Sunday, May 31, 2009
Why do long term life planning? For one thing "long" means just that--many years of life. With people living on average into their late 80s, there is going to need to be a means of support for those people. You know, money. And services.
I frequently get told that it costs a lot less to live when you are older than when you are younger; after all, there are no yeshiva tuition to pay any more, and most simcha expenses have already been given out. It's not like older people are paying the expenses for a family of 5-8 any more; it's only two people.
Here's the simple answer to those statements: they are wrong.
"How much will you personally need in order to finance your life in retirement? Depending on your age and economic circumstances, your "number" could be 15% -- the percentage of earnings young workers should be socking away. Or 80% -- the amount of pre-retirement income you should aim to replace when you leave your job. Or $1 million (or more) -- the size of the nest egg needed to generate that much income." [My note: If $1 million is supposed to generate 80% of pre-retirement income, those retiring soon who had relatively large incomes are in deep trouble. At today's interest rates that $1 million might be getting you 5% if you are really lucky, and that's pre-tax income. To replace $80-100K of income right now would take $2 million plus in savings. Note also: that 80% figure assumes no extraordinary health related expenses. The longer you live, the more likely that you will incur those extraordinary expenses.]
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Head for http://nyc.gov/portal/site/nycgov/menuitem.e2a1b26d9be35ff6a62fa24601c789a0/
This takes you to the visitors page of the NYC website. Scroll down the menu and you'll find plenty to keep you busy and entertained for any date you may be considering. Just a few samples:
Lower Eastside Jewish Conservancy
Experience America's most famous immigrant neighborhood from inside its landmarked sacred synagogues through customized private walking/noshing tours.
Lower East Side Tenement Museum
Understand the experience of immigrants in early New York City through a tour of old housing.
Lower East Side Walking Tours
Visit LowerEastSideTours.org to learn about tours of neighborhoods in the City's historic Lower East Side including the East Village, Alphabet City, Astor Place, The Bowery, Little Italy, Chinatown, the City Hall area, and more.
Lefferts Homestead Children's Museum
Lefferts Homestead in Prospect Park is one of the few surviving Dutch Colonial farmhouses in Brooklyn. Built for a prominent 18th-century Flatbush landowner, it was home to at least four generations of the Lefferts family.
The Old Stone House
The Old Stone House, located near Park Slope/Gowanus in J.J. Byrne Park, is now an Historic Interpretive Center.
Pieter Claesen Wyckoff House Museum
The oldest home in New York City evokes Dutch colonial home life in the 17th and 18th centuries.
King Manor is the centerpiece of an 11-acre historic park in Jamaica, Queens. The 18th- and 19th-century house takes its name from Rufus King, a signer of the United States Constitution.
Kingsland Homestead, a late 18th-century house in Flushing, stands in the shade of the Weeping Beech tree, a designated City landmark planted in 1847.
Queens County Farm Museum
A working farm surrounds the museum located in the restored Jacob Andriance Farmhouse.
Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum
Visit the last of the many grand mansions that once stood in Pelham Bay. The home and its grounds have been carefully decorated and maintained to evoke their original 19th century elegance.
Edgar Allen Poe Cottage
The tine Poe cottage in the Bronx was the last home of Edgar Allen Poe, the great American writer.
The Valentine-Varian House was built in 1758, when carriages traveled the nearby Boston Post Road through a Bronx that was still mostly farmland.
Van Cortlandt House
This house museum, preserving the 18th century Georgian home, has been open since 1897.
Alice Austen House
The Victorian, cottage-style home of photographer Alice Austen on Staten Island is now a museum dedicated to her photographs of turn-of-the-century American life.
The Conference House, a 17th century stone manor, sits on 226 acres across Raritan Bay from Perth Amboy, New Jersey. It's name comes from the peace negotiations that took place there between the British and Americans in 1776.
Historic Richmond Town
Richmond Town in La Tourette Park is a living history village and museum that portrays the history and culture of Staten Island.
Located on the southern shore facing Prince's Bay, the Seguine Mansion represents the classical architecture and thriving commerce of 19th century Staten Island.
Or head for this link: http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcla/html/find/find.shtml to find any of the following around the city.
Also very helpful: http://www.frommers.com/destinations/newyorkcity/ Info about New York City online. There's also a book version "Frommer's New York City 2009," also a handy guide to have around.
Or head to http://hubpages.com/hub/20_Fun_First_Date_Ideas_New_York_City
Absolutely no reason on earth why dating has to be a boring time.
And then there was the enterprising young man who loved to fish. He took a date on one of those boats that take you out fishing in the ocean. He packed a picnic lunch and they spent a lovely day on the water. Didn't hurt that they both came home with "dinner" for their families. Lots of great conversation possible when it's just you and the ocean while waiting for a fish to nibble.
Hotel lobbies and cokes? Borrrrrrring!
FOOD, BODY IMAGE AND EATING DISORDERS IN THE JEWISH COMMUNITY
Conference for Professionals, Educators, Rabbis and Students
Sunday, June 7th, 2009
Ramaz Middle School
Full details and registration at http://community.ou.org/eatingdisorders
Monday, May 25, 2009
Maybe you're going to save that one million dollars. Okay, even in a bad economy you are going to find someplace that will give you 5% on that money. At 5%, and assuming no withdrawals, that money will double in 12 years. So in 12 years you'll have $2 million dollars. And at the end of 24 years you'll have $4 million dollars. Now that is some serious money. But first things first. First you are going to need to have that original $1 million dollars to invest, and you're not going to be able to touch that money for 24 years. Even assuming that you weren't worried about the money doubling and you took out the interest every year, suddenly that one million dollars translates to $50K each year, before taxes. It doesn't even cover the tuition for those 5 children.
