Friday, May 15, 2009

The Catch-22

A friend reported a rather interesting go-round he had with someone who was collecting for a yeshiva. This friend, like many in our community, is keeping the majority of his tzedaka dollars locally. There are members of our community who were adversely affected by the economic turn down and who need some--hopefully--short-term help. The local yeshivas are in need of help. There are shuls to support. There's Bikur Cholim and other organizations in the community that need funds. And then there are our children, some of whom need help from their parents.

The meshulach who came collecting was highly disappointed with the size of the check proffered, and he said so. He cited that the yeshiva, too, had rising expenses, and needed to count on its supporters for the funds. This friend answered that keeping the yeshiva ketanas in our neighborhood viable had to be the first consideration. The meshulach answered that if the neighborhood didn't support the yeshiva, there would be nowhere for these neighborhood children to go when they finished school in the neighborhood, so what use the yeshiva ketanas? Our friend countered by saying that if the local yeshivas went under there would be no students to go to the meshulach's yeshiva, so what use the yeshiva?

So, which came first, should come first: the chicken or the egg? Are all parts of the Jewish education system equal? Is there a hierarchy? Are we assuming that all parts in existence are equally necessary for ALL people? Formalized Jewish education in an institutional setting has a beginning: does it have an end point? What are the requirements and what are the optional portions? I am not, repeat NOT, saying that learning Torah is not something that Jews should be doing. I am talking about institutionalized learning, learning that takes place to the exclusion of any other activity.

Let me put this a different way. You send your children to elementary school and to high school. A lot of parents then send their children to college, although not all parents. A number of students go on to college, but they are footing the bill, through student loans that they will have to pay back. And then there is graduate school--far fewer students go on to this level of education. The goals for graduate students are usually career specific: grad school will give them the skills and knowledge needed to enter a specific profession. Know any parents who are still footing the bill for their students to be in grad school when those "kids" are in their mid to late 30s? And where those kids still have no idea what they are majoring in or what they will do with the courses they are taking? And even those receiving government funding for school are going to hit a cut off point: the government doesn't give these students unlimited funds for ever; when you've reached the government's top figure for loans you're out of luck. It's time to pay back the money. Can you imagine the reaction on the part of parents if a college or University came to them and said never mind funding elementary schools and high schools, we are more important?


Allen said...

If you want to see some interesting figures about how many go where to school in the secular world, check out

55 million kids in elementary and high schools, but only 17.6 million in college, and 31% of those are in two-year colleges going for an AA, not four. And 50% of those college students are employed while going to school.

Anything past yeshiva high school should be considered optional and there should be all kinds of programs available, not just the sit and learn forever attitude.

SuperRaizy said...

Where should our priorities lie? With our children, definitely. You can not build a structure without laying a foundation first. Our first obligation is to provide a basic Jewish education to as many children as we can, and to ensure that our shuls and basic tzedakas are able to function. We need to get back to basics for now.

Rae said...

Hate to be the cynic here but of course that collector was upset that the check was less. Those collectors make a percentage of whatever they bring in. It's not just the yeshiva that is going to be making less money--so is the collector.

I'm with Raizy that our first responsibility is to educate our younger kids, as many as is possible. After high school becomes a luxury, not a necessity, and you buy it if you can afford it without shnorring help from someone else.

Tuvi said...

Yeah, I'm the pessimist. You're never going to get the rabbanim involved in the various yeshivas on all levels to agree to a rank order in terms of support when money is short. You won't get them to agree to label any yeshiva/kollel program as optional. You won't get them to agree that cutbacks are needed when money is very short, and the cutbacks need to come from the programs for the oldest people being educated, not the youngest. They set a horrible example for the students they educate post high school. We're supposed to look up to those rabbanim, and they are spending the same and more now even though money is so tight, so of course their students believe that trimming a budget is not necessary. Some of these rabbanim tell their students to give up other things so they can continue to learn but it's do as I say, not as I do.

Dave said...

If I was giving money to a charity, and the person accepting it gave me grief about the amount being insufficient, I'd tear the check up, and give them nothing.

There are unfortunately more groups that I'd like to give money to than I can afford to; if they don't like the amount, I can think of any one of a number of groups that would be delighted with it.

Then again, being me, I'd also drop a note to the organization telling them why they didn't get money from me, and why they can expect not to get any money from me in the future.

JS said...

This is precisely why I would never give any money at the door. The chutzpah of these collectors is just through the roof. I'm with Dave, I would torn up the check right then and there and slammed the door in the guy's face.

Anonymous said...

I know someone who did tear up the check when he was told it was not enough. This happened years ago, but I still was proud of him.

As for myself, I do not open my door to anyone I do not know. I tell the "collectors" to leave me literature. Some leave stuff all in Yiddish, so it gets thrown away.
In my neighborhood, a group of "collectors" come in a single van. They hit the houses one after another. I was told the driver gets a percentage of the "take" also.
I give to local institutions first and then to institutions I know about in other areas. Nothing to people who come to my door uninvited.