Financial Realities in the Frum World

By “Sam Smith”

I want to share a conversation I had with the executive director of a yeshiva about the financial realities of raising and educating a family in the frum world today.

He said that households earning a combined $200,000 or more generally easily meet their financial responsibilities. Households in the $100-150,000 range, on the other hand, were “making it, but not necessarily easily” or were “making it but struggling.” He added he was talking about a typical family with 3-4 kids in yeshiva.

Then, he said, families earning less than $100,000 have “real issues” (including possible “marital” issues). Nevertheless, at his yeshiva, even kollel families, he explained, are required to pay at least $3,000 per child. No exceptions.

What if someone can’t pay?

“We’ll work with them,” he said, “but the board does not authorize me to reduce anyone’s tuition obligation to anything less” than the $3,000 per child. (And that figure doesn’t include lunch, transportation, books, tutors, etc.)

What does “working with them” mean? He wasn’t clear. Will they kick the kid out in the middle of the year if the parents can’t pay? No, he said. Will they forbid them from graduating and moving into the next grade? The conversation didn’t go that far. However, he was clear that the obligations were non-negotiable – even for the families that it might add to their “real issues.”

I thought to myself, Is there something inconsistent here?

In general I became frum to enter a society that valued the spiritual over the material. Yet, the reality is that the demands of this society create an arguably greater need for high-level material accomplishment than the society whose values I left behind. They force a person (without inherited wealth) to stay late at the office, take that second job, send the wife out to work, etc. – not to become wealthy but to pay the bills.

I glanced up at portraits of tzaddikim which stood high on the wall behind the executive director.

What would they think of this situation? What is the real message we are sending kids in yeshiva by painting romantic images of the Chofetz Chaim learning Torah in abject poverty, while at the same time, in effect, demanding parents make that $100,000 plus?

And what is the goal of yeshiva? Is it not to teach our kids the value of the spiritual over the material? Yet, what are we really setting them up for? To follow in our footsteps onto this ever-faster spinning treadmill of material accomplishment and obligation? Where does the cycle stop? How does one get out of the loop?

In my naïve, Baal Teshuvish way of thinking I guess I thought I was breaking this cycle; that my life would not be reduced to worrying about making more money; and even if it was, at least if I lived frugally and worked hard my kids’ yeshivas, if nothing else, would understand and not press me to produce money I didn’t have or make me feel worse about my financial situation than I already did; that they would seek the shortfall from the wealthier benefactors.

On the other hand, I fully understand where they are coming from. They have to pay rabbeim. They have to keep the lights on.

I have no answers. Only questions.

A popular post from 2006.

289 comments on “Financial Realities in the Frum World

  1. My 4 children (all girls) are mostly grown. Our eldest is 31; the youngest is now in high school.
    We are fortunate to have chosen a Yeshiva where no child is turned away and although there is a “minimum tuition”, those with extenuating circumstances are dealt with on a case by case basis. The Hanhalah and Board are committed to this standard. As far as I know, none of the other Yeshivas (of which there are several) in our city have this policy regarding scholarship.
    We managed to pay full tuition for several years when our children first started school. We managed to paid full tuition even while going through foreclosure. Our children know that Yeshiva tuition was a priority. We are very pleased by the “return” on our “investment” in their ruchniyus.
    Now, in middle age, we have made peace with the fact that we will always be renters.
    Due to health obstacles and several downturns in the economy over the years, we were never able to pay full tuition again. Our limitations, both due to our own health issues & caregiving obligations, made this impossible.
    We have a relative who helped with tuition for Yeshiva ketana and my husband has worked for my children’s high school for the last 13 years as barter for tuition as well.
    He currently works 3 jobs just to put food on the table. I have been a full time caregiver for my mother for over 18 years. I have been unable to work for the last 10 years because caring for her is a full time job.

    It frustrates me that there is a prevailing perception that those of us who work in “business” are well heeled, wear custom sheitels and the latest fashions, go on lavish vacations, frequent Pesach programs and drive luxury cars.
    Nothing could be further from the truth. We take care of our things so they last as long as possible. Yom Tov comes and goes without the “requisite” new clothes for the kids and/or jewelry for the wife. Vacations are sporadic at best and very low budget. We try not to incur debt unless absolutely necessary. We and our children are very happy with the simple lifestyle we lead. In many ways, it has brought us closer because everyone pitches in. Our children are all hard workers and while not lacking, do not get much in the way of frills unless they have earned a good portion of the money themselves.
    They realize it is impractical to marry a “learning boy” because their parents cannot afford to support. They do not want to live on public assistance or charity; they want to be financially independent. My husband learns Torah daily and my daughters’ husbands attend minyanim daily and have regular learning sedarim as well. Another myth dispelled; Torah is a priority to many men and women who work outside the frum community to support their families.

    Many, if not most, of those in chinuch in our community, have a higher standard of living than we do.
    Most own do own their homes but many work multiple jobs to support their families. Many get “perks” such as cash gifts, scholar in residence at Yom Tov programs, various discounts, parsonage, etc., not available to those in “business”.
    I am not complaining. But please, recognize that not all of us “businessmen” live luxury lifestyles and have large disposable incomes.
    I, like “Sam Smith” have no answers.
    My question is, why are the “haves” not teaching their children to live simply as well? Is this not a Torah value?

  2. Have some news for you — the sentimental stories of the Chafetz Chaim being a talmud chochom are all nice, but we lost thousands of children coming from religious homes bc the families couldn’t afford to send them to yeshivas — both in Europe and in the United States. The yeshivas were always for people with money and turned away people who couldn’t afford tuition. But they need the Chafetz Chaim to prop up as if there is some deep ideal there, that they are living up to.


  3. Chana Leah, I don’t understand why you think those distinctions amount to a difference. Even then, my point is the same for private schools, too. The demand is greater than the supply for what they are offering, and with few exceptions, they set the agenda; we write the checks.

    And yes, it hurts.

    I was bothered, by the way, by the implications of this formulation:

    I remember many parents being very disturbed that their son’s mesivtas would demand not only long hours and dinner at the yeshiva, but also that the bochurim spend yom tovim there instead of at home. The parents understood the messsage being that the boys were better off at yeshiva than at home. Clearly the parents didn’t like it, but they didn’t feel a partnership in decision making.

    I’ve tried to address this last point, but in the main, I’m bothered by “The parents understood the message being that the boys were better off at yeshiva than at home.” No wonder you’re frustrated by your relationship with the yeshivas — you seem to have a “me versus them” attitude even toward the unremarkable fact that the age-old custom in traditional yeshivas is, yes, boys spend certain parts of certain festivals in the Torah-learning environment. It’s not a statement about you (“it’s not about you”); it’s about the educational mission of yeshivas. It’s the same rule for boys from the best, frummest, most learned and most pedigreed families, and if we don’t like it, we should not be choosing those kinds of schools.

  4. ChanaLeah

    When I was a student in college, my chance of affecting their tuition policy in general or in my own case was zero. There used to be small demonstrations when tuition was raised. The signs and chants were fun but totally useless.

    My parents paid my college tuition (the base rate less scholarships and student loans) and made the necessary arrangements. Is this not the norm even today for the typical student? They had little room for negotiation, either.

    Back to the main topic:

    With some creativity, it should be possible for K-12 schools in heavily Jewish areas to form cooperatives to purchase supplies at better prices, combine some office and janitorial functions, and offer combined special classes.

  5. Ron Coleman: Yes, this is true at the university level where although the parents are usually paying, the students are already over 18, and able to do their own lobbying.

    Not so for elementary/high school age.

  6. Executive Director,

    Thank you very much for your posting.

    It is refreshing to see someone at the administrative level speak with dignity and intelligence and willing to post.

    I have had three years of positive experiences with one of the three Yeshivos I’m dealing with this year.

    They have consistently treated me with respect and understanding and I have likewise done the same and thanked them wholeheartedly for their “menschlechkeit”.

    However, one of the other three schools that I have just started dealing with have been extremely disappointing.

    They reviewed my Scholarship Application at first and sent a form letter indicating they would not reduce tuition at all.

    I, of course, shocked that I did not even receive one phone call or email to discuss any specifics inquired only to find out that my application was basically rejected due to a data entry error on my part.

    After clarifying the situation with someone from Administration, the “verdict” was amended.

    However, I also subsequently came to learn that the data error information never made it’s way down to the scholarship committee.

    They only amended the verdict at the request of the administrator with whom I clarified the error.

    I attempted to continue to contact the scholarship committee only to be told that they were extremely agitated by my second request which is when I clarified the error directly with them.

    After many email and vmail attempts to contact them, I never received another communication or any closure to my requests.

    This is very disturbing and quite discourteous.

    I am relieved to advise that I have settled with the elementary school after much angst.

    I explained the situation and finally had a breakthrough such that I’m paying the same for three children this year that I paid for four last year. I still consider this to be a “positive” outcome versus the original request of $2,500 more than last year.

    However, my current tuition burden of approx $36,000, while roughly half of full tuition, is still an unbelievable, almost impossible, amount of NET INCOME to part with, even with a six figure income.

    The full tutions are excessively high and continue to rise to astronomical heights year after year (all figures are approx):

    Boys High School: $19,500
    Girls High School: $15,500
    Elementary School: $11,500

    So it does not appear to be an issue of low tuitions, and yes, the elementary school in question continues to be the lowest cost tuitionwisein the area.

    No new adminsitration.

    I’d like to propose that perhaps an ever increasing population of parents applying for scholarships due to the ever increasing tuition burden is the root of the problem.

    Those deemed “rich” quickly fall into the “not so rich” category when a total tuition bill for a family with five children reaches $73,000+!

    I would appreciate any comments or thoughts with regards to any of the ideas I put forth regarding the “leaders of the community” banding together to come up with a long term viable solution (Community Tax, threat to Local Gov’t to register all Yeshiva students to public school, State PAC, Fed PAC, etc.)

    I also posted some theories regarding why this is not happening/happened to date, including:

    Rabbis typically do not pay (full) tuition.

    Wealthy individuals can afford to pay the tuition without difficulty.

    and I will add to that list:

    Yeshiva Hanhalas being very comfortable (for many good reasons and some not so justifiable ones) with the autonomy with which they run the Yeshivos.

    I do not mean to be condenscending or presumptuous.

    I’m just trying to understand what’s at work here and perhaps try to move this issue to a place where we can discuss solutions.

    One can only work towards solutions if one understands the problem that is trying to be solved, otherwise, we come up with solutions in search of problems that don’t exist or no solutions at all.

    Kol Tuv,

  7. Dan,

    As a parent and, now, Executive Director of a high school I am well versed with both sides of this perplexing issue.

    No one seems to be coming out unscathed by the tuition crisis. Parents bear the brunt of the burden and to the extent they don’t, the Rabbeim are made to wait for their pay and fore go well deserved raises in their salary.

    Before I address some of the details of your posting, allow me to say that it is an issue of responsibility. The yeshiva has a responsibility to provide the very best education possible and to be as frugal as possible so as not to over tax the parent body. There is a fine line between pushing parents to pay what they can and “punishing” them to pay that which they cannot, It is not limited to just the parents, a yeshiva that fund raises is taking limited Tzibur funds and it must try to minimize its needs as not to adversely effect other institutions.

    I could not agree with you more about assuming the contract from one year to the next. It saves the yeshiva a great amount of time and energy as well by sending out a contract that is based on the previous year’s contract. The parents are still responsible to fill out the financial aid application and provide tax returns…and the contract is contingent on the assumed need. The process need not be lengthy and as always should be handled with respect and dignity.

    I am sure you realize that full paying parents essentially are subsidizing in part the scholarship cases. I assume that in an effort to minimize the impact on the full payers, the yeshiva asked for this “voluntary” $1,500 and they would at least receive some tax benefit. The danger, the yeshiva learned, was that after a while some will just opt out. The tuition always included this amount and the scholarship cases got this off the top. Is this “new” $1,500 the bulk of your increase? If it is… the yeshiva will once again negotiate it out of your contract.

    Numbers can be misleading and couching everything in percentages is even more so. Without knowing the specifics I would offer the following comments: You say that you are held hostage since they are the cheapest in the area. Is this true after the 20% rise in tuition? If so, it sounds as if their tuition is too low to begin with. In order for the school to hire the best possible teachers they MUST offer a competitive salary compared to the schools in the area… that may demand them charging a similar tuition.

    It sounds as if there is a new administration in the yeshiva which has realized that the structure and/or level of the tuition needed repair. I hear the frustration in your posting. Unless the yeshiva is severely mismanaging the funds, it is equally frustrating for them as well. You most likely provide your services at work and receive your pay on time and don’t have to call or chase after collecting it… the yeshiva educates,,, but does a lot of chasing and waiting. The yeshiva needs to be flexible and work with parents to the best of their ability and, as mentioned earlier, with respect and dignity.

  8. I attended two of the top private universities in the world. They did not ask the parents’ opinions of anything. They charged several times more any yeshiva. The parents understood the message that the students who wanted to attend that school had to do it that school’s way, or go somewhere else.

  9. A bit off the current thread but related, I have often reflected on the shift in the “consumer” oriented financial relationship between the yeshiva and the paying parent. In non-yeshiva private schools I have sent my children (before becoming frum) I expected and received accountability from the administration, at least for my children’s education (not talking here about budgeting, expenditures, etc). I always felt welcome to discuss any educational issues that came up. In the frum schools, I quickly understood a different hierarchy was at work. Still to this day, with my kids grown and out of the system, this bothers me. I suppose one can retort that it is up to me to aggressively insert myself into the decision making arenas in order to take full responsibility. It’s a tall order, though, when dealing with a time-honored tradition that the mechanech knows better than the parents.

    I remember many parents being very disturbed that their son’s mesivtas would demand not only long hours and dinner at the yeshiva, but also that the bochurim spend yom tovim there instead of at home. The parents understood the messsage being that the boys were better off at yeshiva than at home. Clearly the parents didn’t like it, but they didn’t feel a partnership in decision making.

    I guess it’s a carryover from the non-frum days: if my family is paying a lot of money for a service that seems to necessarily warrant our input to be carried out properly, then our input should be solicited!!!

  10. Ron,

    You’re missing the point.

    It doesn’t have to be this way.

    If community “leaders” (the very wealthy, Rabbis, School Admin, politically connected, etc.)
    made a concerted effort to do SOMETHING, ANYTHING (Community Tax, threat to Local Gov’t to register all Yeshiva students to public school, State PAC, Fed PAC, etc.), the financial burden would not have to fall squarely on the working parent body.

    This would allow for working parents to pay reasonable tuitons and be part of the “accepted norm”.

    Otherwise, why should anyone ever try to get a better job?

    Why should anyone bother to do a better job and get better raises?

    Even if someone gets fired, they’ll just stop paying tuition….

    You see, the current system (can) lead(s) to negative economic and negative social responsiblity.

    We should all want to do better and the best motivator is financial betterment.

    By allowing someone to keep the better part of their financial gain, the more funds are available to be spent on all things.

    This has been proven over and over again.

  11. Bob,

    I know this and it is good advice for those first entering the Yeshiva system that are willing to compromise hashkafically.

    However, this does not help when you are already committed to a specific school and when your children have attended the school for years.

  12. Schools operate differently as regards initial offers of reduced tuition, openness to negotiation, year-to-year changes, etc. If you have more than one school option, it pays to find out in advance how each operates.

    The number of children you have in one school or system (where boys’ and girls’ schools belong to one organization) can also influence actual tuition billed per child.

  13. That is only true if the schools would not use those inflated numbers as the basis for tuition negotiations (i.e. % off of total inflated tuition, year-after-year) with parents that have already qualified for scholarship in past years.

    IOW – once a baseline has been established, all things remaining relatively equal (no large income increases, etc.), tuition negotiations should commence as a discussion of percentage above last year’s agreed upon tuition, not starting all over again year-after-year from total inflated tuition downwards.

  14. You can’t discuss base tuition in a vacuum—that is, without considering tuition breaks that specific schools have for the less well off.

  15. Ron,

    No one argues that private schooling is expensive. The issues here are such that being Orthodox and wanting to be accepted in an Orthodox community REQUIRES private education.

    When there is no (perceived) choice, that’s when the problems, feelings of being trapped and held hostage, and bitterness begins.

    Tuition for K through eighth grade, outisde of Brooklyn (read 5 towns, Bergen County, etc), exceeds $10,000 annually.

    Tuition for high school ranges between $15,000 to $20,000+

    This is economically unfeasible for even a six figure income family to pay year after year for twelve+ years (never mind trying to save for college) when a family consists of three, four or more children.

    I, for one, do not want to start down the road of why tuition is so expensive or arguing that someone is getting rich off the schools.

    It is an argument/discussion that goes nowhere.

    What I’m saying is that the system is broken and the parent body is basically powerless to try and fix it, yet they are the ones that bear the brunt of the financial burden.

    All that remains are the communal Rabbis, School Administration, wealthy individuals, and individuals with political clout to begin on a course of fixing the system.

    Whether this be instituition of a communal tax system, or as I suggest, bringing the problem to the US Gov’t (local, state, Fed) where the funds exist and the pockets deep enough to help solve the problem.

    The issue as I see it is that the very people that have ability to mobilize these efforts are simply not doing so.

    Perhaps the problem lies in the fact that these very people don’t face the issues most parents face with regards to the financial burden.

    Rabbis typically do not pay (full) tuition.

    Wealthy individuals can afford to pay the tuition without difficulty.

    And yes, it is an accepted norm that those that work for forty+ years have a right to save for retirement and live to enjoy retirement and do with those retirement funds as they see fit.

    Perhpas even spend some of those retirement funds on helping pay their grandchildren’s tuition.

  16. Being frum is an economic challenge of a very high order, regardless of where, but in the U.S. it is certainly daunting. We aren’t “entitled” to retirement or to a lack of struggle. I do think we have to come to terms with the fact that when we become religious, most of us are making choices that will limit our ability to achieve or sustain material wealth for a long, long time. Some people still succeed marvelously, but for most of us it simply will be much harder than for our non-religious friends.

    I have no idea what the complaint is against the “powers that be” who demand that we pay for our children’s education. Is there some yeshiva out there that is making a profit or something, such that we are in a moral position to demand that “they” cut their “prices”? Services, real estate and bricks and mortar have never been more expensive. This is to some extent dealt with in the economic theory of “cost disease of services” but is also a factor of the concentration of population and economic resources and opportunities in a number of urban enclaves. Ironically, as was mentioned, the worse it gets, the worse it gets.

    In my case, at least, comparing my economic progress since college with my college friends is positively depression-inducing. But what is their eternity?

    We all have to figure out how we’re going to get through this life, but by now we should at least know why we are bothering.

  17. New request for help…

    This coming school year, the elementary school I’m sending by youngest three children to raised tuition by 20%+ in one year.

    They claimed it was necessary since they haven’t raised tuition for the last two years and part of the increase was to convert an elective contribution of $1,500/student to a mandatory tuition obligation since people that could supposedly afford the contribution were not doing so.

    I had four children in the school last year but one graduated and is moving on to HS (B”H).

    The problem I’m looking for help with is this never ending cycle of starting tuition negotiations over from the beginning year after year.

    IMO, as long as my household income has not grown by a huge percentage year-over-year (say in excess of 10%), the tuition negotiation should always begin from last year’s agreed upon amount and not from the current year’s full tuition obligation.

    This is perhaps the most emotinally draining, time consuming aspect of my annual negotiation process which generally consumes most of my free time between May and September (between completing applications, phone calls, emails, worrying, spousal discussions, etc.)

    This year, although I have one less child in the school, they are expecting me to pay 20% MORE this year for three children than I paid last year for four children while my overall household gross income only increased maybe 5%.

    I just don’t get the math.

    They hold us hostage because this is the cheapest of the elementary schools in the area so I have no other choices yet they do not follow normal financial protocol that other service organizations follow.

    I know of no other service organization that would expect someone to pay 20% more for 25% less services year after year.

    I keep trying to negotiate some percentage increase from last year’s tuition to be fair and give the Yeshiva some of the raise I receive, but they always insist in starting the bitter battle from the beginning by quoting me a number off of full tuition, as if we have never talked before or as if I’m a first year parent, when in fact I’m a ten year parent with ten years to come.

    Thoughts, suggestions, comments?

  18. Aaron,

    Well said!

    It is the people with authority and wherewithal (financial, political influence, etc.) that need to drive the solution.

    You and I can discuss it ad naseum on this board, but we can’t do anything more than that, unfortunately.

    But as I stated earlier, we need to concentrate those efforts at the main source of funds, the US Govt.

    The other point you make regarding expensive suburbs is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    Each time a community starts-up it may be economical to buy into.

    But once there is an influx of religious jews, who must be within walking distance of a synagogue, the home prices spiral out of control simply due to supply and demand economics.

    However, if you are willing to rent in Brooklyn, (since home prices are not affordable), tuition is more realistically priced.

    In my opinion, this solution is just another form of mortgaging your future (retirement, etc.) to pay for tuition today.

    I, for one, want to retire before I’m 80 and own a home that I can pay-off the mortgage by the time I can retire so as to have a retirement source of income.

    Shabbat Shalom

  19. For a relatively young but financially concious BT this entire thread has been absolutely terrifying.
    It really seems like tuition makes it unrealistic for this generation of BT’s to have the family sizes that they want (and in many BT’s views are commanded to have).
    Someone earlier made the comment that Orthodox Jewry has become an exclusive domain of the wealthy. That comment really hit the nail on the head. Torah Judaism must be an attainable goal for every Jew, and yet it is simply a fact that Not every Jew can make $200,000 a year. Therefore I fear that we are quickly getting to a point where families have to either
    1. Send some kids to secular schools and get them a Jewish education around the fringes (which even the OU tuition report admitted is unthinkable for many Orthodox families);
    2. Cap the number of children they have (which is absolutely unacceptable both halachically and ideologically. Isn’t it feeble to engage in these desperate Kiruv efforts when the community is de facto telling Torah Jews to have less children?); or
    3. Homeschool. This is an interesting option, since it seems highly likely that a family with 6 children would do better financially to have one spouse simply not work and homeschool than pay tuition for all 6 for 12 years. But if that’s the case, my issue is why isn’t tuition cheaper considering the economies-of-scale involved?

    Maybe it’s time to put some of these ideals of modesty and sacrifice (Chofetz Chaim being a good example) into action. Maybe not every Orthodox community has to be in a top priced suburb. Maybe Jewish schools should make economizing a priority to the extent that any parent can afford some form of Jewish education. One way or another, making observant life more affordable is something Rebbeim or other community leaders need to proiritize FAST.

  20. Effie–
    “your security guard earning 30 NIS per hour should be taking home 4,800 NIS per month. ie $1,000 per month post tax. Two sons in Yeshiva, one daughter in High-school and one daughter in maslulim will cover that.”

    That’s exactly my point. A security guard in the states would earn enough to pay one child’s tuition per month, maybe 1.5, here the salary from the same job would pay tuition for four children.

    I can see how in the chareidi community the financial situation is worse in Israel, but that’s due to choices made by individuals there (ie to avoid secular studies, not enlist, have the husband stay in kollel, etc).

    Those who choose to work have things easier here. For example, if I had to go out and work at some point to pay for tuition, I could pay for 3 tuitions (NIS 2,000/month) from what I would make working as a grocery store clerk (I’m assuming minimum wage) 5 hours a day. That is not true in the states.

    To give a personal example, with my husband planning to start work as a social worker and me working only part-time, there is absolutely no way we could afford day school in the US. Here we’re planning to go semi-private, and b’ezrat Hashem we’ll be able to afford top religious schools for multiple children.

    We do seem to mostly agree. And I would like to clarify, I am not recommending that parents jump into Aliyah without checking their options, because someone making a lot of money in the states won’t necessarily do so well here if they don’t have the language skills/ experience/ Israeli professional liscensing. I do think that it’s very very worth looking into Aliyah, and that it can actually raise a family’s standard of living, especially for couples with lower-income jobs (eg. secretary, barber, policeman, soldier, social worker).

  21. Update:

    Mayor refuses to neither champion this idea or even facilitate a meeting with the local Board of Ed due to his being under attack on different fronts for being Orthodox.

    This seems preposterous to me as what did he think was going to happen as a frum mayor, be welcomed with open arms?

    One would think that part of the reason a frum person would want to be elected mayor was to represent the frum community in local gov’t since most of the time the frum community is under-represented, if represented at all, in local gov’t.

    Needless to write, I’m very disappointed.

    I’ve now gone to the local rabbis and the local mayor, both of whom agree that this is the biggest problem facing our communities, but neither will/can do anything to make forward progress.

    How depressing — maybe it’s time to re-read the Aliyah suggestion postings…


  22. To get back to the original post, the real message is that we don’t have much means of action or common processes or consciousness as a community anymore. Some institutions work pretty well, but when something gets out of whack, such as excessive tuitions, there’s very little in the community which can set a new direction or a new process.

    The problem is that Jews don’t think in terms of common goals or common issues, but rather how best to prove our credentials and/pr status to belong to a particular category. For this reason, questions like how tuition should may not be addressed that much, if at all.

  23. Katrin

    I think I should apologise for “snapping”.

    I’m new to this blog and, wrongly, expected only discussion rather than empathy.

    Secondly, I’m from the UK originally and I suspect most of you are from the US. In the circles in which I grew up the following are offensive, in the US perhaps not:-
    Mention, even by allusion, of other people’s financial situation
    Unsolicited social work, empathy or Chizuk
    Group hugs are particularly abhorred.

    Again, it’s my fault. I’m both a newcomer and a foreigner here and I apologise for overreacting. .

  24. effie

    i apologise for any upset caused – reading your posts, it seemed as though you were talking about your own difficult finances.

    i apologise for any misunderstanding – and i’m very pleased that you are doing so well financially.

  25. Effie,

    I found Katrin’s comment to you empathetic, rather than presumptuous. Certainly not astonishing.

    You were apparently not speaking for yourself, but for your struggling neighbors/relatives/friends; that is fine. Nevertheless, Katrin’s comment should be seen for what is was: sincere and heartfelt.

  26. Ora

    It looks as though we agree for the most part.

