Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Milestone

Today is our wedding anniversary, at least the English one. In 37 years we have never had our Hebrew and English anniversaries come out exactly as they were when we got married. First of all, we were married in an English leap year with February having 29 days. Second, we were married in Adar, with there sometimes being an Adar aleph and an Adar beis. According to a calendar I consulted, which will give you dates over a 660 year period, the first time that both our Hebrew and English wedding dates will coincide is in 2018. That will make it 46 years of marriage--I like the sound of that. The next time after that that the dates will coincide is in 2029. 57 years of marriage--I like the sound of that even better. After that the next year the dates coincide is in 2037. 65 years of marriage--I like the sound of that the best.

People sometimes ask those celebrating anniversaries with a large number of years if they, in retrospect, would still marry the same person if they had it to do all over again. In a word---yes.

With thanks to Hashem Yisborach for having allowed us to come to this point, and with hopes that we will be zocheh to many more years together in health and in happiness, and that we be zocheh to see our anniversaries come together many times in the future.

Note: The link for that calendar is

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Let All Who Are Hungry...

I've been a "bird feeder" going way back. I was in a market yesterday that had a table in the corner that had on it a variety of boxes of food items that were past their sell by date and that were being offered at rock bottom prices. There were some cereal products on the table and I bought some of the boxes for 30 cents each to use to feed the birds with. I wasn't quite sure if imitation Fruit Loops were going to appeal but I knew the others would.

Well, those boxes got emptied all over a raised planter in the back yard. Some of the oatmeal type products were broadcast on the lawn. And I'm laughing at who is taking advantage of the smorgasbord I provided.

Right now there are three squirrels that are having a field day outside. One of them is basically rolling around in the cereal piles and then stuffing himself with a few big bites. The others are foregoing the calisthenics and are just digging in. There's a small group of birds sitting on the fence, staring at the yard. They are not unlike people at a buffet who look over all the choices before starting to load plates.

I may not be able to single handedly solve the problem of world hunger, but I can take care of things in my small corner of the world. I consider feeding the small creatures that inhabit my yard as a perfectly wonderful exchange: I feed them, something that doesn't take hours of my time, and they give me hours of enjoyable viewing time. There are no roses out there now to stop and smell, but viewing the wildlife serves just as well. And here's a valuable lesson that I learned: the world won't/doesn't come to an end if you take a few moments out of a busy day to do nothing but sit, watch and appreciate the wonders of nature.

Looking for Chizuk?

I'm providing a link to an article that may bring tears to your eyes but that can also bring strength for your undertakings. Can there be a bigger tragedy for a parent then to lose a child? See how a few parents reacted to this tragedy. A lesson in this for all of us.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Prohibition Regarding Being Drunk

It is Rosh Chodosh Adar today and that means that Purim will soon be upon us. And with Purim drawing nearer it is also time to bring up yet again the huge problem that comes in Purim's train: alcohol abuse. I don't usually repeat postings from a prior time, but frankly, I don't think I'm going to do better than last year's pre-Purim rant on alcohol. Just a little addendum to the posting: last year Purim was on Friday so some people had a little control, or control was forced onto them. This year Purim is on a Tuesday. And from past experience some of my students are going to walk in on Wednesday looking more than a little green around the gills, if they can make it at all. The aftermath of Purim isn't pretty to see.

The problem is bad enough when it is grown ups who are getting drunk; it's unconscionable that we allow teenagers to get into this condition as well. And there is no halachah that requires this drunkenness--see Matt's guest discussion of the Rambam and drinking here

There are enough bad things that can happen to us no matter how careful we are to avoid them. To purposefully put ourselves into harms way--and, not so incidentally, to ruin what is my favorite holiday--makes one wonder about the vaunted intelligence of the human race.


No doubt, none whatsoever, that Adar is my most favorite month of the year. I woke up to Adar this morning and the smiles came a million a second. Yes! At last! Adar's here!!!

Don't bother trying to rein my spirits in. Nothing and no one is going to rain on my parade. This is Adar we are talking about! Adar arrives and Purim will soon be here, my favorite holiday of all. Adar, the month where my husband and I began our marriage journey, and what a lovely trip it has been. Adar, when I first became a mother. Adar, when sniffs of Springtime are in the air. Adar, when I thumb my nose at the weatherman and put my boots in the back of the closet. I am so thankful to God that He let me see another Adar.

Adar, when I send cynicism packing and refuse, absolutely refuse to be in the dumps about anything. Adar is about seeing the good that can be accomplished. Just where would Esther HaMalkah been if she had let life get her down? If she had said "I can't do this so forget about it?" It didn't matter what bad things were coming down the road; she faced them head-on and charged ahead. That's what Adar is to me; the month where anything and everything is possible, so full speed ahead.

No rants and raves in Adar allowed. [Note: there is one exception, posted today, and as I mention there, I have a heter for ranting about the subject.] In Adar I allow myself a little nod at what I've accomplished, not what I haven't done. Adar gives me strength and gives me joy. In Adar, even making Pesach sounds intriguing.

So join me please. Celebrate the day and celebrate the month. Look on the bright side this month. Look at all that we have, not what we don't. Look at all the good things that have happened to you, not the bad. Look, look and smile--Adar's here!

Monday, February 23, 2009

A Joke, Maybe

This arrived in an email sent to me today. I haven't yet decided whether it is funny or sad or both.

Dear bank,
One of my checks was returned to me marked "insufficient funds." In view of current developments, does that refer to me or to you?

Navigating the In-law Shoals

Everyone who has ever lived has heard the in-law stories. Some are truly funny and some are truly frightening. While some are undoubtedly exagerrations, others are fully true. Having heard the stories we all frantically attempt to not only find our zivug but also make sure that his/her family is exactly to our liking. Therein is where the trouble begins.

Here is what I believe, come to over many years of observing others and yes, of being a daughter-in-law. Unless there is a major issue in someone else's family--one side is all awaiting execution on Federal charges, for example--forget about the family when making your decision on getting married. Yes, forget about the family.

Here are the facts about families. You will both have one. They will not be identical to each other, even if they are fairly similar. Even if they are your choson's or kallah's nearest and dearest they will be strangers to you and it takes a long time to develop a relationship. Sometimes that relationship may be a very close one; other times the relationship is only cordial or even "business-like." And sometimes that relationship may never get beyond bare minimum tolerance. You cannot legislate liking or love for strangers no matter how you might like to; it either comes or it doesn't.

Unless you have no parents of your own, making a shidduch is NOT about finding a new set of parents. Families will take sides in any disagreement, the line usually drawn with their being on the side of the child that is biologically theirs. When a husband and wife have a disagreement it is NOT an us versus them problem, families included as combatants--it should only be a he versus she problem. Families experience "loss" when a child marries, and they attempt to put off that loss by holding on when they should be letting go. What others may see as meddling they see as being "close."

