Financial Realities II: The Unwritten Contract

By “Sam Smith”

In retrospect, I’m not surprised that my first article on “Financial Realities in the Frum World” received such an overwhelming response (currently, 240 responses, plus a direct-offshoot article, “Suggestions to Address the Tuition Crisis” of 61 responses). I knew I was touching a raw nerve, because this topic has touched a raw nerve in me.

In trying to understand the reason for the raw nerve I’ve wavered between righteous indignation and guilt. I am outraged at some of the uncompromising positions the whole tuition business corners us into – as individual tuition-payers and as a community — while at the same time feeling guilty that I am outraged by it. The yeshivos are only trying to collect money for teaching our kids Torah, and paying less-than-ideal salaries to usually dedicated teachers. That’s why I feel guilty, because I love Torah, I love the ideals, I love the idealists in our midst. But I hate… I hate…


I had been having a hard time trying to put my finger on exactly what I hate. What do I hate about this situation and why do I hate it and do I have a right to hate it? Then, the other night, I came upon the answer as I was pondering a contract one of my children’s yeshivos had sent me and asked me to sign. And that answer is the “unwritten contract.”

The Unwritten Contract

When I became a baal teshuva I had certain expectations, whether I was conscious of them or not. These expectations were based on the ideals I was attracted to, and the assumption that if I followed through on the ideals, then the community I was becoming part of would follow through on the ideals too. This, in effect, became an “Unwritten Contract” — in my mind at least. The part I hate, or that at least incenses me, is the perception that the community – or, in this case at least, one specific yeshiva – is not following through on its part.

Let me explain myself.

My side of the “contract” was that if I did my best to raise my kids in Torah and be responsible about making hishtadlus in the world (i.e. doing my best to earn a living), while at the same time living as frugally as I could, then the institutions representing Torah would be understanding. That means they would accept my kids and do their best to teach them even if I simply did not have the money to pay full or partial or even any tuition (if I truly did not have the money).

What I didn’t expect, but what I have experienced, from one institution in particular, is this: We will not accept your child in the doors in the first place if you do not sign a contract to pay what we say you need to pay. We expect you to be grateful that we are giving you a reduction in our outlandishly high tuition and other fees. And thou shalt feel grateful even if that reduction is still more than you can afford, even if it causes you to go into serious debt. We will even send you a letter threatening to expel your kids, if you fall behind or become unable to pay what we said you need to pay.

Now, in all fairness, this describes only one of the yeshivos I send my kids to (two kids to the same institution). Others want their pound of flesh, too, but are not going about it in the same aggressive, and, frankly, highly un-Torah-like (IMO) way. It is quite enough to ruin one’s rosy state of mind. Practically speaking, I can’t switch my kids out of this institution now because they are good students, have friends and are happy. We managed to pay partial tuition in years past by going into outrageous credit card debt, which is now an unacceptable and untenable alternative.

In any event, the brutal truth is that, especially now that I have older kids, I am simply overwhelmed by all the expenses, unable to carry all my accumulated debt, and even the partial tuitions I am paying have pushed me to and over the edge of financial ruin. There is no retirement plan in my life, no hidden stocks, no wealthy parents, in-laws or uncles ready to leave me their fortune and rescue me.

After many years and many tuitions I simply didn’t make it financially, at least in contemporary, North American Orthodox-community terms. I didn’t become a doctor or lawyer or businessman. I didn’t marry into wealth.

In my darkest moments, it’s all a great communal hypocrisy. Some people simply can’t pay… even a portion of the partial tuition. Yet some yeshivos, while teaching kids wonderful, beautiful ideals like living austerely for Torah as did the Chofetz Chaim (including large pictures throughout the halls), make their parents feel like shmattas for not earning more than $100-150,000!

This is my “righteous indignation” side.

But then the guilt kicks in: They are only trying to keep the lights on, pay their rabbeim and teachers, overcome their own financial deficits, etc.

I don’t want to be fighting them, to feel that they are the “enemy.” But that’s the corner this situation paints me – and them – into. Parents and yeshivos become adversaries, rather than advocates. It’s a crime. And the toll – the spiritual toll: on parents, children and generations — is incalculable. There has to be a different way of doing this.

132 comments on “Financial Realities II: The Unwritten Contract

  1. Why not make tuition a ‘sexy’ cause, as someone said? Make an organization with ‘tuition shadchanim’ like they have for Israel that could anonymously link donors to families, almost like an ‘adopt a child’ program. Not tuition for the school, but where a wealthier family from the five towns could ‘adopt’ a child from…well, wherever. Pay ten dollars, twenty dollars a month, whatever.

    Obviously, don’t give out childrens names, but maybe have families sign up with the number of children.

    Market it ptimarily in wealthy areas.

    People don’t like communist style giving, they like personal, individual and descreet.

  2. Jacob Haller , LOL bear in mind the fact that sometimes its only çuz of the “control” I speak so fondly of that one can feel free to lose control and become bosom buddies with Mr Imbibing.(no relation to Rabbi Heidi Hoodia or Rebbetzin Gertrude Green Tea)
    Please advise when you’ve attained that coveted certification as my alcohol inn for the intellectuals will be hiring in the spring.

    Àlso according to my blackberry English words tend to include ümlauten by default and at no initial upcharge ;-).

  3. For the scholarly crowd, there’s a very interesting email list which discusses a wide range of Torah related topics called Avodah. They archive their discussions online for future reference. A discussion about birth control can be found on the link below. To follow the discussion, just click on that page’s link to the next page and look out for the topic.

    The people who participate come from a wide range of orthodoxy. From a Satmar chossid to far left. So I wouldn’t jump to any halachic conclusions from anything you read there, but it will give you a sense of what’s out there and perhaps enable you to have a more informed conversation with your local rabbi

  4. “ill go mix üs some long island iced teas”

    Careful JT. With all your talk about “control” and intake of hard spirits you might want to consider fusing the 2 ideas together before you start posting to another blog sight afiliated with a group that has 2 vowels for its initials.

    Just keeping up with the requisite preaching to earn that coveted certification.

    Also, I didn’t know that any words in English included “umlauten”

  5. Yes Charnie, that is correct. However, that is the beginning of the story, not the end of it.

  6. Off topic (sorry) to Ora & JT, the reason they probably had Ora sorting by zip is that non-profits pay a lower rate for postage, but the catch is they have to sort it out by zip and batch it before bringing it to the post office. I used to do it for a shul.

    Vis a vis birth control, is there a Rav here who can provide an answer to a question (NOT a shaila), about whether, strictly halachically speaking, a man has fulfilled his obligation “to be fruitful” once he has both a son and daughter? I remember hearing that several times.

  7. Sephardi lady “common ground” wow I think this calls for a toast ;-) ill go mix üs some long island iced teas.

    Óra, oh my Gd that zipcode task would have definitely caused çortex snapping. And the lifting of the water lol.
    I hear what your saying about birth control , I guess once I find someone to marry and birth babies with ill worry about it then. But interesting perspective nevertheless.

    Albany Jew ,you definitely give “the grass is always greener …… slogan a whole new meaning complete with depth ;-)

    David linn ,.LOL perfect idea though I’m somewhat of a house hopper myself I will definitely have Albany Jews preference for frum next door communities in mind.

  8. Off topic again…
    anonymom, you are completely right. I know of two very religious women nearby who both used birth control at one point. One has seven kids, the other has fourteen. The main reason I’ve heard is keeping a managable age balance–most people go somewhat nuts if the ratio of grownups to very young children gets too small. I think this is probably less of a BT problem, since BTs tend to marry later than FFBs and so have less reason to get nervous about potential double-digit numbers of children (personally I’m more hopeful than nervous, but we’ll see how I feel in a few years :) ).

    somewhat back on topic: I do support people knowing to ask shaylot about birth control use if they’re overwhelmed. But I still hate the idea of using birth control in order to save money and pay for crazy high tuition. My in-laws younger kids had to go to public school when they moved to the states. When people say that those who can’t afford tuition for a lot of kids should have fewer kids, it makes me feel like they’re saying my youngest brother and sister in-laws should not have been born (chas v’chalilah). I know that’s taking things more personally than they’re meant, but the feeling is hard to avoid.

    …and way, way off topic–note to self: try not to drink two cups of coffee at four in the morning…and my apologies for any resulting 8am off topic rantings…

  9. Jaded–Sorry, I didn’t get the babysitting connection. I still believe that there’s a difference between a family randomly expecting you to babysit and your services being volunteered by your school, but either way it’s inappropriate.

    Totally Off Topic: Ugh, you just reminded me of my high school volunteering days… Instead of using us as slave labor, they assigned us the most boring and pointless jobs ever (I don’t know if they were intentionally trying to crush our spirits a la Pharoh, but it could very well be). Two examples: 1) My job was handing out water at a fundraising event. The water was sitting in bottles on a table next to a big sign saying FREE WATER, but my job was to actually pick it up and bring it ten inches closer to people’s hands. 2) My job was to sort fundraising letters by zip code. The letters were then sorted by a machine. My supervisors thought that my pre-sorting would make the machine sorting faster (by about thirty seconds) for some reason (namely, that they were idiots with no understanding of technology). Ahh, horrible high school memories…probably one of the major reasons for HS budgeting problems…

  10. As to only bt’s being aware of/using birth control – I post to a large message board from frum woman, the majority ffb. Let me tell you, birth control is no secret and many (if not most) are using it, at least at some point. I used to have a neighbor who grew up in Meah Sha’arim as one of 11 children. She confided in me that after her 3rd her mother told her to ask a sheila and ‘take a break’. She looked at her mother and said, ‘what?!?! YOU had 11 children,’ to which her mother replied, ‘yes, and if I hadn’t used birth control, I would have had 22!’

  11. Jaded, I may disagree with you on some of your points, but we can find common ground on “mandatory chessed” that includes teenagers being put to work for free in the name of chessed deserves further discussion.

    The long of the short of it for us would be count our teenagers out. Unfortunately, the chessed system seems to be open for abuse. For example, I have been told that if I need help with my cleaning, I should call up the girl’s school. I asked how much the girl’s charge and my friends tell me it is free, a “chessed.” Many of them take advantage, yet find it in their budget to pay cleaning ladies on occassion. Baruch Hashem, if I need some help I can afford it and it would seem inappropriate to put girls to work for me without paying them.

