A New, Ugly Wrinkle in the Tuition Crisis

There is a new kind of captive in the making, but do not expect to see any pidyon shvuyim effort on his or her behalf. This new prisoner is a sad by-product of the tuition crisis, and has not yet impressed people as worthy of inclusion on the short list of the most serious problems over which we agonize. Yet it is pitting whole groups of frum Jews against others, and threatens a dynamic of cooperation that has worked for as long as people can remember. The working professional increasingly feels frustrated and alienated by the “system” – at least insofar as it relates to the finances of mosdos of chinuch.

We all know that schools are growing more desperate in addressing shortfalls in revenue brought on by escalating costs and a prolonged ailing economy. Schools have little control over external funding like donations, so they push where they can, which increasingly means the portion of the parent body that they perceive to have some wiggle room. They can’t squeeze those who simply don’t have, so they raise tuition year after year. They know that the poor and the underemployed won’t produce more, but they are all on tuition assistance. Where there are no sugar-daddies available, it is the middle class that is asked to cough up more each year, subsidizing those who are in far more desperate financial straits.

Actually, they are not asked. They are told. The money is demanded, and they have no choice but to comply. In many communities, there are no alternative schools that will meet their expectations of Torah chinuch. They can be made to dance like puppets on a string. They are trapped by the “system:” they cannot deny Torah education to their children, so they have no choice but to sign over a progressively part of their income to their schools. They are trapped, as surely as is the shavui.

The reader will marvel at how selfish and uncharitable these people are! They should be grateful to the Ribbono Shel Olam that they are in a position to be able to give more, and not among those who have to take more!

Not so fast. This is not about money alone.

There are very few among the bulk of the working middle class who are earning so much that they can afford to pay tuition levies for multiple children without belt tightening, even with a spouse working part- or full-time. Day-school tuitions can commonly run 12-25K per child, and even higher. Non-commuter high schools take an even bigger bite. Do the arithmetic, and calculate what that means for a family with four, five, or more children in Torah schools – but translate the figures into the pre-tax dollars that are necessary to generate those sums.

Here is where it gets ugly. I wouldn’t write about this so openly if this were not already the dirty secret that everybody knows. The changed realities of the New Economy mean that people are having fewer children. I have no idea whether they are asking shaylos, or paskening for themselves. I am speaking of people who are medakdek b’halacha, people with years of yeshiva and seminary training. They would like to have more children; they are not electing otherwise because they want summer homes, new cars, and Pesach in Italy. Those are not part of the equation. They are limiting family size because they cannot see how, bederech hateva, they can fork over those tuition checks for another child.

Here is where it gets really ugly. This equation is creating class warfare, of the kind that we may not have seen since people with means bought replacements for their children drafted during the dark days of the Cantonist decrees. The poor were victimized by the “khappers” who seized their children to replace those of the rich. Today, the unborn children of the more well to-do are being seized by tuition policies of day schools. And the resentment of the middle class is focused not only on the school board, but on the less affluent.

The middle class parent, already strapped for cash, notes that his school offers tuition assistance to a wide group of recipients. He cannot and does object to tuition reduction to the unemployed, or the family struck by illness, or the family headed by a single parent. He also notes, however, that ten community rabbonim get tuition breaks, as well as twenty kollel yungerleit. Fifteen rabbeim on the faculty get tuition breaks, and keep having more children. He fully recognizes that free or reduced tuition is not a perk, but a cost-efficient way for the school to compensate for the inadequate salary offered to faculty. He does not question that. But he knows that there is a cost associated with every child. Should there be no limit to the number of faculty children whose tuition is excused? He asks himself whether it is fair that those who can afford more children least seem to have them without limit, while he and his wife have had to limit the size of their family.

This is not to say that having children must or should be a financial decision. For most frum Jews, having additional children is a question of bitachon. The irony is that in many instances when klei kodesh have more children, they needen’t have bitachon that HKBH will provide for them – they have bitachon that HKBH will provide for the baal habos down the block who is de facto going to bear the tuition burden for that additional child (typically, the single biggest cost associated with an additional child). When that same baal habos – the one who is actually footing the bill, working long hours, having a spouse work, not being able to spend as much time in the beis medrash as he would like – is going through his own bitachon issues over whether to have another child, while the klei kodesh needn’t struggle with the same issue, resentment builds.

If a shul hires a new rov, why should his four children be entitled to any tuition assistance, when it translates into a demand on the baal habos who does not even daven in his shul? Should it not be the responsibility of the shul to pay salaries that will allow the rov to pay his tuition obligation without thrusting him upon a small group from whom it is demanded that they foot the bill? Some people want to bring a kollel to town? Wonderful! Our middle class workers learned in kollel themselves years ago. But let the sponsors of the kollel do the fund raising, rather than have their kollel members deposit their children on the school house steps, and expect a large tuition break.

What the system lacks is an understanding that when a tuition break is given, that money is not “free;” someone pays for it. By granting tuition breaks to those employed by mosdos, the system has simply shifted the burden of raising those necessary funds from the mosod to the school, and by extension, to the middle-class parents who have no choice but to pay the resulting increased “full” tuition amount in the most tax-inefficient way imaginable. Were the system not shifting tuition burdens in this way, each mosod would have to raise tution dollars for its employees and balei battim would have a choice as to whether or not to donate to the mosdos. If they chose to – and many would if tuition burdens were relaxed – their donations would be tax deductible. Instead, balei baatim are forced to subsidize mosdos through a chinuch “tax.” often at the cost of increased working hours and/or spouses working who might not otherwise. Many balei baatim would willingly support local mosdos but few would have their spouse take a job solely to do so. Our current burden-shifting system often leaves them no choice.

Please, dear reader, do not shoot the messenger. I am conveying facts and feelings, not a halachic analysis nor hashkafic advice. There is a groundswell of resentment of the kind I described above. Getting angry at me will not make it go away. I am reporting reality, not taking sides.

The middle class feels played and extorted. They realize that the kollel families struggle; they are not blind to that. They don’t want to be told that they must underwrite every case of need in their school community. Some of those cases are optional to the school. The burden could be shifted elsewhere. Instead, it is placed on them. They are angry.

The school, in fact, if pressured enough, may go back to the board of the kollel and try to play hardball. The kollel’s board pushes back, and influence peddlers get involved. Now the conflict escalates, and those who used to see themselves as supporters of the kollel see it as part of the problem. This is a tragic wrinkle to the overall tuition crisis and a new source of in-house dissension in our midst.
The problem spirals out of control. Why, asks the middle class, should we hire a new rebbi with six children to fill a vacancy, when it means providing free tuition to six kids? (No one questions that the rebbi is underpaid, no matter how many or how few children he has.) With a surplus of rebbis available, hire one with only two children! Or stipulate with all personnel who benefit from contractually stipulated tuition reduction that the break is limited to two children, after which it is up to them to figure out how to support them – just like the middle class is having to deal with it. Should it be the payers of full tuition who have to limit their family size, while others do not? (Again, I am reporting feelings, not validating responses.) In some cases, it simply does not pay for a professional to work any harder and generate more income, because a large part (and in some cases 100%) of anything more her or she earns will be set upon by the school. (I recently spoke to a 10-year rebbi with 6 children who, after years of struggling with the financial stress of making $60,000 a year – albeit paying virtually no tuition – was considering going to law school. He was advised that should he go and do well, he could expect a starting salary of $160,000. However he was also advised that he should not expect to have a dime more in his pocket when he started working then he had as a rebbi. The entirety of his increased earning would go to Uncle Sam and school tuition.) Should not those who toil longer hours be able to do so for the benefit of their own families first, and not have their money and labor seized by an enforced socialism so severe in its effect, that it makes Obamacare look like a Republican project?

The questions are good ones; there are real equity issues here. Some schools wing it, and simply allow need to dictate increasing pressure on the middle class, asking the haves to subsidize more of the have-nots each year. Other schools will ask a shaylah, which doesn’t always work much better. Whatever the answer, some who are not happy with it will blame it on the alleged incompetence of posek X, who should have been bypassed in favor of posek Y. Much better would be policy agreed upon by a large group of poskim and gedolim, but we have not seen that kind of reaction in quite a while.

Is this a new problem? Yes! The gemara solved it, in earlier times. Mi-dina d’gemara, the entire community, not just the parent body of a particular school, pays for the chinuch of local children. The entire community can be assessed and made to pay for essential services. According to teshuvos over centuries, the some assessments are spread equally, and some are graduated according to income. In many cases, a compromise was implemented whereby half of it was a head tax, and the other half graduated.) The disappearance of the kehillah system, however, means that what should be happening according to halacha is not an option. We have no way of taxing the rich.

A generation ago, the problem was not as ubiquitous as it is today. Schools lived with the reality that fundraising would account for a large part, if not the majority, of the yearly budget. Much has changed since then. The numbers of children in schools was a fraction of what it is today, and a smaller number of gevirim (particularly Holocaust survivors who had done extremely well on American shores, and understood the need to support new mosdos of Torah) gave generously. Non-Orthodox Jews were approachable as donors for heimishe tzedakos; today, secular Jewish donors direct most of their money to non-Jewish projects. People did not question as much the “entitlement” of underpaid klei kodesh to subsidized tuition for their children.

I propose no solutions to this problem, no more than I can to the overall tuition crisis. I have proposed a contribution to a solution, however, and I will reiterate it. Our tzedaka giving is governed by nothing by hefkerus, while it should be guided by halacha. We need to educate – and, yes, enforce – the destination of tzedakah funds. Some poskim feel that 2/3 or more of our charitable funds stay local. Let’s be liberal, for the sake of argument, and only ask for half, as Baltimore did a few years ago on a voluntary basis. Schools, perhaps, cannot live with voluntarism. Part of granting tuition assistance should be an examination of charitable giving. Schools could stipulate (assuming poskim would agree with such a proposal) that they are entitled to a given (large) percentage of the 50% of the portion earmarked for local need. (Yes, there would have to be some way to accommodate families sending children to multiple schools.) It won’t balance the budget, but it could ease the escalating burden now placed on the successfully employed.

If no one does anything about this problem, we are going to see class warfare within our ranks.

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155 Responses

  1. Tuvia says:

    The same feeling of anger and outrage comes up when regular tax payers sense that some poor folks (including Hasidim) plan for very large families with the idea that welfare programs will provide food, healthcare, and housing vouchers.

    Why should an earner have to think about whether he can afford a third child because he pays high taxes that go to those who don’t earn and who actually plan to have many children, all of whom will grow up entirely on tax payer support?

    With all due respect Rav Adlerstein, this is something that has been brewing for some time here in NYC.

    And, as a non-orthodox Jew, I still don’t understand why the mitzvah of being fruitful (one boy and one girl, or two boys and two girls) simply has to turn into ten children or more?

    All children deserve our protection and care. But the gall of people to just expect to raise a very large family on the back of tax payers. It is simply morally ridiculous.

    I heard a lecture from kiruv professional who told us how, in Orthodox Judaism, we don’t value money. Deeper values and all.

    Well, I kept it to myself, but I wanted to say that the Orthodox poor don’t value money the same way a ten year old doesn’t value money – because you don’t value something you just automatically receive like clockwork, whether you work for it or not.

    The Orthodox poor may not value money, but they better hope the rest of us do – otherwise earnings will drop as will tax revenues, and public assistance will be threatened. All who receive public assistance for raising large families will come to see the value of money if that happens.


  2. Zave Rudman says:

    The quote below seems a bit harsh! I am not sure how you judge the level of bitachon of someone else like this. You say , you are rpeorting facts and feelings. Which one is this?

    The irony is that in many instances when klei kodesh have more children, they needen’t have bitachon that HKBH will provide for them – they have bitachon that HKBH will provide for the baal habos down the block who is de facto going to bear the tuition burden for that additional child (typically, the single biggest cost associated with an additional child).

    [YA – I don’t understand the question. I’m reporting (in this case a very close paraphrase) feelings communicated to me.]

  3. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    I also have no easy solutions, but it seems to me that one possibility for everyone is to consider aliya. Live in a Jewish country, join the struggle for its Jewishness, live with fewer frills and more satisfaction. Lower the educational expenses and live on less income. Some can maintain connections with sources of income in America, others will have to invent something. But everyone should at least think about it. Hashem sent us a message in the Six-Day War, and neither the American Jews nor the Israelis got it. It took time. The current economic crunch is another message. Time to pay attention.

  4. zvi says:

    Have you considered moving to Israel? While salaries (for well educated professionals) are only 80% of US ones and taxes are higher, you can still expect to take home 50-70% of what you make in the US. Yet, tuition is a LOT lower, even in private/independent mosdos and free in state ones. In addition rent and kosher food costs are less…

  5. J. says:

    I don’t know what shaalos people are asking to poskim, but Rav Hershel Schachter clearly states in the following shiur (12:47) that it is unfair to being children into the world with the expectation that others will foot their tuition bills:

    [Go to YUTorah.org, and find the R Hershel Schacter audio of July 3, 2008]

    Poskim to his right can disagree all they like, but until they can come up with a solution to the moral issue he raises, his point stands. Preaching bitachon on “yennem’s cheshbon” is hardly a satisfactory resolution.

    [YA – Not sure why you see him as to the left of anyone we know. In his hanhagah, he is certainly as frum as anyone else, and practices a few chumros most other names you could come up with don’t. In learning, it is hard to find anyone in America who can match him. And when it comes to the really tough questions, he goes to R Elyashiv just like the rest of us.]

  6. meir says:

    Thank you for bringing to light this issue that many of us middle-class families are dealing with. But i would add that in addition to kollel families, it has made me disdain non-kollel families as well! At least with the kollel families we can generally hope the kids (and families) will be a positive influence, but there are also many young growing families receiving significant subsidies from yeshivos while they live relatively extravagantly, with a big new house, two nice leased cars and an annual vacation, or who work very little or easy jobs while they amass many children, and expect a handout. When the tuition bill comes, they say their mortgage is to high etc., but who said they should buy such an expensive house, or have so many children? I will never forget when my Rosh Yeshiva was approached by a learned kollel father with seven daughters to marry off begging for money. My rosh Yeshiva gave him 100 shekel, but when we asked him how this can happen to such a person who obviously has bitachon, and he said simply, this man was supposed to have 3 daughters, not 7. The problem is that there is no one to stand up and tell them (and all similar spoiled brats) that they must think before they make important decisions relating to money (of course tzadikim are extremely meticulous wiht their money, see Ya’acov and the pachim ketanim etc.). We should have symposiums like the ones about cheating on taxes, but about living within your means, and considering that your actions can affect your friends in your community. But when it comes down to it, we can’t kick poor (spoiled) kids out of yeshiva, so what should we do if this continues?

    On that note, once a man/family has fulfilled pru-urevu, is it clear that he is still required to have more kids based on bitachon? In any event, there are limits to how much one should set aside to spend on a mitzvas aseh, should that not be relevant considering the cost of tuitions? And I would think that if one knows that the cost will really fall on others, he is simply a mazik/gazlan taking advantage of those who wish they could work less to pay all the tuition/tomche shabbos funds (and have more time to learn). Why not a proclamation similar to the doomed limits on extravagant smachot, that one should not have more than 2 kids unless it is clear that he can pay full (or close to full) tuition for more children?

    Your suggestion re prioritizing funding for the community (and more specifically, for torah education in your community) is great, but it is also obvious to most who learned the basics of tzedakah and the requirement to provide such education, yet we are still faced with such a struggle now. School costs keep rising, and it appears that Baruch Hashem (to a certain extent) many more young jewish families are growing bigger than their prior generations, combined with the growth of kollels in many communities. While bitachon is clearly necessary, Chacham Einav Berosho, and a talmid chacham sh’ein bo daas, neveilah tova heimenu. While we need to believe in G-d’s graciousness, we must also be practical and do all that we can to limit the amount of miracles G-d must perform to allow us to survive.

  7. Mr. Cohen says:

    We should all start praying that the non-Orthodox Jews stop
    wasting their money on Liberal nonsense causes and instead
    send their charitable donations to Orthodox Yeshivot.

    This may seem a little odd, but much stranger things have happened,
    and with the sincere prayers of many Jews, who knows what could happen?

    And they will be rewarded for their help in Olam HaBa.

  8. Joe Hill says:

    There is simply is no solution to the issue outlined by Rabbi Adlerstein in this essay. That pretty much sums it up in a nutshell. The partial solution suggested by Rabbi Adlerstein at the end of the article is all good and well. But its effect will be minimal and won’t change the overall issue. In the opinion of this poster, the current situation of the school budget deficit being covered by parents of only a subset of the student body, is destined to continue as being the only viable possibility.

  9. Dov T. says:

    Finally, someone is discussing this massive problem. I know of so many cases like you describe.
    What about those “klei kodesh” discounts at supermarkets, mikvahs, etc. i work hard all year, do not get a month off for pesach and sukkos, 3 months off in the summer, etc. and i cannot make ends meet. Klei kodesh used to involve significant sacrifice, today (many, but not all) own homes, cars, and with government programs factored in are making the same amount as the hard working middle class, with alot less stress to boot. I always get asked by klei kodesh, “so what are you doing thus summer?” the answer is same as all year, WORK!
    My personal feeling is that there is a great portion of the tuition crisis is due to poor fiscal management of jewish day schools. A rov is not neccesarily adept at formulating a school budget. The current cost of tuition forces a large amount of the pool to get assistance, while a smaller group pays full. The process of getting assistance is a humiliating one. Wouldnt it make more sense to lower the cost so it is more affordable to the majority of the parent body pool, and only granting assistance in the most extreme cases? I dont know of any jewish mosdos willing to open their financial books to public scrutiny. That might help things, albeit a major step.
    Between the shiduch crisis and the tuition crisis, i think the face of orthodox jewry is about the change very drastically in the next generation.

    [YA – I think we are going WAY beyond the legitimate complaints of many people here. The aggrieved parties are looking for some more equity – not the destruction of our kollelim or of kavod ha-Torah. Rabbeim do not have to accept vows of poverty to be effective. Priests do that; not us. Middle class earners just want to see some way in which they are not the automatic source of filling any shortfall, without anyone asking them or giving them much of a choice. They are not, for the most part, stating that if they must suffer, so must klei kodesh. Chas v’shalom. The Rambam considers conferring extra perks on talmidei chachamim a d’orayso (in Perush ha-Mishanyos). Most readers of CC would agree (I hope) that many kollelim are the crown jewels of our communities. We want to keep them safe and welcome – but it may mean having their boards of directors take on even greater fundraising, rather than throwing the burden on to the school community without their consent.]

  10. Nachum says:

    It might be too troubling to point out that the system, which was only invented a few decades ago, after all, would never have been able to last more than a generation or two before collapsing under its own weight. (Something we’re seeing in a secular context all over the world, but at least governments can fool themselves by taxing more. R’ Adlerstein’s “solution,” sadly, which we’ve seen before, will never work for that reason.)

  11. Ss says:

    The same type of “warfare” is emerging within families – siblings with more kids need more financial help from parents while their brothers and sisters with fewer kids are resentful. And parents who are getting older must keep working harder to support their kids and grandkids who are less secularly educated, and whose income is commensurate with their reduced work skills and ethic, let alone their lack of professional training and degrees. The “system” is a mess and unfortunately Rabbonim and mechanichim who have unrealistically “paskened” larger and larger families, not taking into account valid halachic considerations about the impact upon others – including not only the grandparents and siblings but the greater Jewish community – while also pushing more “learning” to the neglect of secular education for parnassah purposes, share a great deal of the blame.

  12. Tal Benschar says:

    First of all, thank you for addressing this issue, which is very real for many of us.

    It seems to me the first step is to inculcate in everyone that Torah education is not a luxury, it is absolutely essential. Last year I made a siyum on Mas. Makkos. Without giving you my whole derasha, I noted what that the gemara learns from a possuk (Dev. 4:42) discussing Moshe setting up the cities of refuge to which a person who killed beshoggeg flees — וְנָס, אֶל-אַחַת מִן-הֶעָרִים הָאֵל–וָחָי, “and he shall flee to one of these cities and live.” From the last word — and he shall live — the gemara learns three things (1) beis din has to make sure that the cities of refuge have food and water; (2) beis din has to make sure that the persons fleeing there have physical security from the goel ha dam; and (3) beis din forces the manslaughterer’s rebbe to go into exile with him to teach him Torah. (See Makkos 10 a) IOW, beis din has to make sure that the city of refuge will provide the minimum means for the person going into exile to live — “things which give him life.” What are they? (1) food and water (2) physical security from attack and (3) learning Torah.

    Learning Torah is as essential to life as food and water or physical security. It’s that simple.

    Now imagine there were Jews who were so poor that they could not afford to feed their families. (BH we are mostly above that, at least in this country.) Clearly, everyone, rich or middle class, with few or many children, would dig into their pockets to make sure that these families had food — a basic necessity of life.

    Same thing with Torah, particularly Torah education for the young. It is a “thing which gives them life” — without it, there is no life.

    (As a parent who pays full tuition, I definitely agree that tuition has to be restructured. I don’t mind subsidizing those who do not have, or who have less. But why should that fall only on me as a parent and not on the community at large? I have heard there are poskim who allow you to allocate some of the tuition to maaser money, on the theory that part of it is in reality a subsidy to poorer families. It would be helpful if tuition could be structured such that we could also get a tax break on what is in economic reality (if not legally) a forced donation to others.)

