Wednesday, February 3, 2010

On Being Grandparents, not Cash Cows

On an Orthonomics posting on school tuition woes the comments thread ran over 250 responses. And what raised its head yet again were the words "grandparents" and "trips." Pretty much a whole bunch of people said that grandparents have no business paying for luxury trips to go away for Pesach when their children aren't paying full tuition in yeshiva; that money should go directly to the yeshivas to pay the deficit in tuition. Having had some time to calm down a bit, let me give you my two cents worth.

It is time, long past time, that everyone, EVERYONE in Klal takes grandparents out of the school tuition payment equation. Those grandparents are, for the most part, seniors heading into the retirement years, if not already there. They no longer have children in yeshiva. Their children are married, parents and on their own. What these seniors do with their money is absolutely no one's business but their own. If they CHOOSE to help out their kids with tuition it is just that--a choice, not an obligation. If they are able to and want to be with their children, all their children for a yom tov, and going to a hotel is the best way to achieve this, and THEY can manage the money, then just why is this anybody else's business? Those who insist that this money must be given to their grandchildren's yeshivas are being just that bit ignorant, not to mention downright nasty at times. They look at an outlay of $10K and see that as reducing the burden on the yeshivas by quite a bit. Wrong.

Fingers walking through my address book, I take a count of grandchildren. One first cousin has B"H 5 children and 26 grandchildren and his youngest kids are just beginning their families. Let's see how that Pesach money would play out for these people, should this cousin decide to go to a hotel. My cousin has his children living in four different physical locations, none of them where my cousin lives; none of their children all attend the same yeshiva. In point of fact, there are 11 different yeshivas involved, with a twelfth to be added next year. So let's take that $10K Pesach expenditure; in fact, let's even double it. Should my cousin decide not to get the whole family together for Pesach he would have $20K to give to a yeshiva--wrong. That's 12 yeshivas that would have to split that $20K. One yeshiva might only be getting $1K; another might be getting $3K, but no single yeshiva would be getting $20K. Now go back to $10K as the figure and one yeshiva would be getting only $500, while another might be getting $1500. Only that is wrong too. Because if they don't go to a hotel for Pesach there is still Pesach to be made.

That cousin wants to be with his family for Pesach. Because they are all so spread out it is hard to find a way to see them all at the same time. He wants his children to remain close to each other, and he wants the first cousins to get to know each other. And yes, he wants his family around him. He worked hard his whole life, paid full tuition for his children in yeshiva, gave tzedaka generously and now, in his older years, he wants this for himself. He's not getting any younger, and who knows how much longer any of us have on earth. So, let's say that he doesn't go to a hotel. Let's say that he manages to figure out how to house 10 adults and 26 children, in addition to his wife and himself. You think that feeding 38 people for an entire Pesach can be done for $2.99?! And with that many people coming and all the cooking and other work that is going to be necessary, do you suppose his wife "deserves" to have some cleaning/preparation help? She, too, isn't getting any younger. Do you suppose that Pesach just might cost him a bundle even if he stays at home? And please, no snide comments from the peanut gallery here, but the minhag in his house is for hand shmura matza only. And yes, as far as I am concerned he is entitled to spend the money he earned and worked hard for on something that makes him happy right now.

So my cousin stays home and making Pesach and all the sundry items for an olam the size he will have, in addition to in town guests, will run him about $4K if not more. And then, because he is not going to a hotel with the added expenses, he's going to help out the kids in buying their air tickets, because he wants them to come. And you can add to his $4k anywhere from $3-14K. Hmmm, seems like he is going to be spending about $20K for Pesach. And under crowded circumstances that may not be comfortable for anyone. But here's the irony. None of those whose noses are so often poked into everyone else's plates will say one word--that's right, not one word, because those scholarship people aren't going to a hotel for Pesach; they're going home to their family, a trip being paid for by their parents. And not even these people can be so silly and stupid as to make complaints about going home to parents for a yom tov re yeshiva tuition, or about a grandparent paying for an airline ticket so that a child can come home l'kovod kibud av v'aim. Or at least I hope that they won't comment.

Let's also add this in: my cousin is still a staunch supporter of the yeshivas in the town where he lives. If his community is to remain a solid one then there is no excuse for saying "my kids no longer go there so I no longer have any reason to give money there." If the people living in a community do not continue to support the yeshivas, just who do we expect will do so?

Just a note for clarification: my cousin's children all pay full tuition for their children in school. I used him as an example only because many others just like him, with large families and large numbers of grandchildren, have children who cannot pay the full tuition.

So, to sum up I have a very simple "suggestion" for a whole lot of people out there: keep your eyes and hands out of the pockets of grandparents everywhere. You have NO idea of what they can and cannot afford, what they have to spend, where they have committed their tzedaka dollars, and what money is being used to fund a Pesach trip, or anything else for that matter. They don't live in your community; their children do. Don't expect them to bail out your yeshivas just because they have grandchildren going to them. Maybe they can, and just maybe they can't. Maybe they will want to and just maybe they won't. And when you go searching through their pockets don't be surprised if they want to go searching through yours as well. And they will posit that they would find things that you are spending on that they don't approve of. Only they will be mentchlich and not look in your plate and pockets and comment. It would be nice if you would return the favor. And if I'm going to be blunt then let's tell it like it is--for the most part that is not concern about what tuition scholarship parents are doing that they shouldn't be doing--it's kinah, plain and simple.

And to the commenter who ranted "And these people [scholarship recipients] just better not be putting any meat into their Shabbos cholents," well words just fail me--fodder for a different posting.


Annie said...

I agree and disagree with your basic idea. Ideally it should be only the parents of children in a school who get mentioned when it comes to tuition. Schools have a tuition crisis when they accept everyone but tuition is so high that not everyone can pay.

But if the frum community expects that all kids should go to yeshiva, and they do seem to expect that, and they know that there are parents who cannot afford the full tuition, then isn't it more logical to go to the parents of those grown children then to try and find some strangers somewhere who might bankroll the yeshiva? Those grandparents have a personal connection to the yeshivas if their grandchildren attend them.

Re the trips for Pesach, we Jews are big on ma'aris ayin and it really doesn't look right when scholarship parents go to fancy hotels for Pesach, no matter who is paying for it.

Where do I agree with you? That Pesach trip won't bring in all that much money because you are right that most of these grandparents have grandchildren in lots of different yeshivas. $500 or 1000 to each of 10 or 15 yeshivas isn't going to make even a tiny dent in one school's bottom line.

Lion of Zion said...

i personally refuse to supply *any* grandparents information on registration forms, etc. for that matter, i will also not give out any information about my employment.

on the other hand in *many* cases it is the fault of the grandparents that their children can't afford tuition, and *very* often it is also the grandparents who squash any plans to make it more affordable. so perhaps grandparents who think it is important for their grandkids to go to yeshivah should step up to the plate and assume responsibility for situations they themselves created.

Judith said...

I was just looking at going away for pesach, my inlaws are going and we would love to join them. So I am up to date on the pricing, and you are WAY off.

The cost isnt 10k for the grandparent to bring the whole family - it is at least 10k PER family.

The more reasonable places are 2500 per person and 1500 per child, then add required 25% tip and that's without airfare.

There 2-3 hotels that were less- but most were more and a lot were considerably more

based on prices quoted here and I also looked at individual websites to confirm some of the prices

So that 10-15k per family (without airfare bec there would still be flying in to see the family) could be split into 5k for just the boys and the girls school (maybe the highschool - but $2,500 is no small thing)
That being said I dont think you should force the grandparents to pay for ANY tuition. I think it is the parent's responsibility to pay their own way - but when you cant pay your own way you should not be accepting expensive gifts like pampered vacations.

Shmuel said...

The grandparents fault how Lion? Not being sarcastic, but how is it the grandparents who are responsible if their kids can't pay the full tab for yeshiva tuition? Because they brought up their kids to believe that a yeshiva education is the best idea and something they need to do for their own kids? Because they sent those kids to yeshiva and now the kids want the same thing for their own children?

And just how do we grandparents quash any ideas to make yeshiva tuition more affordable? You have any idea how many times I volunteered to my own kids yeshivas to look over their books and see where they might save some money and they said NO! You think my grandkids' yeshivas are going to let me look over their books? I'd be more then happy to help a yeshiva get in better financial condition but they don't want my help or my ideas, they just want my money, and lots of it.

Ruth said...

but when you cant pay your own way you should not be accepting expensive gifts like pampered vacations.

