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Sunday, September 24, 2006

OrthoFinances

Shifra put up a great post she titled "Jewish Debt". She asks readers to relate their financial situations and experiences. She starts off by outlining her own situation, and many of her commenters followed her lead in the resulting comment thread. One trend that seems to be clear from the comments is that there exists much debt in the Orthodox world. Between the high cost of kosher food, yeshiva tuitions, the tendency toward inflated home prices in heavily Orthodox communities, the need for a car that can fit a large family, and other sometimes crushing responsibilities, the common thread that echoed through many of the comments over at Shifra's post is that of overwhelming financial instability.

Some commenters - echoing a refrain I constantly hear from many of my friends, family members, and neighbors - seem almost incredulous at the fact that their ostensibly large take-home pay can't manage to make ends meet for their families.

Have a similar story to tell? Or do you have a different financial reality? Tell us all about it at Shifra's - and then come back here to leave your thoughts in my comments too.

86 Comments:

Blogger mother in israel said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:32 AM  
Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

OM: I have a question...

Living on the other side of the ocean here in Israel, where we have our financial reality to deal with (which is very different from the US), we see thousands of "affluent" American Jews coming to visit for the chagim, bringing their entire family (sometimes housekeeper as well), stay in expensive hotels in Jerusalem, and to top it off -- there is an exploding real estate market in Jerusalem from Americans who are buying homes and apartments in Israel as investments.

Could it be that the blogging community is a different slice of population than these people who come and visit? (Or do they come for visits even with the tuition issues?) Perhaps the jblogosphere is lower to middle "middle class", while there exists an entire upper middle class and upper class which is sparsely represented in the blog world?

It can't be that everyone reading Shifra's blog is having financial difficulties...and that Orthodox debt is so widespread. Can it?

(Note: this isn't meant as criticism of anyone's lifestyle who comes to visit Israel or invests in real estate here...it's only an observation)

Gmar Chatima Tova

7:35 AM  
Blogger mother in israel said...

Jameel--

I think this may be a case of self-selection. No one wants to go over to Shifra's blog and say, "Hey, we can easily afford our ritzy house in the NY suburbs, pay tuition for our ten kids, go out to eat once a week, hire live-in help, and travel to Israel every Yom Tov while staying in a 5-star hotel."

9:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shifra is forgetting making weddings, paying kallah-maidel expenses, and helping out the young couple.
Are these expenses absolutely necessary? Maybe, maybe not. But socially they are at least strongly desired.

11:05 AM  
Anonymous puzzled jew said...

what the heck are kallah maidel expenses?

11:25 AM  
Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

anonymous: Why is "making a wedding" an extraneous expense?

mother in israel: don't know...people embarrassed to say they can afford yeshiva tuition?

11:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"kallah maidel" expenses can be anything from purchasing the basics for a young girl who is dating to get married, such as clothing, makeup, etc., to preparing a young bride who is not yet economically self-sufficient by covering anything from wedding expenses to household appliances to the "modern" from of dowry where the parents of the bride or the groom agree to help support the young couple financially (from monthly stipends to purchasing a home or apartment - depending on the ability and/or willingness of the parents) to enable the young couple to learn in yeshiva, pursue a law degree, whatever.

11:49 AM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

I have never heard the term "kallah maidel" expenses. I guess support from the chatan is an outdated concept.

12:16 PM  
Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

kallah maidel money sounds like a prettty sweet deal. I wish my parents and in-laws would have given us all that great stuff -- especially tuition for my wife's masters degree, rent money, appliances, and all that.

Poor me. I had to go out and get a job.

BTW, a dowry? Are we still in the 18th century?

12:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Support from the chattan is not outdated - some people are lucky enough to get support from their families too. No need for bitterness - I took out student loans and worked too - doesn't mean I begrudge my friends the comfort they enjoyed, nor would I withhold it from my children, if I am able to help them out when the time comes. Nothing would make me happier than to make their lives a bit easier than mine was when they start off their married lives. As for "dowry," it should have been obvious that I was being slightly facetious, but let's get real - financial assistance for a newly married couple is hardly exclusive to the frum world, and hardly a relic of the 18th century. Check out the society weddings in the NY Times and see for yourself - the concept of perpetuating wealth for the next generation is alive and well.
-anon 11:49

12:27 PM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

IMO There is a big difference between perpetuating wealth for the next generation thru providing a nest egg for purposes of investment (education, starting a business, putting a downpayment on a home, starting a brokerage account) and providing money for a young couple to "prop" them up via paying for their daily living expenses (sometimes termed "support").

1:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

paying high tuition doesnt mean we have financial problems it means paying 65K for tuition(5 kids)and not to mention camp is a large amount for anybody. for some people that is just out of the park.

2:14 PM  
Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

I second Sephardilady!

If a family has the means, then of course they should be establishing ways to perpetuate that support for subsequesnt generations. However, a vast majority of families do not, and yet, a la 18th century Europe, or modern day africa, the parents of girls are expected to pony up tidy sums of cash for the honor of marrying off their daughter to some infanticized, overindulged ignoramus just for the honor of justifying the value of their daughter's Bais Yaakov education by marrying her off to a "boy who learns."

It's all a farce and a hoax and a burden on Jewish society and the respectable people who have been manipulated into a social contract that swallows generations and is as sustainable as the ponzi scheme the kollel lifestyle is.

No reasoning or justification can convince me that the pitiful norms being adopted and elevated as Jewish ideals are Jewish in any way shape or form. They are pruss, misprepresentations of a Torah lifestyle and the social problems plaguing frum society today are less the effects of secular society and more the tragic results of misguided "Torah leaders" who would do better taking a course in sociology than preaching to their spiritually abused co-religionists how to spend their money, raise their children, and lead their lives.

2:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Relax, man. No one's forcing anyone to support a son-in-law if they don't want to. There are plenty of shidduch options for every type of family. Some support, some don't, some support only for non-kollel lifestyles (i.e., med school ok, lakewood not ok, or vice versa). Why rant - choose the lifestyle you want for your kids, and don't sweat the sub-communities where "supporting" is the norm. It's definitely not for everyone, but I don't think it's the "farce," "hoax" or "ponzi scheme" you're raging about. There are those who will be conformists and bow to social or financial pressure wherever you go, but this is not the 18th century nor is it Africa, so you have a choice. Don't do it and don't support organizations that espouse that lifestyle. Why the need to completely belittle it, though? Do you not think there are any sincere, competent learning guys out there who are worthy of financial support by their families and communities? The Yisachar/Zevulun relationship is as much a part of our tradition as anything else.

As for Sephardilady - what's your point? Are you simply stating your opinion about what is or is not worthy of financial assistance? Are you saying I can't buy my kids a couch for their new apartment but that it's ok for me to start a brokerage account for them? Thanks for your input, but I think make these judgment calls for myself.

2:53 PM  
Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

"Relax, man. No one's forcing anyone to support a son-in-law if they don't want to."

not so fast...this is a load of crap. In certain circles (i.e. frum yeshivish, chassidish, FLATBUSH, MONSEY, ETC.) this is the price of doing business. It's VERY WELL understood that if one wants to marry their daughter off to marry a boy who meets the profile that girls schools have been promoting since these girls could walk, then someone had better cough up some cash. Wanna deny it? Go right ahead, but you're fooling yourself. Plenty of so-called 'over the hill' girls (you know, at 21, 22) are in this state because all the cash-rich females are snatched up early, leaving the rest to stew in their inadeqaucy.

"Do you not think there are any sincere, competent learning guys out there who are worthy of financial support by their families and communities?"

Sure there are. But being considered one is not a god-or even constitutionally-ordained right, and the fact that some miguided idealist or opportunist decided otherwise is a communal shame.

"The Yisachar/Zevulun relationship is as much a part of our tradition as anything else."

Yes. The relatinship is a tradition. Not the wholesale insistence that learners be supported and that supporters should just shut the hell up because they're second rate and ought never forget it. Taking it one step further, in the frum community, if, god forbid, the boy who chooses to work doesn't strike it rich, then they're the lowest scum of the earth - batlanim with no socially redeeming value.

3:08 PM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

Anon, I'm sure you can make the judgment call for yourself. I am just pointing out the simple economic truth that paying the living costs for a young couple (let us say $24,000) does NOT perpetuate wealth, while providing them with $24,000 for a downpayment on a home does perpetuate wealth.

That's all.

3:12 PM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

And, I should add an extra note. Sometimes when parents provide too much, they actual perpetuate poverty.

I could give 100 examples,
but I will spare myself the time because I'm trying to actually perpetuate some wealth in our own household now.

3:17 PM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

financial assistance for a newly married couple is hardly exclusive to the frum world, and hardly a relic of the 18th century. Check out the society weddings in the NY Times and see for yourself - the concept of perpetuating wealth for the next generation is alive and well.

Anon, this is what I was commenting on! And, I do believe that the expectation of "support" is unique to the frum community. Passing on wealth is not. In fact, anyone who has worked in tax or studied tax has learned some of the ins and outs of estate planning and gifting. But, paying "kallah maidel" expenses like makeup, clothing, sheitels, etc, hardly qualifies as passing on wealth.

3:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is purely a frum concept that after someone gets married his/her parents pay for rent, tuition etc.

not only that, but it is becoming an even bigger problem than ever. Last generations learners now have children who want to be supported while learning, but the "chashuve" families they want to marry into are also 2nd generation learners. Who will now support this next generation? I know a number of such learners whose children are have a very difficult time finding a shidduch because they need someone to support them, but their parents themselves were being supported.

If this is incoherent please let me know and I will try to say it clearer, but in all honesty the whole thing is crazy.

4:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Taking care of wedding-related expenses for the bride is NOT unique to the frum community. Like I said - look at the society pages, or pop-culture movies like "Father of the Bride." What's so terrible about taking care of your daughter's wedding-related expenses - be it the gown, clothing, sheitels - at whatever level you can afford? Why should that be the object of derision as being medieval or spoiled?

And as for "support," whatever you way you define it, for those who value the kollel life, and have determined that their son/daughter is worthy of support to live that life, (not the pack-following sheep who believe it's the only way to do a good shidduch, still wonderin'), I don't think it's any less "wealth perpetuating" in a spiritual sense (not to get overly religious, but for this conversation to make sense at all, we have to operating under the assumption that at some level we all believe being machshiv torah is a laudible goal), than supporting someone going for a higher secular degree.

4:05 PM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

My non-Jewish friends from college, more often than not, got married with a meal at a community center. A hotel-type wedding was a rarity.

I'm sorry, you just cannot compare the frum Jewish wedding standard with the non-Jewish wedding standard despite the fact that there is a whole wedding industry created to market ridiculous standards, as can be witnessed in various Bridal Magazines.

In the frum world, a cake and punch wedding is unheard of. A wedding with DJ, as opposed to a band, or just an IPod with music playing from a speaker system(the newest craze in non-Jewish weddings according to a recent article I read) is unheard of. In fact, now, it seems that a wedding without a smorg is nearly unheard of. We were just at a wonderful wedding with a beautiful spread for the kabbalat panim, and it seemed so sparse because there were no hot dishes. Kol HaKavod to this couple and their parents. But, I must say, it has been a long time since I've been at such a modest spread. . . and years ago I would have thought this type of spread was "high class."

