Monday, August 30, 2010

What is a Necessity?

The discussions that take place about problems in Klal all seem to contain the words necessity and luxury. In fact, many of these discussions are specifically trying to determine what things that Klal wants/has are necessities and which are luxuries. So many of the discussions flounder because there is no one clear definition of just what a necessity is or what a luxury is as it applies in every case. Let's see why that is so.

According to the dictionary there are multiple definitions of necessity. A necessity is: "something indespensable for life; an imperative requirement; an unavoidable need; something dictated by invariable physical laws; a force exerted by circumstance;being essential, indispensable, or requisite; required by obligation, compulsion, or convention; applies to what is thought necessary to fill out, complete, or perfect something; needed to achieve a certain result or effect."

If a necessity is seen as something without which there can be no life, then food, water, oxygen and sleep are the basic necessities. But even here there is a caveat: is simply living enough? I can't think of anyone who would not say that they want a good life. Is there anyone who wilfully chooses a bad life? The deprivations of the Holocaust showed us that life was still possible even if food, water and sleep were minimal at best and eratic in delivery. Is there anyone who would live in such a way if they were given a choice? No. So, even with necessities we see that there are degrees based on the constructs of good and bad, and good and bad are subjective in nature rather than objective. We may all have enough of the required elements to sustain just plain being alive, but we can differ in how good or bad we consider that life.

There is also this definition of necessity:"required by obligation, compulsion, or convention." Now we come into the area that so much of the arguing is about. How do we fall under an obligation or a compulsion or a convention? We live in societal groups. Those groups have requirements for membership. The requirements may be governmental, geographic, monetary, ethnic, racial, gender-based, age-based, educational attainment-based, marital status-based and yes, religion-based. These requirements themselves have multiple divisions within them, divisions whose obligations, compulsions and conventions may be radically different from the other divisions.

There is a government in Iran; there is a government in the US. Both may be governments, but what they require of the people who fall under their aegis has almost no point of similarity. But there are even further divisions that can change what a necessity is. Here in the US there isn't just one government. We have the federal government, state government, county government and city government. Each of these has their own sets of obligations, compulsions and conventions. Someone living in Nassau County, NY may have different necessities re government than someone living in Richmond County, NY. Someone living in NYC may have different necessities than someone living in Los Angeles. Someone living in Florida may have different necessities than someone living in Montana.

To further complicate things, we are members of multiple groups, some of whose requirements, compulsions and obligations may be identical and some of which may not be. The characteristics of any individual member of a group may differ greatly from the characteristics of other members of that group precisely because of other groups they may also be a member of. Therefore, even membership in one particular group does not mean that a person will view what is necessary in the same way as other members.

Jews form one grouping in society. Degree and type of observance of Judaism form many subgroupings. If those were the only groupings we had to consider when deciding what is a necessity and what is a luxury we'd have plenty of disagreement. Now add in that, like it or not, we have multiple memberships in other groups outside of our religious group, memberships that bring with them certain necesssities, certain obligations or compulsions.

If we are going to argue, for instance, that parents who are receiving ANY kind of tuition assistance should not be indulging in luxuries but should only be buying bare necessities, just what is it that we are arguing? For tuition aid receiving parents a school could impose rulings that certain items are not considered necessities and should not be indulged in. Yet, some of those parents fall into many other groupings other than yeshiva parents, and for those groupings some of what the yeshiva considers luxuries rather than necessities may be considered as necessities, not luxuries.

Two parents, both working. It's quite likely that two cars would be viewed as a necessity in this case by some, and as a luxury by others. And since both parents work and there are children who cannot be left alone, babysitting is necessary. And some type of continuous childcare during the summer months when school is not in session will be necessary. Many of these types of parents opt in for sleepaway camp. And many of their critics point out that this is a luxury, not a necessity. Day camp at home is the better choice. Un huh. That would be day camp plus babysitting to cover the hours between when camp ends and parents arrive home. And quite possibly other paid arrangements to take the children to and from camp. And the very real probability that with this many caretakers involved at least one arrangement is going to fall through fairly regularly. There are zillions of examples that could be given, and no doubt in my mind that there would be an argument about the necessity of each and every one.

So, to end off, a whole lot of the arguments that go on in Klal are never going to solve anything, are never going to come up with new ideas of how to proceed because the things being argued about are looked at differently by differing parts of the community. Some groups and some individuals are defining necessity in one way while other groups and individuals may be defining necessity in other ways. What's more, some groups are defining necessities for themselves differently from how they would define those necessities for someone else. And yes, in some cases, never the twain shall meet.


tesyaa said...

Re working parents who NEED sleepaway camp because of childcare concerns, what the heck do those same parents do during the school year? Where I live the day camp day runs nearly the same hours as the school day.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Tessya. Even in the summer the overwhelming number of american families with working parents do not use sleepaway camp for child care. Apologetics and excuses can make any luxury a need.
Even if people can't agree on where to draw the line, that doesn't mean that the discussions and complaints are useless. This is where leadership can step in. Also, people can vote with their feet and dollars and make sure that their donations go to what they believe to be needs, rather than luxuries, to (a) help the most people possible; and (b) not enable lifestyles that are self-destructive.

Ari said...

Anon, what leadership will step in? If there was this leadership they've had plenty of opportunity in the many past years to step in and do something. School leaders, the ones who need the tuition money, are also the ones pushing for sleepaway camp, especially for the boys. Shul rabbis won't and don't take on the yeshiva heads. So who is left? The national organizations like Aguda and YI and the OU? See the comments above--they apply to these groups also.

Trying to be objective here so maybe sleepaway camp is a luxury and maybe it isn't--shouldn't it depend on total expenditures and what is being paid for? A family on tuition assistance with two leased cars, cleaning help, 52 inch plasma tvs, the latest iphones and a McMansion in a high tax, high cost area might be looked at funny if they also use sleepaway camp. You could make the argument that the camp is a luxury and should not be used---or you might say that camp would be okay but the other stuff is not.

Dave said...

One thing we can say is that anything that a scholarship family spends money on is something that *they* consider more important than paying for their children's Yeshiva education.

Masha said...

Anything Dave? You mean things like rent or mortgage payments and utility payments? Or house insurance, car insurance and even health insurance? Or maybe you'd like to include paying for food here? Only bread and water allowed if you get a tuition reduction? Or how about child care if there are two working parents, is that part of 'anything' also? I suppose we could require tuition assisted families to go naked instead of buying shoes and clothing but that might be a tsnius issue.

JS said...


I think you hit the nail on the head here in this whole debate. You can sum it up thusly: one man's luxury is another man's necessity. Without some objective standard (if that is at all possible) it's a senseless debate that involves countless permutations of a family's "situation."

