Saturday, January 31, 2009

Back to the Grind

There is one major problem with going on vacation: you have to come back. What was looked forward to with such anticipation for so long is over in the proverbial blink of an eye. Yes, our few days away served their purpose admirably; we refilled our "fuel tanks" and are already back in the swing of things. But I can't help feeling that I would have loved just another few days of R&R. I look out the window at the slushy, icy landscape and can't help thinking that only two days ago I was basking in 65 degree warmth and sunny skies.

There is only one way to handle the after vacation blues--start dreaming and planning the next one. And then I just had to look at the calendar and notice that it's only 5 weeks until Purim and 9 weeks until Pesach. No time for idle daydreaming right now. Sigh.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Letter Makes a Difference

What's the difference between investment and divestment? No, I'm not joking and this is not a trick question. A lot of people out there don't seem to know the difference and it's causing havoc in personal finances.

When you think of investment you need to think of income that comes in and stays in. investment is about money to be used in the future. Invested funds should be considered inviolable, not something you dip in to on a regular basis. Once you put money in to savings you should consider it invisible until way further down the road. And investments also bring in interest, another in that makes a difference in how we live.

Now what about divestment? Taking out money to meet regular expenses that has been put into savings towards a different specific goal or purpose is just plain dumb. That D is related to debt and deficit and delinquency and dearth. It's also related to unbridled desires. People who find themselves regularly dipping into savings have been deficient in planning a workable budget.

Who knew? The difference between financial health and financial disaster can be as simple as knowing the difference between an "i" and a "d."

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Overlooking the Obvious

Sometimes we are so busy looking for new and unique solutions to problems that we overlook some old solutions that are right under our noses.

During a visit to a mental asylum, a visitor asked the Director what the criterion was which defined whether or not a patient should be institutionalized.

"Well," said the Director, "we fill up a bathtub, then we offer a
teaspoon, a teacup and a bucket to the patient and ask him or her to
empty the bathtub."

"Oh, I understand," said the visitor. "A normal person would use the
bucket because it's bigger than the spoon or the teacup.

"No." said the Director, "A normal person would pull the plug."

Monday, January 26, 2009

What's In a Name?

What's in a name? As Shakespeare said: "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." Shakespeare, however, was not Jewish and he did not face the whole slew of naming minhagim that we have.

As a general rule, ashkenazim name after dead people and sefardim name after living people.

"Among Ashkenazim--that is, Jews of Central and Eastern European origin--the custom is to name the child after someone, usually a family member, who has recently died. In most cases this is a grandparent or great-grandparent. The usual explanation for this practice is that the parents hope that in receiving the name of an admired family member, the child will emulate in his or her life the virtues of the deceased namesake. To a certain extent, too, it is believed that the soul of the loved one lives on in the child who now bears his or her name. Indeed, learning about the persons for whom they are named is an excellent way for children to identify with the history of their own Jewish families and, by extension, with the history of the whole Jewish people. Some parents even add these personal explanations to the birth ceremonies for their children.

Sephardim--that is, Jews of Iberian or Middle-Eastern origin--usually name their children after a grandparent, either living or dead, and many Sphardic grandparents look forward to being honored with grandchildren who bear their own names while they are still alive to see it. Sephardim are also much more punctilious about naming a boy after a man and a girl after a woman than are most Ashkenazim. In Sephardic families this procedure often has the effect of strengthening transgenerational ties between grandfathers and grandsons, and between grandmothers and granddaughters."

While generally correct, there are many exceptions/changes to the above information that are in practice today. My research brought to light that there are about 150 names and variants of those names in total that are generally used by religious Ashkenazim--the more to the right you are, the more likely you will choose from only those names. Those names are found in Tanach for the most part.

In Israel, among both Ashkenazim and Sefardim, there is a trend today to give children names that come from things rather than from people, and to even just make up names whose sound is liked. (Chareidim excepted)

Add in that many Jews of European descent gave Yiddish names rather than exact Hebrew names. For instance, Faiga and Blima as names for girls and Alter for boys. This giving of Yiddish names sometimes resulted in some strange combinations and situations. I had an uncle whose name was Shaltiel Azig. Everyone of us called him Uncle Izig or Uncle Isaac. But what was his father's name? Yitzchak (fondly known as Itzik). So there we actually had Isaac the son of Yitzchak, not a regular Ashkenzic choice. And then there are names that come from outside completely, such as Alexander.

There are other minhagim that are associated with name giving as well. Some have the custom that the name for the first child "belongs" to the mother. Some will not give a name after someone who died young or died in tragic circumstances. Some will give only single names; others give multiple names. Some will not give a name that already appears in a first-order relative; others will have the same name appear all over the family.

What to name a child is the prerogative of the parents, but lots of other people will freely give you advice. Sometimes there are going to be family members who are not happy with a name choice. When our oldest daughter was born both my husband and I have the minhag that the name of the first child belongs to the mother. However, my in laws had only boys and so in their immediate family there were no names for my in laws' mothers, who were killed during the Holocaust. We decided to give our daughter's name after these grandmothers. However, both grandmothers had Yiddish names. Neither my husband or I wanted a Yiddish name for our child, so we translated those names into the Hebrew equivalents. Thus Zissel Perel became Naomi Penina. Was everyone happy? Surely you jest.

After my father in law was niftar there were a number of boys born. My FIL had two names. Neither of the children named for him actually carry both names; one has one of the names and another has the other name. Was everyone happy? Sigh.

And then there is what to do if the person you really want to give a name for is one sex and the child you have is another. Many a Melech is commemorated in a Malka, or as is the case with us, a Shlomo who became a Shlomit.

What brought this all to mind is that a friend's child is expecting a baby, not the first. WWIII is raging over what name this child is going to get. Having been in that position a time or two, I offer this advice. It is so not worth going to war over a baby's name. You see, you are going to expend all that time and energy deciding on just the perfect name for that child and then that child's friends and schoolmates are going to shorten it or change it or give a nickname and all the warfare will have been for nought. Many a Yaakov Yosef who is known as JJ, many a Miriam who goes by Mimi. And many an Eliezer who only answers to "Super E" or the like.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

On Hiatus, Bli Neder

Hubby and I are leaving on Motzoai Shabbos for five days out of New York. I'm not calling this a vacation; we prefer to think of it as a therapeutic absence. If we were cars, we would surely be running on empty at this point. Other than cell phones, to be used sparingly and for serious calls only, we are leaving all the technology at home. Given all that has gone on in our lives this year we need some time away, hoping that "absence will make the heart grow fonder."

I've left some posts that will automatically pop up, although I obviously won't be making any comments until I return. Have a safe week, and a healthy one.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Run, and then Run some more

Next week some members of the J-blogosphere are participating in the Miami Marathon for Chai Lifeline. Here is hoping they will be fleet of foot and full of stamina. They are running for a very worthy cause. I don't know everyone who is running, but a personal hurrah to Bas~Melech and Bad4Shidduchim on undertaking this venture.

If you can, you can do a lot worse than sponsoring one of these runners, and the charity is a worthy one. To donate go to

To all the runners, tizku l'mitzvah.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Some Plain Speaking

I may no longer be actively in the shadchanus fray, but I still do get calls from people looking for shidduchim, and I still have family and friends with children in the parsha. There has been a lot of discussion about why it is so hard to make shidduchim today, about how the whole shidduch process is not geared towards making it easy to find someone and get married. But it occurred to me in one of those "duh" moments that there is one reason why many of our young people are not married that is not spoken about. Well, no one has ever called me shy or retiring, so let me be the one to bring it up.

Some of our young men and women, the ones still in their teens and very early twenties, are not getting married because they don't want to be married. That's right--they really, truly don't want to be married yet. Their problem is that "everyone" else believes that they are raring to go and dying to get married. These other people could not/would not understand, no matter how you put it to them, that someone is not salivating over the idea of getting married.

Think about it for a minute. You've just graduated high school and maybe finished seminary or a year in yeshiva in Israel. You are all of nineteen. You are being asked to make all kinds of life decisions at this point. If you are going on to college you are being asked to decide on a major, one that will impact you for the rest of your life. Panic sets in for some people. They have to choose something but what?!!! So well meaning people explain about which majors are going to be better for shidduchim, are going to be better for supporting a learning husband, are going to be better for paying yeshiva tuition. What a student might want to do with their life becomes secondary to other considerations. There is no leisure to take courses and discover what lifetime occupation might suit you best. In fact, there is no leisure to take courses altogether. The push is to race through college so you can get a job and get married. Or in the case of some, get married and then get a job, perhaps, some day.