And, then there is the "mandatory" vorts. Know anyone who has recently married without a vort or l'chaim? (I did, but I can't recall too many others--1st marriages at least). One of the vorts we were at included a rented hall, one man band, and photographer. And, of course, all the kallahs sisters had their hair and makeup done for the occassion. I'm guessing this affair alone rivaled the cost for some of my high school classmates' entire weddings.

There is just no comparison. The basic wedding in the frum world, is well beyond what passes for a minimal basic wedding outside of the frum world.

And, it leaves parents with very little choice but to go into debt to not offend the mechutanim and maintain an imagine. And, that is sad.

4:22 PM  
Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Reading all this, I thank G-d for the movements in Israel that demand the downsizing of weddings. There are now many rabbanim who refuse to officiate weddings if they cost more than a certain amount or have more than a certain number of guests.

It's also acceptable here to have seats for the friends of the chatan and kalla which are no-frills meals (and are a fraction of the regular cost per person). The friends come to dance and make the chatan/kalla happy -- that's all you need.

4:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My non-Jewish friends from college, more often than not, got married with a meal at a community center. A hotel-type wedding was a rarity.

I'm sorry, you just cannot compare the frum Jewish wedding standard with the non-Jewish wedding standard despite the fact that there is a whole wedding industry created to market ridiculous standards, as can be witnessed in various Bridal Magazines.


No offense, but you really don't know what you're talking about. I'm not sure where you went to school, but the non-Jewish or non-frum Jewish people I went to college, law school, and now work with, spend at least a year planning dream weddings in hotels, country clubs, churches, island resorts, pretty much everywhere and anywhere you can think of, that are way beyond any smorg I've ever seen in Ateres Avraham.

Live and let live. I've seen wealthy frum people make simple weddings in Brooklyn halls, and others go into debt to make lavish affairs that were beyond their means. This is not a frum thing - it's a values thing. There are spoiled, materialistic people in every community and every religion. I really believe the indignant, self-righteous railing about conspicuous consumption among the frum has one motivation only: jealousy.

5:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a giorus with five kids, k'a"h, I would never have predicted the incredible pressure placed on all of us to spend money we don't have on things we don't want.

I just made a bar mitzvah; it was the simplest of my son's chevra, and the total cost was almost twice the cost of my admittedly modest wedding.

Everyone, including me, decries the situation, but no one, including me, wants to make his/her child the only one in the group with a radically different bar mitzvah, chassunah, etc. So you try to cut back where you can, swallow hard, and try to make sure your child has relatively sane values.

An additional point: as families have grown larger over the past few generations, making a small "family only" simcha can entail inviting hundreds of guests. One of my neighbors sent out 500 bar mitzvah invitations, and that included only people with a direct connection to the young man and families on both sides through first cousins. Even herring and potato kugel adds up fast for a crowd of that size!

5:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

excellent points, anon 5:16.

5:21 PM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

No offense, but you really don't know what you're talking about. I'm not sure where you went to school, but the non-Jewish or non-frum Jewish people I went to college, law school, and now work with, spend at least a year planning dream weddings . . .

I think you have a limited circle of friends and acquantiances. Let's just say that I went to public high school and a public college. I believe no more than a quarter of the students from my high school went to a 4-year college straight out of high school. Most attended community college. Obviously, I didn't go to an upper crust high school. . . and, quite frankly, I'm glad. Because the social pressure in those circles does rival the social pressure that we are chatting about now.

Sorry, but a 4law school crowd and professional work crowd is NOT a representative sample of the general population.

5:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Haredi idealogy is responsible for many of these problems. The extreme Haredi reticence to use birth control, the Haredi insistence on the kollel lifestyle, the Haredi frown upon college. The facts are that to make a decent living in America one almost always needs to go to grad school. I think the rabbonim who encourage financially unwise decisions and discourage common-sense prudence need to bear th responsibility for many of these problems. Just think of the numbers of kids that gedolim of previous generations had and the numbers being had today. Look at frum people and see how many kids ppl in their seventies had, people in their fifties had and now people in their 30's are having. Are we supposed to have children if they will need to be supported by tzeddaka? I don't believe that's what Hashem wants. Are we supposed to bring children into a marriage that is already strained b/c the wife feels like a shmatter b/c she does not have enough sheitels and the husband feels inadequate b/c his hard work can't provide them? This is nuts. If you think you can't afford tuition payments then guess what you should be on contraception. It is about living within one's means. And if you are from the 5twns, then every schnorrer who comes to town MUST be asked "what are you doing to change the poverty in your community?" Kollelim should be cut and college education should be the norm. I regularly tell people that I won't pay to perpetuate their problems. It is not tzeddaka, it is a terrible cruelty, just like giving money to a gambler to blow away. There needs to be accountability.

6:01 PM  
Anonymous mycroft said...

Finances are one of the two major reasons why people leave an orthodox lifestyle-the other major one which is certainly increasing is the way certain Yeshivas push kids out the "my way or the highway approach"
Certainly if one can't afford to pay tuition etc-one can't be othodox, No one is interested in the non elite. Sad but a FACT.

6:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There need to be a few rebels and leaders and eccentrics. We need some weirdos.

There is a way to be proud of being weird.

Weird, meaning, reverse snobbery. Like a touch of anorexia: being proud, perversely, of what you do NOT spend.

We should have our weddings in the park or at the beach. There would be a fee, but not as much.

We should have canned music.

We should have very simple food and just wine, no whiskey.

The bride's dress can be used. I got mine - fabulous antique - at a thrift shop and had it cleaned and altered. I was totally gorgeous.

No black tie. Dark suits.

If people can't afford tuition, they can home school, hiring bocherim to tutor, and making a game out of knowing MORE than the kids in school.

Forget a car. Where are you going?

Let people and events come to you.

And mothers should not work. It costs too much. It is not economic for them to work, when all is said and done.

We must learn to say no. "non elite and proud of it" should be the motto.

