Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Some Personal Thoughts on Tuition, Family, and More

I have been blown away by the number of comments that my post "Private School or Bust" engendered. The subject of the post was about the decision to grow the family to a bit beyond replacement level vs. tuition. Most comments that came in were from Bergen County residents who are definitely feeling stretched to their limits and I think the subject veered a bit off topic. I'm going to attempt to share some personal thoughts on the subject of growing a small family just a tab bit, although I realize that I am going to open myself up to plenty of criticism.

Honestly Frum has picked up where the discussion on my blog left off and I've just been sitting back and watching the show. The anger is present and I have no idea how that anger will be translated (or not), but I do hope that it is translated into productive solutions because the feelings are quite destructive in my opinion. For some ideas that have already been declared "impossible", please check out the post on the Flordia co-op school which will be expanding to serve lower elementary school students, the Los Angeles alternative Yeshiva program, Hybrid Schools, and homeschooling. These ideas might not be at all possible for everyone. But individual decisions are where those who want to relieve themselves of a massive burden need to start. I see no signs of major change coming this way for the year 2010/11. I have heard through the grapevine that the schools where I am are planning to raise tuition. If this is true, and I imagine it is because the funding structure ingrained and is what it is, then parents can either write a check or explore other options. If most parents re-register their children in the coming months, the schools will lack the incentive to be the innovators.

Back to my subject. . . .

Reading the comments has been revealing and has helped me clarify some of my own thoughts vis a vis my relationship to private schooling. While having the option of sending our already small family to day school is an option that I wish were sustainable over the long haul, I don't believe it is sustainable in the long term. In the short term, I have every intention of making it happen because we are quite pleased with our school, but I have been tracking tuitions in the main games in town and tuition has consistently increased been increased between 5 and 7% every year. Every year I say that there is no way that tuition will increase at the established average, and every year I am sadly proven wrong. Tuition is increased, and my estimate is within a hundred dollars give of take. I have no doubt that in the next 5 years, elementary tuition will be hovering around $20K and that high school tuition will near the $30K mark. Unless the current funding structure is completely overturned and other major changes implemented, I don't see a way to turn back the clock.

So long as it is a nearly foregone conclusion in my mind that I am going to have to seek alternatives to day school education, I don't see it wise to worship at that altar, basing nearly all of our decisions around something that is likely unobtainable in the long term. While some families might be willing to forgo bringing child #2, 3, or 4 into this world because of Yeshiva tuition, I am not going to choose that path. I will never have a super-sized family for a myriad of reasons, but I believe that halacha does not leave family planning decisions completely at our discretion. And, quite frankly, I love being a mother, it is the most fulfilling job I have ever had, it makes us better people, it gives us great purpose, and it enhances our marriage and our spiritual life. If I were to perform a risk analysis, I think I'd rather have that next child and figure out how to best give our kids a Jewish education outside of the system, then to curtail growing our family only to find out that, in the end, day school/yeshiva is still out of reach and we sacrificed our family for something we couldn't have anyway.

Some will say that young families should do everything possible to achieve a day school education. Some will say that they should exhaust their savings and then go into debt. Let's face it, most young people already are maxxed out, so schools are simply going to have to deal with this factor as it hits them harder than ever. This generation is carrying a lot of debt (much in the form of student loan debt) and are paying twice for tuition. I have no intention of draining savings or taking on debt. If that makes me a bad person, so be it. I refuse to live beyond our means. It sets a terrible precedent (if this precedent wasn't set, perhaps we wouldn't even be having tuition discussions today). Compounding interest either works for or against you. Exhausting savings is the quick way to disaster. Going into debt is a bad idea for anyone in the management or financial fields. Living on the edge, quite frankly, endangers integrity.

Others will say that young people should turn to their parents for money. Asking our parents for money isn't an option, even if they surprise us by forking over their checkbooks. It isn't just a matter of being "too proud." Quite frankly, I'm not sure that they have enough for their needs. We need to be prepared for this possibility, not spend all of our money and then some of theirs. If, after 120, we find there is something left over, that is great.

Others will say to ask for a scholarship. While I do believe the scholarship committees do take great precaution with sensitive information, I think it a bad practice to put financial data out there. I am not the bargaining type. I'm not the threatening type. If the price on the free market is reasonable for our family, we will pay up. We have done our hishtadlut to get ahead and if the price is still out of reach, I don't see myself throwing a "tea party" in the school parking lot.

We happily forgo the cell phone, eat rice and beans, shop in a very cost effective way, shop in thrift stores, drive paid for used cars, and don't take vacations for which we can't bunk up at a relative's home. We had a reasonably priced wedding (could have been lower), haven't taken on student debt, and don't send our kids to camp. I work at strange hours and don't pay for daycare or camp. I've organized co-operatives for babysitting, etc. If these "sacrifices" don't pay for day school, then so be it. If day school was priced like the many Christian and Catholic schools available, we would figure it out. But it isn't.

There is always plenty of room to criticize. Some might say that if I hadn't left my job to freelance from home so I could raise my children, I could be a manager and with tens of thousands left over to pay for tuition. Some might say that if my husband would take an even higher paying job (more hours, more risk) that paying for day school for a small family wouldn't be a problem. Some might say that if we stayed in a 2-bedroom apartment that we would be able to meet these massive tuition hikes. Some might say that if we picked up and moved to a less expensive area that we would be perfectly fine. But the job is here and I tend to deal with what is, rather than what if.

And perhaps they are right! But I'm not going to make apologies for the decisions we have made, nor am I going to apologize if Hashem blesses us with one more child. We made our decisions based on what we believe is best for our family and for our children. We have lived frugally. We are paying full tuition for the time being. And we have given tzedakah (in the past) to the schools in our area. If steady, well paying jobs, living below our means, and a frugal lifestyle doesn't leave many tens of thousands of dollars left over for day school tuition, then I believe we will simply seek alternatives.

I don't see any good purpose is making day school the be all and end all of our existence. I don't want to become a bitter person, mad at those who have made less than "optimal" decisions. I don't want to harbor anger at the very people I charge to educate my children. I'm willing to continue to seek more opportunities to increase the cash available for tuition, but I'm not willing to take a risk to family life for the sake of tuition that we might never be able to pay anyways in 5-10 years, another child or not.

Yes, I prefer to go quietly in the night. There are plenty of things that could be explored and I believe I will play a roll in exploring some of those possibilities. But, what I see from "establishment" is a 10 foot list of reasons why everything is impossible and I know that any alternatives will have to come from the grassroots (who will likely eat the blame in the end anyways).

Fire away! (Wow, the post sounds a bit more bitter than I would like it too. That wasn't intentional because as I make peace with the situation we will face, I am releasing a lot of animosity I might have had pent up inside).


rachel q said...

kol hakavod!!!

Avi Greengart said...

My wife and I were discussing alternatives the other night. We were comforted by this simple fact: thanks to frugality, high incomes, and hashgacha, we are in better financial shape than many of our peers. (We're not rich, we're just not weighed down by horrible debt or a house/lifestyle that we cannot afford.) So when the time comes when we can no longer afford day school and start sending our kids to public schools, there will already be a chevra of other frum kids there and after-school Torah programs will have already been set up to cater to them.

Anonymous said...

Well said.

JS said...

Excellent post.

I think, in the end, everyone needs to do what is best for their family. The herd mentality is not serving people well. If people are truly as angry and are hurting financially as they seem, they should look inward for solutions instead of outward. It's outrageous to put your family planning and family financial security in other people's hands who don't have your best interests at heart.

Shoshana Z. said...

So inspiring! We got off the path without ever getting on, so I can't really comment on the stresses of school and tuition. But I can tell you that our guiding principle has been that we are true to ourselves, our values, our hashkafa, and our checkbook. I never would have imagined being a home-schooling family but it was Hashem's path for us and it is a good one. Your blog is changing people's lives and we are all the better for it. Thanks SL!

Anonymous said...

This is the best post on the topic I've ever read. Probably because it describes us almost exactly.


Anonymous said...

I found your thoughts deeply touching, reflecting great personal integrity. To give up the day school ideal is a huge step, and you have stated your position with great clarity.

Lion of Zion said...

"If the price on the free market is reasonable for our family, we will pay up."

you don't feel like a sucker?

Anonymous said...

Although my strong preference is a yeshiva day school, I'm willing to consider alternatives. I was speaking to a friend who lives in South Florida, and he told me that the charter school there is approximately 20-25% orthodox. I'm beginning to wonder if that's the way to go. If you can get a critical mass in public schools you've created an environment that will reduce the peer pressures and make kids more comfortable. Also, once you have a critical mass in public school, you can much more easily organize some type of after school yeshiva curriculum for the kids.

Anonymous said...

Blogging is a great way to get like-minded people together and use it as a spur to action. But it's a negative when worrying about things that go on outside our community takes away from our day-to-day lives. I was initially fascinated, then repelled by what I read on the HF blog and this one about tuition in Bergen County. Now, it's like watching a train wreck, which doesn't do the victims or the watchers any good. I don't live in Bergen County and I don't plan to. Each community has its own unique quirks and circumstances, and I don't think it's productive to extrapolate what's going on in someone else's neighborhood to my own. My primary job is to take care of my family, financially, physically, and emotionally. To the extent I get worked up about other people's issues, it takes away from my ability to do so.

I'm not saying that we shouldn't care about other human beings who are suffering.

jdub said...

To Anonymous 3:10:

One flaw in your argument about critical mass: There are several studies that show just the opposite. When there are a handful of religious christians in a school, they do a pretty good job, as a beleaguered minority, in supporting each other (primarily with regard to avoiding premarital sex, drinking and drugs). However, once there is a critical mass, just the opposite happens. The kids start gravitating towards the non-religious kids and have sex, drink and do drugs at the same rate as the secular kids.

I also tend to doubt you will ever see a critical mass of kids going to public school. I'm in a community where costs are rising, and people always complain about the cost of school, but everyone but the truly fringe send their kids to the day schools.

Miami Al said...

I truly hope that as the squeezed middle is forced out that a reasonable and practical form of Jewish education would exist... one more in line with the Catholic schools.