    There are certain types of work I would encourage my kids to do at no charge. Scrubbing floor would NOT be one of those jobs.

  12. I volunteer for the 85 frum families next door to me. I would love it. LUUUUV IT! :) (But my wife can only make Chulent for 56)

  13. Óra , you had asked mé if I was ever asked to provide free babysitting for large families.that’s why I brought in my high school mandatory loving kindness program reference. Not only was I asked to provide free babysitting I was expected to provide free holiday scrubbing with a smile.

  14. Jaded–I haven’t lived anywhere but in huge, ugly apartment buildings for a long time. No “quaint summer home” across the way to miss. And no, I’m not haredi, just a student (now wife of student, same basic financial situation though). Anyway, as Ron said, neighborhoods change. That is life. At least in your case, those remaining can sell their houses to mega-apartment-developers for big bucks.

    I see what you mean about rabbis and birth control. Still, my main point stands: most people I know want children. They are not having many children to please rabbis (very few people care that much what their rabbi thinks, no matter how newly-frum they are). They are doing it because they enjoy children and want a large family. (Anyway, by the time someone gets to the point of having a large family, they’ve had a few years to rethink their choice.)

    As for your HS volunteer program, of course they sent you to dysfunctional families. Why would the functional families need your help? I mostly helped dysfunctional elderly people. What’s your point?

  15. Ron, are you suggesting that should I decide to purchase a quaint piece of land right next door to you , and rezone with Gds help of course and then build an 85 family dwelling you would roll out the red carpet and baked cookies and cholent cakes ?
    Actually then your Saturday afternoon cholent chit chat would have plenty of interesting participants. Instead of a new next door neighbor you can have a whole new next door community complete with “ebony bekeshes”.

  16. Jaded, if you wrote that “there goes the neighborhood” comment about what happens when you build an apartment flat in reference to blacks or Puerto Ricans moving into what was once a nice single-home residential, we’d all be quite offended. Saying about hasidim doesn’t make it any more acceptable. If you’re saying that there are some astonishingly ugly multi-family homes in, say, Monsey that have been built to serve the needs of hasidic families, I will agree with you. But that is the province of people who own property as well as zoning and planning boards. People who don’t like higher-density housing along Route 306 are free to move to New Hempstead or any of the other McMansion colonies further out. The developers who built those eyesores will be happy to buy those people out and those who need placed to live with their blessedly large families will have them.

    That’s the way it goes, Jaded: Neighborhoods change, yes; you’re not reactionary and certainly no elitist, so this should not disturb you in the least. If it does, I bet you have a solution to that kind of stress!

  17. My point is that costs are spiraling because we’re trying to do more. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s not the yeshivas’ fault. I feel like there’s a trend here to accuse yeshivot of being uncaring or cruel in collecting payment, and unethical in turning away students. It’s not the fault of the yeshivot that every parent wants their child to have a yeshiva education regardless of family income, and it’s not their fault that running a yeshiva costs money.

    I’m not sure quite what you’re saying at the end of your post. What “large gimmick-obsessed institutions” are you talking about? If you look at my earlier posts, I’m all for public support of yeshivot even at the cost of support to certain other causes. Jewish education is a communal responsibility which has precedence over many more trendy amutot.

  18. Óra, I would love to be privy to your “worldly” reaction to 30 families moving in across the st on a one and a half acre property that used to house one quaint summer home for one lovely couple.Óh and coming this spring to a two acre lot next door a whole new 70 family dwelling for all your noisy chareidi needs complete with garbage, toys and plenty of kids.This stuff does not allow for chareidi loving really. Life just can’t get any peachier.
    Are you suggesting that birth control promoting among rabbis is about as rampant as free condoms in central park.Yes there are some individuals including bts who as you so eloquently explained know, just like everyone else about birth control, (please don’t twist around my points and make whole new drink mixes out of them )are under erroneous assumptions about usage and these assumptions are generally not assuaged or fixed by rabbis. No one wants to be the cause of all those unborn babies I guess.
    In high school we had this lovely mandatory lovingkindness program (don’t get mé wrong I love doing acts of kindness just please don’t force mé to )I’ve spent many a Sunday or bitter winter evening helping large dysfunctional families. The best part was being expected to scrub théir house for that annoying holiday called Passover.

  19. Ora wrote

    “Costs of the Orthodox infrastructure are spiraling because our expectations are spiraling.”

    As well as taxes, costs of housing, medical care.

    The comment “My husband’s family are FFB and none of the older generation (parents, aunt, etc) went to private Jewish schools.”

    Maybe because there were very few in existence at the time depending on locale. My FFB wife’s parents, aunts, uncles from Brooklyn did attend yeshivas. What’s your point?

    One of my points: Would it be an incorrect or unresearched remark to say that the larger institutions which bear the name of our faith in their monikers (whatever their level of actual fealty to the Torah) in their quest for “continuity” (sic) appear to try any and every example of banal gimmickry EXCEPT for contributing to yeshivas?

    Perhaps government vouchers are indeed not a good idea but why is it that these same large gimmick-obsessed institutions can always be counted on being the first ones to protest when these proposals are brought to the table?

  20. Jaded (#97)–Has anyone with a large family ever expected you to provide free babysitting? Because I would find that surprising. Also, oh the horror of watching nice neighborhoods turn into “slums.” I’m sure the people moving in are doing it on purpose, because they prefer slums. Or maybe just to spite you.

    Also, I think that BTs have all heard of birth control. It’s a pretty standard assumption in the non-frum world that everyone is using it. In my school, we learned about it in sixth grade.

    Jaded (#110)–Why do you assume that people have large families because “that’s what G-d wants?” (Never mind that if Hashem does want it, it’s for our good, not to punish us/ make our lives a diaper-changing you-know-what). Plenty of non-religious couples choose to have what American society considers a lot of kids because (gasp! shock!) it’s what they, as mature and educated adults, feel is best for them to do. My grandparents weren’t religious and I have 10 aunts and uncles (before counting spouses). Wanting lots of kids is completely natural. Most religious people I know WANT kids, they’re not just having them to please some imaginary uptight Rabbi.

    I know that if I have a lot of kids I’ll have to pay for them (although I won’t have to worry about tuition, because it’s about $15/month for a good religious elementary school here in Jerusalem). But I am 100% in agreement with SephardiLady (#94)–I’d rather have kids and send them to public school than drastically change my family life through birth control just to make some ridiculously high tuition payment (if my husband and I had to wait on kids until we could afford American tuition, we’d have one kid maybe, in ten years from now. No thanks).

    Not that I blame the tuition boards, btw. They are trying to provide a necessary service, it’s expensive to do so, and they need to charge people. If they don’t charge high tuitions, and get as much out of families as they can afford, the system will fall apart for everybody.

  21. Jacob H–
    I wasn’t talking about conspicuous consumption, I was talking about making a lot of money. Of course bigots don’t usually have an up-close-and-personal knowledge of family assets, but it is clear which people have more money/power due to their professions. In order for every Jewish family to afford day school for multiple children, every Jew would need a profession such as brain surgeon/ lawyer/ CEO. That would make Jews stick out more. I’m not saying that anyone should deliberately avoid those professions, I just think that Hasham may be showing us a kindness in keeping the Jewish wealth distribution a bit normal. It may seem that if everyone just made enough money to send kids to private school all would be well, but that might actually give the US Jewish community a few new problems.

    Also, by the standards I grew up with, sending all of your kids to private school starting in kindergarten is conspicuous consumption.

    Costs of the Orthodox infrastructure are spiraling because our expectations are spiraling. My husband’s family are FFB and none of the older generation (parents, aunt, etc) went to private Jewish schools. Things are different now, public schools are different, so we have a need for 13 years of Jewish school per child. It’s understandable, but I still see no proof that it’s been done in the past and therefore can definitely be done now.

  22. Anonymous #108 what’s distinctly disconcerting is the , birth as many babies as birthly possible çuz that’s what Gd wants slogan that seems to be slung around way too freely.Its basically like a. dysfunctional ferris wheel goin round and round at the county fair with same old musical slogans even though the riders are changing and wanting newer music and less cotton candy.
    And some of them can barely afford one ride forget about a wrist band or seasons pass.

    Schools are not accepting belief prayer bitachon or any other flavor of naivete as payment. They just accept money or heirlooms or expensive candlesticks or jewelry.Thé most fascinating part about Sam Smiths post is the fact that he’s still religious and pondering this stuff.

  23. Chava (#107)

    Sorry, never had the z’chus to live in Neve Ya’acov. One year in the Givat Shaul neighborhood, however.

  24. Regarding the issue of having as large a family as you can while having bitachon that the money will be there vs. family planning, I think the twist presented here and in some of the comments is the fact that sometimes some schools will not take your kid for lack of funds. You have, for instance, the person in comment 38. If so, that is disturbing because we say that money is from Hashem; if money is the thing that you need — and you really need — somehow it or the equivalent will be there. However, when schools close their doors, either literally or because even their reduced tuition is impossible for you to cover, it seems to me that the bitachon is now not so much in Hashem’s hands, but human hands: the humans who run the schools.

    As “Sam” said there is an “unwritten contract” that the schools will do their part if the parents do theirs. Well, if the parents simply don’t have the money then it would seem to me that the schools should nevertheless accept them. Isn’t that Torah 101? (Or is that naive?) In either event, this seems to me to perhaps remove the question from one of bitachon on Hashem to bitachon on humans, those who happen to be in charge of the schools. And that’s what’s disconcerting: when the schools, like the one in comment 38, are not willing to take your kids because of financial reasons, especially when a person like that has dedicated his life to the community.

  25. Totally OT, but are you the Jacob Haller who lived in NEve Ya’akov? If so, we used to be neighbors.

  26. Ora’s comment

    “it’s actually probably a good thing that not every family can afford the tuition when taking a larger perspective. Imagine how people would react if all Jews were in the upper class (making over $100K/year?). When in galut, best not to stick out that far.”

    There’s a strong qualitative difference between actual assets and the potentially obscene practice of conspicuous consumption. Those who practice antipathy towards our people don’t objectively consult balance sheets and bank statements and subsequently form opinions.

