Beyond BT

Spiritual Growth for Jews

Financial Independence and Success in the T’shuvah Process

Posted on | December 12, 2011 | By Guest Contributor | 111 Comments

By Michoel

I have a feeling that some will read this and their reaction will be “mai k’mashma lan?” As in, “Why is he wasting perfectly good kilobytes on the patently obvious?” But to me, the thoughts contained here were not so self-apparent and I have found them very important. Se even if there are a only few readers who can identify, I feel it is worth sharing this.

Financial pressure is a major part of frum family life. It is quite common for FFBs and BTs alike to solicit and / or receive help from family. I am now, Baruch Hashem, frum for 22 years. Just this year, I have made it my biggest priority to wean myself of familial help. And moving in that direction has already had an enormous positive effect.

There is maamar Chazal somewhere (sorry, I don’t have the makor handy) that states that once a person accepts a gift from another, he is “kanui lo l’olam”; the one who accepts the gift is permanently “acquired” by the giver. It can be extremely unhealthful to have a sense of dependence toward someone that is lukewarm, or worse, toward your values. Even when family is %100 behind the decision to become observant, there are very good reasons to decline offers of help.

Until a few years ago, there was simply no way that I could cover my tuition obligations without a major change in life circumstances. We would have needed either my wife going to work full time, with young children still at home, or myself working at least 1.5 full time jobs. I realize there are many who do such things. But we knew that it was really beyond our kochos. I happen to be blessed with a close relative who is both naturally giving and fantastically wealthy. They are also not frum and fairly secure and confident in their present lifestyle which comes across in various ways. We relied on them heavily.

But a few years ago, I found a better paying job. We re-did all the math, and were extremely gratified to find (at least on paper) that we could just barely cover our expenses without coming on to help from relatives. So we davened for Siyata D’shmaya and set hour minds to the task. Our heat is turned way down from where it was. Our food choices have become greatly simplified but still healthful. And we have taken on small parnassa-expanded opportunities. It feels fantastic. If a m’shulach approaches me and I give him a dollar, I no longer suffer from confusion over whose dollar it is that I am giving away. (As in, maybe I should save this dollar and ask my relative for a dollar less next fall.)

I feel so much better about my interactions with my relative. There had always been a nagging undertone in my thoughts that I was devaluing Torah observance in their eyes. “Yes, I am frum and pious, but we both know that I am only able to pull it off on your back.”

My learning has also improved, since there is a greater sense of my time belonging to me.

And one extremely gratifying aspect of all this, is that our kids have completely bought into it in a very positive way. They eat A LOT of popcorn. But they do not feel deprived. Quite the opposite, I would say that the their kibbud av v’eim has improved. This is because, they respect parents that have principles and that are financially organized and self disciplined. But much more than all of that, a truly frugal person is forced to say “no” with conviction. And kids need lots of “nos” in order to grow up emotionally healthful and respecting their parents.

I had been told in my days in yeshiva, that it was a big z’chus for non-frum relatives to allow them the pay for your tuition. This was a classic case of mis-applied-ffb-bt-hyper-religious-gobbly-gook. First, build yourself. Then worry about saving the world. And then worry about saving your family. The biggest z’cus for them is to see frum Jews living in a way that will cause them to respect frum Jews. And you might be the only example they have.

So while I am not advocating starvation, it is well worth it to do whatever you can to assert your financial independence.

Comments

111 Responses to “Financial Independence and Success in the T’shuvah Process”

  1. ross
    December 12th, 2011 @ 10:25 am

    “I had been told in my days in yeshiva, that it was a big z’chus for non-frum relatives to allow them the pay for your tuition. This was a classic case of mis-applied-ffb-bt-hyper-religious-gobbly-gook.”

    No, it’s not. Rav Yaakov Weinberg zt”l was once asked this question, and he responded that if you don’t accept, you are “stealing” from them the mitzvah of supporting Torah. I heard him in person say that word “stealing”.

    And why can’t you do both? Why can’t you say that now you’re in a position to support yourself, but if they still want to contribute, it’s a tremdous zchus for them, and then let them decide.

    Everyone can have the best of both worlds. What is wrong with this?

  2. Ron Coleman
    December 12th, 2011 @ 1:19 pm

    Ross has a point, yes — and remember, you will never be able to escape the kinyan [acquisition] by your family by virtue of what they have done for you, tuition help or not.

    But your overall thesis about financial independence is inspiring, Michoel.

  3. Michoel
    December 12th, 2011 @ 2:28 pm

    Not withstanding the gaon Rav Weinberg’s opinion, I would guess that each circumstance is different and that there are likely many circumstances were the gaon ha’nal would advise otherwise. There are no absolute rules in this. And clearly he did NOT mean that one is oiver an issur of g’zeila al pi din. One needs to judge the impact on his own middos and if there is potential to give his family even greater z’chus by not accepting. So I stand by everything I wrote. Of course, as in everything else, a person needs to ask their own sheila for their own circumstances.

  4. Michoel
    December 12th, 2011 @ 2:39 pm

    Let me modify the intent of my previous comment. I am arguing that this is not dependent on p’sak. And therefore every person must think for themselves. Perhaps even doing the opposite of what an adam gadol may tell them.

    I was told by an adam gadol to accept money. Hashem should help veiter, I am not currently doing that. Nafshi yo’da’as that I made the correct decision. And I would not have realized that I made the correct decision until after I went ahead and was to’em taam cheirus.

    Sorry about all the funny language. BeyondBT brings out my poetic streak.

  5. ross
    December 12th, 2011 @ 5:11 pm

    “Perhaps even doing the opposite of what an adam gadol may tell them.”

    We’re not robots, but it’s still hard to say this. Especially on a site which encourages finding a rav for guidance for hard issues, and this isn’t any easy issue.

    “I was told by an adam gadol to accept money. Hashem should help veiter, I am not currently doing that.”

    So why did you ask?

  6. Michoel
    December 12th, 2011 @ 5:23 pm

    There are baalei t’shuvah who I would say err on the side of being overly rigid in maintaining their own way of doing things. And there are ballei t’shuvah that toss their own intellects out the window. I happen the think that the second is a more common and more dangerous phenomenon. And just fyi, I am probably way toward the right of the overall beyond bt readership.