There are definitely premium Catholic schools, the "Independent Catholic Schools" have tuition similar in amount to the secular Prep Schools, giving wealthy Catholics an options, and there should be premium Jewish schools.

There are subsidized Catholic schools for the poor in inner cities, and poor Jewish communities have Yeshivot that match their poor status.

It is unfortunate that there appears to be a lack of the equivalent of the diocese suburban Catholic schools, that have tuition in the $6k - $9k range that are affordable to families willing to make sacrifices.

4 kids @ $7k/tuition is $28k/year, a family that lives on one income and has a second to cover tuition can make that happen.

I also think it is problematic that most of the Jewish Day Schools are priced like Prep Schools, but are NOT competitive with the Prep Schools, which is why non-Orthodox families that pay for Jewish education almost exclusively do so for K-8, and not for the years where Day School gets REALLY expensive and makes your child less competitive for entering college.

In NYC, you have Jewish prep schools. The rest of us have expensive mediocrity.

We'll figure out how to educate our children, it's really sad that Jewish schools will play no role in it for our family.

Ariella's blog said...

You have realistic expectations and don't rely on others to pay your way. That is a good model for your children, no matter what educational option you choose.

Aspiring Father said...

Right on SL!

What works for me will not work for you. What works for you will not work for me. But it is such a wonderful relief to see that the dam is finally beginning to burst on the shabbos fathers and shabbos families, and people are finally reckoning with the absurdity inherent in the proposition that a religion, which supposedly enshrines the family, demands that its adherents cannibalize their families in order to perpetuate it.

God bless you, God bless Miami Al, and God bless all of us who will refuse to go along with a ridiculous pyramid scheme fit only for the absurdly wealthy!

Anonymous said...

Excellent post. SL has figured out her priorities. I agree that all of the anger and frustration is not healthy.
SL: Are you in a position to share your Plan B with your readers?

Ahavah said...

Very well said - it's not bitter, it's just recognizing reality. We all may as well get used to it, because fighting the facts on the ground is a losing battle which does our children and marriages no good whatsoever. Do what you have to do, and if the schools fail, something less expensive will rise in their place. Necessity is the mother of invention, after all. When people HAVE to change their priorities, they will whether the Ravs and schools like it or not. In the meantime, it's extremely irresponsible to bankrupt your family and go without an emergency fund, etc., so just don't do it. Yes, you'll take a lot of flack for it, but so what? You have to do what is best for your family, not keep up with the goldsteins or anyone else, however well meaning. Never apologize for protecting your family's sustainability.

Orthonomics said...

you don't feel like a sucker? Not really. Our school has a low overhead model and I don't believe there are that many parents taking large discounts. I like the school and appreciate the staff. I think I'm getting my money's worth, but money is limited and I can only make choices based on what we make and the other expenses we have.

jdub-Very interesting comments. I do think that the more religious minorities in my own (public) schools had a nice chevra. Probably because they were a small group and attending morning school together daily.

Thanks Ariella and Shoshana Z-I appreciate your support and comments.

SL: Are you in a position to share your Plan B with your readers?

I don't actually have a Plan B right now. Just like I am clarifying my own ideas regarding our relationship with schools, I need to figure out what would be the best path to pursue in terms of alternatives to day school. The hybrid idea is very attractive to me. I like the homeschoolers I know (Jewish and not). I don't know if I'm cut out for that path, but I'd certainly consider that before turning to public school.

Miami Al said...

Aspiring Father, I have dinner with my family at least 6 nights a week... occasionally a business meeting comes up, but it isn't often. I have breakfast with my children every morning. Sunday is USUALLY a family day... if my wife and I are both behind and need to catch up, the kids go to their grandparents for a few hours (if it was up to the kids, they'd do that every week).

We banished errands from Sunday, I'd rather run around crazily during the week then take my day off to run errands.

The wife and I try to get away 1-2 times a month for a date night, doesn't always happen, but often enough.

Life is good, and I plan to keep it that way. It is possible, good luck.

conservative scifi said...


Wonderful post. My only addition would be to decide, in part, based upon your children as well. In my (conservative) community, there are many "mixed" families with some kids in day school and some kids in public school or other options. If you have a child who is really drawn to Jewish texts and study, perhaps that child should remain in yeshiva. If you have a different child who is drawn to math and science opportunites available in public school, that may be the best option. If you have a creative child interested in writing or art, perhaps homeschooling would be a superior option. While having children in multiple places may make life a little more complicated, when they are not in expensive day schools there is money available for other enrichment opportunities.

Good luck!

Aspiring Father said...

Miami Al- That sounds like what I'm going for. Admittedly, I also don't want to live in a Jewish community (fine with living NEAR a Jewish community, just not IN a Jewish community).

I still can't fathom why anyone would actually want to live anywhere near New York. Big cities like that have so much arrogance (and the wealthier segments of the Jewish community are some of the worst offenders) that it's just a terrible derekh eretz to bring up kids in, unless one is totally comfortable with telling the kids to ignore the prevailing derekh eretz.

I figure, why not live somewhere with values that are consistent to mine, and figure out a way to work love of God?

It's "Torah Im Derekh Eretz," NOT "Torah Im Das Deutschlander Aristokratik Derekh Eretz"! And the derekh eretz that prevails in most of America--normal America, small town America--is a derekh eretz that most folks from NY/NJ wouldn't recognize if it walked up to them and kicked them in the mezuzahs...

Miami Al said...

Well down here there are plenty of non-Frum areas with a Chabad presence, which gives you affordable housing, the required presence, and the nearby cities for resources.

Down here the Hallandale Chabad, for example, is near some apartments, relatively affordable housing, and while not really a community, is 15 minutes from Hollywood and Aventura, both with all the resources and amenities of a real community.

Deerfield Beach Chabad is building up, which is much more "small town" but is 15 minutes from the Boca Jewish area.

The Dade County areas like that are plentiful, but NOT with the values that you are looking for. I presume that there is something similar near you.

Aspiring Father said...

Yup. Town that I'm from is adjacent to a very heavily Jewish town (possibly the smallest town in America, other than Postville, with a mikvah). I'd be perfectly fine living in my town but using the resources of the adjecent town. We'd have to do shabbos on our own or do the occasional "field trip" to a town with a shul, but I think if we're sufficiently committed to making it work, it can work.

The gal I would have married but for the day school thing is a perfect example of SL's "establishment"--she would spend every "education" conversation lecturing me on all the reasons why anything other than day school CAN'T work.

My response is very simple: Okay, so are you telling me that I should marry out?

As you can imagine, I've had my share of rabbis try to tell me that I can't be observant without living in Arroganceville, USA, where every girl gets a BMW on her 16th birthday and every boy has decided on the specialization of his medical practice by the time he enters high school.

I've long said that I can, if my hand is finally forced, accept that they are correct. But if I accept that they are correct, then my choice is not going to involve living in that kind of town...

Then, of course, they tell me that I must not be very serious about Judaism if I would leave it over something that they consider so trivial.

I've a good mind to tell them that I would raise kids with humility in that sort of a town about as soon as I would raise kids with modesty in the middle of a brothel.

For a bunch of kiruv rabbis who are very confident in their ability to "mekarev" anyone they get their hands on, they sure seem to get frustrated when they sit down to talk with me... :-)

rosie said...

Most Jews live in walking distance of a shul because there are times unfortunately where a minyon is necessary to say kaddish and on yomtov, yiskor. If children don't go to a Jewish school, then at least if they are taken to a shul on Shabbos, that can be part of their Jewish education. I can understand why frum women turn down the idea. There are lots of out-of-town communities that are heimish and cheap to live in. There are Chabad houses in places like Kentucky.

Aspiring Father said...


Unfortunately, to the extent that there are Chabad houses in places like Kentucky, they are invariably in the wealthy parts of Kentucky. Similarly, the Chabad of Alabama is in the wealthy part of Birmingham.

Again, I don't mind living one town away from a Jewish town. That's enough for minyanim during the week. If a gal needs more than that, then we're not compatible.

I'm not in the kiruv business. I'm not out to convert the rest of the Jews in the world to my derekh eretz. And I'm not looking for a gal who would "settle" for this. I'm looking for one (who probably comes from a normal American town, and who probably hates big cities) who wants this from the get-go.

Again, if a Jewish family living ten minutes away from a mikveh, multiple Orthodox shuls, and plenty of kosher food STILL can't make it work... then that's a problem with their drive and creativity, not with their geography.

mother in israel said...

Sephardi Lady--You don't sound bitter at all. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

A train wreck indeed. At this point, now that everybody has gotten it out of their system, I hope to bring some practical ideas and applications to light. I highlighted JFS yeasterday, I hope to have a post on YCQ as well, however going outside our community is not the option. I refuse to believe that there is no way for a dayschool to operate at a cost below $13K a year in Bergen county. I beliee that the problem comes from the fact that too many people are simply throwing their hands up in the air and giving up. If these same people would work towards a goal of fixeing our system, or putting together a WORKABLE low cost school the solution would be alot easier. Instead it has unfortuantely become a petty argument, which I am putting a stop to. The solutions will not be easy but giving up on a viable local jewish education is not a solution.

Miami Al said...

Honestly Frum, you closed comments on your blog, but the problem is you've had the structural problems listed, and you response is "we don't want it to collapse."

The defense of the scholarship discount culture that warps the market is "the marginal cost of one extra child is near zero if there is space in the class." Well, the problem there is "there is space in the class." You have too much capacity in Bergen County, each school has extra spaces that they can "give away" and they do, and the "average cost" rises and the people paying full boat pay the "average cost" + a vig to cover scholarships.

The "collapsing of the system" that we are agitating for is not all the schools going bankrupt and throwing the kids into the street. It's a competitive marketplace doing what it SHOULD there, cause some consolidation and therefore reduction of capacity.

In a free market, as the supply increases (an extra school), the number of students educated should go up and the cost should go do... and it DOES.

"Rack Rate Tuition" is NOT the cost of tuition, the "economic cost" is the dollar spent on the LAST student enrolled. The overcapacity HAS dropped the "economic cost" to zero, because the schools can give the final spots away. The problem is, you've all gotten squeezed.

People pulling their kids out will put day schools SERIOUSLY in the red... the weakest day school SHOULD collapse, you NEED 1-2 schools to collapse.

