I know (the most expensive of the local schools), all are worth well into the 7 figures. That is not to say they are not great people who do great things and give lots of charity but I fear that they may not fully appreciate the pain that these yeshivahs in Bergen County are inflicting on all of us middle class folks. Note that I don't mean to pick on Noam; I suspect the situation is no different at the other local institutions.
I am a grandfather of 8, bli ayin harah. I have given my 3 married kids close to, or a little more than, $20,000 in help this past year to pay bills, buy food, clothing, etc. That comes out to more than 10% of my take home pay after taxes; my wife does not work but has done a wonderful job bringing up the kids the last 30 + years. I also have paid tens of thousands of dollars over the past two years towards my unmarried kid's graduate school tuition (she has taken out loans to pay the rest). We modestly help support the local Yeshivas (attending banquet, etc.). All this is not easy and my wife and I are not rich or have a great retirement fund. After many years of being fortunate and blessed to have paid full Yeshiva tuition for all my kids as they grew up, if, at this time, I choose to spend money to have my kids spend Pesach with my wife and me in a hotel -- not that we can afford it -- that will be our choice. PLEASE do not tell me that I have an obligation to pay grandkid tuitions, OR that I or my kids are "stealing" from others.
"After many years of being fortunate and blessed to have paid full Yeshiva tuition for all my kids as they grew up, if, at this time, I choose to spend money to have my kids spend Pesach with my wife and me in a hotel -- not that we can afford it -- that will be our choice. PLEASE do not tell me that I have an obligation to pay grandkid tuitions, OR that I or my kids are "stealing" from others."
You don't have an "obligation" to help your kids pay tuition instead of paying for their Pesach hotel. But just know that the consequence of your decision is that your children's neighbors are going to have to subsidize your grandkid's tuition (assuming they are on scholarship). If you are ok and can sleep at night at your luxurious pesach hotel while we work hard to subsidize your grandkid's tuition then.....
3 Questions for the grandparents who read this blog:
1) If your children can't afford yeshiva tuition, do you expect us full payers to pay for them?
2) Do you you think that other tuition payers have an obligation beyond your obligation to pay for your children's children? I am not speaking of jewish law, but your own ethical prism.
3) If your grankids were going to get thrown out of yeshiva if they went away with you for pesach, would you still take them with you?
Honestly, the idea that no child will be turned away regardless of ability to pay is being taken to absurd level to think that parents (in this case grandparents) are asking the community to help their kids more than they do when they deliver a luxury to them.
Of course, the enablers are the schools scholarship commitees.
Median house price in SI was 304K as of last May, but let's look at Willowbrook, the largest frum community.
Every house within the eruv is within relatively short walking distance of at least one shul; many are in comfortable walking distance of way more than one. Average price is also difficult to say. Do you want a single family detached? A two-family detached? A single family attached? A two-family attached? A larger single family or a townhouse sized one? Right now Willowbrook prices run from the high 200K to the high 500K range. (I'm not counting the few McMansions that we have.) Standard lot size is 40x100. Some are larger. Standard 2-family size in the up the hill area is in the 2000-2400 sq.foot range for the houses. Some one family semi-attached homes are in the 1200-1600 sq.foot range, some a bit larger.
The smaller houses are in the 2K and change range for real estate taxes. The bigger houses fall in the 3K plus range.
So yes, very roomy and very affordable by NYC standards.
Thanks Prof K. That was very helpful. Seems like the cost of a house in SI is somewhat comparable to the frum areas in Bergen County with the caveat that our property taxes are 5-10 times what yours are.
Anon 8:40 pm, please do not ignore NYC resident taxes.
Lisa said - <>
Believe me, I also work plenty hard -- for my family and for myself (not counting time on community and shul matters, etc.). I am sorry, but I do not feel that I "owe" you or anyone else. Or that I have to feel guilty should I choose to go away (and also spare my wife and me the hard work it takes to prepare to allow the entire family to be together).
