Can we talk seriously about poverty?

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53 Responses

  1. Ori says:

    If lack of money is the subject of perpetual discussion, not to mention fighting, between parents, then chareidi life may come to be associated in the children’s minds with deprivation and strife.

    Strife maybe not, but if you’re going to sacrifice for the sake of Torah, spend your best job learning years learning Torah, and spend some of your money making years learning Torah, how can you expected your kids not to associate the Torah with sacrifice and deprivation?

    From what I read here, poverty is inherent in Israeli Charedi life in the same way that intermarriage is inherent in US Heterodox life. In both cases the ideology encourages behaviors that lead to the result.

  2. elana says:

    Daf yomi last week is relevant; you do not (may not or should not is a machloket) redeem one who is in the habit of continually selling himself into foreign slavery. saying you do not know the solution, is a bit incredulous. if the leaders of the chareidi community took steps to address the issue their positions have created, perhaps the government would be more understanding. if the government provided additional subsidies to children who attend schools that provide an education relevant to modern day Israel, perhaps that could work. many more private individuals would likley do the same. if the rabbis causing the disaster were living luxurious lives, that would be particularly outrageous. the fact that they most live modestly while honorable, is irrelevant to the problem at hand. The laws of tshuvah require an acknowledgement of error and a commitmernt to change. BOTH are sorely missing. Beautiful new yeshivah buildings and salaries for wonderful maggidei shiur seem to take precedence over feeding poor children. breaking the vicious cycle is required and will take at least 2 decades. time to consider the famous tshuvah of r. Dovid Karliner who addressed the halakhic issue over a century ago.

  3. Baruch Pelta says:

    I’m currently doing research on traditionalist and chareidi attitudes towards economics for a school project. If anybody knows of any other helpful articles or books surrounding this topic (i.e. tzedakah organizations, gemachim, kollelim and money, R’ Steinman’s chiddush that better to be poor than to be rich, etc.), please post about it or email me at [email protected]

  4. Seriously says:

    “THREE SOLUTIONS ARE commonly offered to the destructive poverty in the Israeli chareidi community (though the problem is hardly limited to Israel): greater government support; increased contributions from rich Jews abroad; and adopting a simpler lifestyle.”

    How can you possibly say you want to talk seriously about poverty and not even mention the only real solution: WORKING FOR A LIVING. There is no other solution.

    [EDITOR’S NOTE: Within an hour of receiving this comment, perhaps another fifteen came in, all making the same point. We suspect that there will be many more. We remind our readership – and those who take the trouble to respond – that we are trying to avoid posting comments that say the same thing. There is no question, however, that many of our readers all have the same solution in mind – and reacted extremely quickly, and emotionally. All comments received so far, including some strong ones, were civil and appropriate. The only reason you are not seeing them is the policy on needless repetition.]

  5. Bob Miller says:

    This was an impressive restatement of the problem, but what, Rabbi Rosenblum, are your suggested paths to a solution? The answers we need include not only what to do, but also who can make it happen and by what means.

  6. charedilite says:

    Every expert in the field of “at-risk” youth, for instance, will tell you that learning difficulties are a leading predictor of later drop-out. Many early learning problems can be overcome. Tutoring, different forms of remedial therapies, and sometimes drugs or alternative medicine remedies can all play a major role. But tutoring is expensive, often prohibitively so for a family struggling to put food on the table. And even where therapies are covered by health plans, stressed parents, with multiple children to attend to and no car to easily transport the child in need, may simply not take advantage.

    A large part of the problem is the unfortunate “cookie cutter” approach of many yeshivos, in which there is a predefined final product that every student is supposed to morph into, regardless of that students innate abilities and limitations. The norm is for rebbes to be self-taught educators- they are rarely taught how to teach- so only those with innate teaching ability are truly capable educators. Israeli yeshivos are even more rigid, with a “kacha” attitude thrown in.

    If the parent body is impoverished and unable to provide tutors etc to learning disabled students, and if one is really determined to minimize children going off-the-derech, then the yeshivos must provide what is needed for those learning disabled students.

    The problem is that the entire chareidi society suffers from self-inflicted poverty, due to fathers spending more time learning than they are really able to and still be responsible providers (both material and spiritual) for their children. Halacha mandates that fathers teach their sons Torah. It seems obvious that this means one is required to spend money for specialized education for children with special needs.

    The other cause of the self-inflicted poverty is having larger numbers of children than one can provide for, which not only increases the needs of the family but also makes it difficult for the mother to substitute as the family provider while the father sits and learns. If we are really talking about crushing poverty and children going hungry, then perhaps it is not the time to have more children (as is the case in time of famine).