For those unmarried college students, just getting through the day is frazzling enough. Many may have part time jobs in addition to going to school. Some are learning full time while in college. Multi-tasking with a vengeance. And then someone insists that they get married and add another full time job to the list. Those "youngsters" may not be fully mature yet, but they know enough to see that you cannot push 31 hours of commitment into a 24-hour day. Some are internally resentful that they aren't being allowed to come into full bloom on their own timetable. Some have dreams, young people's dreams, of seeing something of the world, of experiencing some of what the world offers before being tied down to marriage.

Yes, tied down to marriage. Please keep in mind that I am not anti-marriage and have been happily in that condition for almost 37 years. But that doesn't mean that I don't recognize that marriage is the ultimate parameter setter. When you get married there are going to be things that you no longer can do. When there are two of you, you cannot decide to just say to hell with what I have to do today, I'm heading for a museum and enjoying myself. When there are two of you, you can't just take off to Europe because you want to go and see what there is to see. When there are two of you, you can't decide on impulse buys and can't go with impulsive decisions. When there are two of you spontaneity takes a back seat to responsibility.

And when there are three or four or five of you? The focus shifts dramatically. It is raising children that becomes central.

Now let me go back to that 19-year old who is being pushed into marriage. He/she looks at the personal things not yet accomplished, the personal joys not yet found, the personal experiences not yet tasted. And deep inside grows that veiled resentment that they are being asked to take on marital responsibilities they are not yet ready for, not yet willing for. But you can't say that aloud or the world will explode. So instead, these people who really don't want to get married start dating. And they find in every person they date something that makes that person unsuitable. And they add layer upon layer of requirements that no human being is going to be able to meet.

Getting married is a life-altering experience. Those who enter the state of matrimony ought to want to be there. And we ought to be giving our younger people a break when it comes to pushing them into marriage. Someone said to me the other day that having a wife brings maturity to a boy. I would have thought that first a boy ought to be mature before considering having a wife. Some people may be ready to get married at a younger age; some may not be ready until a later age. We ought to respect these differences and stop placing our younger people in the position of having to resort to subterfuge in order not to be shanghaied into marriages they know they are not ready for yet, that they don't want yet.

Monday, January 19, 2009

A Snow Snit

I usually love the view out the sliding doors in my office. I get a full view of our yard and the woods behind it. So, it is now snowing, for the third time today. I suppose I could wax lyrical about the pristine blanket of snow that covers the yard. And yes, the trees in the woods, barren of leaves for some time now, wear a lacy white cover that softens their winter harshness. The man-made elements in the yard blend together with the greenery, all united by the mantle of white they wear. Yup, there's a new look to the yard as it preens, decked out in its winter finery. BUT..........

I discovered long ago that I am so not a snow person. Oh, I like looking at it from the comfort of a heated room, but the problem comes when I have to leave that warm cocoon and venture outside. Where snow is then shovels are not far behind. I'm afraid I see nothing romantic in the sore muscles that come with shoveling. What looks so pretty from inside can be treacherous when you have to walk on it or drive on it. Do I really want to have to clean off my car for the third time today? Why even bother--they are saying more snow for later on today. The snow has made a mess out of more than just the outside; it has loused up my carefully crafted schedule of what to do today. It's only Monday afternoon and thanks to Mother Nature I'm already behind on the week.

I'm watching my neighbor's kids playing in the back yard. One of them is laying down in the snow making snow angels. Another is lobbing snowballs at the basketball hoop. I can admire their joi de vivre without having the least inclination to go out there and join them. I'm afraid I'm long past the time of thinking that frozen toes, fingers and ears are a small price to pay for playing in the snow.

Safely ensconced in the house, my hands around a steaming mug of coffee, I am wondering just when snow became something to grouse about, to get in a snit about. In the far recesses of my mind I'm sure there are some pleasurable memories of snow, somewhere. Perhaps my view changed around the time when snow no longer meant a day off from school. Perhaps it changed when I joined that group, like the postal workers who deliver the mail, whose mantra, of necessity, has come to be "neither rain nor sleet nor snow shall keep us from our appointed rounds."

Yes, if I see a picture of snow-covered mountains in all their glory I can swoon at the beautiful picture they make. Just please, let me view that beauty from afar. It's only January and any "snow pleasure" has worn very thin.

Note: As long as I'm ranting let me include the weather forecasters who are still saying "not enough snow to measure an accumulation." Perhaps they should just look out of their windows. Our accumulation here in SI is already at about two inches. How much do they pay these people?!

No, You Couldn't Make These Up

Thanks go to Knitterofshinythings who sent me this a while back. I was saving it for a time that might need some humor to lighten things up. January in New York is just such a time period. And yes, I am ever so thankful that what follows was NOT written by any of my students. Enjoy!

The list that follows is compiled from answers on the GCSE exam
[The General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) is the name of an academic qualification awarded in a specified subject, generally taken in a number of subjects by students aged 14-16 in secondary education in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. (In Scotland, the equivalent is the Standard Grade). Education to GCSE level is often required of students who study for A-levels, themselves a common requirement for entry to university.]

1. Ancient Egypt was inhabited by mummies and they all wrote in hydraulics. They lived in the Sarah Dessert and traveled by Camelot. The climate of the Sarah is such that the inhabitants have to live elsewhere.
2. The Bible is full of interesting caricatures. In the first book of the Bible, Guinessis, Adam and Eve were created from an apple tree. One of their children, Cain, asked, "Am I my brother's son?"
3. Moses led the Hebrew slaves to the Red Sea, where they made unleavened bread which is bread made without any ingredients. Moses went up on Mount Cyanide to get the ten commandments. He died before he ever reached Canada.
4. Solomom had three hundred wives and seven hundred porcupines.
5. The Greeks were a highly sculptured people, and without them we wouldn't have history. The Greeks also had myths. A myth is a female moth.
6. Actually, Homer was not written by Homer but by another man of that name.
7. Socrates was a famous Greek teacher who went around giving people advice. They killed him. Socrates died from an overdose of wedlock. After his death, his career suffered a dramatic decline.
8. In the Olympic games, Greeks ran races, jumped, hurled the biscuits, and threw the java.
9. Eventually, the Romans conquered the Greeks. History calls people Romans because they never stayed in one place for very long.
10. Julius Caesar extinguished himself on the battlefields of Gaul. The Ides of March murdered him because they thought he was going to be made king. Dying, he gasped out: "Tee hee, Brutus."
11. Nero was a cruel tyranny who would torture his subjects by playing the fiddle to them.
12. Joan of Arc was burnt to a steak and was cannonized by Bernard Shaw. Finally Magna Carta provided that no man should be hanged twice for the same offense.
13. In midevil times most people were alliterate. The greatest writer of the futile ages was Chaucer, who wrote many poems and verses and also wrote literature.
14. Another story was William Tell, who shot an arrow through an apple while standing on his son's head.
15. Queen Elizabeth was the "Virgin Queen." As a queen she was a success. When she exposed herself before her troops they all shouted "hurrah."
16. It was an age of great inventions and discoveries. Gutenberg invented removable type and theBible. Another important invention was the circulation of blood. Sir Walter Raleigh is a historical figure because he invented cigarettes and started smoking. And Sir Francis Drake circumcised the world with a 100 foot clipper.
17. The greatest writer of the Renaissance was William Shakespeare. He was born in the year 1564, supposedly on his birthday. He never made much money and is famous only because of his plays. He wrote tragedies, comedies, and hysterectomies, all in Islamic pentameter. Romeo and Juliet are an example of a heroic couplet. Romeo's last wish was to be laid by Juliet.
18. Writing at the same time as Shakespeare was Miguel Cervantes. He wrote Donkey Hote. The nextgreat author was John Milton. Milton wrote Paradise Lost. Then his wife died and he wrote Paradise Regained.
19. During the Renaissance America began. Christopher Columbus was a great navigator who discovered America while cursing about the Atlantic. His ships were called the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Fe.
20. Later, the Pilgrims crossed the ocean, and this was called Pilgrim's Progress. The winter of 1620 was a hard one for the settlers. Many people died and many babies were born. Captain John Smith was responsible for all this.
21. One of the causes of the Revolutionary War was the English put tacks in their tea. Also, the colonists would send their parcels through the post without stamps. Finally the colonists won the War and no longer had to pay for taxis. Delegates from the original 13 states formed theContented Congress. Thomas Jefferson, a Virgin, and Benjamin Franklin were two singers of the Declaration of Independence. Franklin discovered electricity by rubbing two cats backwards and declared, "A horse divided against itself cannot stand.". Franklin died in 1790 and is still dead.
22. Soon the Constitution of the United States was adopted to secure domestic hostility. Under the constitution the people enjoyed the right to keep bare arms.
23. Abraham Lincoln became America's greatest Precedent. Lincoln's mother died in infancy, and he was born in a log cabin which he built with his own hands. Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves by signing the Emasculation Proclamation. On the night of April 14, 1865, Lincoln went to the theater and got shot in his seat by one of the actors in a moving picture show. The believed assinator was John Wilkes Booth, a supposedly insane actor. This ruined Booth's career.
24. Meanwhile in Europe, the enlightenment was a reasonable time. Voltaire invented electricity and also wrote a book called Candy.
25. Gravity was invented by Issac Walton. It is chiefly noticeable in the autumn when the apples are falling off the trees.
26. Johann Bach wrote a great many musical compositions and had a large number of children. In between he practiced on an old spinster which he kept up in his attic. Bach died from 1750 to the present. Bach was the most famous composer in the world and so was Handel. Handel was half German half Italian and half English. He was very large.
27. Beethoven wrote music even though he was deaf. He was so deaf he wrote loud music. He took long walks in the forest even when everyone was calling for him. Beethoven expired in 1827 and later died for this.
28. The French Revolution was accomplished before it happened and catapulted into Napoleon. Napoleon wanted an heir to inherit his power, but since Josephine was a baroness, she couldn't have any children.
29. The sun never set on the British Empire because the British Empire is in the East and the sun sets in the West.
30. Queen Victoria was the longest queen. She sat on a thorn for 63 years. She was a moral woman who practiced virtue. Her death was the final event which ended her reign.
31. The nineteenth century was a time of a great many thoughts and inventions. People stopped reproducing by hand and started eproducing by machine. The invention of the steamboat caused a networkof rivers to spring up. Cyrus McCormick invented the McCormick raper, which did the work of a hundred men.
32. Louis Pasteur discovered a cure for rabbis. Charles Darwin was a naturalist who wrote the Organ of the Species. Madman Curie discovered radio. And Karl Marx became one of the Marx brothers.
33. The First World War, caused by the assignation of the Arch-Duck by an anahist, ushered in a new error in the anals of human history.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Editing is NOT a Dirty Word