    “So why did you ask?”
    I discussed the issue with my rav, heard him out and did what he told me to do for a while. I felt that this was the right thing then, as opposed to my already overworked wife going back to work outside the home. At a certain, point, when my rav still felt that relying on family help was the better solution, I decided that I need to not rely on family help.

  7. Mark Frankel
    December 12th, 2011 @ 6:05 pm

    I’ve found that sometimes it’s only the person himself that can really understand all the nuances of the family dynamics and what effects a given action will have. It is often not possible to communicate both the nuances and the intuitive sense a person has in these situations.

  8. Michoel
    December 12th, 2011 @ 6:08 pm

    yes, that was exactly how I felt in my case.

  9. Ron Coleman
    December 12th, 2011 @ 6:59 pm

    Michoel, yes, Rav Yaakov zt’l had a tendency to say things in stark terms like that which indeed could not be taken as halacha l’maaseh. This was a Weinberg trait, a rhetorical style he shared with his brother R’ Noach zt’l.

  10. Gary
    December 12th, 2011 @ 11:11 pm

    If someone no longer needs family help, perhaps he or she could decline further payments and discuss programmatic giving to a Torah institution.

  11. Tuvia
    December 13th, 2011 @ 12:08 am

    The writer is taking the right route. There is something a little too convenient about “not denying” non-frum relatives the mitzvot of supporting your frum lifestyle.

    The non-frum can give to many worthy causes, that is a mizvot too. Food for hungry children in Israel is a nice one.

    I know kiruv types who enjoy lecturing secular families on real Jewish values. They make it plain that money is not a real Jewish value.

    At the same time, literally, they encourage people to financially support their kiruv efforts. They also rely on their parents (who are not frum) for financial help. They also rely heavily on financial assistance from the taxpayers (the state they moved to has some of the best welfare style programs in the country.)

    So it is a rather confused idea. It reminds me of the college student who rails against “soul-less” capitalism, or the establishment, but whose work-a-day dad pays for his school and gives him spending money.

    Also, the many children of these b’al t’chuvah folks will NOT have access to the same resources. This kind of system can’t work for more than a couple of generations.

    Yiddishkeit will be strengthened by a return of most of the frum to the workplace. Good middos and self esteem go hand in hand with developing oneself in the realm of work. It fills out a life in a very important way. I’m surprised that there is even controversy regarding this.

    Tuvia

  12. Bob Miller
    December 13th, 2011 @ 9:04 am

    I hope we don’t see a communal split between a few haves and many have-nots mostly or totally dependent on the haves, and/or on the government. I don’t want the Jewish middle class to become an endangered species. I don’t want the wealthy, with or without the best intentions, calling all the shots, while others are passive.

  13. ross
    December 13th, 2011 @ 10:25 am

    “There is something a little too convenient about “not denying” non-frum relatives the mitzvot of supporting your frum lifestyle.”

    Why does there need to be such suspicion and smirks and winks? Why can’t this be done sincerely and with ehrlicheit? Maybe if you saw their reward in Olam Habah, people would think differently. Or is that also “too convenient?”

    Nobody is making this stuff up. It’s real. We’re not being sly salespeople.

  14. Judy Resnick
    December 13th, 2011 @ 3:41 pm

    I don’t blame you for wanting to be financially independent, but Yeshiva high school tuition is enormously expensive. And, unlike college tuition, there are no government loans, no Pell Grants and no work-study programs to help cover those costs. Yaasher Koach to you if you can eventually meet those yeshiva high school tuition expenses on your combined salaries, but if you can’t, let your generous relative help out. Weddings are also extremely expensive nowadays: even a no-frills event is going to set a family back about $90 per person, and usually there are 200-person minimums. Add to that the cost of music and photos, and even a modest wedding can run $40,000.00. Maybe it’s going to be ten years or more to your first child’s wedding, but don’t be too proud to accept help if it is graciously and kindly offered by a caring family member.

  15. Rochel
    December 13th, 2011 @ 3:53 pm

    dependence on Non-Frum relatives. I can imagine it can cause a split between trying to show them we can be financically self sufficient, and actually not managing. However, many non-Jewish people and non religious people aren’t managing financially either. It’s not always only about being frugal, as everyone knows, you can only keep this up so long if it’s below what you can handle.

    I agree about being finacially independent being a great value. I’m finding it hard to apply that practically. What you think will work often doesn’t. today’s economic climate is funny. What does work is often collaborative efforts. With your non=Frum relative you are modelling a primitive form of that, but there can be more sophisticated forms in which you both benefit and you keep your dignity. I salute your efforts to be financially independent, and I hope you make much more money soon too.

  16. Ben David
    December 13th, 2011 @ 3:59 pm

    Ross asks:
    Why does there need to be such suspicion and smirks and winks? Why can’t this be done sincerely and with ehrlicheit?
    - – - – - – - – - -

    Why do our sages tell us charity is best when giver and receiver don’t know each other?

    Why do they tell us the *highest* charity is to help someone EXIT dependence?

    Why do they tell us “it’s better to skin carcasses in the market than live off charity”?

    You answer my questions – and maybe then you won’t need a working schlub like me to answer your questions…

    I am SO VERY GRATEFUL for this post. I’ve previously posted here on the sense of narcissistic entitlement and/or escape from reality’s obligations in some BT stories.

    The choice to join the Haredi world – and duplicate the sense of entitlement that is rampant in that world – is definitely part of that immature, escapist type of BT pattern.

    Dear BT: you are probably a BT instead of an FFB because the crushing poverty of “the old country shtetl” you romanticize drove your grandparents to despise the sages, and abandon Judaism as unworkable.

    Think about that – before you reject the college education and other gifts of modern life, and go off to recreate the culture of “luftmenschen’ that was already imploding – and losing Jews – generations before Hitler was born.

    … I am thinking now of several personal friends who “frummed out” when we were younger – and now speak regretfully of their ignorant, unemployable children and grandchildren, and of how little they can do to help them now that “dad/grandpa” has retired/sold the business/passed on.

    Insanity = repeating past mistakes and expecting a different result.

  17. Orthonomics
    December 13th, 2011 @ 4:41 pm

    Chazak u’varuch. Even if what you write is patently obvious, it is affirming.