    Telling Israeli society that they have a responsibility to deal with this self-inflicted chareidi poverty is a very tough sell. I wouldn’t expect to see anything positive in this regard. Governmental bail-outs will only come through the most sordid political deal-making; something good for neither secular Israeli politics nor the chareidi world.

  7. Am Kshe Oref says:

    I’m not offended to see my comments deleted. And the editors DO make a point of not repeating comments because they want to avoid needless repetition. However, in this case, perhaps repetition is actually NEEDED to get the point across. Rabbi Rosenblum wanted to discuss poverty in Chareidi circles in a serious manner, yet he neglected, as many people commented, to suggest the most obvious solution. How is repeating that solution needless if the point isn’t getting across and if Rabbi Rosenblum, intentionally or unintentionally, ignored the most obvious and basic solution to this problem?

  8. Bob Miller says:

    Regarding the comment by Seriously — August 31, 2008 @ 1:26 pm, and others of this type:

    Seriously, if you were in charge, how exactly would you get from here (the analyzed problem) to there (the implemented solution)? Don’t tell me that all it takes is a position paper or announcement.

  9. ZB says:

    While working for a living (as many unmentioned commentators pointed out)would greatly alleviate many of the financial difficulties posed to poor charaidi families, there are tremendous sociological and practical barriers that prevent any meaningful implementation of this solution. I have many charaidi cousins living in Israel, and probably the vast majority of them are constantly looking for employment, but the lack of any educational background plus the the religious/sociological barriers the charaidi community places on itself limits meaningful employment opportunities for them.
    The obvious solution is increased secular education for charaidi children, and a more open minded viewpoint in working in less then ideal situations (and also lets not forget the elephant in the room army participation). However this profound change in the charaidi world actually goes against their core hashkafah. In other words by opening up their world to secular knowledge and expanded workplace participation, they will in essence stop being charaidi (especially how it is defined today). So therefore the community imho is between a rock and hard place and therefore remains in its state of limbo. This status quo may result in increasing hardship as the years go by. For while each generation the charaidi community b”h multiplies tenfold, as long as their is no solution in place in opening up the charaidi world to the modern western world, poverty r”l may play a huge role in defining the charaidi world.

  10. Ori says:

    It’s tempting to criticize Jonathan Rosenblum for not mentioning the obvious solution, learning job skills and then working for a living. However, I suspect that would be like criticizing Project Genesis’s technical department when my ISP is down and I cannot access this site. This isn’t an article written originally for Cross-Currents, but for Mishpacha. IIRC, that is a Charedi newspaper with a mission of spreading Charedi news while supporting Charedi values.

    Can you imagine this headline in Mishpacha, “Responsible Fatherhood – Your Job Is The Flour”(1)? I’m pretty sure Jonathan Rosenblum is doing the best he can with a channel that is very heavily edited. Whether this is an indictment of Mishpacha, or of Israel Charedi society, I don’t know. Either way, it’s a serious case of political correctness that will have to be overcome before serious discussion can take place.

    (1) Click here if you don’t understand this.

  11. Daniel Schwartz says:

    I belive the answer to bob Miller’s question is answered in American history. America Jews did not come to America as doctors, lawyers or successfuly businessmen. Virtually all of them (and other immigrant groups, msot notably the Asians) started out as unskilled laborers. Next came small businesses, which grew and maybe prospered. Parallel to that were those who attained professional degrees. Chareidi im Israel, are not that different sociologically from 19th century immigrants to the U.S. Nothing stops a chareidi man from taking on unskilled labor to support his family and having chareidi society advance from there. Rome Wasn’t built in a day, and this problem will not be quickly solved.

  12. lamedzayin says:

    “and also lets not forget the elephant in the room army participation”
    – ZB

    I’d like to respond to that point. The army issue, while real, is in my opinion a fig leaf. Many Dati Le’umi women legally avoid army service by performing Sheirut Le’umi instead. Although the Chareidim are strongly against national service for women, they in theory have no issue with national service for men.

    If the Chareidi leadership was interested in getting people working, they could propose a simple compromise, whereby Chareidi men could do something similar to Sheirut Le’umi. There is plenty of room for non-military national service for men, and it seems likely that such a compromise law could pass the Knesset.

    To the best of my knowledge, however, no Chareidi party has even suggested such a possibility. I strongly suspect that this is because the army issue is a convenient scapegoat. When a Chareidi man in dire straits decides he wants to work, the Chareidi leadership can point to the army and say “it’s not OUR fault that THEY aren’t letting you work.” Any concerted effort to solve the army issue would deprive the Chareidi leadership of one of the major tools that keeps people living the Chareidi lifestyle even when their finances are dire and they are dependent on tzedakka.