    I first came across avoiding minimum wage laws back in the early 90s when I was working with Russian immigrants (all working legally). The local Egged garage would pay them half the minimum wage for a 40 hour week washing buses and then report that thay had worked a 20 hour week at minimum wage. Those who complained were told that thousands more wanted their jobs and they could leave if they wanted. In my experience, this sort of thing is pretty widespread and by no means limited to the BH world.

    Unless I’ve got my maths wrong (again) your security guard earning 30 NIS per hour should be taking home 4,800 NIS per month. ie $1,000 per month post tax. Two sons in Yeshiva, one daughter in High-school and one daughter in maslulim will cover that. Just tuition – no food, clothes, books etc

    As regards US BHs, I think that whether you spend ages 15 – 25 in the Mir in Jerusalem or in Lakewood NJ, you can easily end up equally unemployable and unable to support your family.


    I’m astonished at your post. Of course poverty is to be found everywhere. The discussion was whether to encourage American Jews to make aliya because tuition is less in Israel, so they could make do more easily. My point was that you can’t make do more easily in Israel, so cheaper tuition is a bad reason to come.

    I’ve reread my posts and am at a loss. What made you think I “have a hard financial situation to contend with”. In fact, I’m paid a European salary in European currency and do better than about 80% of Israelis. I consider myself blessed to live here and make a decent living. I find your post astonishing and, I’m afraid, presumptuous.

    I agree with you that we all belong here and most olim are spiritually enriched by the experience, but “materially better off”? That’s just not true, in my own limited experience.

  27. effie

    poverty is not exclusive to israel – unfortunately, you’ll find jews struggling financially in every country of the world, including the US.

    it sounds like you have a hard financial situation to contend with, and i hope Hashem helps you out of it.

    we made aliya 2 years ago, and we have also struggled financially, in some ways – but that’s because we came with an overly materialistic mindset and a long list of ‘must haves’ that we found out we really didn’t and don’t need.

    as a result, we are so much better off in the ways that really count, and much happier, even tho financially things have been a little tough.

    each person’s experience of EY is different, and each person gets sent the set of circumstances that they particularly need to learn whatever life lessons are most apposite to them.

    that’s why we can’t generalise and say that my experience or your experience is going to be the same for everyone coming here.

    israel is the best place to be for a jew, full stop. and nearly everyone i know who has made aliya here recently has ended up both materially and spiritually better off.

  28. Effie,

    Sorry, I meant to say most people here on this site are capable of making more. As in, anyone who can read and speak both English and Hebrew, or who has a college degree or a profession, will find it easy to find a higher-than-minimum-wage paying job. I don’t have a degree and my Hebrew is only passable, but there are plenty of jobs out there for people like me.

    I have never seen minimum wage laws ignored here, but then again I don’t live in the black hat world. Were the underpaid workers legal, or were they forced to work off the books because of their status vis a vis the IDF?

    The average monthly salary in the hotel/restaurant trade includes cleaning staff, dishwashers, the guys shlepping boxes in and out the back door, etc. Waitresses and guards make more. A security guard with an army background can make over 30NIS/hour, 38NIS/hour on buses, and the waitresses I know earn 300NIS a night and more. I actually know several security guards, so I have “just asked one.” I admit that wages will be different for a young guy with an army background and an older person doing basic work for a grocery store or the like. I was talking about the former.

    As for buying apartments for your children, that’s its own can of worms, and it’s unique to the black hat world.

    The specifics of salary for waitresses/secretaries/etc are somewhat beside the point anyway, as the original debate was over tuition as a percentage of salary. An American waitress, secretary, or entry-level social worker is making, in my experience, between $12,000 and $22,000 a year. Enough to pay tuition for one or maybe two kids. An Israel secretary making NIS 6,000/month (post tax won’t be much different than pre-tax at that salary level, esp. with kids) can pay tuition for at least 6 kids, probably 9 (in both cases making the unrealistic assumption that s/he has no other expenses).

    I also think you’re mistaken in applying Israeli black hat stats to American hareidim. American hareidim are much more likely to: have a high school diploma, have a college degree, be highly literate, and work. The fact that your average Israeli black hat guy with no bagrut, degree, English skills, or abitility to work or learn for a degree before age 26 has trouble finding a decent job has little to nothing to do with the situation your average American hareidi oleh would face.

  29. Ora

    Shavua Tov

    It’s as though we live in the same country, but on different planets.

    ” -the Israeli salary you gave might be the average, but most people are capable of making more”

    I’m not very good at maths, but that sentence doesn’t make sense. By definition the overwhelming majority of wage- earners earn less than the average. If one person earns twice the average, then two people will earn half the average or three two thirds. For every person who earns ten times the average (and there are many who do) 50 wil earn half and so on.
    So it is not true that “most people are capable of making more” On the contrary, most people earn less.

    “(what you quoted is just over full-time minimum wage for a single earner,”

    Unfortunately, minimum wage laws are largely ignored in non-unionised workplaces. In my, admittedly limited, experience, most black-hat workers would be delighted to earn the official minimum wage for just one full-time job.

    “even a security guard/ waitress/ etc would make much more).”
    I’m sorry, but I don’t rhink you are correct. shows the average (ie the majority earn less) monthly salary in the hotel/restaurant trade as 3,522 Nis BEFORE tax in 2005.
    Security guards also earn much less. Just ask one. Very few BHs can work as security guards anyway, because they haven’t done army service which is a basic requirement for the job.
    Even a lawyer, who has professional qualifications way beyond the avergae BH, can expect a starting salary of 7,420 NIS BEFORE tax and after 2 years’ experience. See

    If you look at personnel recruitment sites for Israel eg you will see advertisements for a full-time bilingual (ie better paid then average) secretary offering 6,000 NIS BEFORE tax

    “cheaper living in Israel isn’t only about tuition. Basic health care is free, and a basic kosher diet is relatively cheap.”

    Correct, but in the BH world, if you want a son in law who can read without vowels and does’t have syphyllis or a daughter-in-law who hasn’t been pregnant even once, you will have to provide at least a third of the cost of an apartment in a chareidi neighbourhood ie $60,000 minimum per child.

    “So in general I would still highly recommend Israel as a way to escape high tuition.”

    There are many good reasons to make aliya. At least in the BH world, a higher (material) standard of living or an easier financial time are not good reasons. There is much grinding (even Dickensian) poverty in the BH world in Israel, including among olim.

  30. I am actually curious if the public schools WOULD come through if they were flooded with enrollment. One wonders if the options could be acceptable to some frum parents.

    The business person in me is highly curious. What creative solutions would a school district come up with? Correspondence? Block Scheduling? Year Round programing? Additional Summer School Programming?

    There are already school districts that offer “night school” programs for high schoolers that need the option (I assume many are from low income families and work to help support their family). Another school I lived down from the block from a number of years ago had a morning kindergarten and an afternoon kindergarten because of overcrowding. The high school that I went to sometimes asked high level math and science students that they could not accomodate (either by class offering or scheduling) to take these classes at the local community college. And another state I lived in let academically advanced high school students attend junior college jointly with high school and graduate with an AA and HS Diploma.

    I don’t expect the schools to do the exploring and leading. But, I already know a number of homeschooling families and I can only imagine there are other families looking for other options.

  31. They don’t help minority groups necessarily (I’m not sure if Jews are considered one anyway) anything that even smells of Church and State intermingling in any way will be pounced upon and ripped apart.

  32. I’m somewhat familiar with the ACLU’s mafioso tactics (Michael Savage listener), but how would it apply in this scenario?

    If anything, wouldn’t this effort actually be agreeable to them since it is benefiting a minority group?

  33. Wow, very interesting stuff, I wish you luck. You know that the ACLU will eventually slam you good though.

  34. Charnie,

    To that end, I’ve reached out to my local Township mayor (who happens to be frum) to initiate this type of dialog.

    I’m waiting for a first response.

    I’ve sited the Lawrence initiative (along the same lines), but I’ve also heard (unconfirmed) that the Lawrence initiative has not come to fruition.

    Either way, I’ve also contacted (the Lawrence initiative email address) to get an update and details on their experiences.

    This concept is in practice and prevelant in other countries (UK, Israel) and if we can get started in the US, perhaps after some period of time with a lot of concerted effort, we can make progress.

  35. Dan, in your post #243 you said two things that are not at all far fetched:
    “At 2:00 PM, the Yeshiva changes their sign to PS 123.”
    “Imagine if an entire frum community of children registered for Public School one year.

    What would the local school board do?”

    The shingle on the yeshiva in the PM is really a unique idea, a bit along the same lines as Kiryas Yoel’s case a number of years ago to get public school special ed services in their yeshivas for special ed children.

    And our local politicians, who can act on our behalf, should be reminded that if every person with a child in religious school took their children out and put them in public schools, there is no way that the PS system could handle the influx! We’re actually doing them a favor. And that politically, if we are ever to see any type of tax or voucher aid, we must work together with the Parochial school population since we both have a vested interest, and they have larger numbers.

  36. Effie-
    The average US salary is between $36,000 and $40,000 a year depending on your source ($46,000 median according to Wiki). So in terms of tuition as percent of average salary Israel still does better. Especially considering that:

    -anyone considering Aliya has presumably looking into their career options, and will not be going from $100,000 a year to NIS 60,000/year.

    -the Israeli salary you gave might be the average, but most people are capable of making more (what you quoted is just over full-time minimum wage for a single earner, and even a security guard/ waitress/ etc would make much more).

    -(most important) Even if high school tuition as % of salary is comprable to America, your kids are only in HS for 4 years. For the 8 years before that you’re still saving a ton.

    -in the dati leumi community the numbers are a bit different. From what I’ve seen, semi-private schools are around NIS 450/month until 8th grade, then NIS 500-800/month for girls and NIS 500-1,200 for boys. Higher prices include dormitories, which means you’re saving a lot on your food bill, have more space at home, etc.

    -cheaper living in Israel isn’t only about tuition. Basic health care is free, and a basic kosher diet is relatively cheap.

    -The worst case scenario is public religious school with other shabbat and kashrut-observant families, not secular non-Jewish public school.

    So in general I would still highly recommend Israel as a way to escape high tuition.

  37. Since this thread has (un)miraculously been resusitated, I’d like to let readers of BeyondBT know that I put up a guest post from a reader about Virtual Public Schooling that is intriguing, but in the words of the guest poster is still “half baked.” He is looking for comments and when it comes to such an important conversation I say the more the merrier.

  38. The problem with sending to
    public schools are many.

    To name a few:

    1. Non-Jewish Hashkafah and Svivuv
    2. Children’s peer pressure from “friends”
    to infulence and do the wrong things
    3. Frum neighborhood ostracism
    4. Shidduchim
    5. Potential to go off the derech

    Another point I’d like to emphasize is that this not an issue of entitlement but an issue of necessity due to the reasons why public schooling is not a viable option.

    If a family will be ostracized and not be able to get shidduchim for their children if they send their children to public school, is that really an option?

    If there were many classes of Yeshivas based on the ability for a family to afford Yeshiva this would also increase Sinas Chinom, ostracism, and shidduchim issues.

    The real issue is that Yeshiva is a necessity in the Orthodox community but is simply untenable and unaffordable with three or more children unless your gross income exceeds $250k annually.

    Another point to keep in mind is that a solution must include funds from outside the individuals (the community) itself.

    The only viable source of funds of this magnitude is the US Government, period.

    Which, as taxpaying citizens we need to make clear to our government representatives from local to federal, we are entitled to.

    What do we expect to happen when you put two people in a room:

    1. one representing the Yeshiva that needs
    $37k to educate three elementary grade

    2. and the other, a parent that needs
    their three children to get a Yeshiva
    education but cannot afford $37k either
    because of their income or because they
    have more children in High School, etc.

    and close the door with no mediator or third party to provide a solution?

    Answer: No solution! Just fighting back and forth leaving both parties with an untenable long term arrangement since this goes on year after year.

  39. It is interesting that this stream keeps coming alive again and again. It is probably the biggest issue (with Shidduchim as a close second) facing the young BT today. Unlike the other issues though, there really have been no real good solutions put forward so far. If observant Jews are sending their kids to public schools, I believe that we need to focus much of our energies here, as it is quickly becoming a tragic and untenable situation.

  40. I agree that this really is a problem spiraling out of control. One family I know has so much debt from raising their 5 sons that they are struggling to make ends meet. They were heartbroken when they could contribute nothing to his chasunah. Another family is thinking of sending their children to public school because with both parents working at nice jobs they cannot afford the Jewish schools in the area. The parents themselves went to public school because their families couldn’t afford a Jewish education. It is just so sad. Something must be done and the Jewish community as a whole needs to put more emphasis on the education system that is financially breaking many families.

    And for the go to Eretz Yisrael solution – I know of several famillies where the husband goes back to the US for the entire summer and makes enough money to educate the children for the year. It is hard that the father is gone for months at a time but they feel it is the only solution. Working in Eretz Yisrael means a much smaller salary (for the majority) which means the lower tuition is still an issue…

  41. Communities that really are communities are something like extended families. Maybe the letter of the law is that you don’t need to help with your poor but bright nephew’s tuition at a top yeshiva. But if you can help and choose to do it, you’re doing the right thing!

  42. 2 points.
    Firstly, tuition here in Israel is less than in the US, but not, I suspect a smaller proportion of the average income. I’m blessed with 7 children, 6 of whom are in full-time education. Kindergarten, cheder and grade-school have significant government subsidies and are very cheap ($10 – $40 per month). In the black-hat world tuition for children over 12 years old is about $120 per month (yeshiva ketana. yeshiva gedola and Beis Ya’akov). The final three years in Sem, when the girls are taught a profession (in order to be able to support their future husbands in Kollel) cost between $300 and $700 per month.
    The average monthly salary in Israel is about $1,400. In the BH world, with so many men in full-time learning, the average is much, much lower. My monthly tuition bill is $650.
    If you are going to live on an Israeli salary and send your children to BH institutions, don’t make Aliya because of the cheaper tuition.
    Also, realise that the low cost of education is not just because of government subsidies. None of my children are in classes of less than 45 students. None of my sons has ever met someone trained as a teacher. Only two of my children go to school in a building. The other four are in trailers etc

    Secondly, it seems to me that this thread is pervaded by a sense of entitlement. In Europe, before the disruption of the 1st World War, there were private Talmud Torahs paid for by, relatively,wealthy parents and then there were community-funded chadorim for the poor and the orphans. The difference between the two were whatever mattered to fee-paying parents at the time. It seems to me inevitable that this is the future in the States. Community funded (or subsidized) institutions with 40 children in a class with one teacher/rebbe all day teaching both Kodesh and Chol, no gyms, no coaches, co counselors, no labs, no computers etc. I don’t see why the wealthy members of the community should be obliged to to fund more than this. They can be asked (good luck), but what entitles those of us who cannot afford to pay for it ourselves, to anything more than the minimum?

  43. Although there is some merit in the idea of the entire community supporting the cost of Jewish Education, there are two significant problems with it:

    1. It is hard to convince people that have paid Yeshiva Tuition for 20+ years with no help from the community to all of a sudden start this new trend when they have final come to the end of their finacially overburdened tunnel.

    2. This and other likeminded ideas always have the same fatal flaw; going back to the same well one too many times.

    Most everyone pays/paid tuition at some point in their lives, and want to say “maspik”.

    There is still College to pay for, Bar Mitzvahs, Weddings, children’s homes, families, grandchildren’s tuition, etc., etc.

    My proposal would be to start lobbying the government at all levels (Local, City, State, Federal) to help pay for the secular portion of the Yeshiva education bill just like any other public school.

    At 2:00 PM, the Yeshiva changes their sign to PS 123.

    Oversimplification, perhaps, but read on.

    I know what you’re all thinking, “What about Church vs. State”?

    Good question, but exactly the kind of issues we need to take action against.

    We need to go to where the money is.

    Imagine if an entire frum community of children registered for Public School one year.

    What would the local school board do?

    We need to act like a community, not so much in demanding more money from within where it is obviously limited, but to the government where the funds exist and we should be entitled to receive as taxpaying citizens.

    I don’t know about you, but our 2007-2008 tuition bill for five, two in high school is $70,000+, simply unaffordably outrageous.


  44. First of all, consider coming to Israel.

    We amde aliya in 1995. At the time we only had one child at home, but just multiply it out. We paid about 350 shekels per year (yes shekels per year) for her to go to what is considered a desirable, first class Beis Ya’akov in Jerusalem.

    When she graduated elementary school, she went to a fine first class Beis Ya’akov seminary for about 350 shekels per month (a lot more than elementary school, but a lot less than America). These were full tuition payments, no scholarship.

    When I lived in Los Angeles, we sent her to a small start up school. At the time (early 90’s) full tuition was about 7,000 per year. The school folded because of lack of funds couple with political problems. Another father and I decided to keep one class going. This continued for three years with only 8 girls, and we were able to make it on tuition alone, with only one or two of the parents paying full tuition.

    For two of those years the class was in the basement of the other father’s home and there was no rent expense, and one year we were in a shul and paid rent.

    We had excellent teachers both for limudei kodesh and limudei chol. The administrative jobs were done by the parents on a volunteer basis.

    I don’t know why it stopped, we had already made aliya at the time.

    I am a CPA. Iused to work in a nice office in a high rent district. I calculated at the time, that with a classroom of 30 kids, half paying a full reasonable tuition and the other half paying nothing (or if you prefer everyone paying half), it would have been possible to rent offices in our office building at full rent (which covered utilities and janitorial) and run a school at the tuitions that were being charged. I am not privy to the budgets, but just do a simple calculation: How many kids in a class (in most places 30 plus). How much do you pay the teachers. Divide it out. Add something for the administrators and utilities. Most of the school buildings were paid for long ago by donors.

    It is a big problem – but somebody is making money and it can be done for less.


  45. It’s an interesting article. The tuition fees is a huge burden for my friends and me. One can expect to pay about $10K per child (PreK to 8) in the NJ suburb area near NYC. And then there is summer camps which is quite costly as well, which could run from $1200 per child for daycamp to a few Ks for sleepaway. I know that most families have two breadwinners in the household just to stay afloat. And the real estate cost in these areas are incredible. You really have to have very good professions to accomodate this frum lifestyle. I wish there were answers….

  46. Further, there is something distasteful to me in a psychiatrists (on of the highest paid fields of medicine)

    Not true. They are among the lowest paid medical practitioners.

  47. Ron,

    What happened is that they had a lawyer (a frum one) put a lein on the divorced couples’ house. I’m not sure if that was after a summons to bais din or secular count or both or neither. (I don’t think it was either, but I can find out.)

    Here’s a quick background. After the divorce he refused to pay child support and eventually lost his job and has not had one since. Meanwhile she literally took care of the kids physically, emotionally and financially (while working full time, yet making a fairly meager income), while he became less and less a factor in their lives. She paid for the kids food, clothing, etc., including tuition (whatever she could muster) totally independent of him. Even when he had a decent paying job he refused to pay child support. After I think years in court they eventually had his wages garnished (sp?), but some time thereafter he lost his job and once more she was totally on her own financially.

    Eventually she felt compelled to sell the house, which was in her name. She did so, and then found out that one of the boys’ yeshivos placed a lein on her house and took thousands of dollars from the sale.

    The truth is, though, that if anyone with a brain, and a heart, looked into the situation, they would have seen that this mother had little or no money, was struggling enormously hard to keep her family together in a situation where their father literally contributed no money, and arguably little of anything else. He owed her tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid child support. Even so, that didn’t stop her from paying for their food, clothes, etc. including whatever tuition she could muster together. But this yeshiva went after her, not him, because she was easy. He was irresponsible and recalcitrant. But she was easy. So they stuck their lawyer on her. Not him.

    It shouldn’t make a difference but this woman is a baales teshuva (the guy too). I do think their marriage was in great part a casualty of the difficulties baalei teshuva couples typically have adjusting to the realities of frum life, financial and otherwise. The icing on the cake, though, is to have a woman like this have money she needs to help her children live and stay in Torah institutions taken from her in this method by a yeshiva.

    If this is the practice of other yeshivos I hope it is stopped immediately, even if that means bringing it to the public’s attention.

  48. How does a yeshiva sue a Jew? Did they go to bais din first and get a psak authorizing a lawsuit based on your failure to appear in or comply with the bais din? If they did not they should not be teaching Torah. I am sure there is more to the story.

  49. I heard the same thing about a yeshiva suing a divorced BT mom, whose husband refused to pay tuition or child support. They went after the mother. I think it is disgusting. And the type of evil that the Neviim spoke about. The type of thing that, c’v, brings evil upon the community.

  50. A Yeshiva in Los Angeles my son went to in 2002-2003 is now suing me for some unpaid back tuition without ever having called me. Whatever happened to being treated like a mentch. I’m sorry I am not some VIP and just a BT but they are a 100% wrong and if I could have afforded it I would have hired a lawyer.

  51. Anonymous–
    I don’t think that I failed to “face realities.” I gave my suggestion as to how to make tuition costs more bearable. However, it’s important to remember that the reality we’re facing is a reality that we created. Insanely high tuition costs are not an incontrovertible fact of life. They are actually pretty much unique to modern-day American Jewry. So, why is the discussion “how many kids can we afford to have, given tuition costs?” and not “how can we best educate our children, given that we are religious Jews and want(/are commanded to have (some people don’t fulfill “pru u’rvu” until their 6th kid)) large families?” If you ask me, the desire for children is more natural, more halachically valid, and much more vital to our survival as a people than are high tuitions. Therefore, it should be the starting point for any discussions about creating affordable Jewish living.

    The issue of getting a birth control heter due to emotional issues is an entirely different one. On the halachic level, and on the communal level. It is not what I was talking about, and of course a couple which feels overwhelmed and unable to cope should speak to a competant and caring rabbi.

    That said, I disagree with your statement that young couples should start thinking about family size l’hatchila. First of all, why count your chickens before they hatch, so to speak? Not every woman is physically able to have many children, and they may (chas v’chalilah) face problems of infertility, not of “too many” children. Secondly, how would a childless couple have any idea how they’ll feel about having children, or how many they’ll eventually wish to have? Finally, one of the benefits of pregnancy is that no one (who isn’t on a ton of fertility meds) ends up with a large family in a single day, or even in two years. There is time to think about things along the way, as circumstances change. Of course a young woman with no children (who, if she’s a BT, is probably from a small family) most likely feels that she is and will be unable to care for many children. However, years later, after hopefully becoming a mother to children, she may feel more prepared. A woman who decides while still young that she can only handle four children, and spaces her pregnancies accordingly, may regret her decision later, and realize that she would have preferred a larger family. Unfortunately, birth control only works in one direction.

  52. Ora,

    BTmom/latest anonymous–

    This is “latest anonymous” responding.

    I think the fact that people seriously expect families who struggle with tuition to use birth control shows a major problem with priorities. Since when is a child who won’t be sent to private school a child who shouldn’t have been born, chas v’chalilah?

    Good point, but let’s talk realities for a second. If you have x amount of kids you are going to want to send them all to Torah institutions. And they — the younger ones — are going to want to go too; they are not going to want to be radically different — e.g. yeshivish vs. public school — from their older siblings (at least until they maybe reach adolescence). In other words, the psycholocial realities, alone, compel parents, essentially, to either send all their kids to public school or yeshiva/public school.

    And if private school, that means a lot of tuition.

    FYI, a lot of tuition doesn’t even mean $10,000/kid. If you have 5, 6, 7 kids at say $3k/kid and are earning less than 100k (150k?) in the northeast you are probably in financial straits.

    Yes, Ora, you are correct in pointing out the danger of dangerous attitudes. However, the realities are realities that have to be addressed even if one has exactly the right attitude.

    Which leads to my second point. This site, and the above post, pertains specifically to one segment of the Torah observant population: baalei teshuva. And the advice given to BTs should be geared specifically for them, which perhaps includes having smaller families, lechatchilah, in consultation, of course, with a competent and BT-experienced Rav.

    Among the unique aspects of BTs that warrant this approach, IMO, include:

    1) less frum/supporting family (both in terms of getting financial help, but even financially well-off BTs are generally lacking in the emotional and other types of familial support that help typical FFB families cope with diverse and difficult situations).

    2) Naivete. Our idealism brings us in to the emes, but can cause us to go further than is perhaps prudent, as BTmom expressed above. Regarding the topic at hand, that means a BT couple might think they can handle a huge family, financial difficulty and other problems in the beginning, but find out only later that they had no idea what they were really get themselves into until it was too late (or very late). Hence, limiting something like family size, lechatchilah, might make more sense. Again, consult with the Rav who has big shoulders and BT-experience.

    Children are a blessing from Hashem, and to accept that blessing (even if you make under $100,000/year) is not irresponsible, it is praiseworthy.

    It is praiseworthy.

    But it is also praiseworthy to “know thyself,” and for people, like many BTs, who suspect or conclude that the challenges — financial and otherwise — of a significantly larger-than-they-grew-up-with or larger-than-they-think-they-can-handle family are more than they can handle, then it is praiseworthy for them to consult a qualified Rav to see about limiting family size.

  53. Dear E and Z and Ora:
    First E and Z- I am sorry if my post disturbed you, it was a difficult thing to write, but it is our reality. Although I will say thank you for your post please understand that we are fine now. We have our children, we work, there is aroof over our heads and food in the cabinet. We have been truly blessed over and over. There are people a lot worse off. We are grateful for Hashem blessing us as much as he has. Hashem is our courage. We are just regular people. AS BT’s we were reached by a kiruv outreach program and were brought back to Judaism in a wonderful way-just when things got difficult and we were trying to do the right thing or what we were being told was the right thing to do by people we admired and trusted it turned out not to be the best. But I feel we abdicated common sense to people who we thought were on ahigher level spirtually so they would be the ones to know. Like anyone has a direct line to G-d! that was our fault and so we grew up a little. B’H’ It was painful but imo necessary.
    Ora= I agree with your comments on the many different fronts. Yes the level expected seems a little high, but on the other hand. We are BT the results of little or no education and assimilation. Education imo is the one great thing that a person can do in order to continue Judaism in the family, oh yeah no intermarriage, but again education is key to our survival as a people. It is why we twist ourselves sideways to provide as much as we can plus how we live and what we show to our children. I am at this point not considering the fact that my children will be or even should be talmudic scholars of note. Frankly i am insisting on dual religious/secular education quite strongly up too and including college. They have to be able to provide for themselves and their families. I did not get offended by your stance on birth control heters at all. I too object to the feeling that people who can’t afford must seek out a heter feeling.Each generation has its burden. We feel that the burden this generation has is materialism. My dh frequently reminds me that Hitler destroyed 6 million of us out of hate, yet America has destroyed far far more out of kindness. Check out Aish Ha Torah Assimilation rates. Whew earth shattering..
    It is interesting that our Jewish values which stand us in such good stead in the bleakest of times seem to be not as useful for many people in the face of materialism.
    Ora on the point that communities should take more of a responsiblity for tuition rates. I fully agree. There definately needs to be Jewish No child left behind policy if we wish to survive as a people.

