Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Some Suggestions for Battling the Tuition Crisis.

There were readers arguing the merits of home schooling as a solution to the tuition crisis in my previous posting. One argued for only home schooling the Limudei Kodesh portion. I believe that sufficient "facts" went out to show that this is not really a viable alternative for most frum Jews. The cost can be astronomical and the time involved is also much more then what was discussed, when you add in prep time and grading time and outing times for socialization and enrichment. Let's put home schooling aside for now. What if we don't consider it as a viable alternative for most people? Then what are we left with?

If frum people are desperate enough to even mention taking their kids out of yeshiva and putting them into public school because they cannot afford what tuition costs then they also should be strong enough to do some things that are necessary so their kids can stay in yeshiva.

First thing that parents need to do is to learn to be activists on their own behalf. They need to learn to stop kvetching in private and start banding together. There is a lot of truth to that statement that there is strength in numbers. Yeshiva administrations may ignore one person who complains and threatens to remove their children, but 40 parents? 80 parents? 200 parents?

Scenario #1: Your child's third grade class has 20 children in it. All 20 parents band together and go to the yeshiva as a group. They tell the yeshiva that they are not going to be registering their children for next year because tuition has become impossible to pay at the present rates. Now the yeshiva may smile and say "of course" and think you are bluffing--don't bluff. If they take it all the way to the start of school you stand pat. They are going to have to buckle. Why? Because they are going to have to fire the rebbi who teaches that grade, or the morah. They are going to have to fire the English teacher. They are going to have an empty room in the building that will be a tangible reminder that parents are not sitting ducks. The rumor that parents are deserting the school is going to catch fire and spread--and yes, you can help it spread. Those who give the big bucks to the school as support just might not like to hear that there is rebellion fomenting. They might rethink their donations. The school enrollment will go down and their NYSTL allotment will also go down, leaving them short and having to pay for books they would get free otherwise. Ditto other programs. And what if two classes stand pat and say they won't register? There was a marvelous book many years ago entitled "What if They Gave a War and Nobody Came?" Well, what if they had a first day of school and nobody showed up?

The school, if it knows what is good for it, is going to come back to the parents and ask to negotiate. What would it take to register the kids? How much is enough to reduce the tuition? What are they willing to give up in services for that tuition cut?

One thing the parents should ask for at this point is that the school open its books to a committee selected by the parents. They are going to scream bloody murder at this point. You know why? Because an awful lot of expenses that are going to show up on those books are going to be rather iffy to parents. Just because you are a bright rosh yeshiva, it doesn't follow that you are a careful administrator or a financially savvy one. And roshei hayeshivot also seem to suffer from a condition called "building-itis." One yeshiva builds an imposing new structure at phenomenal cost and all the other yeshivas catch the disease. There is routine maintenance and then there is the game of one-up-manship.

But let's say for a moment that the yeshiva won't open its books (a red flag if there ever was one.) What are you willing to give up in services in the school for getting the tuition reduced? The federal lunch program does not cover anywhere near all of the expenses in running a kitchen in the school and providing lunch for the students. They don't pay for the cooks and the kitchen staff and the clean up crew. What if no lunch was served? What if you prepared lunch for your children at home? How much would they go down in tuition? How about school libraries and the attendant staff? How much does all that cost the school a year? Get rid of it and reduce tuition. That is what public libraries are for--you know, those free buildings with far more available then any school library has. Look at the administrative staff of the yeshiva. How many different principals and assistant principals and associate principals and grade supervisors are there? Why? Having worked in one school where nepotism was the rule of the day, I can tell you that there are too many, particularly in an economic crunch. Are you really paying for the services of a gym teacher? Look at everything, every single thing that a school provides and decide on what can go while money is in short supply. And no, you can't have it all unless you are willing and able to pay for it.

Then there is this. Use the barter system. How many hours a week would you or can you "donate" to the school as a volunteer to cover services that would otherwise have to be paid for? When the cook in my son's yeshiva ketana went out sick for a week suddenly, another mother and I went into school and took care of cooking lunch for the time she was out. Strange thing was that the students ate better and complaints went down to about zero. Even the menahel snuck down for seconds. Two of us managed the lunch for about !60 people. No, we didn't get paid--we volunteered.

What skill do you have that the yeshiva could use? Can you use a paint brush? What if 100 parents got together to paint the inside of the school instead of hiring an expensive firm to do it? What if groups of mothers/fathers came in every day and emptied wastebaskets and swept floors and cleaned bathrooms? What if those with secretarial skills volunteered to write correspondence and answer phones? What if those with financial skills volunteered to keep the books? What if qualified parents volunteered to work in supervisory positions such as assistant principals and grade supervisors? What if those with computer knowledge and skills volunteered their services as teachers or as keepers of the school databases? What if, what if, what if? If there are enough parents in a yeshiva then the volunteer "burden" won't fall on any given person for undue hours. Volunteer positions can be rotated among groups of parents.

