Sunday, September 5, 2010

So it's Official Now

While waiting for my dentist appointment I was speaking with the dentist's wife, who runs the office. Inevitably the subject of yeshiva tuition came up. This is a family with nine children so tuition is a big issue for them.

Their oldest child is going into his senior year in high school in New Jersey. Another child is entering her freshman year in high school, also in a Jersey school. According to the mother the schools were straight out blunt in telling the parents what the schools expect: the high school time period is now expected to be 5 years: 4 years in the high school proper and one year in Israel. The school expects no exceptions. That optional year in Israel is no longer considered optional for these two schools. The schools tell the students they are going and push the parents to fall in line.

She mentioned that a few other of the boys high schools she had looked at had a different schedule they were mandating. One major boys yeshiva in Far Rockaway tells parents straight out that the boys are to have three years of post-high school learning in the yeshiva before they take the recommended at least one year of study in Israel. College is not mentioned in this scenario. This same high school does not offer a full schedule of secular studies in the senior year for all of its students.

You had to know that it was coming down the road: post-high school limudei kodesh, in Israel and/or in the States, is now a requirement that schools are telling parents they must provide for their children.

This mother of nine is struggling with regular tuition right now. She absolutely refuses to consider the post-high school year in Israel because she plain does not have the money to fund any of it. And the pressure on the part of the schools and yes, on the part of the children's friends, is building up steam. Oh yes, and well-meaning friends in her neighborhood are adding to that pressure as well, pointing out that to be so radically different from all the other children will not be good for her kids.

This particular set of parents have tempered steel for backbones and they won't give in to all the pressure from the yeshivas and friends and neighbors--they can't. But why should they be put in this position to begin with?! I've said it before, and yet here we are again: since when do yeshivas get to make decisions about what children will or won't do instead of parents making those decisions? Since when did in loco parentis for the hours that children are in elementary and high school extend itself to apply to all parenting decisions?

Orthonomics has already reported on two yeshivas that won't be opening this fall--there are many more teetering on the brink. And yet high schools think it's the "right" thing to do to say that all students must extend their education beyond the four years of high school, to make this mandatory? Well, here we have it, proof positive that there are more worlds than just ours on earth in existence. How? It's clear that school administrators and roshei hayeshivot are living in a different world than the one that parents of yeshiva children do. It's clear that in the yeshiva system world money actually grows on trees or can be willed into existence through magical incantations. It's clear that in the yeshiva system world parents are only vessels to be used for creation purposes and then they bow out of their children's lives. Someone in that yeshiva system is mixing up science fiction with real life, and can't tell the difference.

I'd suggest building a bomb shelter in your homes because a gigantic implosion is heading down the turnpike and the fallout isn't going to be pretty. May not happen tomorrow but it's inevitable.


tesyaa said...

Let me ask you a question. You have shown that you are opposed to public schooling and think yeshiva is necessary for all 12 grades. Under that assumption, why is age 18 the "magic" age when it's no longer necessary? If you think it's 100% necessary for 12 grades, why is it suddenly enough? If people differ, maybe many of them need another year of Torah study. Heck, maybe many need another 2, or 3.

I personally don't believe that the seminary year is necessary, but I'm not convinced that 12 grades of yeshiva education is necessary. But I think the position that yeshiva is a 100% requirement but seminary is unnecessary is quite inconsistent.

Anonymous said...

Touche Tessya. What's even more interesting is that by insisting on a year in Israel, the schools are admitting that even after full time indoctrination pre-K to 12, we are not sure we have done a good enough job, so you have to isolate and indoctrinate your children (now young adults) for another few years, at a huge cost.

ProfK said...

Not a "magic" age at all but based on the required secular model of education. NY state requires that all children receive instruction, whether in school or at home, between the ages of 6 and 16. With parental or court permission a 16 year old can drop out of high school even if they have not graduated officially or gotten a high school diploma. I believe that is the rationale used to explain/excuse why some boys high schools and a few of the chasidishe girls high schools do not offer secular subjects during what would be the senior year of high school; the students and their parents can claim they are opting out legally. Of course, the question we could ask is do these schools charge less for that year when secular studies are not given or does the price remain the same?

Yes, I am most in favor of a yeshiva/secular studies model of education for elementary school and high school, while recognizing that for some parents other models are what they are choosing, and also recognizing that the present yeshiva model needs a lot of fixing.

At the same time I believe that any education which is post high school, whether for the males or the females, should remain optional and be up to the parents of the children to decide--place, length of stay, type of education etc.

Our present system is basically nursery to grade 12. Financially the yeshivas in general are having problems because the price of the education times the number of years required is more than most parents can afford to pay fully, or struggle to pay in full. The cost of an additional year or years, which is generally much higher in cost than the amount being paid in high school, adds to parents' financial woes and contributes to the financial woes of the yeshivas servicing N-12. The community--those who are pushing the extended judaic studies formula--needs to recognize that money is a limited item, that the 15 years already being paid for is breaking the bank for many, the system is not sustainable as structured as families get larger, and that there is a legitimate reason for those post high school to be going on for either college or skills training towards the goal of making a living as adults.