  18. Michoel
    December 13th, 2011 @ 4:55 pm

    Judy,
    I hope that I will have the seichel and humility to accept if I really need to. However, from where I am right now, I have not the slightest idea why a modest wedding should cost $40,000. 200 minimum? Right now (before meeting m’chutanim b’ezras Hashem), I would have not hesitation about making a wedding in a friend’s large back yard, with my wife and her friends cooking the seudah for a small number of guests. No hesitation at all. Aderaba. I would brag about it! Why on earth should I come on to other people to make a $40,000 chasuna?

    Rochel, Ben David, and Orthonics, thanks for your kind words and / or brachos.

  19. Bob Miller
    December 13th, 2011 @ 5:00 pm

    Ben David wrote above, “Dear BT: you are probably a BT instead of an FFB because the crushing poverty of ‘the old country shtetl’ you romanticize drove your grandparents to despise the sages, and abandon Judaism as unworkable”

    Poverty was a fact of life in those old country areas for most Jews of all descriptions, and for most non-Jews as well. Most had no real option to get out of poverty short of emigrating, which many did, as we know. If you think that this economic situation was created by our sages or by their Judaism, think again—this time, clearly.

  20. Orthonomics
    December 13th, 2011 @ 5:06 pm

    Please do make such a wedding and please brag, brag, brag about it so that the idea gets implanted. By spending the communal we do not have (familial gifts, tzedakah, or loans), we are quickly digging our grave.

  21. Mark Frankel
    December 13th, 2011 @ 5:18 pm

    I think Judy’s $40,000 figure is high for a modest wedding and I would put the cost for modest with *everything included* at closer to $20,000 for 200 people.

    People who have not made weddings, usually aren’t aware of all the issues and all the costs involved.

    Some chassidic communities are working hard to bring the cost down further and from what I’ve heard they are driving towards a $10,000 wedding, but I’m not sure what that includes.

    It will be great when the price of wedding in the NY area is brought down to affordable levels for a greater slice of the population.

  22. ross
    December 13th, 2011 @ 5:19 pm

    It’s possible to accept family support and not be an immature escapist. You can question the sincerity of others all you want.

    And, also, I might add, family support is not the same as charity, UNLESS the family who is supporting you looks at it as charity.

    Really, why does this have to be a subject with such incredibly negative connotations??

  23. Bob Miller
    December 13th, 2011 @ 5:21 pm

    Mark wrote, “It will be great when the price of wedding in the NY area is brought down to affordable levels for a greater slice of the population.”

    This is only a piece of the exorbitant cost of living in the NY area. Many of the other costs, such as housing and energy, are not subject to serious reduction, so there should be at least a reassessment of where best to live.

  24. tesyaa
    December 13th, 2011 @ 5:22 pm

    Mark, $20,000 for a wedding with 200 guests (all-in) was a great, amazing deal when I got married – back in 1988.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if my dad still has all the receipts :)

  25. Mark Frankel
    December 13th, 2011 @ 5:48 pm

    Tesyaa, either your father wanted to give you more than modest, he didn’t get the rock bottom price on every item or some prices have come down, but you can definitely do a modest wedding for $20,000 thousand in the NY area, maybe less.

    Here’s some rough figures to start off with: hall and caterer $10,000, rented gowns $3,000, one man band $1,500, one man photographer $1,500, silk flower rental $500, invitations $500, other $3,000.

    Remember we’re talking modest, not average.

  26. tesyaa
    December 13th, 2011 @ 5:53 pm

    We had a five man band for $1500. I did my own hair and makeup. My gown cost $600 (including tzniusing it up). My mom’s gown was expensive – she spent $400 because she couldn’t find anything cheaper. The catering was a ridiculously low $46 per plate (Kof K, including Viennese table). Please specify “other” for $3,000. No taxes? No gratuities? No modest gifts for bridesmaids? No new shoes for the chosson? Rock bottom for everything? And kallahs get married 3 months after engagement? I don’t know how people put a wedding together in 3 months, much less negotiate rock bottom for EVERYTHING.

  27. Michoel
    December 13th, 2011 @ 5:56 pm

    ross,
    I dont’ see the negativity you see in the comments section. I see an affirmation of “histapkus”. I am certainly not trying to tell others what to do.

  28. tesyaa
    December 13th, 2011 @ 5:58 pm

    You’re right, we coulda saved a bit and had a one-man band for $500. $19K instead of $20K? OK!

    Judy says $40K, Mark says she’s inflating by 100%. I don’t know who’s right here, but I don’t know anyone who made a wedding for $20K. I know families in which the only reason the wife works at all is to pay for weddings…

  29. tesyaa
    December 13th, 2011 @ 5:59 pm

    I clearly remember that the Viennese table was an additional cost of $2.00 per person. And my parents wanted the Viennese table and were willing to shell out $360.00 for it… Knock the price of the modest wedding down by $360.

  30. Mark Frankel
    December 13th, 2011 @ 6:01 pm

    $46 per plate is no longer ridiculously low. Again we’re talking modest, not average and most people spend over $20,000, but usually there’s more than 200 people.

  31. tesyaa
    December 13th, 2011 @ 6:05 pm

    Judy says $90 per plate – again, a differential of over 100%. Certainly there are different standards of modesty when it comes to weddings :)

    I’m done here, I admit that 1988 is ancient history!

  32. Tuvia
    December 13th, 2011 @ 7:31 pm

    I’m not frum, but am Jewishly aware and have very frum cousins who do kiruv.

    I am going to now give you the best tip about frum living I can give you!

    The living is GREAT in the frum community of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

    The state pays for the entire cost of yeshiva education, or day school, or whatever it is called. They have a voucher program that works perfectly.

    I understand the state is also very generous about other kinds of supplementary help for families with children who qualify.

    And the homes are BEAUTIFUL, the streets quiet and lovely, and the cost of a beautiful home is less than 115K.

    A very spiritual community that one of my family members there calls “ultra modern orthodox,” but is really a mix of very frum people, many of whom are BT. I believe one of the Twersky clan is the Rav there.

    That’s my tip. From a secular yid!