"I want you to marry someone dignified and proper. Not one of those fancy ones!" the parents should say.

As for shadchanim, the Weird Non Elite Parents Association (WNEPA, pronounced Wineepa) should meet every Tu'B'Av for breakfast, and quietly describe their children to the group, briefly, truthfully. Then approach each other, to start the process of shidduch.

You are being done in by your own niceness! Don't be so nice. Rebel. Say no.

Worship Hashem, not each other.

MY FATHER SAID, DON'T PRESENT A TARGET TO THE ENEMY. He meant, want and need as little as possible. We MUST learn to define a genuine need, as distinct from a want. And how to fill the want OUTSIDE THE BOX, cheaper.

Form a core group of WNEPA so you will not be alone.

7:40 PM  
Anonymous Nate said...

To the anon who mentionewd that the kallah's friends could be provided with no frills meals:

When I was single I recall being particularly offended when invited as a guest to a wedding and then treated as a child who received a kid's meal. Through much of that time I was a law student or practicing attorney and had friends who were teachers, physicians, etc. I never understood why having no spouse meant I was second class. Why was I less important as a friend of the chatan then someone who was a friend of the kallah's mother?

I think we need to treat adults as adults and not infantalize people.

In the same vain, I used to be very hurt when on simchat torah I was only called to the torah after all the married men had recieved an aliyah--as if I were a child. Similarly, I recall being asked to serve as the shaliach tzibur for musaf only to have a congregant object that the custom of the shul was not to permit a "bachur" to lead the tefilah. The fact that I was admitted to practice law in the state of New York and was a full dues paying member of the congregation was irrelevant I suppose.

Female friends have indicated similar frustrations.

7:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On the topic of college I heard on the Radio today that study has shown that the US has to many college grads, and that we cant possibly give all our college grads jobs equal to their education, so many aretaking jobs beneath ther education strata, so why did they spend all that money??

8:57 PM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

I really believe the indignant, self-righteous railing about conspicuous consumption among the frum has one motivation only: jealousy.

I believe that most people railing against the conspicuous consumption do so because they are sick and tired of the messages their children are receiving and the expectations their children are building. And, they have a hard time saying no because of the social pressure. And, the pressures are worse when they could make or break a shidduch or something like that.

Jealousy!?!?! I actually feel sorry for young people that have built up such a sense of entitlement. They will only experience disappointment, rather than a sense of accomplishment.

9:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Anon 6:01:

" I regularly tell people that I won't pay to perpetuate their problems. It is not tzeddaka, it is a terrible cruelty, just like giving money to a gambler to blow away. There needs to be accountability. "

Wow. That's pretty harsh. Can you imagine if that was God's attitude?

'I know it's Rosh Hashanah, God, and I am pretty much the same as last year. I haven't really made that many positive changes in my life, but I swear, if you let me and my family live another year, I'll do better'.

'No. Why should I give you life? That's just going to perpetuate the problem. You need to have accountability.'

People make unwise choices. God is punishing them enough already. Why should you jump on the bandwagon?

I really don't like this comment thread. All the blame tossed around like it's everyone else's fault that you don't have enough money. And it's not like people here are mourning their lack of funds so that they can go save the homeless. No. Everyone wants more money so that they can be the ones with the fancy weddings, bar mitzvahs, bigger house, vacations, etc.

I'm no better. I'm worse, probably. But let's call a spade a spade here. It's not the kollel's fault. It's not the hareidim's fault. People are allowed to make their own choices about birth control, about spending money on simchas, and about lifestyle college/high school/kollel, and it has nothing to do with you. Quit judging everyone. God is ultimately in charge, and if He wants people to be wealthy, they will.

I know people with 13 kids, and they're financially great. I know people who dropped out of high school and they're financially great. Or, you could go to grad school, like I did, and on birth control, and be completely broke.

1:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sephardilady -

"I believe that most people railing against the conspicuous consumption do so because they are sick and tired of the messages their children are receiving and the expectations their children are building. And, they have a hard time saying no because of the social pressure. And, the pressures are worse when they could make or break a shidduch or something like that. "

I see where you're coming from with the shidduch thing, but otherwise? Complete bull. Children form expectations from their parents. You tell them like it is, and they will fall in line. My parents grew up dirt poor, and they had wealthy friends. It did not scar them for life. They worked summers in high school, clipped coupons with their parents, and didn't (gasp!) go to camp or seminary. Life went on.

There were plenty of times growing up that I felt bad about not going to the college i wanted, and not going to camp in the summer with my friends, and about how hard it was to work full time while going to school. And the pressures to keep up my academic scholarships. But here I am today, a pretty happy person. Life went on.

1:46 AM  
Blogger mother in israel said...

anon7:40--
I'd appreciate it if you'd email me through my profile.

2:38 AM  
Anonymous mycroft said...

Forget conspicuous consumption-how can the average college grad couple afford a bare minimum ortho lifestyle-Yeshiva tuition-
They can't. Remember in economic theory religion is a discretionary good-first food-can't afford your out. Why do you think that there are apparently so many "professionals" in Ortho society and esp, in MO the rest can't afford it.
The looking for elites and culling the rest out of Ortho society has its parallels inOrtho schools-where they really aren't interested in below average students-see most jewish HS's some more obvious than others.

3:09 AM  
Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

nate:

When I was single I recall being particularly offended when invited as a guest to a wedding and then treated as a child who received a kid's meal.

The point here is obviously not to offend, and it's very understood and appreciated here. There are ALSO married friends at the "friends" table...it's all an issue of money; not kavod or status, and it's so common place here that I don't think of it as an issue.

It's also not out of the ordinary here to come just for the chuppa or the first dance -- to help keep costs down.

3:18 AM  
Anonymous mycroft said...

It's also not out of the ordinary here to come just for the chuppa or the first dance -- to help keep costs down.