    To suggest that it’s a positive thing for families to deal with financial stress in order to placate bigots sounds somewhat misguided. Furthermore, it seems that the number of people enduring the finanical squeeze due to spiraling costs of the Orthodox infrastructure is increasing but does that indicate that anti-Semitism has been declining in direct reverse proportion?

    If one treats material wealth as a test in life and/or a vehicle for spiritual growth it need not be scorned as an evil.

  27. I am not the poster of post #38, however, my husband works in kiruv. A number of years ago we found that we had to leave the long-standing position in the organization that my husband had worked for many years b/c they simply couldn’t pay a living wage. My husband still works in kiruv in a better paying position, but much like rebbes finds he has to generate income on the side (and I work too). The original job left little time for this as their expectations was a 9 AM – 11 PM type of commitment. However, the salary was about 1/3 of what full tuition for our kids would be and about 1/3 of our income was going to tuition after scholarship (which we would have to beg and plead for further reduction each year as the original assessment would be about 1/2 of our income). I’m not sure how anyone short of the independantly wealthy are supposed to do this long term. And no, there was no information about the challenges ahead of time. In fact, anytime my husband contemplates leaving kiruv all together, he is plagued with guilt b/c he has been so educated that ‘there is a holocaust going on’ how can you turn your back on what needs to be done?

  28. Post #38 was anonymous about a kiruv professional out of town finding himself being charged tuitions more than his annual income.

    My question to him is: Have you considered moving back to a more in-town community? Even though expenses are higher there may be other advantages, such as some schools that will indeed look at your financial situation and accept your kids.

    My other question: Is did those who inspired you to go into kiruv and move out there inform you enough of the life and its challenges before you went out there?

  29. my point was that birth control should not be so hush hush and unheard of

    I don’t believe BC is at all unheard of. Just look around and you will see so. My kallah teacher told me that after the first baby these days that poskim are fairly leinient and one should ask a shaila.

    be it from an emotional or financial perspective (many times the two are connected).

    Very often the two are connected.

  30. Anonymous #91 , LOL….. Agreed you may not graduate on the frummer side of kosher brew but on the other side of the shotglass , you definitely won’t be having any flashbacks on mean bar tuition committees taking family heirlooms candlesticks or gold to hold on to temporarily should the funds be left unpaid.tuition issues and committees are like one of those creepy money hungry pawn shops only worse çuz these guys are supposed to be your role models. Anyway you will never have to deal with stuff like temporary admission to the bar ànd the dress code is not that stringent. The bartenders listen whether your an atheist,psychiatrist,street bumstress or self proclaimed messiah.its one merry happy family. And when your thinking of having kids you won’t think twice about the real powerful effects of true listening and caring on a barstool.that’s what makes it better than just a regular tuition based religious school ;-) I’m not suggesting though that you substitute general schooling with one of my bars. For the actual schooling just use the public school system.

  31. It’s hard enough already to deal with touchy issues (and people); enough of “repugnant”! Let each family try to deal with the only question, “What does HaShem really demand of us under our particular circumstances and how do we find out what that is?” Gut feel is at best an indicator, not the full answer to the question.

    [Question for extra credit in English:

    The first time around, is it “pugnant” and “dundant”?]

  32. Of course right, yes. Except it’s not always treated as an “of course right.” Either by the BTs — who are my main concern on this site — or by those who should be making them aware and comfortable enough to ask.

  33. Ok, again, I think we’re making an absurd use of the word “repugnant.” I used it in much the same sense you did, anonymous, though perhaps unwisely: Bloggers, BT’s or not, and other yentas should pasken shaylas. People with issues about having children should speak to an appropriately trained orthodo rabbi, right? Of course right.

  34. Óra, I appreciate you keeping track of my phrases wording ànd usage ;-). Actually the redundacy was for reiteration purposes only.Ànd telling someone to put théir money where théir preachy directives prance out of is just way more eloquent. The someone I had in mind was not the yenta with ten kids next door , it was the halacha helpers also known as rabbis that àvoid this stuff thinking that the patrons with these sort of birth control questions are connected to the audience the “say nope do dope slogans” we’re directed towards on those candy boxes of days gone by.oh and I can help you with your some of my best friends come from families of 20 statistics.Thé distinguished rabbis should learn to differentiate between different shades and hues of color and understanding before they start preaching black and white.
    And to everyone else getting all bent out of shape about birthing babies and crowd control …….. I’m not a birthing babies çoach my point was that birth control should not be so hush hush and unheard of.everyone is entitled to as many kids as they wanna birth just don’t expect mé to babysit or fund your tuition or watch perfectly cute neighborhoods turn into city slums with an over abundance of 100 family dwellings. On less than acre properties no less!!!
    Happy baby birthing !!

  35. It is repugnant to tell people not to have children because if you don’t have income X or can’t achieve lifestyle Y. I think it is entirely contrary to Jewish sensibilities.

    With all due respect, what is repugnant to me is for a BT, for instance, to not — or not even know — to ask his or her Rav for a heter (even at the beginning of the marriage), if, in fact, he or she has any hesitation, be it from an emotional or financial perspective (many times the two are connected).

    Let the Rav he or she is attached to — hopefully a competent one with much experience with BTs — decide daas Torah in this particular couple’s instance.

    Anything else — including not having an idea that it is permissible and perhaps even advisable to ask such a question to his or her Rav — enters the category of undesirable, if not repugnant, IMO.

  36. Okay, well I appreciate the clarification — probably the word in question here doesn’t really apply at all.

    I don’t believe it is a Jewish outlook nor is it acceptable under normative halacha — as opposed to what may or may not be the actual practice — not to have children, or to have fewer children, because of economic concerns. I hesitate to speak too broadly. But there is a subtext in this thread of children being considered some sort of accoutrement to life that can be afforded or not. You and I agree: It is repugnant to tell people not to have children because if you don’t have income X or can’t achieve lifestyle Y. I think it is entirely contrary to Jewish sensibilities.

  37. SephardiLady, how can it be “repugnant” to you that things cost what they cost?

    I don’t find it regugnant that schooling plus camp costs a whole lot of money (it does and that is the reality unless we decide as a community that school shouldn’t be a consumer good).

    You misread my thoughts (understandable). I find it disgusting to tell people don’t have kids if you don’t make $100K or $200K and you can’t do like the Schwartzes, be it putting your kids in pre-school, camp, day school, or paying for a wedding.

    If nobody else will say it, I will. I’d rather have my children and send them to public school if necessary than not have my children at all, or less children (and we are and will be a small family, unfortunately). But to say we shouldn’t make a nice family when we can feed, clothe, and shelter our children is what I find “repugnant.”

    I can see being upset, being frustrated, being beside oneself, but “repugnant”? I hate armchair psychology (and I don’t really have much use for alcohol-based philosophy either — sorry, Jaded) but you sound like you’re angry about something other than economics.

    I don’t have a lot to be angry about personally. But, thank you for the concern. But, my grandparents on both sides were extremely poor. And if they had been frum and decided not to have children because they couldn’t “afford” them, I wouldn’t be here and neither would my kids. And I’m sure I’m not alone.

    I have mixed feelings about those who have large families and expect the community to pick up the tab, just like others here. But, when it comes to “afford” I think it the comments are as much directed at those with 0-3 children as much as they are to those with 6+ children and everything in between.

  38. The girls I graduated with were mostly planning on supporting Kollel guys, and they’ve done very well. Some of these FFB’s have very good, established networks.

    Charnie, I wonder if you knew the approximate range of salaries your friends earn(ed) and if you could share it.

  39. anonymous, I’m a COPE computer grad, and the only reason I’m not “doing better” financially was that I chose to stay with a computer job that’s 10 minutes from my home, rather than do the Manhattan shuffle. It’s civil service, so raises are few, minimal and far between (driven by union contracts), but it’s enabled me to be there when my kids need me, attend their Chanukah plays et al. The girls I graduated with were mostly planning on supporting Kollel guys, and they’ve done very well. Some of these FFB’s have very good, established networks.

    JT, we don’t often agree on things, but I do know of two instances of guys who came from double digit size families and opted to have small families themselves, so maybe you’re on to something? But I also know many very well adjusted families that are large. So ultimately, I still hold by the fact that we should go and have the kids, together with Bitchon and willingness to work at providing for them. If I’d waited, say, 5 years to start my family, I don’t think I would have found a much bigger nest egg waiting. Plus, sometimes when people decide (and I’ve seen this happen) “we’ll have a baby after x years”, it hasn’t happened, possibily because of the pressure to get things going on schedule.

  40. Jaded, your bartender-quality knowledge of alcoholic beverages is way beyond mine. If I were a student in your bartender-yeshiva I’m afraid I would end up off the derech. And that’s even if my parents could have paid the tuition.

  41. SephardiLady, how can it be “repugnant” to you that things cost what they cost? I wish things cost less relative to my income, too. Do you think someone is making an obscene profit, or any profit, on the cost of tuition? We live in a tremendously expensive time and place. I can see being upset, being frustrated, being beside oneself, but “repugnant”? I hate armchair psychology (and I don’t really have much use for alcohol-based philosophy either — sorry, Jaded) but you sound like you’re angry about something other than economics.

  42. Bob Miller (and everyone)–You said “let’s actually resolve this problem…” Who says that’s possible? Is there any case of a minority group which succesfully sends all of its children to at least thirteen years of private school? What is making you think that this is an achievable goal?

    Also, as a somewhat-aside, it’s actually probably a good thing that not every family can afford the tuition when taking a larger perspective. Imagine how people would react if all Jews were in the upper class (making over $100K/year?). When in galut, best not to stick out that far.

    I see only one way that we may be succesful (in private schooling all Jewish children), and that is collecting a Jewish tax. Why should people give their maaser to whatever organization they choose? Tzedaka is justice, something that we are obligated to do, and there are clear halachic priorities. Someone who gives to trendy causes in Israel when schoolchildren in their hometown are missing out on a Torah education is doing something wrong and hurting the community. So, while reducing costs wherever possible, community leaders need to make it crystal clear that funding Jewish education is a top communal priority, and an obligation which no one is exempt from.

  43. 1) What SephardiLady said.