You have 5-6 administrators at an average budgetary cost of $150k w/fringe and support staff per school. You have $4.5 MILLION being spend on administrators for a "school system" of 3500 students.

To get meaningful changes, the economics need to shift.

Community Wide Funding NNJ Kids is a good start.
Failing schools collapsing is a NECESSARY component.
Shifting to a goal of educating as many Jewish youths as CAN BE DONE for a given budget would help DRAMATICALLY.
You could probably educate 95% as many students on 80% of the costs by righting off the last 5% that can contribute ZERO and suck down resources by consolidating to 4 schools from 5.

I have proposed MEANINGFUL suggestions and get called a backseat driver, that's freaking rude.

However, I question if a Judaism that involves failing families, absentee fathers, hiding money from the government and the schools, lack of preparing for the future (retirement savings), and NOT contributing Tzedakah to the actually poor because it all goes into the community's upper middle class day school is a set of behaviors that DESERVES to be called Orthodox.

I think that as the alter to universal day school has become plated in gold we've STOPPED being observant Jews in the names of our children being taught HOW they would be observant Jews if observant Judaism was possible with kids.

Aspiring Father said...

Honestly Frum:

Miami Al is one of the few commentators on here who is actually blazing a trail by going a route other than day school. (Tesyaa is another.)

If folks like Al are able to turn out observant kids who are appreciative of real, legit Judaism, then it doesn't matter that they didn't use the mechanism for doing so that has been the conventional tool for the last 50-75 years.

This panic over "SAVE THE DAYSCHOOLS!!!1one" is putting the cart before the horse. The day school cult is worshiping a method and not a result.

If the result of day school education is a shabbos father or a family living in artificially-induced poverty (no family with a median income of $100,000 is naturally "poor;" the only way for them to become so is for them to artificially cripple their finances), then many of us will get the other preferred result (observant kids who appreciate Torah) elsewhere.

tovarena said...

jdub said...
I also tend to doubt you will ever see a critical mass of kids going to public school. I'm in a community where costs are rising, and people always complain about the cost of school, but everyone but the truly fringe send their kids to the day schools.

Define fringe. Living in South Florida, I can tell you that many of the families attending the charter school are not "fringe" but rather come from the "fine, upstanding" families in the community. Ones who everyone still says, "They send their kids to public school??" But they're simply people fed up with the current system of, as Miami Al put it, expensive mediocrity.

Our kids are too young yet, but Ben Gamla is high on our list of possibilities if we're still here in a couple of years.

Leah Goodman said...

In response to the original post, SL, think very very carefully about this. Highschool is when kids start thinking about dating. Highschool is when peers become more important than parents.

you may do better holding your tuition dollars back at this point and putting your kids in public school now so that you'll have money for Yeshiva high school.

Think it over carefully.

Miami Al said...

And several families that were Bais Yaakov/Toras Emes families that couldn't fit the bill after job loss/divorce, and we're from a prominent Brooklyn family that is allowed to send for free, are enrolled in Hollywood Hills High School and North Miami Beach High School.

Drive by one of the public, non-charter, high schools in the Frum areas, I routinely see a few girls walking home or waiting for a ride in long sleeve shirts and skirts (which is quite an anomaly in South Florida, even at Jewish Schools), and guys with Kippot and Tzitzit on...

South Florida is moving to a post-Day School era, I bet we survive.

Orthonomics said...

LeahGG-who said my alternative has to involve public school? We have kollelim. We have plenty of rabbonim. And I'm not the only one who knows this isn't sustainable. I am confident that when push comes to shove, there will be opportunities to organize low cost programs.

Chaim said...


Don't be such a tool. Turn back on the comments in your blog. I can't believe you sold-out to the status quo. I honestly believe that your kid's school threatened you to shut it down. Everyone in freakin Bergen County is finally talking about the tuition crisis. I can confirm that boards of the legacy schools are starting to get really scared about JFS. Don't stop now. Keep the heat up on them. (I'll even click on extra ads if you open the comments back up :)

Mark said...

Miami Al,

You and Michael Savage are about the only two people I know that make sense anymore in this screwed-up world.

Aspiring Father said...

I vote Miami Al for Chief Rabbi of America.

Anonymous said...

Comment section is open again.


Anonymous said...

How did families raise jewish children for the millenia before the day school and yeshiva system? For thousands of years, girls got no formal jewish education and boys got a little bit -- if they were lucky. What is it about the 1900s and 2000s that we believe we can't keep kids jewish without 30 hours a week of formal jewish education.

Tuition Talk said...

Great post. The more hours I put into investigating this issue, the more my thinking is in line with yours. If everyone does what is best for his/her family, maybe the system will right itself. Even if it doesn't though, at least you've taken care of your own.

Yael said...

Aspiring Dad, if you want to talk to a family who is living the life (more or less) you want to live and its real life pluses and minuses, email SL and she can give you my email address.

Yael A.

Anonymous said...

Chaim, I opened up the comments again. It had nothing to do with preasure from anyone, I needed time to regroup and stop the "train wreck". I am going to hold you to your word of clicking on my ads.

Anonymous said...

What percentage of Jewish children from shomer Shabbos and kosher homes educated in public school with after-school Talmud Torah, remain shomer Shabbos and kosher when they grow up?

I don't know the answer. I will just share what I have heard over the years and that is, before yeshivos and frum girls' schools proliferated, the percentage of kids who attended public school and Talmud Torah and remained frum was small. As for kids from marginally religious homes who were sent to Talmud Torah to provide them with a Jewish education, not only have a very large number not become frum, but a large number of them were turned off from Judaism. Most kids do not appreciate, make that - most kids resent extra schooling after school, when their friends are out playing. If their TT teachers weren't terrific, then forget it, those kids are usually lost to assimilation.

So when parents are considering alternatives to fulltime yeshivos and frum girls' schools for their children, what are the choices that will provide the results we want?

Until recently, Lubavitcher emissaries in the boondocks homeschooled their children or hired young single Lubavitcher girls or boys to live with them and teach their children until the children became old enough to send away to a "real" school. If they could, the children boarded with their grandparents or other close family members. If not so fortunate, they boarded by others and eventually dormed. Parents cried as they sent eight year olds off to yeshiva. They did it because even if the parents were able to teach their own children, they felt at some point that in order to thrive and learn properly, their children needed frum peers and a frum environment as much as they needed the actual course work.

A recent innovation is the Children of Shluchim Online school. Here's a news item about it:

130 girls and mothers attended the Yaldei HaShluchim Online School program during the Shluchos Convention, celebrating the success of their children and the school. The boys celebrated with a similar program during the Men’s Shluchim Convention in Cheshvan.

For the first time classmates who have never met each other in person sat together with their teachers. There were a lot of hugs and excitement exchanged as the students came in and took their seats. Mothers were also thrilled to talk to their daughter’s teacher in person. They enjoyed delicious food and listened to special guest speakers. Students received certificates during the awards ceremony and later, participated in actual classes.

Everyone had a lot to celebrate. For over 50 years most children of Lubavitcher outreach emissaries had no real cheder education. Shluchim were forced to home school their children or send them away at a very young age to ensure they would receive a proper Jewish education.

The Shluchim Office solved this problem using cutting edge internet-based technology. A few computers, web cams, microphones and World Wide Web connections, and presto! You’ve got a fully functioning online school— a trailblazing, hi-tech initiative said to be the first of its kind in the Jewish world.

“The only bad thing … is the phone lines are always busy because I am talking to my friends that I have made at school!” Brochie Matusof, a fifth-grader from Calgary, Canada told the audience. She said her other classmates agree with her sentiments and are all thrilled to have this school… they never had so many friends with other Lubavitcher girls and are learning so much in their classes!

Currently, there are over 150 students ages 5-12 and thirty-two classes which include a wide array of subjects including Chumash, Parsha, Sichos, Navi, Yehadus and Halacha to name a few.

Perhaps this is a realistic option to explore even for those who are not on shlichus though with today's working mother out of the house, it won't work for many people.

Leah Goodman said...

Because of my father's job, my siblings and I were all in public school for elementary and junior high school. My parents taught us to read Hebrew, taught us basic humash and nach, for my siblings, they started mishnayos, I think. I was more... learning-resistant (and I came along 6 years after the one before me).

We all went to yeshiva high school. Every one of us is Shomer Shabbat/ kashrut. How religious we are beyond that differs, not just in intensity, but in direction.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:02 -- I think the anecdotal evidence that children who didn't go to day schools don't remain frum needs to be studied more closely. One had to consider who taught those after school programs, the curriculum and how they were run, as well as what was or was not being reinforced at home and other information about the home life before concluding that it can't be done successfully.
There are a lot of improvements in after school programs and teaching methods that could make a big difference. We also need to consider that many children raised in orthodos homes and sent to orthodox schools from the early 1900's to the 1980s also chose another path as adults.

Miami Al said...

1. We KNOW that Day School graduates are less likely to assimilate and intermarry.
2. We KNOW that after school Hebrew School kids are MORE likely to assimilate and intermarry than children with ZERO religious education.
3. We KNOW that Conservative Kids intermarry less than Reform Kids, and Orthodox Kids intermarry much less than Conservative Kids, but Orthodox HEAVILY correlates with Day School, so we do NOT know how much of the improvement is from Day School, and how much a more rightward ideology in the home provides.

However, economics is the study of satisfying unlimited wants with limited resources.

Right now, to provide Day School for all, the following events occur:
1. Serious Shalom Bayit issue (R. Moshe Feinstein's observation that a generation that said "It's Hard to be a Yid" produced a generation that assimilated is being REPEATED in the Orthodox world with "It's Hard to be Frum."
2. Families are practicing Birth Control, producing fewer young Orthodox Jews than they would like to bring into the world.
3. Some families are engaging in abortion because of cost concerns, it's linked to on this site, but we don't know the numbers.
4. We know that Day School financial crisis is causing Rabbeim to discourage giving Tzedakah outside the communities in quantities that it has before.
5. We know that we have an obligation to help the poor and needy, and we may not be doing so as much as we would like because of financial pressures.

We know that Day School has HISTORICALLY improved retention, and while past performance is no guarantee of the future, it is likely that it still does.