In any business negotiations, both sides have to feel that they have something to lose by not negotiating and something to gain if they do. Both sides need to look at what they are willing to compromise on. Both sides have to be willing to admit there is a problem and the present solution isn't working. Both sides need to realize that sometimes a band aid will cover a wound and sometimes it won't. Some times major surgery is needed. As long as parents will not and do not come together in a unified group they will not be negotiated with. United you stand; divided you fall.


Anonymous said...

"Scenario #1: Your child's third grade class has 20 children in it. All 20 parents band together and go to the yeshiva as a group."

But this will never happen. Ever. My daughter is in 3'rd grade, her classmates are roughly as follows:

* 1 girl is the daughter of the president of the schools board. The family is super wealthy (like almost $1 billion!). They pay full tuition for all 5 of their kids plus make a 6 figure donation to the school each year.
* 2 girls (twins) are daughters of another board member, also quite wealthy. They pay full tuition and make a chai thousand donation to the school each year.
* 6 children come from families that are wealthy and have no problem with full tuition. They would never even consider joining such a group.
* 4 children are already receiving tuition assistance, some sizable. One parent works part time at the school (other classes also have parents working at the school).
* 4 children come from families with a moderate plus income and pay full tuition but are feeling the pinch of the high tuition level ($12,600 each this year). We are in this group.

It just won't work. Unfortunately.

Bas~Melech said...

I agree that it's important for yeshivas to have good financial planning. Don't know if it's really necessary to open the books publicly, as there will always be different opinions and there's a limit to how much stink you want to raise, but perhaps the parent body might ask the school to share this information with a selected team of financially savvy, mutually trusted people.

The point you raised about volunteerism is also very noteworthy. Even in public schools, parent/grandparent volunteers do a lot of things that could have been paid for: cafeteria serving, library (shelving, read-alouds), a lot of things that are often done by assistant teachers. True, the average parent doesn't have loads of time but many do find ways to give to the community -- why not start with your child's school? It sends a powerful message to the kids, too.

I don't think that a boycott would be a practical way to go, though. The likelihood that you'll have enough people in one class who both care hard enough AND have that kind of guts... not likely at all. It's important to band together as a group but I think it would have to start with less aggressive measures.

Lion of Zion said...

"What are they willing to give up in services for that tuition cut?"

i'm not sure what your context is, but in MO schools the question is not what the school is willing to give up but rather what the parents are willing to give up. you can't have it both ways. a quality education (dual curriculum no less) with all the frills will never be cheap. (compare with the high tuition of non-jewish private schools.)

i'm not saying you are wrong about the need to open up the books, etc. (although in a MO school it is not the rosh yeshivah who makes financial decisions like you describe it), but i think parents need to be realistic.

the only solution i see is to make more $

Anonymous said...

I think the post meant that the frills are what parents might have to give up if you want to reduce tuition. I agree that making more money seems to be required also, but what can you cut out for now in order to cut tuition now. The question is also if parents would consider a reduction in tuition per child of $1000 as a savings. If you are paying $30 thousand for 3 kids, would only paying $27 be a help to you or would you need a lot more?

Anonymous said...

Opening up the books to a committee chosen by the parents would be a great idea. My husband is an accountant and he has tried and tried to figure out where all the tuition money is going to but he can't know without the books being opened. He did come up with some estimated figures though that make you wonder.

Our local yeshiva has their building paid for because the person whose name is on the building paid to have it built. The building is about 20 times the size of my house. If I pay about seven thousand a year to heat and air condition my house and have electricity, then the school should be paying about 20 times what I do or $140 thousand minus the summer months when they are not in session. If every teacher gets paid $50 thousand a year, some getting less and some more because they have been there longer, and you need one hebrew and one english teacher for each class then from nursery to 6th grade you need 18 teachers and for 6th to 8th you need 7 teachers because of departmental. That is 25 teachers. You need $1,250,000 for those teachers. Add in some administrative salaries and cleaning crew salaries. Make them even expensive salaries and add in another $500 thousand. Add in $100 thousand a year for insurance. Now give them $500 thousand for all the odds and ends they need to buy or repair. That comes to about $2,400,000 a year to run that school with 11 classes across nursery to 8th grade and with about 20 kids in each class.

Now divide those 220 students into the amount needed to run the school. That's over $10 thousand per student to run the school! Now figure that some people in the school can't afford that tuition. Let's say that 1/3 of the students would get full tuition scholarship. That leaves the school with $800 thousand to make up through donations or through raising the tuition for the rest of the parents to cover the deficit.

That's why my husband says open the books. He can only estimate the costs so there is no way to know what the school is really spending or how much it is taking in. But he thinks that the $10,000 figure may be close to what it is actually costing.

G said...

You can't solve a problem until you know what the causes are.

Step one has to be a look at the books by a trusted third party.

Step two has to be an analysis of who get's what type of tuition break, again by a trusted third party.

Step three has to be an organized effort by ALL community institutions/organizations to keep community money in the community.

--The idea of 20 sets of parents banding together sounds good in theory but falls short in practice. Within that 20 there is sure to be a handful of famalies receiving heavy support from the school tuition board. I find it hard to beleive that they would join up, right now the system is working to their advantage.

ProfK said...


