Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Before We Talk About the Golden Years

More than a few comments on The Golden Years posting asked "So where do we go from here?" I've been giving that some thought. I think we have a major job to do before we can set into place any programs for our upcoming Boomer seniors. Thoughts about what? Read on.

Intuitively, based on personal experience, we know that there are an awful lot of tzedaka organizations and programs and institutions serving Klal right now. It seems like our mailboxes are always full, the emails come by the dozens, the phone calls by the hundreds and the collectors by the carload. And yet, do we really have any idea just how many organizations, programs and institutions we are supporting? The problem of gaining this knowledge is further complicated by the fact that not all programs are just in the NY area but across the country and certainly all over Israel.

Why should we know this information? You can't budget when you don't know precisely just what will need to be supported. You can't divide money if you don't know into how many portions that money needs to be divided into. I've written before that there is duplication in some areas where there really should not be. That duplication--let's say 12 smaller groups instead of 1-2 larger groups--results in duplicated expenses and overhead, taking away from the funds available to be used for the purposes of a program. Yes, in some cases that duplication is actually necessary. To do what it is supposed to do, to serve well, Hatzoloh of SI can't also service Brooklyn, and vice-versa. It certainly can't service Baltimore, or Chicago or Los Angeles. The same can be said about the various local Bikur Cholim groups. But there are hundreds of other groups out there, many of which do duplicate services within a geographic area or cross geographic areas, and many of which leech money out of the community without actually providing a needed/well-run service.

So, first thing some people with an organizational bent need to compile what we don't presently have--a master list of all organizations providing services to the Jewish community. The easiest place to start is by asking every community here in the US to compile a master list of every organization/program/institution that is based in that community. Also, people active in a particular type of organization seem to know about other such organizations located elsewhere--get their input. Synagogues and the programs they offer should also be included in this discovery. Those communities which have Jewish Community Centers should also include the programs offered by these places.

Once such lists are compiled and sent to a central place, we'd need volunteers to create a computer database with all the information. Then the information needs to be divided into categories.

Of course, this is only step one. Once we know how many of each type of organization might be present, we then need to do some investigating into how many people are actually serviced by each group. What kinds of expenses do each of these groups have?

The next logical step, after we know what we presently have to support, is to make a list of what types of services and programs are missing that we need for the community. How many of these services will be necessary? Relatively how expensive or inexpensive will it be to put these programs into service?

Yes, I know this is going to be considered a time-consuming project to undertake. But what choice do we really have? It is more than clear that Klal is in financial trouble, and that the money to support all its programs and institutions as presently structured doesn't seem to be there. But it's all conjecture unless and until we see actual figures in front of us. If we don't know what needs supporting and how much money that supporting will take, how can we possibly have a rational discussion on where Klal's money should go?

So, first things first. Let's get the real facts about just where our money is going now, to what types of programs and institutions. We need to become good gardeners in order for Klal to be healthy. A good gardener knows that first you look at your plot and see how much space you have for new planting. A good gardener recognizes when some plantings have become rampant, taking over the area dedicated to a different planting and threatening that different planting's health and vitality. A good gardener knows that there needs to be balance among plantings so that every plant can get what it needs, but not at the expense of another plant. And a good gardener also knows that first you weed the garden, getting rid of the chaff, before you plant a new plant. So yes, in this season of gardening it's time for us to look at Klal's plot and to do the maintenance required so that the garden of Klal can grow healthily and provide beauty and joy and sustenance rather than being a tangled mess.


rejewvenator said...

It's ironic that you're proposing a Federation system for the frum, even as that very same system is struggling mightily in the broader Jewish world.

The main problem you point to is correct though: a complete lack of transparency in how orgs are managed, and a failure to record in any centrally accessible fashion who all these organizations are. Beeting those challenges requires us, the givers, to insist on those niceties (eg can I see your IRS 501(c)(3) determination letter? Are you registered with the Vaad?) before we open our wallets.

Anonymous said...

Its interesting that while you note the need to identify overlapping or duplicative services and the resulting inefficiencies, you state that "Hatzoloh of SI can't also service Brooklyn, and vice-versa." What you fail to note is that Hatzolah itself is entirely duplicative. There may be delays and waiting times with secular ambulance services and they may not be perfect, but even wealthy non-OJ's/non-jews who could afford to so do, don't feel the need to set up their own ambulance service. What's next, an orthodox hospital, emergency room and medical school? Its like paying privately for a secular education that is usually no better, and sometimes worse, than what is available in public schools.

ProfK said...

Here in SI the area serviced by Hatzoloh is not restricted to use by only the Orthodox Jews, or even Jews. Everyone in the area calls Hatzoloh here--we are not talking a little delay in the other non-volunteer ambulance services--we are talking mega-distances away from this geographic area and a lot of time before an ambulance is going to show up. At least here in SI Hatzoloh is looked at as a welcome volunteer addition and providing a necessary service to the community at large. Donations also come to it come from grateful members of the general community, Jewish or not.

Example: last week there was a multi-car accident on my block. Hatzoloh got here even before the police did. The fire department ambulance arrived 9 minutes after the police did. Had there been serious medical issues involved that delay would have spelled the difference between life and death.

And I don't imagine that mine is the only community in the States where the extra emergency personnel are welcomed.

Anonymous said...

Keeping with your garden analogy, what exactly is the plot? what is its size and parameters? Is there a head gardner or groundskeeper? Who decides what is a weed and what is a beautiful wild flower? Who decides what crops to plant and when? Who has to do the tilling and fertilizing? Who decides what happens to the crops - will some be canned and dried to store up for the winter or will there just be a big feast at harvest time? I would say that the tragedy of the commons may be a more apt analogy.

Abba's Rantings said...


"What's next, an orthodox hospital"

as a footnote, that's precisely how a number of hospitals got their start.


your post makes sense. but it's not going to happen.* so what's plan b?

(now in the ghetto, on the other hand, this could have been possible.)

tesyaa said...

You avoid the issue of how much money private school tuition is sucking from the community. Most other expenses pale in comparison to this one. If this is nonnegotiable, get used to the idea that other institutions will suffer accordingly.

JS said...

I don't see the point of this exercise. Even if you could get a tally of every organization in "klal" (whatever that is) then what? You want a centralized organization whose decisions everyone will abide by? Good luck. The reason we have so many organizations in the first place is because no one wants to centralize and no one wants to abide by anyone else's authority. It all comes back to consult your LOCAL Orthodox Rabbi. Emphasis on local. I only do what my guy tells me to do, your guy can go jump in a lake.

You're also missing the point that many (most?) of these duplicative organizations exist precisely because they are duplicative. They exist to give yet another group of rabbis, administrators, otherwise unemployable people, wives, family members, etc. a job. And not just a job, but a job that has some kavod attached to it. Why be a rebbe teaching some cheder when you can be a rosh yeshiva? Why work for tomchei shabbos when you can run your own version of tomchei shabbos? The benefits are tremendous in addition to salary and kavod. It allows for all sorts of great tax protection (some of which is even legal!) and you're doing a mitzvah even if you have 50 cent on the dollar overhead costs.

But, regardless, aside from the fact that no one will ever listen to whoever makes this list (Shloimy, sorry, you have to shut down your gemach, there's another one 5 blocks over that is more efficient. OK, Vaad HaDuplicative Organizations I'll shut down immediately and go find another job!), making such a list is silly. We KNOW where all the money is going. It's going to yeshivas. You can find me 100 duplicative gemachs and it won't equal the waste of communal funds associated with a single yeshiva.

And, yes, just like all the other duplicative organizations, the yeshivas exist as employment agencies so those involved can have kavodik jobs, get all sorts of tax benefits, get honored at the community dinners, and hold their heads up high that they're doing a mitzvah. The fact that they're bankrupting thousands of Jewish families is besides the point as is the fact that there's no money left over for you aging boomers.

Want to solve the problem? Change the culture away from "The only way to possibly ensure the frumkeit of our children is expensive private school education from kindergarten through highschool." While you're at it you can change the culture on all the things people waste their money on like yeshiva in Israel, expensive weddings, expensive summer camps, etc.

The duplicative organizations exist because the market forces allow them to exist. We're a stupid people who waste money on every little nonsense thinking we're doing some big mitzvah whether it's donating to the 9th gemach in a 4 block radius or throwing a big wedding.

tesyaa said...