  54. BTmom–
    I just saw your second post, and I just want to say that what I wrote in comment #231 was not meant to put down families who choose to get a heter to use birth control. What I object to is the feeling, even in certain religious communities, that families who can’t afford tuition MUST seek out such a heter.

  55. BTmom/latest anonymous–
    There’s a difference between not being able to afford children and not being able to afford private school for multiple children. IMO, as long as parents can provide food, clothing, and shelter for their children, they are “affording children” just fine. If only those who can afford to send a child (or a 2nd or 3rd child, etc) to a private school costing over $10,000 a year are to have children, then the birthrate in the American Jewish community will drop from shockingly low to virtually nonexistent.

    I think the fact that people seriously expect families who struggle with tuition to use birth control shows a major problem with priorities. Since when is a child who won’t be sent to private school a child who shouldn’t have been born, chas v’chalilah? As an earlier post pointed out, people used to have way more children (I don’t believe that most were dying of starvation, although many died of disease). The phenomena of religious Jewish communities where the average family has fewer than four children is a new, American thing, and it seems to me to be a direct result of the expectation that every child have only the very best (very expensive) education.

    Washington Economist has a good idea: create new communities, as is done in Israel. The creation of new communities is 100% necessary here for young couples, who would otherwise be unable to afford housing. However, that would only solve one part of the problem (high morgages) while leaving the problem of tuition virtually unchanged.

    As I see it, religious Jews living before the 1940s managed to support large families, as do Jews living in Israel. There are two major differences between those communities and the American Jewish community of today regarding Jewish education.

    Based purely on anecdotal evidence, I believe that Jewish families of ages past managed to educate many children because they had different standards. As an example, most of my friends grandmothers learned only to pray, keep mitzvot, and read Hebrew. Their grandfathers often dropped out of school in their teens to pursue a trade. I doubt that many American Jews of today want to adopt this model, I just think it’s worth pointing out that our standards are much higher than those of previous generations. Perhaps sometimes a bit too high.

    In Israel, everyone funds Jewish education. Realistically, you can’t institute a similar situation in America, because secular Jews probably won’t be interested in pitching in to fund religious schools. However, the current system could definitely be improved on. Currently, no one besides parents feels an obligation to fund Jewish schools. If enough major rabbis were to require every Jew to contribute to funding Jewish education, tuition could be somewhat reduced. As it is, people are giving to all kinds of causes which are nice enough but perhaps not as essential as our childrens’ education. I know that people don’t like to be told how to spend their money, but it looks to me like the only realistic option. If there were some form of communal tax to ensure that yeshivot were getting decent support, then parents would have to shoulder less of the burden. I believe that there is ample halachic support for such a system, as funding education has often been seen as a communal responsibility.

    One last thing: if the Jewish people insisted on having children even as slaves in Egypt, and as persecuted minorities in the times of the Crusades and Spanish Inquistion, and in DP camps after facing the horrors of the shoa, then why on earth should we stop now, in one of the most materially prosperous times for our people? Let’s not let social pressure cow us into believing that children, even many children, are a luxury meant only for the rich. Children are a blessing from Hashem, and to accept that blessing (even if you make under $100,000/year) is not irresponsible, it is praiseworthy.

  56. My husband and I have recently found this website and been going through the different articles here. When we read your original post, it deeply troubled us. When we saw your follow up comment in response to anonymous, we were truly inspired by your courage and faith. The fact that you are able to “judge judaism by Hashem and love him with all your heart” despite your situation is an amazing thing and should be an inspiration to all who read your comments. Thank you for passing on your words and strength.

  57. Thank you Anon for your post,frankly I was flinching most of shabbos at writing the truth as it pertains to my family. We are in the US in a town with a very small jewish pop. We in flavor are MO.
    Thank you very much for your advice-we are indeed trying to stabilize and increase. With my job we have been able to bank away a little bit more Thank G-d.
    I too agree with your regarding the Rebbetzin on my porch. It was incredibly harsh at the time specifically because I had 2 children of one sex and had asked a respected rov on the east coast (mo) for a heter and was refused because my dh and I had not yet replaced ourselves in the world and I was told that a child comes with its own food for the first year and with Hashhems help by the time a year had passed we would be in a much better financial situation. Starry-eyed fool that I was…I believed. This rebbetzin was well aware of all the issues since it had been discussed with her in an advisoral positiion and she had given me the ph # of the rov herself. So yes NOW i agree with her completely at the time it just broke my heart and spirit. Now I forgive her I am sure she had other issues and perhaps just had a bad day. Yes her info was correct but as a BT was in the bad habit of trusting my rabbi and rebbitzen to actually have our best interests in mind. I no longer G-d forgive me believe this. What I do know is that i cannot judge judaism by jews. I judge judaism by Hashem and I love G-d with all of my heart.

    That said. I never thought about our obligation to give tzedaka. I knew this family had no food so I gave half my grocery $ to them.. That way it was better that we both eat beans for a week. then we eat chicken and they eat nothing. Their situation is improving slowly as is ours. G-d has been good to us and even if I have a little I think I should share. I do not know of the actual halacha regarding this and please realize we certainly are not able to give our full ma aseer to tzedaka, but a chai here and there find themselves in an envelope. As far as an authority who knows BT’s and has big shoulders. Oh my goodnesss….I could only wish. Frankly the anonymity of this website has been a godsend. To preserve both my dh and my dignity (tattered as it is..) I know that we will no longer follow someone who wears a black hat and tells us how it should be. Been there done that and had it blow up in my face. BTW after my special needs child was born I then received a heter to stop having children. I love all of my children, I would not give them up for anything. I just think recieving a temporary heter would perhaps been better for a year or so, but the truth is that I followed the rov, I chose to do so. G-d let my child live and I am grateful. We can work and get out of this situation financially and with my husbands schooling and I am grateful, truly. I really was weighing in on the unreality of deliberately making a bad financial decision and hoping that G-d will pull you out. Perhaps he will, perhaps he will tell you not to depend on miracles. After all is that not what we are taught-do not depend on miracles? If you sit down and do the numbers and you simply cannot afford it, even with a ascholarship should people at THAT point choose, homeschooling or aliya or different school or a second job etc…as opposed to throwing themselves on the mercy of a school and saying yes my child should have an education-please do something about it. It doesnt seem fair to the schools. I want to be the person to tell people hey do not go into debt. Only rely on Hashem. As far as schools go- look plain and simple it is a business, and students that can pay their full load and bit more besides are far more desirable that those no matter how brillant (imo) that need scholarships. We think the situation with tuition is inherently unworkable. If people impoverish themselves to provide an education that g-d forgive me is not so stellar securally. When that child grows up how will he compete in the marketplace for employment? Is he not pratcially guaranteed a job whereby he too wil have to ask for help for tution for his own children??
    As far as we go with G-ds help we will be ok and be able to provide for our children and I know this situation is not forever. I am grateful however that I have been able to learn from this and in response to prior post,I feel if you have a tuition board it certainly should not be made up of the so called wealthier members. It is the grinding humiliation to have someone look at you with a huh look on their face as in why dont you just blatty blah blah-easy for them to say, but I think people who are perhaps middle class or not so wealthy would be more understanding of a persons financial realities and be able to actually work with someone and not make them feel like a schnorrer. Preserving anothers jews dignity is am important thing. Thank you anon for preseving mine. I have been lurking on this site for quite some time and just been too ashamed to write. When I am on the other side of financial health- I won;t forget this. I pray that I will be able to help other people with what I have learned and lived.
    Thank you

  58. BTmom,

    Heartwrenching, but good that you are open enough to write about it.

    First, a couple of questions:

    Where do you live? You don’t have to get too specific, but is it the US? Northeast? Etc?

    Would you call you and your husband’s niche BT-MO, BT-Yeshivish, BT-Chassidish, BT-other?


    I think the rebbetzin telling you to not have children if you cannot afford them is, in essence, good advice, even if the expression and timing of her statement was not very tactful or even appropriate. But in essence it’s good advice, IMO.

    The statement you were told, only asking for a tuition break when you have zero dollars in the bank (vs. 1000), was totally inappropriate to tell you, IMO. Although you should ask a competent authority — someone with big shoulders who knows BTs — halachically you are not obligated to impoverish or bankrupt yourself. To the contrary, you are obligated to NOT make yourselves a burden on the community. That’s also why I wonder if you should or are even allowed to give tzedakah (at least in terms of money) to other places.

    These types of questions really need a big person. They’re at least as important as any other question one would ask a Rav.

    IMHO, you and your husband’s first priority is to get your financial life stabilized — at least as much as possible. It seems to me ridiculous to be paying $11,000 in tuition when you net only $26,000. You need someone with big shoulders to really help you wade through these waters. And it doesn’t sound like you have such a person in your life yet.

  59. I have read this entire thread and write this carefully, Although I would like very much to have a veil over my eyes regarding the financial realities of the frum world I cannot.

    We are BT with 3 children 1 sp. Needs -goes to public school.

    2 “reg” kids who go to a very inexpensive school- we rec a huge break on tuition. 50% discount. And the bill for us totals 11000. a year. Pretty good huh…except my husband earns After taxes 26000.00. Vacations..hardy har har… We are Car less and generally eat so frugally- beans and rice. This year My special needs child is able to attend the local public school and that frees me to work full time for the princely sum of 8.00 an hour. Of which 6.00 goes to the school and the remainder of the 2.00 goes to us. We are grateful and think we are doing pretty good.

    That said- we too are considering homeschooling simply for the financial considerations and the emotional ones. Yes we are currently poor. , BTW I have internet my husband is taking classes over the net in order to get a degree to increase his pay. . Yes a lot of people have been very kind and we are grateful…. but on the other side of the wall- hey don’t you think if we had the money we would give it?? The humiliation and degradation we have experienced would curl your hair. From the rebbetzin who stood on my porch and informed me that we should not have kids if we could not afford them.. Be able to donate freely etc. (at that point I could do what? Late term abortion..Chas veshalom) BTW One week later I had gone into labor at 6 months due to stresses of trying to work a commision sales gig. To the Rebbetzin who informed me at Shavuos that I was expected to clean all of the tables from the dining hall. I had cleaned after our table- DH and 8 other adults and had just assumed everyone would get up and clear I had….HAH…Know thy place..

    I gave birth (unsuprisinglyto me considering the adrenaline stress brew of amoniotic fluid I was providing) to a special needs kid which needed care 24/7 with therapy and other little gems. I was unable to work. Literally- My DH made $24 over the limit for assistance. So we made do. Our extended families are unable/unwilling to help ( the advice was to take a part time job on Shabbos0- you arenot trying so hard if you don’t)- Our community was beautiful to us in so many ways. but the MO leadership.. Puhleese..

    It did affect us tremendously in many good and bad ways. My DH attends classes to increase his parnossa and now that my child is in school I too work a low paying job with amazing flexibility (my own tradeoff to deal with my childs health/sickenss issues)I buy all of our clothes at a thrift store and what the local gemach passes out. I cannot afford to shop at wal-mart or even target. We give tzedaka to another family in town that is facing a tough spot now and also donate to causes in Israel. Ok not the best tzedaka but it is there. We truly had faith in G-d and indeed our child lives. A great great blessing. B’H’, But the other stuff…we feel like the question that people wonder about us is not are you MO or Frum or BT….Is this person Issachar or Zevulon. And if you are Issachar you are nothing. and if you are Zevulon you own the world.

    We are not irresponsible people. We work very hard and save every penny we can. We are working towards a better life, but when I think of the future including the tuition burden I just feel sick. Sick.

    The tuition ? is a laugh. Oh yes send our kids to Yeshivah- We will never get even a little bit ahead. BTW it is a struggle to even have an emergency fund of 1000.00. Yes I do not even have that amount in the bank. we have 3 kids! When I asked a fellow parent in the school administration at what point could we apply for a scholarship. I was informed that you should not have any savings at all if you have to ask for a tuition break. Poor means Poor. It is a horrible horrible situation. We made the decision to strive for that emergency fund because if we do not and something occurs we would have to go with our hand out to someone else to help us and simply cannot force ourselves to that point anymore. So we struggle and I do mean struggle for the pennies and the tuition ? is a joke We are simply expected to impoverish ourselves even more …and for what. A good torah education and a spotty secular one which BTW will not be of the greatest help when our children are looking for parnossa. The Great Torah education of our children that is so burningly important and we will have to beg for it. No thank you. We can’t have another moment of it, and frankly accepting Tzedaka is a burning shame.

    So yes for us homeschooling is probably the best option. I would like to keep public school as a last resort. I am trying to learn as much as I can. because frankly I am a BT and homeschooling Jewish subjects. well lets just say I have fears of the quality of education. but guys I feel truly feel that I am stuck. We simply cannot afford this. and to go into debt. We have lived it and are crawling out of it by sheer determination. It is not the rosy have faith picture people paint. It is hard and degrading and it is hard when you have nothing but are desperately trying to do the right thing by your kids which imo is to give them a jewish education and you get the hairy eyeball as in what’s wrong with you that you can’t afford it.

    I wanted to write this in and yes in the end we are grateful that we have the opportunity to work and get out of this mess and we dearly love our children. The tuition ? is wonderful to speak of and yes there should be an answer but we think that the system is inherently unworkable. Learning Torah is beautiful but the realities of frum living is that it takes alot of money to be jewish. I do not know what will happen to us. I have bitachon and pray daily to G-d that what we do educationally for our children will be enough. That we won’t lose them to assimilation or other ills and what I can provide to them in terms of home teaching and derech will be enough. With G-ds help…

  60. I’ve never seen 1 subject bring so many comments. 1 thing that also must be addressed. Not that I’m defending the schools but, my kids go to yeshiva with kids whose parents have $1MM homes, luxury SUV’s, summer homes, cell phones for every person in the house, etc. When schools know these things about their students it becomes very hard for them to believe the parents need financial assistance and that ruins it for those parents that actually do need help.

  61. The Department of Commerce issued its annual report on national income levels on Friday. The UPPER BAND of Middle Class Household income (not per wage earner, but per entire household) was raised to $72,000/annum. Ther report has sparked great outrage, as most agree that the Middle Class is well BELOW that number.

    There is no possible way of maintaining a family within halachic guidelines in America today (or more precisely, within the socioeconomic umbrella of the Frum community) on $72,000 a year, and that is the UPPER band of defining Middle Class.

    Orthodoxy is now officially the Religion of the Rich, to the specific exclusion of the Middle Class. It does not matter if you are charedi, Modern Orthodox or anything else. Every single stream has now polarized itself as no longer capable of including the UPPER BAND of the Middle Class as defined by the DoC. Discussions of yeshiva tuition seem irrelevant in the context of that realization. The cancer is far more pervasive within the socioeconomic fabric of Frumkeit today than a reduction in tuition.

    Given the basic rule of finance that property value should equal NO MORE than 3 years gross income, where in America is there a frum community today for a family of 2-4 children with homes averaging no more than $200,000?

    In Israel, the solution has been to create entirely new communities on cheap land in the middle of nowhere de novo, be it Modiin,Bet Shemesh and the entire Shomron for the Modern Orthodox, or Kiryat Sefer and Beitar for the charedim. American eladership need address the same basic issue, and create entirely new planned communities with affordable housing for its new generation at prices under $200,000–not small pockets of kehillot but specific projects of 500 homes plus, even if that means in Iowa and South Carolina.

    There is no discussion of a family of 3 children paying $18,000 or even $12,000 net a year in tuition on an after tax income of $45,000 and a mortgage

  62. We also need to look inside each of ourselves( including me) and say what can I do to eliminate the anxiety/fear about tuition. Not so long ago,(approx 60 years ago) many yidden lived in abject poverty and never stopped having kids. In fact, many of them had 10 or 12 kids. Unfortunately many also passed away but they kept on having them. Why did they continue to have more when they were literally starving? Because they have 100% emunah(faith) that Hashem runs the world and while yet we need to put in the effort, he decides the outcome. >>

    Oh good grief. They had them because they didn’t have any other choice in those days, not because they had 100% emunah that Hashem ran the world.

  63. The danger in sharing it is that each case truly is individual. The advice he gave us made sense for us. That same advice may be inappropriate for others. Given that, one fairly startling piece of advice was the question of going into debt, e.g. a home equity, to pay for education. We have a limited budget, but a daughter coming of marriageable age, be’h. We asked him about going into debt to fund her education. He said we should look at it as an investment. He said we shouldn’t necessarily do the same for Torah learning. Shocking, especially since he is a tremendous advocate of paying full tuition and supporting yeshivos. But, as I said, in our case this was the advice. We will be paying lots of tuition for Torah next year, iy’h. But in terms of taking something like a home equity loan, if it means our daughter will be able to gain a skill for life that will help her and also her chasan and family, then that is something to take out a home equity for, not necesarily just a regular tuition, as chashiv as that is.

  64. Recently my wife and I visited our Rav to discuss finances. We did not go to him for financial advice per se, although he is capable of providing insights in this area. Rather our intent was to glean some better understanding of our financial priorities. Where does that first dollar go? What is an absolute? And so on.

    I learned some things at this meeting. He was very practical and realistic, conveying Torah priorities and their relevance to my specific situation.

    A Rav is not a financial advisor or guru. But a good one can help you sort through the maze of conflicting priorities — even, and especially, if that means that the most ruchnius thing you can do is be realistic about the gashmius.

  65. I am trying to find out what part of education, if any, can be considered as part of one’s maaser?

    If we are considering having another child but the one thing holding us back is tuition costs, does this factor into my 1st question?

  66. If anyone is interested, I put up a post on developing Alumni Relations. I’d love to see more comments, especially creative ideas of how these relations could be developed.

  67. I’m new here but I wanted to chime in.

    Don’t make the mistake of thinking everyone in the Five Towns is a “millionaire.” People here are in crisis too. Tuition and cost of living here is nuts. Actually, we’re selling our house and moving elsewhere (also due to my husband’s job) because of the cost of living.

    Sometimes tuition issues are not just about how much money is available, but in the case of BT’s, also about spousal disagreement on the necessity of yeshiva education. That’s the way it is for us, at least right now. Luckily my daughter’s school has been (so far) helpful in assisting us to figure out how to manage. But also, we have crushing student debt as well as other debt incurred in a terrible economic time, and when we have a few extra dollars, we have to pay others back. Even if it looks like on paper there’s money there, it’s not. Debts have to be paid. We can’t even consider Aliya until those debts are paid; we’d never be able to make enough income in EY to pay our commitments, and we wouldn’t skip out on them.

    We’re seriously considering homeschooling. It’s not just an economic choice (also philosophical) but it’s looking better and better.

  68. As usual, I’m late to the posting party. Still, I’d like to add my 2 cents on some of the issues raised.

    Public school: Seriously, do everything you can not to send your kids to public school. I went to public school in the states. It is not the same as it was a generation ago!! Yes, I know frum people in their 30s-40s who did PS and were fine, but in my school there were drug deals in the classrooms, fights in the hallways, suicides, about 10% of the girls had babies by senior year, etc. And that was the good school in town…

    Communal responsibility: I remember a story, I wish I could quote sources, basically two orphans were left with no way to go to cheder. The Rav said that the town would have to sell its Sefer Torah to fund their tuition. That’s a pretty extreme step, I’d say it shows that kids’ Torah education is a communal responsibility.

    Israel: I’d like to agree with the last couple of posters. Your lifestyle won’t change much by coming to Israel, but the most important things are affordable here. My husband and I may never own a car, but OTOH tuition is reasonable, food is cheap, and medical care is practically free. As for getting “stuck” here, unfortunately there are many examples of succesful yerida so I don’t think getting stuck happens to many families. Basically, if you are upper middle class your standard of living may go slightly down, if you are lower middle class it will go up (definitely did for me!). Also, the worst (education-wise) scenario in America is public school with no Jewish content whatsoever (and often a lot of spiritual and even physical danger), in Israel there are religious public schools, even if they aren’t the best, your kids can still learn Torah for free.

    Family planning: I definitely agree with Tzvi N on this one. Each child brings their own mazal to the family. I know families with three kids who’ve ended up spending as much (on braces, special education, medical bills, etc) on their kids as families with six kids. Whatever money you’re supposed to spend on you kids, you will, no matter how many you have. Consult with a Rav of course, but money alone should never be a reason to avoid more children.

    BTs and tuition: Maybe this problem has led to so much discussion becuase it is especially widespread in the BT community. A couple of reasons that I’ve seen:
    1) BTs tend to care more about secular education, and schools with good secular education cost more.
    2) BTs don’t have as much family who are willing to help out with tuition costs.
    3) Because of the larger generation gaps in non-frum families, BTs may end up taking care of their parents and kids at the same time. In FFB families (in my experience) it’s the opposite: the grandparents (usually still in their 40s-50s) help their children get established as young couples and also help with finances for the first couple of children.

    Solutions: I don’t have much to say here, I’m afraid. If it helps, this whole discussion made me realize that we should add my husband’s old elementary and high schools to our maaser/tzedaka distribution. Which goes to show, raising awareness is important. A lot of people don’t think of these things on their own. So definitely more fundraising campaigns within the community could help. Also, just because the board is being unhelpful doesn’t mean the parents can’t take initiative and fundraise on their own. To really publicize the situation, maybe get a local Rav to threaten to sell the Torah scrolls :)?

  69. harchinamm, Yasher Koach! Yours is one of the best posts I’ve seen on this subject. Even for those of us who made ayliyah it was a great reminder of the proper perspective.

    Thank you.

  70. MRN,
    “The flaw in your economic argument is that the entire parent body of the other school (about 100 other families) is well-to-do and can afford higher tuition.”
    -I didn’t say that.

    The community’s well being is the same thing as the well being of all the individuals in the community. The parents that want a smaller, less expensive school have a right to pursue their self-interest if it is not something that is explicitly hostile to the community’s self interest. Why not? Furthermore, If an individual was paying $6,000 annually AFTER a deduction which left him feeling like a schnorrer, he may have nothing left to contribute for maaser. If a person pays full with $3,500, most likely he will contribute at least part of his $2,500 balance to communal instituions that everyone can benefit from.

  71. We, too, made aliya partly because of the cost of Jewish education in the States. This was obviously not our only reason and certainly not the most important reason but one of the motivations nonetheless.

    We made aliya about 12 years ago and even though we had a difficult time financially we absolutely do NOT want to go back to the States and thank Hashem every day for the privelege of living here in Eretz HaKodesh.

    Yes, it is true that aliya will not make one wealthy but we have found that the things we cannot afford here are things we don’t need and schooling is very affordable, as well as medical care.

    We paid 350 shekels PER YEAR, yes, that’s for a FULL YEAR for Bais Ya’akov until 8th grade and now pay 253 shekels a month for my oldest daughter in seminar [12th grade]. That comes out to about $57 per month. Cheder [until 8th grade] costs about between $50 and $60 per month and yeshiva costs are about $235 per month including dorm, food, and everything else.

    Our income has varied between 6,000 and 12,000 shekels a month during this time. Our health insurance costs are LESS THAN 100 shekels a month, and this covers almost every medical need we have, including unlimited regular doctor’s visits, hospital visits, surgeries, emergency care, and more. We pay 12 shekels [about $2.50] per prescription box of medication as well. By the way, this insurance is for every citizen of Israel and has nothing to do with being employed or not.

    We have never had to worry about how to pay for a child’s education here or for needed medical care. So what have we traded in for that privelege? We do not have a car — we take buses or taxis everywhere — and we live in an apartment that we own instead of a house. We do not fly to exotic spots for vacation, but always manage to see plenty of places all over the country during chol hamoed. My children have traveled to about every corner in the entire country with their schools and we live only a 15 minute drive from the Kotel and 10 minutes from Kever Rachel.

    Those things that we don’t have we don’t need and the most important things of all – schooling and medical care – Hashem has made sure that we do have. I would recommend aliya to most all families with young children [once they get older it is usually too late].

  72. Hi All,
    I got wind of this post and blog through Harvey Tannenbaum’s Protexia email list.
    As a veteran BT myself, it surely interests me.

    Pardon me for weighing in right away with criticism. Actually, my criticism is against the values of the Jewish community in the USA as reflected in these posts, and not against the posters themselves.

    In the over 200 posts, there have been a mere handful of posts suggesting moving to Israel as an option to deal with this problem, and most of them have been in off-topic response to “Dark Side’s” negative (tho pertinent) comments.

    It is a shame that the overwhelming percentage of successful aliyah stories do not find their way in to this blog. See and

    I realize that changing your lifestyle and life outlook is plenty hard, and moving to another country can make that even harder, but to put such an important part of Judaism into a hardly relevant corner seems sad to me.
    And btw, my wife and I survive with our 5 kids on about $50,000 a year, and tuition at GREAT schools (including daycare for the 2 year old) is about $11K a year.

    BTs, consider Aliya seriously.

    Rabbis, educate towards Aliya seriously.

    Maale Adumim
    BT 30 years
    Israeli 28 years
    Alive 42 years

  73. In response to MRN’s query in #176 —
    To what do you ascribe the difference?

    I cannot claim to know how they set the tuition amounts in the schools.
    However, I can speculate that they are comparitively “low” because
    – the Rebbeim and teachers are not paid so much;
    – the Hanhola are certainly not making 6-figure salaries;
    – class sizes are relatively large (usually over 20); and
    – secular studies are not emphasized (e.g., there is no science lab, no gym, etc.).

    A lechtigen Shabbos to all.

  74. Note to Jake of Post 44 who said: “This topic dovetails with a related topic – singleness. I’m an older, never-married FFB without children who earned quite a decent living in the USA for years but wasn’t rich enough for NY J women who would prefer to stay single than marry someone less than very rich (assets > $1,000,000, income > $250,000).”