I prefer to talk about priorities. It's similar to what Dave said. Money is a limited resource. If you spend it on X, but not on Y you are making a statement that you prioritize X over Y. Additionally, money is fungible. If someone else pays for X, it frees up money for you to pay for Y. Except in the rarest of cases, scholarships do little more than allow a family to take money that would go to tuition and spend it instead on something else. That "something else" is necessarily prioritized over paying tuition.

Scholarship reminds me of advice I used to hear regarding student loans. The interest rates for federal loans were around 2% and subsidized. The advice was to take out the full amount available to you because it's impossible to get a loan at such a low rate anywhere else (and subsidized no less till after graduation). You could then take the money and buy something else with it.

I didn't do this, but I can't find any fault in the logic. Someone offers you almost free money and doesn't care about the fungibility - they don't care if you use the money for school or to buy a plasma TV.

It's the same with scholarships. It's free money and it's fungible. Why not enjoy it?

Rae said...

I think that Dave and Masha both have hit on the real problem although they didn't say so directly.

When people make up a budget they usually start with the must-have items on top. That's items in the plural. We don't say that paying for housing is a luxury because everyone has to live somewhere. And it isn't a choice of whether or not to pay for that housing or pay for electricity for that housing--they both HAVE to get paid for. In other words there are many items that have to come first when you are parcelling out your money. Yeshiva tuition for many people is part of that group of must have items but it is only one of that group and it does not have more importance than shelter, food, insurance etc. For anyone to say that yeshiva tuition has to be considered first before ANYTHING else is just plain illogical.

tesyaa said...

No one has pointed out that yeshivas rarely throw people out for nonpayment. They may make it difficult to reenroll, or they may demand partial payment, but as long as the community considers yeshiva mandatory and not optional, people are fairly sure that their kids will be able to remain in yeshiva. So of course it's going to be prioritized lower than property taxes and mortgage payments - you can get all the benefits without paying the full cost.

Dave said...

Masha, I think you missed my point.

Yes, rent is more important than Yeshiva tuition.

So is having clothing.

So is having food.

Anything that they spend money on if on scholarship is by definition something they consider more important than paying for a Yeshiva education.

So if they hire in cleaning help (and look at the thread on YWN's Coffee Room, where people insist that twice a week cleaning is a "necessity"), then they think that that is more important than a Yeshiva education.

That's the point. If you spend money on X instead of Y, it means you think X is more important.

leahle said...

Tesyaa when you say "So of course it's going to be prioritized lower than property taxes and mortgage payments - you can get all the benefits without paying the full cost" you are assuming a choice. So what if there wasn't one. What if the yeshivas said no pay, no attendance? So you take your limited money and pay so your kids can go to school but you will be thrown out of your home, be fined and have no place to live? Can you think of many parents who would be faced with that situation and would choose the school payment first? It's not about getting something for nothing for a lot of these parents but of choosing the most logical priority first.

Now let me sort of contradict myself. If a family has chosen a neighborhood and house that they cannot afford on the money they have available to them, if they have knowingly put themselves into a position where their housing costs exceed what is logical for them to pay, then you might have a different situation. There they would be making decisions that include not paying full tuition so they can have a higher klevel of housing then they can afford. That should be discouraged. Do the yeshivas owe yeshiva tuition reduction to these parents? Now you are in a grey area. What if those parents could afford the housing when they bought it but a job loss or income reduction happens?

The whole thing is not so black and white and so many of the discussions are trying to make it that way.

Masha said...

How about if we change the wording Dave? Instead of your saying "If you spend money on X instead of Y, it means you think X is more important." what if we said that some things aren't a matter of personal choice at all but are requirements for survival. It's not that any one family in choosing to spend money on rent is saying that paying that rent is more important than something else--it's what the society we live in says. That decision is made for us.

What do you suppose would happen if a family decided that paying tuition was more important than buying food? So they feed their family almost nothing. And a doctor (assuming they are going to pay for a doctor which could take money away from tuition)sees that a child of this family is malnourished and reports it to the authorities. And the authorities step in and remove the children from the home. Yes this would happen because the government has decided for all of us that feeding our families is a requirement, a necessity not a luxury. It's not a decision we get to make. If we have the money to be able to buy food the government is sure not going to buy that we chose to pay tuition first as being more important.

What we see as personal choice isn't always a real choice. There are laws and rules that already say that if we have the money we have to consider getting X, Y and Z before something else or the government will step in.

JS said...


Your last paragraph shows why there is a problem in many cases (and why it is so hard for the community to come up with a solution).

I'll give you an example. My wife and I make good salaries, thank God. When we lived in an apartment we were very frugal. We were saving up for a house. We lived WAY below our means. We knew we wanted a certain type of house in a certain neighborhood and we knew what that would cost. We carefully budgeted so we could save up for the down payment and whatever construction work needed to be done. We made sure we were earning enough money to pay off the mortgage (accelerated to 15 years) and the property taxes and that we had enough saved in case of an emergency. In short, we planned for the kind of life we wanted to be living (which included the house we bought).

Meanwhile, in the apartments, our friends, who made far less than we did, were spending money like it was going out of style. New or leased cars, fancy vacations, two bedroom apartments (no kids), HDTVs, large meals every Shabbos, etc.

Many of these friends now have 1 or more kids. They know yeshiva tuition will have to be paid. These friends will likely all be on scholarship of some sort.

So, I ask you to compare our behavior in terms of buying a house, to their behavior in terms of future tuition payment. We prioritized buying a house and being able to afford it and thus scrimped and saved and made sure our incomes were commensurate with the lifestyle we wanted. They obviously prioritize other things over yeshiva tuition. If they viewed it as a high priority they would start saving for it as soon as they were married. It would be saved for and planned for the same way people do for a house.

And, just like if you see you can't reach your goals the way things are now, you'd either adjust the goals or what you're doing. So, cheaper alternative to yeshiva OR getting a second job, more education or job skills training, more savings, etc.

This is what I mean by priorities. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't blame my friends or fault them. Further, you won't catch me berating "scholarship families" they way some do on other blogs. I just think we need to realize what priorities we have as a community and try to fix them or the system will collapse.

Dave said...


Shelter is a necessity. What kind of shelter (and how nice the shelter) is a choice.

Food is a necessity. How nice the food is, is a choice.

Tell me how you spend your money, and I'll tell you what you value.

Dave said...

It's also worth noting that these are not abstract choices, although if we are fortunate, they are not choices we will ever be faced with.

But there are people in America today who go to bed hungry because they traded the food they purchased with Food Stamps for a bit of shelter. And there are people on the streets because they didn't.

tesyaa said...