Now let's look at those activities in the first paragraph again: buying a house, college and graduate school tuition, yeshiva tuition, summer camp, year in Israel programs, weddings. Those aren't activities that we associate with millionaires today. Look at the frum community and those are typical activities for broad swathes of the community. And there are more things that we purchase in addition: many more different types of simchas, furnishings, cars, trips etc. The million dollars I gave you isn't going to cover these additional activities, never mind the basic expenses of staying alive.
But what if I didn't give you a million dollars today? Does that mean that you won't indulge in any of the activities that a million dollars can buy? Hardly. But it does mean that we'll all be spending as if we had a million dollars hanging around when we don't.
A recent discussion I had with a professor of Economics centered around that one million dollars. His feeling was that people need to budget a lot differently than they are doing. He first recommends putting down all those things that "for sure" a million dollars would pay for, tuition etc. Add them up across the years you will be paying for them--the years your kids will be in school, the length of your mortgage etc. Now come up with a time figure for how long you will be paying for these things you want/need. 20 years? 25 years? 30 years? Now add up the cost of basic living and multiply by that number of years. Add in the cost of the items I discuss above. Divide the figure by the number of years. That's what you will need in clear money every year. If you didn't include them, you must also add in the cost of insurances and a set amount of money to be put away towards retirement. He did the math, I looked at the figures and I blinked twice. After he handed me a glass of water he pointed out that lots of people are living what is really a million dollar life style, but a million dollars won't pay for it; in some cases $2 million dollars won't pay for it. Budgetting year to year is not enough, he says. You have to look at the big picture.
He then went back to that $1 Million dollars invested to double at 12 years. "Where's it coming from?" he asked. Even if you are earning that million you're spending piecemeal as salary you'd need to be clearing about $125-150K a year to pay for everything you think you need to be frum.
Depressing or not, cutting back and cutting down on some of the things we have been spending on as part of the frum lifestyle is a necessity, unless you are one of the lucky ones and someone is giving you a million dollars. But wait, a million is not enough. Maybe they need to change the name of that television show to "Who wants to be a multi-millionaire?"
I'd like to examine that statement in closer detail. Let's accept for a moment that the rebbes were not top quality back in R' Schachter's day. BUT, the secular studies staff WAS all "top quality" in that yeshivas in those days took their secular studies staff from among public school teachers who were looking to earn extra money. My first teaching job was at the Bais Yaakov of Williamsburg (trust me, you aren't going to get much more right wing then that), as an emergency sub for someone who went out with a health issue. All the other secular studies teachers were public school teachers, a few of them retired already, and without exception they were all not frum, the English supervisor/principal included. You are talking women with Masters degrees. They weren't making the full equivalent of their public school salaries, but they weren't making pennies either. (Note: go ahead, look at day schools and yeshivas in the NY area and tell me how many non-frum teachers there are in the secular studies departments. Where once yeshivas wanted to make the division between kodesh and chol visibly clear--limudei kodesh teachers are frum, secular teachers are not--today they eschew that choice. They want ALL teachers in a yeshiva to be frum.)
My husband was a Brooklyn boy, and all his secular studies teachers were also public school teachers. Only twice did he have a teacher whose only job was teaching in the yeshiva, and this was a retired public school teacher. Because this was a boys yeshiva, the secular studies teachers were all male from 5th grade up, and if you think a male teacher was going to moonlight in the yeshiva system for bubkes, think again. We have friends here in the neighborhood, many retired now, who were specialty teachers in the public school system--think math and science--and they, too, moonlighted in various of the yeshivas, and no, their services did not come cheap.
So let's look at this up close. In the past rebbes were paid, according to R' Schachter, a "poor" wage, but secular studies teachers could and did command a better wage, relatively speaking. My personal experience bears this out. I taught in a yeshiva high school for girls for many years. While none of us were making near what public school teachers were making, the secular studies teachers came in at a higher salary than the limudei kodesh teachers did. You couldn't get a qualified secular studies teacher if you didn't pay them fairly well.
Fast forward to today. Today rebbes make much higher salaries than they did in the past. Some of the figures that have been floating around are $80-100K and upwards. But what about secular studies teachers? As the see saw has gone up for rebbes it has gone down for secular teachers. (Note: in some schools, particularly those to the left, secular studies teachers' salaries are, for the most part, much higher than those offered in other yeshivas. BUT these teachers are all college-degreed with graduate degrees and/or with state certification.) For one thing, most yeshivas are not looking to hire public school teachers, or certainly not non-frum ones (yes, there are a few rare exceptions). In point of fact, a whole bunch of yeshivas aren't being all that fussy about hiring new teachers with college degrees. There are any number of Brooklyn yeshivas which have secular studies teachers who are still college students, and plenty who have no college whatsoever. One such yeshiva that I know of hired a science teacher who "majored in Biology" in high school--BY of Boro Park. Yup a powerhouse prep school for science teachers.
Also absent from R' Schachter's presentation was any mention of limudei kodesh teachers. If boys get rebbes, girls get morot. So, are the morot getting paid on the same level as the rebbes? Did their salaries, too, go way up? In your dreams. The schools may be pushing limudei kodesh over limudei chol but they aren't valuing their kodesh morot where it counts--in the paycheck.
So, back then: rebbes got lower salaries, secular studies teachers got higher salaries, relatively speaking. Today: rebbes earn salaries, in some cases, that put them into the top 5% of earners in the country or close to it. Secular studies teachers are paid far less, and limudei kodesh morot are the lowest on the totem pole, again, generally speaking. If I understand R' Schachter correctly, a raise in rebbe's salaries is one of the reasons for an increase in school costs, and he feels this is only fair and right. Where in this "fairness" was any discussion about salaries for the other teachers who teach in a yeshiva? If yeshivas have, indeed, raised the salaries for rebbes they have done so by lowering salaries for all other teaching groups in the yeshivas, relative to the salaries of the rebbes. (Note: an ex-student, teaching a primary grade in secular studies last year, made $16K for the year in a Brooklyn yeshiva. I made that salary in 1989 as an elementary school secular studies teacher. Why one difference? I was degreed and she was not yet degreed.)