If I were to take your attitude, I would think that all these years I have subsidized everyone else who could not pay full tuition. I don't feel that way -- I assume that I responsibly did what I was supposed to do (and b'H,blay harah what I could) and others who could not pay, responsibly did their best too. I assume that you (and my kids too) are responsible adults as well and that you (and they) will do "right" when it comes to paying as much tution as you (and they) can. While I can and do sympathize and try to help in other ways short of paying full tuitions again (e.g., helping in fund-rasing or supporting the schools' fund-rasing activities), I just do not have to feel guilty and do not if you (or they) can't pay in full.
Please stop the attack on the grandparents ... any grandparent money is a true gift. Remember that these folks have to provide for their own retirement -- or would you agree to pay for their nursing homes?
I agree that the grandparents issue is a red herring. A system that relies on grandparents is doomed to failure.
BTW - Anon: 8:51 - are you planning on paying your grandchildren's tuition? What are you giving up to save for your grandchildren's tuition? (don't tell me you can't because you already are subsidizing other chidren because the grandparent you are criticizing also did the same by paying full tuition for all of his children.)
If anyone wants to come to the Midwest, we have a great community here in Milwaukee. We have a mix of Chassidish, MO, yeshivish, and more with a lot of achdus. Our elementary school has full tuition of $6250 and vouchers available for those with incomes below 175% of the poverty level.
There are many beautiful older homes for $100K-$200K. Taxes about $4K for a $150K house.
Not to say we still don't complain about tuition... but our tuition issues aren't on the same scale as what you are talking about.
Sorry Tesyaa, your facts about JFS and the kids from Bergen County are not correct. My name is Uri Gutfreund and I send my three kids to JFS from Bergenfield NJ. I have no idea what you are talking about when you said "I heard the kids can only keep it up for a year or two before the traveling is too much." That might be your opinion, but please don't attribute it to me.
The posted tuition amounts above are correct. Bergen County residents pay $6,500 plus $2,000 transportation and Staten Island residents pay $7,600. Anyone can call the school at (718) 983-6042 and verify that too.
As parents, we are very happy with the school. It is comparable to the Bergen County schools academically. The curriculum is excellent and the teachers are top notch professionals who have a tangible love of the children they teach.
As to the reasons why the tuition is half the amount of the bergen county schools, I believe it is combinations of:
1) there are two administrators: the principal and assistant principal AND they both teach classes too.
2) campus is paid for
3) teacher compensation packages are competitive for staten island but far less than bergen county
4) scholarships are given more stringently. By keeping tuition low, less people overall need it.
5) NY provides services to private schools that NJ does not
6) things are done modestly at the school
The school is not perfect, but neither are any of the local Bergen County schools. As I said above, we are very happy with the school. Socially, there are challenges both in Staten Island and in Bergenfield, but our kids are doing beautifully and have been welcomed with open arms by the school and the parent body.
We wrote this letter about our experience to the local Jewish newspaper which you can read here http://www.jstandard.com/index.php/content/item/staten_island_update/ and anyone who wants to can contact me offline if you have any specific questions at email@example.com
Anon: 9:09 - "are you planning on paying your grandchildren's tuition?" I am not. HOWEVER, that it not to say that I won't help out (as I do already) to the extent possible. BTW - I was not criticizing the "other" granparent. I am the same person as Anon 8:12. I was "critical" of Lisa who wrote "while we work hard to subsidize your grandkid's tuition then . . ." as though grandparents have not worked hard and do not work hard still now. [That's it for me for tonight. Grandparents need to go to sleep early because we need our rest as we also wake up early to go to to minyan and work . . . :)]
Forget grandparents. People on scholarship, ie people being subsidized by others, shouldn't be accpeting gifts of monetary value.
The fact that grandparents are the source is almost irrelavant, although it seems to be the most common source.
Do the granparents among us agree that those on scholarship that receive gifts should count that as their income when scholarhsip assistance is calculated?
