The Matzav Shmooze: The Impact of the Tuition Crisis On My Life


schoolbooksDear Readers,

I would like to present my own experience with the tuition crisis and the impact it has had on my life.

I grew up in a middle class family. My parents had good jobs, but it was not enough to pay full tuition. My parents struggled to pay tuition and still afford other things. We had a small house and my parents drove very old cars. It was very clear at school whose parents were financially secure and whose parents were struggling. And it hurt.

After high school, I learned in yeshiva for a couple of years and I wanted to go to into chinuch. I felt I had all the skills necessary to be a mechanech. I felt passionate about Yiddishkeit and I felt I had the ability to convey that passion to talmidim. But then I started to remember how it was growing up. I remember always wishing my parents made more money so that we could live more comfortably. I was afraid that if I went into chinuch, my children would have to go through the same ordeal. So I left full-time yeshiva and began college. I considered many different career paths, but most of them either required too much schooling or did not pay well enough. So I decided to go to law school.

I enrolled in a law school that would land me a good job, but only if I ranked high enough in my class. And with the economy in the dumps, I would have to rank even higher than in the past. I worked my tail off my first semester, but I felt unsure about how I would rank. Towards the end of the semester, one of my professors invited us out to a bar, as was traditional at the school. I thought going to a bar was totally inappropriate. But I needed a good grade so I could get a good job. I spoke to my rov and he said I could go if I didn’t drink alcohol. So I went to the bar and didn’t drink.

Then it came time for interviews. I discovered that my chances of landing a good job would be much higher if I didn’t wear a yarmulka. I absolutely did not want to spend my entire day at work without a yarmulka. But I needed a good job. So I spoke to my rov and he said I did not need wear a yarmulka. So I went to my interviews without a yarmulka.

Well, I landed a great job. I don’t wear a yarmulka to work, and I hardly think twice about going to a bar with co-workers. But I still wonder sometimes whether I missed out on my real calling in life. And I think about how I do all this for the sake of my children. I want to be able to pay tuition so that my children will receive a proper chinuch and still live a comfortable life, so they could grow up to be proper, ehrliche Yidden. And here I was, not acting like a proper, ehrliche Yid, so that my children would be proper, ehrliche Yidden.

Maybe I am doing the right thing. Maybe I am not. I don’t know. I just wanted to present to parents, teachers and school administrators how I felt, and how I think many other children feel, going through the chinuch system with the tuition crisis.


A Torn Yid


The Matzav Shmoooze is a regular feature on that allows all readers to share a thought or analysis, long or short, one sentence or several paragraphs long, on any topic, for readers to mull over and comment on. Email submissions to

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  1. why do you state:

    And here I was, not acting like a proper, ehrliche Yid, so that my children would be proper, ehrliche Yidden.

    you asked shailes, you are not a ganev, you earn an honest living ..
    so dont go to bars

    welcome to golus

  2. did you ask your rov if you are doing the right thing , you left the question hanging. he was good for the bar and the yarmulka , why not ask him about the direction your life has taken?

  3. So Let me get this straight you took your yarmulka off and started going to bars so you could send your kids to yeshivah you could have kept your yarmulka on and sent them to public school they probably wouldend up looking the same

  4. While I empathize with the writer and I am sure he did what he thought was right, I pray that my children do not have the same worries about money. There will always be people who have better cars and better houses. You have to be satisfied with your lot.

    When I was younger, I too felt like the writer. But when i got older I realized and really appreciated what sacrifice my parents went through to give me a yeshiva education. I only pray that my children see that as well.

  5. I am not sure what crime was committed. Many of our fathers & grandfathers were completely shomrei torah & did not wear yarmulkes to work. Judaism is not about yarmulkes & peyos. As far as drinking there are ways to do it & ways not a rov should be consulted. There have been bigger kulos that people have relied on for much smaller stakes.
    Oseh Tzadah BeChol Ais – Zeh Hazan as banav unvnei bayso

