How would you spend 10 million dollars?

23 bTevet

Fifteen years ago I asked a rebbe in an Orthodox Jewish Day School in S. Diego [he has since moved elsewhere] what he would do to improve Jewish education if he had a windfall of 10 million dollars. He didn’t hesitate. He said he would hire religious gym and sports teachers. In his neck of the woods, if the day school students would see their gym teachers (who are often students’ role models) davening and studying Torah, this would have a tremendous impact on them. In a more serious vein, he said he would use the money to double the salaries of the morot and the rebbayim of the schools, as well as to increase substantially the remuneration of the principals.

I thought of this when last month I read a story put out by the JTA newservice, and subsequently publicized in the Jerusalem Post and elsewhere, with the somewhat confrontational and sensational headline “Yeshiva University’s center seen as attempt to counter Orthodoxy’s rightward shift.”

[BTW, what is wrong with a rightward shift?]

The article described the Center for the Jewish Future, with a budget of $6.5 million, as:

“a think tank dedicated to exploring the nexus of Judaism and modernity….[I]t has outlined several broad areas of focus. They include providing continuing education opportunities for young rabbis, addressing the evolving needs of Jewish day schools, developing social action projects within and outside the Jewish community, and finding solutions to ‘real-world challenges’ like organ donation and genetic testing within the confines of Jewish law.”

The Center for the Jewish Future describes some of its acticities on its website.

I wonder whether the S. Diego rebbe’s suggestion to increase the salaries and prestige of yeshiva and day school teachers would go much, much further in ensuring the Jewish future than a think tank. Dr. Marvin Schick has written about this issue from a different angle in an essay titled “Where have all the Rabbi’s gone?” that appears both on his blog and in the Jerusalem Post today (22 bTevet, Jan.22).

I wonder what Cross-currents readers would do if they were tasked with allocating a $10 million windfall to ensure the Jewish future?

Shira Schmidt

Shira Leibowitz Schmidt was raised in an assimilated Jewish home in New York, and became observant while studying at Stanford University in California. In June 1967 she told her engineering school professor she would miss the final exam because she was going to Israel to volunteer during the Six Day War. “That’s the most original excuse I have ever been offered,” he responded. She arrived during the war and stayed, receiving her BSc in absentia. She subsequently met and married the late Elhanan Leibowitz, and they raised their six children in Beersheba. Mrs. Leibowitz acquired a Masters in Urban & Regional Planning from the Technion, and an MSc in Civil Engineering from University of Waterloo. Today she lives with her husband, Dr. Baruch Schmidt, in Netanya. She co-authored, with Nobel prize-winning chemist Roald Hoffmann, Old Wine New Flasks. She has co-translated from Hebrew to English (with Jessica Setbon) From the Depths (the autobiography of Rabbi Israel Meir Lau); The Forgotten Memoirs (memoirs of Rabbis who survived the Shoah, edited by Esther Farbstein); and Rest of the Dove (Parashat Hashavua by Rabbi Haim Sabato). She and her husband appear in the documentary film about the Sanz-Klausenberger Rebbe, “Hidden Face.” She is available to lecture in Israel and in the US and can be contacted via

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26 Responses

  1. Leapa says:

    It’s probably no surprise that I’d attempt to solve the internet issue by establishing a foundation to create a filter suitable for Jewish students and adults, give it away free to Yeshivas and perhaps individuals, and keep it updated for free as well.
    It would help chareidim by putting them on the web, enabling them to better educate themselves and earn, and benefit MO by filtering their net access.

  2. Larry Lennhoff says:

    I’d give a big chunk of money for scholarships to religious summer camps for Conservative and Reform youth – the movements’ retention rates are terrible but religious camps seems to have a noticible effect. And I’d tie those schoalrships to specific requirements on the part of the camps – kosher food, some kind of Shabbat program, and other means to ensure that they really are Jewish summer camps, not summer camps for Jews.