    2) Jaded–that’s the second time you’ve said that those who advise large families need to “put their money where their mouths are.” In my experience, those advising large families usually have large families. They are hardly sitting around with one easily-affordable child telling everyone else to go make more babies.

    3) Also, “too many kids spoil the brew?” Such an American idea. Kids are fine materially as long as they have the basics (food, clothes, shelter), and kids are fine emotionally in big families. I have plenty of anecdotal evidence to back this up, and actually one of the most generous, well-adjusted and all-around wonderful kids I met was one of 15. Hopefully I’ll also find something in the way of studies, although for now all I’ve got is studies showing that groups with more kids (religious Christians, Mexicans, etc) have lower rates of depression–could be correlation + not causation, I’ll get back if I find something better.

  44. Anonymous, ;-) actually I’ve been focusing really hard on mixing brewing quite the spiritual malt beverage with available experience. I’m thinkin of naming the first concoction Jadeds mint julep judaism in a JuJu.For now I recommend you just go with Mikes hard lemonade , Woodchuck draft cider Amber flavored or Heather Ale direct from Scotland to continue contemplating all this complicated tuition stuff.
    Its just easier that way. And a bottle full of flavored alcohol helps the tuition bill get paid and go down or if need be and with enough bottles …. Forgotten about.
    Absolut Peach anyone ???

  45. DK,

    Your link does substantiate the obvious that “a college master’s degree is worth… more in lifetime earnings than a high school diploma.” Very nice.

    I am in complete agreement with you. However, in your original post you qualified your use of the word education with the adjective “quality.” By that, I implied that you meant — given other posts of yours; correct me if I am wrong — not a place like Touro or other types of vocational programs numerous observant post-HS grads attending these days.

    My point is that many of these grads can end up doing quite well. If you mean to say that the advanced degrees these kids get makes them prone to a smaller lifetime income than kids who get equivalent degrees from more higher “quality” schools I am not so sure, and the study in your link does not address that.

    But, yes, in a masters vs. a high school diploma the former is certainly preferable.

    Be that as it may, many Chassidim that I know and live near, for e.g., are doing better than I, even though I have an advanced degee and at best they have a high school diploma.

    That has not caused me to change my belief and try to convey to my children that an advanced degree is desirable and preferable. However, I would like to see a study like the one you cited but geared specifically for the orthodox community: What is the correlation between an advanced degree and annual income, and how does this play out across various groups, e.g. Chassidim, Yeshivish, Modern, etc. Your study might not necessarily apply to the observant community.

    (But even if it does, again, you will get no argument from me that an advanced degree is preferable. It is, IMO. But I’m just not convinced that the observant kids who go through one of the many routes available today to getting an advanced degree or vocational training are earning less than their secular counterparts with comparable degrees and training.)

  46. DK,

    Sorry to disappoint you, but I am not. I am just a regular working guy — BT with an advanced degree from a “quality” school — who has had to get (and is still getting) an “education” how to prepare his FFB kids for the “real” world, including one already in the working world (while pursuing a masters), one about to enter college (already has some college creds from HS) and another into serious learning who plans to continue for a few more years, be’h, but who already has some college credits and may opt for something like an MBA down the line.

    And, FYI, you are incorrect that I am diminishing the value of a secular education. I am just saying it is not the ONLY way to make a decent income in this world.

  47. Well, Anonymous, you really seek to diminish the value of a secular education. Are you an NCSY adviser by any chance?

  48. Fern, I’m soo with you on the no birthing babies ünless one can afford them.firstly there are a plethora of opportunities available for those that are in mothering mode, like foster care or nieces and nephews that don’t involve finances but still allow for making the world a more caring space to grow up in.and like I’ve mentioned before all the halacha helpers that insist on no birth control , and the go and have as many babies as possible and often should practice putting théir money where their preachy directives dance out of.too many kids spoil the brew and some end up in the brewery trying to come up with théir own happier brew.

  49. Fern, I’m sorry if people appear to be “coming down” on you. But I must share with you an incident that occured 20 years ago when I was expecting my first child. I was sitting in the waiting room for an OB appointment, and overheard one of the OB’s in the practice telling an apparently newlywed couple “if everyone put off having children till they could afford them, no one would ever have children”. I don’t even know if this couple was Jewish,no less frum. However, it’s quite true – children are more than a budget item. I have friends whose kids went to public school and they seem to be struggling too – it’s just that their money went to other places then ours – maybe new model cars, more vacations, I really don’t know. I’d rather be dirt poor with kids, then wealthy without them, they are the greatest gift you will ever get, a true blessing from Hashem.

  50. For instance, there is no guarantee that a person with a masters in computer engineering will make more money than a high school grad.

    Well, now you’re creating a straw man. Yes, your MS in computers will probably earn more than a hs grad. But not necessarily more than a motivated kid with a yeshiva education who took courses in a Touro-like program or even a COPE 1-yr computer programing course (nowadays COPE for computers doesn’t exist, but when it did) seriously.

    Let me put it this way, I know enough of the latter type to know that they can end up doing pretty well.

    (FYI, nowadays even people with MS computer degrees from “quality” schools are having a hard time finding a good job because the whole computer industry has moved toward outsourcing.)

  51. Let me reiterate/clarify what I said above. I hear everyone’s pain/fustration/anger/hopelessness about the tuition issue. I agree it is a major problem. We have had over 300 comments on all similiar posts about the subject already. Lets focus on the constructive side. What practically can be done. Let’s roll up our sleeves and hammer out a working document of action.

    #2-I am sure that the site adminstartors show a number of posts to the rabbinic advisors.
    I am also sure that the rabbinic advisors do not read each and every comment. The laws of Lashon Hara are very complicated and also very constraining in what can and can’t be said.The post might be fine, but what about the comments. What about all the other posts and comments. That is an article in itself. Would we take the same attitude with kashrut , etc. We are talking about the possibility of torah violations. Embellishment is also prohibited in many cases. Just pick up and read the sefarim on lashon hara.

    There is a time and place for everything and not everything should be printed or said. People should be very carefully with dispensing halachic advice like birth control, etc. Many people stumble because they follow the advice of the laymen rather than the poskim.

  52. Anonymous wrote in #44,

    DK, unless you are talking about something like Harvard, Yale or Princeton it is not my experience — a BT father of older FFB kids — that a “quality” secular education necessarily results in higher levels of income. To the contrary, it amazes me how many yeshiva-trained kids seem to find career-niches and/or decent-paying jobs. I don’t know the percentages of those who “succeed” but it doesn’t appear to me to be that different from the percentages among the secular friends I grew up with.

    I think we need to see the stats. There is guarantee, of course, but it seems that generally, the better education, the beter the odds.

    For instance, there is no guarantee that a person with a masters in computer engineering will make more money than a high school grad. You can find examples where this is not the case. But I would still bet money on the masters grads on the whole, and so would you. You wouldn’t yell (betachon!) and bet 50-50. Neither should those giving aitzah.

  53. Fern, I don’t know what you mean by “frum” but to the extent we’re talking about normative halacha, we cannot be cavalier. There are some subtle and some not-so-subtle halachic issues in the interplay of getting married and childbearing and parnossah, but this is not something that orthodox Jews can just “wing” based solely on their personal sensibilities and preferred level of economic comfort any more than they can improvise kashrus, tahoras hamishpacha or Shabbos observance. I do not mean to minimize the importance of the pressure involved in making a living in our time (and the place — metro New York –most of us share) or the intensely personal nature of these decisions.

  54. As in all other situations, there has to be the proper balance of emunah and hishtadlus.

    Throughout history, many of the greatest Jews and their families were dirt poor.

    We as community members should do our best, though, not to let our disorganization or lack of empathy cause or worsen other members’ poverty.

  55. Fern

    As you can see from this board that if everyone waited to have kids until they were sure they could afford everything we would have a whole board of childless people (G-d forbid). This is besides the halachic implications, which others on the board are much more qualified than me to discuss.

  56. Sorry I’m so late in responding, but I felt compelled to respond to this:

    “Fern – It’s good points but is exactly contrary to orthodox lifestyle that frum society, Torah, and yeshiva’s expect. One does not “put off” children. One does not family plan based on yeshiva tuitions (though I suspect people are getting there).”

    I completely disagree with your stance on this issue. It is the height of irresponsibility to have children you cannot adequately provide for. If people are unwilling to wait to have children when they are on a little better financial footing, then maybe they should put off getting married until they have a job that can support a family. Or is that not ‘frum’ either?!

  57. Jaded Topaz,

    The image of you encountering the lady who withheld your admission card because your parents did not pay tuition on time is, IMO, the most powerful one on this board. Your anger is understandable. Totally. What did you do; you were just a child. Your feelings are totally understandable.

    I wonder if those who authorize such decrees are aware of far-reaching consequences of their actions on generations, and the failing marks they receive on the “admission” and “report cards” that truly count, the ones in shamayim.

    I hope shamayim does not hold back those “reports cards” from them…. Let them know the consequences of such actions and procedures; let them see it and weep… and hopefully realize the need to eliminate such behavior from our midst immediately and forever.

  58. In lieu of Mark’s suggestion, how about if we could actually come up with a list of the pros and cons.

    I’d start with these:
    1) Yeshiva education is the absolute highest priority in our lives.
    2) Rebbes/Morahs and teachers in the system deserve to make a living.
    a) Their option of “bartering” services for tuition is a legitimate form of payment. Barter is one of the oldest methods of payment in the world.
    3) When a family requires either assistance, be in permanent or temporary, the administration should be discreet and not in any way embarrass a child, who should be able to remain oblivious of their parents’ financial needs.

    That’s as much as I can think of now, as I’m in “erev Shabbos, still in the office” mode. But you get the point.

  59. The missing link is “get together, make a plan and fix it”.

    I like your thinking Bob. Forget about tuition, let’s bring the Geulah in three simple steps:
    1) Get Together
    2) Make a Plan
    3) Fix It

  60. The missing link is “get together, make a plan and fix it”.

    Anyone who is in the NY area should contact Elliot Pasik about the parents meetings he has had and wants to have. The rest of us should try to communicate with those running the schools (despite the frustration that may arise).

  61. Alter Klein: I know for a fact that there are some higher up people who have read some of my posts and other posts out there. I also know an idea presented was brought by a parent to her son’s school, although I’m not sure if it was ever implemented.