There are people even in America who state on reply ceremony only and will stay for the first dance-everyone then is happy. They received an invitation-they don't have to stay to the end-the hosts save a lot of money.
There are some Rabbis who are honest about it=they will respond ceremony only-others will say come to affair and mysteriously apologise I intended to stay for everything but something came up. Of course, others who go to alot of affairs will recognize the bad game.
Personally, when I paid for my sons Bar Mitzvah-I was impressed that his principal stated I'll come for reception through the first dance-DON'T HAVE A PLACE FOR ME AND MY ASSISTANT.

5:28 AM  
Blogger mother in israel said...

Nate,

To add to what Jameel said:
The point is to be able to invite more people, not to discriminate. Otherwise it would be very hard to have a lot of the couples' friends. I have been at weddings where it was a self-serve buffet for everyone. Wait staff and table setting raises the cost a lot.

In many haredi circles these days, "only" the family are invited to the meal. Friends and neighbors come to the chupah and return for the dancing afterwards. They are served cake and drinks. There is a lovely wedding hall called Gutnick's in Jerusalem that was built specifically to cut costs for charedi weddings--I believe it is non-profit.

8:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In light of the charity discussion a few threads down where orthomom and others discussed the fact that even though I as the original poster there decried the outward flow of charity from the community, while mom and others indicated that in our "RICH" community we can support both. This thread (if the posters are locals) would seem to indicate that I am right. Charity needs to bein at home and stay at home before outsiders can get.

8:36 AM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

Anon 1:46AM-Many of us do just what we want to financially. But, plenty don't. Why do you think the Agudah felt the need to put out simcha guidelines? Because there is incredible pressure. Talk to people around you and you will find people bending over backwards to the pressure. We aren't. You might not be. But, others are. And, there is no denying that.

10:09 AM  
Blogger flatbushrenegade said...

Anonymous said.....
"As a giorus with five kids, k'a"h, I would never have predicted the incredible pressure placed on all of us to spend money we don't have on things we don't want.
I just made a bar mitzvah; it was the simplest of my son's chevra, and the total cost was almost twice the cost of my admittedly modest wedding.
Everyone, including me, decries the situation, but no one, including me, wants to make his/her child the only one in the group with a radically different bar mitzvah, chassunah, etc"

Believe it or not, it can be done:

I live in Flatbush, have 7 children KA'H, pay full tuition (approx.$30k) my kids go to camp, my home would probably appraise for about $1-1.5 million. I'm only giving you these figures so you can get a picture of where I'm coming from, anyone in my community and income bracket making a Bar Mitzvah, even those wishing to scrimp, would spend a minimum of $10-15k.

My son's was one of the first Bar Mitvahs in his class. We made the Bar Mitzvah in the basement of a local yeshivah. The invited guests were, his classmates, my parents, my siblings and thier wives and my wife's parents, siblings, and thier wives...oh, wait there were some other guests...you see we decided to use my son's Bar Mitzvah as an opportunity to teach him some values. My son shared his bar mitzvah with a recent Ukrainian immigrant, who would never in his wildest dreams have thought that he'd have a bar mitzvah, let alone one as beautiful as his was. So the guest list included "Boris'" entire class, along with his extended family. My son truly believes that he had the best Bar Mitzvah anyone could ask for. Our friends all stopped by to share a l'chayim, and a piece of cake, even though they received no formal invitation, and were thrilled that they didn't have to spend an entire evening listening to speeches.
Hall rental $300.00
Caterer $1,200.00
One man band w/singer $500.00

oh, the lesson my son learned, along with the look on Boris, his classmates, and his family members' faces......priceless

12:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

flatbush renegade -

Where can you send 7 children to school for full tuition of $30,000?

12:11 PM  
Anonymous tuition analyst said...

IF you're paying less than 5,000 per kid and the administrator calls that full tuition, then you MUST be getting something right. Please share your secret.

12:32 PM  
Blogger flatbushrenegade said...

ooops, my two youngest are not yet in school. I'm only paying tuition for 5, and the $30k number was an approximation

12:53 PM  
Anonymous tuition analyst said...

Even $6000 per kid for tuition is pretty sweet.

5:11 PM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

No kidding $6000 is sweet. Tuition in many locales is well over $10K for elementary and nearing $20K for high school.

5:31 PM  
Blogger flatbushrenegade said...

Like I said, I live in Flatbush, that is the going rate, for the Yeshivos and Bais Yaakovs in and around this area. There are, of course additional charges for dinner, building fund, bussing etc. but the tuitions are all around $6-7,000.00 (examples-Chaim Berlin, Torah Vodaas,Mir,Tiferes Elimelech,The Cheder, Masores, B.Y.A.,B.Y. D'rav Meir, Bnos Yisroel, Yeshivah of Brooklyn, Chofetz Chaim, Tiferes Yisroel). However I do agree that, compared to other locales, us Brooklynites have a pretty good deal. Maybe that's why housing is in such demand here, everyone wants to tke advantage of our low tuition rates ;)

5:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

WHO SAYS 30K IS SWEET, ADD 25OO-3500 PER KID FOR SLEEP AWAY AND THE BILL IS MORE LIKE 50K (AFTER TAX DOLLARS, SO IT TAKES 100K TO EARN IT)BEFORE FOOD CLOTHING, HEAT, ELECTRIC TELEPHONE CELL PHONE, ETC, CHAS VASHALOM THE WIFE SHOULD HAVE TO WORK (OR VIS VERSA IN THE KOLLEL COMMUNITY), WHERE IS ALL THE MONEY COMING FROM, AND THEN YOU HAVE TO SPEND 5K ON THE TONED DOWN BAR MITZVAH, AND GAS IS OVER $2 A GALLON AND YOUR OLD CAR NEEDS A $2500 TRANSMISSION JOB, AND THE HOUSE IS TO SMALL, SO YOU HAVE TO EXPAND OR MOVE, AND THAT COSTS MONEY. NEED i SAY MORE, HOW DO PEOPLE DO IT??