  6. I don’t how who his Rav is.
    what makes you so sure that your position as a lawyer would ensure him a parnassa? How many people who switched from belief in Hashem and put their hopes into professions are having a hard time? The Torah writes “Ehiye asher Ehiye” “Ehiye” i will be unto you as “Ehiye” as you are to me in your trust and belief. You put your trust into your profession and not me then when things get rough don’t come to me, go to your profession for help. What i am writing here today is very obvious to all of us. How many have lost much if not all of their parnassa due to bad investments or others stealing their money. And what do they have to show for it? What’s more pitiful in this situation is that this person could have been a great mechanech. There is a reason why Hashem gave him that koach. So tell me, the thousands of talmidim that were assigned to his neshama for his guidance, who will be their Rebbe. He and he alone was supposed to be their mentor. Do you think he will have hatzlacha on the back of the children he could have and should have been mechanech? There are thousands who are living the kind of life he feared. And those thousands have tens of thousands of children that will grow up in simplicity and yet greatness. Those children would have a father who was moser nefesh for torah bedachkus. And this chesbon of his concerns regarding his childrens lack of stability due to their fathers difficulties in paying proper tuition, well let me tell you reb yid, you and your rebbe both fell into a simple trap set up by non other than the yetzer harah, to make sure that he does not become a rebbe period.Dear Mr. lawyer your job is not to do Hashem’s work but your own. Leave the financial concerns to your emunah in Hashem. The parnossah you would have made as a rebbe, would have seen you through just as it has done for the thousands of mechanchim all over the world. And what about the real kollel yungerlite that are moser nefesh for torah? Are their children growing up with these psychological concerns that you were so worried about that may affect your children? This question should have been presented only to the gedolay yisroel such as Reb Chaim Kenievsky shlita or Lehibodel bein chaim lechaim, Moran Horav Shach zt”l Only gedolim can make this life living decision. Oh, I am sure you were kidding about the yarmulka part, so i am not going to address that. That G-D that your job did not neccesitate removal of your pants to make the money you so much desire, because the bottom line here is your own chemdas mamon.

  7. Why do you feel like you are not an ehrliche yid–you asked a rov and acted in accordance with his direction. That’s pretty ehrlich.
    I think you are really struggling with the choices that you made in life. I too was once in chinuch and left to pursue a career as I felt that a life in chinuch would not provide for my children the way I wanted to provide. I still give shiurim at night and teach children on Sunday. While I have worked at some multi-national corporations, I have resisted conforming and always wear my yarmulka proudly. If that resulted in fewer opportunities that came my way (and I don’t think that it has–people tend to respect others with principles), so be it. I always felt that if Mohammed Doe (or Doha!)can succeed in these corporations, and in fact insist that they provide him a quiet room for prayer and grow his beard, why should I be any different.
    The point is that blaming this on tuitions in a cop out. Yes, it’s true that tuitions are crazy-but what does that have to do with the choices that you made vis-a-vis your yiddishkeit?

  8. Torn Yid:

    Well said. There is NO financial solution to this issue.

    Very oftne you need to pick between a “comfortable financial life” with an uncomfortable Torah/Yiddishkeit life OR a not-so-comfortable financial setting but a very comfortable Torah/Yiddishkeit setting.

    Betweek your parents and your choices, I think clearly your parents made the better choice.

  9. Please, please re-read your own letter and use the hisorerus of Rosh Hashona to make changes in your life. I cry to think of a neshoma that so much wants to shteig entrapped in what appears to be needs of the generation. Ask your Rov a different kind of question. Instead of: ‘May I take 2 steps backward?’ ask him “How can I can take a ‘giant step’ forward?” Create a sensible plan but a forward-looking one. Simcha comes from growth (note the similarity in the words). Wishing you much hatzlacha.

  10. Wake up early every day and learn. I’m a CPA and do this and made a siyum hashas in 2005 from that one Seder alone. Decide to wear a yarlmuke at work and just do it. When I first started in 1997, I didn’t wear one but after not feeling good about it, I started wearing one just a few weeks in. An Indian colleague of mine began wearing his turban to work and confided in me that my wearing my yarlmuke inspired him and gave him the strength he needed. No one will ridicule you for saying you want a constant reminder about the One Above so that you can stay straight in your loyalty, honesty, dedication and commitment to work, your employer and colleagues. If they understand tying a string around their finger to remind them of something trivial such as buying milk, they should comprehend why we need 4 sets of 4 doubled strings to constantly remind us of the one above. You are not the first person to base your actions on emotions elicited from childhood. Look around- I’d say upwards of 80% of people do this. For all these people following the path conclude by emotions rather than of thoughtful analysis is usually not the best or healthiest answer. You needn’t ask a shailos chichom to find your answer, just look within- you’ve already shown us it’s there.