Am I missing something here Judith? This is a gift we are talking about--something that someone else chooses to give to you. So where would you draw the line? Those kids can accept a "gift" of tuition money, surely an expensive gift, but not a trip? Would you say the same thing if the parents bought each of their kids a computer/printer and a desk to put them on? Would it apply to buying the kids a needed car, even if a good used one? How about a couch? What about a gift of a parents paying for health insurance for their children? Is that too expensive a gift for a parent to give to a child? Is that pampering them?

What's the difference between the types of gifts I mentioned and a trip away for Pesach? In one situation the community can see the gift and green eyes get opened. In the other cases they can't see or mostly can't see so they don't get as upset.

It seems to boil down to if you are poor you have no right to any luxuries of any kind, even if they are a gift.

Anonymous said...

If a grandparent insists on yeshiva when the parents would choose public school, then the grandparents should pay, but as a gift to their offspring, not as an obligation to any yeshiva. It may be happening more frequently than people think that children remain nominally "on the derech" in order to please their religious parents. In that case, it's different.

Avi said...

Tesyaa mentions a good point. I already give my children money towards their yeshiva tuitions for the grandchildren. But I give it to them, not to the yeshivas directly. A gift I give my children is different from being forced by a yeshiva to make up their deficit. I know what my kids do with the money I give them. I wish I knew the same way just what the yeshivas do with the money they get. And I really would like to know how the yeshivas come up with their pricing model for tuition.

Judith, what all those sites won't tell you is that they negotiate price all the time. Come with a large group and they discount the prices, sometimes by a huge amount. Book very close to Pesach and if they aren't full they will negotiate the price. Gee, sounds just like some yeshivas I know--not everyone who thinks they are paying full tuition is paying the same price.

Lion of Zion said...


"Because they sent those kids to yeshiva and now the kids want the same thing for their own children?"

because they sent their kids to schools (k-post high school in israel and beyond) that gave a 2nd rate (at best) secular eduation, eschewed academic pursuit, encourage (whether tacitly or implicitly) early marriage and early (and frequent) parenthood, etc. and the kids thought all this was normal because outside of school the grandparents mostly exposed their kids to peers (parents' and children's) who reinforced these values. and in many cases it was the grandparents themselves who very actively encouraged early marriage and early (and frequent) parenthood.
not all of these apply in all situations, but most of the times i hear grandparents complaining that they have to support their kids and grandkids, many of these factors were in play.

as far as grandparents squashing routes to financial independence once in the rut: how many grandmothers would encourage their kids to move OOT? often the first objection raised to this idea is "my mother (or mother-in-law) would kill me."
and there are situations where parents are ready to try an alternative schooling route but don't because of family pressure.

Tuition Talk said...

Agree wholeheartedly. I think one of the impacts on our communities that people don't consider in the whole "tuition crisis" is the incredible amount of jealousy, hatred, rumor-mongering, and anger that have permeated our communities along with the fact that everyone is so concerned with what everyone else is doing. The financial aspects of the tuition crisis are a huge problem, but these social problems are too often overlooked.

Judith said...

@Avi: No I didnt know that - I guess am a sucker who pays full tuition and when I needed a scholarship agreed to make it a loan. I am also the person who's husband makes an extremely good living now- but still found the prospect of spending that amount outrageous and we are staying for Pesach.

Lion of Zion said...


i think it's also been pointed out before that in the event that parents need signifigant tuition assistance, shouldn't the obligation devolve first on the parents' family rather than on strangers?

of course it is problematic if the grandparents refuse, let's say, to divert pesach vacation money to tuition. (i personally was offerred to pick a stroller from a particular company as a baby gift from my boss. i said i don't need a stroller. too bad. i asked to get it from a different company that makes a stroller more useful for us (it would have even been cheaper). too bad. what was offerred was what i was getting.

Lion of Zion said...

and certainly i would have preferred the cash (to use for tuition or whatever) but that would have been a big too bad.

Anonymous said...

One thing about Pesach expenses - there must be a whole lot of wealth in the community for large, far-flung families to be able to travel and spend Pesach together every year (at home or hotels). When I was in seminary 25 years ago, only one friend in our circle went home for Pesach. (Our dormitory remained open). The rest of us made arrangements for yom tov with relatives, friends, and volunteer hosts. Sure, we missed our families, but we made do because the money wasn't there for two round trips to Israel in one academic year. Nowadays, it's common to go jetting back and forth. It's good to be together, but it's a sign of wealth.

I also think many young people are daunted by the work of making Pesach and would rather bubby or a hotel do the work and pay the costs.

Anonymous said...

The 10K to 20K figure is not necessarily off for taking those 38 people to a hotel for Pesach, depending on how many people pay for the trip. The commenter is correct that the groups sponsoring these hotels will negotiate on the price if you come with a group. We have been going away for Pesach for a few years already. We go with all of our married kids but we aren't the only ones paying. Our muchatanim also come with us and they also pay--this way all the grandparents get to be with the kids and grandkids instead of having to choose one set or the other to be with for a yom tov. A few of my siblings also come and so do the four great grandparents still living, and they also share the costs. Last year our "family reunion" for Pesach was 79 people (a few infants in that number). The final cost with everything included was $122K. (No, not at the most expensive hotel available for Pesach and negotiated.) That final cost was divided among 13 people paying for it. Not saying that the price is cheap but this is the vacation for the year for most of us and we get to spend it all together.

And as the post mentions even if we didn't go away for Pesach there would be expenses in making Pesach at home. If you even figure $150 per person making Pesach at home, and that could be a low figure if you figure in any trips and entertainment for the kids during chol hamoed, which they get included in the hotel price, that's $12K you subtract from the total hotel price.

Lion of Zion said...


"that's $12K you subtract from the total hotel price."

122k - 12k = . . .

"If you even figure $150 per person making Pesach at home"

$150 sounds a bit excessive for 8 days of food. and even for the infants?

"and that could be a low figure if you figure in any trips and entertainment for the kids during chol hamoed"

if you live in the new york area there are plenty of completely free or *very* moderately priced activities to keep the kids busy all week long

Judith said...

Your right I have a skewed sense of fiscal responsibility. When I had my first child I got lots of gifts from rich relatives--- but I could not in good conscious keep an expensive department store gift so I returned it for a gift card, but when I needed to be able to buy diapers and food I couldn't bring myself to spend the money on even the discounted items there - so I went to the payment counter and waited for someone paying their bill with cash and asked they would buy the giftcard off of me - because the gift while it would have been beautiful in the babies room - would not feed my child.
Was it uncomfortable and sad to do - yes - but I had no business taking a gift of luxury when what we needed was to have money to pay rent.

I am talking with experience in this - not just a rich person saying what the poor folk should do- but what I did.

So to your list of gifts, if you dont have money to pay off your debtors then you dont have a right to the new couch or the new computers or the cars. Unless it helps in getting you out of debt ie if the used car got you to work or the computer was to work at home for extra income - but then its not a gift its an investment.

As long as your kids are in yeshivah and on scholarship then you ARE in debt to them and to the society that pays your share of the tuition.

The only thing I would say OK is buying health insurance, bec since the kids cant afford that when/if they get sick the grandparents will have to pay for those costs - so really its the GP who are taking out insurance for themselves in many ways.

Shmuel said...

Not saying Lion that grandparents don't bow to community pressure and pass on what the community wants to their kids, but the community pressures have changed from one generation to another and the kids and grandkids do their own bowing.

The same schools that want grandparents to kick in missing money are also responsible for some of their own problems. When my kids were little pre school was optional for a lot of parents. Most of my friends didn't send to school until the kids were in pre1A. Today the schools make this just about impossible by basically telling you that they probably won't accept your kid unless he/she starts with nursery, certainly kindergarden. The schools insist on the after high school years in Israel or sitting in yeshiva. (Don't discount peer pressure when it comes to this) The schools tell you there won't be shidduchim for your kids if you don't toe the line and if you don't get them married really young. And community rabbis pretty much will tell you the same thing.

Sure there are some parents who are rebelling and not following all of this. But it sure ain't easy for them.

Regarding the academic pursuit, all of my kids are college educated, not at the Jewish colleges. They all did well in college. They all work. I didn't quash their opportunities. But none of this makes it certain that they will be able to afford the tuitions for their kids.

Rae said...

Lion--take those 79 people and figure 8 days of Pesach at three meals a day. That's 1896 meals that are going to be covered by $12K or about $6.40 per meal per person. But that also includes any entertainment, no matter how cheap that is--and even free entertainment can cost you traveling expenses and snacks to take with you--and that also includes any of the extras that cost more for this yom tov, like wine, matzos other special items for the sedorim. That also includes preparation help for the yom tov (and if you are hosting this many people at home are you seriously saying there will be no prep help or cleaning help?!) or having to buy extra kitchen items. Even if a few are infants, there may be formula expenses and baby food expenses.