    The internet is a tremendous resource for sharing ideas, and for taking the community temperature too. Many have put forward ideas that have potential and the “higher ups” NEED to know what the tuition paying parents want, what hurts alumni and community relationships and ultimately the bottom line, etc.

    (Oh, and as always, I welcome any tuition stories on my blog from guest writers.)

  62. And if anyone needs further proof of why the Jewish educational system is an imperative need, look over these stats.

    You’ll note that more “defined as Orthodox” Jews are now sending their children to day school/yeshivas. As is true of everything else in life, ultimately there will be power in numbers.

  63. Yes, the pain is genuine, and, yes, it needs to be aired. But let’s actually resolve the problem, at long last. It’s hard to maintain that the nature, dimensions, seriousness, and frequency of the problem have not been widely known and understood at all levels of Jewish school administration for years. The missing link is “get together, make a plan and fix it”.

  64. Our Rabbinic Advisors are extremely wise people and know that this is a complex problem which will require all parties coming to the table to come up with solutions. I don’t think we’ll see a post from them titled “I Know How to Solve this Complex Problem in One Easy Blog Post”.

    One of the parties often not at the table are the people in pain. It is very important that these voices be heard. Let me state that again, “IT IS VERY IMPORTANT THAT THE VOICES OF THOSE IN PAIN BE HEARD”.

    These people are not angry or frustrated or spinning their wheels, they are in real financial and emotional pain. When enough people understand the real pain they are in, perhaps they will finally invite them to the table to work on solutions.

    This forum provides a voice for the people who are not part of the higher ups or the communal level but they are affected by their decisions. And as BTs, we are often more impacted as we don’t usually have significant financial support from our parents.

    To suggest that they, make that “we”, keep quiet is in my opinion incomprehensible.

  65. One more point though, I agree it is not only a commandment, but a privilege to be able to fulfill the mitzvah of teaching Torah to our children, paying the tuition. Anytime that I was ever in a situation where I needed any help with full amounts in special education or the like, it pained me terribly to ask for it. I was told by administrators that it was okay, they will work with us, nothing negative from them, I just am pained by the whole idea of not paying any Yeshiva what they ask for. I would rather do without any number of things than that. People can also pay back later amounts that were discounted during a certain difficult time, this was my idea, as I found it too uncomfortable to withold any monies from any Yeshiva endlessly.

  66. Alter Klein, are you suggesting that there is no need for reconciling torah study and the science of how to afford tuition and still afford food. ?I’m not so sure that the tuition committees would heartily and readily accept belief and prayer as payment. And who exactly are the powers that you speak so eloquently of. They don’t seem to be of the listening sort.

    Mark , speaking of tears and tuition threads … Last spring, in Costco I bumped wagons with the tuition lady temp admission card giver that old money issue was so real a tear actually escaped and landed right on one of the large èaster bunny rabbits in my wagon.I haven’t been in grade school in years and I don’t have no kids to pay for but I have never forgotten the embarrasment of tuition issues.and still can’t even fathom thinking of sending kids if I ever have any to a religious school.

    Charnie, I would arrange a little meeting with your buiding fund lover administrater and force him to show you exactly where all the previous building fund money is being all allocated to. Thé fact that he withholds your sons admission card çuz of that is outrageous.

  67. I’m understanding Alter Klein’s point to be that real productive change may not be best able to come from a forum such as this one, but rather on higher up or communal levels, or supporters, leaders,foundations. We can try to come up with ideas, we can provide positive support in other ways, try to organize, etc., but since the real solution, which is not a simple matter, may not be found here, instead it tends to bring up alot of mixed feelings and negativity and that can be endless unless someone puts a constructive stop to it. I guess Shabbos Kodesh will naturally do that now, so Good Shabbos all.

  68. Mark,

    The Rabbinic Advisors have the knowledge and experience base to give us and the Orthodox community in general some practical advice on community educational policy in our areas of concern. What exactly do they propose?

    We’re entitled, of course, to post and comment within their guidelines, but there’s a point where we’ve spun our wheels enough and need their input.

  69. Unfortunately there are *many* people who are in horrible financial shape because of the tuition situation. It is important that their voices be heard again and again until enough people take notice and real change occurs. “The people cried out, and Hashem heard their voice…”

    In fact, a friend who is very involved in communal affairs read the previous thread and was in tears. How a person can read some of these painful stories and suggest that posting them has no toeles (purpose) is truly beyond me.

    In terms of Loshan Hora and Lifnei Iver we have reviewed this particular post and many others like it with our extremely qualified Rabbinic Advisors and they poskened that there is no problem with them.

  70. Alter, continuing AJ’s thoughts – it is imperative to understand that this is a universal issue among Orthodox Jews, not only BT’s. The other significant point is that over the web, voices are heard in ways they never were before. For example, another blog picks up any of these threads and quotes them (ie, tracksback). And then another, and then someone forwards is as emails, etc. What I’m trying to say is that this does enable the word to get out, and you never know just which suggestion here just might be implemented. It’s true that most of this has been discussed previously, but it is no less vital today then it was a year ago. And there are new readers who might not have explored the archives.

    This brings to mind one more gripe (sorry) about this crisis. Somehow or other, at the expense of many other things, we’ve managed to basically pay tuition, albeit, for a small (3 kids) family. However, one administrator almost every year withholds my son’s report card as a means of extracting any additional money owed (usually part of the dinner or building fee – not the basic tuition). What this serves to do is embarrass my son. As many times as I’ve complained about this strategy, it’s fallen on deaf ears. This person knows us, and knows we’ll pay up when we can. Ever notice how cars break down just when you thought you have ma’aser money available?

  71. I think it does help to know that there are others out there in the same predicament as you. Especially for BTs who’s parents most likely did not pay anything for schooling and this is a whole new world for them. Forums like these help us not to feel like big failures because we don’t make six figures or (much) more. But I agree that solutions, not just talk (especially care to avoid loshon hara), are needed so who are the “people in power” that we can address this to?

  72. Alter Klein,

    You have a good point. How should we posters/readers approach this in a way that will produce good results?

  73. I am not sure I understand the point of posting this article. We had previous articles about this topic which received masses of responses. All pretty much the same negativity and anger. Why again? What is the good that is going to come out of another one? 200 more comments of fustration, anger, loshon hara and negativity.
    I agree there are major issues regarding tuition that need to be addressed. They need to be addressed by the “people in power” and with constructive solutions. I dont see the good that comes out of people griping over and over about the same subject. I think it just feeds everyones anger and can be “a stumbling block” before the blind. That is a torah commandment my friends. Before we just say “well I need to vent” we have to make sure that the good of it doesnt outweigh the bad of posibbly violating a torah commandment. I realize I will probably get “in trouble for this comment however I think enough already with the borderline torah infingements.

  74. #33 Moshe Before we focus on those who are not yet frum, shouldn’t we ensure that those who are can receive an affordable jewish education?

    The ROI (Return on Investment) from Day Schools and Yeshivot has proved to be enormous, while the ROI from kiruv, as important as it is, has not proved to be so (see Marvin Schick’s articles on the subject). I still believe kiruv is important, but we have taken our money elsewhere.

    Re: #37 Steve Brizel 1)Someone who does not have pleasant memories of their K-12 education is IMO unlikely to want to give more than tuition.

    Alumni relations start DURING school and it would be wise for schools to be future thinking in this area. Another area that schools need to think about is the humiliation they put many parents through when seeking reduced tuition. I have heard stories of parents paying the difference between full tuition and the reduced tuition they paid during their children’s school years. Parents and students that were humiliated (like my husband’s parents and my husband) have no loyalty to their alma mater and ultimately the schools suffer for it.

    Re: #50 Chava: I have been practicing saying, “I’m sorry, but my ma’aser is earmarked for our local schools which are struggling”.

    It will get easier Chava! Join the club.

  75. I’m joining in the conversation late, but am quite passionate that there must be a better way to do things. . . although I hope it isn’t too late. There are far too many parents out there on the verge of serious financial crisis. And, that just isn’t healthy.

    A comments on some of the comments:
    #2 Michoel: One detail of the arrangement that I am trying to make peace with is the full tuition breaks for rebbeim.

    I am opposed to automatic tuition breaks based on employment status, although it is a powerful employment tool. Many of my kollel neighbors have complainted that there is not an automatic tuition discount for them. I’ve said it before and still stand by my belief that we are all in this mess together and that we can all stand before the tuition committee and plead our case. I see no reason why Rebbes or Kolleleit should get an automatic pass, while the rest of us have to beg and plead for a bone to be thrown our way.

    Re: #5 Bob Miller 1. Do we have a patchwork of multiple competing institutions for good reasons or because we can’t get along well enough with other Orthodox Jews who are not carbon copies of ourselves? Can’t schools cooperate more in purchasing and in offering services?

    Based on many of the stories out there, I think it is high time we all get along before we have nothing to get along about.

    Re: Albany Jew #7 And you can just forget Mom staying home to raise the younger kids.

    Actually, while some people have to work, plenty of mothers loose money-at least in the short term-by going out to work and might not even know it. But, that is a subject for another time.

    Re: #22 Mark Calls from the pulpit of where people should direct their money will probably have little effect, because few people want to be told how they should give there Tzedakah.

    We should all be BEGGING our leaders to make tuition a major subject in the community. The squeaky wheel gets the grease. Maybe the wheel isn’t squeaky enough?

    Re: #23 Fern R.: If a young couple started saving and investing as soon as they were married, and put off having children for a little while, by the time their children were ready for school the parents might have a decent amount of money to help cushion the cost of a yeshiva eduction.

    There is a lot to say here, but I wouldn’t recommend putting off the first child as a blanket rule for many reasons, including the fact that (unfortunately) it could take a good 10 years for a young couple to be in the position to even pay partial tuition on a cash flow tax basis WITHOUT a mortgage. Since my husband and I married “later” (although we had a child by our 1st anniversary), we had plenty of time to save and invest. We are looking at moving to a home that will allow us to separate our boys and girls into different rooms and have discovered that even if we were able to put down 50% on a modest home, that after basic living expenses, we still wouldn’t bring in enough to afford tuition for a small family (let’s say 3-4 kids) on a cash flow basis. Tuition of $12,000-$17,000 and rising are a nightmare!