  13. John says:

    A much bolder solution would be to forcefully request that any parent that gets a de facto Rabbi discount or is on tuition assistance give 100% of their maaser to the school? What’s with this week 50% figure you bring? 100% still wouldn’t even come close to closing the gap between a given family’s discount rate and the full tuition rate, but it would go a few counties further than 50%.

    I am middle class and do not qualify for tuition assistance. I thus have a massive tuition bill to pay. I asked my Rav how I can better handle the crushing debt, and he suggested that I determine what it costs the school to educate my child, and any amount above that should be paid with maaser. I called the school and did some calculations, and cost + 100% of my maaser gets all my kids to school. I have lost the luxury of giving to causes that I deem more worthy, which is painful to me. I don’t see why those on a discount should do any less (notice how class war farish this solution is, but one must fight fire with fire).

  14. Tal Benschar says:

    Were the system not shifting tuition burdens in this way, each mosod would have to raise tution dollars for its employees and balei battim would have a choice as to whether or not to donate to the mosdos. If they chose to – and many would if tuition burdens were relaxed – their donations would be tax deductible. Instead, balei baatim are forced to subsidize mosdos through a chinuch “tax.” often at the cost of increased working hours and/or spouses working who might not otherwise. Many balei baatim would willingly support local mosdos but few would have their spouse take a job solely to do so. Our current burden-shifting system often leaves them no choice.

    This portion of your argument raises another, related issue: spouses, typically women, working. I have heard on several occassions from people that it is unfair for a family where the wife does not work outside the home to ask for tuition assistance. IOW, absent some extreme circumstances, no one should get assistance unless both spouses are working (maybe at least part time for the wife). Families where the wife works resent families where the mother stays home if they get any form of assistance. The upshot of this attitude is that we will force women to work outside the home.

    I don’t agree with the sentiment, but it is there. Is this healthy? Something we want to encourage? Just throwing it out for discussion.

  15. Chaim says:

    The solution is fourfold: (i) mosdos, rather than schools, must be responsible for raising the dollars to pay tuition for their employees’ children, in an amount at least sufficient to cover the cost of educating them; if they can, great!, if they cannot, they will need to shrink; (ii) schools need to enforce a minimum per-child tuition across the board – if that amount is less than the actual cost of educating them then that amount should not be subject to a multi-child discount, (iii) Rabbeim, who are admittedly, grossly underpaid, should be given a fixed amount of tuition “credit” which they can use for their own children – in an amount sufficient to offset their being underpaid; beyond that, they need to be in the same boat as the rest of us when it comes to figuring out whether they can afford and how to pay for additional children – that’s not to say they shouldn’t have them, merely that they should be subject to the same real-world struggles the rest of us deal with; and (iv) schools need to set tuition at a reasonable, real-world rate and not award more tuition assistance than they have dollars to award. Period. Might this mean some people might have to go to work who might not otherwise? Almost certainly.

  16. Devorah says:

    I was very happy to see someone finally addressing the concerns of the middle class. As a working mother myself, I am very concerned about the rising cost of schooling. I recognize two issues that were not addressed in this article. First, one of the the things that was unfortunately left out of this article is the fact that many women choose not to work, yet their families still qualify for financial aid. If a woman makes the decision not to work her children should not be eligible for aid. Only as long as both parents are doing their hishtadlus and working to pay their own bills should schools be willing to consider financial aid. At least these mothers could volunteer at the school or work in the office to help offset the costs of the school rather than expect a handout and nothing else. Secondly, Rav Adlerstein does not mention one potential solution that is currently being used on the East Coast — a flat tuition. Many schools in New York and New Jersey charge $5000 per student, and everyone pays. People who earn more are always welcome to make tax deductible donations to the school above and beyond this amount, but by requiring everyone to pay, there is greater equality and buy-in for the the parents and students. How can a young family plan the number of children they will have based on the projected cost of tuition if tuition rises each year? By making tuition a flat rate, people know what to expect and can plan accordingly. Public schools operate on far less than what parents are charged for private school, yet offer their teachers better benefits and salaries than most yeshivos. Could it really be that so many people are not paying a dime? Offering a flat tuition allows schools to accurately assess what their revenue will be, what they can afford to spend, and allows parents to plan their families.

  17. Chaim says:

    I agree with Devorah about women working, but only if necessary to cover the cost of paying for their own children. A woman should not be forced to work to pay for other people’s children. If someone WANTS to work to give tzedakah, more power to them, but no one should be forced to work to give tzedakah.

  18. Ss says:

    If you will allow, I would like to add one last thought. It should go without saying that individuals have – or should have – personal responsibility in this matter. Frankly, I have never understood why family planning is such a unique halachic issue that requires special p’sak Halacha. Pru u’rvu is a mitzvah like other mitzvos. The parameters should be taught and must be applied like any other mitzvah. In the end, it is irresponsible, in my humble opinion, for third parties to be making – if not “imposing ” – their decisions on others in such a personal matter. There is – or should be – a greater degree of personal autonomy in this area once the basic mitzvah is fulfilled. Of course I recognize the d’Rabbonim aspect of laerev, but why is it so special as to require others to decide its personal application? The basic “shailah” regarding a “heter” not to keep on having kids is the degree to which having more children will (or may) have a deleterious emotional, psychological and (yes) financial impact upon a couple and their own family, including those they rely upon for support (in every sense of the word). It is hard to see how others than the couple themselves can make that determination. If they determine they are capable of having expanded families then they must provide responsibly for their own kids without “burdening” the larger Jewish community.

    [YA – I would offer a quick answer to your first question. There is a minhag – I cannot tell you how prevalent – for a person not to pasken maaros for himself, even if he is an experienced talmid chacham. The reason is that people have to take into account their own self-interest possibly getting in the way of their objectivity. I believe that the same should hold true of issues of family planning.]

  19. thinking outloud says:

    In our town it was 20K per kid, starting in Kindergarten. At the current rate of rise in tuition we expected it to hit 30K by eighth grade.
    Solution: aliyah
    Cons: in Israeli schools you often get what you pay for, and its unlikely that you will see the quality you are used to in a private day school.

  20. thinking outloud says:

    BTW an unappreciated component of the cost is that often your tuition dollars subsidize the children of parents who teach in the school – a common perk that doesn’t account for whether or not that parent could otherwise pay tuition. The kicker… as tuition rises every year the value of this perk goes up but isn’t included in the analysis when determining the amount of a raise a teacher gets… in the end, in many institutions, teachers get two raises, one in real dollars the second in the fact that they are exempt or partially exempt from a tuition that also went up — who covers both raises? the parent body.

    Perhaps a possible solution: Cap the amount of money spent on tzedaka that can leave the city, forcing those people who might feel compelled to spend on a new Kollel in Matesdorf to otherwise help the local schools first.

  21. AA says:

    What an informative article…

    And the screws are only going to come down tighter and tighter.

    There is NO HOPE of the American economy every being able to support these private Jewish schools long in the future. The macro economics are so simple: Asian salaries are exploding, to the dramatic benefit of people who were abused by the Western economies for generations…and the Western earned income is falling exactly as it HAS TO.

    Every cheap item you bought from China — was another nail in the coffin of your job. Americans in your children’s dor will earn less than half, adjusted for inflation and buying power, of what your father earned.

    There is NO WAY the American Orthodox community can support these schools with the high priced frills demanded by the local governments: gymnasiums, playing fields, science labs, come on.

    NO ONE will be able to afford them.


    In Israel they solve the problem by paring education to the bone. Tiny bits of math, no science, no sport. Just a table and chairs and an underpaid rebbe all day long.

    I was just wondering — seriously! — what about some amalgam of home schooling? It is, after all, allowed. And it is cheap. Maybe there is some work-around…I don’t know…

  22. Educator says:

    I am an educator. I went into the field because I love teaching children the value of their heritage.I love my students. I love my work. I feel passionate that I am changing the world with every pasuk my class learns.

    With that said, I always discourage my students from becoming teachers unless they don’t need the job. I was in the top of my class in high school and college and have training in a well paying secular profession. My colleagues are similarly talented. I keep my skills sharp because the politics of the community against its employees is harsh. I know that I have no job stability. I know that my body can be replaced by a younger, cheaper teacher at any moment. The tuition benefit keeps me in a vastly underpaying job where I can be let go at any time for petty reasons.

    I am a very talented teacher. Your children love coming to school because of the work I do. I work very hard to make sure that every student gets the attention and help to learn based on their needs. But even with that, I know I won’t have this job until retirement. It is far cheaper to hire a young teacher than to keep one with experience. So they keep my salary painfully low, I could make more as a babysitter, and give me a break on tuition.

    Before we think about taking away the tuition benefit from rabbanim or teachers, you might want to consider who is going to be spending the majority of the day with your child in that environment. The tuition benefit is a far cheaper way to get very talented individuals to stay in the profession than actually having to pay a commesurate salary.

    You raised another point as well. You questioned why, if you don’t daven in a particular Rav’s shul, should the community support that Rav’s tuition payments for his kids. I think that is underestimating the benefit that the community gets from other shul’s rabbanim. Having competent professionals as a Rav in each shul impacts the health of the community. You get what you pay for. If you want talented individuals to lead the community, you can’t make it impossible for them to live in your community. If this leadership is unimportant, than don’t pay for it and be satisfied with a weaker communal structure.

  23. Southern Belle says:

    My cousin has pioneered this program with Solomon Schecter in Boston, recently featured on jewishideasdaily.com It proposes 15% of income as tuition payment per family, with reductions given based on demonstrated need. It will be an interesting experiment to watch.

    As for your comment about 50% of maaser staying local, R”Adlerstein, my rav is unequivocal that a person should exhaust all maaser funds by applying them to tuition (except perhaps a portion for shul, mikvah, and other services “used” by the giver) before asking for a tuition break. A tuition break is tzedakah, so how can one give tzedakah with one hand and ask for it with the other?

    As a member of the middle class, in addition to everything you mentioned, there is also a resentment among families on various levels of assistance. I resent when my friends on assistance stay in 5 star hotels, have extravagent clothing budgets and lease new cars when we pay full tuition and because of it drive an older car, buy cheaper clothes and do not take vacations. It also encourages the opposite of Mah tovu because everyone wants to see what everyone else is doing.

    [YA -I don’t believe that your rov is alone in that assessment. OTOH, I remember that the issue was brought up with an adam gadol decades ago in Los Angeles, and he rejected the proposal of stripping tuition-assistance parents of all their maaser. The situation was different perhaps, in that the burden back then was not placed as much on other parents, but on the board which still was having success in raising money from the very wealthy in the community, although with great effort.]

  24. Nachum says:

    “that Torah education is not a luxury, it is absolutely essential”

    This can’t be proven based on drash. What actual evidence do you have? Up until the 1950’s or 1960’s- and maybe even later- this- in the sense that you mean it- was assumed *nowhere* in the Jewish world. (For that matter, education, period, was not assumed anywhere in the world. No, we’re not all geniuses who benefit from more than bare-bones practical education. Not even Jews.) In Europe, most Jewish kids got a basic education- reading and maybe understanding Hebrew, some Chumash, halakha- and that ended when they were thirteen, tops. Was it ideal? Of course not. But we have to start reexamining assumptions if we’re to make progress.

  25. Will says:

    My children receive excellent Torah and secular education. Last year, we paid a total of about $307 – including all books, school lunch, field trips, everything.

    How is this possible? We live in Israel!

    Please, dear brothers and sisters: if you won’t come home because the Torah obligates you to live here, at least do the mitzvah “lo l’shma”, and come home because you can educate your children here without taking a second mortgage or selling a kidney…

  26. Anon in LA says:

    Nobody’s thinking enough out of the box.

    We need more Mayberry and less urban schmutz. Once the price of primary living expenses (rent or mortgage plus utilities) exceeds the ability of an average well-trained professional (I cannot charge more than my gentile peers in salary or in commissions), it’s time to seed other communities.

    It is by insisting on staying put and the acceptance of “elitist” communities with ample gashmius (restaurants, shopping, etc.) that is the source of the steep rise in education costs. What is the cost of maintaining 20 kollel families in Los Angeles where the price of a home that can fit a moderate sized family within walking distance to shuls STARTS in the mid-$600k range for a “needs work” property and where rents are $2500 and up? Imagine 50 more young Lakewoods, Monseys, Waterburys, etc. where homes are in the $125k-$200k range and rents are low enough that a newly married working woman might be able to afford the rent to enable her husband to continue learning, at least for a few years? What is the cost of supporting rabbis and building in those communities versus large urban communities where we have no choice but to compromise our values by kowtowing to vile local politicians whose values are anathema to ours… just to get zoning variances for schools and shuls?

    Nobody wants to move where there are no leaders and have their children seen as “lesser than”.

    The “establishment” frum world blew it and were losing droves to the haskalah because of their elitism. If not for the Baal Shem Tov, which enabled the mere worker to feel good about his connection to HKB”H, the hemorrhaging would have been far worse. Today, our kollel system, which has NEVER been as it is today, is following the lead of the American “higher education” bubble… which is going to soon pop. It is not viable.

    The solution? When the going gets tough… the leaders should move to communities where the properties are affordable so that young families have a chance. Once the average price of a home exceeds $300k, it’s time for the leaders to seek to create viable satellite communities where a mid-sized family can live on a slightly-above-average family income of $80k or so AND afford to be able to educate their children. Communities where newlyweds cannot afford to live near their families BREAKS UP FAMILIES.

    Gedolim typically have many sons who will, in turn, be gedolim. But only one will inherit the father’s position. The other sons should be encouraged to lead other communities.

    Baal Habatim can’t and shouldn’t lead this.

    Is it so wrong to want our leaders to… lead? To demonstrate even a single semester’s understanding of economics?

    Is it wrong to want our leaders to define a neo-Zevulun movement that they’d praise? Call it neo-shtetlism. Imagine new viable communities where there aren’t vile billboards and urban blight. Target towns where public schools have closed and which would have inexpensive already-built infrastructure.

    There haven’t been cossacks coming over the hills in pogroms in the Western Hemisphere since Europeans started coming here over 500 years ago. The antipathy to non-urban life completely denies the upside of the spiritual health of our experience in the shtetl.

    Regarding Israel… until the socialist appointees who take glee in frustrating others are retired, fired, dead by natural causes of old age or discover capitalist libertarianism, my likelihood of aliyah is low. I have NO desire for me or my children to become coarse Israelis. If a culture isn’t seeking to become more polite, it is its own worst enemy. If I have to become more aggressive among other Jews who ought to be and feel like they’re on the same team, I want no part of it. ALL of my competitive energy (which is considerable) should be directed against foes, not for a moment against fellow Jews. I am the consummate “freier” and do not want to trade an atom of that for an atom of Israeli aggression. My dream is to make aliyah but my experience was (when I worked there for a few months) was that it was a nightmare that made me lose faith in my fellow Jews and where I had NO desire to have the relentless aggressive atmosphere affect the midos of my children… or me. I didn’t mind loathing the neighboring hostile countries, but I don’t want to spend 3 seconds upset with an Arab-emulating boor who has no consideration of what a queue is at the bakery.

    Lastly, concerning the un- and under-employed, perhaps there can be a tuition break for successful full-time job placement or job-improvement of others. Instead, we see a near-collusion of Jewish employers hiring people for just few enough hours not to have to pay benefits. What a chiddush! I’m about as anti-union as they come, but I’d almost like to see a Jewish educator’s union which compelled all schools to provide pro-rated minimum benefits. A teacher only works 10 hours a week for your school? Fine… the school pays 1/4 the way toward that teacher’s benefit’s package, which should include healthcare at the very least. A teacher who is splitting 30 hours among 3 schools now only has to scramble to come up with the 25% toward his/her benefits with side work.

    But find a place where one can spend 1/3 as much on housing and with reasonably good schools, a serious community leader, and “out of town” values, and there will be more than $1k/mo each family can allocate toward education expenses. Multiply by 200 families. Repeat 40x.

  27. Anon in LA says:

    To AA, who wrote “Asian salaries are exploding, to the dramatic benefit of people who were abused by the Western economies for generations”

    Oh, yeah… as if Mao and his Cultural Revolution didn’t gut China of its brainpower?

    China shot itself in the foot and didn’t become a manufacturing base for America until VERY recently. It was NOT the West that suppressed the Chinese.

    Our mistake now is in not treating Chinese intellectual property theft as acts of war. We should be charging foreign students more tuition to attend American universities, and they get half of that back if they become US citizens within 10 years of getting their degree. Want real transformation? Link tuitions like we did free trade with the Jackson-Vanik amendment. FreedomHouse.org ranks nations from 1 (best) to 7 (worst) based upon political and social freedoms. Whatever fees and tuitions a citizen from a “7” nation should pay should be multiplied by 7. This would impact China (7) and Saudi Arabia (6.5) a lot. Properly so.

  28. L. Oberstein says:

    We all have to be careful not to read into others motives that we ascribe to them. Those of us who have been blessed with more than one son and one daughter never once thought that we were having a large family to soak the hard working taxpayers. The belief that children are a gift from G-d and that it is a mitzvah to bring Jewish souls into this world is not something to be trifled with. Many wealthy people spend more money than they earn and live far beyond their means. They get used to a life style and can’t give up their Pesach Hotels, vacation homes both in the mountains and in Florida, apartment in Israel ,etc. How many of them think that some of their excess consumption given to day schools could subsidize middle class families. They don’t think that and I don’t expect them to. They are not thinking of the big picture and neither are the poor people. We are all just trying to pay our bills and keep afloat.
    Our society, both general and Jewish, faces a crises.There simply isn’t enough money to pay the bills.
    The answer has a lot to do with how we define “community”. We in the frum community, despite our intra-mural spats, view one another as family and feel a sense of social responsibility. That is why we have so many chesed organizations. To give one example. When a typical middle class American non Jew makes a wedding, how many people does he feel close enough to that he invites them? 150 maybe.
    We make weddings and feel we have to cut it off at 400 or 500 close friends. We have community and that is why we will not allow our poor brethern to suffer and we will not throw their children out.

  29. Reb Yid says:

    This has been happening in many day schools, both non-Orthodox and modern Orthodox, for some time. Now the more centrist and haredi are getting hit as well.

    The recession a few years back accelerated the process. Some families are now having fewer kids, some are forced to move (cannot afford current mortgage while sending kids to day school), some withdraw from day school, etc.

    Some Orthodox yeshivot and day schools do keep tuition costs low yet running a tight ship. I’ve seen the data up close. A major way they can do this is by paying their teachers and rabbis very minimally, while giving the rabbis tuition remission/exemption/discounts for their children and parsonage tax benefits.

    While there are institutional benefits to this approach, there are clearly communal social and economic consequences as well. And, as the Orthodox population continues to grow and school enrollments grow, it will be tougher for these schools to maintain the status quo–something will have to give.

  30. DMZ says:

    Educator: I’m sure you’re a talented teacher, but let’s do the math here. You get paid, probably, what, $30k-$40k a year? Maybe you work in an enlightened day school where you even get benefits as a secular studies teacher. (I’m assuming you’re a secular studies teacher due to the going to college reference, but if you’re a rebbe, whatever, same analysis.)

    Now, let’s say you have six kids. We’ll assume that it costs about $10k a year in actual average costs to educate each of them. 6*$10k = $60k. That is not a “cheap” benefit by any stretch of the imagination. Your direct cost to the school is $90k-$100k+. Much as I love to complain to my unionized public school teacher friends that they are drastically overpaid, you’re making out pretty good here.

    Another thing comes out of this analysis… my direct cost to have a kid is the cost of feeding, clothing, housing, and providing tuition for my new kid. The teacher’s cost doesn’t include tuition, and that is a HUGE portion of the cost. I could easily afford a bunch of kids if tuition was not a factor. Guess who’s able to have more kids under this scheme? Indeed, if we assume that day school faculty is to the right of the general community, you could argue quite reasonably that the school’s policies kicked off the culture war, not the growing rebellion of the full tuition paying parents. Those school policies are taxing the less-right-wing middle class for the kids that the more-right-wing faculty is having. Think hard about the implications of that, and ask yourself whether more right-wing rabbonim are going to willingly pasken that, yes, the schools should cut off the easy money being funneled to their congregants. You’re kidding yourself if you don’t think politics play into psak now.

    Personally, I think a good place to start with the solution is to separate out the tuition assistance from the tuition. Even if donating to certain tuition assistance funds becomes mandatory, at least I’ll get a tax break. Is there some sort of reason this can’t be done, besides institutional laziness?

    I’d also like to see kids actually have to qualify for the tuition assistance. I’ve seen so much tuition money blown on kids who just ruined it for their classmates, or just screwed around in school… day school education is not an intrinsic right. The money needs to go to the most deserving, not just people who happen to be poor.

  31. Daniel says:

    I agree with everything written by Rabbi Adlerstein. I do wonder though, with respect to the issue of having a kollel or other religious institution be required to pay their employees a wage that can pay for their children’s education is equitable. Would you call a businessman and insist that he raise his secretary’s salary above the going rate because she cannot afford yeshiva / day school tuition?

    We do not expect an employer to pay above the going rate, so why would we insist that a kollel pay above the going kollel rate? A possible answer may be that a business stays solvent by creating a good or service that brings in enough revenue to keep the business solvent and pay the employees a wage that is set in the economic marketplace. The kollel is supported by tzedaka and one can argue that if the kollel cannot bring in enough revenue to support the needs of its employees without requiring the subsidy of unwilling community members, arbitrarily choosing a going rate that only exists because of the assumption that the community will subsidize is not a real “going rate.”

  32. Mummy says:


    Don’t have to worry about the *influences* of public schools.
    Becomes MORE cost effective the more kids you have.
    Once a critical mass of families buy into this model, the social issues go away.