Change the culture away from "The only way to possibly ensure the frumkeit of our children is expensive private school education from kindergarten through highschool."

And please, the solution is not "cheap, cost effective yeshivas". It's very hard to convince parents to use a "cheap" school when they think their kids are getting shortchanged. In addition, a "cheap" yeshiva is now $8,000-$9,000 per child for elementary school and something like $15,000 for high school. Even eliminating frills, only the relatively wealthy can afford those (after-tax) prices if they want more than 1-2 kids.

ProfK said...

Okay, take a deep breath everyone. First, yeshivas were not excluded from the list that should be prepared--notice that institutions are on my list. Second, while we know that education draws megabucks from Klal we also don't know just how much, and certainly not to give an accurate comparison to all the other activities we fund. And that is one of the points of this exercise--yes, it is just possible that some people, seeing the numbers in black and white, might just say "Wait a minute, we need to finally do something about yeshiva tuition because its position financially is out of sync."

I'm not advocating a central authority to administer funds and make decisions on behalf of every nook and cranny in Klal(seriously, can you see Klal as it is presently constituted agreeing on anything of this nature?)--I'm saying we need to finally see a list of all the places our money goes to. Without such a list we're all flying blind--we think we know what our expenses are and we really don't.

The first step has to be listing all we are funding. The second step is to ask why and to start readjusting where funds go to.

tesyaa said...

ProfK, do you think that yeshiva tuition can be brought "into sync" so that universal yeshiva is viable for every Orthodox child? Not that it's not a lovely concept, but is it even possible?

ProfK said...

Your statement is also part of the problem--"In addition, a "cheap" yeshiva is now $8,000-$9,000 per child for elementary school." Strange how JFS in SI manages to give more than a barebones education--way more--and does it for substantially less than the figures you are quoting. Every one of us has been known to throw around figures without having any real black and white info to back us up. Sometimes those figures are based on our personal experience with a yeshiva and sometimes based on that ephemeral "I heard that..." information.

The point is that we, living in the information century, have far too little information about who is getting our money and what is happening to it. Heck, we don't have the foggiest idea of just how much actual money is being spent (how can we, if we don't know all the places it's going?)nor of how much money is available for funding things.

tesyaa said...

ProfK, is JFS really "substantially less" than $8,000 ? How much less?

Miami Al said...

You're missing JS's very apt points.

A charity doesn't get setup because there is a need.

A charity, like any business, gets setup because an entrepreneur thinks that there is an untapped need that he can meet.

These various frum charities are NOT "communal services" they are small businesses organized under 501(c)3 of the IRS tax code, completely legitimately I'll add, but they are small businesses.

If a CPA gets tired of working for a big firm, he "hangs a shingle" and starts a one man CPA firm.

If a lawyer gets tired of working for someone else, he "hangs a shingle" and starts a one man law firm.

If a Rabbi gets tired of working for someone else, he "hangs a shingle" and starts a Shul, Yeshiva, Charity, etc., and organizes it as a non-profit and either a "Church" or Charity.

These various organizations exist because people are entrepreneurs and these organizations are the best way to make wealth for their family.

Communal funding? Sure, good luck. Your best bet would be to do it within the existing Federation setup and try to get pulpit Rabbis to urge their congregants to give half their charity to the Federation. Get together with the Federation, and I'm sure they'll let you setup an Orthodox "earmark" that doesn't let Orthodox funds go to non Orthodox "causes," only Orthodox causes + overhead.

Approaching it like there is a Klal with organization is a huge mistake. Even where umbrella organizations exist that could do some good, they use their power for immaterial Hashkafic grounds... Young Israel asserted its authority over member congregations, not to control costs, not to raise money to serve less wealthy areas so middle income Orthodox Jews could be Young Israel modern Orthodox, but rather to make sure that they don't hire YCT/UTJ Rabbis, and only YU or Agudah types.

Nobody cares about squandering funds.

ProfK said...

Is universal yeshiva education possible for every child? Sure it is, just as soon as we can define what is meant by "universal yeshiva education" in all its possibilities. If the definition is broadly encompassing such that yeshiva does not only represent a physical type of education but a philosophical one, then yes it is possible. If we narrow down the definition to include only the type of educational facility where children must be present there from 7:30am until 4:00-7:00 pm, at least 5 days a week, sometimes 6,with every possible doodad and frill that a parent can come up with as a school's responsibility rather than a parent's responsibility, then no, such an education is becoming impossible.

Anonymous said...

YI also disallows female shul presidents because of "srara" ... sigh.

tesyaa said...

ProfK, does your definition of a yeshiva "philosophy" exclude the use of public schools as sources of secular education? Given the fact that funds are at a premium and this expensive service is available, would you consider it as part of a holistic "yeshiva" education?

Please, let's be realistic and not bring "vouchers" into the conversation.

JS said...

The reason there is no information is purposeful. The organizations don't want to turn it over. They don't want people seeing the incredible waste. Look at how few yeshivas file the required 990's. And those that do (rightfully) come under scrutiny for paying (at least in the MO world) heads of school in the range of $250k-$350k and their myriad administrators in the $115k+ range. Transparency is bad for these organizations even though it is good for klal.

Again though, I'm not sure what a list would show or how it would help foster change. Let's say it shows that there are 10 gemachs in a 10 block radius all serving the same community and they are each drawing $50k/year. What then? How does one act on that information to eliminate the waste?

I think it's all academic. Each yeshiva has a budget on the order of millions of dollars. I can't think of any other class of organizations that all have that kind of budget.

We made a huge mistake when we planned out our communal institutions by not consolidating from the get go. For example, why are there separate buildings for yeshivas and shuls?

Abba's Rantings said...


"I'm saying we need to finally see a list of all the places our money goes to."

in other words you want communal transparency. that's just not going to happen today. there are way too many people with way too much to lose. (one more historical footnotes: this type of transparency was the norm for 19th c. american jewish organizations)


"is it even possible?"

presumably a more efficient communal infrastructure in general would allow more money to be diverted to yeshivos, thereby alleviating the senior/retirement crisis. of course
1) it's just not going to happen
2) even it happened, this still falls into the problem that you don't always solve a problem by throwing more money at it

Abba's Rantings said...


" why are there separate buildings for yeshivas and shuls?"

a) because someone wants a building with his name (i don't write that cynically)
b) in one municupality i was told that it is prohibited by zoning.

tesyaa said...

For example, why are there separate buildings for yeshivas and shuls?

And mikvaot - many communities will not let a mikveh be built in a shul for tznius reasons. And why separate yeshiva BUILDINGS for boys' and girls' schools associated with the same organization? (Besides unreasonable chumras about mixing of the sexes, obviously a problem in the elementary schools).

And on and on. Please list your favorite examples of waste that is justified for "religious" concerns.

ProfK said...

Re your last point, about "names," our community is finally doing something about that. Basically we aren't saying that naming is outlawed but that specially named funds/programs/edifices have to come under the rubric of one of the established organizations. So you could have the "Moshe Rabeinu" memorial fund of Bikur Cholim of SI. Administration is centralized, overhead is reduced, people are still encouraged to donate in memory or in honor of someone, but there won't be dozens of competing organizations with the resulting overlap. How will it be enforced? Shuls won't allow appeals or notices from funds that aren't under one of the approved community organizations.

And re the names on buildings, divide those buildings into major parts and more names are available--the Moshe Rabeinu Beis Medrash of Yeshiva X or the Moshe Rabeinu Dining Hall of Yeshiva X or the Moshe Rabeinu Wing of Yeshiva X or the Moshe Rabeinu Pre-school of Yeshiva X--you get the picture.

Or here's an idea--instead of a single name on a building, have a "Wall of Honor," perhaps on the outside of the building. Donations to a school or shul would have to be above a certain amount--large--to get a name up there.

Abba's Rantings said...


"And why separate yeshiva BUILDINGS for boys' and girls' schools associated with the same organization?"

i know of a girl's school with dwindling enrollment that is losing its building because it can't afford the upkeep. there is a nearby boy's yeshivah its own building that attracts the very same families and even had the same president for a short while. the boy's yeshiva rents.

i thought would have made sense for the boys yeshivah to share the girls building. boys school get better (and permanent?) facilities. girls school get cash influx and can remain on premises. both schools can save money by sharing certain operational expenses. more convenient for parents who have sons and daughters in the same building. etc.