    Re: #26 Akiva One does not family plan based on yeshiva tuitions (though I suspect people are getting there).

    We aren’t getting there. We are already there. Check out this post which references my blog:

  76. It’s been about 8 years since i graduated high school. My school recently contacted one student in every graduated class – she was then in charge of calling the rest of her classmates asking them to donate some money to the school. As far as i know – everyone was happy to do it. We were a good class though.. and we do keep in touch by email- so maybe that’s why it worked in this case. Proably won’t solve the tuition problem, but it may help…
    Thank you so much for writing this piece. Maybe b/c i’m still single (noone to support), i know i don’t fully realize how much money it actually takes to raise a family! This helps me put it in perspective. makes me want to start off living as simply as i can. That way, at least, i won’t end up creating new materialistic wants that become “needs”.

  77. My neighbor and I were discussing this recently. We have local schools on the verge of bankruptcy. I decided that I am earmarking my ma’aser for the local schools. I have been practicing saying, “I’m sorry, but my ma’aser is earmarked for our local schools which are struggling”. It’s really hard b/c when confronted with this, the constant stream of meshulachim and telemarketers for torah have no end to the ways in which they can beg, plead and conjole. Some get downright hostile (raise your hand if you’ve had a photocopy of a check thrust in your face with the comment ‘but you gave x last year!!!!’ tossed out as an accussation). Hm – is it only BT’s that understand the concept of ‘aniei ircha’?

  78. Bob , yeah but some of üs apparently are FORclosuring (literally and figuretively )çuz of teshuva.logically speaking if Gd sees someone working so hard trying to be good and disciplined and religious or whatever why is there always a need for unforeseen circumstances to screw things up like a runaway train that’s supposed to have stayed on track. Things like cute tuition bills or other costly religion related activities are so distracting, and acutely so. Not everyone is so good at ignoring these distinctly large disconcerting distractions.

  79. Sam Smith, first I would suggest that all the halacha helpers that insist on promoting a birth control free society should be heartily encouraged to put théir money where théir mouth is. I understand this will have no positive effect on the fertility crisis and related concerns. But neither will a plethora of children birthed from the same mother solve any fertility issues. Ünless one is selling the new batch of little ones (to help fund tuition bills for the older ones).
    Another highly underrated practice to consider once we’ve figured óut what the perfect number of kids are is the eloping concept.
    No more kashrus worries on wedding halls,cost of wedding meal which is generally slightly higher than the approximate cost to feed a small foreign country including army and gods. And then there is all the floral and alcohol related activities.Eloping is the way to a ütopian marriage without the hassle of expenses.
    Once were done with that we should get all the hashgacha giving guys together under one small roof and explain to these fellows that kosher food with everyones own certification is just too expensive so we are creating one large org and you all have to agree on same kitzur laws involving kashrus. ,óu ok star k no k only k kof k everyone will join together and become one large happy middle of the road kashrus family.
    That should make kosher food a little less expensive. Not sure about Passover though holiday of 61.3 markup on ordinary foods.

  80. I think the problem stems form the fact that the entire school system is one huge bideavad.

    According to the Torah ideal, parents should be the ones to teach thier children Torah.

    Of course today, this is almost impposible to accomplish (with work etc.). But since we are not doing what the Torah tells us we should, troubles are bound to spring up.

    I think its gettiing to the point that it would be more cost effective to have ones wife go to school for education, and home tech the children rather than work. The money saved on tuition would far exceed the cost of an education degree and lack of a second salery.

  81. Charnie:

    Thanks so much for the kind words about my husband. He loves the kids as well and strives to give so much of himself. We, the rest of the family, feel privileged to be a part of it.

  82. Maybe kiruv programs need to stop discouraging a quality secular education and high level vocational training. Maybe they need to stop doing that NOW.

    DK, unless you are talking about something like Harvard, Yale or Princeton it is not my experience — a BT father of older FFB kids — that a “quality” secular education necessarily results in higher levels of income. To the contrary, it amazes me how many yeshiva-trained kids seem to find career-niches and/or decent-paying jobs. I don’t know the percentages of those who “succeed” but it doesn’t appear to me to be that different from the percentages among the secular friends I grew up with.

    The big difference, as I see it, is the cost of living. The same income that means a relatively comfortable middle class lifestyle for a secular person means struggle, debt and the “Sam Smiths” of the frum world.

    Harvard/Yale/Princeton et al are not solutions for the vast majority of observant families, for numerous reasons. The Touros and vocational programs, etc., on the other hand, while far from perfect do produce kids who become adults making a living, whether they become computer types, business people, lawyers, doctors or Indian chiefs at all scales of the income spectrum.

    Among those who succeed I think part of the reason is that Torah values make them more focused and serious at an earlier age. I know my older kids are more so than I. I also see it in the kids of my friends, co-workers, fellow shul-goers and others. They don’t rely, necessarily, on the “quality” education-name to get them a job. They work hard, struggle and eventually find a niche. And they do so at an earlier age than the average secular kid, IMO.

    Of course, there are those who struggle and don’t seem to make it.

    As there are among the secular.

    My point, though, is that I don’t think it’s the incomes of yeshiva-products that necessarily suffer. It’s the fact that the cost of living — perhaps foremost of all: tuition — that makes life almost prohibitive, for many.

    I think one of Sam’s points in his article is that while this is, of course, true for FFBs as it is for BTs, it might benefit BTs to be make well aware of this at some point BEFORE they decide to continue upon or find their career path, take off x-amount of months or years to learn in yeshiva f/t, delay going to grad school, where they will live, when they will marry and perhaps whom they will marry even.

    Disclosure — I think that’s a valid and necessary point. It doesn’t have to be on day one. But it has to be. And not after the window to a satisfactory and decent-paying career closes or after marriage and couple of kids. Show them these articles by “Sam” before then. Have a heart-to-heart with them beforehand.

    Those guiding their lives need to do so. And don’t necessarily assume anyone else — including their rabbeim — are doing so.

  83. Some of us are under the impression that the key to surviving economically is by obtaining as good a secular education as possible. For a dissenting view on this issue, I reccomend a three part series by Charles Murray in the WS Journal. His advocacy of trades such as plumbing, electronics, etc should be no surprise to any of us who know of the many frum people who have been in these trades over the years. Why our boys’s schools don;t provide such a vocational track in this regard is IMO a tragedy.

  84. Marty, I’ve had a son in a yeshiva that seemed to constantly be hiring new administrators. Your daughter’s school is comparitively small. However, with regard to my son’s school, while I have no clue what they pay these various administrators, I do know that it’s a top notch school, well run, with excellent Rebbes and teachers. It’s just fortunate to have a demographic of many upper middle class families, as opposed to some of the other schools.

    With regard to supporting yeshivas, it is amazing that so many Bais Yaakov school survive, given that Yeshiva Gedolas generally have more of the tzedakah market locked up. I wish I could donate more to the BY my daughter attended, it’s a true roll model for every other school.

  85. Heshy,

    I know that where my daughter goes, I sincerly doubt that they have “six-figure” administrators. They are operating out of a Jewish Center and do not have that many administrators…in fact, the lady in charge also teaches in the school.


  86. Time to get out of the box may be?
    As good as your suggestions may be, THEY’R NOT GONNA WORK! as long as: You want to “live big” (and even middle class America is “big” living) and you continue to willfully remain in chutz laaretz. Somehow this is less of an issue in Eretz Yisroel, especially in yishuvim, for a few reasons: Cost of living is much lower. People are more idealistic. And (most important reason imo) when you’re moser nefesh to get out of golus, Hashem helps…
    Please think about it…

    And a word about weddings: My settler cousins got married in OPEN FIELDS.

    When you live simple (and in Eretz Yisroes you really can), Hashem does look out for you… My cousins (they can’t even think of affording American style weddings) got married in an open field near their yishuv! Something to think about for those of us who sweat when thinking about their kids weddings…

  87. Sam, there are at least two facets to this problem. One of the other ones is parents who game the system by accepting substantial scholarships because their reportable income is indeed low. Yet they live a very comfortable upper-middle-class lifestyle, complete with home renovations yomtov trips abroad or to warm locations, on the tab of Bubby and Zeidy in Flatbush while they finish business school, start that mortgage brokerage business or sit and learn. Well, Bubby and Zaidy are free to spend their money however they like, right? They are, but there is something on this side of ledger sheet that is not right, and the result is frequently precisely the kind of interaction many of us have had that leaves much to be desired.

    That response is exactly why I have always cringed asking for any sort of financial aid. The reality is that we rarely know what kind of financial resources someone has or does not have.

    It is unfair to suggest that someone should not receive aid because someone is able to go on vacation, make some sort of home improvement or drives a nicer car than you think they should.

  88. I am so glad that you wrote this. I was going to write something to the same effect months ago, but, in the end decided not to out of privacy concerns. I am in Kiruv and have a large family, thank G-d.Initially, when we started sending our children to school, the local day school took our financial situation into consideration and gave us a big break. But, the administration changed and our fee was hiked until it was more than my yearly salary. I have maxed out 12 credit cards covering tuition over the years and I have a second mortgage on my house. This year I pulled out my kids from school and am homeschooling the whole crew. After 10 years and six children at the school not one person cared that we left. I have one son in Yeshiva. We filled out the financial forms and they came back saying we could not afford to pay anything. The schools answer was half tuition, which is still extremely high. The whole world is screwy how will I even dream of paying for weddings when they come up. Maybe Kiruv professional should be responsible for their students. I hold no grudges. But, this is a pretty hard life. Forget about more kids….

  89. Mark-I have a few theories and observations on some of these issues. Here are a few:

    1)Someone who does not have pleasant memories of their K-12 education is IMO unlikely to want to give more than tuition.

    2) Someone who has the wherewithal to give but doesm’t may simply be someone who wants to be in control and lacks confidence in the management of the particular school.

    3) We live in an age where people give to a cause that appeals to them as being unique. Unfortunately, K-12 education is a necessity, but by no means unique.