    After that I’d probably try to sponsor some combination of scholarships for continuing education for day school teachers with need related grants to the parents who attended ‘approved’ schools. The schools I would approve would have a decent secular component to give kids the skills to enter the work force, along with Jewish classes that taught such neglected disciplines as practical halacha and Jewish history and philosophy. Talmud study would also be encouraged, but it would not be the be all and end all. Both co-ed and single gender schools could qualify as approved.

    By this point I am sure I am broke.

  3. Steve Brizel says:

    Here are some ideas :

    1)medical and health benefits for teachers
    2) salaries that compete with the private sector
    3)work to provide financial stability for local schools-without day
    schools and BYs,where will the next generation go to school?
    4)establish community kollelim on as many college campuses as possible

    As far as the article in question is concerned, sooner or later, YU
    will recognize once and for all that its Roshei Yeshivah and
    Roshei Kollelim are its best recruiters, as opposed to a think tank.

  4. dochesed says:

    Shira Schmidt has the “scale” wrong. $10 million for a single school is a lot of money; $10 million for the nation as a whole is not a lot of money. Marvin Schick estimates that there are about 200,000 students in Jewish day schools. If average class size was 20, that would be about 10,000 full-time teacher equivalents (may more teachers given the morning/afternoon system and other ways that we staff our schools). So, $10 million would be about $1,000 per full-time-equivalent teacher. While each of us would like to have another few hundred dollars in income, I think that we can all agree that pouring this (large amount of) money directly into day school salaries is unlikely to be transformative.

  5. Charles B. Hall says:

    It might be useful to remember that while the numbers mentioned in the article,
    may seem very large they are a tiny fraction of the approximately
    two billion dollar annual cost of Jewish education in the United States.

  6. dochesed says:

    Given that most of the modern/centrist/left-wing Orthodox community (and especially its leadership) has reacted to the recent right-wing forrays (labelling any attempt to harmonize torah with modern science as kfirah, banning large numbers of books, banning use of the internet) by silently cowering in the corner, one can easily argue that an institutional response is needed. YU is a natural home for such an institutional response. Reasonable observers may disagree (e.g., R. Schick, evidently Shira Schmidt).

    R. Brander is among the most successful Modern Orthodox pulpit rabbis. He clearly feels that this effort is worthwhile (e.g., his statement to JTA: “I lived a charmed life in Boca, and I probably could have continued to be successful there, but I realized that I’d feel forever guilty if gave up this opportunity to shape the future of the Jewish community.”) I am willing to assume that R. Brander is sincere and that his opinion of the likely effectiveness of this new institution is at least as informed as any of us (including R. Schick).

    In addition, I suspect that the money is considerably smaller than it appears. Much of the claimed funding is likely to be simply bringing under The Center’s umbrella a set of projects that would have been done anyway (as many of us know all too well, such is the nature of institution building and funding). R. Schachter’s involvement is a transfer of much of his efforts (and presumably the funding) from the (now shuttered) Soloveitchik Institute. That involvement should give the effort intelectual gravitas–carrying on the Rav’s legacy. Finally, a careful reading of the material suggests that (despite the name) the broadly defined “Jewish Future” is not the only goal of the “Center”. The materials suggest a strong synergy with President Joel’s vision for YU as an educational institution and the roles he envisions for its students.

    All in all, one can plausibly argue that the establishment of the Center for the Jewish Future is a quite appropriate–perhaps the most appropriate–use of the Modern Orthodox community’s funds.

  7. Yeshoua says:

    What is wrong with a rightward turn?” The same thing that is wrong with a leftward turn. That would mean that everything done until now was wrong. One has to look at the great rabbis of our generation they were always consistent in whatever they did they didn’t waver even if their view was unpopular. Dr Marvin Schick writes about how 2 rabbis
    Left the pulpit this is not something new and no one is indispensable that is the way of the world.

