I have been there and I have seen it. I have felt it. There’s no pain like. Not having your child enrolled in a school is heartbreaking. But as this crisis comes each year, so many untruths are spread, and to those who have been affected by the situation, and those who put their heart and soul into solving the problem, it is so bothersome when the facts are not presented properly.
Last year, I wrote on this very site that I hoped it would be the last time that we’d have girls who have not been enrolled in a school just weeks before school starts. At the time, a friend of mine had a daughter who was not accepted into a school. I give Matzav.com credit for raising the issue at the time with decency and respect. This site served as an excellent forum to discuss the issues. I believe much healthy discussion ensued. However, I think a few details need to be reiterated because so many fingers are being pointed and so many people are quick to blame.
I myself went through this terrible ordeal last year too. July arrived and my daughter did not have a school. I’d prefer not to provide additional specifics to protect our privacy. I must say that in the weeks that followed I saw why Lakewood is as special a place as there is. So many people were there to try to help. Most were powerless, for a number of reasons, to help. But the care and concern were remarkable. While I am out of the woods, so to speak, a friend of mine has a daughter who hasn’t been accepted into a school for this year. Admittedly, there were some issues raised regarding some hanhagos – for lack of a better term – of the family, and after a heart-to-heart discussion with my friend, he conceded that he understood why his daughter was not accepted into a number of schools.
But all that is secondary right now. What is important right now is as follows.
We in Lakewood have a shortage of schools. The classrooms are jammed. The present school owners have encouraged others to open mosdos, but doing so is no walk in the park. There are loads of headaches and the financial responsibility is something that, in the words of one local askan, “you have to be meshugeh to take on your shoulders.” So it’s very easy to say, “Open up more mosdos.” It’s a very different thing to actually go and do it.
So this is the most important detail: There’s a shortage of classroom desks, according to what I have been told.
With a shortage comes a tight selection process. When a school can only accept a limited number of students, can you blame them if they wish to put forth a strict policy and attempt to accept those who best fit their criteria?
And I’d like to debunk a myth. It is totally false that one who works has a difficult time getting his child into a school. I work, my brothers work, and anytime any of us had trouble getting our child into a school, it had nothing to do with the fact that we are no longer learning full time. We are strong in our Yiddishkeit, we are ehrlich, and you can see it – and the schools see it and recognize it.
An unfortunate result of this crisis and shortage is that those people who actually have gone ahead and opened schools are painted as villains. People are rodef them. People call them all sorts of names. Somehow, whenever there is a student who is not in a school, it is the fault of this person who owns this school and that person who owns that school.
With such treatment, why would any sane person want to open a school? And then we wonder why we have a shortage of classrooms?
So there’s no money. There’s constant flack. What exactly do we want from the ehrliche school owner? (I am not referring to those who unfortunately run mosdos as businesses. Thatis an issue to be dealt with as well.)
The schools can’t even collect the reduced tuition they ask for, and there’s virtually no way for them to force a family to pay, other than throwing their children out of the school, which won’t happen. So why are we surprised that people are hesitant to open schools?
Believe me, it it were easy, we’d have tens of mosdos popping up every year.
There are a number of reasons why the situation in Lakewood is different than in New York. One reason is that in New York, because of the community’s size, we don’t hear about the students who may not be in a school. Secondly, there are many more schools, and more schools with available room. There are other reasons too.
But we need to stop pointing fingers, and instread put our heads together to come up with a long-term solution so we don’t have this every year, where a week or days before school starts there are students who haven’t been placed.
Someone made a valid point when they told me that if we had one girls school for every five boys mesivtos we’d be okay. Well said. Every year, five mesivtos open up (which means five more annual parlor meetings!), and they are all vying for the same bochurim. Many of the mesivtos or botei medrash struggle. With girls schools it’s the opposite.
We have to figure out a way to maximize the limited resources of our system.
Personally, I don’t know what the answer is. We have mosdos that are so far behind on bills. If a mammoth Brooklyn school like Bais Yaakov of Boro Park can be fighting for survival, it’s no wonder that all mosdos are hanging on by the skin of their teeth.
So we need to analyze this and come up with a plan. But it is important that before we get into a blame game and start pointing fingers at schools for being too selective or not wanting to take in girls from families that are less makpid on certain areas of halacha or hashkafa, we should realize that it is mainly a result of a lack of space. If there were more schools, there would be mosdos for all different types and the friction would be reduced. Of course there are always people who only want to send to this mosad or that one, but the situation would change drastically if there were more schools and more possibilities.
How do we do that? I don’t know. Better yet, how do we fund more schools when our current schools are teetering? I don’t know.
This issue is a hot button one and much of the discussion usually goes off track and focuses on trivialities and less important details.
Last year, I worked on behalf of a friend to get his daughter into a school. There were people who hated me for it because I had to apply pressure on others. I didn’t want to, but I held it was b’geder “lo saamod al dam reyecha.” At the same time, I saw clearly that more often than not, there was no one to blame! I was begging a rosh hamosad who had 30 kids in a class to take in “just one more.” Can I really blame him if he tells me that he has to draw the line somewhere? And yes, even when it came to my own daughter, I was able to remove myself from my negiyus and say objectively that in the large majority of my dealings, I could not blame the mosdos. Sure, there were people who said some rude things (which I made sure my wife didn’t here), but I am a grown man with my head on my shoulders. I know what I’m worth and no one can take that away from me. I looked past it. I had my eye on the goal, not on the problems or the difficult people.
But looking back, I see an overtaxed system.
[Before I conclude, I must tell you that there are serious problems that should be addressed. We have unnencessary pressure in many high schools, where academics are all that counts. We have that in many Bais Yaakovs across the country, and it is ridiculous. We are hounding the girls with obscene amounts of work and have created a rat race of who has higher academic standards. Meanwhile, we are working our girls to the bone for really no good reason. ]
I would rather conclude on an uplifting note, but I honestly don’t see the answer to this problem. I believe it is tied into the parnassah crisis and tuition crisis. It is all interconnected. We don’t have enough funding for our schools, our yeshivos – and for our lifestyles generally. Frum Yidden are faced with so many responsibilities and obligations that the world around us doesn’t have, yet we are paid the same salaries as everyone else – or less. For years we relied on very wealthy and generous baalei tzedakah who may have carried various mosdos on their own. Now that is gone and we are left to fend for ourselves. And we are losing. Our current mosdos are struggling and yet we need more schools.
I do not know the answer, but Matzav.com readers, let us discuss this and brainstorm without the finger pointing and without the blame. And let each person truly be honest about where they belong, what they should really be doing, how they should really acting, and above all, what Hashem really wants each of us to do.
A Parent Who Cares