Abba's Rantings said...

" there is a nearby boy's yeshivah its own building" should read "without its own building"

JS said...

Abba's, of course. No one is willing to give money just for the sake of charity. No name, no donation. It's kinda funny/sad that organizations often look to expand or find new things to name just so they can solicit a donation. Even sadder is that often the donation ends up costing the organization money since it's never endowed.

An older guy I sit next to in shul is the CFO of a local secular private school. They're doing a major expansion of the school costing tens of millions of dollars. He's in charge of doing the projections for affordability and when to give the green light to the project. Anyways, he tells me he only gave the green light when it was clear that the entire project cost would be funded including ongoing costs. He said he's incredibly conservative and doesn't want the school to suffer in the future on his account. This naturally led to us talking about our shul's expansion plans and some local schools that expanded recently. He said the organizations don't want to listen to him and have a completely different philosophy. The donors just want their names on the side of the building and the people in charge just want to pat themselves on the back that they oversaw the construction of a beautiful new building. There's no thought to the future or to affordability. The thought process is that they can always raise dues or tuition or create a building fund. When he told them not to green light until they had all the money, the response is that the donor will get impatient and find an organization that will take his money now.

Pretty sad.

ProfK said...

Again SI proves it's a bit different. The community mikveh in Willowbrook is located in the YI of SI, although the entrance is to the side and back of the shul. There is another mikveh here and it, too, is located inside one of the shuls.

Re the JFS tuition, would $2K less per year and per child than you quoted do it for you? With highly qualified licenced teachers in the secular department? Oh yes, the RJJ/Mercaz HaTorah girls school shares the property with JFS, which is coed. Apparently in SI financial responsibility trumps chumrah. Must be something in the air here.

Orthonomics said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JS said...

Completely agree with SL.

It's highly unlikely that the "retirement crisis" will be solved by any communal effort (if one even gets off the ground). Look at how great a job they've done with the other crises (tuition, shidduch, etc.).

Want to make sure you're taken care of in your older years? Save save save and plan plan plan.

tesyaa said...

I'm guessing Staten Island is unique in many ways. And it sounds like the lifestyle has much to recommend for it, both financially and religiously. However, can its successes be duplicated elsewhere? And is there a demand for a Staten-Island-like lifestyle in the frum community?

Sure, people would like things to cost less. But frum Jews also like to be exclusive. It sounds like Staten Island is a pleasant place with pleasant, non-judgmental people. Sometimes I think people would rather be judgmental and exclusive, even if it ends up costing them more money, either directly or indirectly.

Orthonomics said...

Here is my comment JS concurred with. I erased too late because of a spelling error.

Miami Al makes a good point re: non-profits. I've said it before, but it is worth repeating, non-profit is just a tax status. Some non-profits are communal organizations, others are entrepreneurial in nature.

I view the lack of savings as the real issue vis a vis the "Golden Years", and therefore don't really feel the need for a full accounting of all communal organizations, despite appreciating transparency and all.

I have more to say, but have to run. I really think that if people were not spending too much and more, you wouldn't be worried about the expense of the next generation because between private families, government programs, and some communal programs, the needs would mostly be covered. But if people who are entering retirement continue to spend and sent their children up in the same way, then there will be a big problem which will end up having to be solved by private, not communal, solutions because planning for the entire community is about as likely to happen as pigs flying.

Miami Al said...

The "core" of a school campus is classrooms. The "core" of a Shul campus is the sanctuary. The Shul needs to be walkable from a lot of housing, the school does not. While there is "some" possible overlap in sharing facilities, it isn't huge.

That said, their is a Shul 3 blocks from my house. The building has 2/4 classrooms (4 rooms with removable walls so it can form 2) that are used for early Minyanim on Shabbat morning, and babysitting/groups during Shabbat. From Sunday - Friday, these rooms are empty.

Before the local Yeshiva was built (and people went to surrounding towns), the Shul had a Pre-school, since most religious institutions in South Florida have a pre-school associated with it. When the Yeshiva opened and added an early childhood part, the Shul, to avoid "duplicative resources" shut down their pre-school.

Why does this matter?

Schools operate 180 days, give or take. Working moms need 250 days/year of child care, give or take Chagim.

Yeshivas have large overhead to support the upper grade levels, the economic model of the school results in smaller increases in tuition than increases in costs, so early childcare is VERY expensive in a Yeshiva instead of a preschool.

The few women trying to maintain a semblence of a career in town all send their kids to a Preschool run by the Conservative Synagogue nearby. Since they obviously can't join there, they don't even get the membership discount, which is setup that membership + 1 kid in preschool is roughly the same as 1 kid in preschool + $100 or something nominal... well several Orthodox families have 2-3 kids in the preschool there, and shell out extra money because they can't join the Conservative synagogue.

So net-net, women either lose 5 years of career development where they could build their earnings to support the full-time help they'd need to continue or then switch to part-time "mommy track" at a higher hourly rate, OR they bring their kids to a non-Orthodox environment.

Getting ECE OUT of the Yeshiva would be a big first step. I would think that separating elementary from middle school would help. There ought to be some savings from scale, but there aren't, you hire principals for elementary, principals for middle school, plus a "head of school" to oversee them. I see no savings from merged schools, only extra layers of overhead.

But I agree with SL, the problem is that people spend too much money. I'd love transparency in things, but I don't see a huge point. It doesn't address any of the problems.

Trudy said...

SL and JS, you are missing a point completely. Even if the savings are there (and most boomers did a pretty good job of doing that savings, even if not all) the money won't help if the things that money needs to pay for aren't there. You can't pay for senior citizen programs that don't exist. You can't pay for specialized care facilities if those facilities don't exist.

And then there is the fact that while you are doing the saving you can estimate all you want as to how much things are going to go up in the future but you won't really know until you get to that future, when it's too late to do anything about it. No way to know what the government will put into place or take away. No way to predict what kind of emergency expenses or accident/medical expenses might come up because by definition an emergency and an accident are unpredictable. And with a large generation heading into retirement you know that there are going to be some in that generation (and some could be a really large number) who are going to require some help to make it through, help that the community at large should be preparing to give.

If we ignore the problems of those seniors then we are no better than cannibals, devouring the resources of those seniors while they were still able to give, and chewing up the bones and spitting them out like so much trash when they can't give any more. If that vaunted yeshiva education has taught the younger generations that this is the right approach then I'm all in favor of trashing that yeshiva system right now--not worth even a penny.

Miami Al said...


"Some non-profits are communal organizations, others are entrepreneurial in nature."

Almost all the communal organizations that are true "charities" are non Orthodox. If the organization is well run and helpful, it will serve non-Orthodox Jews and be funded by non-Orthodox Jews.

Most of the "secular" non-profits are just as entrepreneurial as Orthodox ones. There was an article on a "Breast Cancer Awareness" charity that sold wrist bands that said "I Love Boobies" as a fundraiser. Prior to their brilliant and crass marketing effort, they made about $150k/year of which they gave $10k to cancer research and spent $140k flying the "founder" around traveling to raise awareness and of course pay them to do it.

With their bracelet campaign, they were making that much money in a month with no plans to spend it. They were an "awareness" organization setup entirely to fund the founder's travel schedule and provide them a salary, 501(c)3 was a designation. They came under attention when they raised real money.

Most of these various little Frum organizations are more analogous to the "I love boobies" guy than they are to the United Way or Catholic Charities. The various Jewish Federations are more like the big boys, but even they are VERY regional and parochial.

Abba's Rantings said...


"The Shul needs to be walkable from a lot of housing, the school does not."

right, so the school can be located in area where real estate might be cheaper. also, as i understand it one reason the teaneck schools are not actually in teaneck is because this way the county pays for the transportation.

JS said...

Yes. Exactly. Transparency doesn't help a whit if people continue to spend their money on nonsense.

Let me address my comment earlier about combining yeshivas and shuls. At least locally, every shul is far larger than just a sanctuary. They all have a beis medrash. There are several classrooms set up for playgroups on Shabbat and for nursery classes. Some have a large auditorium that can be used as a gym. Some have large outdoor playgrounds as well. Similarly, every school is much larger than just a bunch of classrooms. Every school has at least one sanctuary for davening, some have several. The school has a beis medrash as well. And yes, it has a gym and fields.