Look at it this way. Two slices of pizza and a soda chometz time will cost you at least $5 per person and more in some places. And that's for pizza. The meals on Pesach can cost you way more than that and the price for the meal above is covering more than just the food.

Lion of Zion said...


"the kids and grandkids do their own bowing"

but they are doing this bowing because of the schooling, community, peers and parenting that the grandparents provided for 20 years. i'm sorry, but this falls back on the grandparents.

"The same schools that want grandparents to kick in missing money are also responsible for some of their own problems."

no argument here.
the whole grandparents debate is a footnote to the tuition problem. the schools need to solve some underlying problems and reaching out to the grandparents is myopic and diversionary.

"The schools insist on the after high school years in Israel or sitting in yeshiva."

what a scam. 12+ years of full time jewish education and you're kid is not ready yet to be a good jew without what for many is a remedial year(s) in israel

"Sure there are some parents who are rebelling and not following all of this. But it sure ain't easy for them."

tough luck. we're talking about adults here, not seven year olds.

"But none of this makes it certain that they will be able to afford the tuitions for their kids."

no guarantees in life. but somethings are more of a bet for success than failure.

Lion of Zion said...


again, 122k - 12k = . . .

also you don't have to spend that much extra on wine and matzah

and who get to eat 2 slices and a soda for lunch everyday?

i doubt the hotel price includse infant formula

Tovah said...

Lion, I think you are losing track of a few facts. I'll even agree that the grandparents started things out by insisting on a yeshiva education for their kids and passing this idea on to their own kids. But what did that yeshiva education cost those grandparents back then?

My husband and I had 4 kids. We sent all of them to decent yeshivas--not the cheapest and not the most expensive either. But our tuition costs never ever amounted to more then 20% of net income even in the high school years. They were cheaper in the elementary years when we weren't earning as much money and even being more expensive in the high school years those payments came out when we had been working for quite a while and were making more money.

Now look at yeshiva tuition costs today. Unless you are talking about chasidish yeshivas even the cheapest of them is going to cost more then that 20% right from the start and go sky high from there. Put 4 kids into nursery, kindergarden, first grade and second grade. The parents aren't yet in the highest earning brackets at that point. And what is tuition? From some of the figures printed online that's going to be at least $48K and could be $60K or higher. That figure is going to be way more then 20% of income for a whole lot of people. That is not something that grandparents ever figured on or could possibly foresee.

Sima said...

also you don't have to spend that much extra on wine and matzah

Let's see, four kosos X 2 sedorim x 79 people. Even subtract out infants and very little kids. Make it 70 people. And you're not spending much extra on wine?! Or on matza? On Pesach?

and who get to eat 2 slices and a soda for lunch everyday?

Well somebody must be because the pizza shops are packed. Yeshiva bochrim come to mind here. But if you don't like the pizza example then how about a few others. How about switching to a falafel and a drink? Want to be healthy and get a salad or maybe a tuna sandwich? Up the price. Lots of people who get a coffee every day from one of the shops. That's $2 per small cup. And that's not a meal. And that may be twice a day. Plenty of people who eat a meal out and do it every day. I don't see the guys in my office bringing in lunch from home, or the women for the most part either. They're buying ready made. And you think that coffee and danish in the morning come for free?

Anonymous said...

I bring my lunch to work everyday. Everyone in my family makes and brings our own lunches, in fact. I drink a few diet sodas every day, but I buy them on sale or at Costco and they cost anywhere from 15-25 CENTS each. (I keep them in the work refrigerator, so I pay zero for that electricity - it's a company benefit :) ). Never bought anything at a Starbucks.

You can definitely do Pesach on the cheap - sure, there are some things that are overpriced, but Dannon yogurts with an OUP cost the same all year round. And that's just one example. Potatoes are one of the cheapest foods around.

Ruth said...

Judith, you are certainly entitled to run your life however you want to and to have a personal opinion on what you believe is the right thing to do FOR YOURSELF. Many would say it is admirable that you have the approach to money that you do. But you also need to recognize that this is strictly your own OPINION and not some rule or law. There are going to be others who don't feel as you do. And that is where all the conflicts come in.

You say "if you dont have money to pay off your debtors then you dont have a right to the new couch or the new computers or the cars" "As long as your kids are in yeshivah and on scholarship then you ARE in debt to them and to the society that pays your share of the tuition." A right to the new couch? There is some established rule of law that governs the right to a couch or a computer? There is a law that says you have no right to accept a gift from anyone if you are in debt? Or is it that you object to the items that are being given? Would you use the word Right if someone gave those people in debt food? Or would you also say that that would depend on what kind of food it was? Milk yes but hamburger no.

Please understand that I'm jnot attacking you personally but just trying to point out that there are going to be different opinions about what constitutes a gift. Saying that one gift is appropriate but another is not puts us squarely back into opinion territory again. Personally I don't see a computer as being an indulgence given the world that we have now, whether you use it for work or not.

Anonymous said...

Three words: machine shmura matza.

Kalman said...

So many threads going on in the conversation here and not all of them directly relating to the subject of the posting. Might as well put my two cents in.

Any model that requires two generations to pay for it at the same time is broken from the start--think yeshivas. Playing the blame game for who is responsible for yeshiva education as the norm doesn't solve the problem that exists right now--yeshiva tuition costs are out of sight and unaffordable for a whole lot of the people that the yeshivas and communities say have to have their children in them. Insisting that grandparents have to make up the deficit is just plain wrong.

Last I looked, giving someone a gift doesn't require a vote by Congress. In fact, it doesn't require a vote by anybody--it's up to the giver. If the recipient doesn't want or like the gift they could try asking for something else, but it's still up to the giver. For someone else to comment on that gift, to raise a voice saying the recipient doesn't deserve that gift, shouldn't be getting that gift is just plain ridiculous. And I agree that it speaks more of jealousy and envy then of any real concern about ethics and morality. Do you know how ridiculous it sounds and looks when we say that someone who can't pay full tuition or is in debt is not entitled to a single luxury of any kind (and what is a luxury is going to start a debate all on its own)even when that supposed lusury is a gift from someone else?

As a grandparent heaven help anyone who mixes in to my relationship with my kids and grandkids or who tries to tell me what I can or cannot do for them or what I have to do for them. The rest of you, please stop trying to count the money in my pocket--it's not your business. If I choose to support a yeshiva I'll do so. How much I give is up to me, not up to you. And don't keep mixing me up with my kids--we are separate human beings.

Dave said...

Grandparents have every right to spend their money as they see fit.

Yeshivas have every right to assign scholarships as they see fit.

Lion said...


You don't want to blame grandparents for decisions they made 20 years ago? Fine. But what about the ones who made the mistake 5 years ago when tuition was already a known problem? Or the ones still making the mistakes today? Myopia/ignorance only goes so far as an excuse.

Example: today a 25 year old girl has 2 kids in school already and 1 on the way. Already having tuition problems. Meanwhile her sister just came back from sharfmans in Israel (don't know if it's around anymore but you get the idea) and at 19 ready to get married and have kids. Do the parents encourage this? At the same time another daughter is graduating high school. Will the parents send her too to sharfmans? Meanwhile the parents are looking for a high school for their son, will they continue him in a school that gives lip service to secular studies and pushes a few years in Israel +\- touro/yu?
I may be younger than you, but all I see in my lifetime is the same old (or worse) 

Rochelle said...

Quite a heated converssation going on here. The way I look at it, too many people doing a lot of looking at everyone else instead of just minding their own business. And when it comes to grandparents we assume it's their job and responsibility to bail out everyone else. Leave them alone. They did their bit already. If they want to help out or they can help out they will or they won't. Their choice. And if they want to give a gift to their kids that's also their choice.

The financial crunch the frum community is in seems to have affected their common sense and also their mentchlichkeit.

Rita said...

Lion just raised a good point in his last comment although I'm not sure he meant it quite the way I'm taking it. Grandparent is looked at by a lot of people as someone who has ALL their kids married and with children of their own. When yeshivas talk about getting the grandparents on board to pay when their kids may be having trouble making tuition payments they are assuming no other expenses.

There are plenty of grandparents who are still being parents to single children. They themselves may still be paying tuitions for their own kids. They may still have expenses for weddings coming up. In short, they don't necessarily have all the discretionary income the yeshivas and the rest of the world credit them with. Today this is very common.

Anonymous said...

When you fill out a scholarship application, you are asked for the amount of cash gifts you expect to receive. The schools could very easily ask about all gifts, monetary or otherwise. I mean, the application can ask whatever the school wants to know. Filling out the application is voluntary. If you don't want to answer the questions, don't apply for a scholarship.