I think the answer to that question is what people are getting at but the family connections are obscuring the fact that people who are being subsidized have an ethical obligation not to overly rely on others who are breaking their backs too.
confused ethically said...
Forget grandparents. People on scholarship, ie people being subsidized by others, shouldn't be accpeting gifts of monetary value.
Huh? How is turning down a gift going to help that family pay more tuition?
I also think there is a problem in lumping all scholarship recipients together. If both parents work hard and long hours and still cannot pay full tuition, that's one thing. Not everyone can be a surgeon, lawyer in a big firm, etc. If, however, an able bodied parent is not working or only one of two able bodied parent works, but is working a low stress 9-5 job and never got some training or education to get a better job, then I can understand the resentment of those parents who are working their tucheses off if they are being asked to subsidize those families who aren't working harder to maximize their income.
ProfK and Uri,
If my info about SI and JFS was mistaken, I sincerely apologize. What I heard came directly from someone very, very close to the school, though I will not name names. If that person's opinion differs from yours, or if I misinterpreted, I apologize.
I think one thing missing here is a realization that life involves compromise. I would love to live in Bergen County, but I realize that life there would be unaffordable with my 3 kids in private school. Instead I chose to live in Queens in a teen tiny overpriced row house with no outdoor space at all. On the other hand, my kids go to a (relatively) affordale school (YCQ), they can walk to school, and they have tons of friends in the neighborhood. I also have much lower property taxes and a short, easy commute to midtown manhattan.
What are the tuition & fees at YCQ and other schools in the neighborhood? And is housing affordable in Queens?
Yehoshua b. Nun wrote:
"Calev, are you for real?"
Why would I not be "for real?" Are the lessons of the meraglim (spies) limited to a story we teach in our overpriced yeshiva day schools? Clearly not.
What's up with you these days? Leading the nation much in solving its existential problems?
Your partner in reward,
Well, this discussion has been pretty clearly delineated as not being for me (being that I'm neither MO nor an American, especially one residing in Bergen County) but I just feel that I need to comment on RivkA and others who have mentioned Israel.
I love Israel. A considerable part of my husband's family lives there. I used to work for the Aliyah Department, helping people move there. However, free schooling is not by itself a good reason for making aliyah.
For example, I have a friend who made aliyah because she was tired of sending her kids away for high school. She thought that moving to Israel meant they'd be close to home, they'd save 10s of thousands of dollars per year in tuition and boarding costs and so on.
Within a couple of years her older kids all ended up back in the States or Canada, going to school or getting married.
Currently only her youngest child and 2 others are in Israel. All the others, including a high school student are in North America.
It costs a fortune but none of the streams of education there seem to have worked for her kids. In the immortal words of Janis Joplin "Nothin' ain't worth nothin' but it's free." It didn't matter that the education was free. It didn't work for her kids. And now she's halfway around the world from them. That's not to say she's not thrilled to live in Israel. She is. But it wasn't a miracle cure-all for their educational woes.
The OOT Answer
I have lived OOT. I have lived somewhere that people in NY-NJ metro consider OOT (but aren't really), and I have lived somewhere that *everyone* would recognize as OOT.
My proposal above to create a 'pioneer' satellite community is not the same as moving OOT, primarily because I realize that many MO people in the NY-NJ metro area can not easily change their jobs. (A secondary issue is not wanting to live too far away from family.)
There are many things I like about OOT, but coming from an MO ideology, cheaper yeshivah education is *not* one of the advantages (even though the tution is cheaper). Over the past 10-15 years, as more small kollelim have sprung up OOT, as OOT locations have become bastions for Agudah shuls & yeshivahs, and as the RW birthrate has signficantly outpaced that of the MO world (hey! we're coming back to the topic here!), the K-8 yeshivah options when you live out of town are specifically *not* MO friendly. Tiny yeshivahs that were once "community day schools" have given way to slightly larger schools (though still small by non-OOT standards) to RW schools, taught exclusively by RW mechanchim.
