The Matzav Shmoooze: Treating Rabbeim Like Second-Class Citizens

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classroom_1Dear Editor,

We treat our rabbeim like second-class citizens, then complain that our kids, seeing our treatment of them despite the lip service we give to teaching, go off the derech or become indifferent.

I have known many fine people in chinuch – people who have trouble paying bills, people who have trouble finding shidduchim for their daughters because they have no money to offer for support – yet are moser nefesh every day for their students.

This is a scandal for our community.

On the other hand, we have many, many parents who can’t afford even partial yeshiva tuition.

Chinuch is the greatest crisis we face. Where are the solutions? With all the conventions, conferences, meetings, boards, organizations and undertakings, why are we making no progress in this regard?

A Parent

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  1. By every yeshiva dinner, some rich old man gets up and says how when he was in yeshiva as a young boy and his parents had no money the yeshiva not only did not give his parents an issue with tuition but would also give him money for a new suit before yom tov. Yeshivas back then saw themselves as a organization not in it for themselves but for the betterment of yiddishkiet. Today that is not the case! When kids whose parent are behind in tuition are forced to sit on a bench instead of taking a final, when you need to beg and use proctezai to get into a yeshiva, they don’t care about yiddishkiet they act as a business. And as all businesses go if you can’t make money you close down. Sears, Barnes & Nobles don’t give sob stories and ask for donations, they just close down. So if parents with money are paying their tuition and not giving additional donations (and spend their money on fancy vacation or luxury cars) don’t blame them for the yeshiva’s predicament, it is the yeshiva’s policies of the last 20 to 30 years that is to blame.

  2. who is the “we”
    we the parents but our —– to pay sky high tuition
    perhaps the yeshivas should pay them more and find other fat to cut
    like having all their families on the payroll

    we the parents are being moser nefesh paying crazy amounts for tuition
    their is only so much we can do before we bust

  3. 1) Mosdos & Rebbeim should teach to both girls and boys, that a man having a real job is not considered bad or bedieved.

    2) Parents should make paying for their kids tuition their #1 priority, not 9th or 10th or expect someone else pay.

    3) I know many fine people NOT in chinuch – people who have trouble paying bills, people who have trouble finding shidduchim for their daughters because they have no money to offer for support – yet are moser nefesh every day for their children to go to yiddishe schools.

    4) I know many people in chinuch – people who go on vacation, no trouble paying bills, have no trouble finding shidduchim for their daughters because they have all the money to offer for support – yet the schools still go on building new buildings and clamor for our money.

    This is a scandal for our community.

  4. The real scandal is that a young lady with good middos and erliche parents has trouble finding a shidduch because the parents don’t have the money to offer support.

  5. The “crisis” we face is because our chinuch system does not incorporate a realistic path toward making a living. When I was a bochur, my rebbe told me “What do you need college for? You can go into business.”

    I’m not sure that every rebbe really understands what “going into business” entails – startup funds, an entrepreneurial head, and very long hours.

    Just recently, a fellow I knew saw his business fail. He sold what was left to a friend of his who already had five such businesses running successfully. Then he went to work for a different friend in a different business. So he went from owner to employee very quickly. And as an owner he obviously didn’t make much; perhaps he even lost money.

    A non-professional is far more likely to find himself WORKING FOR a business owner (at minimal if not minimum wages) than BECOMING a business owner. This was true 25 years ago when I spoke to my rebbe. How much more so today, when the business world has changed dramatically. Many of the traditional Jewish businesses (textiles, diamonds, retail) have been taken over by other countries, other groups, and the internet.

    Professional jobs are also dwindling. One doesn’t need to look with both eyes to see all of the underworked attorneys in the frum community. Not a week goes by that the Wall Street Journal doesn’t run another story about the collapse of the legal field. Much work is automated through computers, and much is being outsourced overseas. The days when a bochur could get his BTL (Bachelor of Talmudic Law) in yeshiva and go to law school at night and realistically pull down a solid six figures are gone.

    Becoming a doctor was never a simple path, but at least it was a lucrative one. No longer. Even before Obamacare, the encroachment of insurance companies into the health care system had already cut into doctor pay. Doctors have to work longer and harder, and fill out more paperwork than ever before.