Your husband's figures would make sense except for this: most yeshiva teachers are not making salaries on par with the public school systems. That $50 thousand a year is an "I wish" rather than a real figure, even if taken as an average.

In 1999, when I "retired" from the yeshiva system and went into full time college teaching, I was making a "whopping" salary of $16,000 a year, teaching high school, with no benefits. I was one of the most expensive secular studies teachers (only 2 other teachers made that much and we were making more then the assistant principal for secular studies was making), and my salary was way higher then most of the limudei kodesh morot (I should note here that those morot with children in the school were not paying tuition for those children, so I suppose their salaries could actually be considered as higher). That same year I interviewed at Yeshiva of Flatbush, a school that has an internal teacher's "union" and which pays higher salaries then the bais yaakov type of schools do. Their salary, for a 5-day week, as opposed to the 4-day week I had been working? $21,000. Keep in mind that rebbis have always been paid more than the other teachers in a yeshiva, but even their salaries are not stellar.

Granted, salaries have gone up since 1999 but without the books open it would be impossible to name an actual figure for teacher salaries.

ProfK said...

Thank you for mentioning the important point that community money needs to stay in the community. I cannot even begin to count the number of appeal letters and phone calls I get for schools that are outside of Staten Island asking for money. When I give yeshivas money it is to those yeshivas that are in my community. Charity really needs to begin at home or in home communities. It's only after community needs have been met that one should give to other institutions and organizations.

Lion of Zion said...


"Lion, I think the post meant that the frills are what parents might have to give up if you want to reduce tuition."

i guess i misread it. the problem is that there are parents who can afford the tuition and would not be willing to give up some of the frills that they consider essential.

"I agree that making more money seems to be required also . . ."

living more modestly also. i know there are plenty of people who really can't afford tuition. but there are plenty of people who claim they can't afford it while living in homes larger than they really need, driving cars fancier than they need, eating foods they don't need, etc. people will have to learn to tighen the belt.

"The question is also if parents would consider a reduction in tuition per child of $1000 as a savings. If you are paying $30 thousand for 3 kids, would only paying $27 be a help to you or would you need a lot more?"

this is something i posted about. i don't think any of the most popular suggestions for tuition reduction (vouchers, coop buying, more oversight, etc.) will really have that much of a practical effect. for a lot of people even a reduction from 30k to 20k won't help. there is one way that it does help though--when tuition is considered from the birth control perspective (which is a very real result of high tuition). i.e., families that are able to scrape tuition together but can't afford to have another child because then tuition would become too expensive. so say a couple has 3 kids paying 30k for tuition. if tuition can be reduced to 20K, the overall burden is decreased from 90k to 60k. they were paying 90k to begin with, so now they can have another child.

Lion of Zion said...



was this full time? i tried getting a job there ca. 1998 and the starting salary was 31k (or 33k?) with crappy benefits (that didn't even kick in right away). of course even 31k is a joke and in retrospect i thank god i didn't get the job.

Lion of Zion said...


the post of mine i referred to above is at http://agmk.blogspot.com/2008/01/is-there-really-tuition-crisis.html#links

ProfK said...

Welcome to the real world of yeshiva sexism. I was applying to teach high school English and I am female--2 strikes against me. Yeshivas have traditionally paid their male staff more, particularly for math and science, even as late as the 90's, on the assumption that their salaries weren't really contributing to living expenses. Yes, their benefits were nothing to write home about, but they at least were paying them--the bais yaakov type schools paid zero benefits.

This is the same school that in the early 70's hired me in June to teach a sixth grade secular studies program and in August, when I showed up looking pregnant, they fired me. I wasn't going to sue a yeshiva, although in retrospect I wish I had. I still have all the paperwork they sent me. And some people wonder why there are frum feminists.

Anonymous said...

Rae, I can't argue with your husbands estimates because I don't have any real figures to work with but there are yeshivas that are charging less than $10 thousand a year in tuition. How are they managing that? Maybe they have bigger donators making up the difference. But if they don't then maybe we should be asking them how they manage and using what they do to cut costs in other yeshivas charging more.

Anonymous said...

1. elementary schools would not even consider doing away lunch, because some children would be bringing in "ham and cheese" sandwiches and sharing them with the rest of the class. With school lunch, at least these kids get one kosher meal per day. ("ham and cheese" could mean anything from non-kosher food, to holov stam, to simply having some children bring milchig and other fleishig food)

2. I think you are not up to date with the current trends, nodays public libraries are off limits. When filling out an application for one of the high schools there was an actual question if my daughter had a Public Library Card. We were warned to lose our library card or she won't get in.

3. That $16K is what teacher receives. You have to understand that school must also pay $1120 for Social Security. So, suddenly $16K becomes $17,120. What other hidden costs are there that schools have to pay for $16K teachers?

Anonymous said...