We know that rightward ideology has improved retention, though the magnitude between Conservative and Orthodox has not been well measured.

Here is a question for everyone: is it better for a hypothetical Modern Orthodox family to have 3 children and send them to Day School, or 5 children and utilize some alternative educational model.

That is a choice made EVERY day in the REAL world, and that is a REAL trade off.

There is a Mitzvah to give children a Jewish education, there is a mitzvah to have children, and there is a real world retention problem with Talmud Torah.

How we reconcile those conflicts will determine the future of the Orthodox world.

I am concerned that the wealth destruction that is going on right now with high cost Yeshivot and Kollelim that aren't funded will take a decade to recover from each year we stall, but that is a separate problem.

Dave said...

Multi-generational wealth destruction doesn't come back quickly -- and may not come back at all.

Lion of Zion said...


"you don't feel like a sucker? Not really."

you're a better person than i am.


that's quite a comment from someone who is afraid to sign his full name.


"Highschool is when kids start thinking about dating."

this would be my biggest obstacle to sending my kids to public high school (though that's not for quite a few years)

Anonymous said...

We have done most everything outside the box. Having taught in public schools, I would never consider this option for myriad reasons.

We live in an outlying Chabad community. We're the only frum family besides the shluchim. Our house is close to being paid for, cars are older but paid for, I have a huge garden where I grow lots of my food. We may even get chickens:)

We are not mainline Chabad but lean chassidish. I used the Online School for Young schluchim for my son in 7th grade. It is a very strong program, which my son found more difficult than actual yeshiva. I endorse it. My son had been hschooled his whole life until then. 8th grade he attended the yeshiva 20 minutes away in the larger frum community. We carpooled with the shluchim.

My daughter (10 at the time) disliked the change to yeshiva and opted to quit school after 4 mos. and continue hschooling. We continue this in 6th grade.

My son went to board this year (9th) at a yeshivish (in-town) yeshiva where tuition is close to $20K when it's all said and done. I agree that if funds are tight (like for us) you'd be wise to spend the money on mesivta or seminary. We pay an additional $250. mo. for tutors for him at yeshiva as he's still "catching up."

We're holding off as long as possible (I'm thinking 8th grade) to return daughter to yeshiva for a smooth transition to Bais Yaakov. She is tutored by a yeshivah teacher whom she had when she attended the school once a week. For my $40. week, my daughter is on track with the class and the teacher needs the money for her large family as well. This teacher includes my daughter in all the school functions and the whole class is invited to her bas mitzvah in 2 mos.. My daughter joined a hschool quilting club and the girls are as sweet and "frum" as yeshiva girls, although they are Xtian. I like her to meet different types with similiar values. She is sewing, cooking, gardening, and learning to can food along with her lemudei kodesh and chol studies. I'm constantly amazed at how Hashem provides what we need when we need it.

While I only have two children left at home, I can see how even my solution would not be affordable for a very large family. However, I refuse to go into debt at all. I refuse to live with no emergency fund. I would also refuse to limit my family size due to tuition. The world needs more Yiddishe kinderlach! If Hashem wants my kids to go to yeshivot, He will provide the means. Period!

Anonymous said...

Re after school Judaic programs - when some day schools, for practical reasons, wanted to have some classes study Jewish subjects in the morning and secular studies in the afternoon while other classes did the reverse (this gave teachers a full day of work instead of a half day), and they posed this as a question to rabbis, in many cases they were told absolutely not to do this. All children need to learn Jewish subjects first, when their minds are fresh, and learning it first demonstrates the importance of Jewish subjects.

With after school programs you also have kids putting Jewish studies on a par with other extra-curricular activities such as ballet, soccer and piano. Is that a way to raise a committed Jewish child that Jewish subjects are extras and not our priority?

rosie said...

Regarding Chabad of Kentucky; it is not in a wealthy neighborhood. There is some very cheap housing within a half hour walk and some apartments within a 10 minute walk.
Regarding the Chabad shluchim online school, it is $5000 per child. The parent must supervise, and there must be a computer available for each child in the house that uses the program. There may be a tuition break if there are several kids but they don't want to compete with day schools. They are not looking to be an alternative for families who have a day school option. The kids who use the program go on to yeshiva when they are of age.

Offwinger said...

I applaud this post. It is practical and realistic, not bitter.

Aspiring Father,

There is so much where you and I agree - about materialism, values, and problems in the 'big city.'

That said, I feel like you've decided that there is ONE specific place that you want to live, and that anyone who comes up with an alternative is "not getting it." There are places with shabbat minyanim (though not necessarily weekday ones) that meet the criteria you're speaking about. Maybe you know that the obligation to say kaddish will never happen in your future, but what if your future wife wants to say kaddish with a minyan once a day in the future?

I also think it's going to take creativity for you to figure out how to make Shabbat not a burden for your kids. This is something I grapple with all the time. Once your kids are old enough to want to spend the hours playing with their friends and not the whole time with the family, will they have friends they can walk to (or who can come to them) to see on Shabbat? Will it also be Shabbat for those friends?

Last, I want to caution you against what I think is unintentional snobbishness and anti-elitism on your end. Funny how SL was worried about being bitter, when your comments are far more bitter about the frum women you've been meeting and how other Jews choose to live.

You are coming off as a major snob, generalizing about what other Jews in other communities are like - comments about 16 year olds getting cars and everyone being materialistic, etc. You KNOW this is hyperbole. Beyond that, I hope you realize that there are different communities in large metro areas and different PEOPLE living in these communities. When I moved closer to the "big city" after living OOT for job reasons, it was important to me to avoid the same values and materialism you are concerned about. I was genuinely surprised, though, at the degree of difference in communities. In addition, I was saddened at the fact that even in the 'less' pricey areas, there still seemed to be a great amount of attention to "stuff" (e.g., cars, home remodeling, etc.). Yet, somehow, I managed to find a place that is regarded by others as OOT (even though it functionally isn't) where we seem to have a cluster of friends with down-to-earth values who all LIKE that aspect of where we are!

Anyway, bottom line: if your goal is to live a life of modesty and humility, and I do believe you are 100% sincere in that, I think those ethics include not judging others whose circumstances you may not know about.

Anonymous said...

"what if your future wife wants to say kaddish with a minyan once a day in the future"

The traditional halachic norm exempts women from any formal prayer in shul with a minyan. Are you Orthodox?

Rosie: What is the justification for $5000 per child (per year I assume) for online schooling? How much money do they get in tuition and what is it used for, do you know?

rosie said...

The online school is just like a regular classroom with a teacher for each small group of kids. The teacher conduct it just like a regular class and the kids answer questions that the teacher asks. They also send in homework and the teacher must grade tests. It is very interactive. They also have get togethers where children travel to meet other onliners. It is similar to an online college course that meets at a specific time and takes in a specific number of students.

Orthonomics said...

$5K + travel doesn't seem like a bargain to me, but if others see the value it seems like an alternative.

I have yet to jump on the virtual learning wagon.

Orthonomics said...

Sadly $5K + travel is still about 1/2 price for one kid. I guess I'm just surprised that $5K is the pricetag when there are full tuition Christian schools charging that type of price.

Offwinger said...

Anon @ 5:07PM,

Rav Yosef Eliyahu Henkin & Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik both permitted women to say kaddish.

Rav Moshe Feinstein also accepted the possibility of women saying kaddish as being no problem.

Note that I said that the woman might *want* to say kaddish. I didn't say she was obligated.

There are Orthodox rabbis who recognize the permissibility of women saying kaddish and there are some who even encourage it, if the situation warrants.

So that's a long winded-way of saying: Yes, I am Orthodox and presuming that Aspiring Father is Orthodox.

rosie said...

SL, if there were more groups getting involved in the online yeshiva movement, the price might go down. This Lubavitch program is not for the general public although they have agreed to educate kids who can't attend day school for whatever reason. I know some kids who live near day schools but have learning issues and discipline problems so the families have worked out a deal with the online school. That is not the purpose of the program though. It was made for the children of Chabad shluchim and the program is for general ed students. Chabad is known primarily for outreach but so far as I know, really does not have an outreach type of online school for non-religious or newly religious kids, special ed or Russian immigrants.
Maybe someone should approach Torah Umesorah or some other umbrella organization to make more online schools. They might be somewhat cheaper but they won't be free. (Unless someone gives a big donation to make it happen.
One idea might be a co-op type of online school with each family taking responsibility for one grade level. Online schools might be good for many situations if more people develop them.

rosie said...

while most Orthodox women do not say kaddish, they do say yizkor in shul with a sefer Torah present.
What bothers me more about aspiring dad's idea is that pirkei avos warns against separating ones self from the community.
How is a kid supposed to grow up frum if he is rarely taken to shul? Of course aspiring Dad is planning to take them during the week but going to shul is part of Shabbos for most frum Jews and a large number of non-frum Jews.
Part of Jewish life is communal life, not just family life.

Miami Al said...

Rosie, right, OTOH, what aspiring dads forget (myself included, I didn't realize at the time) is that the timeframe from aspiring father to father of a 5 year old is both short and long...

It goes by fast, but it's at LEAST 5 years, 9 months from "I do" -> "Kindergarten".

The first 5-7 years of marriage/family time, he could live in his affordable town near a community. 5-7 years in your 20s and 30s is a LONG time to get your finances in order.

Assuming costs are as low as he thinks, and at the age where his need for Jewish community is minimal, 7 years of maxing out an IRA in both names, mortgage payments (buy your starter home on a 15 year note, accelerate payments, have it mostly paid off after 7 years), and then move into a modest Jewish community FAR FROM NYC at that point, and he can no doubt provide his family with a a comfortable and responsible life at a fraction of the income we're all slogging away to make.

Lion of Zion said...

"when some day schools, for practical reasons, wanted to have some classes study Jewish subjects in the morning and secular studies in the afternoon . . . and they posed this as a question to rabbis, in many cases they were told absolutely not to do this. All children need to learn Jewish subjects first, when their minds are fresh, and learning it first demonstrates the importance of Jewish subjects."

great. so when the system collapses then they certainly won't learn jewish studies in the afternoon, but they won't learn it the morning either. (btw, the high school i went to did have jewish and secular classes staggered through the day.)