Here are some other facts. Newly married couples are not some possession to be squabbled over. In fact, they no longer "belong" to their birth families. They are now a completely new family of their own. Our sages tell us that a man should leave his home and cleave to his wife. In short, the new unit takes precedence over the old unit. No, you are not "divorcing" your family, but their precedence in your life has been changed. Despite our all knowing this, putting it into practice may not always be easy.

In short, we give "family"--his and hers--too much emphasis when looking at a possible shidduch. So what if you don't "like" his family? So what if you can't stand his sister? Is absolutely every member of your family and extended family so perfect, so absolutely loveable? Come on, a little honesty. You know, your aunt/uncle/cousin that you wish would emigrate anywhere as long as it is really far from you?

What should be primary in seeking a shidduch is the family that you hope to build, not the families already in existence. I am not, repeat not saying that family cannot be of importance to a newly married couple. But unless we are equating marriage with a governmentally run animal breeding program where an element of "eugenics" is part of the program, then could we please stop giving family so much emphasis in the shidduch process? Even with all the in-depth questions that get asked and all the investigating that gets done about the families, a couple gets married and there are still hostilities that develop, problems that arise, and people you are just plain never going to adore. That, too, is part of married life.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Known World

The "Geogra What?" posting brought a few comments by readers that are worthy of noting separately: specifically, the arguments about how many continents there really are. The following is a brief summary of the major positions.

There is some wide divergence as to how many continents there are today. Some Europeans count Europe and Asia as one continent--Eurasia, and also count North and South America as one continent--America, giving us 5 continents. Those in our part of the hemisphere generally count North America and South America as two continents and sometimes count Europe and Asia separately and sometimes count them as only Eurasia, thus 6 to 7 continents. Then there are those who say you need to be consistent; if Europe and Asia form one continent then North and South America do as well, giving us 5 continents. There are some who say you have to be even more consistent; if physical connection makes North and South America one continent, then Eurasia does not go far enough. It should be Eurafrisia--Europe, Asia and Africa, thus giving us 4 continents. Some argue that Australia is nothing but a big island and should not have continent status; others apply the "large, separated land mass" formula and say that Australia is a continent under the same formula that makes Antarctica a continent. Some have taken to calling the whole area where Australia sits as Oceania, and some apply that name to the continent otherwise known as Australia.

If you strictly apply the completely separate land mass designation, then we have only 4 continents. If you add in the size of the land mass to the completely separate idea then Australia drops out and we have only 3 continents. If, as most American geographers have done, you say that small points touching two large land masses don't make them one continent, then we are back to 6 continents, Europe and Asia having a super large physical connection and being counted as one.

Add in those who look at the map of the world and point out that if you moved all of the continents next to each other, like doing a puzzle, then all the pieces fit together to make one whole. Their theory is that the world was once one large land mass, excepting Antarctica, and that it is likely that "some day" the pieces may float back together, so talking about continents is not accurate--only one big continent.

And then there are those who say that the continent designation is not only a physical one but a combination of large size and cultural/racial differentiation, which puts us back at 7 continents. Of course, if culture/race becomes a determiner, you could conceivably end up with 8 continents, Asia having to be divided at least in half.

As Bas~Melech pointed out in her comment, teachers moving from district to district have to ask what the district's position is on the continents before attempting to teach about them. At least in theory an International Conference on Continent Status ought to be convened and one designation should be used world-wide to identify what a continent is. Right. We know how well those International conferences have worked in the past. There are still some hold-outs who refuse to take Pluto out of the planet rotation, despite International "agreement" that it no longer qualifies.

This should give you a clue as to why important problems such as world hunger and allocation and preservation of natural resources are nowhere near having any real and lasting solutions implemented. You can't get people to agree on what to call anywhere from 3 to 7 land masses; you expect these same people to agree on what to do with what is in those land masses?

Friday, February 20, 2009

Geogra What?

Once upon a time, in the dark ages, geography was considered as a key element in the grade school/high school curriculum. I still remember spending time studying maps and being expected to know how the earth was organized geographically. Apparently that isn't the case any longer.

I thought you might appreciate this tidbit that an instructor posted in one of the professional chat groups I belong to. He used as a "giveaway" question on an exam the following: "Which continents are capable of sustaining life?" The question itself became moot as some of the students began arguing about how many continents there are--5 or 6. Those who mentioned that there are seven were told, in one case, that Pluto was no longer a continent, so there are now only 6 left. And he teaches at a University that is considered as Tier I. And no, they really don't pay us enough money to face this day in and day out.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Shuls Are Under-utilized

Many shuls today are vastly under-utilized. They have minyanim for davening both weekdays and on Shabbos. They may offer some evening shiurim. Beyond that many are empty the whole day. Yes, some larger shuls may offer Talmud Torah-type classes at some point during the day. Yes, some shuls may have nursery school/play group types of programs. Some may offer daytime learning opportunities. But looking around I see many, many of these shuls standing empty and unused. Why? Why aren't these shul buildings being used in ways that will be helpful to the community?

What are some possible ways that shuls could be used to the benefit of the communities they service?

1) After School Care. Many working parents have real problems with coverage for their children. Even when the children are in school programs, these programs may let out before parents have returned home from school. These parents then have to pay for babysitting of some type. But every working parent who has ever hired a private in-house babysitter also knows that these sitters cannot always be there when they say they will be; they get ill or have family emergencies of their own. If a shul were to sponsor an after school care program there would be a reliable source of care for children. School buses could deliver the children to the shuls rather than to their homes. In addition, on days that schools let classes out early or have no classes at all, such programs could run during the day so that parents aren't constantly scrambling to find reliable care for their kids.

2) Nursery/Kindergarten Programs. Shuls have the space available to be able to run nursery school programs. I am willing to bet that they can deliver a lovely program for far less than yeshivas are presently charging for such programs. (I happen to know if two rebbetzins that run such a program in their shuls and parents consistently choose them over a school-based program because the program is fantastic and yes, it is waaay cheaper than the school program.) As I have mentioned before, TAG charges $11,400 for kindergarten. Let's say a shul offered a kindergarten program and had only 14 children in it; at TAG that would be $159,600 in tuition money coming in. Here's what I can tell you; the teacher of that class is not getting $159,600 in salary, not even when you count in an assistant in the class. Clearly two things are happening: 1) the money is going towards other expenses of the school and 2) not every parent is paying full tuition.

Shuls are already paying insurance to cover those using the facilities. Even adding in more coverage you are nowhere near that $11,400 figure. Toys and books and supplies? Let's be really generous and say that in the first year it would cost $300 per student to outfit the classroom. Most of what is purchased will be around for many more years, so the cost will go down after the first year. Let's say that snacks and lunches, if provided by the school, would run $700 per child, per year. So far a shul kindergarten will cost for added insurance, supplies and food $15,000 for the year. Now let's be really generous and add in $50,000 in salaries for teachers and assistants. That brings the cost to $65,000 for the first year the program runs. The cost per child? Approximately $4,642, way less than half of what the school charges. The program now becomes affordable for parents, particularly for working parents who are paying babysitting in addition to school tuition.