Classes have ended for this term and we are in final exam period. Students have been non-stop sending in work. Final term projects are finally in my hands. And once again my students have given me some lighter moments to lessen the pain of the hours spent in marking.

The most recent contribution to mirth and merriment came in eruv Shabbos from a student who wrote to thank me for the class and to remind me that he is aiming for an "A" in the course because he is planning on attending an "IV league law school." I know that many universities are bleeding money right now thanks to the recession, but I didn't know things had gotten so bad that they were on IV therapy right now.

There was the student who wrote a report about an apartment complex in which he stated: "The complex has 2900 tenets. Some of these tenets are better than others." Well yes, some tenets are definitely better than others.

Then there was the student who was answering a complaint from an angry costumer (don't you just love spellcheck?). The word "costumer" appeared 13 times in the letter. Prior to this I was not aware that costumers were of such importance in the business world. As the student said: "The costumer is always right."

Then there was the student who was writing, I hope, tongue in cheek when he stated: "The proposal under consideration has broad appeal; it will help women more than men."

This time of year I am convinced that they don't pay me enough to have to read what I have to read.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Intelligence isn't Everything

Yesterday, Thursday, January 15, could have been a disastrous day in New York City history, one that would live on in infamy. Fortunately, what could have been a tragedy was instead a bad accident. A US Airways Airbus, taking off from LaGuardia airport, made an emergency landing in the Hudson River. In what is viewed as little less than miraculous, all the people aboard were uninjured and all were rescued. Kudos go to the skilled pilot who managed to get the plane to land in the water rather than in the densely populated area only a few hundred yards from where the plane was put down. Our Mayor and the media have all pointed out that thousands of lives could have been snuffed out. Of course, I, too, am thankful that "all" we have is a sunk airplane and no lost lives. But I think we have lost focus on one very important element in this averted tragedy: how it came to be.

I think we can credit mankind for having intelligence. We can even say that that intelligence has brought us incredible inventions and discoveries. Our technological marvels abound. But with these technological developments has also come a rise in our belief that we are fully in charge of the world, that what we say goes. Mankind discovered electricity and now our world glows whenever we want it to, wherever we want it to. Until it doesn't. Twice this year squirrels have chewed through the power lines feeding our electrical transformers and plunged us into darkness. No lights, no heat--yes indeed, man controls the world.

Oh the marvels of our brilliant irrigation systems, guaranteeing that we can grow our needed crops as we will. And then nature springs a drought. Architectural wonders dominating our shorelines, and then a hurricane strolls through and flattens the landscape once more.

And yesterday? Imagine the years of technological refinement that went in to making a plane that can get us up and out to anywhere we want to go. Safety? Every care taken. And then a few Canada Geese taking a leisurely flight over the Hudson got sucked into an airplane engine and down the plane went. There's a rather crude gesture involving the middle finger that is sometimes known as "giving someone the bird." Yesterday we got the real thing.

It seems as if Mother Nature keeps a watch over the people in her midst, and when their heads get too swelled with admiration for their intelligence and output, she reminds them that theirs is not the only decisive voice that gets listened to.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Penultimate Dilemma--Choosing a High School for your Son

It's only January and there are still six months of school remaining, but for some parents and students the focus is moving from elementary school to high school. Applications will soon have to be sent in and interviews gone through. Some of you may have already gone through the process of choosing a high school for your son; some of you may be in the process now; others have that "joy" yet ahead. The following is offered as a kind of roundup of reasons that others have used in choosing a high school, and may or may not be helpful in your own search. Note to parents of girls: many of the statements below apply to both sexes. I flipped a coin and the males got the posting.

It is the only high school in our city.
It is the local high school so there is no long commute.
The school has a dormitory so our son will have no commute.
It is the feeder high school for the elementary school my son attended.
Its hashkofoh fits with our family hashkofoh.
The menahel has a reputation for running a wonderful school.
The menahel has a wonderful personal reputation.
The school has a wonderful reputation in the general frum world.
It is where all my son’s friends are also going.
It is not where my son’s friends will be going.
It offers learning on a number of levels from advanced to students with learning problems.
It takes in students of only one type of learning level/background.
It offers programs for special needs students.
It is affordable.
It offers liberal scholarships.
It is the school which my other sons attend/attended.
My husband/brothers/father went to this school
It offers advanced limudei chodesh opportunities.
It offers advanced lumudei chol opportunities.
It offers a wide range of secular courses.
It treats each student as an individual.
The school places an emphasis on midos tovos.
The school does not allow rebbeim to hit their students under any circumstances.
The quality of the various rebbeim is equally good.
There is a special rebbe in this school that we want our son to have.
Where our son goes to school will be our decision, although we may ask our son for his input.
The decision of where our son goes to school will be mainly his, although we will give our input.
The school matches the frumkeit level of our family.
The school is of a higher frumkeit level than our family is.
We fit the image the school has for what its families/students should be.
We do not fit the image the school has for what its families/students should be.
We will take whatever school accepts our son.
We are not sure about this school but are willing to try it for a year and see what happens.
Students in this school avoid most of the problems seen in the outside world (drugs, drinking, inappropriate boy/girl behavior etc.)
Boys in this school generally “stay on the derech.”
The boys from this school are all accepted into the “finest” bais medrash programs in Israel and in the US.
Boys from this school attract the kinds of shidduchim we will want for our son.
The boys in this school are the type we want our son to have as friends for life.
The school encourages the boys to go to college.
The school discourages the boys from going to college.
The school neither encourages nor discourages college attendance.
The vast majority of boys in the school will eventually go to college.
The vast majority of boys in the school will not attend college.
Boys from this high school have a choice of any and all colleges they will apply to.
I am aware of any problems that the school has had in the past and recently.
The school places different but equal emphasis on limudie kodesh and lumudei chol.
The school is not known as a pressure cooker.
The school holds the students to high expectations in their learning.
The school holds the students to high expectations in secular studies.
The school's calendar fits in with the calendar of our other children's schools
The school's calendar fits in with our work schedules
The school is not coed.
The school is coed.
If in New York, the school is known for “making sure” its graduates all get their Regents Diplomas.
We want a high school that does not tell the students to ignore what their parents may have told them.
We want a school that protects the physical well being of its students by offering enough recess and gym.
The secular studies teachers are all college graduates and/or certified teachers.
The school takes in only rebbeim who have attended it themselves.
The school has a specific program of chesed and tzedaka activities which students are required to participate in.
The school encourages a healthy lifestyle through what it offers vis a vis courses in nutrition and health and through the offerings in its lunch program and snack sales.
The school takes the time to vet the moral characteristics and qualities of its teachers before hiring them.
Learning takes place in Hebrew and English.
Learning takes place in Yiddish and English.
Learning takes place in Yiddish, Hebrew and English.
Everyone in the social set I belong to sends their boys to this school.
No one in my social set sends their boys to this school.
Students from this school go to the camps I want my son to attend.
I do not want this school but my son very much does.
I want this school but my son very much does not.
We have researched this school thoroughly and have come to the conclusion that the school meets all of our needs.
We have done no research, basing our decision on the school’s name and general community reputation.
Our son is too young to be responsible for himself in a dormitory situation, so he will attend a local school, regardless of how we feel about the school.
We are afraid for our son’s safety, so he will not attend a dormitory high school.
For heavens sake, it’s only high school! It either will work it or it won’t, and we have time to worry then.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I Found My Major: What am I Going to Earn?