  13. Fred says:

    I’m glad to see that so many readers reach similar conclusions regarding the most immediate solution to the plight affecting so many chareidi families – namely, to inculcate employment skills along with a philosophy of working for a living as a necessity to support their lifestyle.

    One thing continues to bother me greatly (that has not been directly stated): Why do so many chareidi families continue to have so many children that they simply cannot afford to support? If a family is experiencing such a high level of poverty such that they cannot afford to pay rent, buy food, clothing, diapers, medicine, etc.-to the point that the financial strain is affecting shalom bayis- then WHY do chariedi parents have more kids who can only make them more destitute and more dependent on handouts and subsidies?

    Would someone explain this gross violation personal responsibility to me?

  14. AK says:

    Hi,
    Rabbi Rosenblum was discussing ‘ THREE SOLUTIONS ARE commonly offered to the destructive poverty in the Israeli chareidi community – by chareidim . Entering the work force as an unskilled worker does not contribute much to the solution even to a small size family. The opening of chareidi colleges will certainly help those who have made a decision to leave the Kollel and study even part time. A disadvantage of these colleges is that there is no or very little bursuaries or scholarships avaliable to students. Rabbi Eichler has been calling for ‘ smicha ‘ to be recognized as a degree which will enable chareidi men to be more competitive in the public sector. Because the yeshivot place their independence above everything else and the universities dictate which institutions can offer degrees I doubt that there will be any progress in this area. One needs money for the start up costs for one’s own business and not everyone is a ‘ bussiness man’.
    The real problem imho is that the government will always be blamed for the whole problem. Imho if the chareidi community is seen to be part of the solution – they will get more support from the government.
    In the meantime , each person has to take responsibility for his life and his family , your Rosh Yeshivah is not going to come to your rescue.

  15. dovid landesman says:

    As usual, and as expected, R’ Jonathan Rosenbloom has provided us with a lucid and well thought out piece. However, b’mechilah, he is still reluctant to reach the obvious conclusions.
    To avoid repeating that which others have written, a story. Years ago, the Klausenberger Rebbe zt”l established a kollel in Netanya where avreichim learned for a half day and worked in diamond cutting for the remainder of the day. A number of “askanim” approached the rebbe and suggested that his kollel could be considered a pritzut geder. He responded: “I don’t understand what the difference is between my kollel and yours! In mine avreichim learn half a day and work half a day. In yours they learn half a day and worry half a day. The amount of Torah study is the same!”
    In an unrelated comment, the suggestion by lamedzayin that something could be worked out vis-avis army service bothers me greatly. The halachic concept of mi yeimar d’damcha sumki t’fei works both ways if I am not mistaken. What heter is there to avoid service if one is not fully engrossed in learning? Some of you may recall a lecture that Rav Shach zt”l gave many years ago at the ptichah of the Ponovezh yarchei kallah in which the rosh yeshiva clearly stated that bachurim who didn’t learn and didn’t enlist in the IDF were rotzchim! All tapes of that pticha were quickly confiscated but the askanim soon discovered – when the speech was broadcast that night on the radio – that a reporter from Galei Tzahal had been in the audience.
    Instead of “making arrangements” which has become the raison d’etre of the chareidi parties at the cost of providing real leadership and addressing all issues from a Torah perspective – we would do better to support and improve the nachal chareidi concept as per Reb Aron Leib shlita.

  16. Ben-David says:

    Most American Jews can trace their family stories back to a frum Jew who defected/assimilated due to crushing poverty and lack of opportunity in the shtetl/religious world.

    This happened directly when Jews moved to European cities – or to America – and knowingly threw off Judaism, often equating crushing poverty and ignorance of science with the failure of Torah Judaism.

    And it happened indirectly – as the impoverished Jewish community was unable to educate its children sufficiently to prepare them for the cultural clashes they encountered in Europe and America.

    In both cases, the poverty – and the leadership’s insistence on retreat from the modern, post-industrial world – spelled disaster for countless Jewish souls, who quickly assimilated once the reinforcing social structure of the ghetto/shtetl no longer bound them to Jewish life and community.

    There is nothing to stop another such wave of economically-driven assimilation.

  17. Yechezkel Hirshman says:

    I hate to swim against the tide, but I guess that is what I am [in]famous for. I am not speaking for Rabbi Rosenblum nor did I discuss this matter with him, but my acute understanding of Israeli society and the Israeli workforce – of which I am a part – lead me to surmise that the reason Rabbi Rosenblum did not offer what everybody calls “The Obvious Solution” is because it is not an obvious solution. This “solution” is presented as some magic all benefit/no cost just-get-up-and-do-it fix that is more elusive than realistic.