3) Limudei kodesh programs for children who attend public schools. I am not talking here about introductory Talmud Torah programs for those from non-frum backgrounds. I am talking here about a substitute-type of program for the limudei kodesh part of a regular yeshiva program for frum parents who simply cannot afford yeshiva tuitions any longer. Let's put 10 kids into this class. Let the class run for two-three hours a day, four days a week, with no classes on Friday. Let's make this a girls' class. Let's also be generous and pay that morah better than most yeshivas pay their morot. Let's give her $25,000-$30,000 a school year. That is a cost to each student of $2,500 to $3000 for the teacher. Now let's add in incidentals of supplies, again many of which will be used again after the first year. That would make it $3,000-$3,500 per student for the year. If the program were to be for boys, as presently structured in yeshivas and duplicated in a shul program, you would need to add more hours for the boys resulting in more salary paid to a rebbi. Let's say that the rebbi would make in the $35,000 to $45,000 range, depending on the age of the talmidim and the number of hours taught. That would be a charge to each student of $3,500 to $4,500 per year. Please note: these are only working figures and it is possible that the amount paid out by parents could be less.

4) Senior Citizen Programs. We have a large number of older people who are now either retiring or who have been retired for some time. Our community is remiss in not providing any programs for these seniors. Many of these seniors would welcome activities geared to their interests, both for the mental stimulation and for the socialization. Certainly shiurim are part of such a program, but so are lectures of many types. So are classes of all kinds. So are sponsored trips. There is so much that could be done, and it is appropriate that a shul should be the place to start such programs.

I have presented the above as a starting point for shul-based activities. The buildings are there. The insurance is already being paid. Even adding in some additional expenses for extra heating or electricity would not price the programs out of the range of most people. Shuls would present good alternatives to what is available today.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


I apparently caused some consternation among a few readers when I mentioned recently that I had begun my Pesach cleaning already. Perhaps a few words of explanation are necessary.

Cleaning for Pesach in February is a psychological ploy as well as being a practical event. Psychologically I am hoping (praying?) that I can convince myself that an early start will mean that the two weeks before Pesach will not be the roller coaster ride that it usually is. If I start now I can leisurely wend my way into Pesach. That's my intent; how well this will actually play out has yet to be seen. As with other psychological ploys we sometimes use to calm ourselves, this one may not work out as hoped for.

The practical reason is my attempt to finally separate out from preparing for Pesach those items that have absolutely nothing to do with Pesach but have a lot to do with Spring Cleaning. I have never once in 37 years found any chometz on my dining room chandelier; yet, every year right before Pesach I dismantle and clean every inch of that chandelier. Yes, it needs a thorough cleaning, not just a dusting, and once a year sounds about right. But why in the mayhem and madness of the two weeks before Pesach? If I clean it now it will still be twinkling clearly two months from now. And I can handle one grungy, time-consuming task now, which might not be the case two weeks before Pesach. There are any number of other tasks that have become associated with cleaning for Pesach that have no actual relationship to Pesach. Washing the ceiling in the kitchen comes to mind, as does cleaning the ceiling fan in the living room. I'm hoping that at least some of these tasks won't show up on my to-do list this year.

So no, I'm not looking to "prolong the agony" as one reader put it. And it's not about cleaning-for-Pesach-one-upmanship either. Consider this as a scientific experiment. I'm testing to see if I can avoid pre-Pesach-I'm-never-going-to-make-it-and-who-thought-up-all-these-crazy-jobs-itis.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Gap? Isn't That a Clothing Store?

I've been seeing a lot of advertisements for programs that bill themselves as best for filling "the gap year." I've also heard some people talking about that gap year. I admit to being rather puzzled. By definition a gap is "an empty space or interval; interruption in continuity; hiatus; break, breach. " We normally don't think of gaps as being positive things. So why do we have this "gap year," and why is it being marketed to so agressively?

It would seem that the gap year is that fill-in-the-blank space between high school and what comes next in life. But why is there a gap between high school and the rest of life? At least in my younger days we knew that after high school, with no gap in sight, we would go on to college, to technical training and/or to work. There was no discontinuity between high school and the rest of life. Why have we suddenly discovered a void that needs to be filled?

One reason that presents itself is our attitude towards marriage. "Someone" has decided that 19 is an absolutely perfect age for girls to get married. But most girls graduate high school well before they turn 19. There would seem to be a real fear that if girls start out on a vocational track right after high school {one that takes longer than 1-1/2 years to complete]they just might--gasp!--not be anxious to get married until they are finished with what they started post high school.

I suppose it makes a perverted kind of sense to have that gap year. After all, we talk about putting our boys in the "freezer" until they are ready for shidduchim (whatever that actually means). I guess the girls have to have that gap until the boys are ready to be defrosted. (Did I really write that last sentence in referring to living, breathing human beings? Sheeesh!)

Gap year? Sounds like planned warehousing to me. Yet another attempt at social engineering that sounds like bad science fiction run amok.

Note: I purposefully did not mention the expenses involved in having this gap, which for many serves as "extra" or "extraneous" education, not directly related to what a person might be going to study in college/graduate school. Friends and family have mentioned to me the amount charged by the Israeli seminaries and yeshivas, and this doesn't include all the "extras" such as plane fares, food, phones and other living expenses. One acquaintance could conceivably have three kids in the gap year(s) at once. That's a $60K-70K expense. The parents don't want to play favorites and let only one child go, (note--one set of twins, male and female, plus one female only one year older) so right now they are saying no one will go, and oh boy you should see the fireworks.

Monday, February 16, 2009

On a Scientific Note...

Okay, one more place to send you before the men in white coats come to lead me to safer pastures. If you have kids who are interested in science or if you are interested yourself, here's a blog you might like to visit. The subjects are varied and some of the photos and videos are both fascinating and beautiful. The name of the blog is Growing With Science--"Putting the fun back into scientific exploration."

Not the Bates Motel, a Roach Motel.

In case you are wondering about the rash of reading posts, I've begun my Pesach cleaning and I'm giving myself sanity breaks to scroll around online and see what there might be of interest.
I accidentally came across a site called, and on this site I found an article on how to raise cockroaches intentionally, with step by step instructions and fully illustrated. As the article says, it's intention is to give "simple instructions on how to make a happy habitat for cockroaches to thrive." Until I found this article I had no idea that roaches needed happy habitats, or that roach thriving was a positive social virtue. You learn something new every day.

And being just a tad woozy on bleach fumes, I had an "Aha!" moment on how this discovery linked to my posting on Shidduch dating in NY. Clearly, many New Yorkers believe that NY is the center of the known world. There is nothing that you desire that cannot be gotten in NY, and in larger and better quantity than anywhere else. I will concede that those making this statement are correct, when it comes to cockroaches. Until I came to NY I had never seen a cockroach; imagine what I was missing in my life. If the author of this article wants to really know how to raise thriving cockroaches she should ask a New Yorker; they do an incredible job of raising roaches here. Why, you can find those roaches in the finest of dining establishments and the poshest of hotels. What city residence is considered complete without at least one mating pair of roaches? Oh yes, and yet another reason to consider Staten Island as out of town rather than a bonafide part of New York City: roaches are a relative rarity in the borough. We get other types of livestock, but roaches clearly don't prefer to live in this borough despite the many advantages it offers.