  33. Dr. E says:

    There are various issues and dynamics at play here. The truth is that the system is broken on many fronts. Just to list several points, as there is shared blame here.
    Yeshivos and Seminaries have been promoting a way of life that is many respects unrealistic and financially irresponsible. On the male side, the worldview has been informed by disdain for secular studies, normative Kollel, and simplistic (and irresponsible) statements such as “when you need to make parnassa, you will just do it”. On the female side, there have been many mixed messages about dating/marriage/children, working, paycheck, and if and how college fits into the equation. So, the squeeze is really the result of everyone following the rules.

    Many Yeshivos which were previously community institutions, have evolved into essentially family businesses, fraught with nepotism and little transparency/accountability. It’s all about the brand and prestige of sending one’s kids to a certain institution. And the “elite” Yeshivos and Seminaries often capitalize on that, leveraging parental fear of the next chapter—the Shidduch Crisis” to have parents over a barrel.

    On the other hand, many young adults entering into parenthood have no a priori intention of ever paying retail tuition. That is seen as something for the “rich” and any tuition statement is simply a “recommended donation”. (Perhaps this is a consequence of being in the second generation of this message and their just doing what they have been told. Or it might be the way that tuition rates are set and perceptions of objective inequity.) A couple of generations ago, shortfalls in tuition were accounted for as a “give or get” or as a “debt” to the Yeshiva which was kept in a ledger to be paid back at a later time. In Talmudic parlance, for such people, it was “dechuya” and not “hutra”. Either way, we have seen a fundamental shift in values here.

    There are still some people out there who for a couple of reasons see retail tuition payments as a non-negotiable responsibility despite strong sentiments of inequity. They will do whatever it takes and in most cases, that means both parents working full-time and being frugal. It might also mean smaller families. So, within this category, there will most certainly be resentment towards those (larger) families receiving breaks, especially when there is only one real income coming in. This is of course exacerbated when there is conspicuous consumption (either the blatant materialistic or even the more noble “supporting married kids in Kollel”) and lack of the same frugality and sacrifice as being put forth by the tuition paying family. The likely outcome here is that resentment here will likely be a tremendous challenge to fundraisers who approach them after the last tuition bill is paid.

    To a large extent, despite this perhaps more recent observation, family sizes in the past 20 years have increased over what existed even within the Yeshivish community in America 30-50 years ago, when 4 or 5 children were quite typical. So, maybe what is being observed recently is merely a historical regression back to that time.

  34. Miriam says:

    I live in Israel and, if you like, the communal taxation model is in use – namely, through government taxes. BY education is almost free and there are free boys’ schools too, though we send to a private cheder. Our tuition for our sons is $80 a month. And everyone pays.

    So why can it cost so much less in Israel? First we have larger classes. When I’ve mentioned this possibility to American Jews they react in horror. What – 40 children in a class? I agree that a smaller class is better, but if you don’t have the money, you don’t. Costs of staff could be lowered just by increasing class size.

    Next, what about facilities? Our cheder has a library in two closets, no sports field, a very small yard, no labs etc.

    Heating and A/C costs – clearly there are days when the school must be heated, but limit those days. Tell the children to bring extra sweaters for cool fall/ spring days. Use the A/C only on very hot days. Israelis on a budget are used to living like this, out of school too.

    A part of the problem seems to be to me that parents want the ‘very best’ for their children – physically as well as spiritually. Any rational, thinking person knows when you have lowered income you must cut your expenditure. Clearly the costs have spiralled above the community’s budget.

  35. Avi says:

    I can perceive a time in the future where those middle class parents will opt to send their kids to the suburban public schools (at least for a few years in elementary school) and get a tutor for their child in Limudei Kodesh.

  36. Dov (the author) says:

    First, as others have said, moving to Israel is a solution for many. Both health care and education is a fraction of the cost. Everyone mutters about Israeli salaries, but when you save $100,000/year in education and health care, the salaries look a lot different.

    As for the core issue you raise, it can be seen as a much more “systemic” question: After 50 years of working to convince growing percentages of Frum Jews to value non-material things like learning and avodas ha’kodesh more than material things, and succeeding, at what point does the entire religious society have to say that that battle is over, and we now need to strike a balance that enables a higher percentage of frum society to earn higher wages?

    Seen more broadly, the issues you’re raising are the exact same as the issues being raised in Israel – after years of the general society supporting a growing and huge number of avreichim, at what point is it legitimate (even from a frum perspective) for society as a whole to say that it’s not possible anymore?

  37. David J says:


    Thanks for the writing about this important issue. It is appreciated. The Orthodox community almost universally believes that jewish day school (or yeshiva) education is neccassary for almost all Orthodox children. Orthodox schools are almost entirely funded by private donations. High quality, private full time school education is very expensive to run, especially when there is a dual (jewish and secular) curricululm. When large families are entered into the equation the costs per family are much higher.

    What can be done? Some of these ideas will be controversial. Some I might not supprt. These are ideas.

    * Schools increase financial transparency of their books. Move to model where this increases confidence from donors.
    * Othodox Jews increasing must look to Hebrew charter Schools such as Ben Gamla (in Florida), supplamented with after school judaics.
    * A think tank to research the economics of private day school education in the Othodox community. Studies are needed.
    * School tutin sould not cost more than 10% of the actual cost of school per child. People will have less resenmtment
    * Orthodox Jews must bring in more money.
    * Limit full time kollel (for those over 22) to no more than 3% of adults in the Orthodox community.
    * Send the kollel learners out into the schools to assist with needs.
    * Familiies who have recieved more than 30% reductions in turion over the course of five years, will not recieve any new tuition reductions (for new children)if their failies grow beyond 5 children.
    * Find other ways Orthodox Jews can save money (less on fancy simchas), so that more money will be available for tuition.
    * Kehillah funds should be responsible for raising 10 – 20% of tution.

  38. Orit says:

    Wow, thank you for talking about something so important.
    Let’s start with the problems:
    1. Would we all settle for a no-frills education? Well, even though my child has benefitted from a school with a nurse, when she switched to one without on, we managed (she has asthma). But we can’t really do without special education – what are parents of LD kids supposed to do? Could we live without some things? Maybe we have to learn to do without a school library, a playground (balls and hoops from home, Chinese jumpropes and pick-up sticks).
    2. Can the system ever be fair? Young couple A spends a lot on furniture and jewelry, which they are never asked to sell, young couple B is frugal. Guess who pays more tuition? The couple who saved and has it in the bank. Additionally, we have to set a standard – if in the year 2000 an average 4 bedroom house in town x costs 400K, but a family bought a home that year for 600K, and then comes in 2005 asking for a break because they have so little after they pay their mortgage, they shouldn’t get the break that a family who came and bought for 350K gets. The local schools should publish buying guidelines, and make it clear that any family buying a home for 25% more than the average for 2012 will not be eligible for a break for the next 10 years – if they take the risk of overspending, it shouldn’t be me that suffers. And when they can’t afford it all, they should have to sell their home. Couples should also be forced to show what jewelry and silver and art they own before getting breaks.
    3. Stop advocating aliya as a solution. Most Americans who made aliya are drowning. We also need to buy our kids braces and pay for their weddings. Cars and homes here are through the roof, and food prices are crazy — pretzels and tuna and orange juice are luxury items, forget about buying steak and lox and ice cream.

  39. Chaim says:

    A Response to Educator: While I agree with most of what you said, I do not believe that Rabbi Adlerstein or anyone in this forum has advocated doing away with the tuition benefit for teachers in its entirety.

    The reality is that teachers are grossly underpaid and that it is significantly easier for a school to offer a tuition benefit than to come up with more dollars to pay teachers. That structure is advantageous to the school from a dollars perspective and to the teachers from a taxation perspective.

    The point being made is that the tuition benefit needs to be capped. If a teacher is paid $60,000 (as in Rabbi Adlerstein’s example) and, in a perfect world, ought to be paid $120,000 (these numbers are examples – the correct numbers depend on many factors, not the least of which is the cost of living in the particular locale) then give the teacher $60,000 in tuition credit (which, incidentally, is the equivalent of $90,000 pre-tax dollars). Giving an unlimited benefit is the rub – and it allows teachers not to have to grapple with family-size issues the way the rest of us do. I know of numerous instances in which, the largely tax-free nature of teacher compensation (i.e., parsonage) plus the tuition benefit those teachers receive – also on a tax-free basis – amounts to north of $300,000 a year of pre-tax income for anyone else.

    In short, the teacher tuition benefit shouldn’t be eliminated, but it does need to be capped at an amount (which will vary by community) which gives teachers the equivalent of a reasonable salary. Yes, this will mean that teachers with large families might have to look for other employment options. Our system produces a dearth of qualified teachers, and this means jobs will likely go to those with smaller families.

    There is a fundamental injustice in a system which forces those footing the bills to grapple with issues regarding family size while those benefiting from the chinuch “tax” needn’t do the same.
    With respect to your point about Rabbanim in “other” shuls benefiting the community. There is no doubt that you are right, they do benefit the community. But every benefit needs to be subject to a cost-benefit analysis. Do they provide enough of a benefit to justify forcing people to take a second job to pay tuition for their children? Perhaps they do, but that decision should be made by those who will have to take the second job. When we allow a handful of people to make the decision to hire another Rav, and then foist the financial impact of that decision on people who were not involved in the decision – through non-tax-deductible increased tuition – that is unjust. If a community values an additional Rav (and I personally think they should) they will support that decision by funding the Shul through tax-deductible, voluntary donations; if they don’t they won’t. But no small group of people should get to make the decision for the community.

    Ultimately, there is only one reliable way to change human behavior and that is to eliminate the economic incentives which encourage such behavior. As long as our system rewards those who behave in a financially-irresponsible manner by offering them free stuff, their behavior will continue. As long as mosdos can hire at will, knowing that the school will bear the burden of raising the money for their employees’ children, nothing will change.

  40. Dan Daoust says:

    Obamacare is a Republican project. It’s called Romneycare.

  41. lacosta says:

    what about the new LA model of online english classes? at least this would cut the cost 1/3
    this wont work for the MO pre-Ivy League academies, but would work for haredi families who don’t mind secular academic inferiority….the MO academies anyways are smaller families more secular oriented anyways….

  42. lacosta says:


    in LA this is the Canfield school model where in Pico >100 kipas are in public school, reportedly….again , won’t work for haredim who must separate from everyone and every environment not strictly controlled…

  43. Skeptic says:

    I have a somewhat crazy idea, but following up on Rabbi Adlerstein’s last paragraph, I think we need strict takanos with respect to advertising for tzedakah. Part of the problem today is that you have cutthroat competition between various causes, leading to thousands of dollars wasted on glossy ads, DVDs, etc. Not to mention the scare tactics, segulah promises and other aspects of advertising that many of us find disturbing.

    I think requiring all tzedakos to follow certain strict guidelines would help people focus on the halachos governing which tzedakos take priority when it comes to giving, rather than focusing on the organization with the flashiest ad that promises the best shidduch, etc.

    If we can get the gedolim to put together guidelines and have the major frum media outlets (e.g., Yated, Hamodia, Mishapacha, Ami) follow them, that may be a step in the right direction.

  44. Move to Israel says:

    Many people have written that Aliyah is the solution. It seems unlikely that all American Jewry will decide to move to Israel in the immediate future, but this is the solution. This is something every Jew living in the Diaspora should constantly be thinking about. This move is the most important education you can give your children. And meanwhile, start teaching Hebrew fluency in Jewish Day Schools.

  45. Leib says:

    This is an important post. One major issue that has not been addressed yet is the following statistic I heard from the BJE in Los Angeles. They say that there are 10,000 children in day schools in LA, 5,400 Orthodox, 4,600 non-Orthodox. But for those 4,600 non-Orthodox there are 12 schools, whereas the 5,400 Orthodox have 24 schools! How can such a small community sustain so many schools? I think this blog should engage in cheshbon hanefesh and wonder if its frequent attacks and condemnations of other orthodox Jews doesn’t contribute to the hair splitting in the Orthodox community of constantly needing to find a school with just the right hashkafa so that we bankrupt ourselves by trying to raise funds for dozens of very similar schools when we could get by (and thrive) with far fewer.

  46. dovid landesman says:

    The essence of the problem seems to be that there is no organized body dealing with the financial needs of each community and setting the criteria for using kaspei tzedaka. I propose that we return to the kehillah structure wherein we elect sheva tuvei ha-ir [elect, not have them appointed] who allocate the communities resources based on the amount available, the priorities of the community and devise the methods that will fairly tax the resources. These kehillot will in turn be responsible to a larger vaad kehillat America – elected by the local kehillot. The local kehillot will decide on salary levels for klei kodesh, which mosdot should be opened within the community [should a kollel be opened simply because someone has the cheshek to be a rosh kolel], the number of day schools, mesivtos and yeshivot gevohot. The costs of running two yeshivot with a hundred students in each is far greater than operating one yeshiva with two hundred students. Moreover, the costs associated with fundraising would be considerably less if it was funneled through a single organization.
    Let me offer a single example of a concept that was in place in a number of communities in the past and is still to be found [i.e., the meat tax in the Breuer kehillah.
    Taxes on kosher food – according to recently published statistics, the kosher food industry in the US generates $40 billion in annual retail sales. With the co-operation of the kosher regulatory agencies, I would suggest an across the board tax of but 1% on these products, the proceeds of which [do the math, we’re talking about $400 million annually) would be placed into a superfund to be distributed for Jewish day school education only. Yes, some of that money would end up in Conservative and Reform schools, but given the numbers [205,000 students according to the 2004 Avichai study] schools would receive almost $2000 per student. Raise the tax to 2% and schools would get $4000 per student annually.
    Kosher food distributors who would be reluctant to co-operate [and the tax would be collected on the distribution rather than the manufacturing level] would face boycotts of their products. Regulatory agencies would also be subjected to the same pressures to insure their buying into the idea.
    Admittedly, the idea of a unified kehillat America is somewhat of a pipe dream, but I would hope that there are enough sane people out there who would at least meet to see if it is feasible.

  47. cvmay says:

    The friction between two groups is reflected by the debates going on in Israel now.

    “Everyone do your share” – rich, poor, bnei torah and baalabatim, no one should or wants to shoulder the responsibility of the other.

  48. Charlie Hall says:

    “I’m about as anti-union as they come, but I’d almost like to see a Jewish educator’s union which compelled all schools to provide pro-rated minimum benefits. ”

    Catholic schools in much of the US have unionized faculty and staff, yet their tuitions are a fraction of that charged by orthodox day schools. So it obviously isn’t pay and benefits that is causing tuition to be high.

    And while faculty pay is often dismal at orthodox day schools — when they get paid at all — the leaders of those schools can do quite well, thank you. I personally know of many day schools where the principal makes far more than any NYC public school principal — despite having a small fraction of the number of students. There is little incentive for them to create the economies of scale that make education less expensive through larger schools. (There is a public high school near me called Bronx High School of Science. It gives 3,000 students an excellent education at a per pupil cost of $11,905 annually, with an entirely unionized administration, faculty, and staff.)

    “We should be charging foreign students more tuition to attend American universities”

    Graduate education is a worldwide free market. Most graduate students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics get free tuition and a tax free stipend (American students have to pay tax on it). And if we stopped doing that, the students would go elsewhere.

    You don’t like that? Say goodbye forever to America’s leadership in those fields, and watch as other countries destroy us economically. The US wins because until the nativist bigots manage to shut off immigration, most of those international graduate students will continue to decide to stay in America. By granting free tuition and stipends, we are ripping off the rest of the world of the best and the brightest. Good thing, given how few American students want to pursue education in those fields. (And the orthodox Jewish community is part of the problem, not part of the solution.)

    “Send the kollel learners out into the schools to assist with needs.”

    We have a Torah MiTzion kollel in my community that is a big help to the local high school.

  49. Charlie Hall says:

    “this is the solution”

    Most western democracies allow government funds to be spent on religious schools, and in places that funding is quite generous. It really helps. But there has yet to be a single case where a proposed tuition voucher referendum has passed the voters. An attempt was made in 1967 to repeal New York State’s Blaine Amendment the explicitly prohibits government funding of religious schools; it was pushed by supporters of then-Sen. Robert F. Kennedy but it got only 28% of the vote. I honestly don’t see this problem being solved without government funding — there just isn’t enough money out there in our commmunity. Government funding of Jewish schools works in Ireland, the UK, France, Spain, and parts of Canada. The quid pro quo is that schools have to teach the entire government-mandated secular curriculum, and I don’t think that is a bad tradeoff. We’ll have to help campaign to make Americans less tax averse, of course.

    It is worth mentioning that I used to be a big hard core Keep Church and State Separate guy. I’ve changed on this one 180 degrees.

  50. Charlie Hall says:

    “They say that there are 10,000 children in day schools in LA, 5,400 Orthodox, 4,600 non-Orthodox. But for those 4,600 non-Orthodox there are 12 schools, whereas the 5,400 Orthodox have 24 schools! How can such a small community sustain so many schools?”

    Our posts crossed in the Internet. Public high schools here in NYC can have 4,000 students, intermediate and elementary schools one to two thousand. We pay dearly for our hashkafic divisions. Is it really worth bankrupting our entire community to make sure that students from families without television are isolated from families with television?

  51. Gidon says:

    I am just chiming in as another Aliyah supporter, following about half a dozen commenters here and Yehoshua and Kalev.

    Anyone who says that Aliya is not an option, that things are so bad here that the costs outweigh the benefits, are crying sour grapes. I can guarantee that beyond the few commenters here who sign the praises of living in Israel (thereby proving the naysayers wrong by definition) there are THOUSANDS of expat Americans in Israel who LOVE it. “Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.”

  52. Morah Rachel says:

    There’s another ugly truth in American Jewish education that even though no one will dare say this out loud, I have been painfully aware of this truth for almost all of the 15 years I have been teaching; and I think that when it is considered with what is discussed here, the need for major changes in our chinuch system becomes quite clear. The truth is that most children are not geniuses, not iluyim, not cracked up to sit indoors for 8+ hours with little or no physical activity, and not desirous let alone equipped to handle a dual curriculum. Statistically, the bell curve applies to frum Jews as much as it applies to all other humans, first of all. It’s silly to pretend that all people aspire to be the same thing, no matter what that same thing is. But the pressure on the students to be excellent in both Jewish and general studies makes it seem, as I often have joked, that we defy all science and statistics because 90 percent of our children are geniuses, and 10 percent are average, instead of vice versa (and of course no one is less than average). The obvious solution to what is breaking our children’s spirit as much as it’s breaking their parents’ bank accounts is to make our educational institutions more workable for everyone – shorter school days with fewer subjects. Students can then thrive in whatever their talents, and obvious with a shorter day and fewer teacher, the costs will be less. There will also be a more noticeable difference between the schools than what exists now – ones more focused kodesh, on chol, on arts or sciences or whatever. Moving to Israel, as others here have suggested, seems the best option of all, though not everyone in chutz l’aretz is prepared to do that just yet – especially those gainfully employed where they are! Not everyone is equipped to home-school, but that’s another possible solution to both the economic issues as well as the cookie-cutter education problem. Yes, the day-school teacher suggests home-schooling as an option…

  53. Whoa nelly says:


    Your statistic is missing important information. How does the tuition compare in the more orthodox schools vs the less orthodox schools? How do the expenses compare?

    I know that on the east coast, the general rule is the more ” modern” the school the higher the tuition is and the greater the expenses of the school. And that is with the faculty of the modern schools having smaller class sizes.

    A close friend of mine was on the tuition committee of a modern orthodox school and they were getting requests for tuition reductions for parents who were earning many multiple hundreds of thousands in compensation. They needed to pay mortgages on a huge house the payments on the Mercedes where high, pesach in a hotel and keeping up with their freinds European vacation was expensive. And to my friends great chagrin, the scholarships were being awarded.

    Yet chasidic schools manage to charge about 1/8th as full tuition as this school does. And apparently they are I similar financial condition. Or better. It apparently does not have to with foly size.

  54. Elliot Pasik says:

    Excellent article.

    I wrote an article once in the Jewish Press, January 11, 2006, proposing a Jewish Tax Return. Here is what I wrote:

    “As practiced in America today, however, Orthodox Judaism has made v’shinantam l’vanecha a financial exercise in torture except for the rich. Our high tuitions scare away countless American Jews who might otherwise consider a day school education for their children. Little wonder, then, that American Jewry suffers from a 52 percent intermarriage rate.

    “A Jewish Tax Return might change things. A few knowledgeable rabbis and accountants need to hammer out a form and worksheet, not unlike IRS Form 1040, detailing income, assets, liabilities, expenses, deductions, and all other relevant financial criteria, and the bottom line would state an amount to be paid as tzedakah and maaser – a nice chunk of which would go to Jewish education.

    “In reality, there is one class of Jews who already do fill out a de facto Jewish Tax Return – the masses of middle class and poor parents who fill out school scholarship forms and pay a disproportionate and inequitable share of their income and assets to educate their children. In doing so, many fall into debt, practice early birth control, and suffer domestic strife – even divorce.”

    The Jewish Tax Return could be voluntary. You join a shul, you get the form, you pay tzedaka. The yeshivas get financially stronger, and the tuition crisis is eased. The Jewish Tax Return might work.

  55. concerned says:

    Charter Schools – It’s not what your thinking.

    Forget the icy slope of Hebrew Charter Schools, that is not really an option to parents willing to sacrifice so many tens of thousands of dollars for a true yeshiva education.