There already is so much overlap between their facilities. The argument that a yeshiva serves 500 kids and a shul cannot possibly accommodate that many is silly. The shul can clearly accommodate all the local children (plus the adults on Shabbat). It's only because we ship kids on long bus rides that we create these mega-yeshivas. Normally I would say that there would be cost savings from economies of scale for running large yeshivas. But, it never happens that way. You need a head of school, English principal, Hebrew principal, assistant principals, etc.

In the end, you have a large shul that is empty 90% of the time. Further, many rabbis are hired as "part-time" and work another job during the day. Why not have the rabbi be full-time and work in this combined shul/yeshiva?

It's a much better system in my mind. A completely local yeshiva that is in walking distance and is done on a communal basis. It takes care of hashkafic issues on its own since the families that daven in the shul are almost definitely aligned in this manner. You take advantage of local facilities for other needs and you have a complete solution.

After all, shuls and schools are definitely the most expensive institutions in klal.

I believe I read that the new West Orange Cooperative Yeshiva is following this model. I think they are intending on being housed in a local Conservative shul.

ProfK said...

Beware "almost all" and "all" statements--they rarely, if ever, hold true. And as this posting pointed out, we haven't got the foggiest idea as to how many such charities we have in the Orthodox communities. And when you say "Almost all the communal organizations that are true "charities" are non Orthodox," you set yourself up so that if someone can give an example of an exception, your statement becomes false. So here's the example. All the charities in the SI area are "true" charities, duly registered, with zero expenses for administrators--everyone associated with these charities is donating their time and a whole lot of their own money as well. The only one of these organizations that has its own building covers the building's expenses through renting out a few rooms in it to a minyan that meets on Friday night and Shabbos afternoon for Mincha/Maariv. They will also rent those rooms for small smachot, such as a sheva brochos. The monies charged to the minyan and for the smachot not only covers any building expenses but brings in money to be used for the organizations programs. Local building professionals donate their services for upkeep and fixing such as electrical work.

JS said...


I'd love for there to be communal institutions to help the elderly. I'm sure some more will pop up as people realize there's money/kavod to be made in setting up a new 501(c)(3). However, let's be honest here, there isn't enough money to fund this stuff for everyone. The ones who will be better off are the ones who saved and planned.

Also, the boomers aren't being "cannibalized." They willingly gave their money to their children's yeshivas, grandchildren's yeshivas, pesach vacations, weddings, bar/bat mitzvahs, etc. Also, let's not forget that the current crop of institutions (and lack of institutions) were set up (or not set up) by the Boomers. The Boomers thought private yeshiva education for all was THE most important thing so this is what we're stuck with. Now the Boomers will have to live with the choices they made personally and for the community. I'm not happy about it, but this is the situation as it exists.

ProfK said...

The YI in SI has for decades housed the pre-school of the JFS school--no need to build an extra building when the shul already had the space available. And that same space is also used after school hours for other kid activities and on Shabbos day for groups for the little ones.

In addition, one bais medrash in the YI also houses the Community Kollel Ha'Ba'alha'batim Monday through Friday. Again, the space is there and it is utilized.

Abba's Rantings said...


" It takes care of hashkafic issues on its own since the families that daven in the shul are almost definitely aligned in this manner."

you would think. but it isn't so. in teaneck for example, there may be a shul that has more YNJ parents while another has more Noam parents. but in general all the shuls have kids in all the schools. now this should then raise the question of why the hashkafah is close enough to daven/socialize together but not educate together.

anyway, although i've been saying the same as you regarding shul/school combos, there are some practical obstacles i mentioned (e.g., zoning)

but what bother me even more are the multiple shuls in a single neighborhood. you mention west orange. well there is a large mega-shul with multiple minyanim and even a separate sephardi wing. across the street is an old tiny house shtieble that was (is?) in the process of putting up its own building. is it really necessary? they can't move into the mega-shul?

as far as the west orange co-op, it's not fair to compare a start-up with a few small classes to a school with hundreds of students


i don't understand why they can't join the conservative shul to get the discount. i wouldn't feel comfortable joining a conservative shul, but here it just seems to be semantics. it's one organization, whether you call it shul membership or school tuition. and if anything, it is better to join the shul and get the discount, so in the end the shul will get less income! :)

. utlimately the tuition money is su

Miami Al said...


What you propose would basically involve taking your Shul, adding a few classrooms for K-4 (that's elementary in New Jersey, right?), and running a Pre School + Elementary school at the Shul.

Elementary schools need a playground for PE, NOT massive athletic facilities. I was hugely involved in extra curricular activities as a kid, they started in 3rd or 4th grade, if your kids didn't have EC activities until 5th grade, life would somehow continue.

Presumably, you could run this with two administrators, one for Early Childhood, one for Elementary, you certainly don't NEED a "Rosh Yeshiva" for K-4, and the Shul Rabbi should serve as your Halachic advisor.

Then you could pick a middle/high school that fits you Hashkafically.

Educationally, middle school is MUCH more similar to high school than elementary school -- subject matter teachers, extra curriculars, facilities that take up space like athletic fields -- than elementary school.

There is no reason that the Shul/Preschool/Elementary school couldn't function with a combined office staff either. In fact, instead of everyone having a glorified bookkeeper, you could have an actually qualified CFO + bookkeeper for less money and get more capability out of them.

Orthonomics said...

Trudy writes:
the money won't help if the things that money needs to pay for aren't there.

If the money is there, the needed service will follow. Simple econ 101.

JS said...


Sure. That would be one way of implementing the idea.


Why is there a shul across the street? For the same reason we've mentioned a hundred times in this conversation, of course. Some rich donor wanted his name on a building. He wasn't getting enough kavod at the big shul, so you start your own one. As long as this attitude persists, there will always be duplication of services and money wasted (at least in the sense that the donor would give it a worthier cause than opening an unnecessary shul).

As for zoning issues, you'd be surprised how quickly they would evaporate if the community gave this issue their attention. Shuls gets zoning variances all the time. You think those rich donors paying for the building don't have connections in the township's political branches?

But yeah, I agree with what you're saying about how strange it is that you can daven with a group of people, eat in each other's homes, have your kids play together, but then you ABSOLUTELY can't send them to the same school for hashkafic reasons.

Trudy said...

And as we have seen time after time SL, Economics 101 doesn't always hold true or come up with what is needed when it is needed.

If Person X suddenly finds that they need Service Y right now they do not have the leisure to wait until someone will come up with a way to provide that service. If someone needs a rehab facility now, that facility won't spring up overnight just because someone has the money to pay for the service. And any such service that can spring up overnight is most likely not going to be worth spending a red cent on. Ditto for assisted living facilities and every other service that seniors might need.

We already know that we have an aging boomer generation and we already know that facilities and programs are going to be needed for that generation in far greater number than what we have now. We also know that other types of these programs are going to be needed that aren't in existence right now. Pretty shabby behavior on Klal's part if it is going to say "Show me the money first and then I'll probably/possibly provide you with the service you need."

Abba's Rantings said...


"the boomers aren't being "cannibalized." They willingly gave their money to their children's yeshivas, grandchildren's yeshivas, pesach vacations, weddings, bar/bat mitzvahs, etc."

yes. i alluded to this in a comment on Profk's previous post.
there are certain factors we can't change, e.g., longer life expectancy, better and more expensive medical care, etc.

but let's not forget that many, many people made very conscious decisions over and over again that led them on trajectory to a senior/retirement crisis. worse yet, they set their kids up for (financial) failure so that they need to support their kids instead of being supported by them.

JS said...

"as far as the west orange co-op, it's not fair to compare a start-up with a few small classes to a school with hundreds of students"

The only reason the school has a few hundred students is because they ship in kids from all over the place. If a shul can accommodate all the kids and adults on a Shabbat or Yom Tov, it can be made to accommodate them in a school setting on a weekday. It's just that the shuls are not set up this way from the get go.

So, I think it is a fair comparison since the West Orange Cooperative Yeshiva is pretty much exactly the model I'm advocating. The only major difference as I see it is that I would have the shul rabbi serve as a teacher and advisor so he can be full-time (as opposed to the increasing trend of making rabbis part-time so the shul doesn't have to pay them as much and forcing them to take on another job elsewhere).