    The details of this are too complex to articulate in a blog comment and I am gathering material for a chapter in my book project about this issue that I can assure you will not be brief.

    One earlier poster (ZB #9)touched on some of the issues. A few additional points – the work environment in Israel is not chareidi friendly both in terms of tznius in the work place (worse than the US IMO)and work hours. Even shabbos is a problem especially in International concerns – true, the law requires compliance to Shmiras shabbos but, in practice, a Shomer Shabbos worker will have a hard time competing for a position against one who is not. To debate poster 11, low paying unskilled jobs are not an “obvious solution”. Nobody has time to wait till Rome is built. As my father always says, “Even before you arrive at the tavern, you already need a drink.” The system is also not large-family friendly. There is no such thing as deductions for dependents for a working man (there is for women). A man who works in Israel with 12 children pays the same taxes as a bachelor. Not a penny less. That is why there are child allowances.

    Israeli living is expensive for everyone. The average Israeli secular Jew with only 2-3 kids that go to public school can only maintain a decent standard of living because both spouses work with all the accompanying social hazards. For a chareidi lifestyle where the mother cannot work and the father gets no tax breaks and the average salery is currently between 6-7000 shekels/ mo ($2000 BEFORE taxes) even working does not get the job done. Of course it’s better than nothing but now we return to ZB’s points.

    Most posters are unaware or ignoring that only a limited segment of Chareidi family heads (bet 40,000-60,000) learn full time. And even those, if the wife can work, she does. Ironically, many of these are in better financial condition than the working ones.

    I could go on and on but all I really need to say is this: for all non-Israelis who fantasize that “working for a living” will answer poverty in Israel, please take your lucrative skills that you developed for years and pick yourselves up and come over here to live and work for a living and see how far it gets you.

    My contacts at Nefesh B’Nefesh are standing by for your applications.

    See you soon.

    Chezkel

  18. Ben Waxman says:

    With regards to working, there are several issues, most of them mentioned in the above posts. However there is another issue which will have to be dealt with. A few weeks ago I was looking through a book on “Halacha and the workplace”. The restrictions given there on where someone is allowed to work were tremendous. For example, working with single women (in the same office) is not allowed.

    Everyone today wants to go into hi tech. How are people going to get jobs in Tel Aviv, Haifa, Netanya, if they won’t work with women? What is someone going to do when he is told that he has to share a small cubicle with someone who doesn’t dress as he might want? Yes there are some jobs in companies in Bnei Brak or Quiryat Sefer. But those are few and far between.

  19. Moshe says:

    Lamedzayin-

    You are incorrect – the sherut leumi option for charedi men exists already – but very very few people are willing to take part in it.

    It is a 2 year program, and you get paid the same as what you would get in Kolel – the Govt. is trying very hard to get Charedim to go and work.

    There is a small book published by the Florscheimer Institute in Israel about the poverty and employment opportunities in Israel for Charedim. I know that the Joint is working hand in hand with the Govt. in setting up programs for educating charedim – the main problem is with the Rabonim and due to those problems, very few people are willing to attend.

    The programs are tun by frum charedi Jews – so there is no danger of the students turning into chilonim, but even so, there are Rabbonim who are against it, and as soon as 1 rabbi is against it, no one else is willing to step up to the plate.

  20. JR says:

    lamedzayin is correct. The charedi leadership wants their followers to be poor and wants to prevent them from working. Rabbi Steinman is very open about this. They think that poor people make better Jews and they want the rest of us to support them.

  21. joel rich says:

    This isn’t an article written originally for Cross-Currents, but for Mishpacha. IIRC, that is a Charedi newspaper with a mission of spreading Charedi news while supporting Charedi values.
    =================================
    My original “duplicate” post pointed out that this could be part of a change communications campaign to the charedi public, readying them for the ultimate shoe drop.
    KT
    Joel Rich

  22. Bob Miller says:

    Regarding the Comment by Daniel Schwartz — August 31, 2008 @ 9:52 pm:

    Unfortunately, the American model Daniel cites played out under circumstances that have resulted over time in out-of-control assimilation. Without the influx of maximally committed Orthodox Jews fleeing the Holocaust and its aftermath, we might now be speaking of American Orthodoxy in the past tense.

    Today’s challenge in Israel is to remain maximally committed to Judaism while building an entrepreneurial society capable of supporting itself “in golus bei Yidden” despite the unsympathetic government.