I'm not saying that this is true everywhere that is OOT, and there are organizations like Torah Kollel M'Tzion that are invested in creating the "dati leumi" style of kollel in different places, including a few that are legitimately OOT. But the Agudah way is the direction & trajectory of many OOT communities right now, including some of those suggested above. The point of the MO pioneer idea is to choose a location that does not necessarily have an existing orthodox community at all.
A Thought on Grandparents:
Those who are arguing about "fancy hotels" and "vacations" and "grandparents who help out" need to make a distinction between grandparents who bestow monetary gifts that come free from any strings and experiences that are just as much for the grandparent's sake as the rest of the family.
Grandparents who pay to have all their children & grandchildren come together at a hotel for pesach are doing so because they want to spend pesach with their family!!! After a certain point, it's too hard to make pesach for so many people. Bubbe and Zeide get older. The children, thank g-d, don't live in walking distance from each other. Some may even have married spouses with different minhagim about pesach.
Spending a chag together in a hotel is not so much a "gift" to the grandchildren as an experience meant for the whole family to enjoy. There is absolutely no reason to lump this choice in with blanket gifts of money passed along to children. (Note also that if the IRS has rules for differentiating between hidden income & gifts, so can scholarship committees.)
I am in my late 20s. I am not (yet) married, but when God willing that happens, I will not live in a Jewish community. I will not send my kids to a private school. I will live with my wife and children one or two towns away from a substantial Jewish community. By doing this, all of the material amenities (mikveh 10 minutes drive away, kosher food 4 minutes drive away, etc.) will be available in abundance. We will do shabbos on our own, and/or occasionally stay with friends or in a hotel for a shabbos in a nearby Jewish town.
Many, many rabbis and other frum Jews have told me that I am wrong, that I am nuts, and that what I aspire to do cannot possibly succeed.
But let me tell you what I'll be able to provide for my kids:
In the home I grew up in, I had dinner with my family seven nights a week. Six nights a week on rare occasion. Every night, I had to sit at that dinner table and look my dad in the eye and tell him about what I did that day. By the time I was grown, he knew me better than I knew myself. And I knew the nature and substance of his work. I appreciated him as more than just "the guy who goes out and makes money so that mommy can raise us." My dad, unlike the "shabbos fathers" who think that showing up Friday afternoon through Saturday night means that you're helping to raise your wife's kids, was actively and significantly my father, every day of the week.
You can't put a pricetag on that. You can't convince me to sell my fatherhood to the highest bidder. Not for all the day school in the world.
What cocktail of public school, home-Torah and tutoring-with-a-rabbi will I and my (God willing) wife employ? Not exactly sure, and I'm sure that whatever we begin with will be subject to change as the situation changes. What we will lack in salary (because we won't be working ludicrously lucrative jobs), we will fight mercilessly to make up for with sweat and time commitment. I've never had a problem putting in both.
But I can tell you this: In my normal American town, I will raise my children with both a knowledge and appreciation of their heritage as normal, working-class Americans and with a knowledge and appreciation of their heritage as observant Jews.
Those of you who think that all public schools are either the toilet schools of the inner city or the pompous ego factories of predominantly-Jewish suburbs are wrong. Those schools, combined, account for less than 80% of all public schools in America. Most public schools are in normal towns, where people aspire to live normal, decent lives. Not doctors, lawyers, engineers, or stock traders, but normal folks who work a day and come home to dinner with the kids.
It's sad, indeed it's altogether pathetic, that most orthodox Jews have so little understanding of how much their values have in common with normal Americans in normal American towns. But while the rest of the American Jewish community persists in believing that normal America is bereft of decent values, I and a few others like me will go right on ahead and do it our own way.
If we succeed then we'll turn out kids with decent values, Torah knowledge, and real, authentic, humility. But even if we fail, I won't be ashamed of trying. And I will know, when I take my last breath, that I did all that I could to give my children the most supreme gift that I could possibly give them: A real, seven-day-a-week, father.
Correction: "Those schools, combined, account for less than TWENTY PERCENT of all public schools in America."