I wonder how many people are truthful in listing cash gifts received from grandparents on their scholarship applications?

Annie said...

Rita brings up a good point about grandparents who are still parenting single children. But I'd like to raise a different one. What makes us think that all grandparents have the kind of money that could bail out their kids if tuition or other expenses can't be met? There are plenty of grandparents who are retired and who aren't sitting on multi million dollar retirement accounts. If they are lucky and careful they will make it through on what they have. Maybe they can indulge themselves occasionally on something they want, like that trip for Pesach, but maybe they can't. None of us really know, but we assume about their finances.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:50 I can see where you're going with an application asking you to list not just money but all gifts that you got but then that gets complicated too. Is that gifts from everyone who gives you a gift during the year? What if my aunt buys me a computer as an anniversary gift? Do I list it?Stick to your parents (the grandparents of your kids) and you'd have to start asking about birthday and Chanuka and anniversary gifts too. Do we really want to say that if someone gets a gift for a birthday they may not qualify for a scholarship because that money for the gift counts against tuition? If someone comes for a meal and brings an expensive bottle of wine does that need to be listed. And what if the gift goes directly to your children? Do those have to be listed? If my mom would buy a computer for my son for his birthday do I need to list that? Listing gifts can open a whole can of worms that we really don't need to have to deal with.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:04: I guess it depends how you view a scholarship. If you view it as charity that's coming out of someone else's pocket, you may have a different view than if you view it as negotiating a good deal at a car dealer, or getting a good discount on a big screen TV on Black Friday. It would be hard for me to accept gifts knowing I'm living on charity, but that's just me.

Lion of Zion said...


"Lion just raised a good point in his last comment although I'm not sure he meant it quite the way I'm taking it."

that wasn't the point i was trying to make, but your very valid take on it just goes to further prove my point.

it is very sad that there are grandparents who are stuggling to help out an older married child(ren) while still raising younger ones.
but that just goes back to my whole point. now that they see where the older child ended up, how many of these parent/grandparents are making major changes in how they bring up their younger children so they don't end up in the same rut?
will these parent/grandparents in 10 years from now still be able to claim ignorance about tuition?

Lion of Zion said...


i'm pretty confident that everyone here has a kitchen in there home, so i really don't understand why anyone concerned about their finances would be eating out everyday, even if only pizza

i don't drink coffee, so you lost me on that one. i do drink water/seltzer, but i get that for free at work or buy it in bulk.

as far as wine/matzah: not every family holds by maximalist shiurim (if they do and it is a burden, that is for a discussion with a rav). and there is cheap kedem wine (or even grape juice, again possibly for discussion with a rav) and machine shmura (is it your minhag to eat shmurah the entire chag anyway?)

(although last year or 2 years there was a shortage of machine shmura)

Chana said...

Altough grandparents aren't the address for tuition bills to be sent to (1)if a grandparent is giving lavish presents to a grandchild whose parents aren't paying full tuition, the school should have some sort of right to see "first pay for his/her essentials (tuition)that WE are being forced to collect tzedokah for" (2) Many grandparents sent their children to school at a time when schools were much more willing to give reduced tuition and collect the rest themselves. Someone who had been is such a situation definitely should be paying back their children's (now grown ups)tuition before taking expensive vacations etc.AND IF THEY DON'T, THEY NO RIGHT TO LECTURE ABOUT THE ENTITLEMENT ATTITUDE OF TODAY'S GENERATION!!!

Rita said...

Lion, how many parents are making changes? I don't know and neither can you know, one way or the other. We can't generalize if we don't know. I can't speak for every parent out there who is finding themselves in a financial bind between their married children needing help and their single children. I can't even tell you how many of those parents there are--we don't have any figures whatsoever. We don't know who has made changes or who will be making changes.

I'll agree with uyou that some changes need to be made. For one thing the community needs to see that year in Israel as an option rather than a necessity that all kids must have. But I don't know just how many parents actually buy into that year and send or how many won't. I can't make any guesses based on even the people I know, since not all of them sent to Israel anyway. It's possible that change is already underway but we won't see that change in any significant public way for a while. It's possible that change is starting or already there in one community but not in another.

Lion of Zion said...


"Saying that one gift is appropriate but another is not puts us squarely back into opinion territory again"

well that is one of the problems with the whole tuition assistance (it's not really a scholarship anyway) process. there really is no fair way to judge who derserves the help and who doesn't. for example, if i were on tuition committee i would take earning potential into account. i would also inquire into which supermarkets they shop in. in my personal opinion anyone who shops in pomegranate should not be elligible. i was there last week and then went to a smaller store in marine park last night. the price differentials were crazy. and you wouldn't beleive the lines of cars waiting to get into the parking lot!

Miriam said...

Chana just brought up something that I would like an answer to. She feels that anyone who had a tuition scholarship is getting tzedaka and should be paying that tzedaka back to the schools once they have no kids in there and presumably have money freed up.

Is there a requirement to pay back tzedaka that you have been a receiver of? Forget schools for a minute. If you were short on cash and went to a gemach to get free clothing--if you have money later are you required to pay back that gemach with the price of the clothing? If a tzedaka organization gives you some sort of service are you required to pay it back in cash in the future? I'm not talking here about what would be the the nice or right thing to do, but is there an halachic obligation to pay back tzedaka? If there is, then schools should certainly be making that clear to parents right up front--you're getting a tuition break now and it is halachically required that you pay it back later. I haven't heard of any school doing this.

Lion of Zion said...


i'm not a sociologist, demographer or statistician so i guess i can't even pretend to tell you how many people are or aren't making changes.

but i'm just trying to think of all the parents/grandparents i know and i can't think of one that has made any major changes for the younger children. same neighborhood, same schooling, same israel programs, same marriage ages (or younger!), same large weddings, same newlywed subsidies, etc.
how many parents/grandparents do you know of that have made real changes?

as far as the year(s) in israel, again, anecdotally it seems as popular as even. when some of the schools close down then we'll have evidence of changing patterns.

lion of zion said...


"then schools should certainly be making that clear to parents right up front--you're getting a tuition break now and it is halachically required that you pay it back later."

one idea that has been suggested is to structure tuition assistance as long term loans (personally i don't think this is realistic)

one difference between tuition assistance and the gemach you mention is that the latter is funded voluntarily, whereas with the former it isn't clear (thanks to lack of transparency) how much funded voluntarily by real donors and how much is funded by other parents under duress

Rita said...

And if I give a number for how many parents I know who have made changes what will we know Lion? You live in one community and I live in a different one. What's happening in my community in all ways may be different from yours. We might not even agree on what constitutes a change. If a parent with 5 kids sent their first two kids to Israel and paid for Shana Aleph and Shana Bet for those kids and tells their next kid in line you are only going for one year do you see that as a change? It could well signal a change or a change coming but like I said before, change comes slowly usually.

Or how about this one. A yeshiva in Israel had 31 boys when a friend sent her son there. That same yeshiva only has 12 boys this year. So is that signalling a change? If so, what kind? Now it could be that that yeshiva is simply losing popularity. Or it could be that less parents are sending to Israel. No way of knowing. We'd need a whole slew of statistics that just aren't available to us.

If we live long enough, in 10 years we can revisit this conversation and see if there is any broad, across the board change in the way the community acts, one that is clearly visible.

Anonymous said...

Prepared to take the flack, but a whole lot of what I'm hearing here and in other places is that the "poor" or struggling among us aren't being sufficiently grateful for the tuition assistance they are getting--they aren't being poor enough for us. How dare they get a gift of something other than tuition money! How dare they get a gift of a computer or something for the house! How dare a parent take this struggling child on a trip! How dare they shop in a supermarket that we wouldn't shop in. In short, how dare they live with anything more than a very meagre subsistence existence. How dare their parents try and help out these children in any way but the way WE have decided is the right way.

I can't quote the exact place but I do know that we are forbidden to make those who are receiving tzedaka feel badly. We aren't supposed to make it clear that those people owe us something. We aren't supposed to add to their tzar. We're supposed to be careful about injuring these people through a superior attitude. I do remember learning that the highest madrega of tzedaka is where the donor doesn't actually know who will be receiving the tzedaka and the receiver doesn't actually know the specific person who gave the tzedaka. Not what I'm hearing here.

Anonymous said...

If people don't like or want scrutiny of their finances, they don't have to apply for a scholarship.

Anonymous said...

I mean, how dare the schools even ask for financial information on a scholarship application? Don't they believe people when they say they need money? It's a violation of privacy and makes people feel bad!

Anonymous said...