  23. Oib Azoi says:

    To support R. Rosenblum’s point, look at the many mechanchim who did not have a single child in chinuch. Deprivation isn’t pretty.
    In addition. a long term plan that disregards 2,000 years of halachah and mesorah requiring working & learning is simply a bad idea/ When I read that a Rav or Rebbitzen died leaving 80 or 90 descendants who are ALL learning full time, I can only pity the numerous descendants who surely want to break out and reach their true Hashem-given potential in whatever pursuit.
    And true, those learning full-time are the princes of klal yisrael, but unfortunately we can not pick them out from all those who feel obligated to stay in the bais medrash and are only putting in time. And don’t have Roshei Yeshiva strong enough to tell them to move on.

  24. lacosta says:

    i wonder if it is only a matter of time until it becomes an anti-kiruv technique to point to the great poverty that goes hand in hand with charedism—ie that Torah Values , ala 2008, require essentially vows of poverty, abstinence from secular professions etc — as a counter-technique to warn those leaving secular lifestyles that they will be dooming themselves and their descendants who don’t go off the derech to the gut-wrenching poverty that their european ancestors could only shed by shedding the stetl and its religion…. it’s a sad state of affairs

  25. LOberstein says:

    If going into the Army is what prevents Chareidi men from entering the work force, then I don’t understand. My son made aliyah and is an Israeli citizen. The army didn’t want him . They told him, don’t call us, we’ll call you ” because he has a weak shoulder or some such thing.
    I bring this up because yesterday, a man came to my door with a letter from Rabbi heinemann. It stated that he learns in Kollel, has 9 children and married off 4 last year.Then the man showed me a letter that his wife was injureds in a terrorist attack and is not well. I gave him a donation . If I had not been afraid to hurt his feelings,I would have asked if maybe it was time for him to leave kollel. I do not think the army wants him any more than they want my son. Maybe the army business is a “red herrring” for many who just are stuck in the rut of kollel for life. I want to dan l’caf zecht,but this seems too abnormal. It just isn’t the Jewish tradition that a man doesn’t work for a living, ever. How can this change?

  26. I pay my arnona (municipal taxes) says:

    Daniel writes: I belive the answer to bob Miller’s question is answered in American history. America Jews did not come to America as doctors, lawyers or successfuly businessmen. Virtually all of them (and other immigrant groups, msot notably the Asians) started out as unskilled laborers

    Ah – but there is an important difference: the American-Jewish approach to charity. When welfare subsidies first came out, many Jews and communities shunned them, proudly insisting that they take care of themselves internally and not take government funds.

    Not so in Israel (or anymore in America unfortunately) – the chareidi community considers it a mitzvah to reach deep into my pocket to subsidize their lifestyle.

  27. lamedzayin says:

    @Chezkel,

    * If Shemiras shabbat is really an issue, how do Dati Le’umi men manage. (And we all know that they do.) This is clearly a silly claim.

    * “Low unskilled jobs” pay more than nothing. And part of the “obvious solution” is some secular education so they wouldn’t be limited to only unskilled jobs.

    * You say a mother “cannot work” and yet American Chareidi women often do work, and are often the only spouse to do so and support their husbands. Why do you assume that the “obvious solution doesn’t include both parents working?

    * You claim most Chareidim don’t learn full time. Can you provide any source for that assertion, and if so, doesn’t that contradict the rest of your post (that it’s impossible for them to work)?

  28. mnuez says:

    Well, CAN we talk seriously about poverty?

    Can we talk about the awesome suffering of millions of our fellow citizens right here in the United States of America (where the vast majority of Cross Current readers live)?

    Jonathan, you’re honest enough to know that a single standard has to apply to all. What’s bad for yenem to do is bad for my own side to do and what’s good for my side is also good for the other. Why then do we hear practically NOTHING from Cross Currents writers as well as other public figures in the frum community about the horrific toll that rampant Capitalism is imposing on tens of millions of Americans who suffer and die because they have no recourse to a doctor (without fear of being in debt for life over something that may be a small stomach cramp and may be cancer)? Why is it that ALL that we hear about the left in this country is either a caricature of who they are (such as the trumpeting of morons like Ward Churchill as if they were the House Majority Leader) or what’s bad about them (such as their non-family-friendly ethical preferences) while we ignore the life-saving relief that many of their policies would bring to people in constant life-long anguish?

    So, CAN we talk honestly about poverty? Even when it’s not about poverty among unzereh?

    mnuez

  29. Abbi says:

    “a Shomer Shabbos worker will have a hard time competing for a position against one who is not. ”

    I guess someone should inform my shomer shabbat husband who’s a partner in a hi tech startup that he shouldn’t be there because he’s supposed to have a hard time competing against his secular parnters.