Roach capital of the tri-state area: This is one encomium I'm just as happy that Oregon never aspired to.

Lincoln and the Jews

For still yet some more interesting reading, here's a link to an article about President Lincoln and the Jews. Appropriate given that it is President's Day here.

Haveil Havalim--Lots to Read

Speaking of reading matter, the latest Haveil Havalim--the Lots to Read edition--is up and Leora did a great job of putting it together.

There is reading matter and then there is READING MATTER

I devour the printed word and it's sometimes hard to keep myself in reading matter. Because of this I have been known to read some rather strange works, at least in retrospect. Others have sometimes lent me reading matter that was also a bit unusual. But I'm giving the prize for Strangest Publication to Make It Into Print and Remain There For More Than One Issue to the one highlighted in The Rebbetzin's Husband's latest offering. I've just spent a few odd moments trying to come up with a profile for a dedicated reader for that publication, and I'll admit I'm stumped. Take a look at Backyard Poultry at

Sunday, February 15, 2009

OOT Raises its Head Once Again

Bad4shidduchim, in her own inimitable style, had a recent post about the migration of out of towners to New York for the purposes of, as she concluded, finding a shidduch. The males and females arrive for college/yeshiva and tend to gather at Touro and YU/Stern. They stay in NY until a shidduch can be made. She erroneously had a conclusion that these people do so because New York is the center of the world and NY merchandise is the "best" to be gotten.

Let me expand upon my comment made on her site. Yes, it is true that a number of out of towners do come to NY, both for college and after college/yeshiva. Yes, NY has the largest Jewish population in the country. But that population density as regards out of towners is deceptive.

For one thing, New Yorkers of many stripes are hesitant about marrying into an oot family. They don't want the hassle of trying to investigate an out of town family for shidduch purposes. They don't like the idea of their children spending half the yom tovim traveling out of town. They surely don't like the idea of their children moving out of town permanently. For some parents admitting that their child made an oot shidduch is tantamount to admitting that nobody from "in town" would take their child, surely a horrible admission to have to make. Please keep in mind that for some people any place out of the five boroughs of NYC and the 5 Towns constitutes out of town. Some will make exceptions for Lakewood and Baltimore. Some will argue that NYC actually comprises the tri-state area. Really? Know many people who are chomping at the bit to move to Connecticut? Or even most areas of New Jersey? Or who are searching for shidduchim for their kids in these areas?

Let's look at this from the other side as well. A lot of out of towners are less than enamored with the NY lifestyle. They are hesitant about marrying into families whose major concerns seem to be plastic tablecloths and stacking/scraping the dishes. Some of the oot families are less than taken with the fiscal/fiduciary practices common in NYC. And some oot families don't define "religious richness" by the number of pizza parlors and sushi shops per square mile.

So if the out of towners residing in NY are not marrying the natives, then who are they marrying? Each other. New York represents a great big marketing convention. It has the convenience of having all the "exhibits" under one roof, so to speak. It saves a lot of money to only have to buy one airplane ticket to New York and yet to be able to date people from a lot of oot locations. Yes, a few of these couples may end up in "permanent" residence in NY, but only a few. The rest of the couples, who may get "stuck" in NY until schooling/training is finished, keep themselves sane by repeating the mantra "It can't last forever, it can't last forever" at least 7 times daily. And yes, they mostly find themselves moving out of NY when they are serious about buying homes and settling down. Note: I contacted former pupils who are from oot, married to oot people and living in NY right now. All of them have no intention of staying in NY once their schooling and/or their spouse's school/training is finished. Some will be heading back to their home cities; others are going to be moving to new oot cities.

But what about those mixed marriages, oot and NY? I believe you'll find that the oot gene is dominant in most cases. Sure, it may take a few years, even a few decades, but those "mixed marriages" will find new homes in the vast oot "wilderness." You can take those out of towners and try and plant them into NY soil but they general end up in pots rather than the garden, pots that are movable to where the light and air requirements are more to their liking. They can live in NY, but they don't necessarily thrive there.

The more "modern" communities and synagogues seem to have the highest representation of out of towners or of out/NY marriages. These communities also have the highest percentage of singles/couples/families making aliyah. Certainly one important way to go out of town. My community is an example. Many of those who have not yet made aliyah have already purchased homes in Israel towards their eventual relocation. But what of those who are not thinking Israel now? The boomers in our community already started retiring a while ago. Many purchased second homes in Florida and in other "sunbelt" cities. Others moved completely to these areas. Some are moving to other areas, to states where there is no state/city tax. Still others are moving to areas oot where they have children living. But look at those who have left NY, are preparing to leave NY or have said they will leave NY in the near future. Huge numbers of "displaced" out of towners in that group.

I am part of such a mixed marriage. My hubby a born and bred Boro Park boy; me a displaced Oregonian. Will we be remaining in NY pre and post retirement? No way! Plans have been afoot for many years for us to leave. We've already picked our Western community, and it's the thought that the time to move there is getting closer that keeps us sane when the shtuss level in NY gets too high, which is happening with greater and greater frequency. But it's not only the goings on of the frum community that are sending us out of town. As they grow older, people start to develop certain physical/medical conditions, arthritis being one of them (just you wait; it will happen to you, too). The NY climate is so not healthy for a whole range of conditions. I developed an actual allergy to the mold and mildew carried by humidity. But that's not the only reason either. Try states in the country where there is no state or city income tax. Try states with real estate prices far below those in NY. Try states where a dollar goes further.

I'm actually pretty happy that a whole lot of New Yorkers don't like oot and have no intentions, ever, of moving there. It leaves the oot landscape "unspoiled" for those of us with the refinement to appreciate just what a treasure trove oot really is.

Where the Money's At

I ran across an interesting article on the following link which gives a listing of 25 jobs that pay $25 per hour or more, calculated on a 40-hour week over 52 weeks. As a plus, these job areas are forecast to have growth over the next years. A few of them that I really hadn't thought of as being all that well paying that apparently are.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Poll Reminder

If you have not already done so, please scroll down to the three polls on hair covering below and register your votes. Again, men may answer for their wives if the wives are not readers here.

A New Wrinkle

I received the following from one of the shidduch groups whose mailing list I am on. Will wonders never cease--men involved in making shidduchim;surely an idea whose time has long been overdue. Perhaps if dads and others are getting involved in shidduch making they will find out up close and personal just how frustrating the whole process is. Welcome to the madness gentlemen.