And a word on perks: it is true that some limudei kodesh morot and rebbes made up for their lower salaries by receiving free or highly reduced tuition for their own children, so yes, they were actually making higher salaries than what was on the books. But this is a perk that is being done away with in many cases, or where rebbes and morot are being asked to pay at least partial tuition for their own children. Secular studies teachers rarely got this perk. You don't have to have a crystal ball to see that more rebbes and morot are going to be asking for tuition reduction and scholarships as they are increasingly being called upon to pay tuition. I believe the saying that applies, at least to the morot, is "you can't squeeze blood from a stone." (And oh that they would recognize that when dealing with some parents.)
On a personal note: I cannot speak about the rebbes who were around when R' Schachter attended which ever yeshivas he attended, but my experience in seeing my brother's rebbes and yes, my son's rebbes as well doesn't uphold the general idea that because they were paid less they were not good rebbeim. Nor does the converse hold true--higher salaries doesn't guarantee better rebbes today as a steadfast rule.
To sum up, the discussion of teacher's salaries and how those salaries contribute to the costs of a Jewish education is not a straight forward issue. There is a caste system used in many yeshivas with rebbes now firmly esconced in the top level. Before you argue that teachers in yeshivas make too much money, you might want to actually have some figures in front of you to back that up. And you might want to ask "Which teachers?"
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Woke up to the news that my niece was delivered of a healthy baby girl. May the parents be zocheh to see much nachas from her, and the same for my sister, the proud babi, and my mom, on her fourth great-grand child. Mazel Tov to the new mom, who graduated college this past Thursday. And while it's pouring simcha in our family, mazel tov to my sister and my second niece on said niece's college graduation this evening.
A friend called today to announce the birth of a granddaughter, and another friend confided when I met her in the market that two of her kids are expecting--due dates are within eleven days of each other. My cousin flew to Israel for a triple dose of simcha: a bris by his daughter, Shavuous, and then the upsherin of the same daughter's youngest son. He'll then fly back to the States to catch the due arrival of his other daughter's child.
If it's going to pour, then by all means let it pour simcha by yidden.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
I'm in the market and browsing the shelves. A new product for the market is being advertised on a really great special. I pick up the box and read. According to the nutrition label this product is a miracle in nutrition. It has everything a person needs in just the right form, the portions are satisfying, it comes in 16 great flavors, the calorie count is 33 calories per serving and it's on sale for 3 for $1.00. Do I grab all the boxes I can? Nope. First I start looking all over the box for kosher certification. On the bottom of a side panel I finally see a symbol. It sort of looks like it could be a kosher certification symbol but it's not one I've ever seen before. It's a small box with UMKSC in the box and three small mezuzot on the top of the box with an "M" in each mezuzah. Next to the box it says CKP. I copy down the information and head for home.
Conventionally, what answer do you get if you have a kashrus question that you ask a friend or acquaintance? "Consult your/a local orthodox rabbi." In addition, the answer "consult a competent rabbinic authority" has been popular for a while. (Just a note here: why add in the competent part? As opposed to consulting an incompetent rabbinic authority?! Never mind, I think I just answered my question.) Before I went to consult a rabbi I first got online to the listings of kosher supervision symbols that can be found all over the Internet. On the second list I found the symbol that was on the box. It's the symbol of the United M Kosher Supervision Consortium. Huh? Further reading told me that the M refers to the states of Michigan, Minnesota and Missouri. It also gave a website for the Consortium and a contact phone number. I headed to the website.
The website gave me the name of the products that the Consortium supervises. The product I saw in the market is one of them. It listed the names of the rabbis from each of the M states who are the supervisors in their respective states. I recognized none of the names.
I put in a call to the rabbi of the shul we attend. He was out and would have to get back to me. That's okay, since there are plenty of orthodox rabbis locally. After all, either a product is kosher or it's not, so any local rabbi should do. I put in a call to one of them whom I know. I asked about the product and the certifying agency. He told me that he has never heard of the product nor of the agency. I mentioned the names of the rabbinic supervisors and he perked right up. "Of course I know Rabbi_____. We were in yeshiva together and he is a member of the same national rabbinic organization that I am. A fine, fine man. If he says you can trust this product, you can trust it."
Something is niggling at me so I call yet another local orthodox rabbi, also one whom I know. I give him the info I've got. His answer? He would be hesitant to say yes or no. He doesn't know the rabbis or the product. And besides, the three M states are not exactly known for their strong kashrus. They're very OOT and off the kashrus radar.
The call to a fourth local orthodox Rabbi gave me yet a different perspective. This rabbi had heard of the 3M Consortium and he was not recommending any products they supervise. So I asked: "So the products aren't kosher?" The rabbi answered: "Not exactly. I'm not saying they are treif. It's the supervision that is the problem." "So the supervisors can't be trusted on kashrus?" I asked. The rabbi was quick to assure me that it had nothing, absolutely nothing to do with the supervisors directly. It's just that as a group they allow certain practices that he, personally, does not agree with, and so he won't recommend them. I'd come this far so I asked: "What practices?" The rabbi answered that he doesn't hold with any agencies which certify dairy products that are chalav stam, and he's been told by someone that the 3M does certify chalav stam products, so he doesn't recommend their products. "But this product is pareve" I wail. "Doesn't matter" the rabbi answered. "It's a question of consistency."
My shul rabbi still has not called back so I get on the phone to two friends, each living in a different community from mine. I ask if they have ever heard of the product or the supervising agency, and has their rabbi said anything about either. One friend begins to gush: "Their products are absolutely terrific. And our rabbi said that the supervising agency is small but can be trusted a lot more than some of the bigger agencies, because the supervisors are real hands-on and always in the plants." Friend number two has a different story to tell. Her rabbi gave a whole speech a few shabbosim before about the rise in certifying agencies bringing more harm than good. There is no way that every consumer nor every rabbi either can keep up with all the new agencies. This rabbi felt that you stick with the agencies that have a proven track record, are national in scope and that are easy to check out.The 3M is not on the list her rabbi has approved.