ProfK said...

Re your question and answer about "Why is there a shul across the street?" we could try being l'chav zechus for a moment. One reason presents itself immediately--davening nusach sfard or nusach ashkenaz.

The YI in SI is the only YI in the country that has among its 6 regular Shabbos minyanim a nusach sfard minyan. We're fortunate that we have the space to do so--a lot of shuls would not have the space to accomodate a large minyan in this way. And yes, we have a large shtibel-type shul at some distance from the YI that also davens nusach sfard. That shul began before the YI built its new building many years ago and before the YI had a sfard minyan. Neither the shtibel--which could more rightly be called a shul than a shtibel--nor the YI sfard minyan could accomodate the influx of people that those two minyanim represent.

Abba's Rantings said...

ok, to move in another direction, how about parents moving in with their children? that would go a long way toward alleviating the senior crisis.

not that i'm volunteering to set an example and take my MIL in :)

but on the topic of my MIL, she lives right on the border of jewish and chinese neighborhoods. one of the (many) stark contrasts is that the chinese homes are multi-generational, with some aunts and cousins thrown in as well. we genrally don't do this. someone once mentioned to me that no ethnic group pushes its elderly out of the home the way we do. i don't know if it's true, but i wouldn't be surprised.

JS said...


Not that this excuses klal in any way, but society in general is not adequately prepared for an aging boomer population. There aren't enough hospitals, doctors, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, etc. on a national scale. The fact that there aren't enough "frum-friendly" facilities isn't really shocking in a national perspective and certainly isn't surprising when you factor in how much money we're spending on other things both personally and communally.

tesyaa said...

ProfK, it's permitted to daven a different nusach if your personal nusach is not available. It's not a good reason to build a new building or pay rent. It's just not.

As you point out, Staten Island seems unique in its services and facilities. It's wonderful that the YI provides different nus'cha'ot. But that is not a religious necessity.

JS said...


If every single time a new shul opened up around the block from an established shul for "nusach" reasons, I'll give you a dollar :).


I don't think this would work in a family where husband and wife work and an elderly parent needs full-time attention or assistance. I'm also not sure this would work in families where the ones needing the assistance are the ones giving financial support to the very same ones they're looking to move in with!

There's a real rock and a hard place going on here. Either the children both work and can't give the proper attention or the children don't make enough money to take their parents in.

It's kind of ironic as we cry out to Hashem every Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, "Al tashlicheini l'eit zikna, kichlot kocheinu al ta'azveinu" ("Don't cast us away when we become elderly! When our strength fails us, don't abandon us!")

Abba's Rantings said...


"One reason presents itself immediately--davening nusach sfard or nusach ashkenaz."

absolutely not. nusach sefard doesn't require a separate building, rabbi, secretary, youth group, weekly kiddush, etc.

"The YI in SI is the only YI in the country that has among its 6 regular Shabbos minyanim a nusach sfard minyan."

the mega-shul i referred to above in west orange has among its minyanim a sephardi minyan (not even nusach sefard, but sephardi. it may not be a YI, but i'm not sure why that matters. (now on the topic of wasted communal money i could ask YI matters in general and why it needs to exist. talk about a waste of money.)

Tzvia said...

Not saying it's the only answer Abba to your question but if you look at those other ethnic groups you'll also notice that they don't have anywhere near the number of kids per family that you'll find among frum people, whether modern or all the way to the right. When you already have a house full of just your own family just where is it you are going to put what could be four parents, forget about other family members?

We have five kids, 3 married and 2 still at home. The married kids already have 10 kids. They may live elsewhere but they are here way often enough that the space in the house gets filled up to the brim. When our parents also come for a yom tov or shabbos we can't have all the married kids at the same time. Last year for a family simcha everyone was here and we had to find sleeping space for 24. It sure was nowhere near comfortable for anyone, and no one needed special care or attention.

So what should I do? Tell my own kids that they never can come home to stay because we need their rooms for their grandparents? What does that do for the relationship I'm supposed to have with my children and grandchildren?

Abba's Rantings said...


just to clarify for i mean NCYI, not the constitutent shuls themselves

Miami Al said...


Well, this goes back to needs vs. wants. You WANT to pray in a Nusach that is the same as yours. You NEED a Minyan with 10 Jewish men in it.

You NEED Kosher meals brought to a rehab facilities. You WANT Rehab in a facility with Shiurim and other parts of Frum life.

Indeed, you NEED a minyan. You WANT a minyan in your nusach. Where does "and the start time I want" fit into this?

If you host a 9:30 minyan (that's when our youth/teen minyanim are), there is no reason you couldn't host a small Nusach Sfard minyan in that room @ 7 or 7:30.

You really do not need to have an expensive building because of slight nuances in litugry to be in use for 3 hours/week. Seriously. Find a few houses near the Shul to rotate hosting the Minyan, or float the time. You don't need a building for 3 hours out of 168 in the week.

Michelle said...

You NEED Kosher meals brought to a rehab facilities. You WANT Rehab in a facility with Shiurim and other parts of Frum life.

Indeed, you NEED a minyan.

Al, I don't wish on you and yours having to be in the position of needing a rehab facility or nursing home and having to live on brought in kosher meals. Can you say airline-type meals? Those packaged meals that come in--and they have to be packaged and sealed to make sure they are really kosher--are truly not what you would want to eat meal after meal and they aren't what our kosher seniors should be eating either. People who find themselves in a rehab or nursing facility often have special diet or nutritional needs also, and they are best serviced by having a kosher kitchen on premises, not that packaged gook.

Also noticed that you say that we NEED a minyan. So, if someone is in a rehab facility or nursing home they suddenly don't NEED that minyan?

tesyaa said...

So what should I do? Tell my own kids that they never can come home to stay because we need their rooms for their grandparents? What does that do for the relationship I'm supposed to have with my children and grandchildren?

Tzvia, you probably knew when you had 5 kids that you would never be able to afford a mansion (or an apartment building) big enough to house them and their own growing families down the road, plus provide space for the elders. The elders are probably few in number compared to the children and grandchildren, knaynahara.

And yom tov only comes a few times a year - it is Jewish folks who are concerned about having a big enough house for everyone to visit a few times a year, while the house has to be maintained, heated, cooled, and cleaned 365 days.

At yom tov time, almost all the young couples go away to their parents. In a multigenerational neighborhood, it's a perfect solution to have your kids and their families stay at the houses vacated by their peers when they go off to their own hometowns for yom tov.

Among the non-frum and non-Jewish, many empty-nesters do downsize, with corresponding savings that can be used to fund their own or their parents' care.

Definitely needs vs. wants. It's a want, a nice want, to have one's children come for yom tov. If the elderly need living space all year round and can't get it otherwise, that sounds like a need to me.

tesyaa said...

So, if someone is in a rehab facility or nursing home they suddenly don't NEED that minyan?

Correct, a person can daven b'yechidus. I understand that the person's recovery may be better served by religious and social contact, so that davening with a minyan may help the person get better. I sympathize. I suggest that this may even save lives, or improve the quality of life of someone who's quite fragile. So what is it, single-sex full-day yeshiva for the grandchildren, or rehab for zayde with the kosher food and the minyan he needs?

Abba's Rantings said...


"I don't think this would work in a family where husband and wife work and an elderly parent needs full-time attention or assistance."

not every senior citizen needs full time attention. it might not work for those that do, but not all do.


"When you already have a house full of just your own family"

oh please. i don't know you personally, but i think it's fair to say that many (most) of us are living in homes that can easily accomodte more dwellers. it may not comport with the upper class lifestyle we all want (btw same with expensive private education), but let's not be so spoiled. when did bunk beds become assur and a full playroom in the basement a chiuv?

and in the neighborhood i'm talking about the chinese homes are often smaller than the jewish ones and there are more people living in them. end of story.

"Tell my own kids that they never can come home to stay because we need their rooms for their grandparents?"

i don't know. what's the alternative for your parents?

"Last year for a family simcha"

mazal tov!

tesyaa said...

So what should I do? Tell my own kids that they never can come home to stay because we need their rooms for their grandparents? What does that do for the relationship I'm supposed to have with my children and grandchildren?