If you need something "mandatory" (yeshiva), and you know that if you can't come up with the money you can request funds from the community, you will not make the same effort to pay for it than if resources (i.e. scholarships) weren't available. If people knew their kids couldn't attend yeshiva if they didn't have the funds, things would look different. Some would willingly send their kids to public school. Some would adjust their standard of living. Some SAHMs might go back to work. I'm not saying whether or not there should be financial aid. (Although I don't know why it's moral to reject a kid from a yeshiva because his mother wears pants, but not reject him because his parents can't or won't pay).

Yitz said...

Dave, doesn't a lot of this come down to a whole lot of people who are unknowledgeable about finances and budgeting but who have been raised in an environment of must have purchasing and lifestyle choices? And it's both secular and frum society that has created that environment.

I've read here and certainly on Orthonomics about the lack of budgeting skills, the lack of knowledge of what things cost, how to pay for them in a frugal way, how to put away money for the future.

Between what the secular society pushes in terms of life style and purchasing--all the latest electronics as must have items, all the shopping and buying that we have to do--and what the jewish world pushes--you must send your kids to yeshiva, you must send them to Israel, you must support jewish organizations with more than 10% tzedaka because they need the money now, you must have a sheital because hats are too modern and all the rest--those with no real idea of how to save and spend wisely find themselves making what some people seem to feel are luxury choices.

So what I'm saying is that maybe the first priority shouldn't be arguing about necessity versus luxury but should be a community wide effort of education in finances, in how to set up a budget and stick to it. And while we are educating those people in the community who need this financial education, let's not forget to include all those yeshivas and organizations that also don't know how to budget and how to run their finances in a way that won't result in financial disaster.

Dave said...


Leaving out the portions of the Orthodox world which are adamant that they are protecting themselves from secular pressure...

When do we get to start expecting people with children to actually be adults?

I'm not even arguing about what you should spend money on. I'm simply saying that anything you spend money on is a higher priority to you than anything you don't spend money on.

Actions count more than words.

Trudy said...

Actions alone doesn't explain everything Dave. Sometimes you need to know the whole story, told in words, to understand what is happening.

So let's say I have four items of equal priority--housing, food, tuition and job required expenses. I put those four first and everything else second. I'm handling the budget just fine, spending on what I feel I have to spend and not spending on the other items, or maybe spending only a minimum amount (even if it's not designer clothing or shoes some clothing is necessary).

Now something out of my ability to control it happens. Instead of spending what I have budgeted on my priority items so that all are covered, one of those items is going to develop a problem. My house may not be a luxury home or anything near it but if a storm takes off the roof I'm going to have to put that new roof on. Or my boss decides to transfer me to a different office, one with a longer, more costly commute that will require I have a second car. Or someone in the family develops an allergy to certain food items and the replacements to feed that person are 2-4 times as costly as what I have budgeted for food. Or how about the tuition at the yeshiva goes up 4% this year over last year, and is first announced this month. And what happens if all of these things or more than one of them come up at the same time?

Yes, I might opt to ask for tuition assistance, at least for the short term. And someone hearing that I did "home remodeling" and buy "fancy" food or have just purchased a second car may well think to themselves that I'm indulging in luxuries at the expense of the yeshiva tuition because I can get away with it. But that wouldn't be the case at all. If I don't have the job then I can't pay for anything at all, so I do what I have to to keep the job. Buying the food that family member needs is a question of sakonos nefoshos so I buy it. You cannot live in a house with no roof and I have nowhere else to live so I spend on the roof. The only choice I have left is to ask for tuition assistance.

Without knowing all the backstory viewing an action may tell us something or nothing at all.

tesyaa said...

The only choice I have left is to ask for tuition assistance.

No, a person in this situation could choose the government provided FREE educational system and teach teach their kids Torah at home (or hire a tutor to teach them for a fraction of a private school cost). It is NOT sakanos nefashos for kids to mix with nonJews and non-frum Jews.

JS said...


You bring up something that I see all too often in the frum world. This notion that life is inherently uncertain, that everything is in God's hands, and that even the best laid plans could fail at any second. Well, sure, yes. But, you still need to plan, no? It seems like the attitude in the frum world is disaster can strike at any moment, so why bother planning? Income is in God's hands, so why budget or try to earn more money. On another blog someone said, based on a gemara, that the money we spend on shabbat, yom tov, and yeshiva tuition is not part of the calculation of our yearly income determined on Rosh Hashana - so spend what you will because it doesn't "count."

Most of the scenarios you mentions are perfect examples of exactly what scholarship should be for: a temporary disaster or setback. While a person should have an emergency fund and be able to get through a setback, the community is right to support someone who had to suddenly replace a roof, for example.

But, more often, scholarship is simply there for people who don't bother to plan. Everyone knows what tuition costs. Everyone knows it goes up every year. This isn't a surprise. Similarly, going back to the roof example, you know a roof is rated for a certain number of years and will need to be replaced thereafter. If a family is "shocked" that their 30 year roof has deteriorated and need to be replaced after 30 years, that's just poor planning. And while it may get you a scholarship, it's a result of prioritizing other things ahead of tuition.

Many scholarship families are on scholarship for life, not a one-time event. They don't have enough for tuition and they never will. Further, they won't take steps to get off scholarship. The community seems to view this as a "nebach" case, but in reality, like the family that doesn't plan to replace their roof at the end of its lifespan, it's just a result of poor planning.

Dave said...


I still fail to see how you are disagreeing with me.

You had a list of things that were more important than paying for a Yeshiva education, and explained why that was the case.

And that's exactly what I said. The things that you are paying for instead of Tuition in your example are all things that you (or the example "you") think are more important than tuition.

Trudy said...

You are right, of course, JS that good planning takes into consideration that the unexpected can happen, including putting away money for that unexpected happening. But here is the thing, because it is unexpected just how much will be enough to put away?

Take the roof example. Yes, every 30 years you will need to replace the roof. So for 30 years you put away money towards that eventual replacement. Only the storm that takes the roof off of the house occurs in the 4th year after the roof was put on. Not enough money put away yet to cover the expenses.

And if something is truly unexpected like the food example just how would you recommend figuring out how much to put away. Since you don't know what it is that could happen any amount you put away towards unexpected happenings could be far too little, or yes, it could be far too much, putting undue strain on the budget during the saving time.

But your comments on my comments did bring this up to my mind. Yes, there are some people who will be lifetime takers of tuition assistance because they either won't or can't plan for the cost of tuition. They'd rather take the assistance then sstretch themselves to figure a way out of having to take the assistance. But there are a whole lot more people who are taking that assistance because they have run into an obstacle at some point that prevents them from paying full tuition, and there is not much if anything they can do about it short term.

Read some of the blogs that center around the issue of yeshivas and tuition and what you read is an overwhelming opinion that the vast majority of those on tuition assistance are there because they are conning the system. I wish I could point to even one comment on those blogs which is l'chav z'chus these people, that even considers that they aren't happily taking the assistance.