There has to be somewhere to cut costs in yeshiva education or we are on the road to making that education a luxury that only a very few people will be able to afford. We right now believe that a yeshiva education is something that all frum kids must have. If I look at Rae's figures, one third of the parents in her hypothetical yeshiva don't pay any tuition. So say that something gets more expensive and they are going to have to raise tuition again. That will price out more parents, so now you are going to have to raise tuition for those that are paying and even more will not be able to pay. Will the 20 or 30 or 40 percent of the parents who have the money to pay tuition, even if it goes to $20 thousand or more per child be willing to pay that so that the other kids can pay no or very low tuition? My guess is that tuition reaches a certain point and then those parents say no, I won't pay for my kids and all those other kids as well.

Scraps said...

Wow...where my sister teaches, they legally can't fire her because she's pregnant, even she was a horrible teacher, because they're scared of discrimination lawsuits. Then again, she doesn't teach in a yeshiva/BY, so that might have to do with it...

Anyway, about the subject at hand: I agree that it would be a good idea for schools to barter with parents for services in exchange for tuition reductions; in many cases, the tuition reductions would probably cost them less than what they'd have to pay someone to do the jobs the parents are now filling.

And hellooooo, transparency! I wish all Jewish institutions had it, not just schools (although schools would be a good place to start). Schools, communal organizations, tzedakahs--I'm 100% sure that they all have money that's being wasted in certain areas. It's ridiculous that we, as a community, allow for this to go on. I can't wait for crunch time, when the endless funds come to a sudden stop because no one works anymore and there are no "big inheritances" because the parents/grandparents have spent all their money supporting their kids, grandkids, etc... But I know you've blogged about this before, and I digress. Transparency of school budgets would probably do a lot to reduce waste, I can imagine. Unfortunately, I don't see it happening anytime soon because, as you rightly pointed out, the schools are going to raise holy hell before they'll let something like that happen.

ProfK said...

I am fully aware that some schools have assured going to the library. Personally, any yeshiva that made that a condition of my children's attending there I would not send to. But there is also this. The schools that assur library cards are also generally the schools that don't have libraries to begin with, unless you count a few judaica books written in English stuck up on a shelf a library. I don't.

Sheesh, I remember when some of the right wing yeshivas began making having a television one of those conditions for admittance. Parents were quick to say that they had one "only for watching the news" and that it was locked in their bedroom in the closet. And some lied and said they had no tv even while they did. We already know the attitude towards computers and the Internet that some yeshivas have. Now library cards are on par with television? What's next? Woman wearing veils in public? Ooops sorry, that one has been tried already and the head of that group is under arrest for all kinds of "little" problems, like child abuse and condoning incest.

Can anyone spell common sense?

ProfK said...


The laws against discrimination were already on the books when I got fired. But as I mentioned, was I going to sue a yeshiva? If you think that wearing a ponytail or a denim skirt is bad for shidduchim, what do you suppose a public reputation for having sued a yeshiva would do? Which yeshiva would have admitted my children knowing that I had once sued a yeshiva for not following the letter of the law?

ProfK said...

mlevin, sorry but what hidden costs for teachers? I've worked in administration and teachers can get two things from the school: their salary and benefits. Benefits may include health insurance and savings/retirement plans that an employee contributes to. The more to the right the yeshiva, the less likely that a yeshiva is paying any benefits. One such yeshiva where I have a friend teaching, offers health insurance for the teaching staff, and it only costs them $685 a month from their paychecks, after tax. No dental or vision insurance included and it's an HMO type of insurance rather than a PPO insurance. And you can't take the insurance until you have been working there a full year.

The social security payments the school has to make on behalf of the teachers as their portion is the cost of doing business. In Rae's example above she has 22 teachers. Using your figures for the $16,000 salary that would be about an additional $24,000 that the school needs to budget for, but she also gave the school an extra $500,000 in its budget to cover incidentals such as social security. It's not the social security payments that are causing the tuition problems.

Anonymous said...

ProfK-That the gist of the problem in the frum community. People afraid to sue because of shidduchim. People afraid to reveal problems because of shidduchim.

I remember myself in elementary school. One girl was abviously abused by her father (in the name of religion, of course). Instead of calling authorities they just devised various reasons to keep her from home, like invitations for shabbos, summer camps and etc. But this girl still had a younger sister and mother. What about them?

Anonymous said...

You mentioned one of those hidden costs up above--(I should note here that those morot with children in the school were not paying tuition for those children, so I suppose their salaries could actually be considered as higher).

Those 16K morot were actually making 46K if they had 3 kids in the school at 10K tuition. By not paying the tuition they are taking money from the general fund used to pay for everything else. But I guess you can say it's not really hidden if everyone knows about it, and I guess they are counted in the group that gets full tuition assistance. But then those teachers are working at way below what a regular teacher would take in salary so I suppose it all evens out.

ProfK said...

You are 100% right. There are an awful lot of dirty little secrets that are swept under the rug all in the cause of not washing our dirty laundry in public, of not causing a chilul Hashem, of not making problems for shidduchim. I would comment more fully, but then I'd be here until tomorrow some time and I need to get to work. Be sure, however, that a future posting will raise the problem.

Anonymous said...

So my comment will probably draw some ire, but how do you determine if you can "afford another a child?" Perhaps this is a thinking of the more "yeshivish" set, but can you really make a decision like that? People with great jobs lose them in one day. I'm not proposing that everyone should have 12 kids but I would like to know how does one suggest balancing this out so you can have a big family, pay the yeshiva tuition bills, and manage to see the big family every once in a while? Is saying "have some bitachon" going to make half of you groan out loud?