    4)K-12 schools of all orientations are a monopoly in that we all send or sent our kids to them. (While many talk about internet or home schooling, IMO, there is no substitute for being in a school with a rebbe and morah with other kids. ) However, if schools want us to either give beyond scar limud or to be active, there has to be a partnership between schools and parents. Parents, teachers and administrators should work together towards the mutual aim of the child being an educated and observant Ben or Bas Torah who view their school years as major positive steps in that regard, as opposed to a baby sitting service. OTOH, parents who can’t teach their kids because of their lack of background, etc have to be willing to work with the school and not regard a rebbe as underworked and underpaid.

  90. 1.The Rambam Says Not To Make Your Living Off Of Torah

    2.It Is The Parents Oblgation To Teach The Children Torah

    The Bitter Truth Is That The Community Can Not Afford To Pay All The Educators And Tuition Assistance Requests

    The Orthodox World Is Suffering Under The Financial Burden Of Tuition And Most Stop Having More Children Because Of The Fear Of Another Tuition

    The Only Solution Is To Set Up An Internet Based Free Jewish Homeschool

    No Need For Thousands Of Educators
    No Need For Tuition Birth Control

  91. No doubt — a frum lifestyle costs money,

    Albany Jew said,

    Maybe Kiruv programs need to enlist the help of financial advisors.

    Maybe kiruv programs need to stop discouraging a quality secular education and high level vocational training. Maybe they need to stop doing that NOW.

  92. I too had this perception of an “unwritten contract”. I was disabused of this notion early in my children’s school years.

    First thing, this isn’t something limited to BTs. This is just the way the “system” works and it’s just that BTs aren’t hip to it so they don’t know how to “play the game”

    Second, the only obvious way to make yeshiva education more afforadable is to cut the fat. Not the Rebeim, not the teachers, but the administration and support staff. Many schools have three or four high level administrators with six figure salaries, high quality health care and benefits and large support staffs. Many of them “pull their weight” by fundraising more than they make and providing valuable service. Others are a drain on the school and are heavily contirbuting to higher tuition.

    Third, some schools require parents on tuition assistance to “volunteer” their time to the school. I don’t have a problem with the idea of someone on tuition assistance helping the school. In fact, I think people who can, should. I do have a problem when it is forced and when it is done as a punishment, especially when it is obvious to everyone else and when grown, educated men and women are given embarrassing tasks to perform.

    Fourth, as with many things, a few bad apples spoil it for the good ones. When the school knows that there are parents with the ability to pay tuition who don’t and lie about their abilities, the schools are forced into a mode where they have to be suspicious of everyone.

  93. I think it is the responsibility of the community to help raise money for jewish education. So much emphasis is placed on raising money for kiruv organizations to bring other jews into yiddishkeit. For some reason, it is not “sexy” to donate to jewish education. Before we focus on those who are not yet frum, shouldn’t we ensure that those who are can receive an affordable jewish education? Obviously both are important but there just doesn’t seem to be much emphasis placed on the latter.

  94. One does not “put off” children. One does not family plan based on yeshiva tuitions (though I suspect people are getting there).

    Gershon Seif made a comment awhile back about a RY, experienced with BTs, who was not afraid to advise new BT couples to come to him to ask about delaying children.

  95. To All,

    Let’s not forget that this posting is pretty much a cry for immediate help with the possiblity of a very negative result (taking ones children out of school, “putting-off having children, etc.) Solutions must be found very very soon. I just wish I had some.

  96. Bob, My point was that there has been much positive change in Orthodox communities (level of learning, level of observance, types of institutions).

    Positive change occurs when people are well intentioned, properly guided, persistent and smart in their startegies and tactics.

  97. Mark said,

    “Bob, Orthodoxy and it’s institions are constantly changing, just compare our communities today and even 10-20 years ago. If you’re talking about overnight change, of course thats a pipe dream, but gradual positive change is possible and I believe it is our obligation to try and make it happen to whatever degree we can.”

    What question does this answer? I was not asking for miraculous examples of overnight change, but for people’s actual experiences of successful change, period.

  98. Bob, Orthodoxy and it’s institions are constantly changing, just compare our communities today and even 10-20 years ago. If you’re talking about overnight change, of course thats a pipe dream, but gradual positive change is possible and I believe it is our obligation to try and make it happen to whatever degree we can.

    Ora, You’re correct, the Rebbeim should definitely educate their communities on the Torah’s view of Tzedakah and priorities. I had a particular scenario in mind when I made my comment about telling people where they should give their money.

  99. Another far fetched idea I previously hadn’t thought of, is the fact that we as frum Jews have yet to have had any impact on the Federation structure. If we ever do, either as staff or the all important boards, we’ll be able to direct some of those dollars in the direction of our school systems.

    Michoel, I think we’re misunderstanding one another. By quality, I guess, I was basing it on the salary and benefits. Yeshivas, with few exceptions, offer very little in terms of the type of benefits that other jobs might, particularly health insurance. Sarah rightfully describes a Rebbe’s job as a sacrifice, not only to him, but to his family. However, Rabbi Newcomb is so loved by his students, that we cab only be grateful to the whole family for the impact they are having. And we know that an educator’s rewards leave a lasting impression.

  100. Fern – It’s good points but is exactly contrary to orthodox lifestyle that frum society, Torah, and yeshiva’s expect. One does not “put off” children. One does not family plan based on yeshiva tuitions (though I suspect people are getting there).

    That’s the BT shanda in this…do the right thing, get hit for it. Be honest, the yeshiva won’t believe you (because everyone else is doing something under the table). Be straight on your taxes, you’re the frier.

    I’ve actually had a prominent rosh yeshiva tell me that…sign the paper knowing you can’t pay, then don’t. We know many can’t, but are going to force you through the process to make sure we get those who can. Don’t worry about it, it’s how it works.

  101. We have now spoken a lot about Orthodox institutional change. If anyone reading this has found a way that made it happen (on any scale), I’d like to see their story.

  102. Michoel–
    If you’re looking at things strictly from a business perspective, you could just as easily ask: why not charge the parents more? If the customers are willing to fork over 12K a year, why not try raising it to 13K and up your profit?

    Yeshivot, by their nature, can’t be strictly business and still be any good. They have to follow halacha. And in this case, underpaying the staff just because it’s possible would be at least as bad as overcharging parents for the same reason.

    I disagree about calls from the pulpit. When I first started giving maaser years ago, I had no idea where to start, and based my giving on ads I saw, people I talked to, etc. Until the first “financial realities” post, it didn’t even occur to me to give to an elementary school or high school. I think a lot of people might respond positively.

    Also, even if they won’t listen, it’s Torah and the Rabbi should at least try explaining.

  103. I don’t know if this is a good financial decision or not, but you can get educational loans for private elementary and secondary education. The same banks that offer college loans also offer loans to parents who wish to send their children to private schools but cannot afford to do so. The loan I saw recently had a significantly lower interest rate than the average credit card, so if you are financing your children’s education with credit cards, those loans are certainly worth looking into.

    Also, someone mentioned kiruv organizations employing financial advisors. They were probably joking, but I think many people would be well served by speaking to such a person. If a young couple started saving and investing as soon as they were married, and put off having children for a little while, by the time their children were ready for school the parents might have a decent amount of money to help cushion the cost of a yeshiva eduction. A financial advisor would be able to offer ideas to such parents about how to shelter the money from tax liabilities and how to grow the money while not risking too much.

  104. There are some communities who have created endowments.

    One of the problems is how we treat Torah education is the responsibility on the community or the consumer. The schools place the responsibility strongly on the consumer and those with money see it likewise.

    My Rav said it is much much easier to raise money for Chesed than for Torah. In the world of Torah the Post High School learning institutions have a much easier time of it. It is extremely difficult for K-12 schools to raise outside donations.

    If you look closely, you’ll see that many (or most) kiruv institutions package their activities as chesed and not as teaching Torah, because people are more responsive to Chesed appeals.

    Calls from the pulpit of where people should direct their money will probably have little effect, because few people want to be told how they should give there Tzedakah.

    We probably need some serious discussion and reevaluation of the entire financial structure of the education system and who is responsible for what from a Torah perspective.

  105. Sarah,
    I think my original point, way up thread, was lost in translation. I don’t have enregy right now to re-explain. Thanks for your feedback.

  106. Sarah,

    I wonder how he can function. It sounds like Yitzchak (I think) who didn’t sleep in a bed for all the years he learned in Yeshiva! All I can say is, at least it’s for a wonderful cause, and wish him luck..and lots of coffee!

  107. Martin Fleischer: You are so right. I tell him that, but he says I don’t understand.

    Michoel: I respectfully disagree. It totally matters what the quality of the job is. We would not accept the terms presented through Yeshiva from Walmart, why would someone accept less when they could have other options, especially for something less meaningful. Many people make decisions about careers based on “quality” like teachers, some social workers, all kinds of professions, where people wish to make a difference in the world, though even those are compensated better by salary and benefits than Yeshiva Rebbes. Most people don’t grow up and say they wish to work in Walmart someday. But aspiring to be a teacher and transmitter of Torah, that is entirely another story. Two of my closest friends went to a remote section of Jersey to start a Yeshiva. They uprooted from their families, friends, steady positions, to begin a new Yeshiva. It was only them, no neighbors, no friends, no support system. They are fundraising for all of their expenses, barely, and I mean barely making ends meet, doing without basics we could not even imagine, kids without peers, and yet they are happy, even the kids. They have accomplished their goal of building the Yeshiva. People who do this along with the dedicated Rebbes and Moros are people who are givers, themselves and their families.

  108. I also have conflicting feeling about this issue. My husband, who is not a rebbe, has a “well paying” job, but he also has to work very long hours, and going on vacation is a joke! Seldom is he able to really let go. It is not just rabbeim who work hard for their money, who work long hours and think about it constantly. Actually, the rabbeim are fortunate because they are toiling in Torah, while my husband’s job is purely olam hazeh, helping one corporation make money as against another corporation. It is much more dispiriting than teaching Torah, so although I admire the rebbeim’s devotion, it does not make them uniquely hard-working.

    On the other hand, we are not chiildren anymore, and no one promised anyone an easy life. Anyone who thought they could graduate HS, college, or even yeshiva, and simply get a job easily that would pay all the bills was living in some sort of fantasy world. This generation’s lot is much harder. It is not the yeshiva’s position to tell someone how to run their lives, but most people sooner or later realize that to get ahead they need a real marketable skill or a very good business head.