Hello Again, The Ave J Shidduch Group announces a shidduch meeting next Motzei Shabbos Feb. 14th 2009 at R' Kahn's Shul 1721 Ave J (corner E18th) at 8:45 pm. THIS MEETING WILL BE DIFFERENT AS IT IS A MEN'S SHIDDUCH MEETING-MEANING THAT MEN WILL HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO PRESENT SINGLES (male or female).WE WILL, HOWEVER, PROVIDE AN EZRAS NOSHIM (WOMEN'S SECTION) FROM WHICH WOMEN WILL BE ABLE TO LISTEN TO THE MEETING AND SEND UP "NAMES" TO BE PRESENTED. Please come and encourage any men in your life to participate as well...if they are involved in this mitzvah too. Any questions reach me at or at any of the following numbers. Thank You,-- Mendy Meyer
718 377 0764
347 512 1708

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

To Work or Not to Work--Is That a Question?

Editor's Note: I had this posting scheduled months ago. In the meanwhile, two other blogs posted related articles referencing an article by Yonason Rosenblum, ( Answer is Nine To Five and Post: Links and Comments on a Whole Bunch of Stuff ) so I decided not to publish what follows. However, two things happened which changed my mind. One, the conversation with my reader that I posted about a few days ago, and two, I overheard a comment yesterday about a new choson and kallah where it was remarked "No, the kallah's parents aren't anybody special. The father works and so does the mother." That sent me scurrying to find the draft of this. The focus of Mr. Rosenblum's article was work and the Israeli Hareidi world. The problem of work is not limited to this sector, thus the posting that follows is not sector specific.

Okay, the battle has been fought, a protracted one at that, the combatants have given it their all, and it is time for the gong to ring signalling the end. All that remains is for the judges to declare a winner. "What battle is that?" you ask? The one about frum Jews and work.

Who are the combatants in this battle? Everyone it would seem. Younger folk who are determined to sit and learn forever. Younger folk who are determined to sit and learn to at least 25 or 26. Parents who want their boys learning. Parents who can't support their learning boys. Parents who won't support their learning boys. Parents who want their boys to learn and earn. Parents who expect the community to take care of training their children to make a living. Parents who believe it is their job to prepare their children for work. Parents who are in favor of college. Parents who are against college. Girls who want to marry a learning boy. Girls who want to marry an earning boy. Girls who want to marry a learning/earning boy. Parents of girls who want a learning boy. Parents of girls who want an earning boy.

Parents of teenagers who want their children to begin making money on their own. Parents who think that teenagers should not be working. Parents who believe that being 14 or 15 entitles you to entry level wages on the same level as adults get. Parents who want someone else to solve the problem of low wages and few jobs. Parents who have good ideas about how to provide jobs for teenagers but who have no one who will listen. Parents who refuse to even get in the middle of the discussion because it just might be bad for shidduchim some day.

Community leaders of every stripe--shul rabbis and roshei hayeshiva and school principals and seminary heads and teachers and tzedaka organization heads and doctors, lawyers and all the Indian chiefs.

Where do they all agree or disagree? On whether or not "Work" is something that the members of frum Klal should be doing. They disagree on how to define what work is. They disagree on what kind of work members of Klal should be doing. They disagree on when members of Klal should be working.

Mention one thing, though, and all the combatants agree: You can't live without money. One way or the other you need money to purchase the real necessities of life. This is where the "Work" battle bogs down--where are people going to get the money they must have?

There are three ways to get money in this world: you can work for it, you can marry it or you can inherit it. Plenty of Jews who believe that the last two are the route to take. However, the last two ways still have their basis in the first way, since somebody had to work to begin with in order for the money to be there. So basically we are still left with the first way as the only way to get money.

"Wrong!" someone yells loudly. There are two other ways to get money: you can steal it and you can "shnorr" for it. Let's eliminate the first choice, even though we all know or know of people who play fast and loose with government programs. And yes, who play fast and loose with other people's money as well. As to the second choice, yes I suppose it is more than possible to use charity collecting as a way of providing the money you need and don't have. It's already being done. It is, however, a very risky way of providing for a family.

WORK! Just hearing that word or seeing it written out gives some people wild frissons of fear and distaste. "Work" is what the other person does, so please stop waving the word in our face. How did we get to this point? In every other argument heard in frum communities you will find someone offering psukim from Chumash, from the Gemorah or Mishnah, from the writings of the greats of our past. But the side that is so anti-work is almost strangely silent here when it comes to bringing a precedent from our Jewish writings--the only canonical basis for their argument they bring is the Yissochar/Zevulun agreement. And that argument has some flaws in it. It raises some questions for me. Not every member of Yissochar sat down and learned; some worked. And not every member of Zevulun worked; some learned. Did no other shevet have learning people in it? Yes, they did. How were they supported? Or did they support themselves? The agreement was made between two specific shvatim--who are the direct descendants of those two shvatim today? With the exception of the leviim and cohanim of today, where a genetic link has been found going back centuries, who today can prove what shevet they are descended from? And then there is that pesky little posuk that says that a father is required to teach his son a trade. Why? Just for giggles? Or because work is expected?

One way or the other, work, and those who work, is not something to be ashamed of nor something to feel "less worthy" about. In every culture on earth working is a sign of an independent adult. Are we really truly saying that adult Jews don't need to work?

And then there is this. Does a rosh yeshiva get a salary from the yeshiva? Benefits? Does he perform tasks for the yeshiva? Does he have specific duties? Then he is a working man. Does a rebbi get a salary? Benefits perhaps? Does he have specific duties he must perform? Then he is a working man. Does a shul rav get a salary? Benefits? Are there tasks that are expected he will perform? Then he is a working man. Why is it then that so many roshei hayeshiva, so many rabbaim denigrate working people? Isn't this really a case of the pot calling the kettle black? If they are going to make the argument that working is a no-no, they are going to have to give up their salaries and benefits before saying so. Otherwise it's do as I say, not as I do. Just think: if all the holier-than-thou principals and rebbis gave up their salaries, so that labeling them as "working" people would no longer be possible, schools might have more money available to actually educate students.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Lunch Is On Me

I added to the Shabbos Shira bird offerings today, and right now I'm watching an over-subscribed convention of chickadees having lunch on my bill. Frankly, they are acting like some people act when let loose at an all-you-can-eat-buffet. They're jostling each other to get at the goodies, although there is plenty for everyone. And no sooner does one chickadee ferret out a goodie than another comes and grabs a bite from it. The names of groups of birds I've always found fascinating--an exaltation of larks comes to mind--so I looked up what to call my group of chickadees. A group of chickadees are collectively known as a "banditry" and a "dissimulation" of chickadees. Given their lunchtime behavior "banditry" fits well.

Even as I sit and watch there are more birds arriving from the neighboring areas. I guess that everyone loves to grab a bargain. Pardon me while I go and mix up another batch of goodies for my guests--they have pretty much "licked the platter clean" and it's time to refill.