6:38 PM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

Anon 6:38PM: As far as we are concerned sleep away camp is completely optional. I feel for people that cannot afford $5-7K tuitions. But, these are bargain basement deals compared to the going rate in nearly every other community outside of NYC.

8:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

sephaerilady

ok, so send to day camp instead, 2500 to 3000 per kid still need close to 200k salary to run the family

8:49 PM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

Anon-We aren't planning to send to camp at all, day camp or sleepaway, unless it becomes absolutely necessary. It isn't in the budget and I don't feel bad about it at all.

I just get frustrated when the discussion on tuition gets mixed in with a discussion on the price of sleepaway camp.

Tuition is basically not optional. Sleepaway certainly is.

Same goes for Bar Mitzvahs. I have no problem hosting a $500 shul kiddush and not making a seudah for anyone but immediate family if necessary. A Bar Mitzvah celebration isn't the key to passing on Torah to the next generation. A day school/yeshiva education is.

10:13 PM  
Anonymous mycroft said...

I just get frustrated when the discussion on tuition gets mixed in with a discussion on the price of sleepaway camp.

Tuition is basically not optional. Sleepaway certainly is

Sephardi lady do you work?
Unless youre in the education racket-people work 12 months-school is 10 months who is going to watch the kids?

10:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

still, even the necessaties as you call them will cost a years pay before the costs of living. how can it continue this way??

10:35 PM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

Mycroft-I've said before in other places that day camp is not optional if you are working. I should have specified here.

But, day camp is a lot less than sleep away camp. So, here too, mixing in a conversation about sleepaway camp as if it is a necessity is not really fair.

I work part-time from my home. I can't afford to work outside of the home (i.e. the break-even point with our marginal tax rate plus day care expenses is beyond my current earning potential, unless I take a job with crazy hours and travel). Believe it or not, staying home, working a bit, and making saving money my business (no preschool or camp here), actually is financially better.

10:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Camp tuition was brought up in a larger discussion of how people make ends meet (the toipc of this thread). It was not a stand alone topic. Sephardilady you chose to make it a stand alone issue

7:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like mycroft's term--"education racket". Yes, we pay a tremendous amount of money in tuition, but the teachers are still poorly paid. Which means the better teachers tend to end up in the public schools. My son had an absolutely awful teacher in day school; his teachers in the public school he now attends are phenomenal. No, it's not sour grapes--it's reality.

8:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

8:38 has a valid point, but public school (even in "rich" communities) have their draw backs, even here in the five towns, the local n-5 schools are great middle school and high school have problems with scores, quality etc.

9:59 AM  
Blogger flatbushrenegade said...

"SephardiLady said...
Anon-We aren't planning to send to camp at all, day camp or sleepaway, unless it becomes absolutely necessary. It isn't in the budget and I don't feel bad about it at all.

I just get frustrated when the discussion on tuition gets mixed in with a discussion on the price of sleepaway camp."

Seph-L, I don't know how old your kids are, however for any child above the age of 7 years old, some form of structure is neccessary when there is 9-10 weeks of no school. Children can do fine entertaining themselves for a week or so, like over the relatively short midwinter and holiday breaks, however for a child to spend an entire summer with no structure is going to be very detrimental in the long run. Having 'Mommy' around doesn't suffice for a child over the whole summer. I know of a few children that have spent summers at home, or in a bugalow colony where they were too old for the day camp, and each one without fail suffered from the expeience.
In this instance you are wrong S-Lady, Camp over the summer IS a neccessity.

3:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

suffered? simply due to the fact that they never had the experience of camp? that's just silly.

3:54 PM  
Blogger flatbushrenegade said...

"Anonymous said...
I like mycroft's term--"education racket". Yes, we pay a tremendous amount of money in tuition, but the teachers are still poorly paid. Which means the better teachers tend to end up in the public schools. My son had an absolutely awful teacher in day school; his teachers in the public school he now attends are phenomenal. No, it's not sour grapes--it's reality."

Wow, In our bargain basement Brooklyn Yeshivos (those listed above are the ones I'm referring to) just the opposite is true, The teachers are paid even worse than in out of town schools, and the students score well above the national and citywide average on all the standardized tests. Kudos to the administrators who are able to do so well on even less tuition income

4:09 PM  
Anonymous Changed my Life Style said...

Have 6 kids, lived in NJ, had annual gross of 200K, gave 10% after-tax to tzdeka, lived in a gigundus house with 15K property tax, 7K utilities, 3k landscaping, Let's not forget the 40K in TUITION.

Annual grocery bill was 25K. Spent easily 10K per year on clothing. Whatever was left disappeared into a black hole at the Mall and Home Depot.

We got caught in the cycle of doing what every one else was doing because you figure that's the way that it's supposed to be done.

Like everyone else, we were working like beasts-of-burden to support this life style. At the end of each day, there wasn't an ounce of energy left to do anything. Felt like the life force was being sucked from my body.

Then, one day I saw that I was headed for an involuntary career change (restructuring, downsizing, whatever you want to call it).

I asked myself: How will I ever manage to feed the beast that we created?

Decided that it was time for a drastic life-style change.

Decided to sell the farm, pack up the bags and move everyone to Israel.

Bought the NJ house for 350K. Sold it for 700K.

Found a handyman special in a nice Anglo neighborhood here for 200K. Put 100K renovations into it. Put the balance of 200K in the bank, and now we have NO mortgage.

Arnona (property tax) is about $1500 per year. Utilities run $3000 per year because we like our air conditioning and heating.

We own just one large family vehicle.