    Tuvia

  33. Judy Resnick
    December 13th, 2011 @ 9:47 pm

    I myself would originally have guessed that a wedding still could be made for $46 to $62 per person. However, I only just read on another “frummie” blog (that one being a kosher food / restaurant / hotel / caterer blog) that extras, taxes, additional costs tacked on the base price quoted will actually raise the cost at one of the “cheapest” and “most affordable” halls to approximately $92 per person. That’s where I got the “approximately $90 per person” figure.

    Also, the author has give or take about ten years until his first child’s wedding. If he can make it in his friend’s backyard for only $30 per person (including cost of the raw chicken and other ingredients, chair and table rentals, sodas, possibly hiring a couple of waiters), more power to him.

    I will add here that in 1979 I went to a budget wedding that was held in a shul social hall basement. The music was from tape recorders (no live band), and the food was brought in from a takeout place. Also, back in 1985 a friend of mine made a wedding in her backyard for an older couple (second time on both sides); she was the caterer, essentially.

    I will close by saying that in 2003 I made a budget bar mitzvah for my youngest son for 60 people by renting a shul basement, bringing in Chinese glatt food from a local restaurant, and buying sodas, cups, plates, tablecloths, etc. myself. We took our own photos and played music tapes. No band, no photographer. The total was just under a grand. The same or similar could be done for a modest wedding.

  34. Orthonomics
    December 13th, 2011 @ 11:05 pm

    Well, I haven’t been married as long as tesyaa, and we had a wedding that was less than 20K. . .closer to the 15K mark including catering, ring, and an overpriced dress. We had a band and photography. I would have been fine with something less.

  35. Ben David
    December 14th, 2011 @ 2:10 am

    Bob Miller:
    Poverty was a fact of life in those old country areas for most Jews of all descriptions, and for most non-Jews as well. Most had no real option to get out of poverty short of emigrating
    ———–
    Well, no.
    Impoverished Jews flowed out of the shtetlach into the major cities of Poland and other industrializing countries, and found gainful employment – with such success that the Communists turned around a generation later and fingered the Jews as “industrialists” and “capitalists”.

    This move did not have to be accompanied by a large-scale rejection of religion – but it was. The majority of Jews in these industrial centers were secular – remember all those Zionist/Yiddishist/Worker’s Party signs in the old newsreels?

    These people abandoned Judaism largely due to the dismissive, insular attitude of the religious establishment – which alternated between insulting “der moderner” and demanding these same “apostates” support them in their glorious, pure, poverty. (and let’s remember that economic isolation and poverty were forced on the Jews by decree – and only later were they perversely twisted into a monastic ideal previously unknown in Judaism…)

    This scenario is now being repeated – almost word for word – in the Haredi world, and in the increasingly unrealistic, insular attitudes in the general FFB world.

    But the current financial crisis shows that the “zaydie will pay” system is not sustainable.

    Anyone who thinks similar disillusion cannot strike our children’s generation (G-d forbid) is fooling themselves – if anything our generation has been raised on even greater ease and sense of entitlement, and will respond more strongly when faced with harsh economic realities and clueless leadership.

    … It is particularly troubling to me to have BTs embracing this culture of mooching – and even framing it as a positive interaction with their non-frum relatives… as if most non-frum Jews don’t already perceive Torah Judaism as unworkable, backwards, and the stuff of nostalgic dreams.

    I’ve posted here urging BTs to spend less effort fitting in, and to think about the lessons and contributions they BRING to the frum world. Economic sanity is one of those gifts BTs should be giving to the Haredi world – instead of adopting its insufferable combination of petulant elitism and financial dependence.

  36. Judy Resnick
    December 14th, 2011 @ 8:07 am

    Ben David made some excellent points. One need only look at the custom of Orthodox Sephardic Jews, where every baal ha-bayit works hard all day to support his family, snatching time to learn in the early morning or late night hours. Rather than become employees and be forced to give up Shabbat and Kashrut, Sephardic men open up their own businesses.

    You can see this interesting kulturkampf in Eretz Yisroel, where dati Sephardim are challenging the Litvishe-Chasidishe haredi establishment and the idea that a man should sit and learn full-time his whole life, forcing his family to go on public assistance to supplement the wife’s salary (already lessened by the high cost of childcare).

    Part of this culture of poverty among Hasidic Jews in the United States may have been created by the need to qualify for Medicaid. Large families couldn’t afford to pay for maternity and childbirth costs out-of-pocket, but also could not afford the costs of private health insurance. Working, or working “on the books” became a luxury that Hasidic families could no longer afford, given that the Medicaid benefits were essential. Regrettably, it became a system that perpetuated itself, once the value of the entire basket of public benefits (Section 8 housing assistance, Medicaid, food stamps, welfare, SSI) went far beyond any salary that an unskilled, uneducated Hasidic Jew could hope to earn as an employee.

    There have been relatively recent attempts to break the culture of poverty both in the U.S.A. and in Eretz Yisroel, mostly by opening up college-level programs specifically geared toward a Haredi population, aimed at imparting skills that will be marketable to employers. Think of the efforts of the late Dr. Bernard Lander, of blessed memory, the founder of Touro University, and of the Torah v’Omanut College in Israel.

    Nevertheless, even with husband and wife both working full-time, yeshiva tuition and other costs of the Orthodox Jewish family still make it extremely difficult for FFB’s and BT’s to survive financially without family help.

  37. Michoel
    December 14th, 2011 @ 9:01 am

    I agree fully with Ben David’s last paragraph. the sense of elitism goes in very much in hand with the financial dependence. We need “l’hachzir atara l’yoshna”, go back to the ancient values of klal Yisroel of sinas matanos and pulling one’s own weight. Bli neder I’ll look it up.

    I think the Nefesh Hachaim brings that this is the ikkar p’shat in the term Tzelem Elokim, they ability for self-sufficiency. Someone please correct me if I’m wrong about that.

    The combination of an assumption entitlement to a few years in kollel, and the general hedonism of western society is a bad one-two punch. The question is not so much whether a specific individual man should take (family help, food stamps, wife working too many hours etc etc). The question is our general approach.

    There used to be a concept of an Ish, ie a real man. I think we need a to get back to that.