  30. efraim says:

    lacosta,

    This has been the main anti-kiruv line for years and the healthy gut reaction of thousands of parents, and yes, it’s very sad.

    BTW, does everyone here know that Jonathan Rosenblum graduated from Yale Law school? Obviously, he never encountered the kind of parental opposition that I just mentioned.

  31. efraim says:

    I want to add that although I agree that the current situation is awful, I don’t understand the comparison some posters are making with Eastern Europe 100 years ago, and the ensuing assimilation in America. The poverty then was a result of outside economic and social factors, not because of a religious attitude of “learning only”. In fact, this is exactly why the “lifetime kollel” philosophy is so bizarre, being that it flies in the face of obvious and well-known historical reality.

  32. Ben Waxman says:

    to LOberstein

    I don’t know what age your son is, but the army generally does not want older soldiers. Nor does it want a father with 9 kids. It can’t do anything with these guys. They don’t serve long enough to make it worth the army’s while.

  33. Daniel B. Schwartz says:

    Unfortunately, the American model Daniel cites played out under circumstances that have resulted over time in out-of-control assimilation. Without the influx of maximally committed Orthodox Jews fleeing the Holocaust and its aftermath, we might now be speaking of American Orthodoxy in the past tense.

    Today’s challenge in Israel is to remain maximally committed to Judaism while building an entrepreneurial society capable of supporting itself “in golus bei Yidden” despite the unsympathetic government.
    ________________________________________________________________________

    That concern in obviated by geography. America in the 19th and much of the 20th centuries was not a Jewish fiendly place. True Jews were not singled out (usually) for disparate treatment, but no one made any accomodation for Jewish religious observance. Jews could not leave work early on Friday, and many, if not most, jobs requried one to work on Saturday. It was this enviornment that spurred the assimilation referenced above. I don’t think Israel would be quite as harsh a place vis-a-vis religious observance.

    The golad should not be an entrepeneurial society. The goal is a community that is self sustaining.

  34. David Farkas says:

    The answer is construction. This field alleviates many of the problems endemic to Charedi Jewry, and poses none of the problems other proposed solutions present. Charedi construction also has collateral benefits:
    1. It is an acceptable, all-male environment.
    2. The times are amenable to tefillah zmanim.
    3. There is a need for blue collar construction workers in Israel.
    4. It would slow the influx of foreign construction workers into the country.
    5. It teaches skills that men can use in their personal lives as well.
    6. It allows the men a healthy switch from tables and shtenders.
    7. It is an honest job.
    8. It is a physical job, leaving the mind free for learning in the evening.
    9. The training required is either less or no more than technology jobs.

    I wrote an article on this a few years ago called “the Black Hard Hat”. Rabbi Berel Wein read it and said, I quote, it was “just what the doctor ordered”. He encouraged me to get it published. I did submit it to one publication that will go unnamed. Perhaps now I should resubmit it.

  35. Lawrence M. Reisman says:

    To Bob Miller:

    You write that “Without the influx of maximally committed Orthodox Jews fleeing the Holocaust and its aftermath, we might now be speaking of American Orthodoxy in the past tense.”

    Highly unlikely. By 1940, American Orthodoxy was recovering from the rampant assimilation of the previous 100 years. There were budding day schools, yeshivos gedolos, and American boys were going to Europe and Eretz Yisroel to learn. The level of observance was starting to rise in the American community quite independent of those who came from Europe in the wake of the churban.

  36. JewishAtheist says:

    There’s another obvious solution: birth control.

  37. J says:

    I remember what happened when I told my good friend (we were both in a chareidi yeshiva) that I was going to work after the zman. In all seriousness he asked “Who gave you a heter to work?” The story highlights the perverse (and anti-torah!) mindset that pervades the chareidi world. Work, or the availability of decent work, for chareidim is the obvious solution. But, a change in attitude toward work, and a thorough soul-searching of how we got into this problem are pre-requisites to work. Nobody wants to hire someone who views self-sufficeincy as bedieved.

  38. evanstonjew says:

    Why do anything? The only reason might be that the greater the poverty the more attractive the lifestyle,the more people refuse to work. But there is no reason so far to assume this. What should happen is that in time, self correcting mechanisms will develop, children will rebel and refuse to follow their parents down the path of large families and grinding poverty.Maybe some will emigrate.In America the problem is not so serious because charedi doctrines and behavior have morphed into more flexible instruments allowing for more varied combinations of work and learning. The same will happen in Israel.