    According to the “experts” the place to look for parnassah is the STEM areas – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. These areas require an education that we are not properly giving our children in high schools let alone post-high school.

    Someone once quipped, “The modern orthodox don’t stress to their sons the importance of becoming talmidei chachamim, and the yeshivish don’t stress to their sons the importance of making a living.”

    When someone builds a “system” that stresses both, we’ll be on our way to a solution.

  6. We should treat everyone properly, be they rebbeim or anyone else. I do take exception to the “we” statement. Maybe the people you know, but what right do you have to throw everyone in the same boat?

  7. We are not making progress because the current system, the one that we ourselves put into place together with our yeshivas, Rabbayim, baalebattim, askanim & chashuve members of society, is simply not sustainable. Look at the comments you have elicited. There are, according to you, Rabbayim having difficulties, and there are certainly hardworking people struggling as well. We need to face up to the fact, all of us together, that we have created a flawed system. We need to fix this before our children inherit the exponentially exacerbated problems we have created.

  8. The problem is that people have to pay taxes for public schools when the so-called separation of religion and state hinders the government from doing more for yeshivas. The government should pay for secular/tech teachers, as well as computers, phones, utilities, etc. for yeshivas.

  9. Thanks for posting my letter. It addresses an issue which is at crisis level for us all. I am pleased at the seriousness of most of the comments, especially comment #5 which seems to highlight the ikkar here.

    As a community we don’t have enough money coming in to meet our collective outgo. Baruch Hashem we have grown exponentially in numbers, and a few rich askanim can no longer meet our community shortfall. We need heads of families working at good, high-paying jobs, and to do that we need better secular education to support our limudei Torah. I’ve heard that one definition of a lamdan is not someone who learns all the time, but someone who learns every day, who is kovea ittim l”Torah while working to make sure that his family and community can live with dignity and not with the trials of poverty and begging. We need to support the cream of our scholars and our rebbeim in a normal lifestyle, through baalei batim with healthy parnassahs who can learn evenings and Shabbos with a mind clear of worries.

    We don’t necessarily need to devote a lot more time to secular studies. We just need to make them more effective, with good teachers, good curricula, and a yeshiva system which takes them seriously, and not as an opportunity to make shtick or harass the teacher. Frum-only colleges comparable to some of the girls’ college/seminaries can provide a quality education for boys without going to a mainstream campus.

    We need to start using our “yiddishe kopf” to find innovative solutions. We can do it if we try.

  10. To the letter writer, I understand you are struggling with tuition, as are many others who have it very difficult too.
    However, I completely disagree that that is the biggest problem we face.
    I would say that the fact that every four minutes another Jewish person marries a non jew, is far far worse than you struggling with tuition payments. 90% of all Jews today have zero connection to Yiddishkeit, apart from maybe 1 or 2 hours a year (no more 3 day a year Jews, that was last generation)
    For every Jew in your Shul, there are nine others who don’t keep anything, and will almost definitely marry or have children with a non Jew.
    We accepted the Torah with all 600,000 other Jewish people, but sadly recently we forgot about them.
    Please find a way to reach out to them and maybe Hashem will reach out to you.

  11. To WOW (#12): While I agree that we need to have a kiruv presence to welcome all Jews, it is folly to believe that because 90% of American Jews are not shomrei Torah umitzvos, we should focus more on that statistic than on strengthening the frum community of the ten percent.

    All kiruv professionals agree that we are seeing more kids go OTD than we are bringing back as baalei teshuvah. If you speak to those who work with OTD kids, it becomes clear that if we don’t strengthen and BROADEN our mosdos hachinuch, we will continue to lose many.

    The stories of Jews who abandoned, or loosened their grip on, Yiddishkeit when they came to America 100 years ago (the grandparents and great-grandparents of the 90% that you speak of) left Europe mainly because of poverty (and anti-semitism).

    My rebbe, Rav Berel Wein, shlit”a, wrote an essay called “Poverty” several years ago describing the problem, then and now.

    As the frum community slips farther into financial crisis, we are seeing more and more cracks in the system. We need to repair those cracks first and foremost. This will require not simply “more” money, but a reallignment of understanding how we earn and spend our money.

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