  38. Michoel
    December 14th, 2011 @ 9:11 am

    Judy,
    Your paragraph on Medicaid is a nice limud z’chus and probably true in terms of what actually happened. But it does not address really why it happened. As if there was not other choice. There were several other choices. (I love chasidim, and other very charedi folks. Please don’t misinterpet my words.) But we (or they) can legitimately ask: 1. Is a person on food stamps entitled to a streimel? A tisch bekishe? Other traditional chasidish items for men and women? You might say that all these items together do not come to more than a years food for even one child (maybe). But the point is, people need to ask themselves, How can I entitle myself to something that is a non-essential on someone else’s back?

    We all need to ask that question. But something I wanted to bring out in my post is that BTs have good reason to be the first to ask.

  39. Bob Miller
    December 14th, 2011 @ 9:21 am

    “Impoverished Jews flowed out of the shtetlach into the major cities of Poland and other industrializing countries”

    If that, especially the last part, does not fall under emigration, what does?

    “These people abandoned Judaism largely due to the dismissive, insular attitude of the religious establishment – which alternated between insulting ‘der moderner’ and demanding these same “apostates” support them in their glorious, pure, poverty.”

    Far more likely, they were seduced by modernity and modern ideas, a worldwide phenomenon.

    Ben David, let’s see some proper citations to support your broad based attack on the Orthodox leaders in old Eastern Europe.
    Projecting what you see today back into the past doesn’t cut it.

  40. ross
    December 14th, 2011 @ 10:29 am

    “But the point is, people need to ask themselves, How can I entitle myself to something that is a non-essential on someone else’s back?”

    Absolutely. No question. If you can make it without food stamps or WIC, you shouldn’t be on it.

    But what does this have to do with family who is willing to give even though you made it clear that you could make it, albeit barely, on your own? The gov’t is not getting a zchus from supporting you by food stamps, but your family is!

  41. Michoel
    December 14th, 2011 @ 11:08 am

    Judy writes:
    “Also, the author has give or take about ten years until his first child’s wedding. If he can make it in his friend’s backyard for only $30 per person (including cost of the raw chicken and other ingredients, chair and table rentals, sodas, possibly hiring a couple of waiters), more power to him.”

    While I believe that one cannot be frum oif yenem’s cheshbon including ones children, and I don’t know what my children will agree too, I don’t see here $30 a person. Bulk crate of chicken is $2.09 lb right now. That is about 3 servings I would guess. At that rate, the entire food expense for 50 guests cannot be more than a few hundred dollars, say $500. Chairs, tables and clothes, from a gemach. Flowers, gemach. Bentchers, gemach. Invitations, I can probably do that myself for less then $10 printed cheaply. Say $35 including postage. Clothing for chason and other family, maybe a thousand more, assuming my wife does not want to wear a borrowed dress.

    What am I missing? I see the entire event coming to about $2000, aside from the ring and other gifts for the kallah. And I would very much entertain the have’eminah to tell my sons that they are responsible to buy the ring and other gifts from their own money from summer jobs.

  42. Michoel
    December 14th, 2011 @ 11:14 am

    Ross,
    Could be the government is getting z’chus too and that is why we haven’t had a major war on US soil in quite a while! Just joking.

    I would only refer back to Mark’s comment above that this is very much dependent on what a person feels that only he has access to. But it is clear that accepting gifts from people effects everyone in some way. “Kanui lo l’olam”. That is a maamar chazal! And it might be very difficult to asses the effect of that acceptance until one does without.

  43. Judy Resnick
    December 14th, 2011 @ 11:35 am

    Michoel #38 asked some very good questions about those on government assistance still purchasing traditional chasidishe items. I believe strongly that this became part of the culture of poverty that arose within the chasidishe community. “Everyone” is on Medicaid, and “everyone” is on food stamps, and “everyone” has a shtreimel, and “everyone” has Section 8, and “everyone” has food stamps, and “everyone” has a tisch bekeshe….It has gotten to the point where no one even questions the blatant contradictions involved in this lifestyle because “everyone” is doing the same thing, and no one wants to appear to oppose the community. The pressure to conform, not just religiously but in a certain mode of lifestyle, is so strong that those who do not buy into the entire package deal are eventually forced to move out to a different neighborhood.

    It would take some very strong leadership within the chasidishe community in the United States to stand up and say that chasidishe men should go to work and that chasidishe families should not rely on these government programs. It is not going to happen anytime soon. There is too much money involved in these government programs for any chasidishe leader to tell his community to stop taking. Particularly with the issues that I mentioned above (the need to have Medicaid to cover maternal and child health; the inability of unskilled chasidishe men to earn a decent salary) it will probably get worse before it gets better (i.e. encouraging more participation in taking government benefits, not less).

  44. Judy Resnick
    December 14th, 2011 @ 11:45 am

    To Michoel #41: I don’t think you’re missing anything. Your calculations added up to a total expense of $2000 for a wedding with 50 guests. That works out to $40 per person. My estimate was that a backyard simcha would cost about $30 per person. You could probably up it to 100 people for an additional $1000, which would work out to $3000 for 100 guests, which makes my estimate of $30 per person right on target. Of course, in ten years kosher chicken might cost $7.69 per pound not $2.09 per pound, in which case we’re all gonna have to learn to enjoy rice and beans.

  45. Michoel
    December 14th, 2011 @ 11:47 am

    Judy,
    by the way, the very large majority of chasidim do work. Actually it is more the litvish world were men not working is normative. But the chasidish world needs to find a way to have more initiative and creative thinking about how many individuals can make A LOT of parnassa. Not just relying on a relatively few mavericks in jewelry or electronics.

  46. Michoel
    December 14th, 2011 @ 11:52 am

    Oh, I see I was actually on the high end. So please tell me how to get it down to $30!

  47. Orthonomics
    December 14th, 2011 @ 11:59 am

    Regarding Ross’s statement re: z’chut, I am certain if family that no longer contributes to another family’s budget they can earn the merit in another fashion. I find it terribly egotistical to say that if it weren’t for me and my inflated expenses that my relatives would lack z’chut?

  48. wife
    December 14th, 2011 @ 12:02 pm

    I bought my wedding gown (with long sleeves) on ebay for $185.