G said...

So my comment will probably draw some ire, but how do you determine if you can "afford another a child?"

How about responsibly?

Is saying "have some bitachon" going to make half of you groan out loud?

That depends on who you are planning on having bitachon in?

Anonymous said...

As a rule of thumb, at least in a commercial setting, you expect a direct-bill worker (in a school context, a teacher) to cost your customer something like 3 times salary. The difference includes taxes and benefits, expenses on physical plant and supplies and overhead for non-direct bill employees, like (for a school) the administration, the library, the janitors, and financial side. One might imagine that a market wage for a qualified teacher on a 10 month year would be around $50K. That means that a classroom must bring in $150K. If there are 15 kids, and 2/3 of the nominal tuition is paid, after subtracting scholarships to both the needy and the teachers, (these numbers are approximately correct for my kid's school, which does publish a budget) the tuition must be $15K per kid. (as it is in my child's)

Now, perhaps with hard work or barter arrangements (by the way, I believe these properly result in taxable income) the overhead could be reduced to 100%, reducing tuition to $10K, although that would be difficult. It is also a 1 shot gain, and won't reduce the growth rate of tuition.

If the demographics support, you could increase the class size to twenty, which gives you a tuition of $11.25K. Beyond that you are required both by halocha and by educational practice to add an aide, which limits how much tuition reduction you can achieve by increasing class size.

The bottom line is that schooling costs money. If you want to have 10 kids per family, pay teachers a living wage, and send all the kids to private school, you need a lot of money to come from somewhere.

I would add that transparent rule for scholarship aid would be a boon. People like me who scrimp and save to pay full tuition sometimes feel like suckers when other families, who are happy to tell us home much aid they are getting, (and gripe about how the scholarship committee process is degrading) are able to afford luxuries we can't, or make simchas on a scale that leave our children jealous. A scholarship system based strictly on income and FAFSA forms , with published standards might be better. As would administrators with enough sense not to tease our kids about getting to school in a fifteen year old car.

Lion of Zion said...


"Yeshivas have traditionally paid their male staff more . . . on the assumption that their salaries weren't really contributing to living expenses."

i wasn't aware that flatbush (which you brought up above) does this. what they probably do is pay extra $ for extra schooling, in which case semichah counts. this is not discrimination, but standard policy in many workplaces (including public schools).

or does flatbush too outright pay men more than women and i am just being naive?

"particularly for math and science"

the $32k i mentioned was for jewish history

"I wasn't going to sue a yeshiva"

why not? for the same reason that you didn't sue the school, parents will never band together to do what you suggested in the post. nothing personal, but a lot of bloggers have great ideas that will not get implemented. if they have to remain anonymous (for understandable reasons), then why should anyone else have the courage to speak up?

Lion of Zion said...


"elementary schools would not even consider doing away lunch"

not true. some have done away with it (i know offhand of flatbush and north shore). you can either bring from home or pay daily to have food delivered from one of a number of local restaraunts. that's right, even your 3-year old can get sushi every monday and pastrami every tuesday, etc.

now THAT deserves a post.

"some children would be bringing in "ham and cheese" sandwiches and sharing them with the rest of the class."

not an issue in a lot of schools, especially where you live.

"to simply having some children bring milchig and other fleishig food"

iirc, when i was in elementary school home lunchers could not bring fleishig

"public libraries are off limits . . ."

my first reaction was "holy crap" and i wondered if i was on the right blog. but the truth is i can understand this. in general i am against the idea that the school serve as an inquisitor, but the truth is your daughter probably does not belong in a public library

"That $16K is what teacher receives. You have to understand that school must also pay $1120 for Social Security."

there are definitely perks that (sort of but not quite) compensate for being an underpaid teacher, but social security is not one of them. payroll tax is the law, and all employers must pay this for their (w-2) employees.

Lion of Zion said...


"And hellooooo, transparency! I wish all Jewish institutions had it, not just schools"

agreed. note that many jewish orgs have a modicum of transparency because they must file some basic numbers with the irs for their non-profit status. but fwiu, yeshivot genrally incoportate as churches and thus don't have this requirement.


"Those 16K morot were actually making 46K if they had 3 kids in the school at 10K tuition."

this will soon be a thing of the past, at least in MO schools. some have already phased this out.


"People like me who scrimp and save to pay full tuition sometimes feel like suckers . . ."

you are a sucker

"A scholarship system based strictly on income and FAFSA forms . . ."

the problem with this is that it does not take into account unreported monies. on paper, the civil servant looks wealthier than the owner of a 99 cents store. also, does fafsa take assets into account?

Lion of Zion said...


"but how do you determine if you can "afford another a child?""

very simple. if every penny you will make for the forseeable future is already allocated, and another child will add 8-35k a year of tuition that you clearly have no means for, then this means you can't afford another child.