[I won't discuss the rabbi I called who basically told me it was too difficult a concept to be discussing with a woman, and would I please have my husband contact him. And I won't mention the rabbi I didn't call because someone, whom I asked for this rabbi's phone number, told me it is an open fact that this rabbi and one of the 3M rabbis have been in a real bitter public disagreement about a different issue, and I'm not likely to get a straight answer.]
My rabbi called back. I asked my questions once again. He told me that he doesn't really know anything about the products or the agency but he does know that the local Vaad HaKashrus, of which he is a member, has both on their list to investigate further since I am not the only one asking the questions. And then he casually mentioned that they hadn't hurried the investigation because someone had mentioned to one of the vaad members that one of the national certifying agencies is trying to either take over the whole certification process or at least be the one to certify the products that are manufactured for distribution in the NY area, or appear as a second hechsher on the product.
I got a sudden brainstorm. I know someone in the M state area, someone whose kashrus advice both my husband and I would consider as super reliable. So I made a phone call and asked my questions. When Rabbi_____ stopped laughing he told me the following. The product is made by a company that is strictly vegan. None of their products have any eggs, milk, fish or meat in them. They use zero questionable additives. In fact, the company came to the attention of the rabbi in one of the M states because the company contacted him for a list of suppliers of kosher commercial products that would 100% have no milk/meat in them and would not even be produced on machinery that had also produced milk products. The rabbi gives me all the information I asked for and then some, and he ended with this: "I should only be so sure about the kashrus of the big certifying agencies and the smaller ones in the NY area as I am about the 3M."
My hubby and I agree: I can buy the 3M product. I dash off to the market to buy the food. The product is all sold out. When I ask the manager when they are getting it back in, he mentions that there is a debate as to whether or not they will be carrying the product any more. He mentions that in some of the areas where his chain has stores there have been complaints about carrying a product marked as kosher that may or may not be kosher. He asks me if I know anything about this. I flee.
This story and variants of it are played out all over the US, and I would imagine globally as well, every day. We live in a time of instant communication and of plane service to just about every point on earth. We live in a time where rabbinic consultations are as close as your phone or your computer keyboard. We've got more rabbis per square foot of turf then at any other time in recent history. Despite the complexities of the world, kashrus information and supervision should be easier now than it was in the past. So why can't someone with a question get a straight answer? And substitute any other product requiring a hechsher for food and you are still going to run into the same variation of the old joke about 3 Jews and 5 opinions. I mention this to a friend and she tells me I'm being naive. Don't I know that kashrus supervision is big business? Don't I know that those supervision contracts are worth big bucks to whomever gets them? Don't I know that kashrus supervision can be a real dog-eat-dog world?
So I've got a different question now: Don't we deserve better than this when it comes to areas so important to our Jewish lives? Are we really so splintered as a Klal?
Addendum to the post: In Brooklyn, on Avenue J next to the subway station, is a Chock Full O Nuts tiny coffee shop. In the window is a huge printed sign that says "Yes, we are kosher." Inside are other signs that say "Our bourekas/knishes meet the standard for cholov Yisroel." They have both cholov stam and cholov Yisroel available for the coffee. There is not one single name anywhere as to who has said that the products are kosher. Never mind asking the workers--their English just about covers asking you what you'd like to drink. I've asked all over school about the kashrus. No one knows. Yet, the place is packed with frum Jews, or at least kipoh wearing ones. No black hats in sight.
Update on the Addendum: Tonight there was a small kashrus certificate put up in the store, behind the counter. It is signed by one R' Dovid Katz. But here is the strange part. At the top there is a magen david with a K. However, the Star K hechsher uses a plain magen david with no lines on the interior of the star. This star had lines running through the interior. Talk about confusion.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
I still believe that the following is a pretty good analysis of what happens when youngsters are encouraged to "just do it" when it comes to marriage, and what happens many years down the road. A lot of people find humor in the song; some mist up at what they see as sentimentality unmasked. I find the last four exchanges as worthy of note. There's the use of the word "suppose," with its tentative denotation/connotation. And to end off, knowing your spouse loves you "doesn't change a thing." Sad to say, too many marriages today aren't the Broadway "hit" that Fiddler was, and a whole lot don't get to the twenty-five year point. Or maybe too many couples are following a different song that was popular not all that long ago--"What's Love Got to Do With It?"
(Tevye)"Golde, I have decided to give Perchik permission to become engaged to our daughter, Hodel
."(Golde)"What??? He's poor! He has nothing, absolutely nothing!"
(Tevye)"He's a good man, Golde. I like him. And what's more important, Hodel likes him. Hodel loves him. So what can we do? It's a new world... A new world. Love. Golde..."Do you love me?
(Golde)Do I what?
(Tevye)Do you love me?
(Golde)Do I love you?With our daughters getting married, And this trouble in the townY,ou're upset, you're worn out, Go inside, go lie down! Maybe it's indigestion.
(Tevye)"Golde I'm asking you a question..."Do you love me?
(Golde)You're a fool
(Tevye)"I know..."But do you love me?
(Golde)Do I love you? For twenty-five years I've washed your clothes,Cooked your meals, cleaned your house,Given you children, milked the cow. After twenty-five years, why talk about love right now?
(Tevye)Golde, The first time I met you Was on our wedding day.I was scared
(Golde)I was shy
(Tevye)I was nervous
(Golde)So was I
(Tevye)But my father and my mother Said we'd learn to love each other And now I'm asking, Golde. Do you love me?
(Golde)I'm your wife
(Tevye)"I know..."But do you love me?
(Golde)Do I love him?For twenty-five years I've lived with him,Fought with him, starved with him. Twenty-five years my bed is his.If that's not love, what is?
(Tevye)Then you love me?