The thing that I find peculiar about this discussion is that in many cultures, the younger, working generation supports the older retired generation. I realize that many grandparents are only in their 50's and 60's and are still hearty and hale and still working, but it will be very sad if due to the tuition and lifestyle issues, this generation does not meet their obligations to their parents.

Also, relying on the older generation to keep the school system and current lifestyle going probably will only work, if at all, for the current generation of grandparents. For the next generation of grandparents, how many will have pensions? It will be an ever decreasing number. They also will need to make their retirement savings last longer and will have to pay ever growing amounts for health care. Also, how many in the next generation will have a house that appreciated from 20,000 to 500,000 over 30 years that they can cash in on? Sure, there will always be the very wealthy who can support a few generations, but the average yid is not going to be able rely on their parents to pay their kid's tuition.

Lion of Zion said...


"I do remember learning that the highest madrega of tzedaka is where the donor doesn't actually know who will be receiving the tzedaka and the receiver doesn't actually know the specific person who gave the tzedaka."

that's the second highest level.

"but it will be very sad if due to the tuition and lifestyle issues, this generation does not meet their obligations to their parents."

interesting that you mention both lifestyle and tuition.
but anyway, it is sad because people of my cohort are worried about caring for ourselves in our old age (or its not even on the radar altogether because of tuition/lifestlye, which is even worse). our parents will have to fend for themselves. it sucks.

beentheredonethat said...

I've seen the tuition question freom both sides. Up until last year we were full tuition paying parents for four kids. We had a decent enough income and we could meet this obligation. Won't say we were rolling in dough and we didn't buy or get everything we might ever have wanted but we made the tuition payments.

In the six years prior to last year the tuitions in my kids schools went up close to 16%. That's per kid. That took away our safety margin. And then last year the economy tanked. My husband's company offered him the choice of taking a 15% salary cut or leaving. And they raised our contribution towards health insurance. And they took away a few other perks, like the 401K match. Of course he stayed. And suddenly our bottom line wasn't looking at all good.

We told the yeshiva that we just couldn't meet the full tuition costs. We didn't ask for a complete scholarship or even anything near it. But we did need a deduction. They looked at our figures and took off enough to make it possible to continue the kids in yeshiva without cutting into some basic necessities.

Now to this year. Even though the yeshiva gave us the same reduction, they also raised tuition another 2%, so we are getting less towards the full tuition. Now we are reaqlly hurting for money and it's a real balancing act to get all the bills paid.

So why did I write this story down? You have to have heard some of the remarks made in our hearing or to people who others knew were bound to repeat the remarks to us about look who is getting tuition reducdtion. They pointed to our home and what was in it (not a mansion by anyones standards) and said how dare we have these things when we are on scholarship. Never mind that we had purchased these things when we were paying full tuition. They said we should sell one of our two cars. Neither car is new or particularly fancy and we both need the cars for business reasons.

But the real kicker is the yeshiva week vacation that just finished. Our kids were off but we couldn't take off. I was going to have to pay for a babysitter for the week, not so easy to do if you don't have a steady one, and a big cost. My in laws decided to solve that problem for us and get something for themselves at the same time. They took our kids and my sisters kids to Orlando for a few days. The kids loved being with their grandparents and yeah Disney was a plus too. Our parents were thrilled to get the kids to themselves and build memories together.

No, they don't take us or the kids on trips all the time. But you would think so from the comments made about our kids being Florida. And yeah, someone, more then one someone, thought it was horrible that a tuition scholarship parent's kids should be on such a pampered trip. Our in laws should have donated that money to the kids yeshivas instead.

One thing I've learned from all of this. I hope I never was guilty when I was paying full tuition of making comments about the parents who weren't, but when I get back to being able to pay full tuition I'm sure going to watch my mouth.

Tuition Talk said...


Your story just further proves to me what is wrong with the whole tuition situation. The entire scholarship process is one gigantic exercise in communal sinning under the guise of tzedaka. Either give the scholarship and ask no questions or don't give anything at all. The current system just breeds hatred and jealousy and bad feelings all around.

And God held you if you always paid full tuition and now need help.

Sima said...

Reading over what ProfK wrote in the original post, I think I begin to understand why the original complainers complained about grandparents taking luxury trips involving their children and grandchildren. In my circles, many of the people I know are being supported almost exclusively or to a great extent by their parents and in-laws. They bought their children homes, pay their mortgages, the utility bills, the children very often carry a duplicate credit card on the parents' account, and any extras for the kids (nice clothes, lessons, trips) are paid for by the grandparents. I think what bugs people is the fact that they are willing to take responsibility for all the other expenses, but when it comes to tuition they expect their children to plead poverty and get a reduction/break/free ride. I may be wrong, but this scenario is a reality and not an unusual one.

miriamp said...

What I don't understand is how beentheredonethat's fellow parents were able to point to her family and make such remarks. (Both how could frum Jews speak/think that way, although obviously many do, and how they would even know to!)

I have absolutely no idea who is paying full tuition and who is on full or partial scholarship here. And that's how it should be!

Oh, I could guess, based on I know what certain people do for a living and how many kids they have in the school, etc., but it would be just that -- an educated guess.

However, if many people really are used to the reality that Sima describes, then the comments at least begin to make sense. I still think who is or is not receiving assistance should not be common knowledge, though.

Lion of Zion said...

" I still think who is or is not receiving assistance should not be common knowledge, though."

I don't think anyone has said otherwise

Miami Al said...

I think there is also a definition of community issue. It's easy to say, "The grandparents don't live in your community, their kids do, fix your own Yeshiva," but what makes someone a part of the community. There is no recruitment process.

Someone buys/rents a piece of property in the vicinity, shows up to Shul and/or the Yeshiva, and they are in the community.

If the grandparent made the down payment for the family to be in a community they otherwise couldn't afford, then can the neighbors look to them to help pay the bill for their "community member?"

I think for a variety of reasons, the Yeshiva system is promoting a lot of non halachic behavior, but that's a different issue.

PayingParent said...

I don't think it is worth getting tied up about what GRANDPARENTS are spending their money on. It is like when the OU Tuition Crisis committee made their determination that "tuition should be paid for by the grandparent generation". The problem is that is not a solution for many people. My parents are still paying Yeshiva for my siblings who are still in school, how can they help me with my tuition?

We do go away for pesach to a local hotel every year. While I would rather have the money to ease our tuition burden, and would be happy to make pesach myself, my inlaws (who are by no means well off) scrimp and save to take us every year to a hotel for pesach. It is the only way to get the entire family together for the holiday since they have a very tiny home.
And if the parents are really so filthy rich that they can make extrvagant Pesach's that would really help the Yeshivas, Im willing to bet that for the most part, their grandkids are not on scholarship.

Anonymous said...

If the parents paying full tuition are foregoing vacations to meet their tuition obligations and in the process are helping to finance the tuitions for other families, I can understand some resentment towards the families who are getting assistance and still going on vacations. Of course the grandparents are not obligated, but if they really want their grandchildren in jewish schools, then one would hope some of their discretionary spending would go toward the tuition of grandchildren who are on scholarships. I was fortunate enough to have a grandparent who never bought herself anything new, never took a vacation, lived in a small apartment her entire life and never gave the grandchildren gifts but every year bought a savings bond in the name of each grandchild to save for their college education because that was important to her, so she made sacrifices. She did not expect her grandchildren to get scholarships.

Michelle said...

I'm one of those people that passionately believe that grandparents SHOULD pay for their kids and here's why:
By what theory do other tuition parents in the school have an obligation to pay for others? Kol yisrael, community obligations to the poor, etc. How can someone with a straight face tell us that that obligation for a random person who happens to send to the same school as a needy family exceeds (not even equal) to the grandparents?

Pesach in a hotel is a luxury. Please no one post that hotels are actually cheaper. We are not morons here. 122 is more than 12k. I am not advocating starving, just spending 12k instead of 122k. I know that it is great to have everyone around for yom tov. But if someone is on charity, "great" family time is not a neccesity and not a cost via scholarship that the community should support.

The point of the children accepting the vacation is a defficiency in the children's acts not the grandparents. Meaning, the schools should not have any qualms to the grandparents. People can spend their money as they chose. BUT, the schools should count it as income in their scholarship formulas as if the children are accepting the gift in lieu of paying their tuitions.

I know not all grandparents, if it was known that it would look poorly on the kids, would contribute to the tuition instead of pesach, but I bet a bunch would if they knew that their grandkids are being penalized for accepting the luxury gift while being on charity.

Michelle said...

BTW, I don't think that this is a common occurance at all. To the extent it does exist, it's wrong.

A far less extremee and perhaps more common is restuarants (even modest ones are more expensive than home cooked meals) and expensive summer camps.