    Your bashert exists, but you may have had to leave the coast to find her. And I mean travel more than a couple hundred miles, LOL. I’m not available, but out here in between the coasts, we’re not all that way!

  75. I wish all of the commenters and readers in this thread a peaceful and enjoyable shabbos with the worries of tuition woes gently tucked away for a blissful 25 or so hours.

    Good Shabbos.

  76. MRN said, “Hi Bob Miller (waving hands) — believe it or not I have an MBA in finance and economics”

    Outstanding! A guiding light in the fog of blog!

    One of the things the analysis will have to address is “what drives the economic choices of frum people (FFB, BT…)”. I wonder if our economic behavior is as well-characterized as everybody else’s.

  77. Re: the topic of breakaway schools and total education costs —

    I believe most breakaway yeshivos are started because of disagreements with either the educational or political philosophy of a school, or the way it is implemented, and not to decrease tuition costs. If true, this does not bode well for attempts to try to get them to cooperate or pool resources.

    El Cheapo’s school may be an anomaly. In fact, in his/her original post, there is no indication of why this school was in fact started, although it did turn out to be done on the cheap.

  78. Hi Bob Miller (waving hands) — believe it or not I have an MBA in finance and economics from a top five school (sometimes it’s #1, but that changes from year to year).

  79. El Cheapo-thanks for your comments re the school. Like it or not, NY has strong accreditation requirements and many parents still value a Regents diploma . APs and SAT scores as a sign of access into the portals of higher education, whether immediately post high school or at some later time.IRC, a court challenge re the deduction of tuition was made by a frum family in California, albeit unsuccessfully. FWIW, and this is a completely different issue-I can see where some parents see the need to “kasher” secular studies, but I can also see where some parents would object to the same.

  80. I hope that our fantastic moderators will split the thread to keep the ideas separate from the other things.

    Regarding the argument between bigger vs. smaller and efficiency, I will add my own two cents. I think there is an “optimal” level that promotes efficiency and provides enhanced services. I think it should be clear that our schools are not operating at an optimal level. In communities where seats remain empty, it should be crystal clear!

    There is no need to reinvent the wheel, as there are other organizations that can be studied, such as the Catholic school system, and we are blessed with a great number of people in our communities who have worked in fields where their experienced would be most valuable.

    It is probably a pipe dream currently to even talk about combining schools at this point. But, we should be looking at the possibility of combining duplicate functions and providing enhanced functions through cooperation (my big example being the need for vocational courses and the lack of an adequate size classroom if one school where to provide such).

    We should also look at the possibility of spreading tuition out over 12 months, instead of 10, telling the schools to stop making our children the middle man when it comes to requesting money (check out my post on this on my blog), and stop punishing parents who pay over 10 months with “fees.”

  81. I think Charnie’s post (#194) is a great start towards moving this thread in the direction of actually coming up with solutions to the problems we’ve all been discussing.

    Since we’re at about 200 comments, I for one would be in favor of starting a new thread beginning with a statement of the problem, with Charnie’s comments as the foundation of a solution.

    Here are some additional points (none are my chiddushim — all were mentioned at some point in this discussion):

    9. Along with point #1, we must state that NO CHILD will be denied a yeshiva education because the parents can’t afford it.

    10. Aside from schools “combining facilities” (a pipe dream IMO, unless the crisis — for them — becomes severe), schools should at least coordinate efforts
    a) to encourage community members (including non-parents) to direct more $$ to the community’s schools,
    b) to ensure that every child has a place in a school, and that scholarships are available and equitably distributed across the schools (ala Chicago’s Kehilla Fund)
    c) to pool resources for expensive special programs (ala the 5 Towns / Far Rockaway’s CAHAL)

    11. Yeshivos should seek help from parents and others on how to increase fundraising, especially from alumni.

    12. Parents must be encouraged to take a hard look at their priorities, and be reminded that tuition (full if at all possible) must be the first item budgeted and paid, before vacations, camp, new cars, home additions, etc., etc.

    13. Community members, especially those pre- or post-tuition years, and those with fewer children and more resources, should be reminded to direct their generosity first and foremost to their community yeshivos.

  82. Is there a frum economist out there who could clarify the likely economic outcomes of these educational scenarios?

  83. Michoel — my argument was from the community’s economic perspective. The flaw in your economic argument is that the entire parent body of the other school (about 100 other families) is well-to-do and can afford higher tuition. In reality, 95 of the the families are middle class, just getting by. The extra $2K or $3K a year is a tremendous burden on them. And then for the other 5 families that ARE wealthy, $2K or $3K means nothing to their economic reality. So the breakaway school results in higher tuitions for the vast majority of the community, the majority which cannot afford to pay them.
    If one is unhappy about committees and opinions at the large school and wants to break away, so be it. But that person can’t say he is acting in the best interest of the community.

  84. MRN,
    Since Orthodox internal growth is B”H very strong and consitent, the major schools can be confident of refilling the classrooms within a few years. In fact, schools are often looking to raise money to build more classrooms to account for growth. Pulling children out of the higher tuition schools will, as you said, result in higher tuition for those that remain. But since the wealthier portion of the parent body is likely to be the ones staying with the established school, it is not a disaster that they will then be paying higher tuition. Also, judging from the business world, it is hardly a given that “bigger=more efficient use of resources”. Bigger usually means more opinions, more commities, more disagreement, more room for internal inneficiency. Maybe I’m wrong, really not sure.

  85. The school has zip accreditation with any authorities, and in our state (not NY), we don’t need it, beyond letting the Central State Authorities know we have a thing called a school. Will our students do well on the PSAT, if they ever take it? Probably not, and for most of the parents in the school, they probably don’t care. Which isn’t, by the way, A Bad Thing. Our family does care, and we may very well pursue those things independently, should our kids have some talent or inclination in those areas. I think the school has some kind of nominal, barely-there insurance. The policy of the school is Everyone Pays The Same. Regarding Special Ed kids, I have twins going into 3yo next year who are developmentally delayed. Basically, Our family is laying out cash for an entire extra teacher, and taking the portion that isn’t “tuition” as a tax write-off. Secular studies – our school has a policy that there are no such things as “secular studies”, and to that end we hunt out or write curricula that convey implicit or explicit Torah messages while kids learn to add or read in English or get a science lesson.

  86. Perhaps this economic example would be better as a guest column, but I’d like to summarize it briefly as an argument for why we need bigger, not smaller, schools (to support #3 in post 194): Say a K-8 yeshivish school (boys and girls separate) has 360 students, evenly divided into one classroom per gender per grade. It will always need to offer these 18 classrooms i.e. the costs are fixed. Now, 12 families with 3 children each in the school withdraw their children to form a ‘homeschool’ really a small breakaway school. If the school was budgeting $10K in tuition for these tuition from these students, it now has a $360K budget deficity. If instead those 36 students are given scholarships of $5K and they remain at the school, the parents break even, and the school’s deficit is now 50% lower ($180K). (I get my $5K figure from the $3.5K el cheapo pays, plus $1.5K for tutoring $50 per weak for 30 weeks a year.)

    If these students pull away for hashkafic reasons (say to provide single gender instruction where there currently is none), then that is understandable from the community’s perspective. If, however, the families have pulled out to save money, from the *community’s* perspective, this is unacceptable. As a community, we should work to provide scholarships, not encourage break-away schools.

  87. Mark and El Cheapo-El Cheapo’s idea and school are intriguing. I think that many of us have ideas that are very mainstream on a Torah curriculum, etc.

    Just curious-what is the secular studies curriculum like and does the school have extra-curricular activities? what kind of accreditation with local and state authorities does the school have? Will its students bve able to take and do well on standardized tests such as PSAT, SAT, APs, etc? Does the school have insurance? How are the teachers paid? How does the school deal or propose to deal with kids who are ADD, LD or ED diagnosed ? Are all parents working, learning or paying full or a significant percentage of tuition? IMO, these issues are as important as the parennts’ input into the curriculum.

  88. To all of us who are parents participating in this (by now extraordinary) thread – remember what the REAL bottom line is – that our children are our investment in K’al Yisrael.

    David (#191) I’d love to work on this with you (& SephardiLady who seems so on top of this issue), but if that’s not doable, this is my partial list in no particular order of priority) of what I’d seek for at least some immediate relief:
    1) that all parents – baring the most extrememe circumstances, pay at least a minimum;
    2) that yeshiva boards not be made up only of the wealthier end of the parent body, but have a broader representation economically;
    3) that schools look to cut costs by combining facilities where it is geographical feasible;
    4) that every school makes sure it is taking advantage of every possible grant out there. BYQ is a wonderful example, as anyone who’s seen their computer lab can attest;
    5) accept the fact that a Rebbe or Morah’s reduced tuition is a barter – they’re making less then many of us, but they’re providing an important service;
    6) we work together with other groups (Solomon Schector, Christians, Catholics, etc) to gain more in the form of vouchers &/or tax credits;
    a) that also means considering political
    candidates positions on these issues
    when we go to vote.
    7) scholarships should not be given out based totally on an applicant’s 1099.
    8) that in NYC we learn from some OOT yeshivas that require parents to help out at a school in exchange for financial aid. Some schools might even be able to cut salaries that way.

    I’m sure others will think of more points.

  89. michoel – B”H we both get to transmit a Torah gem “B’shem omro” (with correct attribution)!
    Thank you

  90. How much longer must we wait as a community before the “crisis” has hit us like a hurricane? In other words, why assume that the crisis is not upon us at the present?

    I would agree with you that the crisis is upon us now for most of us here, but like most crises it depends on where you’re sitting.

    I don’t think the solution will come from a big Organizational Committee, but rather from groups of individuals getting together and implementing alternatives that work similiar to those of El Cheapo. Those solutions will then gradually be adopted by the mainstream.

  91. Woven in and out of the comments are the beginnings of a semblance of potential solutions. Most of them are on the bitachon/emunah side of the equation which is of at least equal importance as the hishtadlus (effort). The trick is finding the balance.

    At the same time, we seem to be digging deeper in our criticisms. I think it is important to speak about our worries and even more important to support others who have these worries. But I still think that we run the risk of getting so caught up in the criticism that we won’t even attempt to look for solutions.

    I am presently working on a program that has the potential to alleviate some of the pressures caused by the tuition crisis. I can’t speak in detail because there are other people involved and I have to keep it confidential (in other words, I could tell you but then I’d have to kill you :)). In researching this program, I have come to realize that it will not benefit all parents and not necessarily the parents most in need of assistance. As such, part of the implementation may need the schools to buy in with the condition that the benefit be applied to others not able to take advantage of the program. This also highlighted the need for a multi-layered solution.

    Please keep commenting with your ideas. Listening to a fellow Jew’s pain is important. Removing or lessening that pain is more important.

  92. Oops. I meant to say “My son seems to socialize well enough with other frum kids in the **shul**”

  93. Steve Brizel said,
    “I have yet to see whether they have met with parents who are less fortunate’

    This reminds me of what happened once where I worked on Long Island. Usually, when a new boss comes in, he talks to the people who report to him directly and he hears (and is often fooled by) a sanitized version of what’s going on. In this case, though, the new Director of Engineering chose to start his interviews at the bottom first, calling in the technicians from the shop one by one. He got such an depressing earful that he soon took another job in the organization! (Surprisingly, he did come back later after someone else had cleaned house)

    Rabbi Simenowitz accurately pointed out,
    “we believe that Hashem determines our parnassah and that somehow it works out”

    Our faith in HaShem’s help includes faith that He gave us the ability and duty to analyze and solve community problems. Progress from chaos to order doesn’t just happen.

  94. Actually, our school has a mix of FFB’s & BT’s. My son seems to socialize well enough with other frum kids in the school (If there are any issues with socializing, it’s more about his personality, than where he goes to school). If anything, he is a little more sheltered, since this school has stricter controls on outside influences than the other schools in Our Fair (OF) City. After a year of kindergarten, he and his classmates are reading Hebrew fluently and have started cursive and learning translation. I teach him English reading at home. Math we’ve been doing on and off at home. The kids in the other schools are clearly getting more math and English. However, at $3500 I think we can spring for outside tutoring if we think he needs it.

    Thanks for pointing out #10 (I had missed it). It’s what were doing in a very general way – obviously there are differences in the specifics.

  95. El Cheapo,
    That is great to hear. I suggested that very scenario above in comment #10. One concern would be that those most likely to go for such an idea are baalei t’suvah. I wonder how that impacts thier acculturation into general frum society. Can you give any feedback about that?

  96. Mark-We have seen a lot of evidence in this discussion that the factors that you listed ( especially 2-4)do not appear to being addressed in many of our communities.In fact, I see no evidence of any real discussion of these issues. One approach is a much-ballyhooed commission consisting of some prominent personae who have never sweated any bill, let alone a tuition bill. I have yet to see whether they have met with parents who are less fortunate or discussed the issue with principals, board members, etc in the community or even issued a preliminary report that can be accessed via the web or otherwise. The other approach is “Baruch HaShem, we have so many kinderlach that we have a tuition crisis.” IMO, both approaches are out of touch with the facts on the ground as described in many of the posts on this subject.How much longer must we wait as a community before the “crisis” has hit us like a hurricane? IOW, why assume that the crisis is not upon us at the present?

    IMO, better cooperation between parents and the educational establishment will ensue only when the plight of the O middle class is understood, when students get a better education and we really address financial issues.

  97. I have been following this discussion avidly. Our oldest son, age 5, is in a homegrown dayschool with roughly 15 other families. We rent space in an unused Jewish facility, hire post-seminary girls to teach a curriculum designed by parents. Our class furniture is all old, donated materials. We do this for roughly $3500 a kid. Have I been pleased with the results? I’d have to say yes. Having been thrust more deeply into the workings of a school than I expected (normally I experience schools as a customer), I think I feel more strongly about this school than I would have otherwise. I also see a lot of waste (and wasted opportunities) in my other kids’ schools that I hadn’t previously.

  98. Mark, good comments. Regarding #4, I have noticed that the Christian community places a great deal of emphasis on the value of being debt free, which sort of counteracts the drive towards materialism (because as we all know, much of the shows of wealth are being funded through debt).

    Perhaps if we took a lesson and had some of our own education seminars (especially for young people who still think money grows on trees) and credit counseling referrals to agencies that might be sensitive to the frum plight, we would naturally insprire more modesty when it comes to money (we’ve manage to do so with necklines).

    I recently completed a Sefer for women by the Ben Ish Hai with thoughts on financial matters and hope to get around to posting some of those thoughts.

    I always feel sad that

  99. One of my friends, who I work with on communal matters, points out that things must often reach a crisis before appropriate action is taken. As a believer in being proactive, I often have trouble with this, but I think that the nature of communal change proves him correct.

    That being said, here is where the Tuition Crisis will hopefully lead:

    1) There will be even better cooperation between school administration, teachers, students and parents when the dust settles.

    2) The financial struggle of much of the frum middle class will be better understand and the financially secure will take significant steps to alleviate the plight.

    3) Students will get even better educations with each pupil constantly working towards their potential as great Jews.

    4) Other financial issues and attitudes will be addressed and we will reverse the current trend towards materialism.

    Change takes time, but it is so important to recognize all the good in our educational systems as we strive to make them even better.

  100. MRN (#159) – I was referring to families who are not frum at all. What I said was:
    “We absolutely should not think limiting family size will get us out of this turmoil – I’ve got plenty of non-frum friends with 1-2 kids who are struggling”.
    Those that I discussed without children have not, unfortunately, been able to have children.

  101. Rabbi Simenowitz,
    Just for your interest, that vort that the Maggid said over is actually a Gra.

  102. Beyond Teshuva – hope, fulfillment, a fresh start, a new beginning . . .
    Beyond Tuition – nada, bupkis, gornisht, chai cock (can you spell “frustration”?)

    yet as Alter said, if you’re gonna talk the talk, ya gotta walk the walk (he didn’t actually say that but I think that’s what he means) we believe that Hashem determines our parnassah and that somehow it works out
    my rebbe shared a beautiful “vort” in the name of R. Sholom Schwadron – the famous Maggid of Yerushalayim. It says in “bameh Madlikin” K’chos al haner, k’chos al hashem – The “K” which means “as if” (short for K’ilu” is superfluous. The maggid explains that those who extinguish the shabbos lights “to save energy” or those who cut corners, it only seems as if they are in fact saving and their savings are really only “k’ – illusory in the long run.
    sing it again Alter!
    gut shabbos

    When we lived in VT I HSed for a while. But I saw subtle changes in my son – he’d tuck in his tzitzis and would wear a baseball cap when going into town – he felt the odd man out now, in yeshiva, he has made peace with his “inner shlump” and runs around with tzitzis and payos wavin’ in the wind

  103. Beyond tuition… I like it! In all seriousness, Chaim, it’s quite possible that the biggest test of the person beyond BT, i.e. a frum person who wasn’t born that way, is a $40,000 year tuition bill. It’s not what you’re thinking about the first time you’re standing at the Kotel, or the first time you open a Gemarah, etc. So for alot of people it comes as quite a shock.

  104. A modest proposal- let’s change the name of this blog to “Financial Realities in the Frum World” or “Beyond Tuition”. No one seems to be interested in anything else anymore. I wonder if “Sam Smith” realized what a raw nerve/can of worms he was touching/opening when he first decided to post on this issue? The really remarkable thing is that if memory serves this isn’t the first post on this topic. While earlier ones were also hot topics they didn’t evoke this kind of monomania.

  105. In some communities, $10K per child per year would be a dream come true. In our local schools tuition and fees starts at just below $10,000 and tops out at $17,000.

    If the rate of increase continues to follow the rate of increase of the last three years (which is a very likely scenario in my opinion), in five years tuitions will range between $13,000-$24,000. I won’t even mention my calculations for ten years from now.

    As Alter mentioned, we should work on our bitachon and I agree. If anyone needs help, it is me! But, I definitely think that we must tackle the problems of tuition head on before we have no more problems to tackle.

    The law of diminshing returns suggests that those of the periphery will leave the system as tuitions rise, and the facts of fixed costs and variable costs suggest that as more students leave the system either to alternatives such as PS, homeschool, or aliyah, expenses will continue to rise.

  106. SA – Thank you for posting… I see that your tuition per child in school or playgroup is less than $5000 per year. Yet several people have mentioned that they pay $10K per child per year. To what do you ascribe the difference? Is there substatially less limudei chol in your children’s school because they are part of the chasidish system? Or is there some other factor?

  107. There should also be full disclosure regarding expenses and salaries. Yeah, I know that the tuition doesn’t cover it all and that teachers are underpaid. But how about administrator salaries? I know for a fact that the headmaster of the school where my kids go made $140K back in 2002 (that was the latest tax form that I could find). Not bad for a holiday-filled, 10-month job that doesn’t involve teaching (he doesn’t even seem to know the details of what goes on in all of the classes), and which probably also includes free or discounted tuition for his kids.

    Quick estimate based on $8500 full tuition (it’s a little more on average) times the 350 of so K-12 kids, his salary alone accounts for about 5% of that. For a single person that’s a very disproportionate chunk.

    There are a few more Jewish schools here; I found the tax return for one of them and it had a similar salary for the headmaster.

  108. I see the focus of this thread has wandered in the mean time. However, MRN proposed in #150:
    perhaps it would be informative if people could ANONYMOUSLY post . . .
    So, I’m game.

    Jewish Identity Chassidish BT
    Location New York State, USA
    Number of Children eight, seven of whom are attending yeshiva, maidel schule, or playgroup
    Total Annual Income $160,000
    Total Annual Education Expenses $32,000 (paying full tuition for yeshiva; modest volume discount from maidel schule)
    Occupation self-employed professional
    Advanced College Degree nope
    “Making It”? able to pay the bills, but debts are increasing <sigh>

    I hope somebody will find this information useful.

  109. Yaakov,

    Thanks for your kind words. Since I’m more Frum now than I was when my girls were smaller, who knows how I would have felt about sending my girls to Yeshiva back then had I been more Frum then. But, I did try my best all the way back to when they were small to make sure they ABSOLUTELY KNEW WITHOUT A DOUBT who they are, and who they are part of.

  110. Alter, the reason they never stopped having kids is (1) they had no access to birth control and (2) women had no education. As soon as they had access and mandatory schooling for girls, Jewish birthrates dropped dramatically. Also, I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but in Manhattan in the early parts of the last century, there were ‘orphanages’ full of children who had two living parents! Parents who could not afford to feed them…

  111. Alter Klein,

    Again, while I agree that the best choice (a mitzvah) would be Yeshiva, I think by saying that by sending kids to PS is like offering a korbana, well, it depends, but I think it might be somewhat of an over-reaction. As for the colleges, it depends on which college you are talking about. Queens College has plenty of resources, as well as many, many Frum students who, I hope, are not being “ruined”.

    Also, back in the “old days”, when people were poor, and had plenty of kids, I don’t know how many of them went to Yeshiva. I know I didn’t; why, I don’t know, but my parents didn’t send me, but I did go to Talmud Torah and had a Bar Mitzvah. I know times were different then, and some secular schools are much more dangerous to the physical & spiritual sides of us, but lots of us went to PS (a lot of BT’s), and we turned out OK.

    The thing is, Yeshiva should be the 1st choice, but, it need not be the end of the world if you can’t send your kids there due to circumstances, IF you have an alternative plan that will work on keeping the kids on the derech.

  112. Martin,

    Everyone has to make his stand somewhere and live with his decisions. Neither I nor anyone else here stands or stood in your shoes. I admire your struggle and do not presume to judge you in any way for your decisions.

    As for what you read, I would apply the saying of the Kotzker Rebbe: Not everything that is thought should be said; not everything that is said should be written; not everything that is written should be published; not everything that is published should be read.

    The main thing at this point is to keep your girls as connected to Torah as much as possible.

  113. I see that this subject has a lot of people thinking. Not to spoil the chain of thought. It is good that everyone is focusing on practical solutions to the problem.

    We also need to look inside each of ourselves( including me) and say what can I do to eliminate the anxiety/fear about tuition. Not so long ago,(approx 60 years ago) many yidden lived in abject poverty and never stopped having kids. In fact, many of them had 10 or 12 kids. Unfortunately many also passed away but they kept on having them. Why did they continue to have more when they were literally starving? Because they have 100% emunah(faith) that Hashem runs the world and while yet we need to put in the effort, he decides the outcome. All our worries/fears are ultimately a lack of faith( me included). While we are working on financial solutions, we need to be also working on our emunah that what ever is the situation, we know it is from Hashem and he will work it out in the “correct way”. G-d forbid Jews should stop having children because it doesn’t fit our bank accounts.

    If we send our kids to public school it is like offering them up as korbonote( sacrifices). Yes, they could turn out ok, however odds are against it. Dont stand by while your brothers blood is being shed. The so called colleges that many kids are going to are also destroying many of those kids.

    What is the solution? Prayer, work on our emunah and try to focus on the practical too. I realize how hard it is but we need to realize one of the greatest tests in our time is our emunah in Hashem.

  114. I do think that we have a great deal more wealth than others lived on for all of history. It takes a lot of courage to think independently, not worry about what the neighbors say, and cut back. My, wife just decided to bake her own bread for weekday consumption. A rebbetzin of hers suggested that once you are baking challos, just knead some extra dough and fill a few square pans without brading them. It is really no extra work and I think it will save us about $15 / month.

    Yes, a person has to ask a rav but a person has to have the courage to think for themselves in applying waht the rav says. For example, Yankel asks his rav if he should buy a house in neigborhood A and have little money left for tuitions or neighborhood B and have more left for tuitions. The rav will likely say that it depends on Yankel and Mrs. Yankel’s gashmius needs. That is were the independence of thought and moral courage come into play. What do they really need and what is concenr about how it will be percieved?

  115. Yakov,
    Your right. I can easily imagine some people “martyring” themselves to m’kaim a misunderstood chazal.

  116. I read something in a Parsha book last week where it deals with not giving your kids to the priests of Molech. The reference to sending kids to any kind of school other than Yeshiva was mentioned as similar to giving your kids over to the priests. It also stated that every penny you have should be used to put your kids in a Yeshiva. While I think a Yeshiva education is important, I’m not so sure I agree with what I read 100%. Are we supposed to starve to send our kids to Yeshiva, if that’s what it takes? Also, who out there really equates the “Baal” priests with the secular schools, including colleges that are not Yeshivas? I mean, there are colleges in this area that have large Jewish populations, including many Frum. Granted, you get a lot thrown at you that could influence you the wrong way, but you have to be really careful, and have a good support system behind you, as I’ve said before.

  117. Sachar limud, as I was taught, is the rebbe’s salary. (See Rambam Talmud Torah, 1st perek.) How to apply that information to the situation of tuition in today’s schools requires a competent Rav, as we both agree.

    The same thing for that Chazal, as well.

    I felt the need to post what I said above because as I know you are aware a Chazal is not so simple, even if it sounds so. A competent Rav knows that Chazal and ten other ones that relate to it, along with 15 different approaches of Rishonim and Acharonim — and, most importantly, he knows you and your situation and which approach — or combination of approaches — applies best to it.

    It’s not so simple to say that just because one’s parnassa is determined on RH therefore have faith that, for e.g., the credit card or other debt you are accumlating is in line with Hashem’s will.

  118. And, yes, one needs to ask a Rav for how to balance all these considerations.

  119. Yakov,
    I am not sure what you mean by “applying” the chazal. We need to use the chazal to give us chizuk. Yes, I agree that we also have to make other hishtadlus and find ways to lighten the tuition burden. We should also have bitachon that we won’t loose out by meeting our obligations. I saw where you mentioned above that schar limud and tuition are not necessarily the same. I’d like to learn more about the difference. But in any case, the chazal I mentioned uses the term “hotzaosav” or expenditures, which means just that, expenditures. If one has to spend money for his child’s school to have a nurse or a school psychologist, than that is part of his expenditures to have his child go to cheder, whether or not it is part of schar limud. KNLAD (ken nirah l’aniyas daati)

  120. Michoel,

    Among other things, the determination of one’s parnassa on RH does not necessarily mean that year’s parnassa will be enough to meet that year’s bills, even if one lives as frugally as possible. Granted, it’s always a good idea to see where one can cut expenses, or seek greener pastures through greater hishtadlus in parnassa (which may be part of the RH decree), but perhaps Hashem’s decree is that one should not have enough to cover his expenses in the upcoming year.