And sorry Tesyaa, but your comment that they do have alternatives they are not taking, such as pulling their kids out of yeshiva and putting them in public school, is just another of the same kind of comment that is not l'chav z'chus. There are those who truly believe, as part of their religious structure, that only yeshiva education is appropriate for their children. They have been taught this their whole life, their trusted rabbanim say this to them, the communities they are part of believe this whole heartedly. Public school is not an option for these people, and it has nothing to do with mixing with secular jews or non-jews in the schools and everything to do with their religious system. If your religious system says it's okay then fine, but what gives you the right to impose your particular method of being religious on someone else? Or saying they have options they aren't taking when those are your personal options and not theirs?

Tuvi said...

Dave and Trudy, hate to jump in in the middle but maybe I could offer a different example?

How about the old lifeboat is sinking example. Your boat springs a hole. The only way you are going to get to shore and not drown is to throw some things overboard to reduce the weight of the boat.

You throw everything you can think of overboard and are left with only four things still on the boat. The boat is still sinking, however, and you are going to have to throw one of those four things overboard also. The problem is that you value all four of those things equally. You have absolutely no way to choose among them. So you close your eyes, stretch out your hands and throw one of the things overboard through random selection. You are going to be very sorry that that item, whichever one it is, fgot tossed overboard but you had no choice whatsoever if you wanted to keep the boat afloat long enough to get to a safe shore.

It could well be that some people who are getting tuition assistance are just like that man in the boat--they randomly choose receiving tuition assistance. They6're not happy about it but they believe that any choice they made would be an unhappy one.

Isn't the problem really that for the most part we have no idea about why people ask for assistance, or who is actually getting that assistance, or how much they are getting, or for how long they are getting it? We talk about these people without having any real information or facts.

JS said...


To put what I am saying another way, I view scholarship (ideally) as a form of communal insurance policy. To use the roof example, every family should be planning to replace their roof at the end of 30 years. If the roof costs $18,000 to replace 30 years from now, then you put $50 a month away into a "roof fund." Again, you shouldn't be surprised when you need to replace the roof at the end of 30 years and you shouldn't go on scholarship because this expense occurred.

However, you just put on that new roof and 2 years later a storm causes severe damage to the roof and you don't have $18k to replace to it and insurance won't cover it for whatever reason? Then you turn to communal tzedaka organizations. You have the $18k but if you spend it on the roof you won't have $18k for tuition? This is where scholarships are appropriate. A one-time insurance policy of sorts.

I hope the distinction is clear. Another example, lose your job: scholarship. Perpetually making too little money for tuition: poor planning.

Again, to use your phrasing of people who have run into an obstacle. If that obstacle could be planned for, they shouldn't get a scholarship. If it's unreasonable to plan for it, scholarship. So, the food allergy that requires a food bill to be 2-3 times as much, would be a scholarship issue initially and then I would expect the family to make changes and plan to afford it. To say otherwise is like expecting the community to put you up in a hotel for the rest of your life when your house burns down instead of rebuilding it.

I try to be dan l'kaf zechut. I don't think very many people are conning the system. But, I do think the system provides an out for people who don't plan properly. The system provides money when it shouldn't and creates bad incentives. The number of people losing a roof suddenly is very low compared to those who need to replace a roof at the end of its lifespan. Yet, scholarships currently don't discriminate between the two.

As for what should be done if people can't afford it, I say public school is one of many options available, and for many would be the absolute last option. But, I would say cheaper yeshivas and home schooling are viable options that are compatible with religious beliefs.

Briefly, I don't believe it's right for a family to take scholarship to go to the more expensive school which exactly matches their hashkafa when there is a cheaper school that would not require scholarship (or require less) which is slightly off of the "ideal" hashkafa.

Dave said...

I'm not arguing over whether Yeshiva tuition is a need or a want, or whether the right school is more important than the cheaper school.

I'm simply observing that what you spend your money on tells me your priorities.

LoZ said...


"You mean things like rent or mortgage payments and utility payments?"

This has been discussed here and elsewhere but I still fail to see why home ownership is anything but a luxury. It doesn't matter how low the mortgage payment is and all the tax benefits, it is always cheaper to rent something.

Max said...

A little information about those tuition scholarships. Since the first yeshiva opened its doors here in the US there have been students on lowered tuition or no tuition at all. The frum world has ALWAYS had people in it who, for various reasons, did not make enough money to make ends meet, and certainly not enough to pay full tuition. And no, for the most part this was not because of bad planning on their part. They simply were not capable of making more than they were making. It's a nice myth that everyone who is frum and/or Jewish has the intellect of an Einstein but it's not the case.

I've seen the inside workings of enough yeshivas to say that tuition assistance is built into the tuition payment structure. The yeshivas charged and charge X amount more than their actual working budget to account for scholarships that will be given out. Any short fall is hoped to be made up through outside donations to the school. They may not advertise this fact but it's what they do.

So why is there such a big problem today in terms of yeshiva finances? For one thing, yeshivas have undertaken massive building/furnishing/programming projects in the millions of dollars which throws their budgets out of whack. yeshivas are trying to be everything to everybody and they can't afford the tab. Look at the buildings that the older yeshivas used to be in and then look at today's full campuses and you can see where some of the money has disappeared to.

For another thing, family size has grown larger, which means that a scholarship family may not consist of only a few children but of many children. This raises the percentage of students on assistance which then raises the full amount of tuition paid by those who can pay it to compensate for the larger number.

Those outside donations cannot be counted on in the same way they could in the past. In addition, if someone gave the yeshiva $2K as a donation twenty years ago, that money covered a lot more than it can today if that same $2K is given.

The economic recession we are in doesn't help either. The full tuition paying group of parents has their number reduced as jobs are lost or businesses and investments are worth less resulting in less money available to pay full tuition.

The fact that yeshivas are closing because of economic problems is also nothing new. Every cyclical economic turndown there has been a handful of yeshivas threatening they can't open without a large infusion of cash or actually closing. We forget about that when the times are good.

Does the yeshiva system need fixing? Yes, it does. But eliminating any type of scholarship help is not what is going to fix the system. Certainly saying the poor have to get richer is not going to fix the system. Perhaps we might try saying that the rich need to act poorer, with less demands and an understanding of what a community is and what a community owes everyone in it.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't matter how low the mortgage payment is and all the tax benefits, it is always cheaper to rent something.

Only sometimes LoZ. We own a duplex. The rent from the apartment covers our monthly expenses for the mortgage and insurance. We pay the utilities, something that many apartments that you rent also make you do now. So we own a house for a lot less than it would cost us to rent an apartment even half the size of the house.