(Golde)I suppose I do
(Tevye)And I suppose I love you too
(Both)It doesn't change a thing,But even so,After twenty-five years,It's nice to know.
Monday, May 18, 2009
Activism: Aerobics for the Soul
Activism. That is what the other person does. You know, the other person who does not lead your busy life. It’s not that you wouldn’t like to be an activist, but when could you possibly fit it in? You work, you go to school, you have obligations to family and friends. Besides, activism was around in your parents’ and grandparents’ days: what real relevance does it have today? And what is there possibly left to protest about? And what good does protesting do anyway?
I could tell you all the reasons why activism is still necessary and still important, but instead, I would like you to take a trip down memory lane with me. For my sins, I was on college campuses in the ‘60s and ‘70s, the glory years of student empowerment and student activism; in fact, all kinds of activism. Those were heady years, filled with idealism, with a sense of purpose, with a heightened sense of being a part of a community.
Imagine that Israel is at war with its Arab neighbors--not so hard to do. Imagine that it is June, 1967. Imagine that Jewish voices are raised in protest. Imagine that Jewish bodies pack the UN Plaza for a rally in defense of Israel. Now imagine that even when the main rally is over large groups of volunteers man tents up the block from the UN to monitor what is going on, and to show that the rally is not just a one-time show of support. Imagine that while you are in the tents you are learning how to roll bandages and then rolling them for shipment to Israel. Imagine that news is relayed at midnight that Abba Eban will be coming to address the UN that day. Imagine that a dozen volunteers man the tents, write up lists, plan strategy and at 7:00am the next morning begin calling every Jewish school, synagogue and organization in the New York City metropolitan area, along with every news media outlet. Imagine doing all this calling using public phone booths. Imagine having to persuade people that they need to come out to show support the day after they have already done so.
Imagine that when Abba Eban arrives to the UN on June 20, 1967 he is greeted by thousands upon thousands of people waving Israeli flags, waving banners of support and singing Hatikvah. Imagine that you have been honored to hold the Israeli flag and that Abba Eban alights from his car to salute his flag before going in to address the delegates. Imagine that you have gone 37 hours without sleep and without too much by the way of food. Imagine that you haven't changed clothes nor had a chance to wash up. And then try to imagine the joy of purpose that was felt by all of us there, the sense of rightness.
“Stand up and be counted” was not just a slogan but a way of life. “There is strength in numbers” was our rallying cry, and the truth of the statement was seen in the thousands of bodies that filled television screens and the front pages of newspapers across the nation. Yes, we were encouraged to become strong individuals, but far more, we were encouraged to use that individualism in pursuit of a greater good: selflessness, not selfishness, was admired.
Ah, but that was then. The world was in turmoil. What do students today have to protest about? My generation--a despised military draft and an unpopular war. Today--talks of re-instating the draft and a very unpopular war. My generation--civil rights, equality of opportunity, equality of access. Today--civil rights, equality of opportunity, equality of access. My generation--who is an American? Today--who is an American? My generation--access to the marvels of medical science and technology. Today--access to the marvels of medical science and technology. My generation--taxes. Today--taxes. My generation--the actions of government, covert and open. Today--the actions of government, covert and open. My generation--what to do about teenagers. Today--what to do about teenagers. My generation (and before)--what to do about the scourges of polio and tuberculosis and measles and mumps. Today--start with AIDS and pick your poison. My generation--the inability of the university system to respond to the legitimate needs and concerns of students. Today--the inability of the university system to respond to the legitimate needs and concerns of students. My generation--Israel and its unfair treatment by its neighbors and by the world body. Today--Israel and its unfair treatment by its neighbors and by the world body. The more things change, the more they remain the same.
Modern technology, particularly the Internet, has created a new definition of community. For my generation, community required a physical presence; today, thanks to the Internet, members of a community may be dispersed across the world. This modern phenomenon is sometimes cited as the reason why activism among college students seems to be dead. Why? The Internet is a powerful tool—why is it not being used as a medium for public protest? You are online anyway for hours a day. How hard is it to send an email to the mayor, to the governor, to your senator, to the president? How hard is it to send an email to the president of a corporation whose policies you disagree with? How hard is it to send an email to the president of a company stating that you will not shop in a store that carries products made by virtual slave labor? How hard is it to email everyone you know and to ask them to email everyone they know, united in protest?
It does not matter what you choose to protest about, what you choose as your method of activism; there is plenty to choose from. What does matter is that you find something to care about with a passion, something that will take you out of the mundane and into the sublime. It is not which car to buy or which designer outfit that lends beauty and purpose to our lives. It is not which new electronic doodad we can flash in front of our friends that gives meaning to our lives. Filling our closets and our dresser drawers is not the same thing as fulfilling our lives.
My generation is getting older, not younger. Who will safeguard your rights when the activists are all in Florida? I have a baton that I would like to pass on. You are all capable of taking that baton from me—now all you have to be is willing to do so.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Here's the info needed: Name of yeshiva, approximate number of students, if known, full tuition cost, including variants by grade (less for some, more for others), elementary or high school, location of school by geographic area (Flatbush, Teaneck, Miami etc.). Please leave the info in a comment or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. After we get some numbers I'll put them into a posting so we can see the numbers side by side. And please, ask people you know for information as well. I think we would benefit from seeing just what yeshiva tuition is in different yeshivas, and in different locations.
Private School Statistics at a Glance
PK-12 Enrollment (2009)
6,049,000 (11% of all US students)
# of Schools (2007-08)
33,740 (25% of all US schools)
Enrollment Source: National Center for Education Statistics (see table)School Source: National Center for Education Statistics (see table)
Where do private school students go to school?
Catholic 54.5% 42.5%
Nonsectarian 13.2% 19.4%
Christian 10.9% 15.2%
Baptist 5.8% 5.5%
Lutheran 4.4% 3.7%
Jewish 3.2% 4.7%
Episcopal 1.7% 2.1%
Adventist 1.6% 1.1%
Calvinist 0.9% 0.6%
Friends 0.3% 0.4%
Source: National Center for Education Statistics (PSS Survey)
Average Private School Tuition: 2003-04
All Levels Elementary Secondary K-12 Schools
Source: Table 56, Digest of Education Statistics 2007, National Center for Education Statistics.