Inverted the percentages. :-)
Some of your plan makes sense, but 1. In high school, when your children start thinking about dating and proms and losing their virginty (among non-religious/non-Jewish friends of mine 14-16 was fairly normal), you really might feel very differently about this.
2. not having a regular shul to go to each week can be a real hardship.
Great post. There are many of us here that hope that breaking with social norms allow some of the suggestions to reform yeshiva pricing to be implemented so you (and others) can have a version of yeshiva and eat their dinner too (with their family). Your point is that the yeshiva system is not necessarily bad, but rather that the economic burden causes the father not to be an active parent.
" My dad, unlike the 'shabbos fathers' . . ."
shabbos fathers? ugh. what a sad term. but so true. i just quit my job in part because of this.
i don't think leaving the (organized) jewish community is a good idea, but i can't say your priorities are screwed up.
A commenter earlier expressed disbelief that some parents are limiting their families due to tuition costs. I will agree with SL and say that I personally know many families who are limiting their size in large part due to financial concerns. On a personal front, my wife and I are struggling with the choice to have a third child eventually just as the people described in the comment in this post. It's a real issue, folks. And it's a painful one because in a perfect world I might likely want to have a couple more-now I'm struggling with can I have even 3?
Aspiring father's plan could work well if the town has a chabad center. That way he won't always have to go away for shabbat or do it alone. I would not be scared away by the comments about teens in public school losing their virgity at 14-16. I think the average age in the u.s. is closer to 18, and its just an average with much depending on the particular individual, the community and the family.
TWe keep hearing that aliyah is the answer to the tuition crises.
Well pick up any Israeli paper amd u will see how poorly educated the average israeli student is in math English history science etc and how crowded the cl4ses r.
We. Keep getting told how its free.
Well all my BC friends who made aliyah are apending good money for tutors sp their kids can learn math science history and English so they get a decent well rounded education. I don't know the numbers but I am sure its not cheap (and it doesn't get close to tuition in BC but then again the income is usually smaller and income taxes may be higher.
Btw. YOF in Brooklyn is almost only Syrian
uh-huh. a study just mentioned in yesterday's jpost places israeli schools at the lowest in the industrialized world.
and while yeshivah education might be much cheaper (it's not actually free as commonly touted, although it is *much* cheaper), that has to be measured against drastically reduced salaries, higher tax rates, VAT, a generally higher cost of living (both in relative and absolute terms), etc.
and the econominic indicators are not looking good for israel. and of course there is the fact that *many* more move from israel to american than vice versa. most israli expats i speak say they left for financial reasons. they'd like to go back, but don't think they can make it there.
"Btw. YOF in Brooklyn is almost only Syrian"
btw, what do you have against syrians? (although yes, i wondered about the statement above about SIers going to YOF. i don't think that's true anymore.)
I think parents of full-tuition paying students need to form a "union" as power comes in numbers and threaten to unilaterally pull out of the local Bergen County yeshivas if tuition is not reduced 15% a year over the next 5 years. All of a sudden the bozos running these schools will have to think hard about their six figure salaries and their decision to hire 7 assistant teachers per classroom in order to make sure that all of their friends have jobs. Perhaps a little media coverage of parents unionizing would help as well.
Well put. It's why I do what I do, live where I live, and it was a strong requirement in a spouse. If you plan at a young age, it can be done. There is no reason why you can not do it as well (as you are not yet married).
The Caveat? Prepare to live a "lower standard" of living than a usual 6 figure earning family, (or anyone around you) but still comfortable.
And to Anon. regarding NTK, its not that, but way more complicated (but getting better!). Besides, that would not be Lashon Hara. Anon 8:01 touches on part of it.
I think parents of full-tuition paying students need to form a "union" as power comes in numbers and threaten to unilaterally pull out of the local Bergen County yeshivas if tuition is not reduced 15% a year over the next 5 years.