    However, people really do have choices. Those who can’t afford the cost of the established frum communities have the option of moving to the midwest, for example, where living is much cheaper, or fledgling frum communities.

    What had been written earlier which I think is the best solution is to have community exploratory committees to search out alternative funding mechanisms, which help alleviate the cost of yeshiva. The way the birthright program was developed — some rich sponsor decided that all kids needed a trip to Israel. Perhaps we can gather fundraising profesionals in each community to help fund tuition costs, or perhaps those who fund kiruv yeshivas can be convinced to create foundations for tuition assistance for their graduates. Kiruv is a glamorous tzedakkah, but follow up is surely just as important.

  109. Charnie,
    I am not sure if you are adressing my point and I am missunderstanding you, or perhaps you misunderstood me (do to my lack of clarity). What does the “quality of the job” have to do with anything? Whether it is a cheder or l’havdil Walmart, if people are applying, then they like what is being offered.

  110. Martin Fleischer in response to Charnie: Many of them don’t sleep. My husband does not sleep due to marking tests, returning calls to parents, tutoring those who need help for high school exams or other reasons without charge, worrying about their students, etc….
    And to David Linn: You are right, Personal experience has shown me that to be effective, you must “love” being a Rebbe and have the calling. It is a privilege indeed, but they do not make nearly enough money or benefits to care for a family. And they do not come home at the end of the day as in regular professions and it ends there. It never ends, not at wee hours of the night, not on Shabbos, Yom Tov, summers either. It is truly an avodah of the heart. And that goes for the whole family, not just the Rebbe, The wife and kids also must give in so many ways, their family time, earning extra money, privacy on Shabbos and Yom Tov, the list is endless, but in the scheme of things, I just feel there is no more worthwhile way that someone could spend their day that transmitting Torah in a wholesome and simchadik atmosphere. What could be better than that? At any cost.

  111. Michoel, there are many applicants for jobs as Rebbes because of many reasons. Hopefully, the first is that they want to make an impact on the “next” generation. And also, because of all the years many young men sat in Yeshiva, it’ s what they’re best trained to do. Those are just two reasons. However, the size of the line for a job isn’t necessarily indicative of the quality of the job. When Walmarts opens a new store, they also get a long line of applicants.

    Marty, the alternative to separate classes, which, sorry – isn’t financially viable, is to provide outside tutoring for a child making such a transition, where the parents don’t feel qualified to help with homework. Some schools also provide resource room, not only for secular subjects, but for Limeudi Kodesh as well. A lot depends upon the age of the child – a bright 3rd grader, with some outside assistance, will probably catch up to his/her classmates before long. However, with each incremental grade, that would become more and more difficult. Parents who live in communities where there is more than one choice, should certainly look into each and every possibility. Just because family X sends their kids to such and such a yeshiva, doesn’t mean it’s the right place for your kids.

    As has been mentioned on this blog time and time again, tuitions cover only a small part of a yeshiva’s expenses. An administrator for a Yeshiva Gedola in our community once told us, just in conversation, that his Con Ed bills are in excess of $20K per month! Then there’s the gas, the phone, the maintenance, insurance, etc. etc. Oh yes, and the teachers/Rebbeim/Morahs too.

    Aside from our suggestions we’d posted the last time this came up, we all need to help our yeshivas come up with some creative and new fund raising ideas. I ran a very complicated fundraising project for a particular PA for several years. While it took in over $20K, the actual profit to the PA (and therefore the school) was only a few thousand. But because of the nature of this project, it brought in money from people who didn’t have anything at all to do with this particular school. Something that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

  112. In addition, this same Yeshiva told us how much it would cost, and that was that…nothing about financial aid or scholarships.

  113. I know that NY State was/is trying to have families who send their kids to private schools get a tax deduction. That’s a good start…but, you have to pay the $$ first. I wish there was a system of financial aid that was similar to FAFSA & TAP, organized by county, where one could file for financial aid of different kinds (grants/loans/scholarships), taken in by fund-raising during the year. One would apply through the county, and put down, in addition to financial status, what school(s) the child wanted to attend. It goes without saying that EVERY Yeshiva/Bais Yaakov must (or should) participate.

    Another thing I think should happen: more Yeshivas/B.Y.’s should be able to take kids in from BT families when they have never been to Yeshiva, and have them “fit in” by having classes in Jewish studies that would make the transition a bit easier. In certain cases, such as my daughter, that is the case for the most part; but, many years ago, we were thinking of enrolling our oldest @ a Yeshiva, and we were told that, since she was going into 3rd grade when we wanted to switch, she would be so far behind, that it would never work.

  114. I would like to clarify that I believe good rebbeim are quite literally maintaining the universe and that there is NO WAY to financially compensate them. That being said, David is actually confirming my point. What I meant to say is that what rebbeim recieve in money, job satisfaction, anticipation of olam haba etc, is apparently sufficient because if it wasn’t there wouldn’t be so many qualified applicants. So therefore, if I was a CEO of a buisiness called “Michoel’s Yeshiva” I would conclude that my employees are getting enough monetarily and I don’t, therefore, have to raise the price to my customers for this alone. G’milus chesed is another subject.

  115. Michoel,

    I don’t think that the fact that there are many applicants for a position is a single criterion to determine that they are paid well. There are certainly Rebbeim that are doing their job because they love it, they “have a calling” or for other good reaasons.

  116. Charnie,
    Different schools pay their rebbeim differently. In my community I think they are relatively well paid. But in any case, my point was that in marketing terms (which are the terms that most of us have to live our lives by) they are paid sufficiently. The proof is that there are many qualified applicants for the jobs which become available. If the pay were too low (again, in market terms), there would not be that number of applicants. So (when I am in a less than generous mood) I ask “Why must I constantly hear about the great mesiras neesh of yeshiva rebbeim who we need to pay more.” Because after all the math, at least in my community most are better off than I am.

  117. Sam,
    Thank you for being the voice that so many of us have a hard time finding. It does not seem right that in addition to dealing with inner personal as well as communal conflicts relating to Torah Judaism, we have to worry about the financial strain. As a child of four, and with hardly any money and no in-laws in Teaneck, my parents had to sell their souls to the PTA board of our yeshiva dayschool, begging them to let us in for practically nothing, year after year. This was one of many sacrifices our parents did for their children. A year in Israel? Please. I had the choice of either a year in Israel or college. One or the other.

    We are in some ways taken advantage of our own frum system here in the US, and it stinks. It stinks up and down.

    I work on the Upper East side, and I see all the Ramaz kids bouncing out of school with their desigher everything. I wonder if they know what they have and where they come from. Jealousy is not a factor for me, but I deeply hope that these teens understand how easy thet have it. I don’t think it will ever kick in.

    Good luck, Sam. I wish you a good life and a smooth road ahead. Many, many of us relate to you and understand what you are going through.


  118. Add that to the $750,000 mortgage you need to pay to live in many established Frum areas (unless you flee like myself or like Yisroel wrote yesterday) And you can just forget Mom staying home to raise the younger kids. Its tough out there and getting tougher. Maybe Kiruv programs need to enlist the help of financial advisors.

  119. Does the aggregate Orthodox population today have the cash flow to pay its aggregate educational expenses? If it does, then we mainly need communities to coordinate better allocation. This has to be voluntary in our society. Community leaders can study the situation thoroughly and provide guidance, and we can listen to them (the last part is critical).

    But I don’t know if the aggregate cash flow is large enough. This takes us into considerations of efficiency and outside revenue sources, which we should really consider even if our community has enough cash day-to-day.

    1. Do we have a patchwork of multiple competing institutions for good reasons or because we can’t get along well enough with other Orthodox Jews who are not carbon copies of ourselves? Can’t schools cooperate more in purchasing and in offering services?

    2. Do we have a basis for asking non-Orthodox Jews or secular government departments to fund our deficits, or not? If there is no basis, what are the alternatives?

    3. Are we making proper decisions as to who should learn full-time and who should work at least part-time?

  120. Sam, there are at least two facets to this problem. One of the other ones is parents who game the system by accepting substantial scholarships because their reportable income is indeed low. Yet they live a very comfortable upper-middle-class lifestyle, complete with home renovations yomtov trips abroad or to warm locations, on the tab of Bubby and Zeidy in Flatbush while they finish business school, start that mortgage brokerage business or sit and learn. Well, Bubby and Zaidy are free to spend their money however they like, right? They are, but there is something on this side of ledger sheet that is not right, and the result is frequently precisely the kind of interaction many of us have had that leaves much to be desired.

    Part of me, the economics major, wants to say, look, a local yeshiva or cheder is not a public utility. It has no obligation to you at all. On the other hand, that is not necessarily halachically accurate, depending on the circumstances. Also, there is a point where that relationship changes. Once you are, as you alluded to, years and years, and several kids into, a relationship with a yeshiva, the bargaining power shifts immeasurably. You can’t just pick up and leave without really harming your child, yet your loss, especially if you’re a scholarship recipient, is usually not much of a feared prospect from the school’s point of view.

    Hard issues.

  121. Most Rebbes cannot live on tuition alone. Some become shul Rabbis, and many others have jobs on the side. Just yesterday such an example came up – my son’s yeshiva replaced one previous teacher with someone who works as a Rebbe in another yeshiva in the community. So now he’s teaching as a Rebbe in the morning, a teacher in the afternoon Plus, he does contracting work.

  122. I empathize with your internal conflict. One detail of the arrangement that I am trying to make peace with is the full tuition breaks for rebbeim. In my community most rebbeim live in larger houses than I do and many have two cars while we own one. I sense that the average rebbi’s salary is about equal to mine, perhaps a bit less. But whatever they are making is sufficient to attract many qualified applicants so in “market” terms, they are making enough. So why should I pay large tuition burden while they do not? Then I immediately tell myself that paranassa is min hashamayim and that H’ pays back tuition money. Yes, I am aware that this concept needs context and hesbir.

  123. I know what you mean. While Yeshivos & Bais Yaakovs have to pay salaries & the rent and other costs, since it is a business, there should be another way to raise funds to cover those who can’t afford 100% tuition & fees. Easier said than done, but in order to get as many Frum (and Frum-to-be) kids into schools, the way some administrators act to family, as you stated above, is not right.

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