I'm not sure about the relationship, but it's modeling kibud av v'em to them and that is certainly a good thing. Would they want you to stint on the mitzvah of kibud av v'em?

Abba's Rantings said...


al and tesyaa said it better than my ramble. we have to understand the difference between needs vs. wants when it comes to our choices of homes and family arrangements.

Anonymous said...

I am quite willing to bet that no one on the discussion thread so far has any elderly parents living with them at present. The whole conversation is theoretical at best. I work as a geriatric social worker. Ask most of the people with whom I work if they'd like to live with their children or to live separately with the company of those their own age and they almost completely all opt for living with those their own age in places that have been adapted for their needs. They do not want to reverse the roles at their age and suddenly have to be their children's responsibility. They also don't want their children telling them what they must do and when and how, which is inevitable when the parents end up living with the children.

There are also practical issues involved which have not been mentioned. If you are living in a house in NY then most probably that house has two stories, the bedrooms being on the upper story. For many seniors that going up and down the stairs can be problematic, as well as a safety issue. If their children are working then just who is it that will be around to help if help is needed? And as mentioned above, who will be providing age appropriate companionship and activities for those parents?

I'm not saying that it can't be done--it has been done. But living with grown children is not alwayws the best solution for many reasons.

tesyaa said...

But living with grown children is not alwayws the best solution for many reasons.

I think this is cultural. American culture, of which American Orthodox Jews are part of, doesn't support this situation. But why does it work for the Chinese families that Abba talks about?

Miami Al said...


"Ask most of the people with whom I work if they'd like to live with their children or to live separately with the company of those their own age and they almost completely all opt for living with those their own age in places that have been adapted for their needs."

I've been in a hospital with nothing by pre-packaged Kosher meals. It sucks, it sucks a lot. Oh well, we make sacrifices to be Frum. I've also eaten for one week+ the pre-packaged meals when traveling for business and there were no local Kosher options. It sucks, oh well. It provided me with the calories required to sustain me while I got medical care, that's the NEED. After I was out of immediate danger (ICU), my family brought in meals for me that were tasty, that's the WANT.

Absolutely. I also want a bigger house, a Yacht, elite private schooling for all my children, and private University for them as well.

I don't need ANY of those things, but I absolutely want them.

Where I put my money tells you which I prioritize more. Hint, I don't own a Yacht, but I do have college savings accounts for my children, because I prioritize their University education OVER the Yacht.

Abba's Rantings said...

ANON (geriatric social worker):

all the problems with caring for the elderly are legitimate. but they don't all apply to every senior. not every senior is in diapers and requires 24/7 attention. (i wish i were as fit as some of the seniors i know! :) )

i feel like this thread is heading down the same path as the tuition threads. i.e., any solution that will not work 100% for 100% of the people 100% of the times is a terrible solution. if we're really headed toward a crisis, then we need think like we're in crisis mode.

tesyaa said...

i.e., any solution that will not work 100% for 100% of the people 100% of the times is a terrible solution.

Like, not only does Zaydee need a rehab facility with a minyan (I can understand the argument), but it needs to have a nusach Sfard minyan also!

Allan said...

Abba's I don't think anyone meant to imply that the crisis is going to affect 100% of the older population. But then it doesn't have to. At what point do we say that we have a crisis coming or that it has arrived? If 5% of that older generation is going to need programs and places we don't have any or enough of? If 10% of that older generation will need them? And what does that percentage actually stand for in real numbers? What is the population for the boomer subgroup that is Jewish and would need/want Jewish services? That is indeed a problem because such numbers are necessary to plan adequately where funds need to be allocated.

A crisis doesn't need to affect 100% of a population to be considered a crisis.

tesyaa said...

Allan, I think you misunderstood. Let's say we have a solution that will help 80% of the elderly, but the other 20% have to fend for themselves, because the solution doesn't meet their needs. Is it better to implement the 80% solution, or to spend years working on (and arguing about) a solution that will help 100% of those who need it?

It sounds a lot like the health care debate, actually. I don't know why frum Jews think they're so special and apart; we have the same problems and the same foibles (spend a lot and don't worry about the future) as the rest of American society.

Abba's Rantings said...


"A crisis doesn't need to affect 100% of a population to be considered a crisis."

i don't think that's what i wrote. or at least not what i meant write.

we can define the "crisis" as there will be a sizable number of seniors will not have enough $ to provide for their basic needs. so what do we do about it? i suggested that some seniors can live with their children. it may not be ideal (especially in the case of in-laws :) ) and in many cases it simply isn't practical. but in many other cases it is perfectly practical and there is no reason to dismiss this option for them because just because for others it isn't practical. but that's what we do. we look for every possible reason something might not work for some people and then say it won't work for anyone. and then nothing happens. for anyone. (same with tuition)

Abba's Rantings said...


"I don't know why frum Jews think they're so special and apart"

agreed. that's why i commented on the previous post that the senior crisis is not on our parochial radar because it isn't a jewish problem per se. (although some jewish elements have made it worse.)

Abba's Rantings said...

(i didn't mean to imply that we should ignore it just because it's not a jewish per se. i was just responding to the question of why it's not a priority for us.)

Dave said...

If it were not for the dual whammys of expensive (and socially required) private education, and the increasing aversion to work (at least for men), the frum world would be admirably positioned to deal with the issues of aging.

After all, large families (everything else being equal) should have an easier time supporting aging parents, because the expenses can be spread across more siblings.

Instead, the parents are supporting their grown children, and the bridge is out ahead.

((Posting without logging in because something is broken in Blogger))

Miami Al said...

Actually, the "senior crisis" is a distinctly NON Frum problem.

The retiring boomer retirement crisis is that a LARGE percentage of boomers have no children and may or may not be estranged from their siblings who chose different paths.

There are concerns with seniors that have no family to help them and are therefore at the mercy of government institutions.

If you have 3-5 children, you have SOME support network. Even if you don't live with them, you have a non-senior child to read documents. Even if the children moved away, perhaps one can have online access to an account to do online bill pay and pay bills. There are LOTS of ways to have support.

My mother is primary caregiver for her father, her siblings all live around the country and she's local. She visits him weekly to sort his medications, etc. However, other relatives are able to provide some logistical and financial support as needed, and he's able to live on his own.

The unique Frum problems are basically spoiled rotten baby boomers that have had every whim catered to while they were earning comparatively good money, and never saved a penny of it, and now aren't sure how to live the good life without compromising.

Boomers don't need the house to have all the grandchildren in, they could downsize, use the money to stay in a hotel or rent an apartment for Yom Tov. Nearly every 20 something I know goes away to family for Pesach and many look to rent their apartments.

Long Term Care insurance is relatively inexpensive in one's 50s and 60s, which would cover many rehab related issues.

Seriously, the money is there. However, you cannot have 100% of your assets be in a large house because you want to house 6 families comfortably for 2 weeks out of the year and be able to afford a premium rehab facility.

There are legitimately impoverished parts of the Jewish people. Getting physical therapy in a facility without an afternoon Shiur is NOT their problem.

This is ridiculous.

The elderly are the wealthiest generation in America. The poor seniors are in a terrifying situation because they have no earning power. Do we need to set up charitable causes to help them? Absolutely. Do we need charitable causes to provide premium facilities to well-to-do MO Boomers? Absolutely not.

tesyaa said...

Do we need charitable causes to provide premium facilities to well-to-do MO Boomers? Absolutely not.

Al, the problem is that many of the boomers who should have been well-to-do have squandered their cash. It's understandable that people are not sympathetic, but they still have the same elder care needs whether they squandered their money or never had it. As for the house, no one is going to throw someone out of their house ... the government allows a large exemption for residence when a senior spends down his cash to qualify for Medicaid.

It just seems like "it's not a Jewish thing" to throw people out of their houses to pay for their needs. (Really, it's not an American thing).

JS said...

It's really an excellent point that the frum communities should NOT be having a problem since they generally have more than enough children who can provide some assistance.

Wanting all frum facilities is great, but it's not really a necessity. Personally, if I had a choice between a decent frum facility for rehab or medical care and a better place where I'd be eating kosher airline food, I'd choose the latter. My grandmother fell not too long ago and needed surgery followed by physical therapy. There were no fully frum facilities available. So, she went to nationally renowned local facilities and we had kosher food made available for her. It wasn't the best accommodations, but she can walk and care for herself, which is pretty remarkable given her age and the injury. I don't know if a frum facility would have had as good care or the same specialists.