School costs including extra tutoring are under $10K.

My kids schools had kaitanot (3 to 4 week) summer programs. They cost under $150 each. Spent another $350 each for private day camp for the balance of the summer.

We have the best health care system on the planet here and the supplemental upgrade policy costs $600 per year.

We have a small garden and now I cut the grass myself.

Now we spend just a few hundreds of dollars per year on clothing.

Our grocery bill is down to the $15K/yr range, and yes, we do eat meat and we do a lot of entertaining on Shabbos.

We tossed the TV and that's $50/month in cable savings right there.

Cell phones are cheap here too, we have 8 phones (one for every member of the family) on an Orange family plan and my monthly bill is under $100. Can't do that in the US of A (as far as I know).

It's amazing how in 3 short years, we've been de-programmed of that certain kind of Orthodox-Jewish-American mentality that we once had.

Gone are the times when the kids all got new clothes and shoes for Pesach and Rosh Hashana.

Gone is the notion that we will have to spend $30K per year per kid to give our kids "proper" college educations.

Gone is the notion that we will have to spend $25-30K for bar-mitzvahs and weddings for them.

You know what? Our kids are getting great educations here, and they will find good work and professions, and they will be able to build families, and they will never feel that they lack anything.

Why? Because it's all in the mind. What you think you need versus what you really need.

We are working hard since we moved here 3 years ago. That hasn't changed.

What has changed is that from the time I say Modeh Ani in the AM until I say Shema at bedtime, I feel like I am actually LIVING MY LIFE.

I am no a longer slave to a job, a house, the shopping mall and school tuitions.

We are free, free at last!

G-d Bless Eretz Yisrael (although it would be nice if Olmert/Peretz would emigrate to the US - they would feel right at home there :-)

4:11 PM  
Blogger flatbushrenegade said...

Anonymous said...
suffered? simply due to the fact that they never had the experience of camp? that's just silly.

No, suffered because they speant ten weeks doing nothing while thier brains along with any drive to succeed and accomplish atrophied.

4:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

changedmls

We all wish we had your guts and your ability to uproot 3 generations and move on. What was the secret to your success?

In the meantime, us suckers here in USA are stuck in the rat race.

4:40 PM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

Where I grew up (no private schools), I don't believe that more than 5% of the kids went to camp. Many attended a 3 hour morning (public) summer school.

High schoolers either worked or/and were involved in sports or music. Some of the more motivated high schoolers took classes at the local junior college and got a head start on earning college credits.

Elementary students usually participated in the library's summer program, as well as the regular ballet/gymnastics classes, scouting, or sports clubs.

Unfortunately, the world is a lot less safe today and there are few to no parents around to supervise the children (not everyone had a mother at home, but those who didn't had supervision from another mother).

But, I don't think anyone "suffered because they speant ten weeks doing nothing while thier brains along with any drive to succeed and accomplish atrophied."

In the frum community where I live currently, many, many families CANNOT afford camp or chose to let their children have a little break, and those kids are occupied with plenty of activities and they also have time to pursue interests that they cannot pursue during the school year. I know kids who worked with an adult on a publishing project. I know girls who have put some money of their own in the bank by starting their own little businesses. I know kids who have taken classes through the kid's college program at the local junior college.

I'd say there is something to boredom. It often causes kids to find something to do that they are interested in.

5:24 PM  
Anonymous mycroft said...

Mycroft-I've said before in other places that day camp is not optional if you are working. I should have specified here.

But, day camp is a lot less than sleep away camp. So, here too, mixing in a conversation about sleepaway camp as if it is a necessity is not really fair

not necessarily see eg Camp Dora Golding which for 7 days a week was essentially the same as the local 5 day a week day camps.

One year my son went to CDG for one month and Camp Simcha a la Darchei for one month-it cost us more than 2 months at CDG would have cost.

6:21 PM  
Blogger flatbushrenegade said...

SephardiLady said...
"...many families CANNOT afford camp or chose to let their children have a little break, and those kids are occupied with plenty of activities and they also have time to pursue interests that they cannot pursue during the school year. I know kids who worked with an adult on a publishing project. I know girls who have put some money of their own in the bank by starting their own little businesses. I know kids who have taken classes through the kid's college program at the local junior college."
All of these situations wouldn't work with children ages 7-13, which is why I prefaced my comment with:
"I don't know how old your kids are, however for any child above the age of 7 years old". As for a young teenager, there are plenty of opportunities for teenagers to get summer jobs, whether it be in camps or elsewhere, camp, for children of that age wouldn't be an expense, so they weren't within the realm of this discussion to begin with. I would be wary of allowing my 15 year old spend an entire summer unsupervised, at the local college, there are too many enticements for a teen on his/her own.

7:49 PM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

I think 7-13 year olds can be occupied quite well with some extracurricular activities and some trips.

I had plenty of supervision (from my mother and other parents), but I personally enjoyed the chance to read what I wanted to read and take some classes that I wanted to take, even at those ages.

8:42 PM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

I would be wary of allowing my 15 year old spend an entire summer unsupervised, at the local college, there are too many enticements for a teen on his/her own.

All of my college academic courses that I took during high school were during the night session. They all were scheduled in three hour blocks in the evenings. So, my mother or father dropped me off and then picked me up. There was no interaction outside of the classroom (or inside the classroom) with anyone.

I know this won't alleve your fears. But, I think nightime community college classes are a great way for high schoolers to get a head start on their college education at a real bargain basement rate (some states allow high school students FREE tuition).

I know that if we are able to get our children through private high school, they will have no choice but to get a real move on with college.

8:50 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

In response to the subject of summer camp, I happen to feel it has become a necessity in most dual-income homes. I have no idea how two working parents would survive the summer without it. Most people view summer camp akin to day care - as a matter of fact, many working parents that I know are able to pay for summer camp out of a pre-tax child care account their employer provides.