RAMBAM and other jewish law writers never intended charity (like scholarships) to be given to people who spend money on extra stuff like restuarants or pesach in hotels.

Tuvi said...

Took me a while to read through the posting and all the comments. I don't disagree with the Prof that grandparents should not be counted on when it comes to tuition payments. If a school sets itself up expecting money from these grandparents it's got a shaky foundation. My only exception would be if grandparents live in the same community as their children. There I would say they should give tzedaka to the yeshiva because they are part of the community, not because their grandchildren go there.

I figured out what bothers me about the Pesach trips. I can't think of one possible reason why someone would be forced to go to a hotel or have to go there for Pesach. No matter how you look at it it is going to be more expensive then staying home, a lot more expensive. Even if I catered the entire 8 days of Pesach and had cleaning help every day I wouldn't hit the price of the hotels. So those hotels are a real luxury, not a need in any sense. And because the hotels are so conspicuous a luxury, so clearly not a need of any kind, people don't see that grandparents should be paying for this kind of a trip for kids and grandkids who can't afford to pay for full tuition. I'd say that some of the resentment that those paying full tuition that also covers those who don't pay full tuition have is because they can't afford this type of luxury. Maybe they could if they weren't kicking in extra to help out those who don't pay full tuition.

You probably get that kind of thinking and reaction whenever what a parent buys for a child falls strictly in the unnecessary luxury category. The kids need a car? Okay, but do they need a Lexus? Or a luxury van for $58,000?
The kids need a table to eat at? Okay, but do they need a $30,000 custom dining room set to do that? I guess I'm saying that grandparents and their kids should use some common sense. If kids are having money problems and can't pay full tuition or get some things that are necessities, then fine if the grandparents provide those necessities. But providing conspicuous luxuries that aren't real necessities when kids aren't paying tuition does bother me.

profk_offsping said...

Regarding the "who knows who is on tuition assistance": A friend of mine truly wanted (and needed) to apply for tuition assistance when her family had parnosa issues. Instead, she went into deep debt to keep up the full tuition and ended up with even bigger problems.

Why? Because the people sitting on the tuition committee were people whose children her own children played with and her husband davened with in shul. And the misery and potential embarrassment of having to open up her finances to someone she had to socialize with (and the potential abuse) was not something she could stomach. She is not the first person who's told me about such a situation. There's merit to her way of thinking.

As for the grandparent issue: I have no children, but if I did, I would never reveal to any yeshiva my parents' finances. It's none of their business. My parents paid their full tuitions for me and my siblings and their obligation has ended. The truly troubling thing: I have an Ivy League education and a B"H stable job...but the pay is not sky-high (sorry, but $100,000-a-year jobs are not the norm). I could be the world's best financial planner (and I think my mother would attest to the fact that I live a very economically sound life), but if I I"YH marry someone in the same boat (not an unlikely proposition), I won't be able to afford current yeshiva tuition rates. And my parents shouldn't have to pay a penalty for that fact. And if they wanted to gift their grandkids with something, it's nobody else's business either. I'm understanding the maa'lot of Bnei Yisrael (who famously kept their noses out of their neighbors' tents) in the Midbar a whole lot more nowadays.

Old Lady said...

Prof K, I find myself agreeing more each day with your posts. I don't know if it is that we are of a similar age or background but I can't help but smile and nod when I read your blog.

I am a grandparent who has, in recent years, gone away for Pesach with my family. After more than 25 years making Pesach in my home for the entire family I can no longer do it myself.
I paid my children's full tuition in day schools and universities for my kids and do help with my grandchildren's tuition. I give charity commensurate with my income & I still go to work every day. I do not live lavishly and I resent anyone telling me how and where I should spend my money. If I chose to go to a hotel on a family Pesach vacation, I will. Although I do help with grandchildren's tuition, I am NOT OBLIGATED to give money to my grandchildren's schools.

The person who returns gifts she thinks are too fancy for them has a martyr complex. I am not saying that everything one gets as a gift is needed or appropriate, but if my children or other family members regularly returned my gifts I would probably stop giving them. (I am pretty practical and usually check with the recipient and make sure I am getting what they want/need)
NO ONE wants to think of themselves as a cash cow to pay someone else's debts or cover the excessive spending in a lot of Yeshivas and day schools, but that is what grandparents seem to have become these days, at least in the eyes of the schools.

And don't get me started about looking into the contents of other people's cholent pots......

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

While I wholeheartedly agree that grandparents shouldn't have to pay for their grandchildren's tuition, it "looks bad" to be going away for Pesach or lavish vacations.

Ma'rit Ayin is all about something "looking bad" -- even if the circumstances are 100% legit.

Michelle said...

Old Lady,
No one should tell you or any other grandparent how to spend their money.

However, if your kids are on scholarship which means other people are working (and are frequently sacrificing to pay their own bills and others through scholarship enhanced tuition) for your kids, it is wrong for them to accept the trip.

The school CAN and SHOULD tell people on scholarship what they should spend their money on. As an extreme example, if someone on scholarship goes to many restuarants, though difficult to enforce, the school (on behalf of all those tuition paying parents helping them) needs to tell them to stop squandering their money and living off the backs of thers.

Lion of Zion said...


"I am NOT OBLIGATED to give money to my grandchildren's schools."

of course you're not obligated to give money to your grandkids' schools. it sucks that after all those years paying for your kids now some people expect you to pay for their kids well.

but still, if you yourself don't want to cover your grandkids' tuition deficit, why should complete strangers be forced to step up? while you shouldn't be responsible for this, imho they have even less of a responsibility.

Anonymous said...

I have mixed feelings about this. While the grandparents are not obligated to pay their grandchildren's tuition, perhaps they should ask themselves would it trouble me if my grandchildren did not go to jewish day school? If the answer is "yes," and the grandchildren are on scholarship and the grandparents have some extra money, then one wonders why some of that extra money is not being used for tuition.

Bruria said...

Isn't what this all boils down to the following--is it the community or the parents who are obligated to provide a yeshiva education for the children of the community? If a community decides that it is in the best interests of being frum that ALL children get a yeshiva education then it should be the community that figures out how to fund that education for all children and then funds it. And yes, that means that some parents and people in the community will be paying more for yeshivas than other people will be paying, will be giving tzedaka at a higher rate. That's a fact of life in every community. We aren't all economic clones of each other. We'd look really funny at a frum community that didn't provide a mikveh in the community because it is something of use to the entire mikveh. Funny how that mikveh doesn't cost %65 a pop. There the community keeps thinigs real. Not when it comes to schools.

If the community finds that funding this education has a negative financial affect on some people in the community--those paying full and those not--then shouldn't it AS A COMMUNITY adjust the schooling option so that it is affordable for all? Shouldn't everybody in the community decide that for the good of the community some of the school's conspicuous consumption should be reduced? You want to complain about Pesach trips? I'd like to complain about schools with multiple playing fields and fancy gyms and fancy auditoriums and really fancy buildings. I'd like to complain about schools with bloated administrations. I'd like to complain about schools that offer what should be extras chosen by parents for their children if they want them and can pay for them, like art instruction or music lessons. When my kids were in school their schools didn't have these fancy add ons and they got a fine education, not something I'm sure that the schools offer today with all of their extra doodads.

Either communities have to tailor their schools to be affordable for all or they have to provide more than one school: one for those who can spend to their hearts content and one that does what it is supposed to do--educate the kids--without all the extra frills.

If you are looking to the grandparents to plug the holes in the tuition for their children at least admit that the community model is broken and you don't have a real clue as to how to fix it, or you don't want to. And just what makes anyone think that grandparents are all able to put in that money for their grandchildren? We have 14 grandchildren and not all in the same school. The amount of money I could give to those schools and not cause myself financial problems or shortages? About $100 per school. Unless of course someone would like to tell me, in my 60s and still working, that I should not be having some conspicuous lavish expenditures, like cleaning help every week or eating out occasionally in a restaurant when we both get home late from work. On second thought, why would anyone with any midos be looking at how I spend my money or what I do?

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, the underlying issue is jealousy. Those of us (myself included) who thankfully are in the position to pay full tuition and maybe have a little left over for a small luxury (quick domestic trip, new car not used..) are jealous of those with real wealth (big house, nice vacation) as well as those on scholarship who seem to be living the same life as me. Now when someone on scholarship goes away for Pesach, no matter who pays, or has a bigger house b/c they bought before tuition and didnt take it into account and I am not able to, human nature takes over and it is too much. What I want is just one time for a principal or Chairman of the board to call me up and say thank you for doing it the right way.
Grandparents should not be responsible for tuition. Been there done that. They should be encouraged to donate to a school in appreciation for what they do for the grandchildren. But if they choose to give a gift of vacation, I have to overcome the jealousy and say "have a good time."

anotherview said...