  11. I am a professional as well and feel your pain. My background was not like yours, but I felt that I had bills to pay and a family to support so I went “into the world”. Although I live a different life while at work, and I feel out of body, I have my hashkofos strong. My colleagues and clients know that I don’t drink or hang out, and although difficult in the beginning they all respect it.

    Not to say I am right, I follow sports and am able to talk the talk with colleagues, as well as politics or other current events. I never bend on the hashkofos. To fulfill my “inner dream” I help out the schools my children attend by giving not only money, but more importantly time. I am actively involved in other mosdos in the community, and have a chavrusah who I learn with each night.

    Although I am not in chinuch, I feel great about what I am doing for the klal, I feel connected to Hashem. I wanted to go into chinuch to be mekadesh shem shaomayim, and I feel that I am being mekadesh shem Shomayim, just in a different role.

    Take a step back, evaluate how you can use your strengths for the community, and don’t sacrifice on your hashkofos.

    Wishing you a shana tova, and much hatzlocha.

  12. How do your kids view your derech, or are they too young to understand yet? If they feel you have really been forced into a lifestyle you didn’t want by the pressure to pay tuition, what will be their reaction? Admire your sacrifices for them? Resent the yeshivas and become cynical? Get out before they have to repeat the cycle with their own kids?

  13. Because of you, a Rebbe is getting paid on time and his wife can now buy food for Yom Tov. Make a Kiddush Hashem at work and don’t worry about what could have been, what would have been etc, that’s just the yetzer hara trying to get you down.

  14. The late Rav Refael Halprin z”l took a most unusual pattern in life. In his youth, he says, the Chazon Ish told him something very important,- “Never betray your inner feeling.” Although he felt pulled along towards outside environments, he never forsook his fundamental principles, and always yearned to return full-scale to the Torah environment, which he eventually did.

    If you feel guilty and “out of place” in your present surroundings, don’t just shirk it off; and if money is the main issue here, you may need to seek proper guidance from a renown Torah authority to whom you feel you can closely relate to, and whom understands you well.

    I wish you a good year and hatzlacha in recognizing and becoming YOURSELF as a true eved Hashem – not just another clobbered member of today’s unnerved society.

  15. I don’t mean to judge the writer of this article but being that he mentions twice going to law school (and not Chinuch) so that his children could be “comfortable”I really don’t see tuition being blamed.I never heard of a Mechanachs child being thrown out of school due to difficulties with thuition

  16. To A Torn Yid

    You are an inspiration for everyone who is in your predicament.

    You have NOTHING to feel guilty about – as you have done everything correctly.

    Hopefully others who are as wise as you are will be inspired to follow your lead.

    Thank you for sharing your story. May you have a shana Tova and much Mazal! Good luck!

  17. I dont know the bill for your tuition these days but any middle class family that has 4 kids and is not making $150,000 year cannot afford to pay full tuitions in school
    Schools today are suffering but the parents are strugling and suffering more in order to pay what the schools demand
    my question is why is it that an orginization like nechamas yisroel needs only $1500,00 to sponser a kid in yeshiva that they take out of public school and the yeshivas charge from $6000 – $20,000 maybe we should all send to public schools and the prices for tuition might drop.
    If you want to go back into chinuch and help all the struggling parents maybe you can open a little cheder like they did in Europe and you wont feel so guilty anymore

  18. Is there any way we can see where our actual tuition dollars go? How they are spent? How much the administraters get paid? Can they be a little more trasparent so we can see if we are being overcharged? What about money the Yeshiva is making from renting the Simcha Hall? Why are we told to pay for a service that may not be in sinc with reality?

  19. How sad. A frum Jew pours out his heart and instead of aitzas and support he gets rude attacks. His neshama is crying out – help – don’t attack

  20. Get some Jewish self esteem. You are working and now feel good in your status as an employee. Put on a yarmulka. You can’t get fired. Your co-workers may think you suddenly became religious. Hey, they may even respect you for that! Maybe you need to ask a new Shaila. The original question was to land you a great position. Now that you landed one maybe you need to ask what your obligations are now that you legally can’t get fired because of your religion.