10:05 PM  
Blogger flatbushrenegade said...

Sephardi-l- I have a question for you, and anyone else who feels that (even with a stay at home mom, which my wife is) camp is not a neccessity. What should we do with our seven and eleven year old sons while they have no school throughout the summer. Assuming we couldn't afford camp. Take into account, that we are right-leaning orthodox jews, so any structured activities would require proper orthodox restsictions (for instance, mixed swimming is out), and the day would need sufficient time dedicated to torah/tefillah.

10:31 AM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

There are plenty of things you can do with your children to structure their day. And, oftentimes, if you network enough, there are other kids that are home and you can arrange chevrutahs with and more.

I know pre-bar mitzvah kids that spent time learning with older men in the community after shachrit. I know pre-bar mitzvah kids that did volunteer work (is that not allowed for boys? is that only for girls?). If one of the parents has a business, a child can work at that business. I know I'm a girl, but I started working for my father when I was 10 for a few hours daily in the summer.

There is plenty that can be done. You just have to excercise creativity and initiative.

Unfortunately, too many parents are made to feel terrible because they cannot send a child(ren) to camp. And, I think it is completely unnecessary. People are struggling with tuition and bills as it is. There is no need to add insult to injury.

12:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

flatbushrenegade said...

No, suffered because they speant ten weeks doing nothing while thier brains along with any drive to succeed and accomplish atrophied.


thats your opinion. fortunately my wife is able to stay home and cherishes the time she spends with them planning activities, day trips etc. I envy her time with them. We think it's an excellent opportunity to be part of the childrens lives

12:47 PM  
Blogger flatbushrenegade said...

Seph.-"And, oftentimes, if you network enough, there are other kids that are home and you can arrange chevrutahs with "

F.R.-Sorry, a 7 and eleven year old NEED an adult learning with them, they are too young to study on thier own.

Seph.-"I know pre-bar mitzvah kids that spent time learning with older men in the community after shachrit."

F.R.-When I leave shcharit in the morning, I'm on may way to work as is everyone else, and if your referring to retirees how could I have the nerve to ask a retiree to in essence babysit my 7 year old?

Seph.-"I know pre-bar mitzvah kids that did volunteer work (is that not allowed for boys? is that only for girls?)."

FR- once again, we are talking about my SEVEN and ELEVEN year old boys, who is supervising this "volunteering", that wouldn't feel as if they were babysitting these two children? In theory, I'd love to have my children volunteer, say at the local nursing home, or adut home. However at that age, children wandering around institutions are a dangerous nuisance, and not allowed by management.

Seph.-"If one of the parents has a business, a child can work at that business."

F.R.-I happen to own my own buisness, however there is nothing to be done here that a child can do. I'd basically have to be baby sitting them myself, finding things to entertain them with. My day does not allow for that. They would (as I'm sure is the case in most buisnesses), get in the way of the employees. "Bring your child to work day", is cute and educational once a year, but cannot be done for 10 weeks.

Unfortunately, I have yet to hear of a single, viable, SPECIFIC substitute for summer camp. What does/did your (and I'm referring to all readers who don't send thier children to summer camp) 7-11 year old do for an entire summer? How did you provide for thier religious upbringing over the summer, as well as for thier physical and psychological well being? The bottom line is, that a child (when it is an extended period of time) needs to spend his day with other children, and needs structure if he/she is going to maintain the drive and self worth he/she had at the close of the previous school year.

1:26 PM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

Flatbush-I'm pretty much done discussing. An innovative person can come up with many things if they choose to do so. And, plenty of people do choose to do so for their own reasons.

If there are other families out there with a similiar situation, co-ops can be formed too. It works for younger kids. And, I see no reason why it couldn't work for older kids if the initiative is there.

3:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

well if this is aimed just at religious folks than I can't add to this specifically since I am not jewish.. as for THEIR physical and psychological interests it would honestly be too much to list here but a sample would be many many day and long weekend trips to musuems, zoos, parks (amusement) I live by a beach so much time spent there with other kids, I own a boat so I take alot of time off from work and spend it with them cruising, fishing and usually bring a few friends of their's along. the days are filled

3:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I cannot contribute to this conversation on a religious level since I am not jewish but the childrens days are filled as to stimulate their physical and psychological interests. too many to list but a few examples are many day and long weekend trips, we live by the beach and there are many of their friends to play with. zoos, musuems ( kids loved it ) i also own a boat so we fish and cruise alot and bring their friends along to most of these execursions.. the list goes on

3:16 PM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

We think it's an excellent opportunity to be part of the childrens lives

Anon, if anything, kids today of all ages need more of their parent's time. And, yet the push is the opposite and many kids end up overscheduled, burned out, and more.

3:16 PM  
Blogger mother in israel said...

Flatbush Renegade, this is what we did. It worked for us and I'm sure there are many possible variations, even for working mothers.

http://mominisrael.blogspot.com/2006/07/our-almost-free-cooperative-daycamp.html

Our camp was somewhat structured, but I really think that kids today are overscheduled and need to relearn how to occupy themselves constructively with a minimum of structure.

3:26 PM  
Blogger flatbushrenegade said...

Wow, M-i-I That is a brilliant, innovative idea. I'm sure it could be tweaked to accomodate almost any social group (seperate boys and girls would be a requirement I would need for my kids). You should put together a handbook, and market it!

3:51 PM  
Blogger flatbushrenegade said...

SephardiLady said...
Flatbush-I'm pretty much done discussing. An innovative person can come up with many things if they choose to do so.

I am obviously not innovative enough, but what harm could there be in telling me how your 7-11 year olds ACTUALLY spent summers without camp, not a theory as to how MINE could, or how YOU did over 20 years ago, But how they did.

4:13 PM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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