"Is saying "have some bitachon" going to make half of you groan out loud?"

groan. money does not grow on trees nor does it fall from Heaven (unless you win the lottery). imho, "bitachon" is nothing more than a code word/euphemism for living off of parents/in-laws, the jewish community at large or the government (sometimes illicitly), or a combination thereof.

Anonymous said...

Lion of Zion:

Of course, anyone who has income not reported on his tax form is a gazlan who is unable to do t'shuvah, as he has stolen from the public. I suppose such a one can steal from the school in good conscience, too.

I hope you were kidding with your other remark.

Anonymous said...

I didn't mean to make a blanket statement about bitachon in that everything comes from G-d and one does not have to work. I just can't help but wonder if I would have been born in the first place if my parents had calculated to the tee how much another child would have cost them. And my dad is working and not mooching off my grandparents.

ProfK said...

Perhaps I needed to make this clearer. The year in which I was fired because I was pregnant was 1972. Not only was there a question of how the frum community would have regarded someone who sued a yeshiva, there would have been the problem that women in the secular working world were getting fired for being pregnant also. The equality "revolution" was still in its infancy. I would have had no legal support group, no real precedent setting by the courts to support any law suit I brought. The school would have laughed off such a suit because it would have known that my chances for winning such a suit were impossibly small. In today's world I might not have thought twice about bringing that suit.

The frum world still pretty much tries to sweep problems within it under the carpet and out of sight. Back in the 70's the community acted as if there were absolutely no problems of any kind whatsoever. And heaven help anyone who would openly suggest otherwise or act as if this was not true. I can state with absolute certainty, having seen first hand what that time period is like, that I couldn't have found an attorney who would have been enthusiastic about suing a school, particularly a religious school, over something as "trivial" as being fired for being pregnant. There is a big difference between standing up and fighting for what you believe is right and purposefully turning yourself and your young family into pariahs.

ProfK said...

Re your statement "in general i am against the idea that the school serve as an inquisitor, but the truth is your daughter probably does not belong in a public library" there is no "truth" involved here at all. This is your opinion, not a fact. Do I disagree with you? Yes, vehemently.

Just where is it that you think that this daughter does belong? On 13th Avenue and 18th Avenue or on Avenue J frittering away time shopping for overpriced clothes? Shall we keep that daughter locked up at home when she is not safely locked up at yeshiva? Shall we see to it that she never, ever sees or hears anything of the outside world? Shall we tell her all the fairy stories about the rich prince that will come riding in on a white horse and take her away to a life of luxury when her reality is going to be that she will be the one doing the supporting? Since when did bas Yisroel become equated with uneducated illiterate girl?

Or is it that we are worried that if a girl goes to the library she might actually read a book, many books, and discover that she is bright. Oh my, what a tragedy--a world filled with bright frum women. Bright frum women who just might begin to wonder why the hell whether or not they can make a shidduch may depend on whether their family uses plastic to cover the tablecloth or not, or whether their family stacks or scrapes.

And just on a practical note here. Those "marvelous" kosher cookbooks that are coming out by the dozens cost $25 and way upwards. In the library are hundreds of such books available for free. And how to books for cleaning tips. And for house repairs. And for all the practical aspects of life. No library for that daughter? Give me a break!

Lion of Zion said...


unfettered internet access, thousands of tryef books and boys are all unacceptable in the RW (yeshivish, haredi whatever you want to call it) world. hence, it makes sense that a library, which houses all 3 forbidden fruits, should be off limits (at the very least when unchaperoned).

i personally have no problem with the library and i agree with what you wrote. but if mlevin wants to send her (?) daughter to this school and she presumably shares its hashkafah (which includes banning internet, treyf books and boys), then no, her daughter does not belong in the library.

Lion of Zion said...


"is a gazlan who is unable to do t'shuvah, as he has stolen from the public."

interesting concept

"I hope you were kidding with your other remark."

i wasn't kidding, but i honestly didn't mean to insult you either. quite the opposite, kol hakavod to you that you have integrity. but this still makes you a sucker. doubtlessly you are paying in part to subsidize a child whose parents should really be paying to subsidize you.

Lion of Zion said...


"The year in which I was fired because I was pregnant was 1972."

thanks for clearing that up

"In the library are hundreds of such books available for free."

little in life is free, including (for some of us) library books. i invetibly pay more in overdue fines that the cost of the boook itself

Anonymous said...

Lion of Zion:

The "stole from the public" part is from "Iggrot Moshe", and the "therefore can't do t'shuvah" is the Rambam.

ProfK said...

I'm aware that the Brooklyn library system is not connected to the other main borough libraries but I would imagine that some of their basic rules are the same.

In the SI libraries Internet access is not unfettered. There is a time limit. The computers with Internet access are near the librarian's desk with the screens facing the desk. The librarians can thus spot anyone who should happen to get on a site not acceptable. People walk by those computers all the time--certainly no visual pornography viewing going on.

Treif books? 11 years ago this upcoming June a whole group of us from different areas of the city were unprivileged to hear a well know RW menahel of both a girls and boys institution get all riled up and shout that all English books should be burned. He joined in good company when he said that: Hitler had said it before him.