    I think a potential solution lies in COMPLETELY SECULAR charter schools. They would have not hebrew or religion and not be even potentially confused with a yeshiva education. They would however be designed specifically to cater to students finished their yeshiva schedule at 12:00pm.

    Our theoretical “Chochma Charter School” opens its doors at 12:00pm providing lunch, high quality secular classes, top-flight physical fitness programs, school trips, labs, special education, etx…..
    If you are wondering how that is possible, please note that NYC per pupil funds provided to Charter Schools for the 2010-2011 school year was $13,527.

    The school will be single gender (yes, these already exist for girls at least), open on thanksgiving, Xmas, and all the other days that yeshiva students are in religious school anyways and have strict rules regarding the type or media, language and dress allowed (many charter schools utilize uniforms).

    This model is not without pitfalls but taking out 60% of our yeshiva budgets and getting our tax dollars to work for us is worth seeing if it can be made to work.

    I have experience working with both charter schools and a charter school incubator organization. There is HUGE potential here but I can’t seem anyone to take notice of it.

  56. Yosh says:

    This is a very appropriate topic as we begin the 3 weeks. There are many sources of sinas chinam, sadly, but this one is especially insidious because of the hatred of Torah learning it creates.

    One additional thing that can help solve the problem is change our perceptions of what it means to be an Eshes Chayil. We usually think of an Eshes Chayil as being a woman who will cheerfully give up material goods and time with her husband to support his learning. The Eshes Chayil of the current and next generation, however, needs to be able to earn a strong salary (not a teacher’s salary). A full time mother staying at home is simply unaffordable today for anyone but a very well off professional. The rosh kollel in my community’s wife lived this model. It’s possible to be a good mother and work, just more difficult.

    It also takes more “abba” time. Husbands will probably have to contribute more in the evening, and sacrifice on that end. That arrangement shouldn’t intrude on full-time Torah study, and will enable klei kodesh to contribute to tuition.

    We need to update our perception of what it means to sacrifice. We generally think of sacrifice as forgoing material goods, which is true, but we don’t think of working a sacrificing for Torah because, typically, working means leaving full time learning. Klei kodesh families say to themselves “I’m sacrificing all I can, look at how few luxuries I have. What more can I do?” while working families think “I’m sacrificing far more, do you think I want to be working this hard? and incidentally, I don’t have so many luxuries either.”

    Personally, I plan on raising my daughter to strive for that goal (depending on her personality obviously), and I think that’s the best way for her to contribute to Torah and klal yisrael.

  57. Daniel says:

    I know the aliyahnicks mean well, probably, but anyone shilling for aliyah as an answer to an economic crisis must be either wholly uninformed or looking for company with whom to share their misery.

    When you make aliyah, you must do so with your eyes wide open. You must do so with total understanding that you are accepting a far worse economic situation than the one you are leaving. You don’t have to pay tuition for school; this is true. Instead, you earn a quarter of what you earn in North America and you pay double for every good and service you can name. Tuition-free schooling does not offset that.

    I’m not advocating against aliyah, but at least be aware of what you’re getting yourself into. Start by grocery shopping on your next visit.

  58. Whoa nelly says:

    To Charlie,

    Where I live, the average cost per child for public school education is 20,000 per child, Yeshiva tuition is less than half that for elementary schools and only about two thirds that for a yeshiva with dormitory. And that is full tuition, not after scholarships.

    And by the way, you know who is paying the public school costs? Those taxes are crippling as well.

    The size of the schools has very little to do with the costs. You’re a statistician, prove it. You can’t because the facts do not support your hypothesis.

    And most often the reason for opening new schools, certainly elementary schools has to do with there not being room in the existing schools, not because of differing hashkafos. There will be schools people won’t send to either because they teach too much Torah or because the school ignores Torah in favor of modern society. But even in public schools there are different schools. We are not a communist society.

  59. Dovid Goldman says:

    An additional problem that perhaps lends itself to an important part of the solution: For almost everyone in life’s planning stages, tuition is an almost complete unknown. Very few people, if any, have the opportunity to make life choices about an education, career plan, spouse, community, etc. that are informed by a comparison of expected income versus expected expenses that include tuition. People make these decisions based on general lifestyle preferences, with a vague awareness that tuition will eventually become a gigantic burden regardless.
    Somehow, perhaps miraculously, our communities have been playing the game of chicken without any (publicized) crashes – schools do not routinely reject children because their parents don’t pay what they ask and parents do not routinely pull children out due to unreasonable tuitions (at least not that I know of). So unlike the rest of the world, young people have no means – and no incentive – for taking responsibility for their financial futures and schools are stuck with constituents who are ill-prepared to pay their due.
    Economically speaking, this is a disaster. Incentives and responsibility are the core of economics. If there is no real possibility of having a child shut out of school, there are no incentives to ensure the ability to pay tuition. Our system is currently based entirely on pressure. Schools are pressured to accept everyone and everyone is pressured to pay what the schools demand.
    If there is going to be a way out, it must include educating young people about the tuition expectations that will apply to them so they can take responsibility for their life’s choices and can be held accountable for them. And somehow, there must be incentives that translate directly to lifestyle options (shutting kids out will never be ok). There must be a non-negotiable reality that there is no way that driving an expensive car, for example, will precede paying full tuition for all your kids or that buying more than a basic car will precede paying more than the minimum. If these sort of incentives are not operating in time for people to make the relevant decisions, there cannot possibly be a responsibility-based system. Somehow, young people (or at least their parents planning on their behalf) must be able know early in the game what tuition will really mean to them in real dollars and they must have opportunities to plan accordingly. An information campaign directed in this manner might help lay better groundwork for a more responsible community.

  60. Mark says:

    Elliot Pasik – Jewish Tax Return

    What if the rate is set at 20%. And what if everyone paying more tuition than 20% chooses to file? Then the schools end up with less money. How is that going to work in real life?

  61. Chinuch Channah says:

    There is more to the tuition crisis than is written here. We have created a system that in and of itself is completely unsustainable. Our Heads of School are earning salaries that are not in line with the earnings in the public sector – sometimes as much as $500K gross per year – without the pedagogical and/or experience necessary to adequately manage our Jewish day schools. Classroom rebbes, fresh out of a smicha program, are earning starting salaries of $75K or more. These unreasonable salaries further drive up tuition levels.

  62. Catholic Schools, Really? says:

    Charlie, You mention the catholic schools as a model. For a time, they were sustaining themselves because they had almost free labor because of nuns who got paid a pittance with no long term commitment from the Church in supporting them in old age. Priests had much better perks. Schools had less priests than nuns. Now, they are scrambling to keep Catholic schools open as their source of cheap labor has dried up.

    Also, 80% of a school budget should be on their biggest selling point which is their teachers. If the percentage is lower, someone is skimming off the top.

    You also mention how public high schools have 4,000 students and elementary schools have 1-2000. From the research I have seen, schools that size are unwieldy and ineffective. High schools that are so big are divided up into mini-schools within a school. The savings are not that huge as more administrators need to be hired to manage the infrastructure and curriculum.

  63. Harry Maryles says:

    Great article. As someone who has been involved in the fundraising side of Jewish education for the last 40 years, I can tell you that this is a growing problem. It is an “irresistible force meeting an immovable object” situation. the more quality you want your school to have, the more it is going to cost. Teachers deserve to make a living. And parents with good incomes are already squeezed to the limit of their ability to pay tuitions. The tuition breaks given to Klei Kodesh are only part of the problem.

    I’ve addressed this issue many times on my blog. And frankly I don’t really see a way out unless a far greater portion of Jewish Federation funds are allocated to Jewish education. IIUC Chicago is way ahead of other cities in this regard. Perhpas there ought to be more participation by Orthodox Jews in these organizations. It may not completely solve the problem, but it will certainly help.

    Another thing that would help is your suggestion that wealthy Orthodox philanthropists concentrate the majority of their contributions to in-town educational institutions. It may look great on their international resumes to have given millions of dollars to Lakewood and the Mir. But in my view short-changing the needs of your own community is too high of a price to pay for that resume.

    Of course the problem is that Lakewood and the Mir would end up suffering if that happened. But there are just so many dollars available. Which is the greater priority – the local day school or the major world class yeshiva? Which Mosad should pay the price?

    These are just some of my quick thoughts. Big subject!

  64. Ss says:

    To Rabbi Adlerstein. Regarding –

    “I would offer a quick answer to your first question. There is a minhag – I cannot tell you how prevalent – for a person not to pasken maaros for himself, even if he is an experienced talmid chacham. The reason is that people have to take into account their own self-interest possibly getting in the way of their objectivity. I believe that the same should hold true of issues of family planning.”

    Thanks you for the reply.
    I am aware of the teiretz (answer) of “self-interest” and “self-bias”. However, those considerations can apply to virtually any Halachic question of any nature. If so, then everyone must ask a posek just about …. everything — which is not the “minhag” of non-Chasidim and/or (at least many) Bnei Yeshiva who know how to learn and are capable of looking up and applying Halacha themselves. [That is not to say that one ought or should refrain from asking sheilos, of course. However, I believe that to the extent possible a person should come prepared and be knowledgable about the Halacha before asking, and, further, that with regards to certain issues “consulting” with a Rav is better than asking outright for a psak and then being “stuck” with an answer that in the end may not be appropriate or suitable — especially when it comes to an issue such as family planning.]
    Be that as it may, the “minhag” of which you speak regarding maaros is found in Niddah 20b — Yalta’s husband, Rav Nachman, did not pasken for her. Yet, the first opinion of Tosfos indicates that had Rav Nachman been a baki in maaros he very well could have paskened. Alternatively, according to the second opinion, she did not go to him because she was afraid that he would be machmir. According to third opinion in Tosfos, Yalta did not ask Rav Nachman because she was embarassed. The clear m’halach of Tosfos is that someone knowledgable can pasken (many types of) personal questions even such as maaros for himself/his wife. [For a quick summary of other sources that agree and those that disagree with Tosfos’ position, see the discussion and mareh m’komos of the Daf Yomi Kollel on Niddah 20b

    All in all, the issue of paskening maaros for oneself — which certainly requires b’kius (expertise) — is not comparable to issues of family planning (i.e., the “whether” issue, not the “how”) which is much more subjective and as to which personal responsibility/autonomy in reaching a decision may, at least sometimes, be more appropriate.

    [YA – I just don’t understand your point! I’ve argued that their is a hanhagah in some circles for a person not to pasken maaros for himself. You respond that Tosafos doesn’t see any problem me-ikar ha-din. Neither do those who have such a minhag! The minhag clearly goes beyond the halacha (which is a halachah psukah in a number of areas. A shochet may pasken on his own shechita; an owner on his own bechor. Where ischazek isura obtains, there is a machlokes. See Rash, Nega’im 2:5, end.) The minhag starts where Tosafos ends off. All I’m saying is that this hanhagah developed because people felt it best to avoid their own self-interest where that self-interest is particularly strong. One could plausibly make a similar argument regarding family planning.

    Whatever our disagreement, I certainly applaud – as you do – couples learning as much as possible about any halachic area before asking a sh’eilah.]

  65. Tzeitel says:

    Yosh, your idea that every woman should have a well paying job sounds good on its face. But who takes care of the children, makes the home, wipes away tears, bandages scraped knees? Who makes kugel, chulent, salad, lunches, who cares? My five year old grandson said, when I asked him where Ima was, said resentfully, “Sleeping. Or working.” His mother works full time nights as a medical professional and sleeps by day. This five year old was well aware he was not getting enough “Ima time”. It has made him a cold person, distrustful. I see it. He doesn’t have someone to wipe away his tears, so he has learned not to cry. He resents his well paid professional Ima. But he can’t tell his Ima how he feels, that’s impossible, so he takes it out by lack of derech eretz to other relatives. I am troubled by the idea that every girl must be raised to be a high earner. Also, not every girl is cut out for college, intellectually. Many girls would rather be full time Imas, but it is impossible nowadays. Please, someone, remember the kinderlach. Why is Ima always working, or sleeping?

  66. Ss says:

    To Anon in LA who wrote —
    “Imagine 50 more young Lakewoods, Monseys, Waterburys, etc. where homes are in the $125k-$200k range and rents are low enough that a newly married working woman might be able to afford the rent to enable her husband to continue learning, at least for a few years?” Isn’t it a fact that Lakewood has closed a number of schools in recent years due to deficits that could not be overcome? Isn’t it a fact that Waterbury has its own tuition crises? I believe that you may be too idealistic and not attuned to all the facts on the ground.

  67. Educator says:

    After thinking about this post all day, I realized how fruitless this conversation is. Education is driven by local interests, local culture and local needs. We don’t all live in the same community. We have different taxes, different professions, different costs of living, and different labor pools. When Rabbi Adlerstein posts these broad ideas that announce that Group A is upset at Group B because of Issue C, there will never be a positive outcome. The dynamics of each community will necessitate a different solution. Capping Tuition breaks may work in your school but it might not work in a different community.

    I find these posts very disheartening as a community member As an example, I don’t know Charlie Hall. He doesn’t know me. But I feel like he doesn’t like me. Perhaps he has issues with the way education is runs in his town. But his dislike of the local politics in his town should not transfer to his assessment of the education system in my town. Yet, we each feel competent to make broad proclamations affecting huge numbers of people because of our limited experience in our small geographic region.

    These posts also make me disheartened as a Jewish educator. I don’t want to have to cause you issues. My goal is not to raid your bank account. Would it be better for you if I get another job? I’m no longer in my idealistic 20s so I believe there are many paths to Heaven. True, I’ll have to struggle financially (like I am now) if I have another middle class profession. But I won’t be the subject of resentment and scapegoating for every societal issue that comes up.

    This post has had one positive effect. I feel lucky that I feel lucky with this crisis. My grandparents starved (literally) when they grew up in Europe. My other grandparents were lucky that one of their children did not intermarry. In contrast, I have a car. I have A/C. I have internet. I can feed my kids protein every night. My biggest problem is that every one of my working hours is devoted to my kids learning Torah. The Horror. Some of my friends are working poor. I know because we coordinate deliveries of money and other necessities to them. But they can take their kids to the doctor. They have a roof over their head. They have heat.

    This is a blessing we are dealing with. We have too many healthy kids in a society that lets us teach them our religion. By labeling it a crisis, it cause panic. We have a challenge that we need to make changes to resolve. Let’s do it without all the drama.

  68. Ben Waxman says:

    Aliya isn’t the be all and end all solution. Many times you are merely exchanging one problem for another.

    I will say this though – take school tuition issue, add in lack of army service, lack of economic activity (yaani low participation the job market), demands for services and more and you understand Israeli worries about the Chareidim (or at least part of the worries).

  69. Squeezed professional says:

    Wow. Thank you so much for publicizing this issue, that my family and other similarly situated families have agonized about, in private, for a long time. It’s time that the Klei kodesh wake up and realize that they will have to give a din vcheshbon achar meah vesrim over consequences that they have no clue they are causing. Don’t get me started about the third ugly truth, that many of the Klei kodesh have families who can provide support to enable them to pay more tuition, however, choices are made regarding the allocation of those extra funds, and those choices invariably do not include paying more tuition. Thank you again for putting this out there. Recognition of the problem is the first step to solving it.

  70. Crazy Kanoiy says:

    I disagree with many of your points, but primarily I find your point on limiting tuition reductions for Rabbeim teaching in the school to be lacking validity. A Rebbe in the school is a school expense. His tuition reductions are part of his financial package. Many Rabbeim make a smaller salary and are compensated with lower tuition fees. This is offered at the school’s discretion, if they want the Rebbe and feel he is a worthwhile asset than it is totally legitimate to offer him a financial package that includes tuition reductions. To use your illustration, the starting salary of a lawyer is equal to the financial package of a Rebbe of twenty years. If a law firm is entitled to pay a lawyer that salary why would a school not be entitled to pay a Rebbe a corresponding value?

    [YA – It appears that you are making two errors. First of all, you can’t disagree with any of my points because I didn’t make any. I simply reported what I have been hearing from others. If I have any point of my own, it is probably one with which you would not disagree: there is a lot of frustration and pain out there, and it is boiling over in unhealthy ways. Whatever is in our power to do must be done quickly, before old healthy relationships are irreparably harmed. Secondly, the point that people are making is not that rabbeim shouldn’t be given tuition breaks as part of a compensation package. Their point is that market conditions should prevail. Let’s use your analogy. A law firm looking at a glut of new attorneys is not going to offer a new associate 100K a year if plenty of equally qualified candidates are available for 75K. Similarly, schools are going to come around to a position of not offering a job to an applicant with five children needing tuition assistance, when there are three others who only have one child.]

  71. mycroft says:

    “Our Heads of School are earning salaries that are not in line with the earnings in the public sector – sometimes as much as $500K gross per year – without the pedagogical and/or experience necessary to adequately manage our Jewish day schools. Classroom rebbes, fresh out of a smicha program, are earning starting salaries of $75K or more. These unreasonable salaries further drive up tuition levels”

    The vast majority of costs of schools are salaries-the salaries are pretty good compared what the majority of college grads get paid without taking into consideration the hours and days worked compared to those of us not in the education business. Why these mechanchim should get a tuition break greater than others who earn the same or less than them is beyond me. One of the reasons for mechanchims feeling sorry for themselves is that the machers of yeshivot/day schools do earn more than they do-but being a macher has been self selected for ones economic ability to aid the schoool and thus they tend to believe that the median person earns more than they do.
    Sadly, the costs of mandatory day school attendance have been substantial to yiddishkeit- people pushed away from Yiddishkeit because they can’t afford day school tuition. Also,the elite requirements to survive academically in a day school push away a lot of those comparatively weaker students who would have been OK in a public school

  72. Michael says:

    Big problem, not a lot of solutions. My grandfather used to be in charge of managing scholarship funds at a day school and anyone who couldn’t afford tuition was still expected to contribute their time (arranging activities, fundraisers, etc.). One would think an arrangement like that should go without saying.

    Would it be the worst thing to hire full time teachers so half of the students have lemudei kodesh in the morning and the other half lemudei chol? That would make a significant dent in salaries, benefits, etc. I understand there are halachic considerations, but it would be nice for those who are paying for that to have a say.

    Has anyone considered public school with private school in the afternoon as an option?

    I’m very curious how the budgets of various schools match up with each other.

    It’s nice that someone has mentioned the concept that people that could once afford larger families no longer have that option thanks to tuition bills.

  73. L. Oberstein says:

    67 comments are growing more by the minute! This must be a timely topic. What are we supposed to do about people from Israel asking for help to get married, to pay debts, etc. Every morning in shul there are as many as 8 at a time. The Vaad Harabbanim says to give majority to local, but can we just say no to these people? It can add up ,especially if you are on the drivers’ route to come to your home also. There are more and more all the time. My point is that in theory we should all give major share of our maaser to our children’s schools or to the schools they attended in the past. in reality, most people are not that organized and they give a donation to everyone who knocks on their door and it can add up to a lot of money. I don’t want to be hard hearted. In Baltimore, we buy script from the Agudah where a portion of our donation goes to a designated local cause. Forf example, a cript that says 50 cents really costs 75 cents and the additional 25 cents goes to a local cause. Every time I give to a collector from Israel, I am giving at least half that amount to my choice of local cause.The tax advantage is that you write a check to the Agudah for a larger sun, like $75 and have it for tax purposes.

  74. G. says:

    Can this be a topic for a future Klal Perspectives? I’d like to know:
    – facts (e.g. what do ‘klei kodesh’ discounts add up to as a percentage of a school’s budget, what percentage of the parent body receives tuition assistance, etc.)
    – partial solutions already in place [e.g. capping free tuition at two children per teacher, requiring faculty to apply for tuition assistance like any other parent (with the idea that if you are a morah but your husband is a successful investment banker, your family finances put you in a position to pay full tuition)] and how they are working out
    – hashkafic and halachic considerations (regarding setting a ‘going rate’ for klei kodesh positions, the communal obligation to arrange for yeshivas, family size in the face of financial inability to pay tuition, etc.)
    – informed analyses of the sociological trends that brought us here and that will stem from our efforts to deal with this challenge.

    [YA – I don’t see how a Klal Perspective issue would produce more ideas that the comments submitted to one hurried essay on Cross-Currents! What we lack is the courage and the unity (in different ways, in different communities) to implement some of the suggestions already on the table.]

  75. tired mommy says:

    I don’t have a lot to add but I want to say bravo Tzeitel. There is a reason. Why Hashem invented mothers, and babysitters are not the same. The kids really really lose out when mommy is working all the time. And when she comes home exhausted she really can’t be the best mommy either.

  76. Mo says:

    A rabbi in Toronto came up with a great idea–use the capital in all those charitable funds, and have the parents take out life insurance policies to replenish the funding. [See the Torah in Motion website]

  77. thinking outloud says:

    To all those who are saying that Aliyah is not the solution, you have solved your own problem.
    Most modern orthodox schools strongly promote yishuv haaretz as an important goal and a central mitzvah, and “Israel” is hammered home almost daily.
    So if you aren’t even considering aliyah, why send your kid to a school with a theology you don’t believe in? Public schools and more yeshvish schools are much cheaper

    And while life is more difficult in Israel, bar/bat mitzvahs tend to be cheaper, you are already there for your pesach/succos vacation, people tend to live less ostentatious lives,
    And there are many places outside of Modiin, Ranana, and J’lem where the distinctions between religious observances are less important, costs are lower, and there is less pressure to keep up with the Jones, yet still have Jewish schools, mikvahs, eruvs, kosher pizza and all the other stuff you expect from a larger city in the US.