  39. Miriam says:

    Can someone please clarify the rumored quote by Rav Aron Kotler, that in encouraging whole communities to take on the kollel lifestyle, “there are going to be korbonos?”

    (Dr. Rivka Blau was certain that Rav Kotler would never promote anything so insensitive regarding another Jew, yet I’ve heard the quote a number of times. Maybe it’s somewhat out of context?)

  40. David says:

    If “chareidi life may come to be associated in the children’s minds with deprivation and strife.” Gee, then maybe they’ll grow up to get jobs and be productive members of society. Are you saying we should try to stop that from happening?

  41. Ori says:

    David and evanstonjew, of course the problem will be resolved eventually, one way or the other. But Jonathan Rosenblum, naturally, wants a solution that:

    1. Minimizes suffering
    2. Keeps as many people as possible observant, preferably as part of Charedi society

    What is the minimum required change for more Charedim to become productive members of society?

  42. zach says:

    “This isn’t an article written originally for Cross-Currents, but for Mishpacha. IIRC, that is a Charedi newspaper with a mission of spreading Charedi news while supporting Charedi values.”

    Mishpacha isn’t just another Charedi publication. It has made real inroads in addressing issues that were long swept under the table in these communities. Hopefully, Jonathan Rosenblum will eventually write an article for them regarding the necessity of the Charedi community adopting a new attitude towards parnassa.

  43. Dr. E says:

    A couple of points here:

    Similar to some socioeconomic groups in the U.S., the poverty that is being discussed in cyclical and multi-generational. Therefore, by maintaining the status quo, it is quite predictable according to derech hateva and basic economics. Arguing that the solutions will need to continue from the outside is just a perpetuation of this cycle of dependence

    I sense that Chareidi writers like JR deep down believe that the powers that be in the leadership ranks, just “don’t get it” (but they can’t come out and write it for obvious reasons). Information is selectively filtered upward to Rabbinic figures on not only the problems but also the suggested solutions. Just look at the glossy inserts with pictures and “haskamos” for charities that will offer Yeshuos, Parnassa, etc. Any thoughtful person realizes that there are no such quick fixes. I have no doubt that some of the at-risk phenomenon for youth AND adults is predicated on the disillusionment created by the correlation between the Chareidi lifestyle and poverty. In some extreme circles, this correlation is portrayed as an ideal. But to many, the connection is one that is obvious and not palatable as a long-term solution. There reaches a point that they will not be concerned about “rebellion” and want a better future for themselves and their families—regardless of how positively their siblings who have towed the line, are perceived. If this newfound personal responsibility has no place the the chariedi world, they will find options outside of it. Leadership continuing to use the challenges of the Army, the krum outside world etc., as excuses not to work will soon become anachronistic. Because, it’s not about the Army or the outside world. It’s the statistical reality which has been borne out over the generations. That is, a Torah-only lifestyle is only a fit for a small percentage of the Torah-observant population. This ratio has always been in effect, dating back to the time of the Gemara. However, when the percentage is artificially reversed, forcing the Torah-only lifestyle on the masses as the only acceptable doctrine, there will be a correction in the other direction whether the powers that be like it or not.

  44. Ellen says:

    “lamedzayin is correct. The charedi leadership wants their followers to be poor and wants to prevent them from working. Rabbi Steinman is very open about this. They think that poor people make better Jews and they want the rest of us to support them.” – JR

    Yes in my city of Bet Shemesh, charedim have campaigned vigorously against some new commercial areas (and defaced those that began construction anyway). The public campaign claims that these centers will bring chilul Shabbat, but in private the charedi moderates say some are trying to prevent availability of parnassah to the charedim themselves.

    “I guess someone should inform my shomer shabbat husband who’s a partner in a hi tech startup ….” -Abbi

    Not everyone can go into hi tech, which pays more than most professions in this country (including medicine). And most charedim will not be suited to become partners in such firms, even if they have the knack for programming.

    “you do not….redeem one who is in the habit of continually selling himself into foreign slavery” – Elana (post #2)

    An interesting solution, whether the “rest of us” should require some certification for every charity, that it requires an effort toward self-sufficiency. The problem is, not everything comes down to sources – how can a nation of rachmanim (inherently merciful people) refuse to feed and clothe tens of thousands of children, regardless of how they get to that point?

    Or perhaps we should all send all our charity to places like Lemaan Achai, an Israeli charity that helps people from all flavors of religiosity, yet requires them to work toward self-sufficiency (or some degree of it in severe cases) over a period of months and years.

  45. efraim says:

    David Farkas,

    Great comment, but I would generalize your remarks to say that THE solution is open-mindedness and creative thinking like you’re demonstrating.