As a parent I did what I am supposed to do. I raised my kids to know how to manage money. I also raised them to value a yeshiva education. And then these two values came into conflict. The schools where my grandchildren go keep raising and raising tuition. Even making good parnoseh my kids couldn't manage to pay the full tuition. So my husband and I do pay the difference, for all of our grandchildren, and none of my kids is on scholarship.

And I really hate the schools where the kids send their kids. Why? Because they assumed that we could do this. Based on what? Yes we can but we know a lot of people who can't. When we first started out on this runaway train we asked the yeshivas if we could be of some service in helping them to cohntrol costs--both of us with lots of experience in the financial sector and accounting. That they didn't want. When we made some suggestions as to where they could control costs, that they didn't want. They weren't even really happy that we were giving checks directly to the schools and asking for charitable receipts for the checks. And yes before you ask if a grandparent gives money to a school that is considered a contribution and can be deducted for charity purposes on your taxes. Your grandchildren not claimed by you as a dependent on your taxes, even if that grandchild is getting an education in that school, you are not receiving any goods or services for the money you donate.

But you know what? I hate that the schools have set themselves up so that grandparents are once again paying tuition. Just what are we getting for our money? Schools that can't add 2+2 and get four.

Lion of Zion said...


all your criticisms of our schools' financial model are valid. it needs to be fixed. but honestly i don't see that happening, and certainly not overnight.

so in the meantime, not one grandparent here has yet to explain why strangers have more of an obligation than they do to cover their grankids' tuition deficits (providing there is that ability)

Lion of Zion said...

"They weren't even really happy that we were giving checks directly to the schools and asking for charitable receipts for the checks."

why do the care (assuming, as you explained, that it's legal). they should be grateful.

Another view said...

They weren't happy Lion because on their books my kids were still not paying full tuition even though my donation made up any shortfall. They would have preferred that we give the money straight to the kids and let them pay the full tuition so their books would look better. Any accountants out there who would like to explain to these schools the IRS rulings and position on cash gifts? The administrator we dealt with has no business being an administrator. Getting smicha doesn't prepare you to be a skillful financial administrator. Neither does a BA in philosophy.

Anonymous said...

In reading exhaustive amounts of tuition comments over the past several weeks, I can only come to the conclusion that people don't want yeshiva education ENOUGH. Sure, they want their kids and grandkids to go to yeshiva. But they would rather not pay as much as they have to. Yeshiva isn't a choice for most people - they have to do it, for social/religious reasons - and therefore, like heating your house, it doesn't feel like you're getting something for the money, the way you feel when you buy a nice piece of furniture or a computer, or a vacation.

Those of us who grew up going to public school know that yeshiva is a CHOICE. People CHOOSE private school. When you CHOOSE to spend money on something, you should do it happily and willingly. If the community doesn't feel happy about spending money on yeshiva, there's a problem. I understand that costs are ridiculously high, but education happens to be expensive. That's why the government provides an education benefit - public school - to every resident who wants to make use of it.

If we really truly believe in yeshiva education, it should come before every luxury, because it is THE biggest luxury of all. We should be thrilled to give our children this wonderful yeshiva education, if we really believe in it.

I think the vast majority of the community believes in it, but not enough to want to spend their actual MONEY on it.

ProfK said...

I was away yesterday until late into the night. This morning I open up the blog and see this thread. Maybe I should go away more often? :)

I would like to answer a question while I'm here. "not one grandparent here has yet to explain why strangers have more of an obligation than they do to cover their grankids' tuition deficits (providing there is that ability)"

First, yeshivas have always gone to strangers to do their fundraising, both in the community and outside of it. It's the rare school that exists solely through monies donated by the parents. Stroll around Brooklyn and look at the names on those buildings. Most who donated the money aren't parents in those schools. Mostly school administrators have had to look elsewhere for the "big bucks." Unfortunately, a lot of those funding sources have cut down or dried up altogether, so yeshivas are stuck with raising more money from the school parents.

Now to the word strangers. If you live in a community, use its resources, then you aren't a stranger to others in the community. You are, or at least should be, related through community achdus. Your community lives or dies through the actions and attitudes of all of its members. Do you actually know all of these people by name? Irrelevant. I, personally, don't know anyone who would move to a community that didn't have in place certain structures--a shul, mikvah, yeshiva just to name a few. If I move to that community I become responsible for the health of that community, just as all the others are. So let's ditch the word strangers; we are all of us partners in our communities, and helping out our partners is part of what we should do.

An example: during the last financial turndown there were some in my community who were in danger of losing their homes. Not one person actually lost their home. The community pitched in, paid mortgages, put food on the table, donated to the local yeshivas to make up the shortfall. Did I know all of these people? No, but so what? We were all members of the same community.

Now to grandparents. There are a lot of grandparents who are already paying or helping out with the tuition load for their kids. There are grandparents who helped out their kids with tuition but can't give as much now. There are grandparents who never had the money to be able to help out. There are grandparents who are retiring and with their own financial worries to take care of now. There are grandparents who look at the way the community is structured and are very worried that the community will not have money, time or energy to deal with seniors' concerns, so they had better take care of making sure they will have the money to get what they need in their older years. They listen with amazement at some of those in the community who say that older parents will be taken care of by their children. Those same children who are straining to pay yeshiva tuitions or who can't pay all the tuition?

Undoubtedly, there are going to be a few people, a rare few people, who take advantage of a community's willingness/obligation to take care of its own. But for the most part, those on tuition reduction aren't conning the system, no matter what others may be saying.

I hope that you will never be in the position of the pain and embarrassment of having to go to a tuition committee and laying your life bare. But if that should happen I hope that your communities will understand and be sensitive to your needs. I hope that they will keep their mouths shut in making hurtful comments. If a person gives tzedaka in the sense of paying more so that others who cannot afford the tab can also send their children to yeshiva, but then spends a lot of time in loshon ho'rah speaking, the aveiroh cancels out the mitzvah.

One of the ways that God judges us is in our relationships bein odom l'chaveiroh. It would be lovely if we could be judged positively in this area.

Dave said...

Is it Tzedakah if you are compelled to give it?

If the schools charged tuition based on actual costs, and needs-based assistance were awarded through a separate organization, I think you'd see a lot less anger.

Lion of Zion said...


"Is it Tzedakah if you are compelled to give it?"

the rambam (i assume based on the gemara, but that's not where i saw it) is clear that a person who refuses to give tzedaka or who gives less than he is able to give is subject to כופין אותו by bet din.

now of course a day school is not bet din and i think it is highly debatable whether day school is really considered tzedakah. but theoretically compulsion does not negate the tzedakah aspect of giving.

Lion of Zion said...

or should i say the tzedakah aspect of taking.

Lion of Zion said...


"yeshivas have always gone to strangers to do their fundraising, both in the community and outside of it."

those are voluntary donations

"very worried that the community will not have money, time or energy to deal with seniors' concerns"

justifiable concerns. many are screwed.

"a shul, mikvah, yeshiva just to name a few"

certain things are communal requirements that even fall into the category of כופין אותו, e.g., building a shul and buying sifre torah/nach (i think also errecting an eruv, but don't tell that to my neighbors).
i don't recall chinuch explicitly falling under the כופין אותו rubric, but even if it does, i doubt chazal's mandate for educating the poor envisioned anything even slighly approximating the educational infrastructure we have today. is there really a halachik imerative to support a communal pseudo-prep day school from nursery to age 18 (and beyond) for 8-10 hours a day?
in some regards MO has outdone the RW when it comes to historical revisionism in this regard.

"There are a lot of grandparents who are already paying or helping out with the tuition load for their kids."

great. one's primary responsibility when it comes to tzedaka are one's own relatives (עניי ביתך קודם).

"Undoubtedly, there are going to be a few people, a rare few people, who take advantage of a community's willingness/obligation to take care of its own. But for the most part, those on tuition reduction aren't conning the system, no matter what others may be saying."

i think you underestimate the extent. or we have a different definition of "take advantage."

all this aside, you are definately a better person than i am

Old Lady said...