Now I Really Have Seen It All

I was doing some surfing on the web to get some ideas for decorations to use on Purim. I stumbled across a website that sells all kinds of holiday products, both secular and Jewish. And then I found this: a Purim t-shirt for dogs. Yes, you read that correctly. You will be overjoyed to know that the t-shirt is made in the USA. Certainly a foreign-made t-shirt would be highly upsetting to your dog, and would surely ruin the simcha of Purim. And in case you were wondering as to why this product is a necessity, the site says:
Product Details
Put your pooch in his own cool doggie t-shirt from American Apparel. He’ll be the envy of all the pups in the park. Let him wear a doggie-cool design so he can express what he’d like to bark out loud. Do it up in doggie style!
Made of 100% ring spun cotton. 5.8oz. 1x1 rib.
Black ringer accent on sleeves and collar.
Five sizes to choose from. Please review our size charts to find the perfect size for your pooch.

You'll also be happy to note that the product is in stock and will only cost you $21.99, shipping extra. In case you don't like the pictures on this particular t-shirt, scroll around the site; there are other pictures and sayings also available in doggie t-shirts. Never let it be said that I didn't keep you up to date on the latest must haves if you are celebrating Purim.

Monday, February 9, 2009

They're Your Children You Say?

A reader who wishes to stay anonymous has been having an ongoing email conversation with Sefardi Lady at Orthonomics and with me. The topic of the conversation is that soon to be parent's fear as to who will be more influential with his as yet unborn child: himself, and his wife, or the schools the child will go to. In particular this gentleman has no desire to see his child fall into what he sees as the "I'll sit and learn and you will support me and my family" trap. He wants his child to see work as both necessary and as worthwhile. He fears that he will not be able to overcome the influence of the schools, and yes, parts of the community as well. He asks if it is even possible to be foremost in one's child's life today. Basically, his fears hinge on the question of whose hashkafah shall be dominant in a child's life: a school's hashkafah or the family's hashkafah.

I only wish that there were some easy answer to give this reader. He is first going to be facing a problem that some of us have been wrestling with for a while. It boils down to one simple question: whose children are they? Common sense would require that we say that children "belong" to their parents. Our government concurs with this answer for the most part. Children are the responsibility of their parents, and only parents can make decisions for their minor children--unless you cross certain lines. If you choose to abuse your children, if you choose to starve your children, if you refuse to provide any kind of education for your children, then the government can and will step in. Those areas where the government can choose to act in are those that protect the physical/mental welfare of the child when that welfare falls below minimally acceptable social guidelines.

But it is not any kind of governmental meddling that worries my reader; it is meddling of a different kind. Schools somehow come to develop a particular hashkafah, a modus operendi if you will. The worldview represented by this hashkafah organizes and colors every act of the school. There are rebbaim who guide the school in establishing the hashkafah, who are the halachic advisors that help shape the hashkafah. For the most part, every act of the yeshiva, every decision, hinges on how well that action or decision supports the school's hashkafah.

And then there are parents. Parents also work under a particular hashkafah. A family hashkafah comes into existence under many influences. Parents may be continuing the hashkafah they themselves were raised under by their parents. They may bring into their family elements of the hashkafot of the schools they attended. They may bring in elements of their shul and its rabbi's hashkafah. They may read and study and bring in elements from the things they have studied. They may observe others and adopt/adapt elements of the hashkafahs these people live under.

Now what happens when a child, raised in a family with hashkafah X, enters into a school with hashkafah Y? In a very few schools there is not much of a clash. What the school says is while the student is physically in the school building that child needs to follow the rules set down by the school, but out of school is not the school's concern; that concern belongs to the parents. Of course, these schools teach according to hashkafah Y, but they don't make a fetish out of telling the student that only hashkafah Y has merit. Would they prefer that a student adopt the school's hashkafah as their own? Sure they would, but they don't make a major issue out of it.

And then there are the other schools. These schools do not consider themselves successful unless they have not only presented the school hashkafah to the students, but that the students have adopted the school's hashkafah as their own, with no exceptions. They consider it as part of their duty to introduce the students to the "true" hashkafah. Are they aware that students come from a wide variety of homes with varying hashkafahs in those homes? Sure, and for the most part they don't care. These schools take the attitude that hashkafah setting is not the purview of parents; hashkafah setting falls under the rubric of school responsibility. Not only do they expect students to toe the hashkafah line while in school, but they expect the students to toe that same hashkafah line when outside of school. They expect that students will observe school hashkafah when at home. And they expect that parents will fall in line with the school's hashkafah as well. Note: some schools get around the hashkafah conflict by not admitting any students who do not already follow all or most of the school's hashkafah.

So what is a parent supposed to do? Abdicate all parental responsibility and hand it over to the schools? The schools wouldn't mind, except, of course, for those "minor" issues of paying tuition, feeding and clothing the student, taking care of any medical issues, paying for the required school activities, paying for weddings and then supporting couples where the husband is sitting and learning. They magnanimously "allow" parents to be a part of these things, as long as how these things are done follow the school hashkafah.

Let's look at a couple of areas of conflict where school and parental haskafahs may differ. Parents may feel that knowing about the Internet and being able to navigate it are in line with their hashkafah. They are aware of the pitfalls and have in place house rules that keep their children from going online to places not acceptable to the parents. The school where the parents send their children has a different hashkafah; the Internet is treif, full stop. The parents feel that what goes on in the house is their business to decide; the school feels that what goes on in the house is its business to decide. The child is caught in the middle between two warring parties. Substitute television for the Internet and you have another common war ground. Substitute secular reading material and you have yet another conflict. Substitute going to college and the war continues.

And then there is my reader's concern: work. What are parents to do when a school's hashkafah allows it to denigrate those who work, where the hashkafah says that only sitting and learning for as long as possible is acceptable? Working parents will try and instill in their children the idea that work is both honorable and necessary. They will point out to their children that it is working that allows the money to come in that pays for all necessities, including schooling. They will point out that no school could survive if there were no working parents. They will point to the numerous tzedaka organizations that could not function if there were not working people with the money to support the organizations. They will point to themselves as examples of people who are committed to Yiddishkeit, who are frum but who work as part of their hashkafah. And maybe they will be successful with their children---and maybe they won't be. Because the schools will counter with yes, there are working parents, and it is the responsibility of these parents to see to it that their children don't have to work, so that they can sit and learn. It is the responsibility of parents to support children ki l'olam chasdoh.

And then parents will have to patiently explain to their children that there is a flaw in the school's reasoning. If parent's have the responsibility to support their grown and married children, then whose responsibility is it to support those children's children? Following the school's logic would say that it is the parents of those children who need to support them. But those parents are not working, so how will they support them? So now the original parents are supposed to be supporting three generations. (Co-tangentially, the same schools that argue that grandparents can and should be supporting three generations also argue that retirement is not a "frum" concept. These are the same schools that are not concerned in any way, shape or form with the very real concerns of what services our communities are going to have to provide for an aging older generation.) At this point any "logic" on the part of the schools' argument falls apart. Unless you are Baron von Rothschild, you aren't going to be able to support two generations on one generation's income, never mind three generations.