"With after school programs you also have kids putting Jewish studies on a par with other extra-curricular activities such as ballet, soccer and piano."

in certain areas of mass jewish settlement there are ways to organize charter schools (and in some cases even plain public schools) where this wouldn't be a problem.

just curious, what's your panacea?

Orthonomics said...

Re: being "fresh" in the morning. I have seen some observational studies that state that kids are actually more alert mid-day. I think I was one of those kids, hard to get going in the morning, read to function by 3rd period.

Anonymous said...

SL, from what I am gathering from reading you and Al and others is you believe that there is no solution to the day school tuition issue and we should simply adapt and send our kids to public school where necessary. I cannot buy nor stomach this answer. I think that there are solutions out there and we must do everything we can to insure our kids have a frum education. To me my kids education is far more important than putting an extra 15K away for retirement. If you can prove to me that my child will have the same level of observance if I send him to a charter school as if I send him to a Yeshiva day school I'll get behind it but until such a time I cannot bring myself to give my children anything less than a Jewish education in a Jewish environment. Perhaps Co-Op and low cost school models work but public school should never be a substitution for yeshiva. At the same time that we have an organization like nechomas yisrael taking kids out of public school and putting them into yeshiva we have people in our communities complaining that yeshiva is too much for them so they are sending their kids to public school. Are we not all willing to make any sacrifice, financial or otherwise, to insure our kids get a proper yeshiva education? Your kids might turn out just fine from public school, but there is a much higher chance or assimilation in public school. Is this a risk you are willing to take? I sure am not and will spend every last penny I have to do what I can to make sure my kids are raised in a proper Jewish environment.

Offwinger said...

Honestly Frum,

1) The data won't exist to prove it to you until enough people are willing try to create a sample size large enough to reach meaningful conclusions.

2) The truth is, even the data on the effects of the yeshivah/day school education is limited. People often overstate what's actually been proven, because in casual conversation, people don't account for other more powerful factors (e.g., home life). The data isn't really there to show everything you think it does about how great yeshivah/day school is. Yet you don't say, "I won't spend $15,000 until they show me..."

3) "Retiement" is not optional. It's not a vacation or a trip to Israel. Retirement planning means having income when you are either unable or no longer interesting in working. $ saved now provide housing, food and other necessities. If you are honest about what retirement IS and MEANS, then I think you would see how it is not a luxury.

4) You say everything must be done to provide a frum education and that you can not stomach public school. But you seem unwilling to accept the accounts of some people who WENT to public school and are frum or parents currently sending their children to public school about that experience. Beyond that, you acknowledge that there are low cost options (e.g., co-ops), so talking about public school as a risk to validate the need for the current system makes even less sense. When you plan to spend every last penny, why don't you take these NON-PUBLIC SCHOOL options more seriously?

Shoshana Z. said...

There is a fabulous on-line school for children who are not from shluchim families. Check out http://room613.net. You won't be disappointed.

Dave said...

Wanting something to be true doesn't make it true.

Needing something to be true doesn't make it true.

No matter how hard you hope, that doesn't mean things will work out that way.

In short, you cannot assume that "there is a way" because you need for there to be a way to get everything you want.

And telling people you aren't going to listen to them because they aren't telling you things you want to here is not a good way to get information.

Finally, being in the middle of a risky experiment (which, frankly, is what the current Orthodox lifestyle is -- it's an experiment that really started in the last 40 years) makes declaring that you won't risk adverse results for your children somewhat suspect.

Anonymous said...

If HF wants to make those choices for her family, that's fine. I respect that. I also respect other choices, including Miami Al's and Aspiring Dad's. Some people can work 60 hours/week to be able to pay tuition and deal with the stress of not having a safety cushion and retirement savings. Other people are not cut out to work those hours and rarely see their kids and would be highly stressed by the financial pressures. No matter how hard they tried, it would be hard to have a happy, healthy home for those families. My point is, one size does not fit all. Some parents can home schools, some would be horrible at it. Some kids will thrive in public school, some won't. There needs to be a host of options and respect and support for people who make different choices than you would make. The only choice I don't respect is to make decisions that affect others (i.e. people where both parents are physically able to work but don't and as a result take scholarship money).

Lion of Zion said...


"To me my kids education is far more important than putting an extra 15K away for retirement."

uh, that's 15k per child per year. and tuition only goes up. when you get to high school you're in the 20k+ range in today's numbers.

"If you can prove to me that my child will have the same level of observance if I send him to a charter school as if I send him to a Yeshiva day school"

prove that he'll have a lower level of observance. you really think that if you send a kid to public school for pre-school or early e.s. he's going off the derech? you have that little faith in your own home life? come on. 14k for arts and crafts judaism in pre-school is nuts!

"Are we not all willing to make any sacrifice, financial or otherwise, to insure our kids get a proper yeshiva education?"

funny. when i first started blogging i made a comment like that. i guess i'm more jaded now.

"Your kids might turn out just fine from public school, but there is a much higher chance or assimilation in public school."

prove it.
again, you can save 100s of you wait just a few years to enroll your kids in yeshivah.

Aspiring Father said...


You noted that, taken in isolation, my comments could be construed as being overbroad generalities. Please allow me to clarify:

I know plenty of observant folks (all along the gamut of observance) who have values similar to mine. By no means would I paint the entire American Jewish "community" (I put that word in quotation marks because it is not a community in the sense that I would use the term "community" and in the sense of the American town-community that I grew up in) with a single broad brush.

What I'm talking about are general trends, because I refuse to take a small population in isolation from the town in which it lives. I grew up in a town where the general trend was a derekh eretz that was consistent with the values that my folks gave me. The (public, small town) school that I went to reflected the values that my dad gave me at home, and those values are the same values that I have today. Were there a handful of kids who were conspicuously arrogant little snots? Absolutely. Did they stand out as the EXCEPTION, rather than being the RULE? You betcha. And THAT'S the point.

Unlike a fair few BTs, I didn't get into Torah as a means of finding a new value set. Torah is consistent with the values that I was raised with. The values that I was raised with are consistent with Torah.

I didn't get into Torah as a means of finding my "community." I have a community--a real American-town community--and that community suits me just fine, thank you very much.

To the extent that a gal would need to be able to walk to shul every shabbos, I'm not for her. I recognize that most Orthodox gals would fall into that category. I'm not in the kiruv business. I'm not asking them to change their ways. They're just not for me. It's as simple as that.

The fact that I'm Jewish is not going to dissuade me from being honest with myself about the values that predominantly-Jewish towns tend to foster. I'm not talking about the Congregation B'nai Humility shul. I'm not talking about "me and my 20 friends who have similar values but happen to live in a place where people think that it's normal to buy Lexuses for teenagers."

I'm talking about the derekh eretz. The way of the land. Not the way of the tiny enclave.

continued on next post

Aspiring Father said...

continued from previous post

Imagine, if you will, that a group of very pious nuns bought an apartment on the uppermost floor of the largest brothel in Nevada. That's the proposition here. "Find a shul that has your values and ignore the fact that the surrounding culture runs counter to one after another of your most fundamental values." No thank you.

There are non-Jewish towns that trend toward arrogance, I'll admit that in a heartbeat. And I will stay away from them with equal vigor.

But I categorically refuse to raise my children in a place where the predominant trend--regardless of what my most dear friends might happen to adhere to--is an arrogance that induces revulsion in my deepest values.

I will not raise children in a town where academic/Ivy League/profession/lawyer/doctor/engineer attainment is prized. I will not raise children in a town where people pity a janitor because he "didn't amount to anything more."

Now, there are plenty of rabbis who would say "hey, it's nice to have those values, but those are secondary." Not for me. Not for any family that I should ever hope to have.

Miami Al said...

I'm willing to make plenty of sacrificing for my children and their education. I'm NOT willing to make sacrifices so my neighbors that won't work three jobs within their families can slack off and put the bill on me.

I'm NOT willing to sacrifice for the families I know that are about to put a child in Pre-K, and knowing that tuition is coming up, are leveraging themselves to the hilt to buy a house that they can't afford, then buying two new cars, which will of course make them unable to pay tuition when they enroll in Kindergarten a year and a half.

However, I think that they are all wise to do it... less on Yeshiva, more on them.

I am happy to contribute some of my Tzedakah money to provide the less fortunate a Jewish education. I'm NOT willing to have my children's education cut short to do so.

Our local schools are terrible... $15k is NOT going to the education, the day schools here are sub-public school, and our public schools are terrible. But to shift money around, that's what they all do.

I would support helping make Jewish education, through the Shul, free to everyone. I would support helping to build a moderately priced Modern Orthodox school built on the suburban Catholic school model... Charge full boat, not scholarships, and ask the community to contribute to cover extras, but hit a fee structure of $6500 or so.

I would be willing to pay top dollar for my children to get a top dollar education. However, that stratification, that exists ELSEWHERE in the education market (secular and religious) doesn't exist in Frumland, so away I go.

Do I think that Hebrew Charter + Talmud Torah is "ideal?" Nope, and the programs down here aren't amazing. However, with that option existing, I have zero qualms about eliminating scholarship, because while many hate that model for irrational reasons, I feel that it is "enough." Anyone with that education has gotten whatever being born Jewish and circumcised entitles you to by right of birth.

My sympathy for those that cannot afford private school only goes as far as to acknowledge that the Jewish community destroyed those options a generation ago when Jewish education became an entitlement, and if you want to live in suburbia, you have to make enough money to cover it.

Miami Al said...

Aspiring Father, best of luck! Clearly we're from different socioeconomic worlds and therefore have different professional and educational goals, but we are 100% on the same page about values for children, responsibility, and revulsion about the "JAP" culture that has migrated into the frum community.

Awesome, if I encounter any single all American Jewish girls, I'll track down your email address and arrange a meeting... :) The few I know are all corrupted by a few years in the "Big City." :)

The biggest downside to the Frum community, people get complacent and only see each other on Shabbat. But with an effort, you can accomplish a lot.

Aspiring Father said...

One other point that Offwinger made was that I may have created the impression that I am only willing to consider one particular town. I should clarify this as well:

I'm absolutely willing to look at all sorts of geographical regions throughout the United States of America. Doesn't have to be the town that I grew up in.