If it wasn't clear from the posting, let me try again: requiring/mandating that X amount of time post high school must be spent in yeshivas/seminaries is wrong. Parents should have the final say in what their children will be doing then, not the yeshiva system. By requiring this additional year and placing pressure on the parents or "forcing" them to provide this extra yeshiva education, money is being diverted that should be going either towards other children still in the elementary or high school system or towards education that will help with future parnoseh or towards parents' expenses/needs as they grow older.

GilaB said...

This isn't new. My parents and class were told the thirteen-year thing when I started high school fifteen years ago, at Bruriah, which certainly also expected us to go to college. I didn't go to Israel, but I also left after eleventh grade to go to college (which really angered the administration), so they didn't have much time to apply overt pressure.

Mordechai Y. Scher said...

You're shutting the barn door after the horse has bolted.

From out here, it sounds like parents abrogated their say in their children's education back in kindergarten. This post-HS stuff (which I like in principle) is just the latest. Yeshivish schools have been running roughshod over the parents for 12 years, and *now* you're complaining? The parents should be taking a much stronger voice in how the schools are run, how curriculum is planned, how teachers are hired, dress name it. But the parents have somehow bought into the myth that the schools and school rabbis are all-knowing, and that they (the parents) are simply unqualified or unworthy to have a voice in their children's Torah education. Or any education.

Maybe the economic blowup or implosion will force a change. Parents have a right and responsibility (education is the *parents* mitzvah) which need to be restored in order to see some sanity restored.

LOZ said...


i'm not the biggest fan of the post-hs year in israel for various reasons, but in the larger scheme of things another year of two of tuition per kid isn't going to cause a communal implosion and this alone is not a reason to oppose it.

the implosion will come because so many educated professional parents from your generation (yes, my generation too, but it's always easier to blame a different generation) didn't think it was important to provide their kids with the same opporutities they were privilged to enjoy. i mean how is it that people like your dentist friend would even consider to begin with any school that is not known for having a top-notch college prep curriculum and an administration/rebbeim that is unambigiously pro-college?

as usual, parents get exactly what they deserve.

Miami Al said...

Tesyaa is right. If K-12 is mandatory (the Rabbis tell us so), and we aren't free to disagree, then if PK-12+Aleph is necessary, then we aren't free to disagree.

Disagree with this model, you have to challenge the assumption, that your children are obligated to be in Yeshiva.

This model: Yeshiva + Kollel failed in Lithuania, and it's failing here. Even the champions of this model acknowledge that the German model produced a more observant laity, but claim that this model produced more Gedolim.

Of course it did, only 1/10 of 1% of the population is smart enough to really excel to the top of their field. If you give them a full range of options, they will take it, however, if the only option is Gedol, that's where they will apply their talents.

The Yeshiva system has always existed in fantasy land. The parents are pulling the ladder up behind them, doctors/lawyers sending kids to RW schools where the kids can't go to college, successful businessmen encouraging their daughters to marry learners where the next generation is starved.

Pulling out books from long dead communities and claiming that this is authentic Judaism, it's fantasy land, but if you buy in, have fun.

This is NOT how my family lived in Pre-WW2 Germany, I see no reason to pretend that this is my Mesorah.

As far as being radically different, anyone who does anything of substance in their life is radically different. My wife desperately wanted out of her small town, my sister-in-law did not.

Everyone is free to make choices. If the school is exerting tremendous pressure on you to do something that you don't want for your children, you need to rethink if they should be in that school, not be mad at the school.

A Catholic school will encourage people to be observant Catholics. I don't want that for my children, so I don't send them there, I don't suggest that Catholic schools need to change their model or collapse because it doesn't suit me.

Anonymous said...

ProfK: Did you really mean to say: "At the same time I believe that any education which is post high school, whether for the males or the females, should remain optional and be up to the parents of the children to decide--place, length of stay, type of education etc." Why is it up to the parents,, apart from their right to say they aren't going to fund whatever the post-high school option is? Why isn't it up to the 18 year old him or herself? Do they get any say in their own future? This whole discussion suggests that the year in Israel, etc. is designed to keep kids under the control of the system until they marry and then are trapped into a certain very narrow path through marriage and fear of what pre-school their kids will get accepted to if they dare think for themselves.

ProfK said...

No, I didn't mean to give the impression that the parents alone would be making any decisions for their post high school children, only that such a decision certainly does not belong to the heads of the high schools.

Obviously the high school grads themselves should have major input into what they will be doing post high school. I don't say total input or sole input because 1)many of those high school grads are not 18 or older--none of my children were near that age when they graduated and they aren't the exceptions and 2)if parents are going to be asked to bankroll or partially bankroll an activity after high school they should have a say as to whether or not they want to bankroll it, or even can bankroll it. If their children still want to go with their first choice, despite little or no parental financial input, the parents need to point out and discuss together with the kids what that will mean for them down the road in terms of their own financial stability.

Mordechai Y. Scher said...