If parents patiently explain this to their children they just might be successful in having the children see that parental hashkafah is the better choice in this case. But I wouldn't count on it. The schools have our children for more hours during the day than we do. There is more opportunity for them to present "their side." Then there is peer pressure, which the schools count on. Children have a need to fit in with their peers. If their peers are pressuring them to follow the school's mission, to head off to Israel, to sit and learn while their parents support them, then the parents are fighting the battle on two fronts.

So what can parents do? Any or all of the following:
1. They can look at their hashkafah and decide on which points they do not want to compromise, and then pick a school that fits in with those points. It may mean picking a school that is more to the left than their basic hashkafah. It may mean heading more towards Modern Orthodoxy rather than to the right.

2. They can pick communities to live in that are more in line with their own hashkafah, or communities that have many hashkafahs represented and where the community members live in harmony, accepting that there are many hashkafahs.

3. They can choose as personal friends those whose hashkafahs are the same or similar to their own. In this way their children will see that it is not only their parents who hold a particular view but others as well.

4. They can be fully involved parents, spending as much time as is possible with their children, and representing themselves as the model they want their children to follow. They are going to need to start when the children are still young and be consistent in their message as the children grow older. They cannot throw up their hands and say "There is nothing I can do to counteract the school's message."

5. This point can be hard for parents: sometimes, no matter what you do or say, your children are going to be different from you. It then becomes the parents' responsibility to say: "Fine, you have chosen the derech you want to go on. Just understand that it is YOUR derech, not ours, and that you will have to support yourself if you choose this route."

I am not being facetious when I say that I am very thankful that my children are grown up and that I do not have this to contend with now. And I wish my reader hatzlachah as he begins his parenting life. Any other pointers that readers can give as to how they balance the war of the hashkafahs would be appreciated.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Three Polls on Hair Coverings

Readers, I've put up three polls dealing with hair covering. The fact that some women would be willing to finance a sheitle purchase led me to wonder about just how women are covering their hair, the number of hair coverings they own and how long they keep these coverings. Gentlemen, if your wives are not readers here then would you be so kind as to answer about your wife's hair covering habits. The polls will remain open until 6:00 PM on Sunday, February 22. Please answer all questions that apply. Please scroll all the way down to find the polls.

Note: If you have specific comments you wish to make regarding the polls, please do so on this posting.

The News Just Keeps Getting Better and Better...Not

An article appeared on February 6 in The Daily News, Money section. The title was: "N.Y.C. so costly you need to earn six figures to make middle class." It quotes a study done by the Center for an Urban Future. Thanks to my daughter for the tip on this. You can access the full article here:

Just to give you a little taste of what the study concluded:

A New Yorker would have to make $123,322 a year to have the same standard of living as someone making $50,000 in Houston.

You knew it was expensive to live in Manhattan, but Queens? The report tagged Queens the fifth most expensive urban area in the country.

In short, the article tells us New Yorkers something we've already intuitively grasped in trying to live in this city: there's a real added cost if you choose to live in NYC. Makes me wonder just why so many people ignore the obvious and still maintain that only NYC will do.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Shabbos Shira

This Shabbos is Shabbos Shira. An ancient minhag associated with this Shabbos is to put out food for the birds before lecht bentsching. There are all kinds of reasons given for our doing so, but this week at least there is a practical reason not related to scripture: the snow and ice blanketing much of the country makes it difficult for the birds to find food.

Just a few practical tips. Don't just sprinkle bread crumbs on top of the snow; the birds don't like feeling insecure and won't hop down to eat where there is soft snow, not to mention that the crumbs get soggy and sink through the snow. Put the crumbs in a container such as a foil pan and place on a solid surface. Alternately, you can hang food balls from the branches of trees or bushes. Mix together your crumbs with some peanut butter. Take a piece of string or thin rope and form a loop big enough to fit over the end of a branch. Form the peanut butter/bread mixture into a ball around the non-loop end of the string and press together. I mix in some crushed cereal with my crumb mixture. Our birds seem to like honey nut Cheerios. I also throw in some hulled sunflower seeds, the unsalted variety.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

And I Thought I'd Seen It All

There are quite a few of us bloggers who regularly blog about budgeting and finances. One thing that unites most of us is our dislike (to use a mild term) of going into debt for most anything. Now, sometimes carrying debt may be acceptable for certain types of expenditures, particularly where monthly money is available to pay the debt but the whole amount needed is not there in one lump sum. Certainly buying a house is one such item. And for some people financing a car may work out.

But just now I got an advertisement sent me by Yeshiva World Sponsors which has me totally floored. It is from the Milano Collection Wigs. The offer is for pre-cut wigs with no charge for the pre-cutting. And there is a stylist on premises to give a final touch up to the wig, also free. The add tells the reader "Save money! Eliminate the additional cost of cut/style." So what has me so bent out of shape? The balloon in the lower right hand corner which says: "Financing Available." Yup, you, too, can go into debt to finance a sheitel. But hey, don't think of all the interest you will be paying for that financing--think of the cut/style charge you won't be paying. Financing a wig--is this what we have come down to?

Daniel Pearl's Father Speaks Out

The link below is to an article written by Daniel Pearl's (the reporter murdered in 2002)father and which appeared in the Wall Street Journal on February 3, 2009. I recommend that you go and read it. He makes some points that are spot on.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Hurray for Teaneck!

Thanks to my daughter for forwarding the following to me from the Teaneck Digest. Orthonomics brought up the issue of family size recently. In addition, the tuition crisis has been the topic of conversation for quite some time. One of the complaints I've heard is that none of the Rabbonim are actively addressing these issues. Not the case any longer. If you are interested in both or either topic then you might want to take a little drive out to Teaneck in March.

Posted by: "TorahWeb" torahweb2
Tue Feb 3, 2009 10:20 pm (PST)

*Sunday, Mar. 22
*Congregation Bnai Yeshurun - 641 West Englewood Rd., Teaneck, N.J.
*8:00 PM - Rav Mordechai Willig - "Perui U'revu" - How Many Children and When?
8:45 PM - Rav Hershel Schachter - Halachic Issues of the Tuition Crisis*

See the flyer at <http://www.torahweb .org/images/ yemeiIyun/ tuition-large. jpg>

Just Because It's There?

I am not a technophobe, despite how it may sometimes appear to others; I don't fear new technology. I'm just selective in which technology I consider as truly useful to me. There have been occasions when I was the first in line to purchase a new "wonder" because I could see its benefits as being immediate. A food processor is one such item. I waited to buy it only until more than one company started producing them, resulting in a price war that was to my benefit, and I bought multiples--milchig, fleishig and pesachdik. Given my preferred method of cooking, and given that I also work outside of my home, those processors have saved me numerous hours of drudgery. I see the value in a bagless vacuum cleaner--emptying a canister is for me a good trade off to having to buy bags, as well as using up less trees for paper. And as for computers, well there are just too many benefits to me to even begin discussing them.

I am also not against the idea of new or "new and improved." I have been using the same exact brand of detergent for almost 37 years of marriage. It works, no one in my family has gotten an allergic reaction to it, so why bother trying all the others? However, I did choose to buy an upgraded version that became available as a choice: the "free and clear" version without perfumes or dyes in it. That was what I considered a "real" improvement.