What it DOES have to be is the DEREKH ERETZ that I grew up in. And that isn't a big city. That isn't a high-priced Jewish town. That isn't a high-priced doctor-lawyer-engineer NON-Jewish town, EITHER! All I'm looking for is just a plain ol' ordinary American town. I grew up in one. I know they exist. I know there's a lot of them.

Would I consider a small town outside of (not within) Spokane, Washington? Absolutely. Outside of Bangor, Maine? Absolutely. Outside of Augusta, Georgia? Sure. Not Houston, Texas (too big, too fancy, too upscale, too much arrogance), but a small town outside of another Texas city could work quite nicely.

All of the places that I just described are very close to towns/cities with Chabad locations. And the town that I come from borders a Jewish town with quite a bit more in the way of Jewish life than a mere Chabad house!

And I don't make any pretense that I myself have "arrived" at a state of genuine humility. That's the trick, of course, isn't it? If you're ever foolish enough to believe yourself humble then you can rest assured that you're the furthest thing from.

But I am on a road that I hope will lead to humility by the time I breath my last, and I don't intend to make a U-Turn merely because the road that goes in the right direction is unpaved. Where I come from, we don't mind driving on unpaved roads quite so much. :-)

Anonymous said...

Aspiring Dad: Have you considered conservative? I know some great conservative shuls in moderately priced towns with a great mix of people and good hewbrew schools and youth programs. My parents belonged to such a synagogue and their Havurah group and friends included not only the token drs., lawyers and teachers, but also prison guards, a plumber and a heating/air conditioner repair man. I also think you would have better luck finding a conservative woman interested in the life style you envision. (All of you orthodox folk may be surprised to learn that conservative shuls have daily minyans, and people who keep kosher and shabbat, as well as those that don't.) If you don't have a problem with mixed seating and women included in minyans, you may be very pleasantly surprised.

Aspiring Father said...

Miami Al:

Thank you! I agree. We're on slightly different pages of the same book. Similar chapters, even.

I would like to get in touch with you off this blog. Also, if you have a mildly attractive sister with similar values who would like to live in a small town, I would like to marry her. Ha ha ha ha...

Seriously, though: Does SL have your email address, if I were to try to get in touch through her?

Aspiring Father said...

Anon 9:48:

I'm the kind of guy who, if the wife absolutely wanted to a shul for shabbos and was less observant herself, would be willing to drive to an Orthodox shul (modern orthodox or Chabad, so long as the Chabad didn't foster that avodah zarah nonsense where they bow at portraits of MMS, etc.--fortunately, most of them seem to keep the Rebbe, Son, & Holy Ghost stuff to a minimum).

I realize that some people would say "That means you're a charlatan!" Look, if my wife could deal with the mechitzah then I could deal with the drive.

So a wife who comes from a Conservative background? I think that's a real possibility. Only problem is that USUALLY Conservative folks grew up in a Jewish community. But I realize that there are those who didn't, so I think it's a possibility if I meet the right one.

Aspiring Father said...

Anon 9:48:

But personally, my Torah take tends toward (say that three times fast) Samson Raphael Hirsch.

Miami Al said...

It's funny, I think that if you look at Shuls, the lifestyle difference between Reform and Modern Orthodox is very small, and the difference between Conservative and the more right wings of Orthodoxy aren't so dissimilar.

Modern Orthodox and Reform Shuls seem to have a lot of Gerim amongst the wives (though the Reform Shul doesn't go through the motions all the time), high incomes, private school is common, and lots of other similarities.

Conservative Congregations are generally less affluent, and particularly in areas with multiple Conservative Congregations, there is usually a more "blue collar" one.

I think that Conservative women (like my wife) grew up in a "Jewish community," but more like you want to... NEAR a thriving Orthodox community for the resources, but not IN an Orthodox community because while the individuals may be great, the communal values are trash because the tone is set by people with trashy values.

And it's not about having money... its the "white trash that came into money" attitude in the Jewish world that is appalling... The way in which the moderately wealthy Jews flaunt money... well, it's a lot closer to Hip Hop Culture than the Prep School establishment that they think they are emulating... :) A lot of bling and showing off, not a lot of family fortunes being built and enhanced... and our socialites are downright lame... I'm really hoping that bringing Ivanka Trump into the tribe will help class things up a bit in NY, but we'll see.

Offwinger said...

Aspiring Father,

Your take: I will not raise children in a town where academic/Ivy League/profession/lawyer/doctor/engineer attainment is prized. I will not raise children in a town where people pity a janitor because he "didn't amount to anything more."

My take: I will encourage my children to pursue the career path that best suits their personal interests and abilities, and that allows for the best balance for them between family/work quality of life.

For some, this means following an academic route. For some, this means a mechanically-oriented route (used to be called "vocational"). For some, this means an artistic route. For some, this means government emergency or enforcement services. Etc.

The values you espouse suggest that we ought to be valuing doctors and teachers and fire-fighters and janitors - regardless of payscale.

No, I don't want my kid to pity the janitor. In fact, at work today, I felt bad because we have a maintenance staff member who saw me twice and wanted to chat - haven't seen him in a while due to the holidays, and both times, I was due somewhere in a matter of minutes. I couldn't give him the time that I normally do, and I don't do it out of pity at all.

At the same time, why would I want my kid NOT to be a doctor if that's what he or she wants, AND he or she is realistic about what it means to have a career in different fields of medicine?

I understand that you're rejecting the problematic one-size fits all view of education, and I agree with you. What I don't get is this hostility to doctors, lawyers, engineers and others who pursue these careers.

I feel like we're off-topic from the OP, and I would like to continue the discussion without taking over SL's thread. If you like, please email me at offwinger9 at yahoo.

Miami Al said...

Yup, I'm glad to see that at least on the Blogosphere, people are getting courage to do the right thing for your family.

I setup miamial@ymail.com, so shoot me a line there.

Anonymous said...

The online school for young shluchim is a la carte. For $5K you get all day in front of the computer. I paid about $350. mo. for 4 hrs. daily 3 years ago. My kids could never sit in front of a computer for longer. Yes, you absolutely need to have the computer in a public place so they don't drift off onto other sites. You could do one hr. daily if you want. You need to be recommended by a shaliach to get in now.

Leah Goodman said...

As an FFB army brat, I can tell you what happens when you grow up someplace without Jewish peers in the neighborhood. You spend Shabbat either 1. with non-Jewish peers watching tv at their house turning them into your Shabbat goy, and/or being mildly mechalel Shabbat yourself or 2. Alone.
Unless you're lucky enough to have siblings you actually want to play with... (wouldn't know about that. My last brother moved away when I was 7)

It's a far cry from when I used to spend Shabbat in Teaneck at a friend's house and we'd hang out at other people's houses and play board games or cards or just shoot the breeze and actually enjoy Shabbat!

I never (except the year I was in kindergarten) lived in a Jewish community until I made aliya.

Now that I can just meet other religious people at the park and hang out on a Shabbat afternoon, I realize how much I missed out on.

Aspiring Father, you really seem to be looking to throw out the baby with the bath water.

Aspiring Father said...


You indicated that I seem to be "looking to throw out the baby with the bath water."

I'm not in the kiruv business. I'm not trying to mekarev you, or any other Jews, to my lifestyle. What I aspire to do is not something I'm prescribing for others. Just me, my wife (God willing), and my kids (God willing).

Leah Goodman said...

Aspiring Father: I don't care what you do to yourself, but what you plan to do to your kids really sucks. I've been the kid in that scenario. We did it for a good cause. I believed in what my dad was doing. He was actively helping people by living places where we couldn't go to a real shul on Shabbat. He was actively helping people by living in places where I couldn't be part of a Jewish youth group. It was his job, but it was also his calling. He was a chaplain most of my childhood, and a congregation rabbi later on for a congregation that was mostly dying out.

You have this wonderful-sounding ideal, but the nitty-gritty of it is that it SUCKS to be a kid in that situation. I mean really really sucks in a big way. But hey, maybe your kids will do what we did and get the hell out of Dodge. It's no great shocker that five out of five of us are in Israel.

Hannah @ A Mother in Israel said...

Aspiring Dad:
I consider your approach to be inherently non-Jewish. Sure you have a point about "arrogant" Jewish communities, etc., although I don't think it's fair to stereotype. But the requirement for a minyan, Shabbat, kashrut, etc. all force us Jews to learn how to get along despite our stubbornness and differences. We are meant to live near each other not just so we can fulful halachic obligations(which is easier in our generation than it once was, at least technically), but to help and support each other and be part of a community.
Also, by separating yourself in this way, it's true that you and your family won't be influenced by the prevalent culture in Orthodox communities. But you also lose the opportunity to be a positive influence in Jewish communal life.
Anyway, not all communities are the same and there still may be one out there you can live with/in.

Aspiring Father said...


I come from a town that borders a town that is majority-Jewish. You are comparing apples and oranges. The resources are very much there. I'm not demanding Fort Julio, New Mexico, Population 2.

You can harp away at shabbos, shabbos, shabbos all you like, but the rest of the time, the resources are there. And there's no reason why we can't do the occasional field trips. There's no reason why my kids can't do a shabbos with their friends in the nearby Jewish town from time to time.

The resources ARE THERE. It's a question of whether I and my wife (God willing) have the drive, determination, and creativity to do it.

Also, I am not adverse to employing the bicycle solution.

Now, I'll duck and run for cover as people start to call me a heretic and heave boulders at me for considering the bicycle solution.

Aspiring Father said...

Hannah @ A Mother in Israel:

You commented that my approach appears to you to be "inherently non-Jewish."

To the extent that your conception of Judaism is defined in terms of the "Jewish community," then I concede the point, lock, stock, & barrel.

I have never been part of the "Jewish community."

I am not now part of the "Jewish community."

I have no intention to ever be a part of the "Jewish community."

I am Jewish. I love God. I love the Torah. I love the mitzvot.

But with all due respect to you and the "Jewish community," I have a community. I was raised in that community. I grew up in that community. I owe every decent value that I have to that community. That community, and its influence on me, is the sole and singular reason why I ever got interested in Torah in the first place--not as a rejection of that community, but instead as an unadulterated embrace of that community.