  49. Judy Resnick
    December 14th, 2011 @ 1:14 pm

    I borrowed mine. Cost: zero. However, to be a mensch, I paid for cleaning the gown (it was only fair), plus I threw in a gown bag which my mother gave me, plus I invited her and her husband for dinner to thank them.

    My sister got a custom wedding gown for half-price after the bride it was originally created for eloped. So she got the best of both worlds. All the fancy people were told that she got a custom wedding gown. All the frugal people were told that she got a half-price gown. So everybody was happy.

    By the way, let me throw in a comment I heard from somewhere: “The problem is not with the rich man who wants to spend a fortune on the wedding of his daughter. The problem is with the middle-class parent who struggles to keep up with the ever-increasing ‘minimum standards of menschlichkeit.’”

  50. Judy Resnick
    December 14th, 2011 @ 1:24 pm

    I believe that instituting a system of affordable universal health coverage would help to encourage those currently receiving benefits to look for gainful employment. Not to mention a reduction in the jobless rate from 11 percent to 2 percent, where employers are hiring, not firing. There still would have to be a greater initiative in our community to create job training programs that are genuinely effective in imparting real world job skills and in getting people hired. Maybe it would behoove us to bring back a version of the old apprenticeship system, not like the TV show but some form of on-the-job training with payment to the employer. Also, our community desperately needs better-paying jobs, not just minimum wage employment, in order to afford tuition and other “frum” expenses.

    My oldest daughter obtained the initial training for her present career as an insurance broker through a subsidized job with a company that was paid to train her. I am very grateful for the good parnasa she has today, and I think similar programs on a wider scale could help others as well.

  51. Bob Miller
    December 14th, 2011 @ 1:27 pm

    The gifts that the chassan-to-be and kallah-to-be “must” give each other keep increasing in quantity and cost. The only true beneficiaries seem to be the suppliers! Evidently, real traditions are not good enough for us; we need to make new ones to fit our allegedly affluent condition.

    Maybe some suppliers and their helpers have found a way to generate these expectations.

  52. ross
    December 14th, 2011 @ 3:59 pm

    Backyard weddings are the way to go. One-kid band, catering from local bagel store. Local photographer (alternate-alternate parnassa), and gemach folding chairs. Tasteful centerpieces, of course. Flowers from the shul (just joking), and memories for a lifetime.

    Oy, vat vill the neighbors kretch? They’ll say, “ve vish ve had tought of tat.”

  53. Ben David
    December 14th, 2011 @ 4:04 pm

    Bob Miller:
    If that [moving from shtetl to nearest big city] does not fall under emigration, what does?
    - – - – - – - -
    1) So when American Jews moved from inner-city neighborhoods to the suburbs – that was emigration?

    2) Could you address the real point – how the otherworldly, insular, willfully ignorant luftmensch ideal physically and spiritually impoverished Yidden, who then abandoned Yiddishkeit as unlivable?

    When you write:
    Far more likely, they were seduced by modernity and modern ideas
    - – - – - – - –
    … the vast majority of shtetl Jews were so POORLY educated (due to rampant POVERTY) that they were hardly making an ideological choice – and knew precious little of Judaism’s own intellectual depth.

    They were “seduced” by rumbling stomachs… Google “Bontche Schweig” to remind yourself.

    …And your comment stands as a perfect example of my point: a modern re-run the same old elitist, dismissive line that failed back then…

    So when you write:
    Ben David, let’s see some proper citations to support your broad based attack on the Orthodox leaders in old Eastern Europe.
    - – - – - – - – -
    – you’ve just provided the first one!

    You can also check out Rabbi Berel Wein’s excellent history books – which quite clearly trace the development of Hassidism and other movements in response to oppression, and how their insularity and other-worldliness left Ashkenazi Jewry unprepared for Emancipation.

    You can also read about R. Samson Raphael Hirsch for a counterexample: a Torah giant and Jewish community that successfully engaged the modern world.

  54. Bob Miller
    December 14th, 2011 @ 5:28 pm

    Ben David,

    I’ve read and enjoyed works by Rav Wein and by Rav Hirsch ZT”L but these did not drip with hostility and were far more nuanced than your cartoon history.

    Anyway, the people we’re discussing were typically seduced by the modern ideas, etc., once they got to the big city, not so much in their original surroundings which they indeed left because of poverty.

    Something you already quoted from me (!) but first twisted and then forgot:
    “Poverty was a fact of life in those old country areas for most Jews of all descriptions, and for most non-Jews as well. Most had no real option to get out of poverty short of emigrating”

  55. Michoel
    December 14th, 2011 @ 5:38 pm

    ross,
    There is a wealthy person in town here with a gorgeous back yard and a table a chair gemach. They are nice plastic chairs in very good shape. He has made several chasunas for people that needed to keep cost down. No-one complained. But there is an expectation that weddings cost a lot of money. In the orthodox community, educaton costs vastly more than a wedding. In the non-orthodox community, education is free and a wedding is much more than our weddings, (honeymoons etc). So if one must, pay your own way through tutions and then accept help by wedding time, when their expectation that you need help, does not cost you anything emotionally.

  56. Always a BT
    December 14th, 2011 @ 6:24 pm

    We made a wedding last year for $30K for 300 guests. I live in Los Angeles where there is no such thing as a cheap wedding hall or all inclusive wedding packages.

    Here’s what we did:
    We asked all of our friends for their $$ saving ideas, but did a lot of research on our own.
    All the vendors we used were either just starting out or in need of parnassa, so I think HKBH made it easier on us & things went very smoothly.