I appreciate a good sale as well as anybody else, perhaps even more so since I must be genetically programmed to avoid paying full retail for anything. But the key for me is do I want/need that item? Is it something that will really make me happy? Will it make life easier for me in some tangible way? Does its beauty clutch at my heartstrings? And I also ask myself if the item on sale is only a fleeting infatuation or is it true love.

The following conversation has been held between myself and others so many times in my life that if I had only a penny for each of these conversations I could single-handedly solve the yeshiva tuition crisis.

Other: "Wow, ________s is having the most incredible sale!"

Me: "What's on sale?"

Other: "Would you believe that they are selling genuine, original Widgets for 40% off! Only $88.00!"

Me: "I don't want/need/like/prefer/lust for Widgets. I'll skip the sale."

Other: "But it's a Widget! How can you not want/need/like/prefer/lust for a Widget! Widgets are all the rage right now! If you don't buy one on the sale you are going to pay way more when you go to buy one."

Me: "I don't think I'm ever going to buy one, but thanks for letting me know."

Other: Walks away shaking head at my obvious obtuseness as to the importance of owning a Widget.

My dad was in the retail fur business. When we lived in Oregon he had concessions in women's apparel stores in Oregon, Washington and Idaho. Until I was in college, when we moved to New York, I didn't buy my own clothes. My dad was able to purchase clothing for us at store cost from the stores where his concessions were. My dad had really good taste and color sense and I can't remember his ever bringing me home something that I didn't like. I really never gave it much thought as to who made those clothes, but there were some other people who noticed and were "impressed." I wore Pendleton and White Stag and Jonathan Logan because that's what my dad had available to him, and the prices fit his budget. But he never asked for a specific designer and none of us in the family were label crazy either. I still am not. "Toyota" on a car label may tell me that the car is well made and will probably be very reliable and good on gas usage. "Lexus" on the label tells me that impressing others is the first consideration. "Yves St. Laurent" on the label tells me walk the other way--high prices on board. "Sears" on the label says I'm going to pay less, and probably for the same fabric, considering both labels are probably importing from the same factory in China or Bangladesh.

I don't change my wardrobe every season or even every year. I've got the attitude that being in style does nothing but line the pockets of clothing manufacturers. I tend to "fall in love" with any pieces I buy, and we will stay "married" for a long, long time.

I don't redecorate my home every few years either. A while back the "rage" in decorating was a combination of greys and burgundy. Everywhere you went you saw the style addicts had their homes decked out in these colors. Around the same time all-white kitchens were the rage. A few years later the style changed. Those addicts were quickly planning how they could change their homes yet again.

And then there are those who buy every new technological wonder almost before they get taken out of the box and put on the store shelves. Their rationale? They are new so they must be better. I sometimes really wonder at the shopping habits of others. They chase after everything that is new, seemingly sometimes just because it is there. They need that product they will tell you. A pretty short-lived need, since most of those new things are discarded fairly quickly, since interest in them wanes fast.

Do we really not realize how much we are being manipulated by manufacturers, stores and all those interested in parting us from our money? I refuse to believe that there is a genetic something inside of us that compels us to buy, buy, buy. I firmly believe that we could help ourselves if we wanted to. Ah, but that's the rub--we have to want to.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Yet Another Schooling Option

I've been noticing more and more people who comment here and on other blogs who are discussing a move of their children into public schools because they simply cannot afford yeshiva tuition any longer. It's not that these people do not value an education in limudei kodesh: they do. They mention that they will have to go the private hiring way to get their children this Jewish education. It seems that there are only two choices when it comes to educating our children: send to a yeshiva or send to public school and give private lessons in limudei kodesh. But perhaps there is a third way.

Traditionally, yeshivas offer their limudei kodesh instruction in the mornings and their secular education in the afternoons. What if the model was reversed? What if limudei kodesh instruction was in the afternoon? This could allow those parents who cannot afford a full day of yeshiva tuition to send their children to public school in the morning hours and still take advantage of the afternoon hours of limudei kodesh instruction in a school setting. It should, at least in theory, cut tuition at least in half.

Yes, I know that it is not something that yeshivas are going to want to do; why should they offer a program that will reduce the amount of money coming into their school? One reason is fairly simple: through the high tuition now charged they are already pricing some of their prospective "customers" out of the ability to "buy" the product being offered. Let's look at a theoretical yeshiva and see how this would work out in practice.

The yeshiva has 200 students in it. 50 students pay no or virtually no tuition at all. 100 students pay a reduced bill for tuition, varying in amount of tuition reduction. 50 students pay full tuition. Which are the parents who are most likely to be thinking about taking their kids out of yeshiva? The ones who are paying full tuition. While there will be some parents who are not strapped in paying the full tuition price, more of the parents who are paying full tuition will find that they are struggling to pay the full tuition and do not qualify for any aid from the yeshiva. Because the only people who can/will pay for the almost yearly tuition hikes are those in this top 25%, the burden of supporting the rest of the yeshiva falls on their shoulders, a burden many of them can no longer afford. So what happens if 10 of those full tuition paying students should leave the yeshiva? What about if 20 did so? The yeshiva would have no choice but to raise the tuition for those getting tuition reduction, a cost those families might not be able to pay. They would have no choice but to start charging tuition for those who are paying no tuition, a cost those families might not be able to pay. In short, at a minimum, losing 10 full tuition paying students would also mean that 10-20 students paying only partial or no tuition would also end up leaving the yeshiva. Have 20 full tuition students leave the yeshiva and you would have 20-40 partial tuition students who could no longer afford to attend yeshiva. Such a scenario would have the yeshiva losing from 10% to 30% of its students. It would also mean that the yeshiva would lose from 20% to 40% of its full tuition paying parents.
If the yeshiva were to offer an afternoon limudei kodesh program instead of a morning one, those parents priced out of a full yeshiva education might still be able to afford the half-day program. The yeshiva would not be losing the full funding that would leave if parents completely pulled out of the yeshiva. Students would have the benefits of a fully organized limudei kodesh program, as well as the socialization benefits. Would the yeshiva need to tighten its belt financially? Sure it would, or it just might have to become better run financially speaking.

Would this work for every yeshiva and for every parent? Perhaps not, but it does offer an alternative to the yeshiva/no yeshiva dichotomy that is presently the only model available. Faced with losing a real chunk of the student body and the money that student body represents, yeshivas might finally be willing to look at different models for how they are funded and how those funds are allocated. They might have no choice but to rethink their "traditional" method of operation.

Is this the only non-traditional option available? Probably not, but no one seems to be looking for new ways to solve our burgeoning yeshiva tuition problem. This at least represents a starting point in the conversation that is long overdue.

NOTE: In discussing this over Shabbos, a fourth variation came out. This would be one where the yeshiva offers its traditional schedule of morning limudei kodesh classes and afternoon limudei chol classes, but in addition they would offer an afternoon session specifically for those whose children are in public school in the earlier hours.