I don't mind that you and the "Jewish community" live however you prefer to, because I don't live there and it doesn't concern me. I am not in the kiruv business. I am not telling you how to live your life. I am not out to influence, alter, or nudge the "Jewish community" in any manner or direction.

That's because I have my community and I love it more than I can possibly fix a phrase to.

And that community, incidentally, happens to have paltry few Jews in it.

You can take that community, or a community with the same derekh eretz as that community fostered in me, when you (to quote Rabbi Heston) pray it from my cold, dead hands.

Aspiring Father said...

Correction: That should have read "when you PRY it from my cold, dead hands."

Leah Goodman said...

First, let's be clear.. Fort Sill, Oklahoma. There is no Fort Julio. Nearest mikva was a 4 hour drive. My mother is TRULY an eishet chayil.

Shabbos is the center of the week! The rest of the time, life is busy, busy, flying by, you don't have time to notice what's happening. But Shabbos is when you're supposed to take the time to think. And if the fun day of the week is the BORING day of the week for your kids, they WILL resent you for it.

If your kids go to public school, how will they have religious friends in the neighboring town?

And if they're bicycling over, their friends' parents will likely gently ask them not to come rather than have them be mechalel shabbat. While the prohibition on riding a bicycle is maybe less clear, the prohibition on tchum Shabbat and the prohibition on carrying are pretty clear and I'm guessing your small town doesn't have an eiruv.

Aspiring Father said...


Fort Julio was a joke.

I grew 10 minutes away from a mikva. You are comparing apples and oranges.

Maybe in the derekh eretz that you are accustomed to, "the rest of the time, life is busy, busy, flying by, you don't have time to notice what's happening. But Shabbos is when you're supposed to take the time to think."

It is precisely because that is the prevailing derekh eretz in most Jewish communities that I cannot fathom why I would ever want to subject my family to living in a place where they get 6 days of living with their mother and her pocketbook, and 1 day living their their mother and this strange dude who shows up to enjoy shabbos and tries haltingly to remember their names.

Let's be clear: I have no intention of becoming a shabbos father, and I will consider myself a categorical failure if I do.

As far as public school? You're not accounting for that part of their education that does not take place in the public school. You're also not accounting for other Jewish activities that can be coordinated when you live in a town that borders on a majority-Jewish town. The resources are there.

Your description of paranoid/hyperscrutinizing "friends' parents" does not apply to numerous and very laid-back/relaxed good friends of mine in the Jewish town near to the town that I hail from. They're very cool with the notion that we don't need to ram our particular level of observance down the throats of everyone we deal with--whether on shabbos or at other times of the week.

Leah Goodman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mother in israel said...

My husband's frum family lived in a non-Jewish neighborhood many miles from the Orthodox community. The children went to day schools and at times there was a minyan in the neighborhood. The children were close in age. They are all frum and very close as adults. For the record, my husband says they did not watch TV on Shabbat at their friends' houses.
For the record, they did not choose the neighborhood because of the wonderful neighbors and sense of community. Part of the reason for not moving was economic.
None of the children choose to live that way now.

Leah Goodman said...

I apologize. My last comment was out of line. I clearly feel very strongly about this issue, apparently too strongly to be involved in this discussion.

I am sorry. I should not have been so rude.

Lion of Zion said...

Aspiring Dad:

i've been reading your comments over the past few posts. i though i was cynical, but you make me look an unrepentant apologist.

i've only seen 2 foreign jewish communities 1 time each (atlanta, philadelphia) and it was a long time ago to visit friends (not as a pilot trip) so i really don't know much about non NY/NJ communities. but i can't beleive that in this entire country there isn't a single tiny jewish community that could serve your needs. you are obviously willing to move and consider places the rest of us would never even fathom, yet there is not one community for you?
you have something personal against all us yuppie jews? fine. i know there are tiny dying communities of eldlerly jews in middle america out there too. maybe consider one of those. at least then you have the jewish infrastructure and the very basics of a community but you won't have to deal with us.

good luck.

Miami Al said...

I enjoy discussions with Aspiring Father, because we share goals of fatherhood... But I am an unapologetic yuppy Jew, I might be past that and an almost waspy Jew... :)

However, I take the time to be with my children EVERY night. I'm not just there on Shabbat, though I love a whole day with family and kind of sad that as the kids get older Shul, Groups, and seeing friends will displace our wonderful family time, so I cherish this time. We have early minyanim on Shabbat so I can daven with a Minyan AND be a father.

However, I make no apologies for having nice things and giving my children the best. I would LOVE to give them the best education within a Jewish environment, unfortunately in South Florida, that isn't an option for me, so we'll make do.

But, Aspiring Dad should meet more Jews... leave the Northeast US (and the 6th Borough down here) and you will find plenty of Jews with real down to earth values...

Envy of neighbor, socialist school based economies, etc., aren't Jewish values, they have been adopted from the surrounding communities.

OTOH, a few years ago was reading about the dying Jewish communities in the South. The communities are getting older, because as the kids enter adulthood they move to the "big cities" like Atlanta and Charleston, which might not seem big to those in the greater NY area, but they are plenty big for that region.

But I think he could do well in a small town an hour outside the city with Jewish people. Atlantic City New Jersey is an hour from Philly, two hours from NYC, has a Day School, several Orthodox Shuls, a few restaurants, and a small town vibe when you leave the Casino area... however the Margate area where the rich Jews have summer homes is exactly what he's described, but other towns in that area are very different.

He CAN have his cake and eat it too. It just means finding a Chabad in a town NEAR a major Jewish zone.

Anonymous said...

Why does the shluchim online school charge $5000? What are their expenses other than paying the teachers?

Lion of Zion said...

"Why does the shluchim online school charge $5000?"

that does sound like a lot of money. this is actually my son's base tuition (before the extras) in a regular school.

does anyone know what a comparative non-jewish online curriculum costs?

Avi Greengart said...

@Aspiring Father,

Dude, you're overreacting. It isn't that bad - and most certainly not universally that bad - even in Teaneck. Heck, one of my most grounded, parenting-centric friends actually grew up in Brooklyn. (Honest!) You say you don't like Teaneck or the 5 towns or Newton? I don't blame you. You think that Silver Spring, Seattle, Detroit, or Sharon are still too bourgeoisie for you? Try Denver or Eugene or Kansas City or Malden. But your "I don't want 'em and I don't need 'em" plan gives up more than you realize.

Commenter Abbi said...

Aspiring Father, it sounds like you're not planning to live an Orthodox life when you marry and raise a family, which is perfectly fine, but why are you expecting a pat on the back when you announce this on a clearly Orthodox blog?

Live whatever life you like, be as judgmental and prejudicial as you please but don't expect a big handshake for it.

Ahavah said...

Aspiring Father:

It's not true that there's no Jewish community that would meet your needs - as someone above commented. You might try Louisville or Lexington Kentucky (as someone else joked), or southern Indiana or southern Ohio. There are numerous smaller town in the midwest that have small Jewish communities near larger Jewish communities - that is, they have or are near the infrastructure we need. Lexington in particular sounds more your style - conservative shul with daily minyan, 1 hour drive to the Mikvah at Louisville (or if you prefer: 1.5 hours to the Cincinnati area). Some wealthy snobs but most here are middle class. Daytrips to either for Jewish/Kosher shopping (and you can special order just about anything over the internet, you know), and leisurely Shabbats at home (as we generally do) or at the Conservative Shul (on yom tovim and special occasions) or with the local Havurah at each other's homes (on a rotating basis). There are about 500 Jewish families total in Lex, maybe a few more - most are reform or conservative, with some MO, reconstructionist, and secular thrown in for good measure. There are a few frum families, also...

But the point is my kids (teens) are never bored, especially on shabbat. We as a family say the prayers, read Torah, enjoy the pre-prepared meals (crock pots and casseroles, of course) and in between we take walks (weather permitting to the nearby local park), or play cards and board games, read for pleasure, or even take a nap if everyone is tired from staying up late the evening before or other activities at shul or Havurah. They enjoy shabbat - the person who complained about being "alone" for shabbat had parents who didn't make any effort for shabbat to be an enjoyable day for family time. Nobody enjoys a "puritan" attitude of everything have to be "serious" and glum - shabbat is supposed to be peaceful, not stressful. An organized and concerned parent will create an enjoyable atmosphere were the Torah portion can be discussed vibrantly, the food is extra special (and they get desserts, which they don't get the rest of the week), and so forth. Shabbat is only boring if you let it be, whether your kids have observant neighbors or not.


Ahavah said...

To aspiring father, continued:

...And they have plenty of opportunities through the week to socialize with their peers (I won't bore you with more homeschooling and homeschool co-op support, everybody here knows I am strongly in favor of it. The only way the dayschool system will survive is to transform itself into something that looks a lot more like what the Xians do, usually involving unpaid (or barely paid) parents as teachers and office help). My kids also volunteer - willingly, cheerfully - and serve the community though the local Jewish Federation, where I work a couple of hours a day doing bookkeeping and they can help and/or participate with anything and everything that might be happening that day in the way of classes, activities, meetings or social groups.

In truth, you only get out of Judaism what you put into it. I have found those who are most insistent on a "community" being necessary are those who are least willing to actually be an active part of it - they want to passively just take advantage of the opportunities and institutions put in place by others. They want somebody else to do the real work. A self-starter doesn't need those things - there's no reason a minyan or a kid's class can't meet in each other's homes just as well as an expensive fancy building.

But however it works out eventually, the current dayschool model is doomed to collapse under it's own unsustainable economic weight - that's a fact, and wishing other wise won't keep it from happening. It's not school or a big shul that makes Judaism relevant to a kid's life - mostly, it's their parents (IMHO). Distracted or disinterested (or worse, hypocrital) parents will never have observant children. And the attrition rate for orthodoxy(i.e. those who go OTD or move to a less frum branch of Judaism) is over 40%, so dayschool and all the trimmings of the FFB package are not any sort of guarantee you'll have spiritual children.

Source: http://www.threejews.net/2008/09/will-your-grandchildren-be-reform.html

Only good parenting is.

Leah Goodman said...