The following information is taken from a Forbes Magazine article written by Kurt Badenhausen on June 8, 2008. The title is "Most Lucrative College Majors."
See the complete article here

The following information from the article is important in gauging the importance of the information presented. "To gauge the most lucrative majors, we turned to, which collects real-time salary information from 10 million users. They looked at 20 popular majors where most of the graduates go into the private sector; thus, some popular majors, like education and social work, were excluded.

We looked at median salaries to wipe out outliers at the top and bottom ends of the scale. (Emphasis mine) Salaries included bonuses and commissions, but excluded any stock compensation. All jobs were included in the data, not just those specific to the major. Anyone who acquired an advanced degree was excluded from the study."

Keep in mind that the jobs below are talking about salary ranges for jobs that mostly require a BA/BS college degree. Advanced degrees can up the ante considerably in the fields that require a college degree. The range is from entry level to twenty years.

Computer engineering ($60,500-$104,000)
Economics ($48,000-$96,200)
Electrical engineering ($59,900-$96,100)
Computer science ($54,200-$94,000)
Mechanical engineering ($56,900-$88,100)
Finance ($46,900-$84,400)
Mathematics ($43,500-$82,200)
Civil engineering ($52,600-$81,700)
Political Science ($39,400-$74,400)
Marketing ($39,400-$72,300)
Accounting ($44,600-$71,500)
History ($37,600-$68,000)
Business Management ($40,900-$64,900)
Communications ($36,400--$64,300)
English ($36,700-$62,300)
Biology (37,900-$60,000)
Sociology ($35,700-$55,900)
Graphic Design ($34,700-$54,700)
Psychology ($34,700-$54,000)
Criminal Justice ($34,200-$53,400)

This list might help in answering the question of what a college degree is worth.

Monday, January 12, 2009

'Tis a Puzzlement, perhaps

I spent some time yesterday and this morning trying to find some reports on yesterday's New York City rally for Israel. (Not) so strangely I haven't found any on the major news websites. So much for balanced news reporting by the national media, and the local ones as well. In our fair city when three people are anywhere together, this constitutes a gathering and is considered newsworthy. Really makes you wonder how they could miss thousands gathering in Midtown Manhattan. Fair and objective reporting huh? In what Universe? Try searching for Gaza or for Palestinian demonstrations and up comes a morning's worth of reading.

Oh, silly me. It was cold yesterday and how could I possibly expect reporters to risk getting chilblains in reporting the news.

Oh Baby!

The following article appeared a few weeks ago in newspapers all over the country.

Arkansas family welcomes 18th child -- a girl
The Lowell Sun

ROGERS, Ark. (AP) -- An Arkansas woman has given birth to her 18th child.
Michelle Duggar delivered the baby girl by Caesarean section Thursday at Mercy Medical Center in Rogers. The baby, named Jordyn-Grace Makiya Duggar, weighed 7 pounds, 3 ounces and was 20 inches long.

"The ultimate Christmas gift from God," said Jim Bob Duggar, the father of the 18 children. "She's just absolutely beautiful, like her mom and her sisters."

The Duggars now have 10 sons and eight daughters.

Jim Bob Duggar said Michelle started having contractions Wednesday night. She needed the C-section, her third, because the baby was lying sideways. Jim Bob said both baby and mother were doing well Thursday night.

"We both would love to have more," he said.

The cable network TLC broadcasts a weekly show about the Duggars, called 17 Kids and Counting. Chris Finnegan of TLC -- which handles public relations for the Duggar family -- said the show's name would be updated to account for the latest addition to the family. He said TLC also will air a show Monday on the baby's delivery.

Jim Bob Duggar is 43, a year older than his wife. Their oldest child, Joshua, is 20.
The other Duggar children, in between Joshua and Jordyn-Grace, are Jana, 18; John-David, 18; Jill, 17; Jessa, 16; Jinger, 14; Joseph, 13; Josiah, 12; Joy-Anna, 11; Jeremiah, 9; Jedidiah, 9; Jason, 8; James, 7; Justin, 6; Jackson, 4; Johannah, 3; and Jennifer, 1.

Why post this article? It represents a possible income stream for those frum families who not only have 18 children but are well over twenty. Can you imagine a TLC show entitled 22 Kids and still Counting? Or maybe that title should be "22 Kids and Who's Counting"? Or maybe TLC or one of the other cable channels could develop a competition show along the lines of America's Best Chef, only it would be America's Best Family of 18 or More.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

CNN Poll on Israel vs. Palestine

I was sent the following as an email and felt it worthwhile to post on the blog.

Apparently CNN is pushing a poll showing that 66% vs. 33% of Americans favor "Palestine" over Israel in the war in Gaza. We must respond with numbers and be heard. We must stand together. Thousands of these emails are going out across the world right now. Be a part of supporting Israel. See also the hateful messages being left if you need motivation to become involved. Please pass this to all concerned..If you have not already done so, please click on the link and then simply click on the Israeli flag.
PLEASE contact everyone you know to vote...
It will take only an instant of your time!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Rally for Israel

I'd like to remind readers that there will be a rally in support of Israel this upcoming Sunday. All info can be found here , including transportation directions. (Thanks Ezzie for putting up the flyer.)

We may not be on the front lines with our Israeli chayalim but we can stand on the front lines in the public eye and show the world that we are solidly behind "inzereh medina."

Thursday, January 8, 2009

An Update on What a Degree is Worth--Part #5

This morning I was able to call Rutgers to try and get some information on the Rutgers-
Barrington CBA program.

First, no one in the general information office had ever heard of this program. It took them 20 minutes of calling all around to even get to the point that they found the Barrington website. And they were surprised to see the Rutgers logo on the site.

After they could not give me any information at all they transferred me to the Rutgers School of Business. There I was connected to one of the Deans. Guess what? He had never heard of this program. It is NOT administered by the Business School. The Dean went to the Barrington website and was surprised to see the logo on the site as well. What he could tell me was that no faculty from the Business School were involved in this program. (This leaves me to wonder just what experienced business personnel from Rutgers are serving as online advisors for this course.) And no, the School of Business would not accept this program for transfer credit to Rutgers and he doubted that any department at Rutgers would accept the certificate as transfer credit. As he said, a certificate program is not a degree program. He further surmised that the program sounded like something that would be a Continuing Ed program--one that is not meant for actual college students nor one that equates to actual college study. He further emphasized that there is NO equivalent between such a certificate program and the MBA. Rutgers itself offers certain certificates but they make it very clear that these certificates are vocational training rather than college education.