Where do the children of the wealthy go to school? In December 2006, the U.S. Census Bureau released data on the social and economic characteristics of students enrolled in the nation’s schools in October 2005. It turns out that of the eight million youngsters in grades K-12 who come from families with annual incomes of $100,000 or more, 80 percent (6.4 million) attend public schools and 20 percent (1.6 million) attend private schools.
Info above taken from http://www.capenet.org/facts.html
Friday, May 15, 2009
The meshulach who came collecting was highly disappointed with the size of the check proffered, and he said so. He cited that the yeshiva, too, had rising expenses, and needed to count on its supporters for the funds. This friend answered that keeping the yeshiva ketanas in our neighborhood viable had to be the first consideration. The meshulach answered that if the neighborhood didn't support the yeshiva, there would be nowhere for these neighborhood children to go when they finished school in the neighborhood, so what use the yeshiva ketanas? Our friend countered by saying that if the local yeshivas went under there would be no students to go to the meshulach's yeshiva, so what use the yeshiva?
So, which came first, should come first: the chicken or the egg? Are all parts of the Jewish education system equal? Is there a hierarchy? Are we assuming that all parts in existence are equally necessary for ALL people? Formalized Jewish education in an institutional setting has a beginning: does it have an end point? What are the requirements and what are the optional portions? I am not, repeat NOT, saying that learning Torah is not something that Jews should be doing. I am talking about institutionalized learning, learning that takes place to the exclusion of any other activity.
Let me put this a different way. You send your children to elementary school and to high school. A lot of parents then send their children to college, although not all parents. A number of students go on to college, but they are footing the bill, through student loans that they will have to pay back. And then there is graduate school--far fewer students go on to this level of education. The goals for graduate students are usually career specific: grad school will give them the skills and knowledge needed to enter a specific profession. Know any parents who are still footing the bill for their students to be in grad school when those "kids" are in their mid to late 30s? And where those kids still have no idea what they are majoring in or what they will do with the courses they are taking? And even those receiving government funding for school are going to hit a cut off point: the government doesn't give these students unlimited funds for ever; when you've reached the government's top figure for loans you're out of luck. It's time to pay back the money. Can you imagine the reaction on the part of parents if a college or University came to them and said never mind funding elementary schools and high schools, we are more important?
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
The US was deep in the Cold War and the Soviet Union was the enemy. Mention the USSR here in the states and you'd get all kinds of epithets thrown about about the bully that was trying to take over the world. For Jews there was a particular aspect of the Soviet policy that was very troubling. The Soviets were anti-religion and had banned the practice of any religion. There were 3 million Jews trapped in the USSR who were fearful for their lives. If they applied for a visa to leave the country the best they could hope for would be to lose their jobs and to be bullied; the worst was a trip to Siberia.
And then in the US a new activist organization sprung up--the SSSJ--Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry. The history of the SSSJ is fascinating, and I'm giving some links below that will give you some idea of how and what the SSSJ did. The SSSJ rode the wave of anti-soviet feeling in this country and shares a lot of the credit for getting the USSR to reverse their emigration policies and allow Jews out of Russia. They marched, they protested, they staged sit-ins, they circulated petitions and they worked behind the scenes as well, marshaling political support from members of the US government. They went world-wide. And yes, it worked. (See links below for more information on the SSSJ.)
And then there was Israel. You think that it's something new today that Israel gets beaten up in the media? From its inception Israel has had to battle the world. And in the 60's at least it got help here in the US. Across the country there were rallies in support of Israel. There were protest marches and sit-ins when the UN and its membership placed blame for anything and everything on Israel. At one point Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, across from the UN, was becoming a regular Jewish meeting place. If once the saying had been "There's safety in numbers," the 60's saying morphed into "There's power in numbers."
Zionism flourished in the 60's. When I arrived in NY there was no Jewish community of any size that did not have active groups, both national and local, whose activities were Zionist in nature. Bnai Akiva organized the young, as did Mizrachi Hatzair. My first Simchas Torah in NY was spent in Boro Park. And where did we go for hakofos on Simchas Torah? To the large Bnai Akiva shul that was then on 47th off 14th Avenue. (I believe one of the Bais Yaakov-type schools is now in that building.) It was "the place to be seen" for Simchas Torah. Far Rockaway had Bnei Akiva, Flatbush had Bnei Akiva, SI had Bnei Akiva. Not so today. Mizrachi Women was "the" frum women's group of the time. Their chapters were everywhere, and actively everywhere. Yes, they were all over Brooklyn. I know this for a fact, because I was the co-President of the Brooklyn Council of Mizrachi Women, this in the 70's. It was on behalf of zionism that parents were encouraged to send their children to Israel back then. "Mach Hach," the Bnei Akiva program, found hundreds, found thousands of youth anxious to go to Israel and work on behalf of Israel. Yes, work. The religious kibbutzim found themselves as a home away from home for many a frum, Zionist student. These were not the only groups active then. The National Council of Young Israel had a youth division called Young Israel Collegiates. This group provided social activities in the communities where they were as well as providing speakers and programs encouraging Zionism and dedication to Israel.
It should be noted that a lot of this Zionism was rooted in what we call the MO today--back then we were just plain frum. And no, it was not limited only to the MO. There were people from the more right wing who also joined Mizrachi, who also came out for the rallies, who also encouraged their children in Zionism.