Also LoZ, home ownership is a type of savings plan, something that you don't get with a rental. Every payment I make on the mortgage gives me a greater ownership stake in my house. At the end of the mortgage I not only will have lived in the house but I will have a property that belongs to me that I can sell if I want and that is worth real money and quite possibly a lot more than what I paid for it. What do you have at the end of renting for 25 years? Nothing of value.

Instead of thinking of a house as a luxury you should try thinking of it as just another type of savings plan, one you can't touch in total until the required time period is up.

tesyaa said...

Instead of thinking of a house as a luxury you should try thinking of it as just another type of savings plan, one you can't touch in total until the required time period is up.

Right, savings is great. If a renter saved that money in cash, the yeshiva would demand it before offering tuition assistance. So the person who stretches to buy a home gets a deal that a renter doesn't.

tesyaa said...

Instead of arguing about wants, needs & scholarship, how about a discussion of why private education for a large group of economically diverse people who insist on large families (and in many cases discourage higher education) is feasible or viable. We can talk all day long about how our values system requires yeshiva, but that doesn't make it economically sustainable. Instead of arguing who deserves $4,000 in scholarship and who deserves $2,000, people should be planning for the post-yeshiva future that is coming - like it or not.

JS said...

First of all, I agree with tesyaa. There is no way this system is sustainable and as time moves forward more and more people are going to get priced out and more and more yeshivas are going to close whether people like it or not. The way we've set up the system, of the few supporting the many, the affect is just going to snowball. You remove a few "full payers" from the system and tuition has to rise incrementally more to cover the loss of actual tuition and the loss of the subsidy they paid by paying full tuition.


I'm not saying every Jew is smart enough to earn 6 figures and be wealthy. That's absurd. The fact that the system is built around that premise is a serious problem. There is simply no way for a family to comfortably afford full tuition for 4 children in a Modern Orthodox yeshiva unless the family income is in the range of $225k or more.

What I am saying is that people can't act like scholarships are an expectation and an entitlement for anything but emergencies. There are two problems here. The parents and the schools. I was focusing on the parents. The parents need to do whatever is in their power to plan for yeshiva and earn enough money for yeshiva. The attitude I see isn't that people are trying to con the yeshivas or lie and cheat, but that they simply expect a scholarship and don't do everything in their power to avoid it. As a simple example, it's easier to relax in the evening than find a second job. Or, it's more fun to spend, spend, spend when you're younger than save up in anticipation of yeshiva.

There's a problem when people I know with young children are buying the same things that my wife and I buy even though we make several times what they do.

On the side of the schools, they spend like there is no tomorrow on things that have questionable educational value, at best. The luxurious campuses you mention is just one example. Again, I was focusing on the parent side, but the schools need to do their part also.

Right now both the parents and schools act as if yeshiva education for all is not a priority. I highly doubt it is possible to have yeshiva education for all, but if it is at all possible, it's certainly not possible the way parents and schools act currently.

ProfK said...

I just stole a minute to drop by and see what's doing on the blog and unfortunately only have that minute because we have a bar mitzvah seudah to go to. I can't wait to read through with more detail because it seems like some people today were having those conversations in klal I visualized those years ago.

Just one little comment though on the last couple of comments. We keep talking about a yeshiva system that is going to implode, that needs fixing. I have a posting coming up on just that subject but I'll leave you with a teaser--what yeshiva system? We can talk about the public school system and actually see a system in place. Our yeshivas don't in any way constitute a system, not even a loose one, and that is a major part of the problem.

Ah well, off I go. May we all be zocheh to attend many smachot even if wearing hose in this weather is a punishment.

Dave said...

Instead of thinking of a house as a luxury you should try thinking of it as just another type of savings plan, one you can't touch in total until the required time period is up.

Which means, assuming the price of ownership is higher (which it generally is), you value that "untouchable savings" over paying for a Yeshiva education (if you cannot afford to do both, and buy the house).

LoZ said...


"Also LoZ, home ownership is a type of savings plan . . ."

I see. So we're no longer talking about assisting a person with shelter, but rather with his investment scheme.

And while understand your point about the future value of home ownership, please explain to me why an owner's future home equity "savings" is more sancrosact than a renter's current cash savings or his other liquid assets?

tesyaa said...


The yeshiva "system" may not be an official "system", but all schools have important features in common: scholarships for those who "can't afford" tuition; and refusal to turn away families that can't pay. While hashkafos may vary, all have similar curricula. While schedules may differ, all give off erev yom tov and insist on holding school on Christmas and New Year's.

It may not be a system, but the administrators meet and even hold conventions and in-service days together. Just like the different cities in NJ are made up of different school districts, but the NJEA convention brings them all together.

Sounds like at least a loosely organized "system" to me.

LoZ said...


"Only sometimes LoZ. We own a duplex. The rent from the apartment covers our monthly expenses for the mortgage and insurance . . . So we own a house for a lot less than it would cost us to rent an apartment even half the size"

I admit that I know nothing about real estate or business matters in general, but I'd love some education. I don't know where you live or your specifics, but assume a house that costs 500k (which I think you'd be hard pressed to find a duplex at that price even on many cheaper Jewish areas. You're looking at mortgage payments alone of 2150 a month, plus insurance, taxes, minor maintenance costs, upkeep, gas for heat, major repairs, etc. Let's say real cost is 2k a month after tax benefits( I think I'm being very generous here), but the income on that the tiny rental that was sold as a duplex (in my area its often really a converted basement) only brings in about a grand a month. So instead of asking he school for a break, te owner of said home should sell it and move into the rental.

(also I think its only fair that when talking in our context here about monthly expenses of home ownership it is relevant to somehow-I don't know how-include the downpayment in monthly expenses, in which case it is certainly cheaper to rent

Orthonomics said...

It is a "system" in so far as much as a school that broke with accepted practice would loose a great amount of support, lay and communal.

Miami Al said...

Families A & B both make $80,000/year and have four children.

Family A owns their home, and each month their mortgage payment includes $300 in Principal and $800 in Interest.

Family B rents their apartment, pays $800/mo in rent and puts $300 in their 401(k).

Families A & B apply for scholarship as kid #2 enters school. Will the scholarship committee demand family A sell their home? Will they demand that Family B stops putting $300 in their 401(k)?

Why is Family A's $300 "savings" shielded and Family B's is not? Does this mean that the system encourages more home ownership?

I know families that live in our community, pay "reduced dues" to the Shul, and pay nearly nothing for the day school. Those families are often in 3/4 Bedroom homes, leverages to the hilt (and now upside and "trapped" without trashing their credit). Should that family get a tuition discount?

Now we aren't even worried about shelter, now we are worried about bank profits and their credit rating?

Should that family move to a cheaper community? Teaneck -> Monsey (or Lakewood, or Passaic) for example? Or Miami Beach -> North Miami Beach?