There are books that are not appropriate to age and books that contain material that is the antithesis of what we teach our children. Presumably we also teach our children that reading books that present views contrary to our views are not books we want them to read. When they are adults the decision of what they read is out of our hands. And if they are still children (and yes, 13 is still a child), where are the parents on that trip to the library? As to boys, presumably the ones that are also RW aren't in the library. Any others that are in the library are no different then any boys who would be in the grocery store or walking on the street or anywhere else a person might find themselves. If a girl is "safe" from these boys in those places, then the library is no different.

Re the idea of treif, we don't ban frum Jews from shopping in a supermarket that contains both kosher and non kosher items. We teach them what to look for on a product. We tell them which items require a hechsher, which don't, which require checking with an authority for. We tell them which ingredients can make something treif. We tell them when what would be treif in one situation is not treif in another (ingredients in prescription medicines for instance or in household cleansers.) If we are being fully honest we also tell them that our Rav holds that product X is treif but that there are others who hold that it is not. We are also careful to point out that all issues of kashrut are not about things that are really treif but that are designated as unsuitable depending on our personal hashkafas. Chalav Yisroel and Chalav stam come to mind here. Chalav stam is not treif, although there are some who hold with only chalav Yisroel who indiscriminately throw the word treif at chalav stam. This same discussion can take place about books.

I taught in an RW high school in which you could not teach Jane Austen's works. The reason given was that they were romances and that men and women had relationships in them. Yup, we banned books in which unmarried men and women were not allowed to be private in each other's company, in which parent's chaperoned their children's "dates," in which those few characters who went against parental wishes found themselves punished and became social pariahs. The school said the books were "treif" without checking out the ingredients and without checking with an expert as to what was really in the products.

Just a thought: I wonder how the Rambam might have turned out if he had not been allowed to read the works of Aristotle and Plato, the "English" books of his time period.

Re your overdue books, you might want to check with your library system, but in our system books can be renewed online if you find that you can't make it back to the library for the due date. Could save you a bundle of money.

Anonymous said...

My daughter came home from 6th grade very confused. Her morah had told the class that going to the library was ossur and that they should tear up their library cards if they had one. We are a house of readers and I take my children to the library regularly so this disturbed me greatly. When I made an appointment to see the teacher she told me that I was doing a disservice to my daughter by encouraging her in empty pursuits. That the true job of a bas yisroel was to better herself through reading only holy works and in being of service to her family and the community. Reading was wasting time that could be spent in doing chesed for others. Then this woman asked if I didn't have things around the house my daughter could help me with instead of reading treif books. And then she added the clincher--it would be hard for shidduchim if my daughter got the reputation of reading secular books.

My husband and I spent many hours discussing this and how the school and our home were entering into a battle for who would decide how our daughter grew up. It was a hard decision but we changed our girls over to another school. The library book issue was just the tip of the iceberg of the differences between home and school. And yet we would be considered by others to be RW rather than MO. There is a real danger in labeling people and expecting that they all will believe exactly the same way in every case just because they dress the same, or daven in certain shuls or hold certain views on some things.

By the way, this is the same school that told my daughter that if she saw her brother on the street she was not allowed to stop and talk to him because it "paast nit." Her 19 year old brother was not allowed to pick her up from school if I couldn't make it on time for the same reason.

Only goes to prove that you shouldn't judge a book--us--by its cover.

Anonymous said...

Interesting comments on the library going on. When I taught third grade (MO school) the school took the class on a trip to the local public library and made sure that any child that didn't have a library card got one. Assignments were given regularly that required a trip to the library to get books and do research. It's not just about a library though. It's about the ways the MO and the RW view an education and what should be in it and what that education is worth. Parents who fall somewhere in the middle between the two groups are the ones I feel sorry for.

Anonymous said...

Interesting point brought up that is sort of buried in a comment. Whose decision about raising our kids is supposed to be primary--ours as parents or the yeshiva's as the school? Can or should a school mix in on things like the library or whether parents have approved of a computer and the Internet in their homes? Our oldest child started off school in Brooklyn and then we moved to NJ. A huge difference in the attitude of the school here. They also have their idea of what is right but they don't force the parents to accept their ideas or threaten them with expelling their kids if the parents decide differently. Am I really the father of my children, with the right to decide what I tell them, how they will do things, or am I just the person who pays the bills so that someone else can make that decision and I have no say in the matter?

Judith said...

Just a note about overdue book, im library system children with overdue book are allowed to "work" it off by reading a good book IN the library for a certain amount of time.

Scraps said...

Just curious--if the schools don't have adequate libraries themselves (from what I hear), and the students aren't allowed to use the Internet or go to public libraries, how in the world are they supposed to be able to write research papers?!

ProfK said...

Fairly simple answer to your question--they don't do research papers. And then they come into college and we have to teach the basics, but the real basics starting from aleph, because for far too many research is a foreign term. We give a period with the head librarian at the college just for introducing them to the library, what it is, how to use it, how to find information. The more to the right a yeshiva is, particularly the male schools, the less likely that the students got a secular education worth the paper their diplomas are printed on. And that's in all areas. Every term I find myself having to teach well over half my students how to find the percentage of difference between two figures, whether positive or negative. And I teach English!