    Hotel with a kosher kitchen was cheaper than a hall & caterer or using a caterer at the hotel (for which the hotel charges $25-45 per guest WITHOUT food–caterer charges another $35 and up). It was $48/plate but after 30% tax & gratiuty, it was $60. This was for 3 courses & did not include hor d’ouerves or cake for the tish. It was cheaper to get an outside caterer for that. We had minimal cakes and the bare exceptable minimum of passed hor d’ouerves. No liquor, not even wine. The hotel wanted to charge $4/person for soda, so I found Coke on sale for 69cents/bottle and bought 200 bottles for about $180 (we had close to 100 bottles left over!). We shlepped it to the hotel the day before the wedding.
    The gemach (there’s only 1) has a very small (& shopworn) selection of dresses & I have a lot of girls. We had dresses made for everyone (my daughter paid for her own wedding gown). It was actually cheaper than renting & everyone got a dress in the same material but appropriate for their age & body type. We went to the garment district to buy fabric at a fraction of retail. BH, we found a (brand new) dress for my youngest at the gemach.
    The invitations were the absolute cheapest we could find. We ordered simple benchers from Israel which the relatives brought with them (no shipping costs). The flowers were from the gemach (& gorgeous!). The chuppah was very simple and had just a few flowers, greenery & some crystal beads that made it look so much more elegant. The mechitzah was just tulle with lights sandwiched in between & some greenery. All of the flowers, mechitz, chuppah and runner was less than $1,000. We had a one man band ($1,500) & a young but experienced (& very talented) photographer who was just breaking into the wedding business. We ordered photo albums (2 for price of 1) online–simple but nice. We had an event planner for the day of, but we were very organized so mostly she made sure everything ran on schedule. Again, she was the “budget” wedding planner but no less competent that those charging over 5X the price. The makeup artist was the photographer’s wife so the kallah’s makeup was free. Another daughter & I had makeup done by the same artist for a nominal price. Hair was done by a young stylist just starting out as well–she did an excellent job & all of the girls hair stayed all through the dancing.

    We were aiming for an elegant but not extravagant wedding–budget friendly but not cheap. From everyone’s (even the non-frum relatives) comments, we managed to pull it off. We did get some gemach funds and had some help from friends & family. The chattan’s family paid approx 1/3.

    So, it can be done if you are willing to think outside the box, do a little more leg work, be organized and shop around. There are bargains to be had in the artistic world, if you are willing to go with someone who is just starting out. They are very motivated to do a good job because they are trying to get their name out there. We have referred (many times over) everyone we worked with. They were all a pleasure to work with and we feel we got great value for the $$.

  57. Ron Coleman
    December 14th, 2011 @ 9:32 pm

    A lot of these questions are being discussed in a vacuum. I have to wince when I read about these idealized backyard weddings. For one thing, they are premised on people having time to do the immense amount of planning, cooking, preparation, and cleanup for such an event — people usually operating on more than one full time job and more than a couple of children, as well as their personal ongoing religious, social and other obligations, and who are in the midst of no less than the weeks before and the week immediately after the wedding of one child (while still meeting their responsibilities, related to that event or otherwise, to their other children).

    Secondly, the mixing and matching of different situations, communities and social standards makes much of the economic discussion here incoherent. Lakewood families are not Williamsburg families are not Monsey families are not Flatbush families, and none of these are all the same “by town” either, so tarring them all with the brush of “haredi” is really not useful.

    I have no idea where this talk of “elitism” is coming from. How many participants in this discussion have attended “ballebatish” weddings of their friends and neighbors that certainly cost $20,000 or more? How many of those friends and neighbors do those of you who have raised your hands consider to be “elitist”? To the extent elitism is a reference to “elite scholarship” or elite conceptions of scholarship and entitlement — i.e., “the Lakewood scene” — by far the plainest, cheapest and most down to earth weddings I have attended are in the cinder-block “wedding halls” that are just sections of school buildings in none other than Lakewood. So, come on, let’s stop knocking over straw men.

    Yes, there is a lot to be said for encouraging attitude adjustment in all sectors, including all frum sectors, with respect to material and financial issues, I certainly agree with that. (How about the Israeli “buy the couple an apartment” scene?)

    But this post was about one family’s decision not to accept non-frum family help for yeshiva tuition. I think it’s great if you can do that and have that feeling of not being dependent at all on others, but how we got to “don’t take R’ Yaakov’s statement as psak” to the contemptuous “too convenient” attitude is not clear.

    Very few families can pay full tuition for three to ten or more children in most communities, period — even with popcorn snacks (instead of what, exactly?). The premise of the discussion is that the family in question cannot do so. If it can, what is there to talk about, unless the grandparents affirmatively, and on an informed basis, want to have a share in the stupendously great mitzvah of eduction their grandchildren in Torah and Yirah? (Many do.)

    But if the family can’t pay tens of thousands in tuition, is it worse to accept help from relatives who, presumably, are in a position, financially, to contribute to the cost of the Torah education of their own flesh and blood than to impose that cost on other members of the community — by virtue of a “scholarship” award, which merely means subsidization by the other, mainly struggling, members of the same community? Why?

  58. Judy Resnick
    December 14th, 2011 @ 9:54 pm

    To Ron Coleman #57: I’m going to address only one tiny point out of your excellent comment.

    Popcorn Snacks: One of my married daughters has three young children in yeshiva. My husband gave her a hot-air popcorn popper plus a big bag of unpopped kernels. The idea is that she can now make snacks for the kids at minimal cost (the electricity needed plus the baggie). This is instead of spending money on the well-known “Super Snacks” which can be 25 cents or even 50 cents each (that adds up) or on chips or candy.

  59. Ben David
    December 15th, 2011 @ 7:30 am

    Bob Miller:
    “Poverty was a fact of life in those old country areas for most Jews of all descriptions, and for most non-Jews as well. Most had no real option to get out of poverty short of emigrating”
    - – - – - – - – - -
    Again:

    1) There was this thing called Emancipation. Then there was this other thing called The Industrial Revolution.

    Together, Thing 1 and Thing 2 (apologies to Dr. Seuss) did in fact create ways to “get out of poverty short of emigrating”.

    2) Rejection of the real world and idealization of monastic, otherworldly existence was never an ideal in Judaism.

    The insular mysticism of Hasidic shtetl life – which first began as a reaction to crushing oppression – turned in on itself (abetted by rabbinic leaders concerned with their own status) to the point where rejection of real-world concerns became a badge of honor.

    3) Despite the chorus chanting “Tradition!” in Fiddler on the Roof – this rejection of normal life was in fact a break with Jewish tradition.

    As far back as the Talmud, the idea that “all Jews should sit and learn, living outside the world and its developments” was debated and rejected.

    Similarly, rejecting post-industrial developments leads to the preposterous idea that “G-d didn’t know that modernity would happen” – or that the Torah is no longer applicable to the world.