If a family doesn't have enough income to have their size family and their size home, why should the community subsidize them?

These families would be mortified if the school told them to get their food from the Kosher Food Bank and pay more tuition, but scholarship or "reduced dues" isn't quite the same level of embarrassment as realizing your neighbors subsidize your groceries.

Is it fair that families are spending every dime to pay tuition, and then their kids are going to cheaper colleges, when some families have college funds paid for by grandparents and get tuition assistance? Is any of this fair?

And none of this is conning the schools, just perverse incentives.

Anonymous said...

I don't know where you live LoZ but from the figures you are giving I'd have to guess Brooklyn or certain parts of Queens. For one thing the duplex we bought cost us $389K not 500K. For another, this is not the Brooklyn type shlacky basement illegal apartment. The rental is a full two bedroom, legal, and about 680 square feet. There are separate utility meters so the tenant pays their own gas and electric. We do pay all the water usage for the house. Rent is $1140 for the tenant. Thanks to refinancing because of lower mortgage rates available now, we pay $1300 a month to the mortgage. That's only $160 out of my pocket towards the mortgage. Sure I have other expenses for the house also but they don't come to more than $1000 per month and that includes money put aside in case of repairs and insurance also. For that 1000 a month we live in a three bedroom house, have a living room, dining room, kitchen, 2 bathrooms, a den and a small basement and a garage and a small yard in the back, still big enough for playing and a sukkah and anything else we want it for.

There are plenty of places in the nyc area that are lower in price for homes like the one we bought. Or go even further out of town and the prices can really drop.

Anonymous said...

Oh and I forgot to add that I pay full tuition for my kids in school, two of them now. People shouldn't assume that because you own a house you aren't paying full tuition. Of course the yeshiva tuition we pay is way lower then what I hear about elsewhere--think JFS.

ProfK said...

Tesyaa and Orthonomics,

I'm going to leave a fuller response to your comments to the upcoming posting on yeshiva "systems" but I'll respond briefly now.

You say "It is a "system" in so far as much as a school that broke with accepted practice would loose a great amount of support, lay and communal." And it is not one system precisely because there are already huge numbers of schools in our communities whose accepted practices differ considerably one from the other, with no loss of support of any kind.

You say"The yeshiva "system" may not be an official "system", but all schools have important features in common: scholarships for those who "can't afford" tuition; and refusal to turn away families that can't pay. While hashkafos may vary, all have similar curricula. While schedules may differ, all give off erev yom tov and insist on holding school on Christmas and New Year's.

All schools do NOT have similar features in common, except perhaps that all schools MAY offer tuition reduction for those who can't pay. Their curricula are in no way similar across the yeshiva board. Do you really believe that Flatbush Yeshiva, The Mir, Chofetz Chaim, JEC, TAG etc. etc. offer similar curricula? They do not. Do you believe that all the yeshivas outside of the NYC area offer the same curricula as those schools in the NYC area? They do not. Re the school attendance on Christmas and New Years day, yes there are some schools which do not have classes on New Years Day. And some schools which have only limudei kodesh classes in the morning on Thanksgiving but have no secular classes in the afternoon.

That some schools may share some characteristics, or one characteristic, at some times and not at others does not a system make.

tesyaa said...

ProfK - of course there are differences, but public schools are FAR from monolithic also. Why do people make such effort to live in a certain town or even a certain district within a town? Yet public schools all have certain features in common (such as employing only certified staff), just as American yeshivas share many features in common.

ProfK said...

Yes, individual schools within a public school system may vary in some areas, based mostly on how deep or broad the tax base is in the specific sub-area where a school is located. However, all schools in any given school system "answer to a higher authority." The school system and its board make all the decisions about what must be taught, who can be hired, school opening and closing days, what books are acceptable for use, what extras can be offered etc. That system, in turn, must meet the requirements of the state school authority. Schools which want to add additional components have to apply to the school system board for a variance. Individual schools can't make those decisions all on their own.

The yeshivas have no such "higher authority" that organizes all schools in a given area. While they might have to meet certain state requirements, we all know how well that works out in some of the yeshivas. Yeshivas are autonomous entities rather than parts of a system. That there are some similarities in some yeshivas can be ascribed to their having a Jewish philosophy as a founding principle rather than to their being part of a system.

tesyaa said...

That there are some similarities in some yeshivas can be ascribed to their having a Jewish philosophy as a founding principle rather than to their being part of a system.

I understand this viewpoint; however, yeshivas as they exist in America today are very different than any method of Jewish education that existed prior to the 20th century, despite the fact that Jewish philosophy has been around so much longer. Also, yeshivot in Israel are run much differently than American yeshivot, despite shared Jewish philosophy and principles. While I agree that American yeshivot are independent entities, many collaborate to set educational and business practices. It's a loose, unofficial "system".

Miami Al said...

Independent? Are you all on drugs?!?

So, there is PEJE which organized conferences to make certain that everyone is doing roughly the same thing, and puts out guidelines for the schools to follow.

Down here in Florida, we have CAJE which goes as far as to unify salaries and tenure structures for the South Florida Day School market.

National organizations flow money to you if you do things a certain way, and not others. So to pretend that these are all these floating autonomous schools is a joke.

The curriculums are tweaked, but it's not like these schools build their own, they buy canned solutions from companies that cater to Day Schools. The same consulting organizations are sending everyone on the same stupid path, and the books come from the same handful of publishers.

Sure there are differences, but MINOR compared to the similarities.

A school that drastically broke from the community standard would quickly be dubbed "not Orthodox" and therefore not suitable for Converts or their children, and anyone who cares what the Rabbi says.

ProfK said...

Sorry, but your argument is not persuasive. The fact that Florida has CAJE for the South Florida day schools does not mean there is a full unified yeshiva educational system that covers all yeshivas. You mention that salary structure and tenure is set for the CAJE schools. Does CAJE also set the calendar that all schools in its supposed system have to follow? Does it give out a curriculum that all schools belonging to it have to follow completely? Does it negotiate purchasing for all supplies used by all its member schools? Does it make the final decision as to whether or not a school can make additions, buy additional property and at what price? Is it the final authority when a parent has a problem with an individual school belonging to CAJE? Does it set admission standards for all the schools that belong to it? Is what can be offered as extra curricular activities up to CAJE or up to the individual schools? Merely belonging to an organization and following a few of that organization's guidelines does not a school system make.

Re textbooks, textbooks for use in ALL schools in NY are under the NYSTL system--New York State Textbook Law. The state provides X number of textbooks for free to the schools in the state--all schools in the state. However, the schools can only choose from the pre-approved NYSTL list. Any books they choose to buy that aren't on that list they pay for. Most schools, including the yeshivas, choose to stay within the NYSTL lists and get their books for free. There are some yeshivas in the NY area which choose to take virtually none of the NYSTL books, particularly in the English studies area. They buy, on their own dime, the books from the Jewish publishers they will allow. All states have a similar entity in place--if textbooks seem similar from one yeshiva to another across the country that's not because there is a yeshiva system in place but b ecause there is a state system of education in place.