Today the climate has changed. Today the language has changed. There are plenty who worry about Israel and how it is treated. Yes, there are some who still actively protest when Israel is bashed by the countries of the world, but far more of that protest is private rather than public. Yes, we still have an Israeli Day Parade, but it has become more of a social occasion than a public statement of support. And far fewer people are involved. Going to Israel for our young people has taken on a different reason. Many a parent who has sent their child to Israel to learn but not to learn about Israel. And there are plenty of people who condemn Israel and its actions, and they are the ones who are making public statements. When the Neturyah Karta went to Iran they got the headlines for their public action. Zionism is no longer a unifier across Klal, no longer first and foremost in the hearts, minds and tongues of the frum communities. These communities have become insular, far more concerned with their own problems than with the problems Israel faces. Where are the big rallies, the protests, the public outcries? Sorry Scarlett, but they've gone with the wind.
Note: During this time period there developed even a few Jewish militant activist groups. Perhaps the best know was the JDL, Meir Kahane's group. Also interesting to note. Music and activism were tied together during the 60's--"We Shall Overcome" comes to mind. Jewish activists also had their "anthems." Shlomo Carlebach wrote "Am Yisroel Chai" in support of the Jewish activists for Israel.
Links to SSSJ sites:
http://www.columbia.edu/cu/current/articles/spring2008/from-the-editors.html Article about the SSSJ and it's first meeting at Columbia plus additional history.
JACOB BIRNBAUMand the Struggle for Soviet Jewry
Part 1 and Part 2
by Yossi Klein Halevi
"Azur", Winter 2004
The story of the founding of SSSJ and it's history. Also contains references to Meir Kahane and the JDL--Jewish Defense League--and "the Greater New York Conference on Soviet Jewry was created as a local umbrella organization for establishment groups. Under the leadership of Malcolm Hoenlein, a longtime SSSJ supporter and today the executive vice president of the Council of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, the Greater New York Conference essentially implemented SSSJ�s vision of a grassroots campaign. "
Details the collection of material from and about the SSSJ as well as an article on the same page with a history of the SSSJ
Brief history of the SSSJ
Jacob Birnbaum receives an honorary degree from YU
Some pictures from SSSJ activities
Pictures from many National Conference on Soviet Jewry activities
Article about SSSJ, and NCSJ--National Conference on Soviet Jewry-- and GNCSJ--Greater New York Conference on Soviet Jewry.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
I was searching for some reliable figures about enrollment in the yeshivas in the Nassau County/New York City area and came upon some data, links below. (I'm giving the two most recent years of figures in case you want to do any comparing.) Yes, the enrollment figures are interesting, but the figures happened to be on NY State reports on set asides under the No Child Left Behind Act. This is money that goes to the schools from the Federal Government and/or the State. There is, however, a specified purpose for the money. Under the Title II entries the money is intended for Teacher Professional Development and for Technology to aid in education.
The Title IV that is mentioned may be cited as the 'Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act'. Its purpose is to support programs that prevent violence in and around schools; that prevent the illegal use of alcohol, tobacco, and drugs; that involve parents and communities; and that are coordinated with related Federal, State, school, and community efforts and resources to foster a safe and drug-free learning environment that supports student academic achievement, through the provision of Federal assistance to —
(1) States for grants to local educational agencies and consortia of such agencies to establish, operate, and improve local programs of school drug and violence prevention and early intervention;
(2) States for grants to, and contracts with, community-based organizations and public and private entities for programs of drug and violence prevention and early intervention, including community-wide drug and violence prevention planning and organizing activities;
(3) States for development, training, technical assistance, and coordination activities; and
(4) public and private entities to provide technical assistance; conduct training, demonstrations, and evaluation; and to provide supplementary services and community-wide drug and violence prevention planning and organizing activities for the prevention of drug use and violence among students and youth.
I'm going to leave out any editorializing on my part. It was, however, quite instructive to see the figures listed for the set asides for the yeshivas. I was oh so pleased to see the huge number of yeshivas that are participating in Professional Teacher Development (that's for secular studies teachers), are getting the monies to help them with technology for student use, and are planning and offering activities for the prevention of drug abuse and violence.
Just a word of caution: The list is not in alphabetical order but the schools are grouped by location. Nassau County schools come first, followed by The Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island. All the private schools in each geographic area are listed, religious and non-sectarian. It's a long list, and for most of the yeshivas elementary schools and high schools under one name are listed separately and not one right after the other. Have patience.
Set-Asides for Nonpublic Schools and Special Act School Districts in Nassau County and New York City (Bronx, Kings, New York, Queens and Richmond Counties) Gives the enrollment figures for each school.
Maybe those people are young, new in the community with no acquaintances to invite them for a Shabbos or Yom Tov meal. Maybe they are older and in their sunset days. Why should it matter how or why they are alone? What is important is that they are. Those of you who are single with actively connected families are among the fortunate ones. Routine telephone calls from your caring family are the rule. Should something c"v befall you, you would not lay ill and uncared for for days or weeks. Bad weather would not leave you with nothing to eat. You're young enough and strong enough to brave the elements and get yourself food if need be.
Glance at the Shabbos table of someone who is truly alone: one plate, one glass, one fork, one knife. The one who bentches lecht is the one who makes kiddush, is the one who makes the motzi. Voices raised in zemirot? One voice, perhaps raised and perhaps not. Conversation? Just memories and thoughts. And some of those who are alone don't even bother with the formality of setting a special table. One such woman made a comment to a few of us who regularly visited her that she found the one plate an affront, that it saddened her to see that she was reduced to one plate where there once were many.
On Pesach we make it a point to say that all who are hungry should come and eat. But people can be hungry for many things, not just food. They can be hungry for the sound of other human voices. They can be hungry for human interaction. And yes, they can also be hungry for food. And surely they can have this hunger at other times of the year besides Pesach.
Soon enough it will be Shavuous. And yet again there will be those for whom the ruach of Yom Tov will be lost in the isolation they may find themselves in. The time is now to ask about those in your community, those who you may be acquainted with or perhaps not, who will be alone for Shavuous, as they are all year. Are there younger singles in your community living away from their families? Are there older people who are alone? Well, what are you waiting for? So many people take the attitude that such people have chosen to be alone, that there are plenty of community organizations that will take care of the needs of such people. In short, these people are someone else's "problem." No, they are not. Our answer to "Are you your brother's keeper?" has always been "Yes." No time like the present to put that into practice.