For me, Shabbat was a big problem because I had the choice of "playing" with my dad (my mom ALWAYS napped Shabbat afternoon), playing with non-Jewish friends, or playing alone. The last 4 years I lived in the US, there was not one person in the neighborhood within shooting distance of my age - there were kids I babysat for and there were retirees - so I spent Shabbat afternoon playing connect 4 with my dad or holed up in my room reading.

Probably not the best situation for a teenager who had recently lost her best friend...btas.

Where I currently live, I have several friends in walking distance who keep kosher homes. We meet in the park on Shabbat afternoons and our kids can play together and not be the only "weirdos" who wear "beanies" on their heads.

As to wanting the community and putting in, I'm happy to help prepare meals when people are sick, and was grateful when people did it for us as well. I've served on my shul's va'ad. My husband is the treasurer at the moment.

My older daughter is 2.5, so the kids aren't in school as such and there is no PTA to be involved in.

So, yes, I want a community, and I'm perfectly willing to put in the time and effort to make it happen.

Commenter Abbi said...

Ahavah- your setup sounds great for a nonOrthodox family/community, where you're open to a range of influences and you're not as concerned that your own family's religious/ritual behavior is mirrored by many other neighboring families for your children. This mirroring is indeed very powerful and for Orthodox families, it's essential.

You can belittle Orthodox communities as full of "non self starters" but community is essential to propagating Orthodox Jewish life. The family is essential as well, but they work hand in hand. For a family looking for daily minyanim and shiurim, Friday night Havura activities aren't enough. This is Conservative Judaism, which is fine, but it's not Orthodox.

Aspiring Father said...

Ahavah Gayle:

You hit the nail on the head.

Thank you.

That is almost EXACTLY what I am talking about. I grew up in a town that is 10 minutes away from a mikveh. Kosher shopping is all over the place (my NON-JEWISH town has a supermarket, the bakery of which is kosher by default--you can't buy fresh treif bread there, it's ALL pareve and the cakes & deserts are ALL kosher dairy).

Even if I don't live physically IN the Jewish community, we would be so close to it that being a functional part of it in many, many ways would not be a problem at all.

I am FULLY ready to roll on putting in the work and "working the plan" as it develops. And living 5-10 minutes away from multiple orthodox shuls, I have to believe that "where there is a will, there can be a way if you really pour on the work ethic and make it a fundamental priority to make it work."

Thank you for your rejuvenating posts. I'm very grateful.

Miami Al said...

Commenter Abbi...

If the Orthodox community is essential for transmitting Orthodoxy, then we really need to work on the success rate.

60% success after 18 years seclusion and $250k in private schooling?!?!?

Evangelicals muster up a 40% transmission rate with rock concerts and teleconference Churches.

Miami Al said...

Commenter Abbi...

If the Orthodox community is essential for transmitting Orthodoxy, then we really need to work on the success rate.

60% success after 18 years seclusion and $250k in private schooling?!?!?

Evangelicals muster up a 40% transmission rate with rock concerts and teleconference Churches.

Commenter Abbi said...

Al, are you looking for 100% success rate? That's not possible unless you turned Orthodox judaism into a Soviet police state or a cult. There's that nasty human trait called "free will" that allows anyone to live their life as they choose. 60% success for something that needs to be freely chosen by the individual who has a huge supermarket of spiritual and religious choices right at his/her doorstep seems rather high to me. Significantly more than half of the children who grow up frum and go to day school end up continuing to refuse to work on Shabbat, keep kosher and marry a Jew? Sounds like great odds to me.

You're right, though, the astronomical sums of money will end up decimating the American Orthodox community one way or another. Reminds me of the Titanic.

Miami Al said...

Commenter Abbi,

The average American family spends something on the order of $250k getting them to age 18.

The "average" MO family (those that actually pay their bill and not hand it to others) will spend $250k on schooling, so probably at least $500k to get them to age 18.

I'm NOT expecting a 100% success rate, but what is the control group?

Evangelicals retain at 40% using basically Christian Rock Concerts and goofy Mega Churches.

Would we retain 40% using NCSY and Shabbatons?

Honestly Frum and others have screamed out that our children won't be Frum without Day School. The counter is that it's a slightly better than even coin toss with Day School, and no clue what it would be without a coin toss.

I am suggesting that if your justification/fear tactic for universal Yeshiva is assimilation, the numbers aren't supporting you when you factor in Tuition as Birth Control. I think that there might be more Frum 18 year olds in 18 years if we scrapped Day School and encouraged more child birth, a fact nobody disputed.

If the argument for Day School is the great education in Judaism AND Secular, plus the wonderful environment for the children, that's a phenomenal argument... BUT that makes Day School a luxury, not a necessity.

I asked Honestly Frum if he would rather a family keep sending to Day School and use Birth Control to stop having children, or use a Public school and have more Jewish children.

He punted saying "neither," our religious leaders punt saying "neither," but despite the proclamations, our behavior suggestions that the former is preferred.

We have prioritized full time Yeshiva OVER having more children. I find this problematic because while the form is a "good thing," raising it to the level of Mitzvah implied that for 3400 years Jews were negligent in education, so to pursue a wonderful luxury, we've punted a Mitzvah.

I haven't heard a thing about helping Haiti relief organizations. Huge disaster near our borders, the rest of the country is pitching in. Accepting that it is more important to help starving Jews than starving Haitians, is it more import to provide private schooling to middle class Jews than help starving Haitians?

Commenter Abbi said...

You must not be reading the right newspapers because Federations across the country are organizing relief drives for Haiti (last I checked, middle class Jews were still donating to Federation) http://www.jewishjournal.com/world/article/haiti_relief_how_your_can_help_20100113/

As far as the American Orthodox community is concerned, the fact that research numbers don't prove incontrovertibly that day school is the way to go will not suddenly change the community's mind regarding the efficacy or necessity of day school.

Also, there are many factors that go into the decision of having children, day school tuition being one of them.

Not sure where you're getting your numbers from, aside from anecdotes, but most of my friends (Gen Xers in their 30's) are having 3 kids, whereas most pple in my parents' Boomer generation had two (when day school tuition was supposedly affordable). I hardly think the Orthodox community is decimating itself.

Most of my friends who wanted more than 3 came to Israel.

Miami Al said...

Commenter Abbi,

Agreed, American Jews have been amongst the lead efforts to give to Haiti. I'm trying to reconcile that with "75% of Tzedakah inside our local community" and the push to not do outside giving. Perhaps I'm too literal, and it's really talking about Yeshiva Tzedakah? i.e. give to whatever charities you want, but if you are giving $2000 to Yeshivot, $1500 should be local, $500 can go to Israel?

Regarding birthrates, according to NJPS 2000 (children per woman):

Hasidic/Yeshiva Orthodox: 6.72
Centrist Orthodox: 3.39
Conservative: 1.74
Reform: 1.36
Secular: 1.29

The definition from that study lumps people we would classify as Modern Orthodox, Conservadox, and nominally Orthodox (the latter two being: Orthodox Shul, non observant life) into Centrist Orthodox.

No doubt that your peer group choose 3, but if the average is 3.39, there are a bunch of 4s and 5s in there...

But, if 3 is doable, and 4 is not, that further indicates that the MO world may have a financial crisis, but we don't have a tuition crisis... the crisis levels of tuition his at 4 or 5 kids.

Up until 3 kids, you are slammed with tuition, but the level isn't more than the general income increase between the time you buy your house and get your last kids in school. High school may shove you into debt, but you can limp until then.

At 4 and 5 is when the crisis point hits. However, I wonder if there are that many people with 4 or 5 kids and dual-professional families, or do most of those families have a wife in the Day Schools that facilitates having 4+ kids plus keeping tuition manageable.

Honestly Frum's group of the squeezed might be REALLY small!

Orthonomics said...

ZAKA is in Haiti. The OU is taking a collection. We aren't punting.

I think Modern Orthodox families would have more children without tuition. But I know plenty of modern Orthodox families with lots of kids. I think many of us are taking this mitzvah seriously and I agree with Commentor Abbi, many from 2 kid households are having more than their parents. I believe this is true in the general population too. I have noted, amongst non-Jewish friends, that 3 seems to be the new 2.

Miami Al said...

Agreed on 3 being the new 2... interesting thing I read a year or two ago (we'll see with the new census soon enough):

1. "Spinster Rate" is up to 40% (women that never have children
2. Births/woman have been constant in the US and slightly over the 2.1 mark, Births/mother have gone up
3. Spinster Rate is very low amongst "very religious" (attend Church > once/week), low amongst "somewhat religious" (attend Church once/week), and high amongst the infrequent Church and the almost no Church groups

As a result, Americans born now are more likely to be in a larger, more religious family, and that is part of powering America's religious resurgence.

Simple Arithmatic:
"Spinster" rate = 40%
Births/woman = 2.1
Then: Births/mother = 3.5

So 3 may be the new two, and yesterday's 2.5 children is now 3.5 children, but fewer women are procreating.

Regarding the Charities: I agree that there is Jewish support for Haiti. I don't understand HOW to reconcile the "keep Tzedakah local" with the desire to help the truly poor. Those of us in upper middle class MO communities that "help the locals" aren't really helping the poor... helping a $15k/year Yeshiva, while Tzedakah and Charity, is no more of helping the poor than giving to Harvard's Endowment/Scholarship Funds.

That's the part that I'm finding difficult to reconcile.

Dave said...

The web site linked above ( http://www.threejews.net/2008/09/will-your-grandchildren-be-reform.html ) has the percentage of those raised Orthodox who remained Orthodox at 42%.

Miami Al said...

Dave, which goes back to my suggestion, stop with the heavy Jewish education, focus on the heavy childbirth.

Jewish education needs to stand on it's own, something you want to give your kids. As a means to an end, keeping your kids Frum, it's an utter failure.

If people enjoy being Orthodox, they'll stay Orthodox whether they believe/know the details of the faith. If people don't enjoy being Orthodox (because they live in relative poverty), they won't be Orthodox, regardless of how knowledgeable they are.

I really enjoy my conversations with the Yeshiva educated finance guy at the office, who is amused my my observance but lack of knowledge. OTOH, he and he Catholic Wife didn't send their kids to Yeshiva, for obvious reasons... :)