Go to the larger marketplace for education--New York--and you will find that all yeshivas in any given community or geographic area are not unified by an official system. Chabad schools follow the Chabad system. Day schools aren't identical in any systemic way. Chasidishe yeshivas each follow the practice of their own brand of chassidus. Litvishe yeshivas pretty much do what they want for their individual schools. Not all the Bais Yaakov schools are identical in practices.

Flatbush yeshiva is right around the corner from a whole bunch of other yeshivas radically different from it. For some people in these other yeshivas Flatbush HAS broken the rules of "orthodoxy" and they don't consider it as a "frum" place. Let's not even consider how Flatbush might view some of these other yeshivas. What community standard?

My point still stands--while there may be a few schools in a few areas or instances that follow one organized plan, there is not a system that covers Jewish education in place.

Because there are a few similarities among some yeshivas here and there does not mean that a system of yeshiva education is in place.

tesyaa said...

ProfK - my only argument (which you keep on ignoring) is that public schools, even within a state, are no more monolithic than yeshivot. There are schools in Texas that teach creationism (or try to). There are different schedules in every district in NJ. Don't say that because "Bais Yaakovs aren't identical" that there's not a system, while assuming public schools are all the same. (You went to public school, if I recall. Don't you remember that they're far from identical?) And what is the role of Torah Umesorah if not to determine guidelines and standards?

ProfK said...


I'm not ignoring your statement about not all public schools being monolithic. Let me put it this way. Those public schools ARE monolithic in a systemic way--they all have the same entrance requirements, the same age requirements, the same policy for hiring and firing, the same salary structure, the same basic course requirements,the same graduation requirements, the same hours, and their purchasing is done through the system, not through each school individually striking bargains with suppliers. They are all free and they are all open to everyone in a district. (Yes, there are a few exceptions like the Bronx High School of Science).

Yes, some are better schools than others, but they are all part of the same system and what unites them is greater than what separates them. Also key is that individual schools within the system cannot unilaterally make changes to how they are run--the Board of Ed that supervises all the schools in the system is the only entity that can approve such changes. Example: one high school in the system could not decide on its own that English is overtaught and decide to require only two courses in English for graduation.

The various yeshivas around the country have a small handful of professional organizations that they can join which can offer some help in programming or some assistance in procuring teaching personnel, but membership is not required. Only about half the yeshivas in the country join Torah U'mesorah. Those that do join are not contractually bound to teach/educate/perform in the particular manner that Torah U'mesorah recommends. There is no force of law behind what Torah U'mesorah recommends. Nor are there any Jewish community requirements that a school be a Torah U'mesorah member. Torah U'mesorah is a resource--it is not a system, and it has no power to set standards for all yeshivot.

tesyaa said...

Just not true.

Public schools DON'T all have the same hours.

They DON'T all have the same graduation requirements.

They DON'T all have the same age cutoffs.

They vary greatly even within a district, depending on the staff. In my district some elementary school principals were shuffled, and you should have heard the outcry. There are good administrators and not-so-good administrators, and that impacts schools greatly.

Yes - they all have the same entrance requirement - residency in the district. (A beautiful thing).

Give me a break. I understand you are trying to make a point, and you have promised a post on that subject, but you undermine yourself when you pick and choose facts and take things out of context. You're better than that.

tesyaa said...

You will note that I am not claiming that the public school system and the yeshiva "system" are identical. They are not organized in the same way or to the same extent. But it's disingenuous to say that MOST yeshivot don't BEHAVE like they're part of an unofficial system. (Naturally there are outliers, but I personally wouldn't use outliers to prove a point). If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it's a duck.

ProfK said...


I don't know where you live so can't speak to what the state/district requirements are for your area. I can speak, based on experience with the state board of ed and board or regents for the state of NY. In NY ALL schools have the same graduation requirements as set by the state boards--either you meet these requirements or you don't get a diploma, a diploma which is not granted by any individual school but which is granted by the state.

In NY state age requirements are set by the state, not the individual schools, and the entrance and exit ages are the same across the entire state system.

All public schools within a system must meet the minimum required number of hours/days as set by the state. If a school applies to the state it may add a few days for extras such as trips and presentations.

JS said...

I agree with tesyaa on this issue of a "system." But, I'm not really sure why it matters. It seems like you're just wrangling about whether there is a hierarchy above the local schools that sets a uniform policy. Why does that matter? Even without such an organization, the schools do a darn good job of uniformity. The problem is, it's always in areas that don't matter.

Instead of uniformity in hiring qualifications, academic standards, purchasing, insurance, benefits, etc., it's uniformity in hashkafa, ridiculous requirements on parents, over the top tznius requirements, everyone must go to Israel, everyone must got to sleepaway camps, etc. Sure you have differences between schools, but it's amazing how even the schools everyone insists are so incredibly different are really remarkably the same.

Perhaps this isn't true when you look at the far left and the far right of the yeshivas, but you tell me what the differences are between Modern Orthodox yeshivas, for example? The people on 200kchump's blog spend hours debating whether YNJ in Bergen County is "right wing" or "chareidi-lite" because the boys have to wear a jacket during davening after they are bar mitzvahed. Seriously? This is the big difference?

The schools are so uniform we pick up on nonsensical differences and pretend they're all different. They are far more uniform than people want to admit and even without an overseeing authority, they behave as if they are part of a system.

Miami Al said...

What is this fetish with group buying of commodity products? These supplies comprise maybe 4% of the school budget, and how much do you expect to save with a group purchase (you're already decent sized accounts), another 5% of the purchase price? Congratulations, you've cut your school's operating budget by 0.2%.

I'm not suggesting that you shouldn't try to save money, but to suggest that this is the difference between a "system" and an autonomous school is silly.

Does anyone "set the calendar?" Nope. Are the calendars different? Sure, 1-2 days here or there, but no big deal. Five years ago, the MO schools all were closed Christmas and New Years, now they are all open Christmas, and the RW schools are open on New Years. Who cares?

The public schools here all share a calendar by county, different counties, different calendars. There is absolutely a system because the money flow encourages conformity on areas that matter.

Apprently, whether you pay a fortune for security/janitorial to make a point of being open on Christmas (the point of which I am not sure, how many of you would like a non-Jewish employer to REQUIRE you to be there on Yom Tov) is more significant than teacher pay levels, curricula, and general structure, which is remarkably similar across the spectrum.