I never said my kids were on tuition assistance, they are not. But I help them pay tuition, not as a tax deductable contribution to the school to offset their reduction in tuition, but a direct tuition payment. (I am not an accountant, but I am pretty sure that it is illegal to donate money to a school for a tax write off so that members of your family can get a scholarship of equal value.)
I have worked in the business office at Day Schools for most of the last 14 years, it is almost a given that tuition increases every year,and tuition and fees also go up as children enter higher grades in school. No one outside our family is paying their way, for now, but I don't know how much longer my children will be able to cover the cost, even with my assistance.
When my kids were young we did not live in the NY Metro area. The elementary Yeshiva day school they attended had larger classes and squeezed $1.50 out of every dollar they got in tuition and donations. If anything their administrator was considerably UNDERPAID for the amount of time she put in and the work she did. I do not see that in the schools where my children attended high school or at YU, where the administration gets very high salaries and spent money on all kinds of narishkeit, not on quality educational practices or on salaries to hire qualified teachers either.(I still give a portion of my tzedakah to my children's Yeshiva Day school even though I no longer live in that community)

So, after I give my tzedakah each year, if I go away on Pesach with my family, I do not feel that I owe anyone an explanation or want to be told that my money would be better spent supporting yeshiva day schools. No one should be looking into my pocket and telling me how much more I am expected to give to schools with runaway spending habits and poor educational outcomes.

Anonymous said...

So I've got a few question of my own. The question of grandparents being required to pay tuition for grandkids boils down to high yeshiva tuitions. Some people can pay them and some can't. So my question I guess is who is really in charge of these schools, or maybe who owns them?

If these schools are non-profits then who's in charge of that non-profit? Administrators are usually paid employees, so saying a paid employee keeps raising tuition or won't open the books or things like that has to be nonesense. Who is he a paid employee of? That's the person or people that need to be gotten to. Is it the boards of the schools who own the yeshiva or make all the spending and hiring decisions? Well, who chooses those boards? Where do they get their authority to be the board from? It seems to me that there is where the problem lies.

Wouldn't it make more sense to get to the root of the problem before causing a war between grandparents, kids and community members? I'd guess that there always have been and always will be some families who will never be able to pay full tuition to a yeshiva. But if such families represent a way smaller percentage of the parents then they do now that could be sustainable. What can't be sustained is that each year more and more parents have to ask for at least some reduction in tuition. When they do that then tuition goes back up again and the next year you get even more parents who need the tuition help.And then that's when you start getting all the talk about the grandparents having to kick in the money.

These people, whoever they are, talk a lot about parents who don't have enough money cutting down and back on every thing they spend money on. They talk about doing without a car or a vacation or all kinds of things they call luxuries. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander too. It's not just parents who are in financial trouble, it's schools too. Where is the loud public call for those schools to be cutting down and back? Where is the call for the schools to cut out luxuries and pare down? And forget the call--where is the action? You know of any school that has publicly announced deep cuts to balance the books? You know of any schools who are cutting extra programs and extra staff?

Putting the blame on grandparents and stupid trips for Pesach is a way for the schools to shift the discussion and the anger onto someone else. It's a red herring to distract people from where the real problem stems. The problem is not that grandparents aren't pouring enough money into their kids schools or even if they should be doing that. The problem is in the schools themselves. Unless we force a solution to the problem that is based on the schools changing what they are doing there will never be enough money because they spend it faster than it can be printed.

Anonymous said...

I respectfully submit that even if the schools become more fiscally responsible, there is no way we as a community can sustain the lethal combination of large family size and universal private education. In American life, private school is almost exclusively for the wealthy. Yet we require private school for all Orthodox children, regardless of their parents' or even their community's earning power. It's a given that this can't be sustained. If we were intelligent, we would be looking for alternative education methods instead of trying to prop up a doomed system.

Lion of Zion said...


" In American life, private school is almost exclusively for the wealthy."

we are wealthy
the difference is that:
1) we squander our wealth on overpriced real estate
2) we have 4.8 kids per family to put through private school wereas non-Jews have 1.9 kids per family (or whatever the numbers are)

but agree with the conclusion

Anonymous said...

LOZ: Well, I wouldn't use the word squander. Real estate in the NYC suburbs is not like electronics that will be obsolete in a few years. Paying down a mortgage on a house is a method of forced savings (as opposed to taking cash out of "equity" to spend).

But we are what is known as "house rich, cash poor."

ProfK said...

Your comment " In American life, private school is almost exclusively for the wealthy"
finally solidified some thinking I've been doing for a while. I'm working on the posting about that thinking for next week. I believe that your statement is wrong from a definition perspective. Zipping lips until next week's posting.

Anonymous said...

almost exclusively - certainly not excluding the true poor and deserving inner-city kids who earn their scholarships

whether or not my statement is true, I still don't see the yeshiva system ultimately being viable

Anonymous said...

Totally confused by this one--"certainly not excluding the true poor and deserving inner-city kids who earn their scholarships." Just how does a kid earn a scholarship? Only two ways I can think of. Either that kid has scored out of sight on all the standardized tests and shows signs of genius. Or that kid has got a talent that is obvious. Private schools in particular like to point to really outstanding students in areas like these. Of course neither the genius nor the talent is likely obvious when a kid is 5 or 6, so the private school isn't admitting them to first grade on this basis. Private high schools might be more the case to admit these kids but not elementary schools.

So what's left? They are truly poor. So the schools admit a few of these kids--looks good for their public image and doesn't cost them much because almost everyone else in the school can shell out the money.

Why be so fast to say that these poor kids from the inner city earn their scholarships but not be willing to extend that to the poor frum kids in a yeshiva?

Barbara said...

Just found your blog and this was some introduction. As a grandmother I've got the following opinion. Don't anybody think that I didn't help me children plenty. I helped them to get an education, paying for yeshiva and college. I helped them to learn to be independent. I helped them to learn how to stand on their own two feet. I helped them to learn how to be an adult.

And I'm still helping them now. How? I don't pay their bills. They have a realistic view of what they can afford and they go on that basis. I'm helping them because the money my husband and I earn is being put away for later years so that I don't have to come begging to my children. I'm helping them because I pay my own way and set them an example to follow.

But about the gifts to the kids, are people seriously arguing that GRANDPARENTS shouldn't buy gifts for their kids or grandkids if they want to? We mostly don't give the kids gifts that scream money to the rest of the world, but if we did, just whose business would this be?

Dave said...

We mostly don't give the kids gifts that scream money to the rest of the world, but if we did, just whose business would this be?

Assuming that in this case your children are unable to pay for their children's private school education, the answer would be "The people who are paying for the grandchildren's tuition."

That's the only issue.

Barbara said...

Okay Dave, and who gets to decide what kinds of gifts scream money? Forget a trip to a hotel for Pesach for now. Is buying a computer for a child or grandchild a screaming money gift? How about if I took my grandkids to a matinee of The Lion King during a vacation from school, which I did a few years back? Does that scream money? Or when our son was making Pesach in his home for the first time and didn't have any of the things to do it yet, we bought a silver seder plate for their anniversary and Pesach? Once you open up the bag and allow people to say that X should not be purchased by grandparents whose kids are on tuition reduction, where would it end? I'll tell you where it would end, and we can see it in the way people are already talking today. It would end that buying a grandchild a book would be money that should go to tuition. It would be that buying a grandchild a new coat would be money that should go to tuition--after all, he could have either used the old one another year or gotten a used one from a thrift shop. And it would end with the comment that was at the end of the posting, the one about tuition reduction parents better not put any meat into their cholents. Yeah, that comment was for real, so don't say that nobody would say it.

Dave said...

They have no right to tell you what you can and cannot do with your money.

And you have no right to tell them what they can and cannot do with their money.

They cannot (and should not) be telling you what you can give to your children.

What they can do (should they choose) is determine what THEY want to give (in the form of tuition remission) to your children. And that is their decision, just as much as what you give your children is yours.

Anonymous said...

tesyaa - Real estate in the NYC suburbs is not like electronics that will be obsolete in a few years.

And even this is not a sure thing as anyone who bought in and around Detroit during the boom times can tell you. If the NY area were to lose another million people as it did in the 70's (?), you could see some pain in this regard as well.


Heshy said...

I can understand this from both sides. No, I don't want anyone else telling me what I can or should do for my children and grand children. Yes, I can understand that the schools have limited money and they may not be able to give my kids a big reduction in tuition. Yes, a vacation for the whole family to a Pesach hotel could fund a lot of tuition. Yes, it's a luxury trip. So the community and schools would like me to forego my luxury trip to the kids. Fine, but what are they bringing to the ttable? What are the schools willing to forego in order to make tuition affordable? It's as much an obvious public luxury for a school to have enough administrators to people a small third world country as that Pesach trip. It's as much an obvious public luxury to have humongous buildings and huge multi acre sites and every extra every thought of as that Pesach trip. I wouldn't mind helping the kids out so much if it wasn't so obvious that what the schools want is that I should forego the luxuries for me and my family so that they can pile on the luxuries for themselves.