Many of these people are not poor in a monetary sense, although they can be, but they are impoverished in human interaction. Call during the week, if only for a few minutes. Ask how they are feeling. Ask if someone can pick something up for them, particularly in bad weather, or take them somewhere they need to go. Drop by for a few minutes to see them in person. Invite them to your homes for meals. Make them feel as if they are truly a part of Klal.
Someone was referred to our Bikur Cholim by a social worker at one of the hospitals. This person was spending a lot of time in the emergency room, usually for super minor problems, or for non-existent ones. The social worker astutely determined that this person was desperate to be able to see people and knew that the hospital would not turn them away. After Bikur Cholim took over and made regular visits and called every day and made arrangements for this person for Shabbos and Yom Tov the visits to the emergency room ceased. What saddens me is that someone could be brought to this point to begin with.
So please, first open up your minds and your eyes, and then open up your hearts and your homes. Lonely is not just a word in the dictionary--lonely may be your neighbor.
Monday, May 11, 2009
The writer tells us that our ancestors had no toilet paper and they did fine. We should take a leaf out of their book--literally--and go back to leaves instead of toilet paper. As he states, leaves are totally biodegradable and when used can be added to a compost pile to "return to nature." Right, and then I'm going to use that compost to put on my vegetable plants?!!!
He does state, however, for those who insist on using toilet paper, that we can be getting far more uses out of the sheets we do use. First, he states that one square is more than adequate to do the job. He suggests a small drying rack in the bathroom or a container for each person in the home in which toilet paper can be deposited to be reused at least a few times more. He suggests that using a washcloth instead of the paper is also a better idea and better for the environment. As he says, the cloths can be rinsed out in the sink after use. This is the same sink in which I'm going to be washing my face??? And he recommends that the cloths be washed each week "to avoid problems." How generous of the writer.
I'll leave you to your own conclusions about this greenie's suggestions. Me? I need to make a trip to the market. My favorite brand of toilet paper is on sale today.
College campuses were suddenly looked at, not as conservative bastions dedicated to turning out model citizens, but as hotbeds of radicalism. College students were letting the world know that they had ideas of their own. In addition, there would be others who would be actively involved in promoting change. Certainly Martin Luther King stands out as a prime mover in the Civil Rights Movement. There would be others, many others.
Some of this activism played on the national stage; some of it was more localized. Some of this activism made national headlines. Other examples stayed locally. Nothing, it seemed, was sacrosanct anymore. Ideas that had been accepted, at least publicly, for decades were being consigned to the trash heap. No longer would quota systems be used to disenfranchise whole segments of our population. No longer would minorities and women bow their heads subserviently. No longer would silence be the answer to injustice. No longer would our government be allowed to give only lip service to the idea of "of the people, by the people, for the people." Activism was on the march, and it was a juggernaut to behold.
If you want to know more about these three key elements in the activism of the 60's, there's a lot that has been written--go out and read. What I'd like to talk about is the activism that may not have made the national news, that was smaller in scope, but no less effective than the national concerns.
The activism of the 60's took on more than just the big picture problems; it went after the more localized problems as well. Some of the protests involved particular practices and policies of colleges and universities; others were outer political/social in nature. But whatever it was that was being protested, the protests were not limited to heated discussions in locked rooms. The protests were "out there" and "in your face."
I was attending Queens College when one such activist protest was launched. Unknown to many, City University had a dress code that was still in existence in the early to mid 60s. Women, except in gym classes, were forbidden to wear pants on campus. Even if you had a coat over your pants on your way to your gym class, the security guards could refuse you entrance to the campus.This mirrored the world outside of school as women were not allowed to wear pants to work and did not wear pants except for very casual activities, usually involving sports of some kind, or for working in the garden and those types of activities. But change was in the air. A small group of women activists decided to stage a mass demonstration on all the CUNY campuses against the ban on pants. They contacted students on every campus to contact as many other students as possible. News of the protest went by word of mouth--remember there was no Internet then. There were a number of MO female students at Queens at the time and yes, they organized groups of students and participated in the protest. On the day of the protest every woman was asked to come to school dressed in pants.
The response was overwhelming, certainly to CUNY. Female students and faculty members arrived in the thousands all dressed in pants. The school had basically two choices available: close down for who knows how long or give in. It gave in. The dress code was abolished that day.
Some times the activism concentrated on small matters. I had registered for a course in Romance Philology that I was excited about taking. When I mentioned this to another female student, her answer was basically "Good luck if you think you're going to get an 'A' in the course." It seems that the only female students who got those 'A's' were expected to, how to put this delicately, "put out" for the teacher. This seemed to be open knowledge, but challenging a tenured male professor and expecting the University to do something about it just wasn't done. Only the time was ripe to change the status quo. This was not the only male professor who was preying on women students, nor the only campus. Nor was it all sexual problems. Many of the male professors didn't think that women belonged in college, that educating them was a waste.
Over coffee in the student caf we planned strategy and we got our volunteers in place. One group of about 20 women went to the Dean of Students' office. Another group went to the President of the College's office. Yet another group went to the head of the department this professor was in. And yet another group was busy getting signatures on petitions from students around campus. We presented the school with an either/or request: either they got the professor in line with acceptable educational practices or we were going to call a school-wide strike. Either they took us seriously now or they would have to take us seriously later. And we came back every day for a week, with a few more students in tow each time. We presented them with the signed petitions, including signatures from faculty members.
Yes, I ended up taking that Philology course, but not from the original professor. He, for some unaccountable reason, had decided to retire.
Not all of the activism of the 60s was rabble rousing, confrontational and militant in nature. A lot of it was simply saying "Here is the problem, here is the solution, let's do it."