If you threaten to pull out, you need to be willing and able to make good on your threat, otherwise it's meaningless and the school knows it. Get a plan - public school, homeschooling - and be prepared not to cave. I'm rooting for anything that will reduce full tuition, though I'm not in Bergen County.
out of curiosity, are there any administrators, donors, board members, etc. readings these posts?
"out of curiosity, are there any administrators, donors, board members, etc. readings these posts?"
probably not. I bet they are all in Aruba this week relaxing.
Very impressed with aspiring dad's post. He has really thought about his values and priorities before having children, something not everyone does. While not all would agree with his choices he raises important issues that rarely get discussed. The tuition issue usually is addressed in terms of an economic one. There is also, however, a personal toll in terms of stress, time away from family, etc. (I think that's part of what makes the full tuition payers so angry about subsidizing others who are not working the same hours or with wives not working at all.) Aspiring dad realizes that sometimes you can't have everything and you have to make some difficult choices.
New phrase coined here - Shabboss Dad. The destruction of shabboss dad concept, is the goal of tuition reform.
Many in the community currently realize that a shabboss dad life is the best case scenario, ie almost always the ONLY way to afford tuition for 3+ kids in Bergen County is to become a Shabboss Dad.
I wish that with real tuition reform, 2010 will become the year of the death of shabboss dad. Amen.
"New phrase coined here - Shabboss Dad."
i'm still blown away by this phrase. something i've been thinking about a lot recently is compressed so well into two words.
""New phrase coined here - Shabboss Dad."
Not that it matters, but the phrase "shabbos dad" is not new. I have heard it be used, and have used it myself, for at least 5 years.
Having said that, I wish 2010 will be the year of the death of the Bergen County Shabbos Dad but I see no reason to be optimistic that this will happen.
The biggest problem facing Modern Orthodox Jews in America right now is yeshiva tuition. Allow me to suggest what I think the biggest problems with all of our local yeshivas are: 1) Too many administrators. When I went to school, there was ONE administrator in the entire school and one secretary. I recently attended some open houses at our local schools and learned that some of these schools literally have five or six administrators, presumably making six-figure salaries. There also seemed to be a minyan of secretaries and other support staff mingling in the office. The purpose of our yeshivahs should be to educate our children, not make a few administrators rich and giving jobs to countless mothers of children who attend these schools. We all know that working at these schools allows your children to go for free or at a heavy discount. (Of course, it isn’t really “free, b\c I am paying for it.) Why not force the people on scholarship to each work a few hours a week at the schools thereby allowing the schools to cutback on the amount of secrataries they need to hire. Problem 2: Scholarship abuse – The local schools and Rabbanite do little (other than occasional lip service) to try and mitigate the abuse that goes on. The younger generation views obtaining a scholarship as they do shopping for a car – the idea being to get the best deal possible. There is no bushah anymore and no realization that I am paying for their kids’ scholarship. I have heard (young) parents openly brag at shul kiddushim about how they “hit the jackpot” with scholarship this year and that there kids are going at 50%-80%discount. It is not an isolated problem. I easily could rattle off names of at least 7-10 families that I know are on scholarship (b\c they have told me so) and who do some or all of the following: drive nice new cars, take frequent vacations, have cleaning ladies, go out to eat at local restaurants often, have huge flat-screen TVs etc…. The Yeshivas punish those of us who worked hard to obtain professional degrees and work very long hours while rewarding those who made poor decisions in life. (I always wonder why people are surprised that they can’t afford tuition for 4 kids when they chose to enter a career path where the most they can ever hope to make is $70-80k.) Why shouldn’t I choose to work a 9-5 job and make $80k and let the suckers in town pay for my kids’ tuition??? One final note, NNJKIDS is NOT the answer; giving more money to these schools is like giving drugs to a drug addict. Giving these schools more money will only prolong the current crises and delay real change from occurring. It will allow the current system (where the few support the many) to continue longer than it otherwise would. We need the financial burden on these Yeshivas to become even greater so that it forces these yeshivas to make radical and wholesale changes to the way they operate from the top down. Until that happens, people like me (who make too much to get a scholarship but not enough so that tuition is not a crushing blow to us) will continue to shoulder the brunt of this tuition “crises.”