  21. Anyone who thinks tuitions are a rip-off should check how much it costs to educate a child in the public schools (<$11,000), and the non-Jewish private schools (starting at $8,000 for pre-school – $27,000 for H.S.and it can go up to $50,000 per year!). And they only have one curriculum and shorter days. And in any private school other than a yeshiva, any one who can’t pay full tuition or close to that is out. People, Yeshiva tuition is a bargain compared to market pricing!!

  22. BS”D

    Dear “Torn Yid”, amush”t

    YOU have NOTHING to be torn about. If its true that a school- Chas V’Shalom a Yeshiva doesn’t go out of its way to NEVER hurt children because of their parents’ financial situation then they create a system where great emphasis is placed on money and not those who are without – if we allow that to happen then people like you were forced to do what they are doing. If its true that there is such a system in place it is those who had the power to change it – and didn’t who should be torn. This is why we don’t always get the creme de la creme to be Mechanchim.
    You will be the “Choshov Professional”.
    ANYONE who is erlich and is doing the best he can should be respected.

  23. This gentleman is the Yid many of us should strive to be. Firstly, Reb Moshe paskened that one need not worry if they can’t wear a yarmulke on the job. And if you need to go to bars to entertain clients, have something kosher, like Johnnie Walker or vodka. These things are part of professional life. You, Reb Yid, are a model for our sons to emulate. You work as an attorney, ssend your kids to yeshiva, and can make time to learn daily. I am a working professional (I am a journalist studying to be a Nurse Anesthetist), but I also make time for torah. Instead of wasting time that others would with tv, etc., I use my free time to learn a fixed seder of Daf Yomi, Iyun, Halacha, Tanach, Mussar, Machshavah, and am maavir sedrah, of course. I find this to be rewarding, and am b”h, learning the halachos for semicha yoreh yoreh. I also hope to begin giving shiur in various areas. I tip my hat to you. It is written that one who works and learns in the morning and evening is as if they learned all day. You are doing right by your family and are doing right by HaShem.

  24. HOW YOU EARN A LIVING DOES NOT DEFINE WHO YOU ARE -either in the chinuch world or in the ‘outside world’.
    Who you are is defined by your Yiras Shamayim and mitzvah observance!! Don’t get hung up on whether you are in Chinuch or not,,there is chinuch to be done 24/7, all around you.


  26. Dear Torn,
    In my book, you are a tzaddik. Very few people have the intellectual honesty and clarity of thought to make a heshbon hanefesh that you are. Your true yiras shamayim and love of your family is a rarity. Chazak Ve’ematz and may HKBH grant you all of your spiritual and material wishes. Shanah tova.

    Shlomo zalman

  27. Yomim, your reisha is wrong. These are important issues for the 95% of frum Jews who are not in full-time learning. Yor seifa, however, is correct all year and on all issues.

    As for the dilemma set forth, as the Chazon Ish said, if you are not happy with what your are doing you probably should be doing something else. While all professions have wealth and poverty as stated at he end of Kiddushin, it may not be feasible for you to make a complete change at this point. However, you might want to do something with fewer dilemmas such as a frum law firm (perhaps with ample opportunity for pro bono work on Jewish causes), a government offfice (which pays decently and will give you time for learning and family that a private office does not)or a teaching position in a law school (although you will probably have to move around until you get tenure). Discuss the problem with your rav and sk if he can introduce you to frum attorneys who can at least point you in the right direction.

  28. Even lawyers and doctors can have difficulty paying tuitions these days! For those families who don’t get tuition reductions, Middle school can cost $12,000 to $15,000 per year per child and High School tuitions are $18,000 to $20,000 per year per child!!! Seminary can cost even more. A family with with 4 children can easily be paying $65,000 or more each year in tuition! And tuitions are NOT tax-deductible! Who knows, maybe those who stay in chinuch who qualify for medical assistance and food stamps can come out ahead!
    Each choice in life brings with it different struggles. The bottom line is that each person has to keep their priorities straight, try to maintain their simchas ha’chaim, and try to create a Kiddush Hashem no matter what!
    Chazak v’ematz!

  29. The author errs by defining “chinuch” in the narrow way that we’ve become used to. Chinuch is done every moment, for better or ?? ????? for worse — on the job, with family and acquaintances, with or without a yarmulke, etc. Coping optimally with constraints and projecting k’vod Hashem in whatever environment are chinuch of the highest order.