  78. Crazy Kanoiy says:

    What makes you think that all potential Rabbeim are equally qualified? If a school decides to hire a Rebbe it should be based on merit and not on how many children he has.

    The fact is that most Rabbeim are given an economic package, ie. wages plus tuition breaks, that is not enough to live on. Almost every Rebbe must rely on some form of Government program be it Foodstamps, WIC or Medicaid. This is a travesty. Unfortunately the same people who can afford the expenses of sending their kids to sleep away camps and who can pay hundreds of dollars an hour for all types of therapy think that when it comes to tuition they do not have to pay the real costs of educating their kids. By all accounts let market forces prevail and stop giving breaks to those who spend their money on all types of extras and start paying Rabbeim a livable wage.

    Further lowering a Rebbe’s wage because others are willing to undercut them is analogous to cutting wages to workers because it can be done cheaper in a sweatshop in a third world country.

  79. Bob Miller says:

    You can’t get the entire community to do X or Y if:

    1. There really is no community as such (no kehilla, but many divergent, incompatible interests) to formulate a just policy and make it stick. Private institutions might be responsible to their real owners, not to a nonexistent entity. Communities that do exist lack the legal clout that was common in old Europe.

    2. Total available community income can’t support it along with all existing obligations, specifically Jewish ones plus others.

  80. Phil says:

    “This must be a timely topic. What are we supposed to do about people from Israel asking for help to get married, to pay debts, etc.”

    If someone doesn’t pay anything approaching full tuition for their children, they have no right to worry about people knocking on their door or asking for handouts in shul. Not only because of their own debts to the schools but because they are standing on the backs of those who kill themselves to pay full tuition, who are also paying the way for the children of those who don’t.

    Offer them a smile, a cold drink and a bracha but don’t be generous on “yenem’s cheshbon”!

  81. Dov Reifer says:

    Perhaps an Asifa on this topic would be in order…

  82. Baruch Gitlin says:

    I think this is an excellent approach to the subject. A problem cannot be addressed if there is no acknowledgment that the problem exists. Once the issues are out in the open, they can be discussed and possibly remedied.

    It seems to me there is a parallel between the day school issues in the US and the current crisis in Israel over the potential drafting of yeshiva students into the army. In both cases, I believe that the yeshiva world in the US and Israel, respectively, are facing problems arising from their own success. The leaders have managed to build thriving worlds of Torah study from the ashes of the Holocaust and the spiritual challenges of modernity and assimilation. But in both cases, those that have provided the physical means for those newly constituted yeshiva worlds to exist have grown tired of bearing the increasingly large burden of supporting those worlds. The main difference is that in the US, those people are active participants in and supporters of the yeshiva world, whereas in Israel, those people are outside of the yeshiva world. That is an important difference, but nevertheless, I believe a comparison can be made in that in both cases, the very success of the yeshiva worlds is now leading to a situation in which the paradigm of its existence is being challenged.

    In Israel, the heads of the yeshiva world have ignored the growing resentment of their fellow citizens, and have failed to even acknowledge or respect their feelings of bearing an unfair burden. As a result, they may now be facing a severe crisis, because the outside world is ready to impose a radical change in the paradigm for which the yeshiva world is very much unprepared. I suggest that the leaders of the American Orthodox community take heed, address the problems raised by this article, and fashion a new paradigm for Jewish education, rather than waiting until economic circumstances impose their own paradigm, which may be less satisfactory.

  83. Just Saying says:

    A Potential partial Solution

    A national endowment for Jewish Education.

    A centralized repository for Tzedaka for Jewish Education.
    The endowment is blind toward religious affiliation – all that is required to receive money is proof of fiscal responsibility; proof of the Jewish character of the school and maintenance of some educational standards.

    The endowment would give to all comers from Bobov to Solomon Schechter to Reconstructionist after school programs at the temple. From Lakewood to San Francisco

    Money would be doled out based on hours, number of students and some analysis of need.

    This endowment would appeal across the spectrum of Jews and provide an alternative national jewish cause for the unaffiliated.

    Provided that its well managed it could make a serious dent in the cost of education….

  84. Yeshiva World Observer says:

    Kudos to Rabbi Aldlerstein for writing about an issue that many professional bnei Torah families are acutely aware of, but rather not put into writing. So let’s get to the core underlying issue– the lack of job skills and planning in today’s yeshiva world communities. The “push” to “universal kollel” for every boy who spends 3 years in a yeshiva produces mediocrity. Th absence of job skills and a secular education means a lifetime of underemployment, low salaries, and the inability to support the families financial needs, especially tuition.

    In our upside down yeshiva world today we have older single ladies (age 30+) rejecting a shiddich option of a working Ben Torah because she is “looking for a full time learner”. She probably need a refuah shlaymah more than a shiddich! So what’s the answer? Maybe the Lakewood style where everyone pays a minimum amount of tuition per child period, no ands, ifs, or buts. Maybe!

  85. Alexander Seinfeld says:

    R’ Aryeh Klapper has this proposal:

    Basic tuition is a fixed percentage of gross income set at approximately the percentage that the current financial aid process tends to charge middle-income families. High-income families can choose to pay a fixed amount, approximately what is now called “full tuition,” in order to lower their tuition, and families unable to pay the fixed percentage could, as now, apply for financial aid.

  86. Hocker says:

    Crazy Kanoiy – We all agree that Rebbeim’s tuition breaks are part of their economic package, the suggestion was to limit that break to a more something more manageable for the school (i.e. his first 2 children free only and let the Rebbi apply for tuition assistance on the rest of his children like other lower middle class parents). Further, it is more uniform and equitable for the Rebbeim and Morahs if they have equal breaks, so the Rebbi with 8 children’s economic package is not double the size as the Rebbi with only 1 child in the school.

    One suggestion I did not yet see mentioned is to coax the next generation to move to small out of town locations that have one town day school. In these small out of town locations, the wealthier people in the town (generally) all support the one local day school, thereby allowing the school’s tuition to be lower and allow more generous tuition assistance. The wealthy people (especially the older ones) are happy to see more young families with children move to town, to ensure the town’s future Jewish existence. Further, the town’s local federations and foundations are (generally) more likely to support the school since it is the only one in town and caters to all the frum (and not-yet-frum) Jews in the town.

    Additionally, some locations (Cincinnati, OH comes to mind) have a state government funded voucher program in place which currently gives over $4,000 to every child, each year, once he/she reaches kindergarten, which greatly reduces parent’s tuition bills to a much more manageable number.

  87. Eli says:

    There is a solution that makes no one happy, which means that it is a good one.

    Send all Kollel children to public school. With the stay at home mothers and the strong Jewish backgroud, will have the ability to survive and still be strong yidden. What is happening now is that the weakly connected are leaving to public school (as the parents don’t want to pay, and it will just get worse (i.e. more RW children in public/charter schools) as time moves along), and are getting lost. It is much less likely that the strong Kollel children will get lost by going to public school. Adiraba, I would expect some good kiruv, knowing how committed our Kollel couples are to their Yiddishkeit, and how they transfer that “bren” to their children.

  88. A. Schreiber says:

    HASAGOS. Expectations. In the world around us, the wealthy rarely socialize with the average earners or the poor. While there is some negative to that, the positive is that such average income earners dont feel the need to wear the same clothing or live the same as the wealthy. They dimply dont have the same hasagos.

    Compare that to the frum world. Millionaires live cheek by jowl with people on welfare. They go to the same shuls, the same schools, the same mikvah, the same resteraunts. Thus, people literally on welfare – and their children – begin to think they are entitled to the same (or K’MAT the same) lifestyle as the wealthy. Little time is spent reflecting that the wealthy in most cases worked and work incredibly hard to get to their station in life, and sacrificed a great deal to get there.

    Seems to me this is all part of the your problem you, R. Adlerstein, describe. Rebbeim and Rabbis, no matter how long they learn or are available, lead very easy lives compared to ballei battim. They dont start off with $150,000 + in student loans. They never have to worry about shabbos or yomtov. Many often dont even realize, as a commenter above noted, that for most people there is no such thing as summer vacation.

    Going into Chinuch or the rabbinate has a lot of rewards to it, both spiritual and economical. There has to be some catch to it, and that catch has to be in the form of a low salary. Before you claim that it’s already low, think again. Most out of town kollelim pay as much or more as starting CPAs. For the amount of hours they work, the salary of teachers is proportionately quite high. And I havent even mentioned all the little deductions in shul membership, Kemach food parcels, even in sholach manos, all of which really add up. If people are going into chinuch for the right reasons, and not simply because its the default thing to do having not planned ahead beforehand, they need to start living up to the ideals of pas bimelach tochal.

  89. Tobey says:

    Thanks for adding fuel to the fire ;). Like you said, this is something everyone knows and feels, and labeling it a secret is laughable.

    But it’s actually something that need not be addressed to the masses. It needs to be addressed to the communal leaders: the rabbis. If it is a secret in their echelons, then they’re living with their heads in the sand and perpetrating a huge disservice to their communities.

    Tuition solutions are in the works in our national institutions, think tanks if you will. Applying those solutions will take guts on the local level and buy in from EVERYONE – but mostly: schools and community members. We’ve been living with a system bound for failure for years, and we’ve just woken up.

    This “class warfare” as you call it – needs to be addressed, not by factions in the community. It’s a symptom of an ill-conceived, short-sighted system we set up with our schools. It can be corrected, not easily, but through overhaul, but it will take swallowing our egos, our politics, and looking at what’s best for our kids.

    We’re an am k’shei oref with insane financial abilities. We can take this one on and excel – providing our kids with great Torah educations without bankrupting any of our families – without making any one family have to make a harder choice about family size based on tuition costs. How preposterous!!!

    Let’s get to fixing it. That means all of us on the local level need to be knocking on our leaders’ doors and asking: where’s our communal fund for our local Torah education? Have our schools been benchmarked for efficient operations – like those in LA, Baltimore, N. NJ, etc.? Make a committee in your community. It will only happen locally. There are so many tools nationally to help. Where are your community rabbis educating the community of empty nesters, etc. that after saving a life, Torah education for our kids (caveats, obviously) comes second in our tzedakah priorities? Perhaps because it conflicts with their shul needs? I’m hoping that’s not the case and will not be an impediment to progress in that area. Northern NJ & Chicago should be lauded for their efforts for communal funds, but their performance has been less than necessary. With 3500 households in the Baltimore Eruv frum community, assuming only 2000 households can be counted on to participate: If there were an annual fund asking for $18/month minimum for families to contribute to such a fund, that would = $432,000/year – if all 2000 families contributed just the minimum. We have approx. 3300 students in Yeshivah day schools. Not shabby, but that $$ needs to be $1 million annually. And it’s totally possible! With the addition of corporate sponsorships and an annual joint fundraising event, a $1 million goal is completely possible. On top of that, we’d need matching from Federation/foundations and philanthropies. This will not address affordability: it will help address shortfalls.

    Again, it has to happen locally with the cooperation of a group of schools so you have your numbers – numbers of students and the # of households in the community available to contribute.

    So where do we get affordability for all? tuition reform. Pay per kid only structure does not work for the exact reasons stated in the article. Plus, why don’t I know how much my tuition costs will be? If I make $40,000 and have two kids in school, I’m obviously not going to be paying $10,000 each kid. Sorry, but where’s the grid that shows me income level by # of kids and says: here’s the going rate for tuition for each kid: ie: $4000. any reduction beyond that goes to tuition committee? Sorry schools, but they’ve got to get it together too. Otherwise, how are families supposed to know what to budget for when they are obviously in need of tuition assistance? We all find out the summer before school. Silly! There is a new model of Tuition per student, but total tuition charged to families will be capped at a percent of family income that could bring in the same amount of money we’re bringing in now while reducing the % of income families are paying in tuition. It’s a structure change that needs careful research and execution and the cooperation of all schools within a community. It’s a structure that enables families to budget.

    Anyway, DON’T DESPAIR ALL! There are solutions, but it takes folks’ dedication on the local level. Not all of us venting on blogs and articles ;). (I know, i know, I’ve posted all this in a comment, but i’m also working on it on the ground!)

  90. commentator says:

    Tzeitel writes: “I am troubled by the idea that every girl must be raised to be a high earner. Also, not every girl is cut out for college, intellectually. Many girls would rather be full time Imas, but it is impossible nowadays. Please, someone, remember the kinderlach.”

    Clearly the educational system has already failed one of us. Excuse the tangent but I am shocked and appalled that someone actually wrote these words. “Not ever girl is cut out for college, intellectually” ?? Unless you are willing to also say “not every boy is cut out for college, intellectually” (which really makes your point here moot, doesnt it?), then your necessary implication is that women have a defective or inferior intellect to men, on the whole. Personally, I am, b’h, a young mom of small children who chooses to stay home though I have BOTH a university education and a juris doctorate (Yes, now I realize I must be an exception to my gender’s subpar intellect. Somehow the law school admittance board saw past my chromosomes… or was it affirmative action??) I never thought that my choice to stay home and raise my small children may reflect to some as me preferring to be a “full time ima” because I possibly was not “cut out for college, intellectually.”

  91. Z says:

    I am a board member of an Orthodox day school in a (way-out-of-town Canadian) community that already has the benefit of three of the proposed solutions for this problem:

    1) School Vouchers – in our jurisdiction all private schools, including religious ones, receive $5000 per student.

    2) Tax-Deduction – tuition largely qualifies for a charitable tax credit which significantly reduces the after-tax cost (by up to 39% for high earners).

    3) Broad-Based Community Support – our local Federation directly administers and funds need-based scholarships (for both the Orthodox and the much larger (but shrinking) community Hebrew school) out of annual campaign funds (about 10% of annual Federation budget). This accounts for about 15% of the school budget.

    This (alongside a generously donated building and other non-parent funding) has allowed us to keep tuition reasonable (~$7500 pre-tax, as low as 4600 post-tax ) despite poor economies of scale (averagtion of scholarship fundse class sizes of less than 10). If our community were big enough, we could run the school at these tuition levels with with little additional fundraising.

    HOWEVER, I do not believe there is significant room for the community to fund additional scholarships (as a percentage of overall collections). Any increase in allocation to day school education is coming from social services, senior care, or other valuable programming. Also, because of large families and lower incomes (including attracting non-Orthodox Israeli and Russian immigrants), the Orthodox school already receives a larger propor either school enrollment or overall community membership would dictate. Although we have excellent community politics, I don’t think the percentage allocated to the Orthodox school can increase significantly without the whole program being scrapped.

    Because of this I don’t believe broad-based Federation support of day school education is a plausible solution for most communities. For higher-cost tuition in communities with a much larger percentage of Orthodox day school enrollment vs. other denominations it will be impossible to push through a anything significant which would effectively be a massive subsidy of the Orthodox.

    I think the only real solution (other than moving to my community)is to lower the cost of Jewish life — including education — to match the wealth of the community and to work our way back to determine what luxuries we can afford (e.g. in my mind morning Judaics/afternoon secular is a ridiculous luxury if it increases cost).

    Stein’s Law: “Trends that can’t continue, won’t”

  92. Melech says:

    “The poor were victimized by the “khappers” who seized their children to replace those of the rich. ”

    And the rabbis. Some things haven’t changed so much, huh?

  93. BY Teacher says:

    Your article brought tears to my eyes. I have two medically fragile children who really require a lot of attention on a daily basis. However, I am forced to work to help pay the tuition for those two children and my other children. I often lament that it is not fair that I have to pay scholarship fees and other fees for children whose parents are lucky enough to be in Chinuch or Kollel, not to mention lucky enough to have healthy children.
    My husband works as hard as he can, and Boruch Hashem he does make a decent living. Still, it is not nearly enough of a living, however, to provide for the children we have and their special needs without both parents working. We find that our children are the only ones not attending summer camps, not going on family vacations, not getting school lunches, etc., not doing any of the things parents with tuition breaks can afford.
    I am resentful.

  94. G Pickholz says:

    Very well stated. Kol hakavod.
    I would tease you to come join us in Israel, where we made Aliya because we could never hope to afford proper Jewish educations for our children in America, but that would be cruel. The reality is we did have two more true jewels once in Israel, where having those extra children was financially feasible.
    American orthodoxy is self destructing as a function of its wealth, having survived its era of poverty. A common historic theme.

  95. ur'eh chaim says:

    A few thoughts: (1) Just like a marriage, this problem cannot be solved if baalabatim, mechanchim, gevirim and rabbanim view each other as on different teams; (2) the tzaar of a working ben torah who can bearly prop up his head to push through a seder is immense, but it is also immensely chashuv and we should all be reminded of that (including our kids and wives) once in a while (and not just when someone is being honored at a dinner and its thrown in kilachar yad); (3) a manhig that has his children “marry money” while setting up his talmidim for a life of a mediocre standard of living is at the very least over on lifnei eever that people will resent him (I’m not enough of a chacham to say whether he has other issues); (4) if yeshivas gave rigorous tests a lot of these issues would go away; (5) we have lost the work ethic that is crucial to learning and also to learning — there is a reason that pirkei avos says yafeh talmud torah im derech eretz; (6) a serious cheshbon has to be made about whether certain chumros (chalav yisroel being one) are worth the amount of money/shalom bayis. The gemara says a mitzvos asei d’oraisa has limits (I think its a chomesh), why do we spend double on ice cream? (7) Until someone has the fortitude to stop certain excesses in the frum world, the frum world will not have the fortitude to fund itself. Of course, everyone else’s excesses should go first, so I will be fine.
    Oh, by the way, even in America we are in golus. Lamah tisrou.

    Thanks for reading.

  96. Reb. Dr. R says:

    We have much to thank Rabbi Adlerstein for bringing this highly charged topic to the forefront, yet again, in his sensitive and inimitable way. He only captures part of the problem, however. We are not only angry at the disparity that many of us have had to cap our family sizes, while those in the yeshiva lanes of the world rest assured that someone else will be footing the bill for their reproductive choices. We are struggling with disillusionment, finding ourselves in what R’ Adlerstein so aptly terms a socialist system, without anyone conferring with us! Where is our say in whether or not to participate in a system which benefits no one but those who perpetuate it? The rest of us have little to show for our investment besides for a mediocre education and perhaps strength of character that comes from learning to keep your ideas to yourself lest you be censured by hanhala or singled out for extra attention (aka brainwashing).

    No one in our generation or socioeconomic class begrudges the truly needy any tuition assistance. The problem is that “needy” used to mean families who were recent immigrants, families torn asunder by loss or illness of a parent, unfortunate people who found themselves unexpectedly unemployed, those in menial jobs. We all know who they are and many, if not most, required assistance for only a short while until they were back on their feet again. Indeed, many of us first-generation North Americans came from families who were in similar situations not too long ago. The key is that this was temporary assistance during upheavals or setbacks in life, not the way of life it is today, when tuition assistance is the status quo and often requested out of choice (mothers choosing to stay home or having large families-yes-this IS a choice in this day and age and halachic environment). It is not easy to explain to our progeny, children of highly educated parents at the peak of their earnings in professional roles at global industries, why little Sarale from yeshiva lane has a Coach bag, new dresses and shoes every yomtov, trips to hotels for pesach, while we have to “make do.” In fact, I challenge anyone to come up with a sensible explanation for this state of affairs.

    We are clearly stuck in a vicious cycle where the ones with the most vested interest for revolution are working 2 and 3 jobs just to stay afloat and can’t afford to get off the treadmill that is their life in constant search of additional income, in the interests of change for the next generation. The OU’s response, to increase advocacy at the community level, is woefully inadequate and disappointing. In an era where income taxes are forever increasing to accommodate a ballooning deficit, the likelihood of achieving tax breaks for day school tuition is a fantasy. The OU has provided cash grants to our schools (latest idea is for innovative funding programs for 2 years running and all we (the middle class) has seen is another tuition increase! In addition, the first thing our Bais Yaakov, which prides itself on “low tuitions” (true, $10K/yr is do-able for most of us, but only when you have only one or two children!), will do is raise tuitions in response to such a boon if the OU should be so lucky as to get a change in tax law for tuition dollars. Rabbi Adlerstein’s idea of a communal responsibility aka Chinuch Tax is likewise doomed to failure in my opinion, for 3 reasons:
    1. No one in our generation wants another yet another financial obligation hoisted upon them. It is yet another burden in which we have no vote, no say, so let’s not perpetuate THAT evil. We already have little to no says in our school system!
    2. We have no ability nor desire to enforce such a concept and already too many mosdos clamoring for their bit-everything from social services (JFS) to school buses (outside NYC) to medical services (Hatzala) already replicate existing infrastructure for which someone has to foot the bill (Us!)
    3. Most importantly, our generation, the ones who have borne the brunt of the unsustainable business plans that our parents have bequeathed us in the form of today’s bais yaakovs and yeshivos, is already BLED DRY. We’ve already propped up the 66.7% of society that has yet to pull its own weight, and have done so for many years. Do you really think we want to continue to do so for the next half of our lives?

    A solution that has been given too little attention is charter schools. There is no reason that we cannot cut day school tuitions in half by providing separate limudei kodesh in the AM and limudei chol in the PM. Granted, it is not a solution for everyone and doesn’t mesh with our noncommuter yeshiva model, but it need not be a one size fits all. Those who want to pay into traditional bais yaakovs and yeshivos are more than free to do so. But it should at least be a respectable option, if it was more geographically available and could cater to those who would like to see excellence in place of mediocrity, science & technology application or development of higher order thinking instead of rote memorization, or other such needs that our schools are not fulfilling today. Unfortunately, those most demanding of such change are also the ones footing the bill and need to find some way to accomplish a miracle while already working 60-80 hrs week just to keep the wheels greased and their heads above water.