    What I would do with the 10 million is use it to help the tuition crisis there was an interesting article in last week’s
    Jewish Press I include a link to it

    It seems since the day and age of the internet nothing can happen without having people comment about everything it seems that as of late people have become very petty and our forgetting what is important in life. Let us try to stay focused and not look to analyze everything to the nth degree. Let us learn torah and do chesed and learn to get along so that
    we will merit seeing moshiach in our days.

  8. yossi says:

    The center for the Jewish Future does not seem like a think thank at all but more of a outreach focused mitzvah tank. Everything on its website is about
    reaching out to people and nothing of any intellectual content that would warrent using the term think tank. It is still probably a good idea for YU to go in that direction but reading their plans seems an awful lot like it is Hillel houses for Modern Orthodox

  9. Jewish Observer says:

    I haven’t followed this thing closely, but it appears to me that the idea that the modern are doing something with vigor and vitality is getting many of us heimishers all up in arms. This phenomenon is something that charedi types have not been used to seeing in the past twenty years. Our type have been spoiled with the thought that the modern are dying out. With all the problems in the heimisher world including kids at risk, ethical lapses, shidduch woes, questionable leadership, etc. etc. is it so crazy to be investing in trying to figure out how to deal with the modern world?? Are we so great at this? Whether we want to use the M word or not, that davka IS the issue! No?

    Instead on employing a patronizing attitude, perhaps there should be an earnest interest in following this development and see if there is anything worthwhile from this effort that can be applied to torah true Judaism.

    – JO

  10. Steve Brizel says:

    Dochesed-I think that your remarks re the Modern/Centrist, etc community and leadership are not correct. Not every act of the Charedi world that seems to be without a rational basis needs to be condemned. Rather, such actions can be easily responded to by ignoring the same as not binding upon them because the actions taken by the Charedi world are viewed as not binding upon a population that directs its queries for halacha and hashkafa to Gdolim other than those who are affiliated with the Charedi
    world and who also reject the bans albeit without public missives, etc. As far as the legacy of RYBS is concerned, look to the Otzar HaRav foundation and its directors for more of RYBS’s philosophical and hashkafic legacy. It remains to be seen whether
    the CJF will have anything to do with this. Perhaps, the CJF will help YU regain a toehold in the world of kiruv where I think that
    that many BTS and FFBs are thirsty for the words, works and approach of RYBS as an approach to dealing with tough questions, as
    opposed to a right wing dictated mantra that purports to supply easy and pat answers to complex hashkafic issues.

  11. Steve Brizel says:

    Yossi-how many people who learn in a local Charedi community Kollel ever wind up on the level of the Kolleleit? One can posit that the community kollelim are a yeshivishe version of a Chabad house.

  12. jelly says:

    Are the initials of this Mechanach R’ BG? Just wondering.

  13. Michoel says:

    I thhink I would want to build a branch of Mir in the Galil, complete with kollel housing, cheder etc. It would provide a shmira for the north of Eretz Yisrael.

  14. Jewish Observer says:

    Reb Michoel,

    Check out the community in Afula founded by a Mir alumnus.

    – JO

  15. HILLEL says:


    Actually, this question was once posed to the Chofetz Chaim, ZT”L.

    His answer–Start 10 Yeshivos, and let HaShem take care of the rest!

  16. Jewish Observer says:

    I learned by Chofetz Chaim. The plan there was start one yeshiva and learn 10 lines. Unfortunately what I learned was 10 one liners.

    – JO

  17. Yeshoua says:

    There is already an excellent yeshiivah in Afula run by Rav Menachem Gold so I think it would not be necessary for another Mir yeshivah there. Rav Gold is an alumnus of Mir yeshivah. Perhaps this is the yeshivah JO is referring to.

    kol tov

  18. Michoel says:

    I haven’t heard about it. What’s there?