A couple of neighbors have recently put their large homes up for sale and have announced they're downsizing to smaller condos where you pay an association fee and everything is taken care of for you. I've heard more than a few people scoffing at the notion, wondering if the families have financial difficulties, and wondering how they'll possibly have their children and grandchildren over for holidays. Once again, social pressures in the community move in the direction of the most expensive luxuries.

Dave said...

Inflation adjusted Long Term Care Insurance is pricy, and gets a lot more expensive the older you are.

Miami Al said...


"Al, the problem is that many of the boomers who should have been well-to-do have squandered their cash. It's understandable that people are not sympathetic, but they still have the same elder care needs whether they squandered their money or never had it. As for the house, no one is going to throw someone out of their house ... the government allows a large exemption for residence when a senior spends down his cash to qualify for Medicaid."

Forgive me for NOT thinking that it is a community priority to keep wealthy boomers in their big houses while spending down to collect Medicaid and still getting fancy Frum facilities.

We absolutely could dot hat, but if that's a desirable goal, someone needs to set up a charity that is designed to accept only Frum patients into the facility that can operate collecting Medicaid rates.

The problem is NOT that they squandered their cash.

The problem is that they squandered their cash, and think that other people should therefore give them their money to continue living in luxury.

If they can keep their big house and collect Medicaid, good for them. But I'm not impressed at a need for tzedakah to keep them rich and powerful.

tesyaa said...

Al, my point was not that frum American Jews should get to keep their houses because Medicaid allows it. My point is that Medicaid ALLOWS IT, period: therefore letting people keep their houses can be deduced to be a value that's important to Americans. If it's valued by Americans, most likely it's valued by American who happen to be frum Jews.

tesyaa said...

The problem is that they squandered their cash, and think that other people should therefore give them their money to continue living in luxury.

Don't we often hear how people who have become poor must be supported by the community in accordance with their former standard of living? I defy anyone to explain how this halacha should really be implemented, but the idea is that no one should suffer any loss of status, even if it's his own fault he squandered his money (or took a bad investment risk, etc).

Miami Al said...


"Inflation adjusted Long Term Care Insurance is pricy, and gets a lot more expensive the older you are."

I can't find good tools, but it looks like a 65 year old can fund a long term care policy that would cover 100k/year for 5 years at around $100,000-$200,000, give or take. That's a big chunk of money.

But it's less than the value of the Tudor in Teaneck that houses all their grandchildren for the visit.

So what's more important?

Dave said...

If the 65 year old can get Long Term Care Insurance. Many won't be able to.

Long Term Care Insurance is one of those things that is best bought as young as you can afford to buy it. Putting it off for later is both expensive, and possibly precludes buying it at all.

Chaim said...

I've been following the comments and it kind of bothers me that what I'm getting from a whole bunch of the comments is a hostility towards the boomers. The boomers are blamed for squandering their money. The boomers are blamed for the tuition problems. The boomers are blamed for being too fancy and not wanting to live without all their unnecessary toys like giant houses and jewish services of the type they want. The boomers seem to be blamed for anything and everything.

So here's my take--wake up everybody else because it's not all the boomers' fault and never was. We'd all get a lot further in solving our problems if we weren't so darned busy pointing fingers at everybody else, the boomers in particular.

The boomers sit agewise at the top of four generations--plenty of greatgrandchildren around for some of them. So where were those other adult generations when all the problems were developing? Leaving it for their parents and grandparents to solve? The boomers value yeshiva education and sent their kids. But when their kids were going to yeshiva there never was the type of tuition you see today. And there wasn't all the shtick and chumrahs you see around today either. Those boomers valued secular education and they damn well made sure their kids were going to get one. And for the kids that weren't college material they made sure there would be training for a job.

If you're going to parcel out blame then at least let's get it right. Those who come after the boomers have just as much of the blame as we put on the boomers and maybe a lot more because you hear a lot of complaining from those after boomer generations and not very much of workable suggestions or even personal action.

Must be real nice to look in a mirror and see someone completely innocent instead of the guilt that should be there. You want to settle the mess we have gotten into in ALL the generations then stop blaming the boomers for it all and start using your brains and mouths to come up with workable solutions.

ProfK said...

Good heavens, took a few hours to earn that paycheck I get and I come back to this. Not even sure where to begin so I'm going to make dinner and get back to you all.

Golly (wink, wink), who would have thought that mentioning making a list could get people so worked up.

Abba's Rantings said...


if the concern is how to provide for those who will soon get caught in the web of the senior/retirement crisis--btw, i never used the term baby boomers--then there is no purpose in understanding how we got to this state (or in laying blame, as you describe it). but if the concern is ensuring that this crisis is a short-term phenomenon and doesn't becaome part and parcel of the jewish life-cycle then we need to understand the causes of how we got here (or lay the blame, if you prefer).

Lynn said...

Read all the comments and am puzzled by a few of them, the ones that say the boomers spent too much, saved too little and are going to be in financial trouble when they get older. On what are these statements based?

I'm a boomer and here's my take. Some boomers will be in financial trouble as they get older, but then so will some members of every generation be in that same financial trouble. They may not have made very much in salary when they were younger so there wasn't much if anything to put away. A lot of boomer wives didn't go to work until their kids were older and so what they could earn to put away is less.And yeah, some spent too much and didn't prepare right for the later years. This is not a defining characteristic of the boomer generation.

Among my friends and acquaintances we all have savings for retirement--it's a topic of conversation among us--some more, some less. But one of the problems we discuss is that nobody could predict accurately just how much money would be enough to have, to know how much to save. The formulas that the financial gurus gave out and the government gave out have changed more than once since we started out working. And have you seen interest rates lately? If interest income is part of what boomers are counting on then our income has dropped by 80-90%.

Then there are the high costs of medical care that nobody could have anticipated correctly. And all the changes in government programs.

Anyway, if there is going to be any intelligent discussion on the kinds of services that seniors might need or how the community might be called on to provide these services and other help it doesn't add anything to say the boomers brought this on themselves by being financially irresponsible.

Abba's Rantings said...


the senior/retiree "crisis" (again, i haven't referred to "boomers") has to be addressed on 2 fronts. first, how to provide for the upcoming wave of seniors/retirees witout adequate financial resources.

secondly, how to prevent the present and future generations from falling into the same trap. how do you accomplish the second goal for the present and future generations without addressing some what caused the problems with the previous generation? whether these causes were predictable or not is irrelevant when addressing the present and future geneations. the point is we need to learn from those causes. doubtlessly over the next decades additional unpredictable factors will present themselves, but this does not absolve us of the obligation not to repeat the mistakes or previous generations.

however, in the meantime the current generation is shutting its eyes to to the mistakes of the previous generation and the cycle will be perpetuated if not exacerbated.

Abba's Rantings said...

also, regarding middle-aged parents who are concerned that because of years of tuition, simchas, etc. and because they have to help their adult children financially they won't be prepared for retirement: many of these parents still have younger children at home. are they changing course with how they raise and educate these children? this also needs to be addressed

JS said...

Lynn and Chaim,

I don't think this has anything to do with boomers per se, I just think it's a convenient term for the "older" generation that has not yet retired.

There's two aspects to the "blame game" for any generation. There's a communal aspect in terms of why are yeshivas so expensive, why do certain social pressures exist, why are so many expensive luxuries "required", etc. Then there's a personal aspect in terms of why people don't save enough, spend too much, etc.

There's a lot of blame to go around both communally and personally. What makes this a "Jewish" or "frum" problem as opposed to an American consumerism problem is that we attach religious value to all the things we overspend on. Whereas a John Doe American will go into debt $2k on a nice flatscreen TV, he doesn't think it's "required" of him unlike Chaim Goldberg who goes into debt $2k on a nice silver candelabra because it's "hiddur mitzvah." When the economy downturns, most of the John Doe's will cut back and save more, but you can't cut back and save when you feel you're religiously obligated to spend, spend, spend.

The overall financial trend in our communities is downwards. Each subsequent generation is on track to be worse off than the one before it. This isn't simply a RW phenomenon due to kollel or a denigration of work or secular studies. It affects each section of Orthodoxy due to various factors and influences. This is dangerous for all of klal, not just the next set of retirees who may have less than necessary to live on.