    In some school systems and communities, the parents who are recipients of our largesse at least contribute something back. Some schools require a commitment to parents taking on a role in the school to reduce costs of hiring a worker or outsourcing services. In other communities, mothers who don’t work take upon themselves to lead the charge for communal organizations. What is so discouraging and a real source of scorn among those that of us that work full time (or more) is to see those stay-at-home moms clustered at cafe tables, breakfast, lunch and dinner. We don’t care if it’s for a rabbi’s morning shiur for women or for a tete a tete with a schoolteacher…if you are not working, have the sensitivity to realize that we are footing your child’s bill and think twice about your free hours, paid for by us. Join bikur cholim and cook meals for the bedridden. Visit our aging mothers sitting alone in their apartments all day. Drive our carpools and volunteer for our community errands. You owe us at least that in return for your childrens’ education paid for by us.

    As you can see, our anger and disillusionment goes far deeper than even the one that Rabbi Adlerstein suggests.

  97. Dr. E says:

    Much has been said about the economics of the issue. With all of the money involved, it is also important to take a step back and objectively evaluate the quality of education and what outcomes are being sought from this expensive endeavor. What is the Return on Investment and is it being realized based on some objective criteria? One level of analysis would be to look at the vast majority of young people who have been educated through our system. Have they been nurtured into becoming Bnei Torah who not only know how to learn, but also possess a sense of responsibility to their community? Are they passionate and inspired Jews or just going through the motions dictated to them? It seems that the prevalent model has been graduating cookie-cutter products who might have all of the style; but when it comes down to it, there is little substance. (There is a significant number of young people who underachieve in Mesivta and beyond, because both the guys and the Rabbeim implicitly know that they have 5-10 more years in Yeshiva to catch up or straighten out, and then settle down. So, is there not room for qualitative improvement within an abbreviated timeframe?) If, with this financial drain, we had been seeing young people who were nurtured as capable givers and not takers, we might not be having this conversation. That would be viewed as the cost of doing business.

    In evaluating the economics, an informative data collection exercise might include the following: (1) What is the objective per-student cost in a given school to educate? (2) What is the (unsubsidized) cost for a family of a given size in a given community to “make it”? This number would account for full tuition, kosher food, clothing, insurance, mortgage, utilities, simchos, and basic quality-of-life expenses. (e.g., $120k for a family with 4 children)? (3) What is the percentage of full-pays in a given school and how does that stack up with what it takes for any school to be a viable one?

    David J makes several important points and provocative suggestions:

    In terms of a “think tank”, YU has an ongoing effort to systematically study this issue (www.yuschoolpartnership.org). It is really more than that inasmuch as it is currently consulting with communities around the country in an effort to effect change.

    After all is said and done, with or without “tuition reform”, we need more external income generated into the community. This means both men and women being employed in jobs where there is significant salary and benefits. Most likely this will be in the corporate sector as opposed to jobs within the community–where the same money is essentially being shifted from place to place. To accomplish this will require a shift in mindset from a culture in which secular studies are minimized from young ages. The agendas of the schools must change. The end game and success metric of many mainstream Yeshivos has been Kollel. And, the objective of the BY/ Seminaries is to develop the “best” shidduchim to the aforementioned Kollel guys. But, the focus on navigating the shortcuts towards the most immediate paycheck possible, as an incentive to the prospective chosson, is often short-lived. After a few years, the value added from an hourly job within the community no longer justifies the day care costs for 2 or 3 kids. Consequently, the deck is stacked against this as a reliable income source.

    The 3% Kollel cap, while certainly not enforceable, is an appealing suggestion in terms of affordability. It brings back memories of a similar percentage during the golden years of Europe and America. But the tools and educational options to help make the 97% of the 22 year old young men and women employable need to be in place. A 22 year old single yeshiva-educated guy with a college degree will have some decent age-appropriate job prospects (perhaps with poorer shidduch prospects). A married Kollel guy who is 30 with 3-4 kids and no real degree/work experience, for whom “it is now time to make parnassa”, may very well not have such a postive prognosis.

    As for Simchos, what makes them expensive is not necessarily the fancy centerpieces and ice sculptures. It is also the number of people that the hosts feel obligated to invite. Guests lists need to be trimmed and people need to have a thicker skin if they don’t receive an invitation (see Gittin 56 and the story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza). In many cases after all, the same people who are at the wedding have already been to the L’chaim, Vort, shower, and Aufruf and will also be at one or two of the Sheva Brachos. They will also be back a year later for the Shalom Zachor, Bris, or Kiddush. While these milestones are reasons to celebrate, the amount of time that one needs to spend outside of the home working could be partially compensated by not having to be present at each sub-event. I would think that not being invited to the wedding might be a welcome relief to those who are merely peripheral to the Baalei Simcha. They would not have to take off of work or sacrifice precious family time in order to travel and/or get dressed up for all of these events with the same people, time and time again.

    So, the problems here are really multifaceted. IMHO, Rabbi Adlerstein has picked up on a symptom of a collective systemic breakdown. There are several stakeholder parties here and each shares some level of culpability. The current economy is a convenient scapegoat to which one might attribute the limited dollar and the need for better fundraising. But, much of this has been self-inflicted. Jewish education has been and will always be an expensive endeavor. While belt-tightening is needed, those who think that a minimalist approach to education without the frills of extracurriculars is not the answer either because it presumes that the current classroom-only model is necessary and sufficient for close to 100% of the population. With so many good kids falling through the cracks, that myth is debunked.

    The upcoming Siyum HaShas is certainly a good reason for collective celebration of Torah and its values. There is much to be proud of. But, I hope that the context is not globalized to a triumphalist posture that the entire Yeshiva system is perfect and thriving. This painful post and its comments tell us otherwise.

  98. Phil says:

    “What are we supposed to do about people from Israel asking for help to get married, to pay debts, etc.”

    Those who unfortunately can’t pay full tuition for their children should not worry about people knocking on their door or asking for handouts in shul. Not only because of their own debts to the schools but because they are effectively being supported by those who do pay full tuition, who are paying the way for their own children, as well as for the children of those who don’t.

    They can offer solicitors a smile, a cold drink and a bracha but they can’t be generous on “yenem’s cheshbon”!

  99. DF says:

    To “commentator” – Nice comment, especially the killer opening line. But I think you misread Tzeitel. As the context of his own comment makes clear, he only meant to say that a great many women, possibly even a large majority, are not interested in the “career woman” concept foisted upon them, and would rather be mothers to their children.

    It is unthinkable to me that some are suggesting a family where the mother remains home should somehow be “penalized” in the tutition system, however that would work. That IS the traditional way of life, and that IS what the Prophets and the Gemara describe as ideal. I dont care that the Kollel concept has warped the notion of the family, and completely thrown aside the concept of “kol kevudah” [except when it pleases them.] Those are contradictions they have to live with, not me. I, for one, actually believe in the notion of minhag yisrael sabba, and dont just pay lip service to it as so many of the kollelim and yeshivahs do. Women are of course fully capable of working in and excelling in many fields, but that is normally not the ideal, and even millions of traditional and religious non-Jews know it. Bad enough that, in what is practically a mitzvah haboh bi’avera, kollelim have all but pushed the girls out the door in to the working world, whether they want it or not. To suggest now further than they should be punished financially for remaining home is outrageous.

  100. Shlomo says:

    Most men who work in “middle class” professions in the US can make a very good living as computer programmers in Israel, or by working in their original profession. There are many frum people in Israel who need tzedakah, but that is simply because they choose not to work (universal kollel). For those frum people who work – and there is already a critical mass of them in the Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh areas – the long term economic outlook is very good.

    In the short term, it is not easy to make aliyah, gain competence in a new language, establish career credentials, and so on. I think each community should take a fraction of its school budget – 10% say – and use it as grants for people who make aliyah in order to establish themselves in their new location. Say a $50k grant for an averaged sized family, payable in monthly installments over the course of 2 years (and stopped if the family made yeridah within the 2 years). This would cover most basic expenses for that period, by the end of which at least one parent would be able to find a good job. In most cases, $50k is very little compared to the tuition assistance the family would have received as their kids grew. This would reduce the tuition burden on everyone who remained, while eliminating the burden on those who chose to go.

  101. Chaim says:

    A Real Workable Solution (that does not involve moving to Eretz Yisroel or a “communal fund”): Myriad comments provide much hand wringing but little in the way of solutions. Let me take a stab at one:

    First, the root cause of the problem, IMHO, is that, as a community, we are living beyond our means – and I don’t mean in terms of our standard of living (although that may be true as well), I mean in terms of the number of mosdos we have and their sizes. There are a lot of wonderful mosdos out there, but there are simply more than we Klal Yisroel can afford to support at the moment (at least without people being forced to work extra jobs, longer hours, etc). The problem has always seemed to be that there was no central clearing house for determining which mosdos survive or are necessary and which don’t, and accordingly, no way to break the cycle. Any three balei battim can get together and start a Kollel and there is no one to stop them.

    However, the reality is that there IS one central clearing house in each community which does subsidize every mosod – the local yeshiva day school. When 3 wealthy balei battim get together and decide to start a 4th Kollel in a city or a 15th shul, the dollars they have to raise to do so are necessarily lessened by the knowledge that their staff members will receive reduced (read: S-U-B-S-I-D-I-Z-E-D tuition, thus lessening their fund-raising burden). Absent this subsidy, they would have to pay a living wage and would either not open their Kollel or would open with fewer, but better paid yungeleit – i.e., the market – namely their fund-raising base, would decide whether the Kollel was worthy of support or not. By schools granting a de facto subsidy to every mosod, the choice over which mosod to support ceases to be a communal decision (made by writing checks to the institutions we support) and instead becomes a communal “tax” imposed from on high. Instead of deciding to support a mosod, we are forced to, our wives are forced to.

    Elementary economics tells us that when those incurring costs are not those paying for the costs, waste and economic inefficiency results (think health insurance: if one has a low-deductible PPO, it’s easy to order a bevy of tests . . . because someone else pays for it). We cannot fix the problem unless the costs (including the implied costs inherent in educating the children of new klie kodesh hired for a new or expanded mosod) are paid by those incurring them (i.e., the mosod and those who support it).

    How do we do this? Schools must stop granting discounts to employees of mosdos (obviously this needs to be done over time, not all at once) and lower tuition across the board. Balei battim will be free to use the money they save to support the mosdos they CHOSE to support (rather than being told de facto, they MUST support them through a tuition “tax”). Yes, mosdos will need to raise more money to pay their employees higher salaries. In some instances, mosdos will shrink or even disappear. I’m not championing the disappearance of mosdos but, returning to my original premise that we have more mosdos that we can afford as a community, we need to let the market decide which survive, and at which staffing levels. The de facto subsidy granted by schools takes all market forces out of that equation because those generating the costs (the mosdos) are divorced from those paying them (the schools/full-tuition-paying parents).

    As Reb Dr. R pointed out “No one in our generation or socioeconomic class begrudges the truly needy any tuition assistance. The problem is that “needy” used to mean families who were recent immigrants, families torn asunder by loss or illness of a parent, unfortunate people who found themselves unexpectedly unemployed, those in menial jobs.” That class of the needy deserve our communal support (through higher tuition), in obtaining education for their children because we are a nation of rachmanim and gomlei chasadim and a school’s job is to EDUCATE. However, the mosdos, needn’t be supported through schools – a school’s job is not to be a kollel or a shul. To the extent mosdos they are worthy of our support (and many, or even most, are), they need to start paying a better wage and raising the funds necessary to do so THEMSELVES instead of through schools. If the mosod subsidy decreases, tuition can go down and more dollars are available for mosdos. This lets those ultimately supporting mosdos have a say in which they support and at what levels.

    The justice in this system is that no one is “forced” to support a mosod or take a second job to do so.

  102. Othello says:

    However you want to define the problem it remains a question of budgets. Be it government or business the solution to shortfalls is either raise revenue or cut expenses. Shuffling money around might create some tax advantages that could help a bit in the short term it is not in itself a solution. The only solution I see going forward for the Jewish community is doing some sort of public school online for secular studies, which is free, and hiring a Rebbe for kodesh. I foresee facilities where all the students work in front of their computers and few administrators would be there to make sure students stay on task and help direct them to online services for support. This would probably slash costs by 2/3, provide kids with a better secular education than they are getting now (if we are going to be honest with ourselves) and use our money where we really want it to go, towards JEWISH education. This is not going to be a popular idea because it will cause a lot of schools to close and create job loss for lots of teacher but I believe it is inevitable.

  103. Z says:

    DF Says: It is unthinkable to me that some are suggesting a family where the mother remains home should somehow be “penalized” in the tutition system, however that would work. That IS the traditional way of life, and that IS what the Prophets and the Gemara describe as ideal.

    But the ‘traditional way of life’ also includes a higher participation in the labor force (generally from early teenage-hood, in an agrarian society if you go far enough back), full time-learning reserved for elites, smaller families due to infant and maternal mortality and malnutrition-related infertility, and lifespans did not generally necessitate funding decades-long retirements. Be careful picking and choosing what parts of tradition you choose to place on the pedestal.

  104. Charlie Hall says:

    “And by the way, you know who is paying the public school costs? Those taxes are crippling as well. ”

    Not true. Here in NYC we pay quite low property taxes. In fact, despite the fact that I’m a medical school professor and my wife is a doctor, it is STILL less expensive for us to live in NYC and pay double city income taxes than pay property taxes in most of Westchester County. (I personally know people there who pay over $30k/year in property taxes on their homes, and we aren’t talking about mansions.)

    “The size of the schools has very little to do with the costs. You’re a statistician, prove it. You can’t because the facts do not support your hypothesis. ”

    Just compare our property taxes here in NYC — and our per pupil education costs — to, say, Westchester County. There are entire school districts in Westchester County with fewer students than single high schools in NYC and their per pupil costs are much, much higher. Here is a link with data:


    “But even in public schools there are different schools. We are not a communist society.”

    In most school districts in America you kids much attend the school in which they are zoned. Note that in many small school districts there is not even the possibility of choice because there is only one option at a particular grade level. NYC is one of the few public school districts where transfers are routine and there is a lot of choice for high schools.

    And the comparison of a lack of choice of schools to communism is so far beyond the pale that I’m surprised it got past the moderators.

  105. Z says:

    Quick math on what a kehilla tax might look like:
    For an mean family size of 5 kids and $15,000 in constant-value actual tuition costs for 12 years per child over a 42 year career (enter workforce at 23, retire at 65) would require an annual kehilla tax of $21,400/year per family not factoring in any cost-of-capital timing issues. There would likely be a tax advantage over tuition in the US.

    An ever-growing population will create a shidduch crisis-like situation where the dollars required to educate today’s students cannot be met cash-to-cash (because there is an insufficient number non-current-parent taxpayer from the previous generation). Financing charges related to this issue could up the required tax rate significantly.

  106. Charlie Hall says:

    “Charlie, You mention the catholic schools as a model. For a time, they were sustaining themselves because they had almost free labor because of nuns who got paid a pittance with no long term commitment from the Church in supporting them in old age. Priests had much better perks. Schools had less priests than nuns. Now, they are scrambling to keep Catholic schools open as their source of cheap labor has dried up. ”

    Most dioceses close schools that get below a certain size. That almost never happens to Jewish schools. And while the religious orders are dying out, the schools somehow manage to pay union benefits to their faculty and staff.

    FWIW, the Archdiocese of New York has 76,024 students in 246 schools — a bit more than 300 per school. Most (not all) Jewish schools seem to be quite a bit smaller than that.

    “You also mention how public high schools have 4,000 students and elementary schools have 1-2000. From the research I have seen, schools that size are unwieldy and ineffective. High schools that are so big are divided up into mini-schools within a school. The savings are not that huge as more administrators need to be hired to manage the infrastructure and curriculum.”

    Not if you have a common curriculum. And in any case, public school administrators make much less than Jewish Day School principals, at least in NYC.

  107. Yosh says:

    To Tzeitel and Tired:

    To clarify, I didn’t say every woman should have a job and no one should stay at home. I said that wives of men who wants to make their careers in kollel or a low paying rabinical position need to be able to earn a substantial income to avoid unfairly causing resentment against Torah. I also said that those men should spend more time in the evenings being an abba to their children to help make up for their wives working. For women who are married to men whose salaries can support a full-time stay at home mom (and still pay tuition), there are definitly plenty of family benefits to being able to afford to do that.

    For a lot of families, both parents working to at least some extent is simply an economic necessity, and exempting a few select families from that reality is going to cause a huge amount of resentment for exactly the reasons you’re describing. A working mother who hardly sees her kids is going to deeply resent a kollel mom who is both getting to stay home with her kids and essentially living off of the working mom’s tremendous sacrifice of not seeing her children.

  108. Charlie Hall says:

    “Imagine 50 more young Lakewoods, Monseys, Waterburys, etc. ”

    Indeed there are at least 50 nice safe rust belt cities with inexpensive housing — I can probably name two dozen just in New York and New England! As their public school population declines you can also pick up white elephant public buildings for a song. (The Waterbury yeshiva bought an old University of Connecticut building that they might never have sold otherwise, thus saving Connecticut taxpayers some money.)

  109. G. says:

    On the women working issue:
    Let’s keep in mind that a significant number of the women who stay at home have limited skills, training, or experience. Obviously, this varies by community, but let’s take a ‘typical yeshivish’ stay at home mom who got married at 19 while working as a Morah or secretary until the birth of her first child. At that point, her minimum-wage salary doesn’t go very far after child care. As her family size increases, and there are two or three children who need day care, it truly may not make much sense for her to work. Yes, I am aware that with ambition, experience, and a hefty dose of Siyata D’Shmaya many women with minimal training can work their way up to well-paying jobs. However, the assumption that women can go out and bring in more money needs to take into account the earning power of women in various segments of our society.

  110. Sarah Elias says:

    I think there needs to be more emphasis on forcing schools to open their books – really open them, in detail – and let everyone see where their tuition and tzedaka dollars are going, and to allow financial experts to mandate money-saving measures.

    I am quite sure that if the public would be able to see how much money goes on inflated salaries for certain personnel and on other wasteful items, the outcry would force changes and tuition could be lowered appreciably.

  111. Ruth says:

    As an outsider looking in at the American community, I find this talk of not having enough money bemusing. Firstly, a change of attitude is needed to determine what is essential and what is a luxury. From my two week stay in Flatbush I came back absolutely astounded by the standards that must be kept up to. The Kiddushim in shuls, the weddings, the quantity of toys that the kids have, the outfits the women wear. It brought me back to my time in seminary, the first time I had contact with Americans. Whilst those of us from England easily managed with one suitcase, yes, all my worldly possessions fit into one case, I do not recall an American with only three pairs of shoes. And then the yearbooks, I fail to recall exactly how much money was spent producing proper books with professional photos whilst we English managed with a black and white cheap version that cost next to nothing. And summer camps, is it really a necessity and if it is, does each one have to try and outdo each other, adding additional expenses, not to talk about the adverts for Pesach vacations that get more ostentatious year after year. In short, the money seems to be there, just not always directed to the best causes. Of course, their are Americans who are a lot poorer and don’t have such luxuries but when you live within a culture where more is always better you will be influenced and lose your objectivity of what is a luxury and necessity. Things will only get harder, Moshiach is on the way and with it will be a complete financial collapse to wean us of olam haza. Unfortunately England is beginning to learn from America and so I have moved to Israel where salaries are a lot lower but at least your kids will learn how to cope with less. Good luck

  112. Bob Miller says:

    Have we, the ostensibly traditional Jews, managed to set up an economic system that systematically delegates daytime childcare to outsiders less fit to do it? Under such circumstances, how can the basic value and typical atmosphere of a Jewish home not deteriorate?

  113. Tal Benschar says:

    Quick math on what a kehilla tax might look like:
    For an mean family size of 5 kids and $15,000 in constant-value actual tuition costs for 12 years per child over a 42 year career (enter workforce at 23, retire at 65) would require an annual kehilla tax of $21,400/year per family not factoring in any cost-of-capital timing issues. There would likely be a tax advantage over tuition in the US.

    Z: Do you mean this INSTEAD of paying tuition, or IN ADDITION. If you mean instead, then that is lower than many of us pay in tuition. If you mean in addition, then forget it, there is no way we could afford that in addition to the burden of tuition.]

    On the assumption that you mean instead, here are some questions:

    1. What is the enforcement mechanism? Suppose someone does not want to pay? Clearly, if someone has children in the school, then it will be worth it to pay the kehillah tax instead of tuition. Others may balk. Does this mean they don’t get aliyos in shul? COunted in a minyan?

    2. What about those who don’t have children, or whose children are now grown beyond the schools in the kehillah (some only go to 8th grade, others to high school)? Someone with single boys in yeshiva gedolah or single girls in seminary? Married children in kollel?

    3. What about someone from outside the kehillah who wants to send their child there?

    4. Is this kehillah tax assessed per family, per capita, based on income, or what?

    5. Is the kehillah tax also used for other communal needs — shuls, mikvaos, batei midrash, tseddakah for aniyyim, etc.?

    As far as tax deductions, I am not sure. If I pay $20,000 a year to the kehillah, and get services in return (my children are educated, I provided with a shul to daven in, a mikvah for my wife to go to), then I doubt that it is deductible.