  19. Jewish Observer says:

    Rabbi Menachem Gold is doing a (non literal) techiyas hameisim on the community in Afula, in the pattern of Rabbi Grossman in M”HE. He hs a kollel avreichim and a Chinuch Atzmai school for non frum. He has turned around dozens of families with this ahavas yisrael and chesed. He is the real thing, not after kovod or fame and incredibly energetic.

    – JO

  20. Southern Belle says:

    Steve Brizel wrote: “Yossi-how many people who learn in a local Charedi community Kollel ever wind up on the level of the Kolleleit? One can posit that the community kollelim are a yeshivishe version of a Chabad house.”

    I think he meant it as a negative comment. If a Chabad house is the source that unaffiliated Jews can turn to learn more about their heritage, and a place that traveling affiliated Jews can turn to find out about local resources, and a place that affiliated and growing Jews in living in those outlying areas can rely upon to build a community where once there was none (providing physical and spiritual nourishment along the way), then I think the comparison to Chabad is a supreme compliment. Not every man is made to be a talmid chacham — some excel more in ahavas yisroel. Community kollels allow such people to exponentially increase their positive impact on Am Yisroel by combining their own learning with kiruv.

  21. former Yu says:

    While it is true that YU is very enthusiastic about the CJF and its future they do not have the bodies to have a meaningful impact. The comment about Hillel is exactly right. As long as YU (particularly the new administration) does not place the emphasis on strengthening the learning itself, but instead on communal outreach YU will not produce significant numbers who are dedicated to outreach. YU sends students to communities for Shabbos where they give a dvar Torah or two, but is just beginning any community kollel initiatives and even with that there are not too many people interested.

  22. Anonymous in LA says:

    You’re thinking about throwing $10M into the existing leaky bucket. It’s good money after bad.

    In a city, $10M is chump change and won’t go far. With real estate and housing expenses obscenely high in LA, NYC and elsewhere, the best place for $10M is to think about seeding “new Lakewoods”.


    [Blog created to handle my occasional lengthy responses.]

  23. Steve Brizel says:

    The question of what the CJF is or will be still looks rather amorphous. The reason why RIETS may not have the quantity for community kollelim is because it has very high quality controls over who enters and stays in their kollelim. You have to give chaburos, pass very tough bchinos very well and publish. It weeds out any potential “kvetch on a bench” types rather mercilessly. The Kollelim in RIETS and the RY will do fine as long as the president leaves them alone.

    Southern Belle- I wasn’t being uncomplimentary to the community kollel concept. If it is meant to offer a Litvish kiruv alternative, that is all fine and well. It is just a far cry of what the original concept of kollel meant, even during the early Lakewood years of Torah Lishmah.

  24. former Yu says:

    You are reffering to the kollel elyon which has about 10+ members, but there is not much opportunity or encouragement to anyone who wants to learn past smicha who is not a super-genius or does not have the right family connections. In terms of the reg. kollel and semicha there is not much in terms of standards or chaburos/publish. There are semicha and kollel tests but many people pass them w/o learning too much (Many do take them seriously).
    However, my point was that for everyone outside of kollel elyon if people were encouraged to try to find opportunitites to continue in learening with teaching on the side like a community kollel YU would produce many more dedicated to kiruv. Instead you are encouraged (particularly by the new administration) to go out at an early age and give time to the community, but IMO in the long run that doesn’t produce many people dedicated long-term. Many people would stay at RIETS longer if they felt encouraged by the administration that it was a positive thing.

  25. Steve Brizel says:

    Former YU-Take a look at the Kollel Elyon and the Wexner Kollel. Neither are for the “kvetch on a bench” crowd. I think that
    you should distinguish between the smicha program and the kollelim as to your allegations. I think that the Kolleleit in RIETS match up well against their contemporaries elsewhere, if not better.

  26. douglas hippchen says:

    I think it would best be utilyzed in opening a quarry and preparing stones for the temple, since that is the Jewish future.

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