    If so, there may be legitimate reason to assume that one of the areas to possibly cut back is tuition. As mentioned earlier, schar limud is not necessarily the same as tuition. Also, there are halachic prerequisites one has to meet before taking out loans (including credit cards), such as having the ability to pay it back.

    Of course, in addition to cutting expenses one in such a situation has to consider ways to increase income, including possibly reducing one’s learning seder.

    In any event, for all the above reasons and more, one needs to consult one’s Rav (and accountant) before applying the Chazal you cite.

  121. We all believe that H’ decides a person’s parnassa on Rosh Hashana, except frum his expenditures for his children’s talmud Torah, correct? So perhaps what is needed is to force ourselves to live within our means and to strengthen our bitachon. Maybe we need to live with one car or even no car in communities where it is possible. Maybe we need to get rid of our high-speed internet, cell phones, live in smaller houses, minimize air conditioning use etc etc. No?

  122. Charnie,

    You cited a secular song in your post “We are the world…”! Just kidding! That’s a reference to a subject touched upon a while ago on this board. But, you’re right…it’s up to US!

  123. Not to count Jews, but I’m surprised that Charnie and SephardiLady see two as the most common number of children that their BT/Modern Othodox friends have been blessed with. I have read that six is the most common (modal) number of children in Orthodox families. In my children’s schools the most common number is three or four it seems. If families with two children in yeshiva cannot pay tuition, how much more so families with four or more.

  124. Jacob (post #134) comments about taxes and public schools. Actually, if all the children attending any type of private school, both secular and non-secular, left their schools and entered the public school system, the walls would collapse even further from over-crowding. They should thank us, and tax credits/vouchers will be much appreciated, even though, for many of us, our AGI will definitely put us over the limit for vouchers. It’s rather amusing to be considered upper middle class by American standards and lower middle class by yeshiva tuition standards (or is it our boards?). As far as government intervening in exchange for vouchers – we already comply (in almost all yeshivas) to government requirements for testing and standards, even if our secular teachers find this an unnecessary burden. Yet our test scores consistently top those of our public school counterparts. But personally, I’d benefit more from tax credits, although with most of my kids now in post-HS, it may be too little, too late for me personally.

    Hopefully, all of these stimulating and thoughtful comments (now surpassing Shayna’s “Uninspired” piece in # of comments) can result in a symposium of ideas to be presented to the Agudath, the OU, Board of Jewish Ed, Torah Umsorah, etc. We’ve already influenced kosher wine and restaurants. Now it’s time for us to be heard with regard to the future of our nation. It’s like the song said – “we are the world, we are the children….” There are a lot of parents who are border line about Jewish Ed, particularly out there in suburbia, where the public schools are good. They just can’t see the merit of why they should pay upwards of $10K per child for something that doesn’t mean as much to them. Plus, it’s not uncommon for them to also be paying the typical suburban temple membership fees that run in the thousands. Some of you participating in this blog were children of those families. Keep that in mind.

    One of the most unfortunate aspects of having pay virtually ones entire net salary to tuitions is that it means we don’t have enough left over after paying our regular bills which include the mortgage, utilities, insurance, credit cards (choking us because that’s all part of this same problem) to be able to give as much to tzedakah as we would like, or even should. Barely a day goes by that we don’t get at least one solicitation from a worthy cause that aren’t responded to. We even owe a lot to our shul. But even a few chai checks can add up quickly. There are just two “luxuries” I won’t give up – ordering pizza on Thursday nights and have a cleaning lady once a week, because as a FT working mommy, I do see that as outside intervention.

    Vis and vis the number of children we have – from our original group of friends from our single days, perhaps because many of us married later then is “customary” in our community, my husband and I almost the only ones blessed with three children. We absolutely should not think limiting family size will get us out of this turmoil – I’ve got plenty of non-frum friends with 1-2 kids who are struggling to pay college tuitions. If we hadn’t spent out money on yeshivas, it’s not likely most of us would have saved the entire amount in investments or savings. As I once heard an obstetrician telling a newlywed couple (not frum) – if we all based having families on finances, no one would ever be ready to start a family.

  125. If the Yeshiva paid “real” salaries of a more competitive nature and staff was obligated to pay tuition just like everyone else, then the schools would have more $

  126. Tzvi N-Regarding your comments in 153, I agree. I am not advocating public school, nor am I advocating the simplistic interpretation. I am just pointing out how sad it is that families who are capable of raising more children, feel so constrained. Sadly enough, I know a handful of modestly living families that have stopped at 2 children from fear. How sad! But, the fear is certainly paralizing.

  127. Radical groups with thrive in the United States with or without schools. Radical groups have thrived and are thriving. And, Muslims are currently thriving in public schools and are being accomodated to the point where the kids who are not Muslim could feel left out (I’ll have to find the articles I read about this subject about 3 years ago).

    I think Menachem is correct that the government may place demands connected with vouchers that our schools might not want to abide by, but remember we can always turn down vouchers after the fact. But to not lobby for vouchers before the fact is just another way the frum community can shoot itself in the foot I believe.

    There is a strong, strong lobby out there that would like vouchers and would benefit greatly from school choice, including the black community, Catholic communities, and the more “right wing” Christian communities. IMO we should be looking to cooperate with them and not worry too much about already active and thriving radical groups, that will spread their hate with or without their own schools.

  128. Menachem Lipkin in comment 145 makes a very good point. Furthermore, we have to ask ourselves if we really want radical Muslim schools in the US benefitting from voucher programs.

  129. Jacob Haller (comment 146) —

    I want to make it clear that I wasn’t advocating offering differential educational opportunities to different children based on chronology of birth (although that may sometimes occur, as per SL in comment 149). Nor was I even advocating sending our children to public school.

    I was just saying let’s get our priorities straight, and realize that of all the possible alternatives to the “tuition crisis” and “financial realities”, not having children is one of the worst, and should be avoided if at all possible. (Except, of course, where having children is likely to cause health or marital issues. Again, consult your Rav in each case.)

    Surely we can be creative enough to come up with better alternatives.

  130. The small Jewish community in Adelaide, Australia has a small school with (surprise!) money problems. They are proposing a novel solution – bring in fee-paying non-Jewish students.

    Perhaps I should put this into some context. More committed Jews have made the necessary sacrifices to move to larger J communities in Melbourne and Sydney. Those who do remain in places like Adelaide nevertheless are making the effort to build a Jewish school. It is with efforts like this – even with its compromises – that successful and strong Jewish school systems have been built. Food for thought…

  131. BT, MO, America, 4 children, hope to have one or two more.
    No scholarship received so tuition will be at least $40K annually.

  132. SephardiLady== perhaps it would be informative if people could ANONYMOUSLY post : whether BT or FFB, MO or chareidi (self described), American or Israeli, how many children they have, what the stated amount of tuition they should be paying is, and how much they actually pay, i.e. is any tuition break/scholarship being provided. People can also state whether they hope to have more children G-d willing. All the information is voluntary so post whatever you feel is relevant to the discussion.

    ANONYMOUS PLEASE!!!! Everyone reading this wait a few minutes. The first post won’t be mine!!!

  133. Jacob-I appreciate both your compliment and your criticism. I’d prefer to here what types of decisions those who have opted for the child they could not “afford” made, over offering my speculations of what families may or may not do, because the possibilities are endless and they depend on so many factors.

    I agree that it would be terrible for one single child to be the “outcast” and be put in public school while the siblings go to yeshiva school. Not every community would the feelings of being an “outcast” be the same. Here in my community I know some families who have a child in public school because it currently is a better fit for that child, and those children are every bit as much a part of the community as their siblings.

    I think that that envisioning the scenario as children 1-x go to yeshiva, while child y does to public school may be a bit simplistic. Often creative situations can be employed.

    As a side not, I do think we should remember that it is OK to do different things with different children. For example, I know a family that sent all of their children except the last one to Israel or Yeshiva/Seminary. Unfortunately, they just simply couldn’t afford to do it for the last child and just explained that to her with their regrets. Some parents would have felt completely guilty, but these parents knew that sometimes that is life (I realize it isn’t so “fair” to use an example of an older child, but that’s what I’ve got for now).

    I’d love to hear from people that found themselves overextended with massive tuitions and still opted to ad child 3, 4, or 5 to the family.

  134. Tzvi,

    I agree with you on your opinion of ps being a last resort….but, again, if it’s doable to send a kid to Yeshiva, by all means go for it!


    If you have all but one kid going to Yeshiva, and the other going to PS, you might have a problem, but you can try to alleviate it by being “hands-on” as a parent, like we did…but I can see how it might happen anyways.

    In my situation, both girls went to PS, went to Hebrew School, and had tutors, and both got Bas Mitzvahed WITHOUT lavish parties (they did have parties, but within budget, and they were very meaningful). Sure, there are problems sometimes, but they get worked out eventually, over time. Again, I’m not saying it’s impossible to be Frum if you go to PS, but I think you have to work harder, both kids & parents.

    If I had to do it again, I would have looked at all avenues open to me to try to get my girls into Yeshivas w/o having to “break the bank”, if it was possible. But then, when the girls were small, I wasn’t so Frum!

  135. Jacob Haller said ” But what really gets the stress burning for me is that SO MANY, whether politicians or their constituents who oppose vouchers and tax breaks just seem so darned insensitive and oblivious to our situations and predisposed to think that we are the cause of our own problems. ”

    This is where the discussion dovetails into the reality of the BT vs. the FFB. The BT’s family and pre-BT friends say “you are the cause of your own financial problems — who told you to have some many children if you cannot provide for them.” And the BT looks across the street and sees the FFB family, whose parents and grandparents say “why do you have so FEW children? Have more children to prove your bitachon and HaShem will provide.” Which is another way of saying “a person with fewer children will pay more in tuition so you will pay less.”

    Yes, I know a previous poster criticized me for not acknowledging that there are all types of BT’s, some of whom have many many children. While I accept that some BT’s do have many children, the relatives of said BT’s do not have the family support for the large family that a FFB has.

  136. SL wrote
    “By the way, thank you Tzvi N, for bring forth your comments about how you believe it is better to have that next child and send him to public school, rather than not having that next child. It is rare to hear such an opinion expressed, but quite refreshing. It is sad how some believe you must have $20,000 in disposable income alone for tuition and camp to be able to consider having another child.”

    Mrs. SL, speaking of refreshing, most of your opinions and your unsentimental, calculated view of realities I have found refreshing, but the above posting merely left me cold.

    First, the plethora of factors and underpinnings involved in family buidling render Tzvi N’s expression an overly simple and IMO false dichotomy.

    Can one imagine the bridgeless gulf created between siblings if all went to yeshiva except for one in public school? I try to avoid hyperbole like the plague but the term child abuse comes to mind.

    A Shomer Shabbos kid in this type of situation will be an outcast both at home and in school and his situation will be tailor made for the most caustic forms of rebellion. And by rebellion, I don’t mean, (but halevai) that if from a yeshivish family he will run away to join Satmar, Breslov or the Kahanists.

    I’m aware that the scenarios envisioned by you and Tzvi N are or should not be limited to the one written above, but chronologically it’s quite likely. Unless in the case of fairness, other children will be redirected to the public schools as well, which will only be a redux of my scenario.

    To borrow a term used by the author of the Boro Park incident, this is centering on the response and not the stimulus.

  137. While on balance I think vouchers would be helpful to the situation being described here, there is a dark side. Whenever you take money from the government you open the door to letting the government get “involved”. The price for vouchers may be adding to the cirriculum certain things that yeshivas, especially right wing yeshivas, would rather steer clear of.

  138. By the way, thank you Tzvi N, for bring forth your comments about how you believe it is better to have that next child and send him to public school, rather than not having that next child. It is rare to hear such an opinion expressed, but quite refreshing. It is sad how some believe you must have $20,000 in disposable income alone for tuition and camp to be able to consider having another child.

    Recently we met a non-Jewish prep-school family on an outing and got to talking. Somehow we got on the subject of schools and they mentioned that if they were to choose to have another child (they have only one child), that they would be forced to send their son to public school (and, I should note that the public schools where they live are some of the best in the nation). I had to bite my tongue and refrain from giving my opinion!!! Needless to say, this conversation sparked a most interesting conversation on the drive home from our outing.

  139. >>>SO MANY, whether politicians or their constituents who oppose vouchers and tax breaks just seem so darned insensitive and oblivious to our situations and predisposed to think that we are the cause of our own problems.

    In many ways we are the cause of our own problems. We vote with our dollars and as a community we have bankrolled all sorts of causes (kiruv, kolleleim, supporting the dowry system in Israel, etc) and have neglected making K-12 education in our own backyard a top priority, or even a priority. It is each parent on their own, and the middle class is completely neglected and is told to borrow and borrow some more.

    If a RY wants to increase the stipend for his kollel students, people will line up to give. If a kiruv organization wants to send children to summer camp or send their families mishloach manot, people will line up to give. But, when it comes to providing a K-12 education for our own children that are already frum, well, we don’t line up or even acknowledge their suffering.

    (Note: I have long been a proponent of vouchers and long before I was aware of the needs of Orthodox families and think we should ban together with other pro-voucher groups-blacks, Catholics, etc-to push for vouchers.)

    But, I don’t think there is a need to be upset that

  140. Jacob Haller: This degree was completed after taking on Shmiras Shabbos but of course prior to encountering issues such as hashkafa-based decision on the role of secular education and degrees in the Torah world.

    AFAIK, there are no hashkafa-based reasons (within normative Orthodoxy, including the charedi wing) for a Jew not to pursue secular education and a degree, at least not an adult who wants to be able to support a family.

    This does not conflict with the recommendation that for many, if not most, of our young men, it is advisable to spend as many years as they can focusing on developing their Torah learning. Also, whoever can contribute by going into klal work should be encouraged to do so.

    However, I know many people who, for example, pursued law school or accounting degrees after spending a number of years in Lakewood or other advanced yeshivos. Without these people, the financial state of our yeshivos would be much worse than it is.

  141. Ya’akov,

    I didn’t mean to open any doors on personal portfolios especially within a topic where so many are searching for practical aitzas (advice) and I appreciate you respecting this as privacy.

    Let’s just say it is all 100% legal within halacha and civil law and it required an advanced degree.

    This degree was completed after taking on Shmiras Shabbos but of course prior to encountering issues such as hashkafa-based decision on the role of secular education and degrees in the Torah world.

    Wonder if the above discussions on finance might influence one’s hashkafa about such things for our children.

    I scant business acumen (and likely could not successfully run my own shop) and while my children are still very young my intuition and observations lead me to think that they take after their father.

    Your points are intriguing, but hopefully you included the caveat about giving in to self-indulgences of corrupt boards chiseling budget hikes.

    I still however feel that broaching topics such as school vouchers with the likes of the pretty-far-left cause them to look at one as if he suggested something akin to mass murder.

    Pro sports is a different story since George Steinbrenner and not “Chaim Stein” is footing A-Rod’s salary.

  142. Jacob,

    Actually, the municipalities with significant Orthodox populations are the recipients of the bargain. The Orthodox families are paying taxes for services that they don’t use such as public education. On top of this forced investment without return is our yeshiva tuition.

    FYI, I heard a Rosh Yeshiva say that our tax money is not an investment without return. He said if these kids were not in school they’d be out in the streets causing trouble to Jews and others.

    (That’s also my response when someone mentions that sports players get such high salaries; that what they do is so unimportant in comparison to people who really contribute to society and get paid much less. In response, I say that entertainment is one of the greatest preventatives to anti-Semitism. People pour so much time and energy into it it keeps them from getting bored and going out into the streets to find some Jews to blame and bash. Sports athletes’ salaries are well-deserved. ;-) )

    In any event, it’s better that non-Jewish kids go to Public School than be out on the street. Remember that next time you have to pay school taxes. (Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t vote against a school budget increase; just keep them off the streets.)

    But what really gets the stress burning for me is that SO MANY, whether politicians or their constituents who oppose vouchers and tax breaks just seem so darned insensitive and oblivious to our situations and predisposed to think that we are the cause of our own problems.

    Not to defend bigotry and insensitivity, but from their perspective we are choosing to send our kids to private school. Therefore, the problems are the results of our choices. From our perspective, it’s not a choice. But from theirs it is.

    This is not to deny that at times anti-Semitism and/or anti-Orthodoxism play a role in the political opinions of non-Jews and non-O Jews as well.

    By the way, B”H I’m currently not experiencing problems paying full tuition and the other costs of living, but I hope that what I wrote above indicates that I haven’t forgotten about those who are facing this nisayon (challenge).

    I wish you didn’t say your name so I could ask you how much you make and how many kids you have and their ages. I’d just like to gather more information about what it takes to make it. But since you said who you are it’s not right of me to ask.

  143. Charnie’s comment # 134

    “the current “cost per student” forecast for NYC public schools is $20,000 per student. At that rate, I guess we’re getting bargain…”

    Actually, the municipalities with significant Orthodox populations are the recipients of the bargain. The Orthodox families are paying taxes for services that they don’t use such as public education. On top of this forced investment without return is our yeshiva tuition.

    Could someone please explain that despite all this free money the Big Apple is receiving why her public schools on the most part are left better unmentioned?

    Perhaps that’s politicizing things but it’s not exactly a digression from this topic or of the mission of this blog in general. There are certain political realities that we must face and in this case it hits us square in the bank account.

    The topic of school vouchers and tax breaks for private school families is of course complicated, contentious and often the province of legal scholars.

    However, it also dovetails with an issue facing many a BT. Reared in a family with staunch liberal philosophies and to reconcile them with our new lifestyle and then with family/friends who remain holding firm to the now previous belief system.

    Those in opposition to government funding of yeshivas might base their conclusions on sound reasoning and fear of breaching religion-state issues.

    But what really gets the stress burning for me is that SO MANY, whether politicians or their constituents who oppose vouchers and tax breaks just seem so darned insensitive and oblivious to our situations and predisposed to think that we are the cause of our own problems.

    And at the risk of sounding categorical it’s usually the same ones who preach that those from more fortunate backgrounds have to work on themselves to “understand” the situations of those different from the mainstream.

    Anyhow, thanks for the time on the soapbox. By the way, B”H I’m currently not experiencing problems paying full tuition and the other costs of living, but I hope that what I wrote above indicates that I haven’t forgotten about those who are facing this nisayon (challenge).

  144. Martin,

    “Chalila” or “Chas V’Chalila” or “Chas V’Shalom” are ways of saying “G-d forbid” in Hebrew.

    In the context, I meant to say that sending our kids to public school is today a very undesirable outcome (it wasn’t always), but I don’t think it’s a worse outcome than not having kids at all.

    I understand from your previous posts that this is the difficult choice you made (or felt you had no choice but to make). That goes to show that it is an option, at least in some circumstances. But I think you’ll agree that we need to find ways as a community to make it a rarely used last resort.

    I think it’s scandalous for yeshivos to reject students who can’t afford tuition, and the community has an obligation to fund scholarships for those students.

  145. Charnie (post 134),.

    I am in civil service, and my wife does not work, so I know what you’re talking about.

    Tzvi N (post 129),

    What does “chalila” mean?

  146. Anon (of post 133) — I agree 100% with your comments. Everyone facing these issues (and that’s most of us) should consult with their Rav. And if your Rav is not sensitive to these issues, maybe it’s time to find a Rav who is.

    Sarah Newcomb — Thank you very much for your comment. We are blessed b”H with seven beautiful children, and we have been struggling to pay tuition for close to twenty years. And believe me, it does not get easier over time. We have b”H managed, but others are not.

    I strongly agree that the system as it exists today is not sustainable, and something has got to give. I am just concerned that the wrong things are going to give. Before family planning, we should consider:
    – reducing discretionary spending (everything from the lavish Bar Mitzvah to the custom sheitel to the late-model car to the addition on the house)
    – finding alternative funding sources for yeshivos (easier said than done, but some suggestions, such as alumni solicitations, have already surfaced, and there are others)
    – alternative educational frameworks (including those that have been proposed in this discussion)
    – encouraging everyone in our communities to prioritize their own communal institutions, especially yeshivos, in their tzedaka.

    We also need to prepare our children to face these realities as they mature. It is not clear that we are not doing them a disservice when we provide their every need and want, from the Bar Mitzva Borsalino to summer camp to kollel support, without expecting them to contribute in some way, and yes, even to sacrifice.

    I realize that these are challenging issues, and they will cause a great deal of stress, which for some result in health issues. Emotional health is not something to play around with. Once again, please consult with your Rav. Don’t be afraid to discuss these issues with your Rav, and don’t be shy about asking the Rav to address them on a communal level either.

  147. David – I’m not sure this is a “happy” response, but in yesterday’s NY Post there was an article saying that the current “cost per student” forcast for NYC public schools is $20,000 per student. At that rate, I guess we’re getting bargain…

    But seriously, and I’ve written about this elsewhere, I agree with SephardiLady that, unless there are extreme situations, every yeshiva should have a “minimum” acceptable amount. And this should also apply to parents who say they can’t afford tuitions, but are building huge homes in my vicinity. Many of us have heard the stories of people bringing in their tax forms that say they earned 35K, yet there is much that they earn that is “off the books”, and therefore, doesn’t show up on their taxforms. On the otherhand, my husband and I are both in civil service. There’s nothing hidden, it’s all black & white. This is why the maser idea proposed by Elliot Pasik can’t work – too many people will not be forthcoming. It’s a sad fact, but I never saw so much “shtick” among people before I became frum… but that’s a whole other topic, and B”H, not so evident in my community.

    I’ve got a son who is presently in Beis Medrash, and is focused on going into kollel. As I sit paying the bills, I hear myself saying “be proud, he’s doing what we raised him to want to do….”.

    One more comment about being an “alumni” parent of several schools… there are several (especially the BY written about in this blog :) ) that I would especially like to continue to support, but here I am struggling instead to pay with the increased $ of HS and post HS. However, one fact that’s been left out of this whole discussion, and is perhaps the most important element is that statistically, etc. it has been shown that the greatest reassurance to the continuity of the Jewish people is Jewish education! So, I’ll just continue to struggle, juggle, put certain bills back in the unpaid pile, and have emunah that even if I live humbly in this world, maybe the generations to come will merit in our zchus.

  148. Tzvi,

    The reality is — and I’ve heard this from rabbeim too — is that financial concerns is one of the major factors that impact on emotional health, and lead rabbanon to give heterim for birth control.

    While your heartfelt post is important to say it’s also important to say that a couple should not be afraid to ask their Rav if they are having too many kids too fast. And it’s important for a Rav to not be afraid to say they are.

    (A woman with several kids once told her Rav if she has another kid she won’t be able to handle it. The Rav nevertheless did NOT give her a heter for birth control. She became pregnant and the couple divorced shortly thereafter. Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky said the Rav was chayiv for giving damaging advice.)

    BTs are more likely to have idealism that blinds them to who they really are. E.g. they probably had well-to-do upbringings rather than someone like the Chofetz Chaim; they probably lack support networks — both financially and familialy — that help larger FFB families cope; they tend to be naive about how the realities actually play into a life since chances are they didn’t see it in the secular home they grew up in. Etc,

    If this is depressing news to some then think how much more depressing it can feel to find out about all this after it’s too late to do anything about it.

    We all need to deepen our bitachon while at the same time face up to the realities and know who we really are. This is not the way of defeatism. This is the way of Torah.

  149. We need a happy positive topic to discuss now… this one made me depressed


  150. “I don’t think you hit them over the head with this the day they walk in.

    On the other hand, I am an advocate of places like Aish not being afraid to discuss and/or publish a well-written piece on the financial realities potential BTs might expect.”

    Then we agree.

  151. Tzvi N: H” should bless you with beautiful children and all good things for saying so sincerely and eloquently what needed to be said.

  152. One issue that has received only peripheral attention in this discussion is that of family planning. I was taught by my rebbeim that financial concerns by themselves should NEVER be a reason to delay or refrain from having children. Physical and emotional health are definitely valid factors to consider, and financial problems can certainly trigger health and marital issues. However, the concern of being able to afford {tuition | weddings | pesach | etc.} should not in and of itself be a valid factor in family planning.

    It is our job to bring children into this world, do our best to support them, and beseech HaShem to ensure that we succeed.

    It seems that today many couples are in fact limiting their family size due to “financial realities.” This is a terrible tragedy for the Jewish people.

    I would go so far as to suggest that even if you’ll have to homeschool or send your kids chalila to public school or seek tuition assistance or grandparent assistance or whatever difficult choices you have to make to save tuition dollars — and hopefully, with community assistance and HaShem’s help you shouldn’t have to — please, please, whatever you do, DON’T decide not to bring yiddishe neshomos into the world because of the cost of tuition!!

  153. I am very impressed with everything Yaacov Astor has added to the conversation. I think we need to here the other side of the “tuition crisis.” Currently, what I hear from leaders is that ba’alei batim need to cut back on expenses (a good suggestion for many), make reasonable smachot (something that should be done for its own sake), and fundraise their way.

    There seems to be a lack of acknowledgement that the numbers just do not add up (at least on a cash flow basis), even if people live extremely modestly. I have had many conversations with people are really emeshed in the system that tell me they are “making it” upon further inquiry it becomes apparant that they are often “making it” because they are financing a K-12 education through debt.

    I think we need to hear from hard working, frugal people, that are being sunk by tuition so that we can all hear the message loud and clear that things are not sustainable without change.

    I’m willing to take submissions for my blog, if anyone is willing. I doubt HaModia or the Yated will print these stories, if they wouldn’t even take Marvin Schick’s ads. (I just covered the message of ad 7 if anyone is interested).

  154. Menachem,

    As I said in post 118, I’m not advocating yor pharmeceutical warning sign. I don’t think you hit them over the head with this the day they walk in.

    On the other hand, I am an advocate of places like Aish not being afraid to discuss and/or publish a well-written piece on the financial realities potential BTs might expect. For e.g., you can talk about the value of emunah and bitachon at the same time you do not whitewash the realities. This is an example one of my main mentors once told to me:

    Say you plan to drive cross country. Which situation expresses proper emunah/bitachon? You get in the car, turn on the engine and head toward the setting sun (or rising one, depending where you start).