  114. Silky says:

    Some people mentioned that there shouldn’t be a tuition break if the mother isn’t working. Well, when my children were little, I wanted to go back to work because I needed the money. Then I did the math: $12/hour for me starting when I got to work. $4/hour per child for childcare starting when I dropped the kids off. 3 children needing a baby sitter. Money to Uncle Sam…Babysitter’s clock starting before mine and ending afterwards…working so I would no longer have the time to run to which ever supermarket had sales…better clothing for work… IT DIDN’T PAY.
    You can’t make a blanket statment about working mother’s without taking in the cost of childcare.

    I don’t know what the answer is. The economy is so bad that the people who used to be big donnors are now begging for tuition breaks. I think if EVERYONE suddenly came into the public schools to register, the goverment would realize that they can’t handle all those new children and would have to give the schools SOMETHING. This, of course, would only work if everyone would do it.

  115. Arnie Lustiger says:

    Here is the solution for the tution crisis in North/ Central Jersey.

    Rent and renovate a building for a new school in an industrial park off the NJ Turnpike or GS Parkway halfway between Lakewood and Teaneck. Rents there are very cheap due to the economic downturn. Teachers from Lakewood commute north, students from North Jersey take a school bus south and meet at the school in between. Teachers in Lakewood will work for half the salary of teachers in other comunities in North and Central Jersey. The school will be viable at a tuition of ~$7K/ student.

    Do not be concerned about the inequity of paying a Lakewood teacher so little. A new seven bedroom home in Lakewood costs $400K. The equivalent home in North Jersey costs >$1M . More importantly, the Lakewood home has a rentable basement which can fetch $850-950/ month, covering 3/4 of the mortgage. In addition, tuition in Lakewood is $3-5K. The cost of living in Lakewood is one third that of Teaneck.

    I have been told that this solution will never work. Parents in Teaneck would prefer sending their kids to public school rather than have them spend 50 minutes on a bus each way. In addition, they would never send their kids to a school without extra curricular sports, or where Zionism is not a central part of the curriculum.

    If true, there is no tuition crisis. Instead, we have a Jewish commitment crisis.

  116. Solomon says:

    This discussion really has two separate but important topics.
    1) The economic infertility imposed on the working middle class by our educational system that uses tuition benefits rather than cash to pay its Jewish educators. Ironically, this is structurally similar to the US healthcare system where most users are insulated from the actual cost of delivery the service, and that cost is shifted to others. For this, the answer is to eliminate or severely reduce the benefits to teachers, raise compensation to what should be market (i.e., closer to what local public and private schools pay) and let the chips fall where they may.

    Of course this raises significant issue #2 – can many American Jewish communities actually sustain full time jewish day school education for their children. It seems to me that, sadly, the answer is no. Like most of our fellow Americans, we have grown into living a lifestyle – larger families, bigger houses, more comforts, nicer shuls, more shuls, more schools, bigger gyms, bigger libraries etc – that is not viable in the current economic environment. Yes, Dorothy, we have assimilated the American mindset. But now we can’t afford it, and our kids will absolutely have to bear the burden.

    One solution to the financial challenge – send all our (the oppressed middle class’) kids to public school for secular studies and set up after-school Jewish programs with the best of the klei kodesh that still would be teaching the kids of the rich and the kollel who would still be doing full-time JDS with its Daas Torah mandated Jewish in the morning classes. We could even have daily minyanim geared to these kids – set up to coincide with their school schedules. Moreover, the mass influx of Orthodox kids into public schools would make them more socially safe (though not perfect) and probably more accomodating.
    On this front, I woudl

  117. Rivka says:

    I have not read any of the comments. I just want to say thank you so, so much for this post. My husband and I faced just this situation.
    When we had two children in private Jewish day school, we could afford the full tuition, as hard as it was. But when I found myself unexpectedly pregnant for a third time, we realized we would have to apply for financial aid. We received some–not much–and our belts grew tighter. We realized then it would be foolish for us to have any more children, and came to the decision that was it.
    Yet the Rabbis of the school, the teachers, were having six, seven, eight, nine children. It was a well known fact all their children were attending the school for free.
    I cannot begin to describe to you the resentment I began to feel. I had wanted more children–yet understood I could not afford them. But there I was, paying for the tuition of these other children, children who were somehow more special than mine because their parents were teachers and Rabbis.
    My children no longer attend that school. I cannot say this was the only reason; there were other issues going on, too. But this was definitely a factor.

  118. Zalman Alpert says:

    In a democratic society the way governement functions is by taxes. Thus we receive police , fire and sanitation services and we pay property taxes . the same is true of our public schools. These schools are supported through various taxes.
    In East europe many kehillo services were supported by various taxes . Thus there was like it or not a tax on kosher slaughter , there was a”tax” on the purchase of karka after 120. There was a heafty tax on Passover Matzo. After all, communal institutions needed to be supported.Rabbis needed to be paid . A shul sold shdat that is permanent seats to supprot the shuls.
    In the US the orthodox communtiy as a whole has no tax system. Shuls support themselves through mebership fees. But communal institutions have no such vehicle of support.
    The obvious way is to provide for a tax on kashrus. Inded in amny instances this already exists. Except for the fact thta most of the organizations taxing us for their hechsher are private groups run by individual families. At least 2 of the big 4 kashrus organizatiosn reaping huge profits from kashruth are private groups controlled by individual fmailies.Many if not most of the smaller groups are also in private hands. And with all due respect the OU, it seems to keep its income from kashrus supervision as top secret. The question begs itself how much money does the oU contribute to local day schools ?
    Imagine a communal kashruth system where the profits from hashgachoth would go to support local day schools Maikvaot and other communal organiations rather than into the pockets of private people. If our local governemnts were run the same way all localities would be bankrupt too. If the cities did not collect taxes but it was paid to private people , who would support the public
    We need to demand some form of disclosure form the so called public kosher groups and pressure the private group to do more much more to help our yeshivoth.

  119. Dr. E says:

    There has been a fair amount of discussion as to where a wife’s income fits into the tuition contribution equation. Let’s assume that most of the readers here will agree that in 2012, whether one has 3 or 10 kids, in 99% of cases, there is a shared income burden across both spouses.

    I would argue that there are definitely mixed messages relating to the woman’s role which have been communicated in Bais Yaakov circles (explicitly or implicitly) for the past 20 years. It starts with an “academic” high school experience that often takes the form of straight memorization and little critical thinking. They are often given opportunities to receive college credit while still in high school to eventually matriculate towards an online degree (in the hopes of either using that or getting into a graduate program, somewhere) Then they are off to “BY teacher’s seminaries” in Israel. Then, they are told of the virtues of being a wife and mother and (after 10 months in seminary) being a “teacher” as a vocation. Then it’s back to America to finish their “degree”, date, get married, and try to get into graduate school. Then, they will need to get a paycheck to support their husband in Kollel and small child(ren) for whom they must also shop, cook, and clean. [Don’t worry, I’m getting dizzy too, just typing this.] Some BY’s stipulate that they now have come to the realization that women need to get the training to earn a secondary income; but, the real expectations 3 years later are that they need to earn both a primary AND a secondary income. Yet, the only fields which are available to them (based on their credentials, availability, and Hashkafa) are lower paying or part-time. They are also more comfortable working for a frum employer who “understands” them and provides for a kosher environment, narrowing the window even more). They are further challenged by the fact that there intellectual styles have been skewed towards memorization and lack of critical or creative thought.) They are also discouraged from any managerial or leadership positions as that might stigmatize them as a “career woman” or professional, when the only heter is doing what is absolutely necessary for a paycheck. Because after all, it WOULD be better if they stayed at home, but nebach they have to do this and feel guilty going beyond the minimum. (Not to mention that their spiritual and intellectual engagement has been reduced to an occasional Tehillim gathering and doing Beresihis homework with a 7 year old.)

    All in all, this cholent has not led to very viable and guilt-free income participation by young women. Then again, they are doing exactly as they have been told.

  120. DF says:

    “Let’s assume that most of the readers here will agree that in 2012, whether one has 3 or 10 kids, in 99% of cases, there is a shared income burden across both spouses.”

    That’s your own assumption. I’ve seen more comments here from readers opposing that notion than supporting it. In the kesubah you signed YOU assumed the responsibility of earninig an income, not your wife.

  121. Avi S. says:

    There is another side of the story here that should not be forgotten. Without responding to the real, true and difficult realities recognized by the author, I’d like to mention that a careful review of the 15th and 16th chapters of Sefer Nidchei Yisroel [authored by the Chofetz Chaim]will perhaps give some of us the chizuk to carry on, despite the status-quo.

  122. Reb. Dr. R says:

    In response to Silky’s comment on July 10:
    It is great that you did the math and came up with the conclusion that it doesn’t pay to work for $12/hr when you have childcare to consider. I am just wondering why you didn’t do the math years ago during the years when should have been thinking about the future. Did you fail to get guidance from parents? teachers? mentors? Were you told not to worry and trust in Hashem, or better yet, that you will marry a wealthy man? Did you think your parents were going to keep you on the dole forever? Or were you a typical teen/young adult who was more interested in make up than in making a living? Were you afraid or discouraged from getting training in a lucrative (or at least more lucrative than $12/hr) field? I am wondering where the failure in personal finance and financial planning originated.

    My husband and I mentor over a dozen young people each year, both yungerleit, post-seminary girls and college students seeking career guidance or asking for informational interviews as we both are involved in highly dynamic fields. They come to us through our yeshiva, shul, community, social, professional and family connections. No one leaves here without a thorough understanding of “the math.” You don’t need a PhD to do this. More of us out there need to educate those young people around us that a middle class Jewish lifestyle with tuition obligation requires not insignificant resources. Of course we talk to them about careers or industries they may be interested in but it only comes if they are willing to listen to the numbers. I am sure many of you wonder how things would be different for you, if only your mentors, teachers, parents or rebbeim would have done this for you.

    One of our daughters presented the facts as an accounting lesson to her 11th grade Bais Yaakov economics class. On one side of the ledger was our income (accounts receivable). On the other side was expenses, including taxes (accounts payable). She made a pie chart of a typical month’s expenses, then an annual accounting straight from our last ledger. Two enlightening results came of this excercises for the girls and one was for us:

    1. yeshiva/BY tuition was the biggest slice of the pie – they never knew this before!
    2. the sheer numbers of what it takes to balance the books, when you are making an honest living. Nobody told them this either!

    Our lesson was in the class’ reaction: nobody believed her. They thought the numbers were all fictional. They didn’t believe the tuition expense until the teacher confirmed their school’s list price. They still could not believe it was an actual expense as stated: “Oh, tuition, well NOBODY pays full tuition!” This is current data. We are talking about an event that happened in spring of 2011 in a typical jewish community outside NYC.

    Why are we hiding this from our young folk? Are we the only ones telling young adults as they make their career plans and choices (and we should be so lucky if they are doing so) that they need to be thinking about covering not only basic necessities or lifestyle choices but also the full cost of education? The challenge is doing it in a way that doesn’t freak them out to consider that 5 children will cost them $50-75K, or whatever it is in your community, in after tax dollars. Add the basic cost for other expenses and that is what you should be aiming for in earnings in 10 yrs from now. The last thing we want to hear is another story like Silky’s where the calculation was made too many years too late. It is both to her detriment and to ours.

  123. Mark says:

    Mo – A rabbi in Toronto came up with a great idea–use the capital in all those charitable funds, and have the parents take out life insurance policies to replenish the funding.

    Life insurance isn’t free because life insurance companies aren’t in the business of handing money out to people. Over a population, you will put in more paying for the life insurance policies than you will get out of them – that’s how life insurance companies work. So you may as well have those people send the money to “kehilla funds” instead of to the life insurance companies and you will come out ahead by about 10% (or whatever the average life insurance company profit is nowadays).

  124. Benshaul says:

    I give my good friend Rabbi Adlerstein the benefit of the doubt, that he did not realize how much “sinah” this post would engender, or he would not have subbmitted it.
    A few thoughts and comments. I dont know which alternate reality some of the commenters are living in – to make a claim of school menahalim making 300k plus salaries!! -really. the teachers i know make a minimum salary compared to what they could earn in the open market; and do it because they love teaching. please dont fool yourself into thinking that teachers do it b/c they cant do anything else; if they didnt love & believe in what they do -they wouldnt put up with the abuse and treatment from people like you. realize as well, that this complaint of not paying teachers what they deserve isnt limited to the frum or even jews; its the price of living in a capitalistic society.

    Additionally it not really about the kollel guys or rabbeim, its about the fact that middle class cant afford the cost of being frum. There really arent that many jobs out there that pay an annual salary in excess of 100 or 150k that allow 50k a year or more in tuition fees. As someone who works very hard for the klal, the cost of my kids tuition IS being subsidized by the klal. Fair?- i think so. – would i prefer to make enough to pay my own way -ABSOLUTELY. But then you would lose the benefit of the work that my wife and i contribute in doing something that is of a service to the klal. could i earn far more in the secular market, no question, but i put up with the lack of pay and other indignities of klal work b/c i beleive in it.

    this idea that the schools are being poorly run is a red herring. yes -there are economies of scale in large mosdos, and i am sure there are some mismanaged ones, but for most -after all the board memebers and all the experts come in to look at your purchasing and budgeting-the end result for most mosdos is the expected one -we need more money!! what a surprise

    As to the “middle class” paying for the poor -there may be some instances of that occuring , but like some of the comments above -when you spend 250 on shabbos dresses, thousands on pesach hotels, etc etc-please dont insult my intelligence by claiming that i am “costing” you money. our life styles in general are out of hand.

    best solution by far -VOUCHERS. it should be the mantra of all Jews.

  125. zvi says:

    a personal report: I moved to Israel!
    Housing costs here in Ashdod (in a very frum community) are a fraction of NY. My kids go to an excellent private school (cost per year: 680$), kosher food costs, health care, and city taxes are all much lower. My economic situation has improved enormously since Aliya. Did I mention that unemployment here is lower and that is easyer to find a job here?

  126. G. says:

    People’s emotions definitely do run high when it comes to this topic. I believe that is exactly the point Rabbi Adlerstein is highlighting.
    Day school leaders certainly can earn in excess of 300k. Perhaps a menahel in a yeshivish cheder doesn’t earn that kind of money. A head of school in a day school can. And I am speaking of salaries, not ‘packages’ that include free tuition for children.
    Many teachers do earn very little money. A full-time teacher in a well-paying school can easily be earning 70k.
    People like to talk about what they can earn in the open market. I don’t know how realistic that is. I’m not saying that our teachers aren’t capable of excelling in other professions. But the reality is that a rebbe with no secular training isn’t in high demand for lucrative jobs in the open market.
    Ultimately, a yeshiva education is a very expensive proposition. The issue as I understand it is why a yeshiva education – and by extension, a sizable family – is a luxury for the middle-class, but an entitlement for the klei kodesh.

  127. mycroft says:

    “A few thoughts and comments. I dont know which alternate reality some of the commenters are living in – to make a claim of school menahalim making 300k plus salaries!!”

    Log into Guidestar.org and search for yeshiva, Hebrew Academy etc-of those who file forms 990s one will find such individuals. Sadly most Yeshivot don’t file 990s especially family controlled ones. A church is exempt from the general rule that a nonprofit institution files a 990. One can look at the list of yeshivot/day schools and see which ones claim the “church” exemption-since no tax is involved one could assume it is based on the desire for secrecy.

    “when you spend 250 on shabbos dresses, thousands on pesach hotels, etc etc-please dont insult my intelligence by claiming that i am “costing” you money. our life styles in general are out of hand.”

    For one I have never been to a hotel on Pesach-etc. The cost of a day school education puts Yahdus out of reach of a huge proportion of Americans. The image of mechanchim of what people do is partially based on what machers do.

  128. Miriam solo says:

    Schools can’t practice economics of scale because of the need to “outfrum” everyone else. Schools keep opening that cater to smaller and smaller groups with ” better” hashkofos. We can’t afford this divisive and arrogant attitude.

  129. Bob Miller says:

    Benshaul wrote, “…really. the teachers I know make a minimum salary compared to what they could earn in the open market.”

    Is this what they could earn in the open market today?

    Or is it what they could earn in the open market with specific work experience and education/training that they don’t now have, and a new position that is not now available?

  130. DF says:

    The defense offered by Benshaul above is rather insulting. Just how many people does he think go away to Pesach hotels, anyway?

    The claim of Benshaul, and I’ve seen a few other mechanchim making the same claim, is that they could have gone into the open market and have earned far more than they do, but they did not do so out of love for chinuch. No doubt that is true for some in chinuch, and lets even stipulate its true of many, at least the second half of the sentence. But there are also many others in chinuch who are only in that field because they are related to the hanhala, or because they didnt plan ahead when they were in yeshivah. Sitting in learning is the default. We need to show a lot of respect for those ballei battim who realized this was not the right way to go, and went against the grain while still in yeshivah to prepare for the future.

    Moreover, who’s to say these mechanchim would have automatically been sucessful, just because they entered the working world? It’s not easy to make it out there. You have to work very hard, and as already said, you are coming in with one hand behind your back because of student loans or start up costs.

  131. klonimus says:

    Mr. Benshaul it is the callous and arrogant attitude of people that is engendering the “sinah”. If you knew anything about day schools you would know that salaries of 200,000 or more are normal for principals and heads of school. You can see this in the forms 990 that these schools file.

    And please don’t lecture me how you and your wife do so much for the klal and therefore deserve that parents subsidize your tuition. Let the machers who hired you pay your tuition – not your fellow parents who are struggling to make ends meet. You contradict yourself by saying that you could find a better paying job but are happy to help the klal and then state that there really aren’t many well paying jobs that would allow for payment of full tuition. As for red herrings, the fact that some people spend thousands on vacations and other luxuries is irrelevant. For the most part the big spenders are not ones who can barely afford to pay. I know many full paying parents who are forced to keep their children home during summer because they can’t afford to send them to summer camp while the klal workers and rabbaim are able to send theirs.

    You are correct that our “life styles” are out of hand. As a klal we are overspending. Yeshivot need to cut costs by both reducing salaries and eliminating staff or the we will revert to the way thing were 60 – 70 years ago with most children going public school + talmud torah.

    As for vouchers, you may as well pray for mashiach. In New York State there are approximately 500,000 private school students. Does anyone really think it is feasible to get even a $1,000 per child voucher? That would cost $500,000,000. And would $1,000 per student even help? It surely wouldn’t provide any meaningful relief to those struggling with $40,000+ tuition bills. In fact, judging by the way other government monies have been spent, it is likely that tuition would not be reduced at all. The new government money would just be used to increase salaries and staff.

  132. Solomon says:

    Benshaul – I think you might reconsider your thinking on Rabbi Adlerstein’s comments. What he said, and what many of us feel, is that we feel we have to limit the number of children we have in order to afford to live – house, food, etc even without the vacations and fancy dresses – specifically due to tuition which is the largest expense most of us have. In contrast, you and your colleagues working in the schools are sheltered from this uniquely oppressive expense and thus can feel fiscally more comfortable having more kids.

    To put it differently, if you have 5 kids at $20k/yr tuition apiece, you can add $150K to your true pay (5 x $20k benefit, with a 33% marginal tax rate). So, if you earn $50k is salary before taxes, with your 5 kids on full tuition benefit, you really are earning $250K before taxes.

    Lets go back a few years. You have 3 kids in school – a $60k benefit/$90K before taxes. With your $50K base, that equates to $140K in equivalent salary. Let’s switch you over to straight cash salary of $140k, but you pay full tuition. Do you think you would feel comfortable having another kid (or 2 or more), if you were going to be stuck at that $140K? You would need $30k increase in your base just to cover the increased tuition (even before food, clothes, etc). If you needed to make $30k+ more annually for each additional child, would you keep having them?

    That is the issue raised in the early part of RYA’s piece.

  133. Tal Benschar says:

    As to the “middle class” paying for the poor -there may be some instances of that occuring , but like some of the comments above -when you spend 250 on shabbos dresses, thousands on pesach hotels, etc etc-please dont insult my intelligence by claiming that i am “costing” you money. our life styles in general are out of hand.

    Benshaul — talk about Sinah, do you realize how stereotyped and offensive this comment is?

    Let me assure you, there are many struggling middle-class baalei batim (heck, on paper our esteemed President considers some of us “rich,” what a joke) who don’t go away for Pesach and who don’t buy expensive clothes for Shabbos. Some of us even can’t buy new clothes for Yom Tov because of the burden of tuition. We drive 20 year old jalopies and forego vacations, all to pay tuition. Do some abuse the tution process to maintain luxury, sure. But most don’t, and are struggling just to make ends meet.

    As someone who works very hard for the klal, the cost of my kids tuition IS being subsidized by the klal. Fair?- i think so. – would i prefer to make enough to pay my own way -ABSOLUTELY. But then you would lose the benefit of the work that my wife and i contribute in doing something that is of a service to the klal.

    I don’t have a problem with your kids’ tuition being subsidized up to a point. It’s part of the compensation package, and you are probably paid less than me.

    The unfairness, however, comes when middle class people are forced to limit their family size to support mechanchim. Is it “fair” that baalei batim who make nice salaries (on paper) have to struggle to support, say, 5 children, and cannot afford to have any more, while mechanchim can have 8, 9, 10 or more children, and simply assume that someone else will pick up the tab? That’s the rub that R. Adlerstein is talking about.

  134. Dr. E says:


    To Ben Shaul: I disagree with almost everything you wrote by way of analysis and suggestions. But, the above is at least half on the mark. If it were just the Mechanchim who were getting breaks, I don’t think that would break the communal bank, except in those communities which are oversaturated with Yeshvos and Chadarim—and the associated infrastructure costs.