It's interesting to me that the Dean found the YWN ad when he checked online and commented on it. His feeling was that Barrington was targeting a particular demographic with this program. And he was not happy that Rutgers' name was attached to this program.

So, the Dean is going to check around at Rutgers and find out just where the connection is coming from. He read through the online ad and agreed that it was worded such that it was promising more than it could deliver. And yes, he too commented that for a place that bills itself as "Barrington Institute for Advanced Studies," it's rather strange that it has a .com rather than .edu domain name.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

What is a Degree Worth?--part #5

Alternatives to a "regular" college education have cropped up all over. They appeal to a number of frum people as a way to cut the costs of an education. But what do they really give you? A "case study" is offered below.

YWN sent me an announcement about the Rutgers--Barrington Educational Programs. It was the first time I had heard about Barrington so I got curious and did a little research.

Spend some time snooping around the Barrington site and you get more confused, not less.
Below are some statements from the advertisement and from the Barrington website and a few of my observations/comments.

Rutgers-Barrington CBA Overview
Attend courses anytime, anywhere. Online components are available 24 hours a day; 6 days a week and can be accessed via Internet from anywhere in the world. With this level of learning flexibility, busy lifestyles, Yeshiva schedules, and family responsibilities can be better managed.
One-On-One Rutgers Faculty Advisor
Every C.B.A participant is assigned a Rutgers Faculty Online Advisor (for the online components) who has practical business knowledge and expertise. The advisor works one on one with every student, in a personal non-intimidating manner to assure the students goals are successfully accomplished. (Someone want to translate this for me into intelligible English?"Personal, non-intimidating manner"? As opposed to all other teachers, who are impersonal and intimidating? I'll admit this language was a first for me--haven't seen it in any other advertising/catalog put out by any institution of higher learning. Just what type of student are they aiming for that being "non-intimidating" is a selling point for?)
Student - Centered Learning
Each person has their own style and approach to learning. The C.B.A online components offer text for reading, audio for listening, printing options for notes and exercises to encourage (Encourage rather than require?) application. Students can learn using the method that best fits their own learning style and priorities. (So students get to pick and choose how they will learn, and therefore what they will learn? Sounds like the inmates running the prison to me.)
Live Seminars/Conferences
Once enrolled in the Rutgers Barrington C.B.A. program, you will have the opportunity to attend live seminars given by established business leader such as, Steven Stralser, author of the bestseller "MBA in a Day" . This full day seminar provides time-efficient, focused, and in-depth coverage of business concepts and strategies that MBA students study in graduate business school programs. It will be held at a tri-state conference center and is based on availability and enrollment. First, note the last sentence; this all day conference may or may not be held. Again, there is no mention of any seminars given by Rutger's faculty.

Internship Program
Gain real world valuable experience by interning at a participating business corporation. Students will partake in all aspects of the day to day business and responsibilities of the corporation. Many interns turn the temporary position into a long-term career.

Basic Skills Training
Based on an assessment, applicants who lack basic skills such as fundamental computer and writing skills (emphasis mine) will be offered courses prior to the C.B.A curriculum which will assist them in these areas.

Also taken from the YWN advertisement: "The Certificate in Business Administration, with a concentration in either management, finance, or marketing, is the ideal MBA alternative for individuals who want to gain employment in the business world or advance their current careers without attending traditional college. The entire program can be completed within six months and can be worked on online from anywhere in the world." Note that they are advertising this certificate as a substitute for the MBA. However, on their web site they also refer to this program as substituting for a college degree as well. That's right: six months and you have all the knowledge you would get in the 6 years it would take you to earn a BA and/or a MBA.

Professional Skills Courses
Designed to support your organizations employee training needs Employees can take these courses on their own time and from the comfort and convenience of their home or office. They'll get continuous classroom access, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Each course is carefully designed to be hands-on and effective—enabling professionals to rapidly acquire crucial new skills. All they’ll need to access these courses is an Internet connection, an e-mail address, and a Web browser (such as Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator). (Given their target population, particularly in the Lakewood area, that's a very big "all." Since when did the Internet suddenly become kosher in this area?) We're sure you'll find our selection of affordable, instructor-facilitated (There is a world of difference between an instructor-facilitated course and one that is given by an instructor online.) online courses truly exceptional. So from now on, when you think about professional development, retraining, or lifelong learning, think of us!
These courses are not affiliated with Rutgers. (Emphasis mine.)

Rutgers-Barrington Certificate in Business Administration
The C.B.A has been developed through a partnership with Rutgers and Barrington to serve the time –pressured individual seeking a prestigious education in business. The C.B.A offers all the benefits of a traditional costly college degree in a more convenient method. (Emphasis mine.) [Does it offer "all" the benefits? Government figures show that those with the MBA earn substantially more over a lifetime than those with only a BA or a high school diploma. Are there any figures available that will show lifetime earnings for those with this certificate?]You will have the opportunity to participate in focused and essential business courses, highly interactive instruction and valuable internship programs. Our goal is to provide you with the necessary skills to succeed at all levels of business. We ensure that the program is indexed to market demand so that you are sure to attain a competitive edge. Participants of this program have the opportunity to tap in to the finest education available; [So, Barrington is going to be teaching those students who lack them basic skills in English writing? Perhaps they could themselves learn about the correct use of a semicolon first, nor is this the only "English" error in the ad and website. Is this an example of "the finest education available?]and can access it in the most convenient way. My Note: This is followed by a link that is titled "Speek with Enrollment Advisor." Done much "speeking" lately? Is speeking even a legal activity? Why do I have my doubts about a "prestigious education" coming forth from this place?

Please note that this is a CERTIFICATE as opposed to a DEGREE. The site says that it can be completed in 6 months in the comfort of your own home for "only" $4000.

The site repeats what the ad says: "Every C.B.A participant is assigned a Rutgers Faculty Online Advisor (for the online components) who has practical business knowledge and expertise. The advisor works one on one with every student, in a personal non-intimidating manner to assure the students goals are successfully accomplished." Note that it does not say that you will be taught by Rutger's faculty. In fact, nowhere on the site does it say that. In fact, nowhere on the site is a single Rutger's faculty member mentioned by name.

"Based on an assessment, applicants who lack basic skills such as fundamental computer and writing skills will be offered courses prior to the C.B.A curriculum which will assist them in these areas." For how long and at what cost? And are Rutger instructors giving these remedial courses? If not, who is?

I was particularly taken by many of those who gave testimonials for this program. The general gist was that they were so busy with learning in yeshiva and their families that they didn't have time for a regular program. This program could be worked around their schedules. So how many hours does that leave them to complete this program that can be completed in six months? And forget the Barrington's claim of completion in six months for a moment. What do those six months translate to in terms of hours needed to complete the program? Not visible was any mention of student assignments and papers and tests and exams. Nor was there any mention of grades being given out to students enrolled in this program.

If Barrington wants to call this a training program introduction to the world of work for those who have no idea what that entails then fine. But please, this is not equivalent to an MBA. For one thing, those applying to MBA programs already have to have "real" work experience before they are accepted. For another thing, certificates and degrees are not the same thing. Those in the target audience for this advertising may not know this. They are being told that the certificate equals the degree or is as good as the degree. What they do know is that a degree from college is what opens doors to the type of employment that brings better salaries. Frankly, I know what Barrington's interest in being linked with Rutgers is. What I don't understand is Rutgers' interest in being linked with Barrington.

My interest is piqued enough that I'm going to contact Rutgers to find out what the real scoop is as to their involvement. Is this certificate actually going to read Rutgers on it? And here's the question I want to ask them also: would Rutgers accept a holder of this certificate to PhD study in business? Does Rutgers itself consider this certificate as equal to the MBA? Would a student in the Barrington program be considered for transfer credit should that student decide to go to a Rutgers' program instead? Would students from the Barrington program be considered as admissible to Rutgers? And just what personnel from Rutgers is involved in this program and precisely how? If Rutger's personnel is involved in some actual way, are they regular, tenured instructional staff or are they graduate student adjuncts? And yes, I might just ask Rutgers if it knows how Barrington is advertising what it sells and if Rutgers approves of the language. I understand why Barrington wants/needs Rugers' name attached to its programs. What I want to know is why Rutgers "needs" Barrington? What are they getting out of the association?