Lion of Zion said...

"I wonder how the Rambam might have turned out if he had not been allowed to read the works of Aristotle and Plato"

well the rambam's involvement with philosophy was not looked upon favorably in all quarters. it was banned by rabbis during various medieval flareups, and it has been assumed by some that the burning of his works by the franciscans in the 1230s was a result of rabbinic instigation.

"In the SI libraries Internet access is not unfettered. There is a time limit. The computers with Internet access are near the librarian's desk with the screens facing the desk. The librarians can thus spot anyone who should happen to get on a site not acceptable. People walk by those computers all the time--certainly no visual pornography viewing going on."

i use the 42nd st library all the time but haven't been to a regular public library in years until just last week (ave. j branch). no time limit on internet and the terminals aren't near the librarian either on the main floor or on the childrens' floor. in fact in the latter i observed every single computer was used by a kid playing video games. i don't know if there are any pornography filters.

regarding the general substance of your response to me, you are preaching to the choir. i personally have nothing against libraries i general (and treif books, internet or mingling with the opposite sex in particualr). my comment was directed at someone whom i sensed may not have shared my views in this regard since she sends her daughter to such a RW school (i highly doubt the library ban is the first such rule in the said school). i would hope that she shares the hashkafah of that school if she sends her daughter there, in which case i didn't understand what is her problem with the library ban.

ProfK said...

I think you found the crux of the problem for many parents when you said "i would hope that she shares the hashkafah of that school if she sends her daughter there." As parents we try to find schools where our personal hashkafas mesh with the hashkafas of the school. But a 100% meshing is not always possible for many people. They use a general fit rather than a 100% fit. Years ago the schools were not as makpid on banning practices that parents okayed that the school may not have been in favor of. No one really banned libraries years ago even if they didn't like the idea. They may have preached against them in school but parents made their own decisions. Today, the schools come out with outright bans if you want to send your children there.

Some parents find themselves in the position of "sneaking around" in order to give their kids things that the yeshivas aren't in favor of. Computers and the Internet are one such area. Lots of parents who are claiming they have Internet access because their job requires it when that is not the case. Lots of parents who are outright lying about having the Internet. And yet, for most of the other hashkafas of their children's schools they are in agreement.

As I mentioned elsewhere, and I am going to post about it later, where does the line get drawn between what is the responsibility of the school to dictate, rather than suggest, and what is the responsibility of parents to decide? Schools, parents and children really aren't "one size fits all."

Lion of Zion said...

"As parents we try to find schools where our personal hashkafas mesh with the hashkafas of the school."

i disagree, at least from what i see where i live (or at least the people i know). many people find schools whose hashkafah meshes with the (ostensible) hashkafah of the community/neighbors/shuls/whatever and not of the parents themselves. the truth is many parents also send children to schools with conflicting hashkafot for economic reasons. they put up with the nonsense for more affordable tuition.

"where does the line get drawn between what is the responsibility of the school to dictate"

imho there is no line. schools never get to dictate. it's not just bad educational/communal policy, i assume it is also illegal (at least when such dictating is used to reject non-conformists; so much for all the bulloney non-discrimination advs. the yeshivot place in the papers.)

ProfK said...

You are right in one sense about how parents choose schools but not in all. When we moved here there was a Bas Yaakov for girls, RJJ for boys and a coed day school. We picked the Bais Yaakov--it wasn't exactly what we wanted but it fit us better then the day school did. But some of our neighbors sent to the day school, and so did some people in our shul. The Bais Yaakov closed down when my oldest was in 6th grade. The parents all had to either send off the Island or go to the day school. A few chose the day school; the others chose Bruriah in NJ, Prospect Park, Shulamith and few chose Bais Yaakov schools in Brooklyn. As long as there was a school locally, even if it wasn't a perfect fit, we sent our kids there because it was convenient to have them locally. Hashkafa was only part of the reason. In Brooklyn, where there is a far greater choice, parents can try to match personal hashkafas to a school and/or they can pick a school because they want their child known to have gone there (still a personal choice). Gee, and sometimes parents even pick a school because it offers the best education.

Legal or not, schools dictate. Depending on the parents and what they choose to do, the schools may buckle under. My oldest sat among the top %3 of her class in high school, yet she hadn't been inducted into the honor society. I took a trip to school when I found out that they wanted the girls in that honor society to sign a paper that they would uphold high standards, such as never being seen talking to boys on the street--brothers, cousins or not. I threw a little mini fit and lo and behold my daughter was inducted into the honor society. But the school got back at me later. At graduation there were two girls who did not get honors at graduation--my daughter and one other girl--even though their averages put them in the top ten girls. Why? They were not going to seminary in Israel, despite the school's pushing for them to do so.

And what is the Internet ban in the homes or not having library cards if not the schools dictating home behavior? Do you see them being worried about any legal aspects? They can always cover themselves and use some other excuse but they tell you outright. And if the information is irrelevant, then why would a school ask at an admission interview whether a family uses chalav yisroel or chalav stam?