    To DF: Yes. In theory, you would be correct that the income burden falls squarely on the husband, as per the stated contract. But that also assumes that the Gemara requiring a father ensuring that his son is employable is also binding (many uncompelling terutzim have been offered as to why the Yeshiva world has essentially redacted that key line from Maseches Kidushin). If given the reality of the economy and what jobs pay in a given locale, a couple is still planning on having a large family (which is a default assumption), Kollel has to be taken off of the table, if there is to be any unsubsidized or otherwise viable frum life, without significant income contribution from the wife. Guys would have to leave Yeshiva at age 20 or 21 in order to get a college degree and enter the workforce immediately. As it stands now, the candle is being burned on both ends and the balance sheet is quite unbalanced.

  135. BenShaul says:

    I see that I have really put the foot in the mouth here, and needlessly raised the ire of so many- as opposed to my clearly failed attempt to make a general comment that wasn’t meant to attack anyone. I will endeavor to reply more cogently, specifically, and perhaps a touch defensively.
    The limitations of time don’t allow for a reasoned line by line response so I will put forth a more general mea culpa in not being specific, and in making a broad statement that was misunderstood by so many.

    Some quick points-
    1) I am not a mechanech and have no relationship to any school, cheder etc.
    2) I agree with the premise of the issue as raised by Rabbi Adlerstein, and many of the comments offered valid ideas, critiques, and suggestions.
    3) I wasn’t offering a defense –rather some comments of a perspective from a different side of the fence.
    4) What I objected to is some of the ad hominem attacks on salaries, capabilities and talent of klei kodesh; and the assumption of some of the comments about the easy lifestyle of klei kodesh. There may be some earning 300k salaries, I certainly cannot argue with the facts; but it is not true for the vast number of klei kodesh that I know and interact with. The ones I know live frugally, & are making real sacrifices to stay in klei kodesh work, don’t have summer vacations, new cars and an easy lifestyle. I cannot presume as to anyone’s calculations in having lots of kids- and I am not a big enough baal hashkofo to even enter that debate. What I do know is that Jonathan Rosenblum has posted on the new reality that the talented girls are no longer looking to go into chinuch b/c it doesn’t pay enough; and ALL klei kodesh still have to pay money for high school and out of town yeshivas-and while they get a scholarship in line with their income-it’s no different than that of a layman. Furthermore –to use a city like Lakewood where “everyone” is in Kollel- no one gets a discount.
    5) There is more to say and to answer some of the specific attacks on my comments but I will leave it for now –hopefully I have the time to post a line by line explanation and rebuttal of them.

    Again I apologize for the lack of depth and narrowness of my comments –my intent was to highlight a few of the comments that were IMHO out of line in the assumptions or attacks on klei kodesh in general.

    5) I want to point out that Marvin Schick has already posted a very reasonable and cogent article that articulates my own thinking on the matter in a far more erudite manner than I could –READ IT.

  136. Z says:

    Reply to Tal Benschar (July 10, 2012 at 10:48 am)
    Quick math on what a kehilla tax might look like:

    Z: Do you mean this INSTEAD of paying tuition, or IN ADDITION. If you mean instead, then that is lower than many of us pay in tuition. If you mean in addition, then forget it, there is no way we could afford that in addition to the burden of tuition…]

    Yes, I mean instead. I was mostly curious to see what the numbers would actually look like since I have seen a Kehilla tax proposed many times, but have never actually seen a number attached to it.

    Note that numbers I use/generate have to be the average across all participating/paying members so any non-contributing members would bring the average tax amount up, and any childless (contributing) members would bring the cost down. If 20% do not contribute, and have 2x as many kids as everyone else, that raises everyone else’s burden by 40%

    Also the cost does not need to be flat, but could be a % on earnings (over a certain amount) but that would have to end up being the mean for that set of child count/per-student cost assumptions.

    On the assumption that you mean instead, here are some questions:
    1. What is the enforcement mechanism? Suppose someone does not want to pay? Clearly, if someone has children in the school, then it will be worth it to pay the kehillah tax instead of tuition. Others may balk. Does this mean they don’t get aliyos in shul? COunted in a minyan?

    Again my interest was purely in seeing what the number would be (for just a tuition replacement). I don’t think a tax would actually be implementable for the many reasons you touch upon, although it might be more likely to get favorable tax treatment.

  137. Robert Lebovits says:

    It is breathtaking – and more than a little terrifying – to read the variety of strident declarations put forward regarding how everyone else ought to be living their lives for the sake of the klal. I don’t know if this is simply a variant of the adage “The one thing two Jews can agree on is how much a third Jew ought to give to Tzedakah” or a dark aberration of the concept “Kol Yisroel Areivim”. Whatever the motivation for the demand for massive societal change in the name of equity, one should be very cautious in promoting ideas that could carry with them the potential for unanticipated destructive consequences. Whether it’s the requirement that all families become dual income families, the promotion of aliyah for the sake of chinuch, or mandatory economic family planning, the long-term impact upon our future direction as a nation is impossible to predict and certainly not necessarily positive. In the past, issues effecting the Jewish People as a whole would be taken on by Gedolai Yisroel and we would follow their lead. None of the comments here offer any direct attribution to anyone of stature as to his views on the subject. Has no one ever asked? Would we listen?
    There is also something rather disturbing in the collectivist formulation of the problem and the possible solutions as one that presumes resources – present and future – to be finite thereby pitting one group against another for a fair share of the limited pie. Since there is only so much to go around, says this presumption, everyone has a vested interest in seeing to it that others don’t get too much. Granted the largesse given to us by HKBH should never be squandered. Nevertheless, one can frame this dilemma as a matter of wealth creation rather than limitation and seek creative solutions (and siyata d’shamaya) to expand the resources we need. Eretz Zvi?
    I also see this conversation as part of a much larger concern regarding our national character and future. Where in fact does HKBH fit into the equation? Are all of these circumstances man-made? Our financial positions, bad and good, the result of solely our productivity and hard work? A family’s size is just a matter of choice? What does Hashem expect of us and do we want to know? I think it is safe to say personal responsibilty is a Torah value. But so is the support of Torah learning and institutions. It strikes me that we have competing values at play here for each and every one of us individually, not just as a group, and the choices we make ought to be informed by those we turn to for guidance in other areas of living.
    One final question: To those who opted to limit family size due to financial considerations – would you wish to trade places with the klei kodesh with nine kids and live his whole life?

  138. mycroft says:

    “(I recently spoke to a 10-year rebbi with 6 children who, after years of struggling with the financial stress of making $60,000 a year – albeit paying virtually no tuition – was considering going to law school. He was advised that should he go and do well, he could expect a starting salary of $160,000.”

    What percent of law school grads receive a starting salary of $160,000? It is even a lower percentage of those who start the practice of law around 40 “10-year rebbi” add law school years etc.

    “If a shul hires a new rov, why should his four children be entitled to any tuition assistance”
    Agreed-I know of Rabbis who paid full tuition for their children’s tuition.

    “He fully recognizes that free or reduced tuition is not a perk, but a cost-efficient way for the school to compensate for the inadequate salary offered to faculty”

    Why the assumption that there is an inadequate salary-I knew a musmach who also had a professional degree who as an adviser to students told them they were likely to earn more in chinuch than in that profession. The top 2% will earn much more but the median won’t.

    “This is not to say that having children must or should be a financial decision. For most frum Jews, having additional children is a question of bitachon.”

    I agree –but apparently others state that one should not bring children into the world if one can’t afford tuition-“I don’t know what shaalos people are asking to poskim, but Rav Hershel Schachter clearly states in the following shiur (12:47) that it is unfair to being children into the world with the expectation that others will foot their tuition bills:
    [Go to YUTorah.org, and find the R Hershel Schacter audio of July 3, 2008]”

  139. David Willig says:

    How about if there were a 5% kashrus tax on all local kosher products, (caterers, pizza shops burger joints) with the proceeds used to reduce tuition. This would spread the burden to the entire community, and for weddings and bar mitzvahs the Kashrus tax would be tax deductible. Ultimately, if parents would cooperate, tuition could be structured to be tax deductible as well. If tuition was recommended, rather than required, the embarassing scholarship committees could be eliminated. Every family would self assess and donate tax deductible dollars, a savings of between 30-35%. The problem of course, is too many people would take advantage and give nothing. In any event, the first Yeshiva to try this would find a lot of outside support.

  140. tzippi says:

    Wow. Finally got to read this first hand (limited access to CC). Two elephants in the room: asking for heterim – you will hear many approaches on this – and supporting children.
    B”H I live in an out of town community where the gashmiyus is still under control. That’s a start but not the answer as there are many people who are not living the life of Reillystein out there (not that the Reillysteins aren’t entitled to some perks, which is also a perk of living oot, most people aren’t comparing and the Reillysteins still live below their means, at least outwardly). MEGO big time when the rhetoric starts – do we really want Moshiach and leave our homes – both or more of them – cars, yada yada yada.

  141. Orthonomics says:

    Regarding David Willig’s comment: We rarely go out to eat because it is just too expensive and I’ve even self-catered some small smachot, so I’m not the best example of normative. But before instituting a tax on top of a sales tax on top of a gratuity, I think we need to understand the patterns of the consumer and how increasing prices will affect businesses.

  142. Crazy Kanoiy says:

    Klei Kodesh don’t have more children because they can afford it. They have more children because they rightly or wrongly have “bitachon” that they can afford them. Sadly, most of the time they can’t, and that is why the vast majority rely on government assistance and even after that can’t pay for simchas or chasunahs or cars, houses and clothing. Many rely on second hand clothing and hand me downs. If middle class earners chose to have such “bitachon” they could also have more children.

    Hocker: I totally fail to see your point. Taking away a Rebbe’s tuition reduction package is tantamount to lowering his salary. Are you in favor of lowering the already depressed wages of Rabbeim? If a school gives a Rebbe a benefits package that is the school’s discretion. Perhaps a Rebbe’s Health Insurance benefit should be limited to himself and his spouse to make it more “manageable” for the school and the “middle class” wage earners.

  143. chaim Leib says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein,
    A kehilla system would encourage people to earn less so that they wouldn’t have to pay tuition. Only one spouse would work and they would earn just enough to pay their mortgage, food, and basic expenses.
    In short, a kehilla system would encourage people to work less and have the rest of the kehilla pay for their tuition.

    [YA – I don’t see why. In a kehilla system, the kehilla can levy a tax on all members for essential services, including education. Everyone would pay in, including people who have no children in the schools. That was the takanah of R Yehoshua b Gamla, said to be the world’s oldest system of compulsory, community education for children. Kehilos existed for hundreds of years. To be sure, there were lots of disputes about tax rates, accounting procedures, hidden income, etc. There are hundreds of teshuvos about this taxation. I am not aware of any complaints that the system disincentivized people from working harder to make more income.]

  144. Bob Miller says:

    If we were blessed with a revival of the kehilla system, we would still have to be concerned about its fair governance. That is not a trivial issue! The last thing we need is an oligarchy of well-connected machers, whose empowerment was independent of their personal middos.

  145. Dr. E says:

    One example of cost shifting is where women who are either untrained or trained to do something else offer themselves as teachers at the schools. The rationale is that given that after the part-time hours of their availability and childcare costs, there are few other employment situations that would make it worthwhile. The obvious perk is tuition breaks, despite a low salary. The downside is little external wealth being stimulated by this community economy. (This also includes the fact that in contrast with jobs in the outside world A “cost” to the school is the sacrificed quality of the teaching, and that is passed onto parents in the form of a less-than-stellar educational experience.

    For the record, I’m all in favor of some sort of break for qualified teachers as a way of subsidizing a low salary. But, that presumes that hiring is based on merit and qualifications, rather than nepotism, cronyism, or the above scenario. (This would require not only opening up the financial books, but an audit of how exactly staffing decisions are made.) It would also be limited to teachers of that particular school. One of the consequences of the Kollel generation and proliferation of schools, shuls, and Kollelim is that an inordinate number of Klei Kodesh are in the system, each requiring breaks in different schools within a given community and out of town. Add that to those who are unemployed or below market by choice as well as other ideological life decisions related to college and training, and we have an economic mess. And this mess is further exacerbated by the economy.

    Parents who receive tuition breaks (whether Klei Kodesh or not) need to recognize that their family’s lives are being subsidized by others including the Middle Class who pay full tuition. But, they should also realize that while it is within their right to sacrifice of their own gashmiyus, all things being equal and healthy, they don’t have the right to sacrifice the gashmiyus of their children, whether born and yet to be born. We are talking about affording the within-reason basics, not things which are objectively over-the-top. There are numerous instances of kids who grow up and smell the coffee. Then, they don’t take too kindly to the idealism forced upon them and opt for a different lifestyle, with values that are inconsistent of those of their parents and their parents’ mentors.

  146. Zachary Kessin says:

    For those considering Aliyah you need to go into it with your eyes open, it is wonderful but not perfect.

    The good news is that heath care care & schools are much more affordable here, the government pays for a lot of it. The bad news is that housing is expensive! I live in Ariel 40km outside of Tel Aviv and a 4 bedroom house here sells for about 1.4million shekels. (We rent)

    The other bit of good news at least for those of us in High Tech there are jobs. Right now Tel Aviv is a High tech boom town and if you have the skills you can find a job. I am a freelancer and right now I am actually turning down work because I have too much of it. Of course I am also at the very high end of web development and have published 2 books on the subject, so I am not average.

    I will also say that I made aliyah from Boston 9 years ago and it was the best choice I have ever made. I met my wife about 3 weeks after I got here.

  147. Sara says:

    I haven’t read all 145 comments, but so far I’ve heard no one mention home-schooling. Put the social depravity aside for now, I assume home-schooling your kids with talented yungermen (who probably would love the extra cash) and education students (and yourself- if you’re able to) to teach the secular studies would be optimal. Your kid gets personalized attention and you get to keep some cash in your wallet. As for the loss of friends by your kids… I don’t know.

  148. CJ Srullowitz says:


    Do the math. Assume 180 days of schooling per year. Now figure out your cost per day of personalized tutoring. Then multiply.

    Do you think sixty dollars a day – ten dollars an hour for six hours; fifteen dollars an hour for four hours – is enough? What sort of quality educator (loving the “extra” cash or not) is that going to draw? And you’re still north of ten grand a year.

    The bottom line is that tuition is as high as it is, not because of tuition breaks for klei kodesh and scholarship families, but because that’s the cost of educating a child.

  149. Fenster says:

    This article is the absolute truth. I pay full tuition for my four kids. This article describes me and the things I resent.

    If there were a school that required a minimum contribution (maybe $4000) per kid, I would send my kids there. I would still be paying full tuition, but it could be a smaller amount because the school would not be spending as much money to subsidize other kids. I realize that some parents would not be able to afford to send their kids there. I’m OK with that.

  150. David says:

    No, as the author points out, you have no way of taxing the rich (except by convincing them that your institutions are worthy of support– in this, you have generally failed).

    To summarize the solutions offered:
    1) We should all just suck it up, spend as much as it takes, and live on beans and noodles.
    2) Communities should all pay for all education through blanket assessments.

    The first is unattractive to most people who aren’t maniacal about their frumkheit; the second is impossible for reasons suggested in the article.

    I’d like to offer a third: abolish day school. We’ve created a religion that is utterly dependent on indoctrination. We show no interest in being a light to the world, nor do we show any willingness to consider whether our standard way of doing things is misguided. All we ask is how to solve the tuition crisis. Well, we can’t solve it. We’ve alienated the people who are best able to pay, and we are raising people with values that lead to a lifestyle that makes it impossible for them to pay– and the prices keep going up. The system is now collapsing under its own weight. The problem is not how to fix it– it’s what should we use to replace it.

    [YA – “We’ve created a religion that is utterly dependent on indoctrination.”

    Some would call it indoctrination; others would call it chinuch. The latter happens to be a halachic chiyuv, one that is not fulfilled by sending kids to a charter school and providing a bit of cultural Judaism in the afternoon. For guidance as to what the responsibility of parents is in teaching Torah to their children, study the relevant section in Shulchan Aruch BE”H]

  151. atara goldfarb says:

    My husband and I are among the “middle class” families who are working hard to pay for our lifestyles, including yeshiva tuition. Your article definitely touched a nerve for me and I’d like to make the following comments.

    It doesn’t bother me so much that I’m being asked to pay full or nearly-full tuition. I feel the yeshivos were very accommodating to us when we were having financial difficulties and I’m grateful to be in a position where we now have income to pay for things like tuition. What bothers me more is the disrespect we are given by the frum society and by the schools. It’s not an obvious “in your face” disrespect, but it is a lack of recognition of the difficulties I have as a working parent. So many working parents (mothers, in particular) feel that the school are being run at the convenience of the teachers, with no thought for the parents who are working in other fields. Let’s face it. The school wouldn’t run without teachers, but they also wouldn’t run without tuition being paid by the “middle income”, two-income households. So why don’t the schools work as hard to accommodate working parents as they seem to do for the teachers/rebbeim? Why isn’t there a daycare option for the days before Pesach when I’m still at work, even though the teachers “need” to have off because hey, they have to make Pesach, too. So there I am, with never quite enough vacation time, and still having to hire childcare because the school is closed. Or that whole last week of school when for some reason the yeshiva has only half days? Is my tuition going to be reduced because I have to arrange for childcare for my sons who are coming home at 1PM?

    Two other areas that I’d like to comment on: A salary of $60,000 is a very generous salary in today’s economy. I think people who work in yeshivos and learn in kollels really don’t have an idea as to what “working” people actually earn. And that’s not even mentioning the summers off. I’ll make every rebbe a deal. I won’t mention summers off, and you don’t mention how hard you work. Because let me tell you something. The rest of us are not sitting on our laurels, taking coffee breaks all day long. The second issue that I still want to throw in to this discussion are the kollel wives and rebbeim’s wives and teachers who don’t work or work very part time jobs. I understand this is a personal choice and I begrudgingly accept your decision to make that choice, even though a portion of your tuition has now been put into my lap. What bothers me is that there’s a perception that what I’m doing, i.e. struggling as a working mother to earn an income so that I can pay for things like tuition and my own groceries, is somehow less important or less worthy than being a rebbe or a morah or staying home with your children.

    Again, it’s not that I mind being required to pay tuition. It’s that there’s no respect or accommodations made, by the school or by the society, for people like me who are working hard to earn the income to pay for that tuition.

    Thank you for giving me the opportunity to put these thoughts out in a public forum. I don’t think the financial issue is going to be easy to fix. But the attitude given to tuition-paying parents is something that can be worked on, at no expense to anyone.

  152. Hadassah Gefen says:

    A related issue, which I have seen cause much resentment is when klei kodesh families live better than the middle class families that are paying full tuition. Usually the lifestyle is being bank rolled by wealthy family members – and it is not their generosity that causes resentment – but the assumption that while the big house is being built by mom and dad, or the car is being leased by grandma, the tuition break is still in place. I am afraid that the assumption is in most cases correct.

    Nobody wants to subsidize tuitions of families living in beautiful homes and driving late model cars.

  153. Malkie says:

    For those looking for an affordable, alternative, albeit out of the box option, technology offers us room613.net for your educational needs.
    Also, I think people who are able, should do research into different cities and move to cities where the schools run are run more to their liking. In this way, schools will have to get organized if they want to keep their families.

  154. Shmuel H says:

    When I was a child in yeshiva, rabbis lived in apartments and drove Dodge Darts. Not any longer. Many rabbis live in just as large home, if not larger than most of the community recycling new cars every three years when their lease expires. One thing I have learned over the years – when there is a fiscal surplus the administration raises rabbis salaries or expands its campus putting the school back in debt. Let’s be honest – the yeshiva system has a dual objective of educating children AND providing a livelihood for rabbis. Why do rabbis get paid more than secular teachers in the same school? Why do rabbis get a full tuition discount when secular teacher get a percentage of a discount? A yeshiva rabbi with four children being 100% subsidized has a salary equivalent to 200k!!! Not a bad gig and let’s not forget about parsonage that rabbis declare rendering a portion of their income tax free or the “rabbi price” for children in summer camp or shul membership etc. Communities would really be in an uproar if these non profit yeshivas disclosed their books to the parent body. Rabbis should have to pay full tuition for their children and apply for a scholarship, if need be, as everyone else.

  155. J says:

    This discussion looks like it has petered out but I will put two more cents in.
    Great article and great comments. R Maryles and others alluded to a key issue here. In the ‘olden’ days, day schools could fundraise across the community and across the country. (Don’t we all still get ‘stuff’ from Hebrew Academy in Cleveland?) This was because “Torah” meant “Day Schools.” But now, “Torah”, means “Lakewood”, “Mir”, the local community Kolel, your sons-in-law that you are supporting for x years, etc. etc. Every dollar sent to the latter is deprived from the former. Think how much more money would be available for local Day Schools if people weren’t supporting their sons and daughters after marriage in Kolel. As a community we must somehow get our priorities straight and get back to the original definition of “Torah” from a Tzedaka perspective.

    Another point someone made: In previous generations the Rabbeim lived in Apartments and drove Dodge Darts. That’s true. We simply lucked out to get our chinuch on their backs. My contemporaries who chose Chinuch are no more willing to do so then I am. Just ‘cuz we were lucky enough to ‘mooch’ of the previous generations’ mechanchim is no reason to assume that we could do the same for our generation’s American born and raised Mechanchim.

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