  46. Shlomo says:

    If Israeli charedim were willing to live in places like Kiryat Malachi or Mitzpeh Ramon, rather than insisting on Jerusalem and Bnei Brak, it would go a long way towards solving the poverty problem. (Housing prices are several times higher in central locations than in the “periphery”.)

    Living in trailers, as many dati leumi people already do in Yehudah and Shomron, would lower expenses even further.

  47. Nathan Elberg says:

    This is an old, ongoing issue. An elderly Chassid in Boro Park told me that in pre-war Warsaw, 70-80% of Yeshiva students dropped their Torah observance because of crushing poverty. Many of them couldn’t afford a place to live, sleeping in stores in exchange for being night-watchmen.
    The Mesivta in Warsaw was half a day limudai Torah, half day limudai chol. So why is there now so much opposition to institutions such as Machon Lev, where one can get a well rounded education?

  48. Shimon Addato says:

    Rabbi Rosenblum,

    Talking about solutions is impossible to take seriously without being presented with hard data. What percentage of the money from Yad Eliezer, Chasdei Naomi, Kupat Ha’ir, local Kuppot and the like goes to families where the husband is in full time learning and the wife is not working. I suspect the great lion’s share of that money goes to where one of the spouses is an invalid or incapable of working, a child or more with crushing health bills, people who have lost their jobs, and the like. You’ll find many of the people learning in Kollel have side income – tutoring, shechitah, Hashgachah, winemaking, etc. and they are not taking any money from Tzedakah.

    Without hard facts on what the numbers are, both in terms of recepients and actual dollars, it is impossible to gauge whether what is needed is tinkering, adjustment, or overhaul. And let there be no doubt that the more radical and jarring the adjustment, the more negative pushback and fallout you’ll get – and the more the phrase Yatza Secharo B’hefsedo looms large.

  49. Mindy says:

    Coming from a family where my parents for most of my life had to struggle to make ends meet even *with* both of them working full time jobs and with only four children in the family, and being a student now in Israel with extremely limited funds, I can without evocation say that finanial stress takes a huge toll on the family. As a child I didn’t realize that a lot of the strife and negativity that would occur in our family came from the financial stress that my parents were undergoing, but now that I am a little bit older I realize that not having to worry about finances cuts down a lot of the problems in family harmony. Maybe there are people who can still manage to be pleasant, patient, and loving to their children and others when they are under huge amounts of stress, but most of us are not angels and our capacity for functioning is greatly reduced by financial difficulties. God will provide us with the challenges He deems neccessary. We have no commandment to add our own.

  50. Melanie says:

    You’ll find many of the people learning in Kollel have side income – tutoring, shechitah, Hashgachah, winemaking, etc. and they are not taking any money from Tzedakah.

    Or money from family, or a pre-purchased apartment (same thing). Very good point.

    But the follow-up question is, how equipped are they for slight changes? What happens if one of the side incomes takes a hiccup, they have a baby, and their monthly rent go up 10% – all at the same time? Will that throw them into a permanent financial tailspin?

  51. Michoel says:

    Limiting family size as a (partial) solution for financial struggles strikes me as a very poor idea. It may be a good idea for families were there is significant stress as a result of tight finances, but not as a general eitzah. Children are “kivshe d’rachamana” and the next child might be the one to bring the most bracha into the home. Klal Yisroel is atrophying. We need many more frum children, not less. In any case, the large majority of frum homes have financial stress even with a smaller number of children and professional skills.

  52. charles w says:

    While the debate as to whether one should work or not is for another discussion, there is an important distinction to be made. There are those that choose to learn full time and live on less. For such people, the above essay is important and indeed relevant. But there is a second category of people, namely, those that are so poor that they must rely on charity to keep from starving. For those that fall in this latter category, working is not a choice, but a necessity. Whatever ones views, it is safe to say that Judaism does not require one to starve so that one can learn full time.

    What is perplexing about this article is that the solutions suggested, while appropriate for the first category, seemed aimed at the latter category, for which they are almost irrelevant. It is therefore very difficult to take “seriously” an essay on poverty that does not consider the possibility of someone who is, in Rabbi Rosenblum’s own words, “sending children to bed and off to school hungry”, finding some sort of employment.

  53. Ellen says:

    So we all thought Rabbi Rosenblum was shying away from saying the W-word (work). I just came across a Mishpacha piece from the winter, “Money Matters,” in which Rabbi Rosenblum thoroughly discusses the personal responsibility for one’s financial situation (including working).

    And it was posted on Cross-Currents, too:

    Money Matters

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