    Or is it, you bring the car in for a tune-up and have it thoroughly checked by the mechanic. You get detailed maps and an iterneray from AAA. You put some extra cash in the bank and charge your phone. Etc.

    Which is true emunah/bitachon?

    My rebbi told me the latter. You do everything that is humanely possible to insure success — and then have the faith that God will help you get to where you want to go. That’s emunah/bitachon. What is the first case, the guy who just got in the car? That’s not emunah/bitachon, he said. That’s carelessness.

    In this context you then talk about the necessity of being real, of being practical, of not relying on miracles, as you pursue growth through Torah. It’s natural. It’s reasonable. It’s healthy. And it’s Torah.

    I don’t necessarily see anything wrong with that even to a first-timer. But then again I am not on the Aish editorial board.

    The bottom line is that I think there is something between your pharmenceutical warning and whitewashing the realities, either through lack of disclosure, denial or equating recklessness with emunah.

    But that’s my opinion. It’s probably not a very popular one.

  155. Yaakov, I agree that there is a crisis with regard to finances in the frum community. And you’re correct in wanting to address it publicly. However, I don’t think we need to disclose this as a “crisis” to potential BTs. Do we really want to present frumkeit like a pharmecutical product warning?

    WARNING: Becoming frum can be hazardous to your well being. You may lose all of your money. Your kids may be driven off the derech and become drug addicts. You maybe become overweight and develope a heart condition from the high fat, high cholestoral Kosher diet…

    You get the idea. I don’t think Aish needs to include this on their web site. So yes publicize within the community whatever crisis needs to be addressed. Also, diclose to the potential BT what is required financially to become frum. In fact, doing so may help prevent such problems in future BTs.

  156. I think “crisis” is fairly accurate. And, again, my paradigm would be the way the “Kids at Risk” issue was handled. People dealt with it in a very hush-hush or “factual”-sterile way until the likes of a Rabbi Horowitz helped bring it out of the closet. This did not stop the bleeding, necessarily, nor bring back those kids that went off the derech, but it did create communal organs to address the crisis and forestall it at least better than before.

    If even one kid losing out on a yeshiva education or one marriage breaking up or one parent developing health problems (or worse) over financial issues is thereby saved or prevented it is worth it, IMO, despite the potential “bad press” that might result from disclosure. However, it is probably a lot more than one individual here or there who needs this information to break into communal consciousness and thus create real solutions and/or communal organs to better help those in this crisis.

  157. Darker Side, I’m assuming from your comment that you feel you can’t return to your previous salary level were you to return. Because what you’re saying is not necessarily true across the board. There are plenty of professionals here who could easily slip back into their old pay scales.

    I hope things turn around for you.

  158. Yaakov, I hear you. Maybe something akin to what NBN has done for aliyah? (Which, btw, is not directed soley at frum people.)

    However, I don’t think one wants to advertise the “crisis”. Disclosure would mean providing a resource with factual, not subjective, information. It could provide a FCOL (frum cost of living) calculation for different locations.

  159. My comment has been taken out of context.

    The lack of calculation that I was referring to was the calculation that after 3 years on Israeli income it is financially impossible to return to America –after losing that much income differential — and enroll children again in the American system. Even if Aliya does not work out, as is our case, the 3 years of not earning American salary out fo a 12 year yeshiva education makes return impossible.

    Now we are essentially trapped in Israel because of tuition considerations. And yes, the term I seek to use is trapped.

  160. Menachem,

    My post was referring to something more than a website not specifically geared for observant Jews and their specific needs. I was referring to disclosure of the crisis that occurs in families due to the greater financial requirements of a frum lifestyle, including tuition. More needs to be done, IMO, re: the human side of the story, the cost — sacrifice — in human terms.

  161. From: Yaakov Astor

    “And that criticism is: disclosure of the financial realities.” (Referring to Dark side of Aliya’s post)

    Currently on the Nefesh B’Nefesh web site, among the tons of resource information they provide, is a page on Aliyah budgeting. It provides a realistic assesment of monthly expenses for a family of six. The number they come up with is $3,320 per month which is about about 15,000NIS. Not an insignificant amount for an Israeli family to net.

    Obviously there are some assumptions built into that budget, such as using the public school system. However, there is enough information there so that one cannot criticize NBN of not disclosing financial realities.

    Dark Side said that he made aliyah 3 years ago. That was very early in the life of NBN and it’s possible they did not provide this information, though it certainly was obtainable. There are also numerous resources for determining what one can expect to earn in Israel in various fields.

    In addition to day to day living, the process of Aliyah itself can burn up a huge chunk of change. Something also disclosed currently on the NBN web site.

    I am approaching my second year of Aliyah, B”H things are going pretty well. Things are tight financially, just as they were in the states, but here we have the z’chus of living in Eretz Hakodesh. As I said in an earlier post don’t make aliyah if you think it’s going to drastically change your financial situation. For some it may, but you need to run the numbers.

    I can certainly see Dark Side’s point that as time goes by it can be difficult to return financially. But I find it hard to accept the charge of lack of disclosure when it comes to making Aliyah in the day of NBN.

  162. Getting the straight scoop about Orthodox Jewish life alternatives reminds me in a sense of buying a house through a broker. The broker actually works for the seller who pays the commission, but is supposed to give appropriate advice to the prospective buyer as well as the seller. This creates a potential conflict of interest, which conscientious brokers overcome to various degrees. In any event, the job of the buyer is to use “due diligence” in sizing up the purchase. This includes gathering and interpreting information from multiple sources, not only from the broker.

  163. This is not a criticism of anyone or anything in the system, simply a statement of realities never seriously discussed or contemplated beforehand.

    Dark Side of Aliyah,

    I don’t think you were criticizing the system, but I do think there was a criticism there, a valid one. And, in truth, this criticism has been brought up before in some of the comments above, if not implied very strongly in “Sam Smith’s” original article that started all this. And that criticism is: disclosure of the financial realities.

    People in kiruv, or even chinuch, should not deny or downplay the financial realities of a frum life. If and when they do, and the BT finds out later, it can have a devastating effect.

    The question is when to do it and how to do it. I can understand the sentiment that you don’t do it right away. But I can’t understand why it happens that a person can be in a yeshiva for a couple of years and no one sits down with him or her and spells it out explicity. Perhaps several times. Perhaps again and again.

    It’s probably similar with our FFB children. I saw Sephardilady had on her site an article about when to tell children the finanical realities of raising a frum family. She was basically saying, if I understood it correctly, delay it until it becomes necessary/practical (i.e. not after s/he has 2-3 kids; i.e. well before marriage and when they have to make choices about post-yeshiva schooling). I liked her approach there.

    In any event, I don’t know if it’s an aspect of gneivas daas or some other mitzvah in the Torah, or simply extremely unfair, but denying the financial realities or keeping them under the table can be very unhealthy for a BT’s life (and teshuva).

    And I don’t think it’s only a yeshiva or mentor’s responsibility to say so. It’s communal. I remember years ago, when I was in Special Ed, you were not allowed to talk about FFB kids having emotional or other issues. It was taboo. (You had to dress it up as Learning Disabilities, if you could talk about it at all.) Then our own Rabbi Horowitz here published an article in the JO that launched Project Yes and a whole new awareness in the community of the issues. “Kids at risk” entered our vocabulary. For the first time issues were acknowleged. You can’t address them if you don’t acknowledge them.

    I think the same applies here. There was an article recently in Mishpacha Magazine, and some follow-up letters-to-the-editor, and there’s long been talks of vouchers and even rallies for vouchers. However, there’s really not been anything with firsthand, heartfelt accounts by people like “Sam Smith” who are struggling. Just as Rabbi Horowitz struck a chord by conveying stories of kids who were in danger of going off the derech and their struggles, so soo, there needs to be stories of what this tuition crisis really means to real people. People who have stories should start telling them, submitting them to publications, posting them on blogs and websites, pressuring those with editorial power to bring this out of the closet.

    I think that’s the first step toward a solution everyone has been groping for. Once the issue becomes more widely known on an emotional level there’s more chance it will hit home and cause of ripple effect of reaction and change for the good.

    Keeping this under wraps, denying it, downplaying it, or diminishing the emotional impact — is probably doing more harm than good at this point, IMO. Daas Torah needs to concur, of course. But that’s my view.

    One last note, I had some young men, BTs in the working world (between 1-8 years frum), over for Shabbos. It was an excellent meal with a lot of great questons and exchanges. Walking them back to the yeshiva for their Shabbaton one of them noticed the nice houses and neighborhoods. The conversation turned toward making a living. It was a natural segue to discuss this topic. I didn’t hit him over the head with it, but I told one of them tactfully in essence that one should not underestimate or downplay the financial realities. It’s important to continue learning Torah as much as possible, and making spiritual values primary, but not at the expense of the real, the practical, the truth about finances. The most spiritual thing for them was to be practical about the realities.

    That’s my approach. I hope and believe it is correct.

  164. Yesterday, after I caught Dave Linn’s suggestion here about alumni relations, I came home to see a fund-raising letter from my high school alumni organization. This was slickly done and had various membership lists of alumni committees, and scholarships or grants the fund offered to students—these were named after alumni, former teachers, the former football coach (!), etc. One come-on was a 100-year illustrated history of the school.

    As regards combined local efforts to support local tuition (Jaded Topaz’ last point), anything to overcome our increasing, uneconomic, unhealthy fragmentation is a good thing. “Designer” schools and curricula and shuls and neighborhoods tailored to the ways of narrowly defined niche groups have some value, but it comes at a price. Maybe Torah Umesorah should step up to provide frameworks to guide and support joint local action.

  165. Comment 51 was perfect. We also came on Aliya because a combined income of $130,000 could not begin to cover expenses of a family of 4 children in New Jersey that did not have access to any “grandparent financial solution” that has become an bizarre expected given in the American frum community’s financial calculus.

    So we came on Nefesh B’Nefesh. And like many American families our Aliya has been a failure for many reasons — but after 3 or 4 yers of earning Israeli salaries rather than even our “paltry” six-figure American incomes, there is no possible way we could return to the USA and financially support our children’s education in any yeshiva track.

    So for those of you contemplating Aliya who live on their own financial merit as adults rather than off yerusha (e.g., The Real World) it is important to comprehend that somewhere around Year Three of your Aliya you will pass the Financial Point of No Return, something no shaliyach ever mentions when they are getting your psyched up to try Aliya with a family of four children.

    This is not a criticism of anyone or anything in the system, simply a statement of realities never seriously discussed or contemplated beforehand.

  166. Michoel ,firstly did u want me to retroactively apply the “respectfully” from your first comment to the subsequent comment right before “off the wall” ? Also u misunderstood my not very clear point basically (correct me if i’m wrong) there isnt much internal crossbreeding with the tuition based charity giving among the different sects and divisions on the local level . There is definitely plenty of charity on the global level , should a shipful of jewish residents from a newly discovered exotic island wash ashore in the New York area trust me they will be safely ensconced all expenses paid in a comfortable yeshiva before you can say pink sparkedust. People tend to gravitate towards the exotic and novel in general . i’m sure there is plenty of charity on the local too I was actually referring to the crossbreeding charity practices among the different sects and divisions which i dont think is too common but again i may be wrong .basically it’s the regular run of the mill middleman that is most likely to lose his footing and not have any one there to catch him .

  167. >>I think a primary small area of change would be in alumni relations. Mark Frankel and I were just speaking about this last night. I was quite surprised that many, if not most schools, do not actively foster alumni relationships.

    David Linn-You are absolutely correct that alumni relations have not been fostered. We receive at least one solicitation from one of the many Universities (and sub-schools and groups within each of them) attended by my husband and I, on average, every other day. We have not received a single solicitation from either my husband’s primary school or high school.

    However, alumni relationships need to start while the students are still in school. My husband is the casulty of bad relationships with the administration of his high school when they had a disagreement about his post-high school path (which was fine one, just not what THEY expected of their alumni) and treated him in a very terrible manner.

  168. Bob Miller:

    Great question. I guess I could weasel out of it by saying I already said “I don’t know what will work.” But I won’t. I will, however, state that “Boss of Education” is too broad of a title and that, as mentioned, many solutions need to be made on a local basis. (But you can still call me Boss, Bob :) )

    I think a primary small area of change would be in alumni relations. Mark Frankel and I were just speaking about this last night. I was quite surprised that many, if not most schools, do not actively foster alumni relationships. A more established school may have thousands of alumni that are not actively supporting the school. I know that my undergard and grad school actively update me on events, changes and successes of each respective school and often make requests for donations. Even if each alumnus contributed $18 a month a core of 1000 alumni (not a large amount) could bring in over $200,000 a year to the school. (I assume that some will give much more than that) I am aware that this is a longer term shot in the arm and not a quick fix. On the other hand, it is something that can be implemented quite easily and will automatically build upon itself as each class graduates. It is also something that provides predictable cashflow (who can argue with that).

    In my opinion, when a small sucessful step is taken, others will be more seriously considered.

  169. The question is how many more casualties — including kids, parents, family units — will it take till someone says enough is enough?

  170. SephardiLady said, “I have received solicitations that ask me for funds to place children that are being outreached to into Yeshivot, to buy them tefillin, to buy their families sukkot, lulavim and etrogim, to send them to camp, etc, etc, etc, etc.” So so true. I have even been personally called to sponsor ski trips, yes ski trips, for young adults who are being mekareved. When I said, “well, my husband and I have decided to keep our own children frum through yeshiva instead of sponsor ski trips to make more people frum”, I was told we could sponsor the rebbeim instead. ??? True story….

    And, yes, it is true, my presence is not wanted on any one of a number of boards despite mulitiple professional accredidations. However, many groups are happy to have me plan luncheons, teas, sales fairs, etc. For some reason, since I have two X chromosomes instead of one, my professional skills mean nothing to the organizations which receive $10,000’s a year from my checkbook.

  171. David Linn,

    If you were the boss of education, which would be the first incremental change you’d try in your locale to get the ball rolling?

  172. It is clear that this post struck a nerve. It is clear that the tuition issue is at a crisis level. What is not so clear is the solution. Those that think there are quick and easy solutions are, I fear, disillusioned. Those who think that there are neat “one size fits all” solutions are, I believe, naieve, albeit well meaning.

    As with any large institutional change, the solution(s) to the tuition crisis will come about only after deep soul searching, real numbers crunching and, preconditionally, a desire to change.

    Personally, I don’t profess to have any expertise in the area but, like anyone else, I’m an expert at spotting what I think won’t work:

    1. Bad mouthing the entire system while throwing in the caveat that their are exceptions;

    2. Wholesale, radical changes that (while logical) will never be taken seriously due to their drastic nature as opposed to incrimental changes which will be built upon with successive successes;

    3. Ideas that disregard what is good and what is working in a particular school and that presuppose that by changing something else, the system will not be affected; and

    4. Failure to recognize each school’s individuality, strengths and weaknesses within the overall global crisis.

    “Sam” ended his post “I have no answers. Only questions” I guess I would paraphrase by saying “I don’t know what will work but I know what won’t”.

  173. From Yaakov Astor:
    “NYC public schools, for e.g., have published payscales.”

    True, but I don’t think you want to use NY public schools as an example here. Also, teachers actual salaries can vary drastically from scales depending on various “extra” jobs the teachers perform.

    (As an aside I thin that these pay scales are the single biggest cause for the mediocrity of the educational system. Teachers, like others employees should be compensated based on performance. But I guess that’s for a different discussion.)

  174. Public knowledge of salaries officers in the corporate sector, especially among any publicly traded entity, is transparent under the securities laws of the US. That being the case, I do not believe that the salaries of mchanchim have any relevance to this issue. We tend to conflate salaries, responsibilities amd hours. WHIW, I think that the notion that the average rebbe or morah lives a life of luxury based upon a salary and other supplementary income such as tutoring, etc should be rejected. These individuals are our role models. We trust them as role models to fill in the blanks that we cannot impart in Jewish education and as Baalei Midos who really are Mitapek Bmuat-even if it means that we waive tuiition for thjem and they spend their summers learning or educating kids in a camp-an environment far removed from where most of us would spend a summer.

    One of my earliest RY R M Besdin ZTL was fond of saying that if you pay teachers peanuts, then one should not be shocked if their products are monkeys in more ways than one.

    OTOH, a budget showing salaries as a gross line item should be sufficient for any interested parent or donor.

  175. Menachem, NYC public schools, for e.g., have published payscales. In other words, a person with such-and-such degree plus such-and-such credits beyond that will earn such-and-such. The purpose is to avoid discrimination. A principal can’t decide, “Well, I like you so I’ll pay you more.” “Or I can take advantage of you so I’ll pay you less.”

  176. From SephardiLady:
    “it would not hurt to make the pay scales and the financials known information in the community.”

    Some general financial information, maybe. Payscales, never. I think it would be devistating. First of all in the US in general salaries are a private matter. Why should teachers be exposed to publication of the salaries that other workers aren’t? Secondly, most parent bodies are not capable of handling this information maturly. It would create enourmous amounts of rechilus and Loshon Hora. Thirdly, even public corporations are not required to disclose salaries of anyone except the officers. A budget showing the salaries as a gross line item is more than enought for any potential doner.

  177. Mark and I both commented that we need to discuss the goals and purposes of yeshiva education-training the elite or providing a base of Jewish literacy, knowledge, attitudes and skills for every student that will enable that person to take his or her rightful place in our comunities.

    Somehow, without confrontation but with a lot of discussion, we have to realize that our schools have to be deal with the needs of all students-the future Gdolim, the future learner/earner and the future layperson who needs to be shown the keys and beauty of Torah. I am not sure of any possible solution, but it is important as a start that we address this issue. The tension between educating every student and dealing with the needs of every student is a massive but IMO very necessary burden which requires a joint venture between educators and parents.

    I would add one further factor-take the average Baal HaBayis or Baalas HaBayis who had at best a fair to middling educational experience and a less than completely favorable hashkafic result-That parent, who may be a successful earner, may be more motivated to invest significant tzedaka dollars in a kollel or other mossad over which he can demand a better result and which is more glamorous than in his or her local school, especially if a board and administration are well entrenched, etc. This trend, if unabated, is a potential disaster, especially as the ranks of “gvirim” in our ranks decrease and those not yet frum Jews continue to give to causes other than yeshivos.

  178. Two more segway point for this topic:

    1. Diversity of MO (Modern Orthodox) Schools vs. BH (Black Hat) Schools.
    In my community very few BTs would send thier kids to a BH school (see #2). ALSO the MO parents are quite often are better educated (and have greater earning potential) than the BH community. That being said, MO parents typically (not always) have less kids than BH parents.

    2. End game of MO Schools versus BH Schools.

    From my observations:
    MO Schools typically are pro-college education with maintaining a period of time daily to learn
    BH Schools idealize and encourage the Kollel lifestyle (No or late college education for men)

    We are in the middle of the lost earnings generation. Where an entire generation of FFB have been taught that Kollel learning is how you get a wife, not earning potential (see last week’s Jewish Press). This generation will not have the financial ability to make the large donations that thier parents’ generation is making. Whether it is acknolwedged or not, the BTs and MOs are going to be the people funding the schools for the next generation.

  179. Yakov Astor:
    You are absolutely right. Thank you for clarifying that point.

  180. Sefardi Lady,

    I am not Board Member (nor do I play one on a blog). Anybody who knows me well, knows that I am not currently on the Board of any Yeshivas.

  181. Mark-I imagine you are “Board Member” and I thank you for your comments. I believe that most Yeshivot are honest with their books, but it would not hurt to make the pay scales and the financials known information in the community.

    When potentials donors and parents do not trust the schools, it inhibits fundraising.

  182. I saw this comment on Sefardi Lady’s recent post on this topic and I thought some insights from this Board Member would be helpful for this discussion.

    “I don’t live in the NY area but in a large city on the east coast. we do have a pay scale which is transparent that all senior members of the Board know.when a new staff member joins, he is asked for his years of experience and paid accordingly.

    While I can’t speak for all yeshivos I don’t think its a fair statement to say that rebeiim are earning undeserved levels of compensation.(a “rosh yeshiva” that controls the purse strings and runs a yeshiva as a family business is obviously abuse,but that is not the norm).

    In our yeshiva a high school rebbi with 15 years of experience working until 9:00 at night (when ma’ariv is over) is making $60,000.That is not overpaid. I have two brothers teaching in the NY-NJ area and they’re not earning undeserved levels of compensation either.

    As to the topic at hand, we have 2 children post high school and have discussed with them the costs of tuition as well the larger picture of the econmics of living a kollel life for a number of years. The yeshivos and senminaries are not doing justice when they espouse such lofty goals but leave out the financial side of the story.”

  183. Sarah,

    I wanted to say I really enjoyed your post. The only thing I wanted to point out is that, as the book pointed out (in an Appendix in the back to the Second Edition), schar limud and tuition are not necessarily the same thing. One should consult their Rav to explain the difference and see how it might apply in their situation.

  184. Jaded Topaz,

    Thank you for your very nice comments! I reallyh appreciate it! May Hashem give you Chazak to be the best Jew you can be!

    As for what you said about the collection practices, sometimes I think, and I’m sure you agree, that when it comes down to it, it’s a business, and is treated as such by those in charge, even though it’s a big Mitzvah to send a kid to Yeshiva.

    I really think there should be some kind of open forum on this subject, held in a place such as 5 Towns, where some parents tried to change the way things were. This issue is what my daughter wrote about in the 5TJT last summer. If you want me to email you a copy, I can. Let me know.

  185. It would be tragic if we had this situation:

    1. Financial considerations force significant numbers of Jewish kids into public school, and
    2. Kids in public school because of these financial considerations, and their parents, are then stigmatized, and these kids are also denied proper Torah instruction

    Since this situation may exist, a study is now needed to properly characterize its scope and severity. Who will step up to do an accurate, unbiased study? Who will insure cooperation with the study on all levels? If recommendations come out of the study, who can/will crack the whip to get them implemented? I fear that we are in a state of near-anarchy.

  186. I’ve read the responses to my article thus far and wanted to just pipe in a bit myself.


    Post 7: “I find these numbers very interesting. I am curious to know where/what type of Yeshiva this is. I don’t care the exact community, but is this New York area black hat type of Yeshiva? If so, is 3-4 kids truely the norm?”

    Answer: NY black hat. Can’t say what norm is. I have more than 3-4.

    Post 13: “There could be “first-class” schools with the best facilities, staff, etc., and at the other end, “steerage class” schools with minimal facilities and standards…. Is it fair? No.”

    Answer: This elitism strikes me as the exact opposite of the Torah ideals. Yet, it may in fact be de facto exactly what is happening and will happen.

    Post 15: “Great post!! How do people feel about the education their children are receiving? Are our children receiving “our money’s wirth”.”

    Comment: By the way you spelling “worth,” do you happen to be yeshiva-trained? ;-)

    Post 42: “Elliot B. Pasik, Esq. …Hakadosh Boruch Hu gave us a solution to the tuition crisis. It is called maser….”

    Comment: The fact that a lawyer said this caught my attention.

    Post 43: “…for over 2,000 years, education has been a communal responsibility. This was an enactment created in the time of R’ Shimon Ben Shetach and the Cohen Gadol at that time Yehoshua Ben Gamla.”

    Question: Who’s responsible? If the community, then why do yeshivos turn away kids whose parents can’t pay?

    Post 44: “This topic dovetails with a related topic – singleness. I’m an older, never-married FFB without children who earned quite a decent living in the USA for years but wasn’t rich enough for NY J women who would prefer to stay single than marry someone less than very rich (assets > $1,000,000, income > $250,000). There are SO many people in this position. Being Jewish – by definition – simply demands tremendous amounts of money. This is true for education, housing, dress and more. Im Ein Kemach, Ein Torah. I have heard it called Financial Contraception.”

    Comment : I found this post both heart-rending and infuriating. I would like to know more about your situation. How much did you make? Do you think you will ever marry? Could it have been possible for you and someone to find a happy compromise?

    Post 49: “I personally know of five individuals that have snapped (literally) with the kids tuition issues being one of the main causes of the snapping.”

    Comment: Would a Mishpacha or HaModia or Yated ever publish stories like these? (Obviously, done anonymously.)

    Post 51: “This is only a problem in America.”

    Comment: Did you read Post 44 (I quote it below)?

    Also Post 51: “Also Post 51: “…our families were not carried along in the tide of affluence in the past few generations, there are no grandparents to turn to for assistance, and our joint income as very respected full time professionals still falls below your stated Red Zone.”

    Comment: Very scary. Can I ask how much you two made combined with your joint income?

    Also Post 51: “American Orthodoxy has become the sole domain of the affluent.”

    Comment: Capsulizes it perfectly.


    Post 7: “What these numbers are saying is that they expect frum families to be upper middle class but everybody has to stay in Yeshivah.”

    Also Post 7: “I am “making it” and I find it very stressful – no time for rest and no money to rest, always worrying about the next bill, next tuition payment, etc.”

    Post 34: “I’m not sure what ure point is ,believe it or not some people dont have money and cannot afford yeshiva tuition period.whether its 5000 or 500.”

    Post 44: “As for moving to Israel, not all expenses are less here (I’m in Israel now). There are loads of families Bruchot Yeladim struggling on $10,000 a year incomes. You try that… And if you are truly envious of Chareidim, you don’t know what poverty and horrid conditions they often live in.”

    Post 51: “tuition refugees”

    Also Post 51: “American Orthodoxy has become the sole domain of the affluent. This is a freightening indictment that can only be expressed from Bet Shemesh.”

    Post 57: “I have sympathy for those who are out of work or whose work barely pays for the rent, but I work hard and for long hours, and the school demands that I buy raffle tickets, that I buy ad space in the journal, that I spend time calling strangers soliciting money, that I ask relatives for money.”

    Post 58: “There is a true story about a BY educated woman with a large family who was unable to pay tuition. She was refused any scholarships. She then took the hanhalah to a Din Torah and explained that she had followed the BY derech, married a kollel avrech, lived a life that was not outlandish and had a nice sized family. Why shouldn’t she be entitled to financial aid for following Daas Torah? I am not sure how the Din Torah wound up, but I think that the story is a powerful comment on the state of some of our communities.”

    Post 12: “…these topics are not likely broached so this could cause a case of cognitive dissonance for the green BT trying to understand how frum people live.”