How much longer can we sustain multi-generational support for children to attend yeshivas in which parents, grandparents, and even great grandparents are paying the tuition bill?

There's an entire blog devoted to people making over $200k who cannot comfortably get by due to tuition costs. We're draining money out of klal at an alarming rate. Do you think the current generation of parents paying tuition will be able to support their children or grandchildren the way current "older" generations do? Because if they can't, that's a crisis right there even without the enormity of retirement costs.

Our communities are wholly reliant on multi-generational support and that system simply cannot survive unless each subsequent generation is better off than the one before it. We're simply not doing that.

Miami Al said...

I think that the biggest threat to middle aged parents is the expectation of parental support for grown children. Look, my parents have the means to buy whatever my kids desire, this undoubtedly saves my wife and I money, though it's not $1 for $1... buying my toddler daughter a $50 dress doesn't save us $50, but it does save us $10 on buying her a dress, other examples are less strong.

However, the expectation that grandparents pay for private school tuition is at the CORE of the inability to put money away. The second core is a form a cultural decay, we aren't impressed with the wealthy for their ability to accumulate wealth, we're impressed with their expenditures. Hence JS's story. We have one in town here, family had a big house, through big parties, etc. The kids grew up and live in town. They didn't need the house any more, the children and grandchildren live in the same neighborhood. They downsized to a MUCH smaller home, and they seem much happier, their expenses are lower, they have money to spend on other things, and during the economic downturn, he didn't have to eat his seed corn to survive.

Keep them in the big house, pay for the grandchildren in private school, and they go from wealthy pillars of the community to paupers REALLY REALLY quickly.

But Abba's point is on target. If your grown children are unable to support themselves and their children, what are you doing differently with younger children so that they can? Plenty of my parents secular friends are supporting grown children, helping with apartments, etc. One BIG advantage is that in the secular American world parental support is expected to stop at marriage. So while they might indulge 20 somethings starting a career and their grandchildren 10 years later, they aren't buying 20 somethings a house that they can't afford to fill with children that they can't afford.

When a family runs out of money, they have two choices, cut expenses or increase income. I'm not seeing a LOT of second jobs OR painful sacrifices in the Frum community. I'm watching what's left of anyone's asset base get quickly consumed to pay for today.

I'm also seeing a push for cheaper colleges... If that was excellent state schools, I'd think that this is reasonable (University of Florida is academically stronger than Yeshiva University), but I'm seeing much more of Touro over Yeshiva University, which I believe is going to portend to problems down the road.

Mark said...

ProfK - Golly (wink, wink), who would have thought that mentioning making a list could get people so worked up.

Nobody in power (our Rabbis and other leaders) has any interest whatsoever in creating such a list or even in suggesting the creation of such a list. The reason is that such a list could potentially stop the employment agencies that we call Jewish institutions right in their tracks.

Miami Al said...


How's this:

Social Security worked FINE when the population was growing rapidly. The Baby boomers were able to support the smaller and less affluent "Greatest Generation" and "Forgoten Generation" in retirement relatively painlessly. Yes rates went up and a "trust fund" was established, but the ultimate problem with social security is that there were 16 workers supporting a retiree in the beginning, which has dropped and is expected to hit around 2.1.

In the Frum world we do NOT have that problem, our population growth rate is such that we have more young than old. Therefore, the problems ProfK is identifying is pretty easy to solve. Yes we need Frum "medical" and "senior" support infrastructure, since today's retiring frum Jews are frum in a way their parents/grandparents weren't, and therefore it's not enough to be in a Jewish facility and have some Kosher meals, it's Shiurim/Minyanim in specific Nusach, etc., all things not needed by Orthodox elderly in the past. They are needed, but the retiring Frum Jews are MUCH smaller in number than the school aged Frum Jews -- this is the OPPOSITE problem as happening in America.

However, the expectation of spending more and more has become built into Frum culture and become a religious obligation. That was fine when Jewish incomes were soaring -- it's not hard to find families earning 200k-350k (top 3% of American income) that two or three generations ago were poor immigrants.

This presents two problems:
1. There are no easy gains -- there are (were) defined career paths to get to those ranges, a JD or MD gets you in there, there is no "Hedge Fund Manager degree" just business education, a first job, and luck and skill to get from there

2. The decreasing age of marriage/first child is actually lowering income by short circuiting that career starting phase

3. Ever increasing expectations for what a child is entitled to

So we have made childhood more expensive while earning power of parents have dropped so were are siphoning money from empty nesters to support the young. That leaves no money for the old.

Forget Yeshiva which has doubled in 20 years AFTER inflation. How about Frum summer camp? Frum colleges? Less work experience. There are lots of things going on in the Orthodox world that is harming earning power while we are increasing costs.

JS said...


To continue your social security metaphor, the problem is that we've flipped the way it's supposed to work. Frum families should have no problem as you mention. Let's assume relatively small families of 3 kids each. That gives a set of parents 3 children and 9 grandchildren. That's 12 people to help support 2 grandparents. Even figuring in the other set of grandparents, you should have more than enough people to support grandparents in their old age.

But, we do the exact opposite. It's not 12 people supporting 2 grandparents, it's 2 grandparents supporting 12 people! We've got our own little social security funding issue because of how backwards frum finances are.

Add on to that the problems you've listed: it's not so easy to get a very high-paying job, age of marriage and kids is incredibly low, and we have an overblown sense of entitlement.

Here's a case study: guy my wife knows makes about $225k a year working long hours in the city. His wife doesn't work. One kid at home and likely several more in the near future. He's now looking to buy a large house in the NYC area. That salary may seem high, but there is no way there will be much of anything left over after mortgage and tuition in the coming years. So, while no one should shed tears for him, there's no question he won't be getting ahead in life financially. Taxes and his mortgage and tuition will eat up nearly all of his salary for the next 20 or so years. He'll soon be capped out salary-wise at his job unless he gets a huge and rare promotion and that's that.

Now, change the scenario a bit. This guy got married later in life (at 28). Move his marriage date back 5 years to 23 and substitute 1 kid at home for 3 kids at home. He's now starting to pay tuition as opposed to that being 3-4 years away. Add in student loans for college and grad school. His financial picture just went from bad to worse.

And this guy is at the top of the earning ladder practically. This is the real danger. Destroying wealth instead of building it.

You can blame it on the large house or you can blame it on expensive yeshivas. In the end, it's two sides of the same coin - the personal or communal sense that these things are required.

Mark said...

Miami Al - I can't find good tools, but it looks like a 65 year old can fund a long term care policy that would cover 100k/year for 5 years at around $100,000-$200,000, give or take. That's a big chunk of money.

On a community-wide basis, LTC policies (by definition) cannot be helpful as a solution to this problem. The only way it could be helpful is if you assume that the insurance companies "give away" money.

The only aspect that may be helpful is the "forced savings" aspect of pre-funding LTC expenses via an insurance company. But somehow people always find a way to either deplete "forced savings" or screw it up some other way (stop paying because some other urgent and immediate expense came up).

Dave said...

The only way it could be helpful is if you assume that the insurance companies "give away" money.

The insurance companies know the odds. Someone who has paid $100k into their Long Term Care Insurance, and drops dead on the spot of a stroke or heart attack is pure profit. Someone who bought their insurance last month, is in an accident, and then maxes out their insurance benefit is nearly pure loss.

Miami Al said...


The anti-insurance claims always like to point out the slim margins of the insurance companies. They know their odds. Aggressively competitive insurance programs DO pay out over 100% of premiums, since the insurance companies are in the business of the carry trade, if they collect $100 from you, and pay out $100 in benefits to you in 1 year, and they make 6% on their investment portfolio, they made $6 on your account. While you "lost" the time value of money, your safe rate of return in lower than their balanced one, since they have a more diversified investment portfolio.

Those that need LTC, win from the insurance package. Those that do not, lose from the insurance package. If everyone has it, then everyone takes a hit and there are no winners/losers from bad luck.

OTOH, the losers can collect medicaid, so maybe that is a benefit to self insuring and giving away your assets.

If the LTC providers are able to negotiate lower than "rack rates," then there may be a big win, since the rack rates will explode in the coming years because you need to squeeze out all of the patient's assets fast before they become a medicaid case.