lion of zion,
i dont have anything against syrians, having grown up in brooklyn, went to YOF, and as they say, "some of my best friends are syrian " (which is true). i meant no disparaging remark.
i was commenitng on someone earlier on the post who made a comment about brooklyn.
flatbush which was the bastion of MO, is now almost completely SY and there are virtually no askenaz MO left. what they have are asheknaz MO from outside of brooklyn (SI, Queens, occainallay from edison,nj) . accoding to both my sy friends who still live there and send there kids there, as well as teachers still there, they have trouble making an askenaz minyan at the high school.
MO is dead in brooklyn, and as a exile from midwood, i wouild have love to stay there when i got married but all of my compratiots got priced out of the housing market and after college etc, we had to 'settle' for five towns , teaneck etc. i would have loved to send my kids to YOF but couldnt afford to live there. now we live in BC and housing is expensive too
all i wanted to say was that ashkenaz MO is non existant in midwood or on life support
"It will allow the current system (where the few support the many)"
sounds like the american tax system
I think the biggest problem is that yeshiva tuition just makes so many people, across such a wide spectrum, so incredibly mad. The reason this is a problem is that you have so many people with different goals, objectives, ideals, and lifestyles all upset about tuition, but lashing out at different sources and people.
All you end up with is a cacophony of voices and anger that is undirected and often misplaced.
I think the real question, and I hope maybe a post will ensue ont his topic or people will write about it here, is this:
WHY DO YOU KEEP SENDING YOUR KIDS TO YESHIVA?
WHY WON'T YOU CONSIDER OPTIONS OUTSIDE THE STANDARD YESHIVA MODEL?
"WHY DO YOU KEEP SENDING YOUR KIDS TO YESHIVA?"
Because we are scared silly of 1) our kids becoming social outcasts and 2) our kids not being "frum".
In terms of #1:
Your kids will simply have other friends, no? How many people can say they are still friends with all the kids they went to yeshiva with? I don't know if I am atypical, but I am not friends with anyone from my home town or who I went to elementary school with. I am still friends with 3 people from high school. I am still friends with 4-6 people from college. Most of my good friends were made later in life, after we married and moved to a community and met other couples.
I don't see why it's a big deal for kids to be socially involved with the kids from shul.
Also, if those yeshiva kids from won't be friends with your children just because they don't go to the same school (they can still go the same shul, NCSY, summer camp, etc), who needs them?
In terms of #2:
I think this is just a lot of brainwashing with no real evidence. There are so many alternatives available and so much depends on the family and the effort the parents put in. It's ridiculous to just make some blanket statement about how horrible every alternative is.
Allow me to humbly make a suggestion. There appears to be hundreds of people who want to continue this most critical discussion regarding yeshiva tuition. Would it be possible to set up some sort of permanent or semi-permanent link on your homepage to this article and comments section so that we can continue this discussion. Thank you.
I have a friend who has been teaching at Yeshiva of Flatbush for a very long time. It's true that a very significant percentage of the school is Sephardic/Syrian. My friend also says that academic standards have declined in recent years because the Sephardic families (on average) do not place the same value on formal education as your average Ashkenazic Modern/Centrist Orthodox family. Many of the Sephardic kids will be going into family businesses, so its not as important to do well in school.
What does this really mean? Not much, other than Yeshiva of Flatbush isn't as good of a choice as it used to be.
The discussion is great, and I am just as guilty as anyone else, but blogging and commenting will do nothing. I give more credit to people why try to make a difference, such as the founders of NNJKIDS, who are working on the problem, even if I don't agree with their solutions. Better to start a grassroots effort, such as joining the board of a local yeshiva and encouraging other like-minded people to do the same, than just blogging and commenting. Like I said, I'm just as guilty as everyone else.
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