I'm not opposed to training for those with no business experience as a means for entering the work world. But if what is being offered is a certificate in practical training in the specifics of business, then be open about that. By constantly linking itself to college degrees and the MBA, Barrington is not being honest about what it is selling. Their target audience is too unsophisticated or unknowledgeable to pick out the wheat from the chaff. The Barrington certificate is an alternative for those who can't/won't/don't go to college or graduate school; it is not a college education nor its equivalent. Please, don't try and sell me dehydrated bean protein labeled as hand-fed veal.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Why a Degree? One Explanation

Thanks to my daughter for sending me this link. An article by George Will reprinted in the Jewish World Review discusses a Supreme Court Ruling and its affect on college attendance. For the complete article go to

The following excerpts are particularly apt:

"Small wonder, then, that many employers, fearing endless litigation about multiple uncertainties, threw up their hands and, to avoid legal liability, threw out intelligence and aptitude tests for potential employees. Instead, they began requiring college degrees as indices of applicants' satisfactory intelligence and diligence.

This is, of course, just one reason college attendance increased from 5.8 million in 1970 to 17.5 million in 2005.

Indeed, by turning college degrees into indispensable credentials for many of society's better jobs, this series of events increased demand for degrees and, O'Keefe and Vedder say, contributed to "an environment of aggressive tuition increases." Furthermore they reasonably wonder whether this supposed civil rights victory, which erected barriers between high school graduates and high-paying jobs, has exacerbated the widening income disparities between high school and college graduates. "

I Wish I'd Said That

Have you ever gone to someone else's blog, read a posting and wished that you could have been the one to write that posting? It happened to me just now. The Rebbetzin's Husband has "Letter to Gaza: Did I Misunderstand You" up here and I so wish I would have said what he said.

Monday, January 5, 2009

It's All Connected

It's sometimes amazing how various otherwise disconnected aspects of our lives can suddenly come together. A while back I posted on the blog some of the Internet research questions I give my students. I also posted this week about a particular food label that was giving me conniptions. Unrelated, right? One of my students got the following question to research: The food colorants carmine and cochineal are made from what substance? Tonight I arrived home to an email from that student with a link to a NY Times article by Sara Parker-Pope on January 5, 2009, about carmine and cochineal. As you will see from the article, there is now a connection to food labels. Thanks MN for the tip.

As it turns out, there really may be a bug in your soup.

The Food and Drug Administration has finalized a rule that will require food companies to list cochineal extract and carmine on the label when they are used in food and cosmetics. But the new rule contains one glaring omission. It doesn’t require companies to tell you that the ingredients come from a bug.

Cochineal extract and carmine, used to dye food, drinks and cosmetics various shades of red, orange, pink and purple, are extracted from the dried bodies of the female cochineal bug.
The F.D.A. typically doesn’t require color additives to be named on food labels. For years, the bug extracts “have been hidden under the terms ‘artificial colors’ or ‘color added,’ ” according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest. The group says the extracts are commonly used in reddish-colored foods and beverages, including fruit drinks, ice creams, yogurts and candies.
However, the F.D.A. required the ingredients be listed after University of Michigan allergist Dr. James L. Baldwin reported that some of his patients suffered severe allergic reactions to the bug extracts. After C.S.P.I. petitioned the F.D.A. in 1998, the group also received several dozen adverse-reaction reports from consumers.

In a statement, the group criticized the ruling, noting that labels should make it clear that the extracts come from bugs. They argue that people with allergies who want to avoid the foods for health reasons are well aware of what the ingredients are made from. But vegetarians and people of certain religious faiths who would typically avoid a bug-based product may not be aware of the origins of the extracts without more disclosure on the food label.

But the F.D.A. said that the labeling rule that requires companies to just list the name of the ingredient and nothing else gives “adequate information” to consumers who want to avoid the bug-based colorants for religious or dietary reasons. The new rule will take effect in 2011.

What is a Degree Worth?--part #4

A fair number of the comments on the postings about what a degree is worth have mentioned money. The general consensus seems to be that college costs too much; therefore, anything that can cut down on the costs, such as compressing undergrad studies into a shorter period of time, is beneficial. The same goes for graduate school, which generally charges even more than undergrad programs do.


Yes, college costs today, both undergrad and graduate, are sometimes mind boggling. Costs for an undergraduate college education can run from $6K per year to almost $50K per year, not necessarily including dormitories and food and books and transportation. Pick an "average" amount and a student graduating after four years could conceivably owe $80-200K before he/she even looks at graduate school. Add in graduate school and you could be tacking on an additional $15K to $160K in costs, depending on the length of the grad program. Yes, it is scary to know that on the day you finish your formal education you could be in debt for $95K to $360K.

But the key here is the "could be" part. There are any number of ways to reduce how much you will need to pay in tuition, particularly on the undergrad level. Here's a news bulletin: do really well in your high school classes and really well on your SATS and you put yourself into the running for academic scholarships, both those given by a college itself and those that come from outside scholarship sources. Yes, you''ll have to research those outside sources--you know, do some work. The more prestigious the college, the higher the endowment that college has, the more scholarship money available. As I reported elsewhere, Harvard is going to a model of no tuition for its undergraduate students. Where Harvard leads the other Ivies are sure to follow. Set your academic sights high and you could end up paying less, not more.

Plenty of people will also qualify for tuition reduction and scholarship aid because their family income or their personal income falls low. Become an educated consumer and find out precisely what you are entitled to. Don't assume anything based on what someone else got or is telling you. Student loans, which may be part of a student aid package, come with a far lower percent than traditional loans. Their repayment schedule is also better than traditional loans.

Consider accelarating so that you complete your college courses in three years instead of four. It can be done, but keep in mind that you will need to spend more time concentrating on school work and will have less time for anything else you want to do. And also keep this in mind: presenting a transcript with a "C" average for course work done over three years is not going to get you "points" with future employers or graduate schools. Be honest with yourself: can you handle a more intense schooling experience?

Let's also remember that sometimes it takes money to make money. The first posting in this series showed that college graduates with no graduate school make $1.1 million dollars minimum more over a working lifetime than those with only a high school diploma. Subtract what college costs you and you are still coming out ahead over your working years, way ahead. Add in a graduate degree and you can double to quadruple your lifetime earnings.

If graduate school is also something you are going to do then you need to look at the relationship between your undergrad school and the grad school you want to go to. You may be spending X amount of dollars on undergrad education, but will that college you are going to be an entry ticket to the grad school you want to go to? Check with graduate schools and see just how many students from your undergrad school they have admitted. If you know going in that a graduate degree is going to be necessary, then do the calculations and see how you are going to have to apportion your monies between undergrad and grad school.

Look at the graduates of your prospective undergrad and grad schools and find out what the placement record is for people coming out of the program you might be considering. Which businesses, paying what types of salaries, take the graduates?

In short, an education costs, and can cost a whole lot. But what is needed is a careful evaluation of what you are getting/might be getting by attending one college over another college. When money is limited, how should it best be spent? Yes, debt for an education can be a frightening thing seen as a lump sum figure with no income yet in sight. But the old maxim still holds true: you get what you pay for. If spending less now can still get you what you are aiming for, then spend less. But if spending less now also means that you will make less later, then what have you actually saved? Of all the things that we throw our money at, you could do a lot worse than buying a good education.


Now let me do a demographic cost breakdown, which may explain some of the "panic" in the frum community about the cost of college. Let's look at an average college student, one from the secular cohort and one from the frum cohort. [Information on the secular cohort is taken from US Census statistics.]

The typical high school student in the non-frum cohort graduates high school and goes straight on to college. Graduation from college takes place at about 21-22 years of age. During college that student also typically has some type of part-time employment. Let's say that that typical student graduates with $60K in school debt. According to the Census the average age of marriage for this cohort is from the mid-20s to the mid-30s. If a student graduates college and does not go on to graduate school--and according to the Census this is the norm, since only 1 out of 10 people hold graduate degrees--then that student enters the work world. In the time between graduation and marriage that student has a chance to pay down a huge chunk, if not all, of school loans.

At the point that our student gets married there are definitely long term financial goals that the married couple will have. A house is one of them. Saving for the college education of their children is another. Paying for private school for their elementary and high school children is NOT one of them, since the vast majority of children in the US attend public schools. Parents are encouraged to start saving for college expenses as soon as they can. Any number of financial vehicles for this saving having been established in the past few decades. Many parents do help out with college expenses, if not pay the whole amount. A financially astute person from this cohort does not have to spend decades buried under the debt of college.