    Question: Should we not disclose this to potential BTs? Why yes? Why no? If yes, when? First week? First 3 months? First year?

    Post 13: “The “solution” of limiting family size, which anecdotal evidence seems to be gaining popularity in the frum community, has to be eliminated by finding viable alternatives.”

    Question: Should rabbeim and leaders be more forthright about limiting family size? Should this point be made especially clear to BTs, who tend to have greater stresses, less access to the realities of living a frum life and other factors?

    Post 22: “We have been homeschooling for 11 years. We supplement with tutors…. Hschooling will catch on in the frum world because it works, is affordable, and is a beautiful Yiddishe lifestyle. Sometimes you just have to think outside the (frum) box.”

    Question: Is homeschooling an alternative for you? Why or why not? Will it catch on? Why or why not?

    Post 28: “Supporting schools is a chiuv on the tzibbur, NOT the individual parents.”

    Post 39: “if I have kids one day and can’t afford to send them to yeshiva, its not the communities responsibility to educate them – its my own responsiblity ,”

    Question: Who is really responsible?

    Post 57: “In order to forestall bankruptcy, I’ve had to refinance the house about once every three years, each time increasing the amount financed.”

    Question: Halachically, are parents obligated to go into this type of financial debt in order to pay tuition?

  187. I find it amazing that here in the United States of America where every citizen realizes the need and value of a free public education, that so many in our community believe that parents (and their grandparents) should absorb massive, massive tuitions all by themselves or “tough luck.”

    I can’t think of a more important communal responsibility than funding Jewish Education. Somehow, our communities are able to drum up millions of dollars for kiruv programs and all their related functions. I have received solicitations that ask me for funds to place children that are being outreached to into Yeshivot, to buy them tefillin, to buy their families sukkot, lulavim and etrogim, to send them to camp, etc, etc, etc, etc.

    However, when it comes to our own children, the single most prohibitive expense (tuition), the expense that buys our community more and more generations, is NOT considered a communal obligation? To me that is incredible and a very sad commentary.

  188. Jaded,
    You comment about eating in others’ houses and helping to support the education of others’. Is really off the wall. In my experience rasing money, I have found the exact opposite: that the more rigorously committed a person is to kashrus and other areas of “ritual” Yiddishkeit, the more they are also commited to giving tzedaka.

  189. Jaded,
    Respectfully, you are just not correct. The idea of public funded Jewish education is more than 2,000 years old. To what degree the obligation falls on the parent and to what degree it falls on the larger community is a question for a Rav. But it simply not true that a parent is obligated to fund only his own children’s education. If a child, chas v’shalom, has no parents, is he therefore not entitled to an education? So what is the difference if he has parents that are unable to pay?

  190. I have been thinking about this very important issue for days. Trying to put my thoughts into perspective for print. I really see the issues mentioned here as separate, each coming from a predetermined attitude towards money in general.

    Growing up I always had the attitude that if I wanted something I had to earn the money. Starting from 11 years ago that was what I did. When I became frum around 19, married, set up house, had children, supported kollel for a while, I still did not understand what financial realities lay ahead. Once the kids were old enough for Yeshiva and tuitions came into the picture, I was torn. On one hand I felt and STILL DO that IT IS A PRIVILEGE TO PAY TUITION TO HAVE A CHILD IN YESHIVA, unlike my own upbringing (growing up in Kew Gardens Hills I used to beg my mother to send me to YCQ, she said she simply couldn’t afford it), yet where would the money come from. I wanted to be around for my children idealistically, how to manage it. With H’s help I creatively found various ways of earning without going out of the house full time, or at all for many years. Life wasn’t easy, but was satisfying.

    As the kids grew, apartment life switched to house life, one child with special needs required special education and lots of medical costs, expenses grew, we had to re-think our employment situations. There were times where we needed help from others and times where we were able to help others. Times where we needed loans, and times where we paid them all back. Times where we needed tuition discounts and times where we didn’t. We always consulted Rabbonim and tried to make proper decisions. We rented part of the space in our home to help with tuition. We took odd jobs to help with expenses. We live simply by choice, as we wanted a home where I could be around for the children, and my husband is a Rebbe.

    Now being on both ends of this discussion, as the wife of a Rebbe and a parent paying tuition, here is my inside view. My husband had many talents in the workplace before becoming a “Rebbe”. He is not a Rebbe because he couldn’t make it in the kollel world or any other world, it is an avodah of love. He is a loving, caring, and passionate Rebbe. He helps his students at their difficult age (7th grade) of growth, he helps their families and he helps the community 24/7. The families come to us, the former students come to us, all the time. He does not always get paid on time and when he does, it is not much. It is not enough to support our family with one of our children having lots of special needs expenses in her own education. And so this discussion often comes up-should he find another form of parnassah, should I go out fulltime somewhere, we always come back to the same thing. He loves teaching Torah, the students and families gain SO MUCH from him, he makes such a difference in so many people’s lives, how could anything compare with that. From the tuition payers perspective, there is a true loss by underpaying dedicated Rebbeim/Moros, as they may have no choice to look elsewhere for parnassah as their own families needs must come first. We love that our husband/father is a Rebbe in its truest sense. We also feel that my being around and available for our childrens needs (some having more than others) is vital. My husband is training in something in order to supplement being a Rebbe, not instead of it. I have found ways of earning without being tied to a full-time desk out of the house. None of this is easy, sometimes stressful, but we feel fulfilled, living purposefully and choosing this gives the motivation necessary to continue.

    Another important piece is that we must remember that H” is in charge of the money. On Rosh Hashana it is determined. It’s up to H” and it’s up to us. When my son started Yeshiva many moons ago I read a book called “Thou Shall Not Want” and the chapter about tuition in particular fascinated me. I discussed it with my son’s Rebbe at the time, a very deep Chasid from Williamsburgh teaching in Queens, and he told me that not only is it true about tuition being reimbursed by H”, but that everything he buys, he buys for Shabbos, even a living room couch, as all those expenses are reimbursable as well. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that H” is the boss, in charge of our finances, our health, our lives, ultimately. This was a humbling and hard lesson to ingrain as a BT many moons ago (probably need constant reinforcing of this as well), as I was always taught that money came by our own hand and efforts only, and I had respected bosses who strongly expressed that sentiment as well.

    We can only hope we make the right decisions. Ask shailos,keep growing, do your best. Teach your kids the right approach towards money, stay away from the web of gashmius, teach the kids to be “givers” of money, time, chesed. H” will help, he always does, whether we realize it or not.

  191. MRN,

    Because the average BT is much less effected by exorbitant tuitions that the FFB. I am far from an expert average BT has a higher education level, higher income, and fewer children.

    You said this earlier, I believe, and I have to tell you that from my experience this is patently incorrect. There are all types of BTs, coming from all types of backgrounds, and exist in all types of financial situations. The majority I know struggle financially and have as many children as FFBs. Conversely, I know many FFBs who are doing quite well financially, even without degrees (forget about advanced degrees).

    Of course, all this depends upon where you live and your exposure, but I can tell from my exposure that, generally, BTs are no better off financially than FFBs; they may in fact be worse off (e.g. high idealism leads to more time in yeshiva while in their 20s, less emphasis on career and larger families).

  192. MRN-We have a somewhat similiar academic background I believe, and I have also expressed and interest in getting involved and presenting ideas but have been rebuffed.

    While I’m not sure that the internet is the most productive means of presenting ideas and discussing ideas, I have decided that it is the only forum that I have a voice in without being part of the club or having a lot of money to become part of the club.

  193. Everyone has good some really good points. I live in a small city with less then 200 hundred families, I was reading this article to an ffb and he hemmed and hawed about how wrong the article is. I finaly told him that the website is called beyond bt for a reason. This obviously was not for you. Most ffbs do not have a clue to what a BT needs.

    My question hit me tonight in the davening. When we pray that hashem brings all the jews back together from the four corners of the world. Well he started he brought us back to frumkite or torah judism and now we are here what do they want to do with us? Ddo they want to teach, help teach our children, but do not want to help support financially. But when the shluikim come from out of town with their hands out for yeshiva’s everyone is giving?

    Once again no answers on questions.

    When will ffb get a clue. Maybe we can all daven for their understanding.

  194. SephardiLady — I have an MBA from a top-10 business school and am now a stay at home mom. Every effort I have ever made to volunteer to be a leader, join a board, wpeak out, or organize an event has always been rebuffed. There’s nothing that makes a BT feel more unwelcome….

    Although as a mom with several children in yeshiva day schools, I appreciate you drawing attention to this problem, I’m not sure this is the best venue for discussion of this issue. Because the average BT is much less effected by exorbitant tuitions that the FFB. I am far from an expert average BT has a higher education level, higher income, and fewer children.

  195. I think that with the current structures in the non-Chassidic community it will be very difficult to change the current tuition structure. There are new models coming on the scene and G-d willing something will come of them.

    I don’t think lecturing the wealthy about where they should give there money will produce much fruit as it hasn’t to date. The local Yeshivos have to make their case to these potential donors like everybody else and do some real fund raising. It would also make sense to keep a strong kesher with their alumni and I think this is a tremendous missed opportunity.

    You really can’t discuss this issue without discussing what are and should be the primary goals of the system. Is it to produce Talmidei Chachamim and Teachers or to enable each student to grow towards his potential and become a great Jew.

    If a school helps turn our child into a great Jew, I think we would all show HaKaros HaTov to them with continuing support even after graduation. In the current system only the top 10-15 students feel great with the rest feeling less than accomplished.

    Rabbi Wein cites studies that over 90% of students graduating high school do not feel that they were successful.

    I think single schools create their own problem, the biggest one being a lack of competition. I’ve only seen schools really try to get their act together when competition makes them lose students. Otherwise it is usually business as usual. Although in certain areas, single school solutions probably make sense.

    I think there are solutions to these problems but we need to get involved. We need to challenge in a respectful and appropriate manner the status quo if it is not working.

  196. Dina–I think that when it comes to tuition we should all be making ourselves leaders. As Pirkei Avot tells us: [Hillel] used to say in a place where there are no leaders, strive to be a leader.

    When it comes to tuition, there are Rabbis that understand the gravity of the situation, and (unfortunately) those who just don’t for whatever reason.

    While it would be great for our Rabbononim to lead the fight, I am not holding my breath and think that we all need to make ourselves leaders and start speaking out where we can and organizing at the grassroots when something that would benefit the community can be done.

  197. One solution that Rishona touched upon is having rabbonim speak repeatedly on the topic of how people should be directing the charity dollars they are already setting aside. As far as I understand, one should give priority for their chosen causes institutions in one’s own town/city before distant places. That means that community members who may not even have children in the schools should be encouraged by their rabbonim to support the local elementary/high school(s). They may not even be thinking of the local school as a tzedakah.

  198. Bob – Reality is not a comfortable coral abercrombie sweatshirt size medium . the productive or not productive levels of speculation and insights into the terrors of tuition or flawed systems in general is determined by each individual.

    Sephardilady- no-one was questioning ure interest levels on public school versus private school.and as I previously mentioned the rendering of productive or not productive speculation and insights is done by the individual end user/reader .

  199. George,

    So change it to $500,000 or whatever makes the numbers fit — the point is he has a greater income and a greater obligation to ask himself if the blessing is given him to use beyond the basic obligation. (Ten percent is a minimum 20% is a maximum).

    You’re right, I don’t know how much the guy driving a Jaguar gives in charity, but I do know he could still drive a very nice car and use the money he saved from his Jag for other purposes. And it may be he gives enough eleswhere to meet his basic obligations. All I’m saying is if the guy makes more, although he’s entitled to live a higher style once he meets his obligations, it may nevertheless be to his benefit to see if he can use the blessing God gave him even more generously. If he is, kol hakovod.

    But if he isn’t, and even if he is, there is still an obligation on the community to help those who can’t meet their obligations. We are all part of that community, whether the parents who can’t afford it or the ones who can and then some.

  200. Rishona Writes: >>While I can’t speak for everyone, I forward a good share of tzedaka off to NY and Eretz Yisrael to help with various causes. Perhaps the local schools should also send out a plea?

    Rishona-Do NOT wait for your local schools to solicit you. Pick up the phone and call your favorite local school. I’m sure they will be more than happy to find a member of their own community willing and able to redirect some dollars to their own backyard.

  201. Like Bob, I too think this conversation has take a turn towards the unproductive.

    I have little interest in discussing whether Mr. and Mrs. Goldberg should send their precious Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaacov to public school because they don’t have $45,000 of disposable income, nor do I have an interest in determining how much Mr. Silverman should be giving in tzedakah.

    I only have an interest in productive solutions and I want to find out about how we can come together as a community and market better policies that WILL help our schools live into the next generation and education (at the very minimum) the already Orthodox.

  202. I am uncomfortable seeing this discussion veer off so often into unproductive speculation.

    At this point, I’d like to see some input here from the Beyond BT Advisors, Project Coordinators, and Contributors named (I emphasize named) on this site, to identify what we can do constructively as a group or as individuals to improve Jews’ ability to pay tuition.

  203. Keeping track of other peoples hard earned money and susie ormond style advising on the allocating of the finances is petty and tripping on the trees when its the forest your supposed to be focusing on.Expecting others to forfeit their hard earned money by default is definitely not the answer to fix one’s own personal tuition woes.

  204. Wow. These comments have really left me speechless!

    Of course I’ve heard about the “tuition woes” of my frum neighbors; and I do feel for them. Many families have 4+ children and are easily spending the amount of a nice Mercedes (although you have 5 years to pay a Mercedes off!) in tuition. But as a ger who is “in training to be a Jew”, such thoughts for me are waaaaay outside of my line of sight.

    However there are a lot like me. Singles, childless couples, well-to do Baby Boomers and seniors who also don’t need to worry about tuition. While I can’t speak for everyone, I forward a good share of tzedaka off to NY and Eretz Yisrael to help with various causes. Perhaps the local schools should also send out a plea? I mean these are my friends and/or children I see almost every morning. I’m far from rich myself, but I’m sure I could muster up $300 a year to help someone out. With 10 others willing to do likewise, that can make some sort of dent I’m sure…

  205. anon – your example is completly flawed. Your individual easning $300,000 is left with maybe $170,000 after taxes, then take away his $30,000 in tzedaka he is left with $140,000 now he’s got 3 kids in yeshiva so thats between $30,000 – $50,000 depending on where you live leaving him with about $100,000 before any other expenses. I highly doubt this individual can make the mortgage payments on a $1.5 MM home, plus like myself he might have college and law school loans to pay off. Oh and maybe our $300,000 making friend would like to save for his retirement or so he could send his kids to college and graduate school without them having to take out loans like he did. Don’t assume you know other peoples financial situations.

    And you have no idea how much tzedaka the people with $1.5 MM homes and driving jaguars give.

  206. George, first, tuition is not the same as tzedakah. If a person has an income of $300,000 and gives $30,000 to tzedakah he’s fulfilled obligation if that $30,000 is on top of tuition.

    Second, although the obligation is not necessarily strictly in place beyond 10% the fact is that such a person is living on $270,000 per year. Compare that to the guy earning $75,000 who has to pay tuition, even reduced, and then pay $7,500 in tzedakah (consult your LOR for practicalities). Such a person is living on maybe $50-60,000. When the person with the $300,000 income goes upstairs after 120 years and says he dutifully paid his 10% but kept the rest so he could have nicer vactions, live in that $1.5 million house and drive his $50-100,000 car how impressed do you think they’ll be? People talk about the dread of going before a tuition committee. Consider coming befor the Big Tuition Committee after 120 years.

    Meanwhile, instead of a $1.5 million house maybe he could have bought your simple, no-frills $1 million one. And instead of the suped up Jaguar perhaps he could have had the nice mid-range luxury car. Instead of living on $270,000 a year perhaps he could have made it on $240,000 or $200,000. And with that savings he could have helped hundreds of kids learn Torah that couldn’t have because their parents couldn’t afford it.

    There’s something called a menuval b’rishus haTorah. I’m not saying a person who meets his basic 10% obligations described above necessarily falls into that category. But I am saying it behooves him to think twice if perhaps he was givin a blessing to share with others much more generously than he presently does, and in a way that still allows him to live the life of the well-to-do.

  207. Michoel -ok forgot minor detail that hillel was an adult but the same concept of no money no learning could be applied .the concept of the poor not being able to be in on learning if they dont have the moolah is as old as hillel freezing on the roof i guess thats just the harsh reality of life …… also im not sure which part of the not very unified kehilla u r referring to . the same perons that wont eat at others houses for passover for fear of breaking the law will most likely not be caring about others tuition bills .

  208. Michoel – the torah commands that people give 10% of their earnings to charity, are you saying that they are not free to spend the rest of it as they please?

  209. Jaded,
    there is a basic difference between “Adult educaition” and basic cheder. The idea is not mine. It Hashem’s. Blame the Shulchan Aruch!

  210. Martin Fleischer, youre right “devil” does have somewhat of a harsh connotation it was just the collection practices I was referring to….. On a brighter note your kids are very lucky to have such a caring father !!!

  211. Michoel , did Hillel freezing on the roof of the yeshiva cuz he had no money to enter ,did he expect those that spent lavishly on tents, sacrifices and jewelry to fund his learning tuition? on a brighter note in this day and age one should consider themselves blessed with the luck of the irish if the school administration actually accepts ie makes room for the kid in the school. just make sure youre child is signed up on the waiting list the day he is born .

  212. George and others,
    Who do “I” expect to pick up the slack is not the question. The question should be “Who does Hashem expect to pick up the slack?” Al pi Torah, supporting schools is not primarily a chov on the parents. It is a chov on the kehilla. This a basic concept that seems to missed by a lot of people. If one can afford to make lavish chasunas, buy a huge house for himself or spend more than the annual tuiton for one of my children on his Pesach hotel, then yes, he is EXPECTED to pay my tuition.

  213. Jaded Topaz,

    I agree with you, but wouldn’t use the term “devil” in your post. They do have to cover their expenses, no doubt, but unless you can afford the tuition, or there is financial aid available in some form, then you have to look for alternatives, like I did, while trying your best to make sure your kids are on the derech.

    It’s a wonder it’s taken this long for people to “wake up and smell the coffee” about this situation.

    Torah education is very important, but, if you can’t afford it, what can you do?

  214. George , that is precisely why if and when I have children, should my finance situation not allow for ten thousand dollars per kid they will be happy, healthy public school goers.I for one dont need anyone pickin up the slack for my inability to drum up the exorbitant tuitions.Although I do understand the inherent importance of a torah education and appreciate the reasons behind the exorbitant rates ,and will do everything i can to save for a torah education if i have kids , I will not be selling my soul to the exorbitant frum education tuition devil with corressponding committee .Yes you do get what you pay for but if u cant pay for it you shop elsewhere .the logic in avoiding being beholden forever definitely overrides the need for a frum education.

  215. George-I would say that there are two ways to alleviate the tuition issues and both should be pursued:

    1. Bring in new money, like Menachem Lipkin addressed. Easier said than done, of course. But, let’s run some numbers.

    Say that the schools in a community have a K-12 budget of $18 million dollars and there are 3000 units (business, families, and singles) associated with the Orthodox community at some level. If each unit would contribute *on average* $6000 to the school system, the entire budget of $18 million would be covered!!! If each unit would contribute *on average* $3000 to the school system, one half of the budget would be covered and tuition would fall significantly.

    2. We all compromise and start combining some of our schools, or at least some of the functions of our schools. There is a lot of duplication that can and should be eliminated. If we could share some costs, we could decrease the “per student” cost.

    In many communities there are empty seats in similiar types of schools. I can think of entire schools that could be absorbed into other schools because each grade is so small. Of course the unpleasant side of this proposal is that jobs would be lost. But, just as new schools tend to build one grade at a time, maybe when a teacher leaves a school, a small class could be absorbed into another school one grade at a time, without a lot of pain to either school.

    Glad to see an important discussion taking place. It is obvious from some of the testimonies here (Izzy and Rabz, in particular) that we are reaching crisis time.

  216. Providing your children with a yeshiva education is the obligation of every frum parent. V’shinantem L’vanbechem. These schools are funded predominatley through tuition, if you don’t pay it the other parents are picking up the slack. i appreciate that the financial strain can be unbearable for some, but who exactley do they expect to be aleviating it?

  217. The simple answer is that outside money has to come into the “system”. Having been on the board of directors of a day school in New Jersey I can tell you that there’s no rocket science here.

    Each school has a budget made of salaries and operational expenses. To come up with the tuition you simply take the projected expenses, subtract any anticipated outside income, e.g. donations, fund raising, grants, and divide the rest by the number of expected students making an adjustment upward for anticipated scholarship allocation.

    It may sound a little complicated, but the only variable here is the “outside” income. If that goes up then tuition goes down. (Of course you can reduce expenses, but that usually cuts into the quality of education and has a limit.)

    This outside income can be in the form of vouchers, Federation grants, endowments, etc.

    I think the best idea, which may have already been suggested, to spread the obligation out over as much of the Jewish community as possible. This includes people who no longer or do not yet have kids in Yeshiva and people who don’t send their kids to yeshiva.

    Easier said than done.

  218. The last three years I have put my entire tuition burden on credit card. But, this year the chickens have come home to roost and we will be keeping the kids home. The frum world really has to do something.

  219. There is a true story about a BY educated woman with a large family who was unable to pay tuition. She was refused any scholarships. She then took the hanhalah to a Din Torah and explained that she had followed the BY derech, married a kollel avrech, lived a life that was not outlandish and had a nice sized family. Why shouldn’t she be entitled to financial aid for following Daas Torah? I am not sure how the Din Torah wound up, but I think that the story is a powerful comment on the state of some of our communities.

    I am not sure what the solution is to this problem but IMO it is definuitely not a blue ribbon commission consisting of people who have never sweated a ny bills, including scar limud.

    I do think that parents, educators and rabbonim have to start a dialogue about what we expect from our schools, and vice versa. What are the goals of schools and parents, etc? How does a achool balance evaluating kids progress versus enhanching a kid’s spiritual growth? Is chinuch a profession or simply an experiment for some who can’t cut it in the Kollel world?These issues as well as tuition, need to be addressed.

    FWIW, Michoel’s idea is intriguing, but a school with a rookie rebbe and minimal costs will attract some brave parents and repell some parents who don’t want their kids to be the class where a school and teachers make their mistakes and essentially use these kids as guinea pigs.

  220. As another Balimorean, I would like to submit my experience.

    I earn roughly about $85K per year. I’ve got two kids moved out of the house (one learning for smicha and the other married), and five still in school.

    I get tuition reductions so that the tuitions end up to be approximately $3.6K each, but have had to hire tutors for my kids since I have to work such long hours (and, the tutors are much better at it than I am). I’ve had two kids in P’Tach (for kids with learning disorders), at additional tuitions. I can’t work in Baltimore, because the high-tech jobs aren’t here, but have to work 50 miles away. We have no frum relatives to help us out.

    In order to forestall bankruptcy, I’ve had to refinance the house about once every three years, each time increasing the amount financed.

    I have sympathy for those who are out of work or whose work barely pays for the rent, but I work hard and for long hours, and the school demands that I buy raffle tickets, that I buy ad space in the journal, that I spend time calling strangers soliciting money, that I ask relatives for money. The school also sends the kids out on a regular basis to collect small amounts for the school in front of the local businesses. The kids are rewarded based upon the amount they bring in. In other words, the schools are *teaching them to become schnorrers*.

    It would be a lot better if the schools would teach them a trade or at least teach them how to run a business (say a lemonade stand). Then, since the majority will have to go into the working world anyway, they would have some knowledge of how it works.

  221. OU Monitor–Where can we access those recommendations? If they cannot be accessed, are they public information that can be shared?

    I have plenty to write about, but would be more than happy to add this to my ever growing list.

  222. I could not agree more…I was so totally embarrassed by the “recommendations” of the OU Commission on Tuition….the perspective could only come from a room full of millionaires from the Five Towns and Great Neck trying to imagine what the real olam are dealing with…..that’s what you get when the committee is comprised only of major donors

  223. This is only a problem in America. It is not secret that many, many of us who have made aliya recently are openly “tuition refugees” who simply could no longer practice halachic judaism in America…our families were not carried along in the tide of affluence in the past few generations, there are no grandparents to turn to for assistance, and our joint income as very respected full time professionals still falls below your stated Red Zone.

    American Orthodoxy has become the sole domain of the affluent. This is a freightening indictment that can only be expressed from Bet Shemesh.

  224. David,

    Having had both my girls in PS for all these years, I know what you mean. I have had to work extra hard to make sure my girls “stay” Frum; and it’s worked to a degree. Both of them, especially the older one, have many non-Jewish friends, yet don’t get caught up in the non-Jewish lifestyle. You can go to PS and remain Frum if you have the will to remember who you are (and have parents who really care). In fact, my daughter wrote a response in the 5 Towns Jewish Times last summer that dealt with the tuition crisis. However, my 1st choice would always be a Yeshiva if it’s feasible.

  225. Gershon Seif – I personally know of five individuals that have snapped (literally) with the kids tuition issues being one of the main causes of the snapping.The tuition committee I was raised on had one focus which is where i base my inherent viewpoints off of.and as u mentioned u are certain that public school will not sustain the jewish people but neither will obnoxious tuition committees.unfortunately there arent too many realistic shades of gray options just black and white questions .

  226. Alter: Regarding David H.’s comment, SephardiLady kind of beat me to the punch. .

    Public school seems to be a knee-jerk reaction to a difficult situation. Having attended the public school system from Kindergarten through college, I can tell you that (other than a student with special needs that cannot be met in the private sector) public school is not the place for a “frum” child. Putting aside the fact that a few hours a day of limudei kodesh will likely be inadequate, the socialization provided in a public school is detrimental to a frum child. That doesn’t address the issues of the tuition crisis. I’m not qualified to throw my hat into that ring. SephardiLady’s blog and Marvin Schick’s seem to be the places that I’ve seen the most concrete ideas.


    Great points, especially regarding the area of shidduchim.

  227. Alter-From what I have heard about the Chassidish system is that the Rebbes are unfortunately not paid much at all and are rarely paid on time. The problem of paying on time seems somewhat universal and it is so problematic.

    Also, I don’t believe these schools are accredited, and therefore, they don’t have to maintain a certain curriculum to have the administrative staff to make sure they are in compliance. I also imagine that when you don’t have secular education, you can run on lower overhead that with secular studies, since much of the learning takes place in chevrutas in a beit midrash, and not individual classrooms.