The things you consider major differences are all pretty minor. Every school is open on minor national holidays, closed on Yom Tov, closed the day before Yom Tov, and sometimes the day after. None of the schools are open on Chol Hamoed anymore. So the big calendar differences are which week in January/February you close for a week and whether you get travel days around Shavuot?!?

ProfK said...

Looks my posting on the system is going to be coming out in bits and pieces here. You hit on the head why I am arguing that we don't have a real system when you said "Instead of uniformity in hiring qualifications, academic standards, purchasing, insurance, benefits, etc., it's uniformity in hashkafa," Because there is no system in place for these "practical" items every school can basically do what it wants, at a cost of millions of wasted dollars. Because there is no central authority to say yea or nay, any school that wants to build a mega-building costing mega-millions can do so and then expect that the parents will pick up the bill. Because there is no real system in place, no central board, schools in one geographic area spend millions on "specialty" personnel, on curriculum development, on certain limited duty supervisors, each school duplicating these jobs. A real system would eliminate the duplication, resulting in mega savings.

When I use the term "school system" I am not referring to a shared hashkafic philosophy but to the nuts and bolts of providing an education.

Mimi said...

I'm glad Al that you have what must be an incredible vacation day package at your job so that a day here or there won't make a difference to you or your kids. Guess what? Not all of us are that lucky.

My job gives us off for Christmas and New Years and memorial day and election day. Those are four days my kids have school, meaning time I could have spent with them isn't there because they aren't there. And then the schools give off time which coincides with no days a business would give off, meaning I'm working, my kids are off and not only don't I get to spend time with them but I have to make child care arrangements because I can't be there. Please let's not mock or knock a day or two here and there--if you don't care then fine, but there are plenty like me who care.

Miami Al said...


I care very much. I think that the whole system is bonkers and broken. I'm suggesting that PEJE, in Florida CEJE (and I assume equivalent groups up North) make this comprise a system.

I am suggesting that the system is equally inconvenient and disinterested in parental concerns.

Put it this way, the Independent Schools down here fight tooth and nail for mind share and excellence. They all maintain a specific brand, one claims elite status, one accessibility to parents, etc., and they all compete. Nobody would confuse them with a system, as they all compete with each other and the public school system for cash and bodies.

The Day Schools, OTOH, all collude with each other to be relatively similar. The calendars are pushed to mostly match. The administrative pay packages are pretty similar in an area (look at the 990s) and PEJE has conventions for board members to attend, where they learn to run identical schools, and PEJE has conventions for admins, where they learn to run identical schools. Interested in adopting a child and having them converted? RCA guidelines require you to pledge to send your children to a private Jewish Day School/Yeshiva for 12 years. How is that not a system?

Like I said, the Independents may be part of accrediting institutions, but they compete with each other for students and staff. The Day Schools are not competing with each other, with a setup designed to collude and not compete.

The lack of family time because of convoluted schedules is part of what makes this a system. They tell you what to do, where to send your other children, how to run your household in the summer, etc. Pointing to a few school days different and saying "see, it's not a system, it's autonomous schools" is making a mountain out of a molehill.

There are 13 days of Yom Tov a year. The average American has 10 days of Vacation Time. Once you add a single extra "day off" you've made it impossible for two spouses to work full time without domestic help.

tesyaa said...

Yes. If it weren't a "system" you would have a choice of schools with different vacation times. One school could specifically compete by having a "job friendly" or "family friendly" schedule (including a half day of school, at least, on erev yom tov, and no school on major legal holidays). Another school could compete by having a "least secular influence" schedule in which ALL secular holidays maintain a full day - this would cater to parents who work in Jewish owned businesses and want to show that they don't recognize legal holidays. I'm very serious. Why do all the schools close 3-5 days before Pesach, if it's not at least an unofficial agreement? Please tell me.

Anonymous said...

You're missing something here Tesyaa. The day before yom tov off and the pesach schedule aren't about the kids and the parents mostly. They are about the teachers and staff. It's a perk they get for teaching in yeshiva. Won't say I like it but what if the teachers didn't get that time off? They just might ask for more money in salary and then your tuition would go up.

It's also a little bit about families that are traveling around before a yom tov. Plenty of families that don't stay home but go to their parents or other family or friends. If they had school erev yom tov then a lot of kids would be missing and the teachers would just have to teach the same material all over again after yom tov because a lot of the class would have missed it.

JS said...


I think you're taking my comment out of context. To be clear, I think there IS a system. It's just a lousy, broken system. They choose to conform and be uniform for nonsense at best and stuff that upsets parents at worst. And, in fact, they do conform on "hiring qualifications, academic standards, purchasing, insurance, benefits, etc." - they conform by all having low or no standards and no desire to save any money.

By the way (I guess this is mostly directed at Al), the reason I mentioned purchasing is because even though it is such a small portion of the budget, it's also the easiest thing to get together with another school on. The fact that the schools don't do this just shows that they uniformly don't care about this kind of stuff.

Point is, you're saying the same thing as everyone else. You look at the things you'd like the schools to do better, recognize that no one is forcing them to do it better and conclude that there is no system. You prefer to see each school as a fiefdom that does what it will. Certainly that is true. But, even with each school officially being a fiefdom, there is remarkable conformity between them. If anything, the "system" is that these remarkably similar schools all try to present themselves as being genuinely different on specious grounds, at best. So, even though they all do things almost identically, offer the same educational quality, etc. you have parents clamoring about the "jacket school" and the "school that makes kids come in on Sunday" and the "school that separates genders in 2nd grade vs the school that separates genders in 4th grade."

This is your system.

LoZ said...

I see the points Tesyaa and profk are making. Both have some merit. I tend to agree more with tesyaa here, but I would say there are a few yeshivah "systems." obviously the MO "system" is not the same as the Chasisic system.

I will also add based on my experience that the schools are mor than happy to claim they are part of a system in order to deflect criticism.

Also based on experience, very often a school will make a decision based not on what is best for the students, school or parents, but to conform to other local schools. So while there is certainly no official  hierarchal  jewish system, there is nonetheless a peer-pressure-driven one.

LoZ said...


Of course I was referring to bklyn/queens. You mean Jews live in other areas? specifically my numbers were for marine park, which is basically the most affordable jewish neighborhood I know of in Brooklyn (and I don't think you'll get that much cheaper in most of NYC)

Who said anything about an *illegal* basement?

In any case I'm not sure I see your point. You are still paying or putting aside 1000 a month above rental income (does this include real estate and rental income taxes?) that could be used for rent instead. And what about all the money that went for the downpayment? Or current equity?

As far as the assumption you warn against, of course not all homeowners require tuition assistance, but where I live it is a given that you have to buy a home before your first kid enters school in order to maximize ability to get tuition assistance.

And I still don't understand your comment about the savings value of owning a home.