Now let's look at our frum student. Please note that it is not pertinent here to discuss what changes should/could be made re yeshiva education; I'm speaking now of the situation that exists presently. The vast majority of those who call themselves frum send their children to religious schools for elementary and high school. Some begin this process with nursery/kindergarten, others with primer/first grade.

So our frum student graduates from high school. There is a community custom that has become prevalent even in the more modern corridors of Orthodoxy to provide a "gap" year or two for the girls and for the boys. For many this gap year(s) takes place in Israel. The start of college is thus delayed by a year or two, if not more, but it is not used for earning money towards college; instead, it takes money that parents might apply towards college and uses it otherwise. For many of the males, even when they start college, they are going only at night and are learning during the day. A few will be working during the day and attending school at night. The number of frum college students with part-time or full time employment is less as a percentage than the number of secular students who work while going to school. The age of graduation falls into the 22-25 age grouping; some students are even older.

Far from waiting to complete college and then get married after they are established, many frum students marry quite young and while still completing their education. Many frum couples are being supported by the wife, if she can already make parnoseh, or by the families or a combination of both. Many of these young married men return to learn for a few years after completing their college educations, again being supported by the wife or the families.
For some of these married couples, at the point where husband and wife are finished at least with their undergraduate education, they are already beginning to pay yeshiva tuition for their children; many students are already paying tuition for their children even while they themselves are still in school. There is no grace period for this group between finishing college and having heavy family expenses. They are paying back college loans at the same time that they are financing a private school education for their children. They are also attempting to pay home mortgages at the same time as they are paying back their loans and paying tuition for their children.

Thus, the cost of a college education can indeed seem formidable to a frum student. Reliance on parents for paying large parts of the college tuition are not a given; these same parents have also been paying yeshiva tuition for years, and thus their ability to save for college has been somewhat diminished.

Yes, college can be an expensive "purchase," but the financial "pain" is worse when repayment of educational loans coincides with other weighty financial obligations.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Something We can do for our Chayalim

As the war in Israel stops being counted in days and enters into being counted in weeks, there is a frustration in somehow not being able to say or do something that will show our brothers and sisters in Israel that we are worried for them and with them, that they are in our thoughts. Many other blogs have listed sites where money may be donated to support the troops and the people under siege in Israel. The following was sent to me by a student and also represents something that we can undertake on behalf of the chayalim who are putting their lives on the line minute by minute.

Dear friends,
Rabbi Kook asked me to send you this letter (enclosed) and try to forward it to as many people as you can.

May we hear Besurot Tovot
Yanki Schneck
Assistant to Chief Rabbi of Rehovot(972)504114418

אחינו בית ישראל באיזורים רבים של ארץ הקודש מצוים בצרה ובשביה
ולעת כזאת חובתנו לחוש את אחדות כלל ישראל בלב ובנפש להרבות בתפילה ובכל הענינים, כי עת צרה היא ליעקב וכו' ובעהי"ת ממנה יושע.
ובאנו לעורר, ולבקש, ולהוסיף ענין של זיכוי הרבים ביותר.
תוה"ק מעידה כי במלחמת מדין נצטוו להחלץ "אלף למטה" "אלף למטה".ואיתא במד"ר ובילקוט שמעוני ד"וימסרו" היינו עוד אלף למטה, פירוש שהיו נמסרין זוגות זוגות, כדי שיהיו מתפללים איש על רעהו.
ואכן במלחמת מדין נאמר "ולא נפקד ממנו איש". ובודאי העובדה שניצלו כולם היתה בגלל תפילת כלל ישראל
והבאנו דבר זה לפני מרן הגאון רבי חיים קניבסקי שליט"א, שמח בדבר, והוסיף ואמר כי גם כך נהג דוד המלך ע"ה שלכל אחד שיצא להילחם, הכינו יהודי נוסף, שתפקידו היה, להתפלל עבור היוצא, ויש א"כ הסכמת דוד המלך ע"ה לתפילות אלו.
לזאת, אנו פונים בזה לכל חייל החפץ שיתפללו בעדו בעהי"ת להתקשר לטלפון 02 581 1911 ולמסור את שמו ושם אמו ואין צורך בשמות המשפחה.( אי מייל או פקס 08-9450027) ונעביר בעהי"ת את שמו למתפלל שיכון בתוספות תורתו ותפילתו לזכותו ולשמרו.
וכן קוראים אנו לכל א' המצוי ח"ו בגלל המלחמה במצוקה או בחרדה, במקלט ובכל אתר לפנות להנ"ל ובעהי"ת נעביר גם שמו למי שקיבל על עצמו להוסיף בתפילתו ובתלמוד תורה עבור המבקש.
ובעזהשי"ת נזכה מן השמים גם אנו לנאמר "ולא נפקד ממנו איש".
ובזה אנו קוראים גם לכל מי שרוצה לקיים דברי חכמים ולהוסיף בתורה ותפילה, להצטרף ולהיכנס לפיתקא של תפילות , להתקשר למספ' הנ"ל ולקבל שם של חייל או אחר לכוון את תוספות תורתו ותפלתו לזכות חבירו .
גם נשים צדקניות יכולות לקבל ע"ע להתפלל עבור חברה השרויה במצוקה עקב המלחמה.

ה' בברכת כהנים באהבה המצפה לישועת

כ"ק אדמו"ר מבוסטון שליט"א הרב הראשי של רחובות

An open letter to all Achenu Bene Yisroel

After learning about the heart rendering appeal of the Gedolay Torah to intensify our Tefilos and Torah learning during this very trying time for Klal Yisroel, we have undertaken to join and aid them in their prayers.

The Medrash Rabah and the Yalkut relate that during the war against Midyon, for every one that went out to battle there was a designated person whose task it was to pray and learn for him.

The Great Gaon and Sage Rebbe Chaim Kanievsky shlitah when asked about this tradition pointed out that Dovid Hemelech, as well continued and instituted the practice, that for every individual who was in combat, there was another person selected for the specific task of praying and learning for him.

Therefore in order to continue and accomplish this Minhag, we ask soldiers and/or their relatives who would want a "partner" in Torah and Tefillah to email or fax 011 9728 9450027 and give their Hebrew name and mothers Hebrew name without any other particulars such as family name or other identifying factors, so that we may disseminate them among those who heed the call to add Torah and Tefiloh for the sake of those who find themselves in jeopardy ח"ו. Anyone who finds himself or herself ח"ו in danger or in shelters because of the war may also feel free to call or email to the above.

To bond with us and receive a name of your "partner" please email or fax the above.
May Klal Yisroel in the merit of joining together, speedily see a successful end to this trial and campaign as quoted in the Parsha "without loss of life".

How to Drive a Watch

My husband pointed out the following to me from the Stauer Catalog, the first 2009 edition. It was really nice to start the day with a shared laugh.

Page 49.
" A free car with every watch?...keep reading
Many Swiss watches cost more than my new car. So we at Stauer decided to replicate the movement of a magnificent $26,000 Swiss automatic watch but sell it to you for only $149.95. So you end up with $25,850.05 in change.

How did we build such a fine timepiece and save you enough to buy a brand new sedan or SUV in the process? We spent over $31 million but took our factory across the border and out of Switzerland. By using Swiss built machinery, Swiss trained engineers and the highest quality parts, we were able to build this limited edition Stauer Monaco automatic timepiece for 93% less than a comparable luxury model.

Thanks to Stauer, you can wear the ultimate luxury watch with the added benefit of keeping your money in your wallet, not on your wrist."

Haveil Havalim #199

Haveil Havalim #199 is up and can be accessed at

Lots there to get your teeth into.

Say What????

The US government has been doing a fairly fine job of making manufacturers put vital information for consumers on the packages of food that they buy. However, there is still a long way to go before manufacturers won't be able to find a "sort-of" way around some of the regulations.

One of the kosher grocery stores had a truly great price on frozen pizza . I went to buy two boxes for the freezer for "emergency" purposes now that the weather is nasty and I'm busy with my mom. Simple, right? Wrong.

This pizza--8 slices to the box, regulation pizza-store size--comes in four varieties now. Regular white flour, white flour 55% reduced fat, regular whole wheat and whole wheat 55% reduced fat. Logic would seem to tell me to go for the reduced fat pizza.