    However, I think there is a lot that we can learn from the Chassidish community. I believe that they only have one school for boys and one for girls unless a pressing need due to overcrowding. I guess they are fortunate that they have a generally homogeneous view on chinuch. However, I see no reason why the rest of us cannot learn to accomodate more than one hashkafic track under one roof.

    I also believe that the Chassidish communities keep their money more local and helping their own neighbors. Unfortunately, many in our own communities are more interested in pointing fingers and blaming, than keeping money local.

    That’s my take on the Chassidish system.

  228. Alter, I ignored the comment because I want to discuss actual ideas and solutions and not get sidetracked by side discussion on birth control that is about as likely to come to fruition as monkies flying.

  229. I hear everyones pain and agree that the tuitions are “killing people”. I would like to ask anyone out there who is Chassidish or knows someone chassidish, to give me an answer how the chasiddish system can charge so little and still function. I realize the level of secular studies are not the same but they have a high level of kodesh and they do offer secular studies at some level. I am assumeing that the community supports the school.

    I realize that there are a number of big and small philantropists in each community. Before Mr. $$$ gives money to build a building in another country, he should first see what the local places need.

    Regarding Dave H.’s comment:”Personally, I am fed up. The frum community needs to stop making babies and start working. Those of us who have had secular educations and have careers are asked to invest every penny we make to educate our 1-2 kids while these barely literate kollel types do nothing and barely worry about the bills (or thier 5+ kids).”

    I must say that it sounds mamash antisemitic. Those “barely literate” kollel types are doing something. They are keeping the world going with their torah studies. They are also making up for the 6 million that were taken from us in the holocaust. Most kollel people are not taking it easy and sipping pina coladas by the beach while working people support them. They are learning hard, raising families and sometimes working night jobs to supplement. They also get by on minimal amounts of money. They are sacrificing the gashmius for the ruchnius. Also, many kollel guys if they would go to secular colleges, they would run circles around most people in terms of intellect. They are plenty literate in what is important.

    I am quite supprised that the comment was written much earlier on and nobody else commented on it. I can’t believe a fellow shomer shabbos Jew could or would write such a comment.

  230. Some different points of view:

    No one seems to have commented on behalf of the schools themselves. To the extent that Jewish schools are a public service and not profit-making businesses, they have to cover their quite considerable costs. If they could afford to pay teachers $100,000+, they would – but they can’t. Same for just paying salaries on time! Fees together with fundraising still barely keep the schools solvent. It is important to ensure that the available funds are used wisely, but cutting fees to little or nothing may not be possible.

    I lived in Melbourne for a long time and the community there is justly proud of it’s very strong commitment to Jewish education. Prosperous people there contribute strongly to J schools – and fees are still not easily affordable. I know that keeping the schools operating is a major and permanent headache. A new and remarkable trend there is for committed Jews to put their kids in free public schools, reversing a half century of commitment to J education.

    As for moving to Israel, not all expenses are less here (I’m in Israel now). There are loads of families Bruchot Yeladim struggling on $10,000 a year incomes. You try that… And if you are truly envious of Chareidim, you don’t know what poverty and horrid conditions they often live in.

    This topic dovetails with a related topic – singleness. I’m an older, never-married FFB without children who earned quite a decent living in the USA for years but wasn’t rich enough for NY J women who would prefer to stay single than marry someone less than very rich (assets > $1,000,000, income > $250,000). There are SO many people in this position. Being Jewish – by definition – simply demands tremendous amounts of money. This is true for education, housing, dress and more. Im Ein Kemach, Ein Torah. I have heard it called Financial Contraception.

    There is much more in modern J life which seems to be out of order besides just J schooling.

    I wish I had more answers, but all I have is more questions…


  231. “if I have kids one day and can’t afford to send them to yeshiva, its not the communities responsibility to educate them”

    Jaded, for over 2,000 years, education has been a communal responsibility. This was an enactment created in the time of R’ Shimon Ben Shetach and the Cohen Gadol at that time Yehoshua Ben Gamla.

    While I’m in the same boat as everybody else and have no real answers, one answer I am certain of is that public school will not sustain the Jewish People. For 2,000 years we’ve found a way!

  232. Hakadosh Boruch Hu gave us a solution to the tuition crisis. It is called maaser, and I wrote an article about it in the Jewish Press of January 4, 2006. Go onto, click onto Front Page Essay, and you will find it for that date. Or, you can go onto, read it there, and leave a comment.

    We need to organize ourselves.

  233. The very latest after care in this area for three and four year olds ends at 3pm. Children ages five and up are dismissed at 3:30 for girls and 4:30 for boys. So you have to pick up and/or run to meet a bus at potentially three different times, if you have three young children. Or you have to hire a babysitter if you want to have any sort of full-time or afternoons-only job.

  234. Sephardilady – my point was not communal tuition funding for the poor /confused and supposed fickle savers and manic spenders … . if I have kids one day and can’t afford to send them to yeshiva, its not the communities responsibility to educate them – its my own responsiblity ,and should my financial situation not allow for seven thousand dollars on yeshiva then public school will just have to suffice.

  235. MRN-Our schools all have aftercare.

    While I don’t want to place my own children in school any longer than the already long hours, if your school is not offering after-care, you should really suggest it because most likely it is a money maker, not a break-even proposal.

  236. I don’t think my last paragraph captured what I was trying to say. Say for example a young mother could teach elementary school math from 2-4:30 pm at a local yeshiva in exchange for her son’s scholarship. However, she has a 3 year old and preschool is over at 12:30. How can she pay a babysitter if her teaching salary is in exchange for tuition reduction? If day care was provided, everyone would win. Instead, a moonlighting public school teacher has to be paid.

  237. Jaded Topez–I am not at all trying to be uncompassionate and I believe I have demonstrated a fair amount of compassion in all of the online tuition debates. I also have stated that tuition should be a communal responsibility, not an individual burden.

    I am perfectly aware that some families are living at the edge so much that $1000 or even $500 is out of reach.

    But, I still believe that a minimum tuition (and by that I mean *minimum*!) would actually encourage families to make good financial decisions and make some families realize that their contribution is needed and is necessary.

    Chances are that if there was a minimal tuition, certain families would not make certain decisions with the mistaken idea in mind that the community would take care of them. (I have had too many friends with hardly a penny in the bank tell me that they are not worried about tuition, that is what scholarships are for. Being that we are not eligible for scholarships, I can tell you that this answer really hurts too since those who are not eligible for scholarships are being crushed under the burden too).

    The tuitions as they are ($10,000 plus) are outrageous and we should be doing nearly everything within our power get tuition under control and we should definitely work on having greater tuition for those who are struggling.

  238. Great topic! Here’s one of the few advantages to being BT in a FFB world — the children of those of us who went to secular university will be highly sought after in the shidduch market because we can pay tuition for the potential grandkids.

    To Dave H — do the children of those kollel families actually attend the same schools as your children? Most of the time, that’s not the case since many community day schools are co-ed and all the kollel families I know want single-gender. That’s why the schools have no money — because of differing hashgafa we have an abundance of potential rebbeim at the yeshiva (fathers of enrolled students), and a shortage of rebbeim at the modern orthodox school.

    Another shortsighted move on the schools — not offering aftercare so that moms with children in the younger grades can work instead of rushing out to meet a bus at 3:45 in the afternoon. If the child had aftercare at least until older siblings got home, the mom could re-enter the workforce several years sooner.

  239. Bob, i’m happy to read that youve had pleasant tuition committee experiences.Personally i’d rather deal with the tuition free committee of P.S. 92, but obviously thats my personal opinion.

    SephardiLady- regarding your comment “its offensive that there are parents not even paying that much( 1000) for tuition” .I’m not sure what ure point is ,believe it or not some people dont have money and cannot afford yeshiva tuition period.whether its 5000 or 500. Thats where free schooling ie the local public school (paid for by default via school taxes) comes in to play .Being icy cold, harsh and insensitive in reference to the poor and learning torah dates back to hillel freezing on the roof of the shul cuz he had no money to enter (as previously mentioned in a more positive context) .

  240. OutofTown-Oops, I just realized that those who are unable to pay also haven’t been paid. I should say that it is terrible also that our schools do not pay teachers on time. It is halacha to do so and terrible to see what happens. What can one say except that the cycle is vicious.

  241. Bob Miller-My husband (and fellow classmates) endured some abuse for merely having a tiny reduction in tuition. I agree that we need standard guidelines for school-to-parent and school-to-student communications.

    I will also add just how shortsighted these schools are when they act inappropriately to students (money issues being one of several issues). In our case, we give fairly generously to Jewish education, but this particular school is not benefitting. Alumni should be a source of revenue to schools, but in the shortsightedness, some schools forget this.

    Out of Town-Considering that day care costs around $1000 a month for one child, give or take, I would say that it is offensive that there are parents not even paying that much for a school year’s worth of education. No wonder there is so much sinat chinam between Jews when you consider some of the facts on the ground.

  242. If the above form of embarrassment (or anything like it) is widely inflicted, Jews need to ask our Gedolim to declare standard halachic guidelines for school-to-parent and school-to-student communications, so there will be no doubt about which tuition and collection practices have to stop.

    We have not experienced any abuse in our own dealings with various tuition committees.

  243. Just a quick sidetrack note – whats up with admission cards and the concept of a “temporary” admission card .what screwed up message are u sending especiall to little kids when you give them a temporary admission card with an actual expiration date on it .Will embarrasing a child in front of the entire class when called out of class for failure to furnish mailed admission cards, will this kind of embarrassing actually facilitate with the non-paying father and his getting his act together to pay cant teach “hamalbin penei chaveiro berabim ain lo chelek leolam habah ” with the same pious, stale breath thats handing out temporary admission cards with corresponding expiration dates kids.Embarrasing children in the name of tuition collecting will not make fathers pay any quicker . this is the kind of stuff that ensures , that these embarrassed children are the proud parents of tomorrows public school kids .

  244. Out of Town,
    I really don’t care for the tone of JA article. The prominent message is one of suspecting irresponsibilty. “If it costs $13,000… how much can you expect others to provide.” That is a deeply wrong hashkafa. Supporting schools is a chiuv on the tzibbur, NOT the individual parents. Further, there is something distasteful to me in a psychiatrists (on of the highest paid fields of medicine) lecturing others about financial responsibilty. If someone makes $50,000 and pays $7,000 after getting a scholarship, and someone else makes $200,000 and pays the full $13,000 who is doing a better job of meeting their obligation? One gets the impression that wrtier doesn’t realize that Hashem decides how much parnassa a person makes and Hashem expects those that are blessed with more to use it for the right things.

  245. I must agree with SephardiLady that there needs to be a minimum price that people pay for tuition. Jewish Action published an article about this subject In Defense of Tuition. In my community, at one of the day schools, there are a majority of parents who pay less than $1000 per year. Of course, it is a vicious circle, as the Kodesh teachers haven’t been paid in months, so of course there is no way they could pay tuition. But because people don’t pay tuition, there is no money to pay the teachers.

  246. In many Chassidic yeshivos this is not an issue. They believe that they are required to take and those who send are required pay as much (or as little) as the can.

  247. I failed to mention what you may already know…that in addition to “home-schooling/tutoring” my girls, they also went to public school for secular subjects.

  248. Sephardi Lady,

    True, it’s not a solution for the masses, but it can work in certain cases. My oldest had a tutor for 3 years on weekends, then another tutor for one more year, leading up to her Bas Mitzvah, all the while supplemented by her abba (me!) reading books on the Chumash & Pirkei Avos, as well as articles culled from the internet & emails. Same with her sister.

  249. Homeschooling is catching on quite quickly I would say. I am friends with a handful of families who either are homeschooling currently or have homeschooled in the past.

    There are many good reasons to homeschool, but it is still not a solution for the masses.

  250. We have been homeschooling for 11 years. We supplement with tutors…a breslov rabbi in our case. You can imagine the head shaking we’ve experienced. We actually left one community because of the “judgement.” Now, we live near a Chabad outpost outside the eruv, where opposition is minimal. Hschooling will catch on in the frum world because it works, is affordable, and is a beautiful Yiddishe lifestyle. Sometimes you just have to think outside the (frum) box.


  251. >>Sefardi Lady has her Orthonomics blog. Perhaps she would be willing to make it a group blog.

    I am happy to take any submissions from Guest Posters, but do prefer to maintain control over comments and the like, since I have had a nasty and inappropriate poster(s) in the past. Email me at if you would like a guest post (and I won’t let any nasty comments seep through. I much prefer discussion).

  252. Jacob-I would hope that any reader who took high school economics could sort out the ideas of incentives to work, fixed and variable costs, etc.

    Michoel–What you are suggesting is, in my opinion part of the problem. “Cheaper” schools open up, take more kids out of the system, and leave the same operating costs at the “Expensive” schools to be absorbed by fewer parents.

    On top of this, what often happens, if these new schools survive, is that greater and greater overhead develops and the next thing you know the school has another full school with too few students that needs resources beyond what the parents can finance.

    Starting up schools takes a great deal of work, is not at all inexpensive, and requires much more than 2 part time teachers and a bit of rent.

    As far as I can see we are running TOO MANY schools and each school is operating INDEPENDENTLY.

    What we should be demanding as parents and shareholders in our communities is cooperation between the schools and a structure where certain functions are shared between schools. Our current model is inherently inefficient!

    In fact, if we stopped operating schools so independently, we might be able to serve more of our students better. E.g. Wouldn’t it be nice if three schools together could offer an auto shop or welding class for the students that would benefit from such?

    The Catholic schools don’t run independently! Their schools are run by the diocese and the diocese can (and does) close schools and combine schools when it doesn’t make sense to run certain schools.

  253. My Rav has stressed for years that the way we deal with money reflects our true spiritual level. It is horrible when tuition issues cause us to resent Torah Scholars. At the same time, there does seem to be a fairness issue involved. This is where we need a proper hashkofa.

  254. “I think we need a separate blog just for this subject! It could also be expanded to include the other monetary costs of leading a Torah lifestyle.”

    Sefardi Lady has her Orthonomics blog. Perhaps she would be willing to make it a group blog.

  255. Anonymous: Great post!! How do people feel about the education their children are receiving? Are our children receiving “our money’s wirth”. Is the system of teaching today where it should be?

    I think we all know the answers to these questions, and unfortunately there is much to improve in this area. However, it is a separate conversation from the topic of this post, so how about let’s not get distracted from the very real issue of how yeshiva education can be financed, regardless of quality issues. (Except to the extent that quality impacts the ability to support a school or system.)

  256. I think we need a separate blog just for this subject! It could also be expanded to include the other monetary costs of leading a Torah lifestyle.

    I want to tell all the newer or not yet BTs out there that they shouldn’t be scared off by this discussion. I hope I can assume that most of us would agree that the overall benefits of leading of leading a Torah lifestyle far outweigh these issues. Of course ultimately one realizes that being frum is not even about the “benefits” it’s about doing what you come to see is the “right” thing to do.

    Similarly on the Aliyah point someone made. Ultimately you make Aliyah because you know that too is the right thing to do. If you make Aliyah because you think it will drastically change your financial situation then you may be disappointed. (My tuition obligation is a franction of what it was , but so is my salary!)

    Fortunately there are many paths to being a good frum Jews and one factor in the path you choose can certainly be the material lifestyle you want or can afford to live.

  257. Great post!! How do people feel about the education their children are receiving? Are our children receiving “our money’s wirth”. Is the system of teaching today where it should be?

  258. There is a MAJOR disconnect when it comes to Frum families and sending kids to Yeshiva. Back in Europe, every Shtetl would send just a handful of children to Yeshiva (the rest would go to Cheder). That way the community would send thier best and brightest to become rabbi’s and everyone else was meant to earn a living.

    Today, you have people in thier 20’s with 4-5 kids and not even working. Here in detroit it is crazy. These full time Kollel parents are lucky to afford to keep shabbas candles in thier homes.

    The crazy pricing for yeshiva or day schools of 10K a child is due to the fact that so many people are under assistance. This is ignoring the mandatory fund raising, journal ads, dinners, etc.. that everyone must participate in as a minimum requirement for thier kids to attend the schools.

    A childhood friend of mine, who has five kids and works FOUR jobs to pay the bills asked for assistance. You know what gall the yeshiva had? they told this person, that his parents and grandparents being major contributors to the community should help pay for sending his children to school and that they would not provide him any assistance.

    Personally, I am fed up. The frum community needs to stop making babies and start working. Those of us who have had secular educations and have careers are asked to invest every penny we make to educate our 1-2 kids while these barely literate kollel types do nothing and barely worry about the bills (or thier 5+ kids).


  259. Great post and great questions! I agree with SephardiLady that there is so much to discuss on this.

    Here’s one perspective:

    Have things really changed so much? We have heard countless stories of poor Jews who scrimped and saved, worked themselves to exhaustion and sold their valuables, just to pay for their children’s Torah education. Couldn’t they get a tuition break? And what about Hillel? Doesn’t the gemara tell us that he lay on the skylight of the beis medrash in the freezing cold and the snow to hear the words of Torah, since he couldn’t afford the fee to get in? Couldn’t he get a break from the tuition committee?

    Apparently not. Apparently there has long been a tradition of requiring payment for Torah studies. While the numbers may have changed (!!!), the concept is not new. What may be new is the expectation that every Jewish child should get such an education. And if there is such an expectation (which there should be!), then schools and communities need to find ways to make it affordable.

    One way to do that is to offer different educational environments with different cost structures, along the lines that Michoel suggested. There could be “first-class” schools with the best facilities, staff, etc., and at the other end, “steerage class” schools with minimal facilities and standards. (Think Duke vs. NC Central.) Children would be educated according to their parents’ ability to pay, with scholarships given, e.g., for exceptional students. Isn’t that the way private (non-parochial) academic institutions work anyway?

    Is it fair? No. But it might be one solution.

    The “solution” of limiting family size, which anecdotal evidence seems to be gaining popularity in the frum community, has to be eliminated by finding viable alternatives.

  260. Michoel,

    It’s a sincere idea but among other things the turnover rate will be severe.

    Yitz, as far as calling this a “non-issue” in Eretz Yisroel seems somewhat oversimplified. It appears that you live in EY so obviously are more familiar with the situation. But families making Aliyah with children who have already started school in Chutz L’Aretz will have to budget for private tutors and sometimes “Western-style” Charedi yeshivas to get their studies up to par. Also, once again my knowledge is not quite rudimentary, but are you referring to the Mamlachti Dati schools? What is their quality level?

    Sephardi Lady’s comment:
    “I think that a minimum tuition (so long as it is minimal, which $3000 seems to qualify as such) is a fine policy. There is too much hate that is cultivated when tuition payers believe their tuition is being used to subsidize those people who are either not working or have made poor financial decisions.”

    Of course it would be a GREAT policy. But how familiar are BEYONDBT readers with balance sheets, budget forecasting, cost of living indices etc. I for sure am not.

    As far as those cheating the system and paying budget rates on tution, everyone at age 120 will have to give an account on business decisions. That’s not a panacea as far as a more honest person’s budgeting is concerned, but rather it’s not always worthwhile or productive to obsess over how the other guy is living.

    Perhaps one answer to the author regarding the Chofetz Chaim and his impoverished lifestyle. Once again this is rudimentary knowledge; but the lifestyle of just about everyone in 19th Eastern Europe would likely be akin to 21st Century America’s definition of abject poverty.

    This issue is beyond charged (no pun intended).

    One other comment by the author:
    “In my naïve, Baal Teshuvish way of thinking I guess I thought I was breaking this cycle;”

    This brings to mind something a friend of mine, a kiruv director told me about plans to start a Ba’al T’shuva yeshiva in Passaic. On one hand it’s to attract those who might be hesitant or under parental pressure not to go to Eretz Yisroel for various reasons but still have an opportunity to learn. However, there was a second underlying theory.

    There are examples when people learn in a Ba’al T’shuva beis medrash or seminary, the people they’ll encounter is the immediate surrounding community (the Old City for example), such as for Shabbos meals, are more likely to be either in kollel or work as a sofer stam and similar trade, so it’s likely that their apartment and day to day expenses emanate from other sources. However, since due to politeness constraints, these topics are not likely broached so this could cause a case of cognitive dissonance for the green BT trying to understand how frum people live.

    In a place like Passaic, there will be greater exposure to those who are BT’s themselves, work in “professional” capacities, have set learning times and need to manage budgets in ways more familiar to their own upbringing. This likely and hopefully will create some realistic role models and provide a more down to earth portrayal.

  261. I would like to raise a question that might seem like chutzpah and ingratitude but I would really like to know the answer. We hear often, (at the Agudah conventions and other venues) about the importance of raising the salaries of our rebbeim. That they are under paid. In Baltimore, and I assume most other places, the Rebbeim get free tuition for their sons. they aslo get some kind of decent salary, let us say $45,000 for a rebbe with tenure. (That is a guess.) As a baal habayis that makes about that much, and then has to pay tuitions from that amount, I have some conficted emotions. In a strictly capitalistic economy, a private school should not need to pay more then the amount of money that the market demands to get top rebbeim. If there are thousands of yehsiva guys that want rebbi jobs, and $45,000 is enough to attract many applicants, why should we (the parent body) pay the rebbeim more? I don’t mean this to sound adversarial. I am just expressing the way I sometimes feel. Any thoughts?

  262. Avigdor M’Bawlmawr,
    I don’t think Bawlmawr is really “off the coast”. It is less than NY but not cheap.

    One option is to start “simple” chadarim. Hire a young Rebbe who is idealistic and doesn’t have a lot of parnassa needs yet and wants to get experience. Pay him $20,000 to teach from 8:30 to 12:30. Run the cheder in shul that is not used during the day, ideally for for free or for modest rent.. Have seminary girls or such monitor the lunch and recess (on a regular play-ground or field of some sort) and teach two hours of secular studies in the afternoon. Get 20 parents to contribute $150 per month for 10 months. Very minimal insurance, buiding maintenance or other costs. the rebbeim might not be the most experienced or best, but then again thay might have more idealism and enthusiasm.

  263. Bin writes: >>It wasn’t this way a generation ago.

    While tuition was always difficult, I think the difference between today and yesterday was the amount of credit available. Today, people can and will finance just about everything, and people who tell me they are “making it” are not “making it” in cash, but in Home Equity Lines of Credit and Student Loans to finance their kids further education.

  264. There is so much that can be discussed in this post that it is hard to know where to start.

    1. I think the administrators assessment is fairly accurate, but I will add that those earning the fairly high salaries are often so strapped with student loans, as well as lost opportunities to put money in savings, that they can be in a far worse position than the family earning under $100,000.

    2. I think that a minimum tuition (so long as it is minimal, which $3000 seems to qualify as such) is a fine policy. There is too much hate that is cultivated when tuition payers believe their tuition is being used to subsidize those people who are either not working or have made poor financial decisions. I think that making sure that everyone is contributing (even minimally) is a positive thing. And, as I have wrote about on my own site, additional students that fill empty seats, but only require a minimal amount of additional resources, are only contributing to the financial health of a school when they are contributing beyond their variable costs (see this post “Changing the Language of the Tuition Debate” if you are interested).

    3. Our tuition system currently punishes people who work very hard since they do not get rewarded materially for their hard work as nearly every penny is taken away from them in the form of tuition. Compare this to ma’aser system where only 10% of the pay is taken. Since I get to keep 90%, I’m encouraged to take on another project or another job. If 100% of what I make will be taken, it is going to be a lot harder to encourage me to take that extra job.

    Looking forward to seeing where this discussion will go.

  265. I find these numbers very interesting. I am curious to know where/what type of Yeshiva this is. I don’t care the exact community, but is this New York area black hat type of Yeshiva? If so, is 3-4 kids truely the norm? Also, there are so many other costs per child, including the dinner that the numbers are get worse.

    What these numbers are saying is that they expect frum families to be upper middle class but everybody has to stay in Yeshivah. I am an FFB and I find the entire community confused already. I am “making it” and I find it very stressful – no time for rest and no money to rest, always worrying about the next bill, next tuition payment, etc. It wasn’t this way a generation ago.

  266. In reply to Bob Miller:
    Life is less expensive here in Baltimore, true, but so are the salaries. There is a relationship. Business pays what it has to in order to get workers, if cost of living is lower, salary pressures are also lower. We’d have to run the numbers, but I’m not sure we really come out ahead on that alone.

  267. The biggest reason I did not send my oldest to Yeshiva is because of the financial strain it would have put on my family….in short, I didn’t think I could afford it. In addition, when we thought of putting her into Yeshiva after a few years in PS, one Yeshiva told us that she’d be so far behind, it would never work out. Before this, they told us what the tuition was, and, if we couldn’t afford it, forget it. My oldest is graduating a public h.s. next month, and going on to Queens College. I wish she had gone to Yeshiva, but I think under the circumstances, she has done quite well for herself, since I never let her (& her sister) forget for a minute that she is a Frum Jew.

    However, I just enrolled my youngest in a Yeshiva HS that takes kids who have gone to PS all these years (in her case, she’s been there 9 years). I’m currently looking for some F.A. to help out somewhat..there are not that many sources out there. I realize that it’s going to be for 4 years for one girl. Imagine if I had tried to send both to Yeshiva for all the years up until now (which would have been a total of 22 student years). It is a problem that needs to be addressed (tax credits, scholarships, etc.) even more than they are today.

  268. You raise very good questions.

    I just want to point out, that there might be a difference between a ‘community school’ and a ‘private school’.

    Community schools generally accept everyone regardless of ability to pay, but they also raise funds to cover scholarships from the community at large to cover deficits.

    Private schools on the other hand, are usually self funded and deficits are covered largely by the parent body. Private schools therefore have much tighter tuition requirements. Each scholarship is funded by other parents.

  269. There are also established Orthodox communities in the US—away from the Atlantic and Pacific coasts—where the cost of housing and living in general is relatively affordable.
    Of course, to take advantage of this, the family breadwinner(s) have to find employment there.

  270. Another good reason to make Aliya! In Israel, this is pretty much not an issue, although economics is finally becoming an issue for some people who were heretofore supported [at least in a major way] by the government.
    How do you guys in America do it???

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