Back in the 80s I taught in Houston, TX. The day school wanted to encourage students to go to Israel, and had a sensible way to do it. The students finished all their HS requirements (and then some!) by the end of 11th grade. The diploma was held until they came back from 12th grade year in Israel. Most went to yeshiva or seminary. A few went to alternate programs that suited them better. By doing it this way, the parents were paying out for Israel in place of tuition that year. Admittedly more expensive, but doable given the exchange of tuition in America for tuition in Israel. It worked very well for most families as I recall. There were exceptions made as needed; but overall is seemed to have been a good idea.

I think that the presently reported plan, though, is just another step in trying to coerce the kids into a specific mold...

LOZ said...


"Why is it up to the parents"

because most likely with orthodox families it is the parents paying the bill. why should kids decide how to spend their parents' money?

LoZ said...


do you think that those 12th graders were mature enough to use the year in an israeli yeshivah wisely?

Anonymous said...

LOZ: Most 18 year olds get some say in important life decisions like where to go to college, what to study, etc. even if the parents are paying. Of course, that may be very hard for children who have been cocooned their whole lives and have not had the experience of making their own decisions and dealing with the consequences.

LOZ said...


"not had the experience of making their own decisions and dealing with the consequences"

what are the consequences of spending your parents' money?

Anonymous said...

LOZ: The relevant question is what are the consequences of spending a year in Israel and then sitting and studying and still marrying and start producing children to feed, clothe and educate at age 22?

Mordechai Y. Scher said...

LOZ: I think many of them benefitted well from the year (or two for those who extended). These were generally college bound kids, and they were less likely to spend a year of solid learning and/or exposure to Israel later in their young adulthood. This particular arrangement sent a general educational message that Israel is very important, and Torah study is very important. It was a message that impacted the whole community, since it was a widespread norm. From what I can see, it worked pretty well. I was sad to hear that, years later, the school stopped that arrangement for reasons I don't know.

Anonymous said...

Mordechai: That sounds like a terrific idea: make the last year of high school the year in Israel. An alternative is to model something on the old ulpan on a kibbutz programs. You work 5-6 hours a day and study 5-6 hours/day. That way the students pay for their own room and board and the only expenses the parents would have would be airfare and some spending money.

The Rebbetzin's Husband said...

I'm not a fan of the compulsory system, but it is worth mentioning that in one stage of Jewish history, the prime years of Jewish education began at 16 (Bava Basra 21a). They realized this late start didn't work and moved back the starting age to 6 or 7, but it appears that they nonetheless continued to value education in the late teenage years.
Note: I'm not sure how this squares with the trade apprenticeships which were standard from fairly young ages. Looks to me like they did both simultaneously, but I don't know that.

JS said...

Hard for me to be sympathetic. You send your kids to a certain type of school, which has certain well-known and publicized values and requirements, and then you're surprised when you're forced, coerced, and cajoled into following those values and requirements? Come on. Where's the personal responsibility? You can't complain about schools and rabbis taking over the role of the parents when the parents gladly give it over and pay for the privilege.

Even the Modern Orthodox high school I went to 10+ years ago was strongly "encouraging" kids to go to Israel. I was one of the few people in my class who didn't go. Every parent knew at the time what those yeshivas in Israel were doing to kids. They had all seen many kids return to the community after Shana Alef and turn down their respectable, secular colleges, go back for Shana Bet, and go to YU or Ner Yisroel and community college and the like. They had already seen kids come back with black hats; kids refusing to eat in their parents' suddenly no longer kosher homes, etc; kids refusing to return back to America; kids not wanting to leave the yeshiva, etc. All the parents saw this and sent their kids anyways. And then of course they're suddenly surprised when it happens to them.

Then you find them supporting kids long past their own intended retirement age, kids who refuse to work because they're learning or insist on marrying on a learner and this professional, educated, moderately well-to-do couple wonders where things went wrong. Hint: it happened when you enrolled them in that kindergarten class.

Seems you have a choice: 1) Opt out of this crazy system; 2) Find a yeshiva you agree with; or 3) Constantly battle the yeshiva you do send to and try to exert your rights as parents and to be individuals instead of sheep.

Litvak said...

Miami Al : "This model: Yeshiva + Kollel failed in Lithuania"

Al, FYI, most Lithuanian Jews, and even most Lithuanian Yeshiva students did not learn in kollel. Kollelim then were very small in size and very limited, as were most kollelim in general until recent years.

Most Lithuanian Jews were baalei batim, not lifelong Yeshiva students.

There is confusion out there nowadays, because people think that modern Yeshivish = historic Litvish practice. It ain't so though. The modern Yeshivish is a new creation, not the same as the old Litvish. The old Litvish held learning in high esteem, but there was no such thing as almost universal kollel for numerous years.

Miami Al said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LoZ said...


I think that spending time in israle after can be a very positive experience. I just think that many are not ready to take full advantage of the learning opportunities. although I guess that if you wait to send them, most would probably not get to go.


"LOZ: The relevant question is what are the consequences of spending a year in Israel and then sitting and studying and still marrying and start producing children to feed, clothe and educate at age 22?"

Why are you addressing this question to me?