The regular pizza is 420 calories for one slice, with 140 of those calories from fat, for 15 grams of fat per slice. It also provides 15% of daily Vitamin A, 8% of vitamin C, 50% of calcium and 20% of iron.

Now here is where things get sticky. The 55% reduced fat pizza contains only 5 grams of fat per slice--a good thing. But that is a reduction of 66% fat, not 55%. At 55% reduction there would be only 63 fat calories per slice. 63 subtracted from the 140 fat calories gives you 77. Subtract 77 calories from the 420 and you get 343 calories per slice. But the box states 320 calories per slice. I wasn't a math major, but something does not add up here.

In addition, the Vitamin A, vitamin C and iron are cut by 50% and the calcium by 60% on the lower fat product.

The manufacturer is cutting out a lot of something, but it's not that the pizza is equal to the regular pizza in every other way. If the manufacturer had switched to the low fat cheese available then fat calories would be reduced, but I have yet to see kosher low fat cheese reduced by 66%, which is what the fat grams above tell us. And given the calories stated on the lower fat cheese, and the amount of the nutrients in it, the manufacturer is NOT using lower fat cheese. The conclusion I came to is that the manufacturer is using less cheese, born out by a statement from someone in the store who has purchased this product. But they are also using less of something else in order to reduce fat and calories to the level they state on the box. Now according to the ingredients there is no fat used other than that which is in the cheese. But that can't be possible if they reduced the fat grams by 2/3.

So what are you really getting if you buy this product? Are you getting less pizza product? Or is it possible that the label does not correctly state the nutrition facts. If nutritional labeling was supposed to make it easier for consumers, this is one product that it did not make easier to understand. Yet another example of let the buyer be ware.

And no, it's not only the kosher producers whose labels don't add up, literally and figuratively.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

What's Upcoming

The postings on what a degree is worth have brought some interesting and thought provoking responses from those who commented. They have also brought me a few interesting emails. Some of the comments have suggested the topics for some future postings, which will be on the subject of education--what it is, what it should be--and a liberal arts education--who needs it and why. The state of education (whatever that is) today is a topic that many are discussing. There are lots of pros and cons on all sides of this debate (yes, there are way more than two sides to this issue). So thank you to the readers who commented and fired up my imagination.

However, I am just a tad disgruntled at the moment [Thought: we know disgruntled people. Have you ever met a person who was gruntled?] A reader who sent me an email was making some perfectly valid points about a college education and then came this: "I mean, look at your own major. English and Education were the majors for those who couldn't make it in the harder majors. What can you do with an English degree if you don't teach English? High schools and colleges force students to take English courses I guess to give employment to the people who graduate with English degrees. It's not like they contribute anything really worthwhile to society like doctors and engineers do. Sorry if this upsets you but it's true as I see it."

[Smoothing ruffled feathers] The "worth" of certain majors is something I'll take up in a future posting. Ditto on what you can do with an English major. But perhaps now is the time to state that I may be teaching English but my undergraduate major was NOT in English, nor have I ever taken a formal course in Education other than two courses in Education for the Gifted and Tenets of Teaching Argumentation. English was that sub-major that I was missing one course in to qualify as a major. My major was in Speech--Rhetoric: Argumentation, Persuasion and Debate. One of the requirements for that major was a working knowledge of Latin and a working/reading knowledge of classical Greek. [Note: when I was in public elementary school we were given two years of Latin study as well as study of Greek roots. Two years before I entered high school was the first time that Latin as a requirement for high school graduation was made optional.] It certainly helped when so many of the required courses had Aristotelian and Platonic underpinnings. So much for a "Mickey Mouse" major. I had sub-majors in English, Linguistics and Comparative Literature. Yes, for graduate school I was "forced" to settle on one area and I chose English, but I also took courses outside of the required areas.

I'll admit it freely--I'm an "education" junkie. Put me near a classroom and a course and I start to salivate. Talk to me about writing papers and doing research and my adrenalin starts flowing. Know why I'm looking forward to retirement? Because I plan on spending a lot of unfettered time taking courses again. So is my husband. Learning for its own sake is a tenet I live by. Yup, I love school and schooling. I take a very pro-schooling stance. It is not that I am pro-school because I am teaching; I teach because I am pro-school.

Note to Self: Do not read emails motzoai Shabbos without a strong cup of coffee in hand and a sense of humor intact.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

What is a Degree Worth--part #3

The trend for decelerating the amount of time needed to earn an undergraduate degree is not one that applies only to the "alternative" college programs and the diploma mills. It has been slowly seeping into the regular college programs as well.

My undergraduate degree is from Queens College CUNY. The number of credits that was required to earn either a BA or a BS was 128, 8 more than is now the case. That 128 was the norm at all colleges. That represented 8 semesters at 16 credits per semester. Yes, it was possible to reduce the time needed to complete the degree by taking more credits per semester and/or by taking courses in summer school. However, taking more than 18 credits per semester required special permission from the school and was not a sure thing unless the school was convinced that you could handle the heavy load.

But it is not only the number of credits that is different now from then. We began school the day after Labor Day. We had classes up until Christmas Eve, were off until New Years and came back the day after New Years to finish the term and then take final exams. At max our winter break was two weeks and then the spring term began. That spring term would not end until the middle of June. Our school terms were longer then than now.

But there were other differences as well. First, at a minimum a 3-credit course required three hours a week of class time; a 4-credit course required four hours a week. Today's minimum requirement for a 3-credit course is 35 hours per term of instruction, far less then when I was an undergraduate. Next, there were 1-credit and 2-credit courses that were given back then. Physical education courses carried only one credit but required 2-3 hours per week for the course. Some labs were only 1-credit courses, some 2 on the advanced level. Again, those 1 and 2 credit labs carried 2-4 hours per week of lab time.

And then there were the basic required courses. All students had to take four courses in English, two in history, four in Physical education, one in health education, two in sociology/anthropology, two in Speech, three in the study of a foreign language, two in science and two in math. You were also required to take one semester of Art Appreciation and one semester of Music Appreciation. Those were just the general requirements. Every major carried its own list of required subjects in the major area as well as requirements from other areas. [Note: some colleges had far more by way of required subjects than CUNY did. For instance, YU/Stern required two Judaic Studies courses minimum each term at Stern and more at YU. These Judaic studies courses did not reduce the number of credits required for a degree; they were in addition to those credits.]

Back then it was not only possible but also likely that many people would graduate with more than 128 credits towards their undergraduate degree. Sometimes--GASP!--students took courses that were not school requirements nor major requirements just because they were interested in the subject matter. There were also students who either double majored or who took one or more sub-majors. (Sub-majors, otherwise known as minors, were four or more courses above the required/introductory course level in one subject area.) I graduated with 163 credits for my BA degree, including a major and three sub-majors, one of which was only one course short of being a full major. I wasn't all that unusual. [Note: I actually had more credits but then, unlike now, the Judaic studies courses from Stern, where I transferred from after my first year, were not transferable as college credit.]

So, in the "good old days" we went to school for longer periods of time, our courses took longer to complete, we had more school requirements and we took more courses outside of our majors. Yes, we really got educated when we were in college. And before someone brings this up with a smirk, many of us also worked part time while in school. And also before someone else brings it up, there were boys back then who were also learning in yeshiva during the day, although nowhere near as many as a percentage of population as there are now. But here is the difference. Those yeshiva boys went to school FOUR nights a week. And they weren't getting yeshiva credits from CUNY (or from anywhere else either). Yes, there were a few people who entered college with a few AP course credits. No, "CLEPing" was not in existence. And yes, it must be mentioned as well: even CUNY had tough entrance requirements back then. You needed to present a "decent" high school average and strong SAT scores. The caliber of students in school was higher then than now.

I offer this information so my readers can know what perspective I am coming from when I talk about the worth of a college education. And to my reader who commented on a prior posting that the "good old days" were not so good, I beg to differ. In my viewpoint, those "good old days" of undergraduate education were better than what we have today.

Note: to really make your day let me point out that the CUNY schools were tuition free back before open enrollment took affect and made charging a necessity. When I graduated college the registration fee per term had gone up to $25.00 per term, and people were in shock. Our only other charge for school was paying for textbooks and our transportation. Now that really was the good old days, and it was waaaaay better then the cost of college today.