    Mainstream Torah Judaism has always emphasized the Torah as a guide for living as a Jew in every time and place… and Torah scholars like R. Hirsch who did engage the modern world had no problem applying the Torah yardstick to modern life – confirming their flock’s faith in the Torah’s continued relevance (even in Germany, the Reform movement’s backyard).

    4) The insular, rejectionist attitude most definitely did impoverish Jewish life in Eastern Europe – physically, intellectually, spiritually.

    5) It’s deeply unfair to portray Jews who fled the shtetl “unfaithful” to Judaism.

    And it’s prideful and mean-spirited revisionism to ignore their abject ignorance and claim that they were “seduced” by modernity – as if most of them were great intellectuals instead of starving peasants.

    They abandoned Judaism because the Judaism that they’d been presented with promised only grinding poverty and misery – and its sages denied the obvious benefits of modern life to preserve their own status – desecrating G-d’s name by making the Torah seem as foolish and limited as they were.

    6) The attempt to recast most BT’s grandparents as ideological opponents “seduced by modernity” betrays that the speaker has already adopted the insular, rejectionist rhetoric that failed our grandparents.

    Which is probably why you’ve circled back to the same tired Haredi tropes, without really engaging any of the obvious history I’ve cited (or will I have to give you “citations” that the Emancipation or Industrial Revolution really did occur?)

    7) It’s doubly sad to see BT’s – who should at least have a more nuanced view of the modern world, and some respect for their own family histories – mouthing rhetoric that has failed spectacularly at parsing the changes in Jewish life wrought by Emancipation and Zionism – and is setting the frum world up for another round of financial collapse and disillusionment.

  60. Michoel
    December 15th, 2011 @ 9:46 am

    Ron:
    “idealized backyard weddings”
    As mentioned, we have a person in town here that has lent out there backyard for this purpose several times. The logistics path has already been tread. And a hall wedding with caterer is hardly logistics free. Could be much worse since the caterer is familiar with all the endless hock that has already been done, and can fill the parents’ heads with endless options that were never heard of 50 years ago.

    “but how we got ….“too convenient” attitude is not clear.”
    Nu? that’s blogging

    Popcorn,
    40 pound bag at Sam’s Club $3.99. Lasts about 2 years. As opposed to Nashkes, Bamba, chuncka munchkas, mini-chip bags which come out to around $4.50 lb with half of it getting squished into the couch and carpet…

    Perhaps the common thread here is that baalei t’shuvah general grow up with certain strong values that may be better than some of the more recent values of the yeshiva, chasidish world. And one of them is a stress on self-sufficiency. They should hold onto that. The emotional dynamic between Yankel the bt and his parents is deeply different than the dynamic between his ffb neighbor and his parents. He should be aware of that when he makes his financial decisions. That’s all.

  61. ross
    December 15th, 2011 @ 10:39 am

    “pay your own way through tutions and then accept help by wedding time, when their expectation that you need help, does not cost you anything emotionally.”

    Tuition is pretty much not so controllable, unless you work in the school or get a rare massive scholarship. And I personally believe that the more tuition one can pay, the more bracha one will see from the kid’s learning. (Really, I hear this.)

    But wedding costs are controllable on many levels. It’s just society’s expectations which increases the price tag. So I’d be more hard-pressed to ask my family for help over something I can control.

    They can say, “So get a cheaper photographer” but they can’t say, “So send your kids to public school.” Well, they can say it, but one’s an option and the other isn’t.

  62. Mordechai Y. Scher
    December 15th, 2011 @ 11:55 am

    Michoel, thanks for a this post. You have helped inject some self-respect and dignity into the American ‘frum’ conversation. All we have to do is look around the bigger frum communities to see how needed this conversation is. Financial independence, taking responsibility for one’s decisions – these are values that used to be foundations for Torah. Somehow many people now view them as obstacles.

    Ron is right that backyard weddings (in the generic sense) will only work in some community cultures. But I would argue that means there is a need to work and change those cultures! If we really can’t do that; then we should live elsewhere.

    Yes, I was educated differently than some of you; and I am willing to argue that any time we see people being impoverished over something like the cost of weddings and supporting married children – we are seeing a perversion of Torah and tradition. (Tuitions are a tougher issue. I get that.) This really is a new phenomenon. Just look at the photos of our parents’ and grandparents’ weddings. See how many brides don’t have ‘wedding dresses’ due to the expense? There was no shame in this, and they still went on to have long marriages and raise good families. We have gone insane and it is only our own fault. My own wedding, by the way, was made by friends. Our community pitched in together and we had a wedding that was a kiddush hashem for the cooperation and real simha. Maybe we should start looking at modest community-made weddings as an ideal?

    When I was first in yeshiva, the place I learned was a very small and poor institution. The learning was excellent; but the physical conditions were pretty basic even by Israeli standards. So the solution was for the ‘boys’ to pitch in. Someone has to drive and pick up the groceries? One of the guys will take the rosh yeshiva’s car and do it. Painting? Repairs? The guys did much of that. The heat was kept low and we wore sweaters and even coats in the beit midrash. I don’t actually wish that on anyone – but it preserved our dignity and pride in the institution. And fellows who wanted to buy books or go on a date usually worked a bit to earn the money. Thursday nights at Angel’s bakery saw a whole squad of yeshiva students emptying the ovens and loading trucks.

    When Rav Meir Schlesinger built Yeshivat Shaalvim at the beginning of the ’60s, he was determined that the boys shouldn’t learn to live off tzedakah. During the breaks (bein hazmanim) the students had to remain because this was also their ‘base’ for local defense (the Jordanian border at Latrun was a couple hundred meters away). Rav Meir instituted that during the breaks the students would work on the host kibbutz Shaalvim (run by Poalei Agudat Yisrael). The kibbutz paid the yeshivah for the labour, and that way the students didn’t have to think their learning was all because of tzedakah.

    Our sages, the Rambam, and many others throughout the generations have pointed out the value of honest labour. It helps keep us not only financially honest; but emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually honest. It helps preserve our dignity and the dignity of our holy Torah. If we ask Hashem in birkat hamazon to spare us the reliance on matanat basar v’dam – mustn’t we also work to create the conditions to receive His b’rachah?

    Thanks again Michoel for your personal take and experience with this.

  63. Bob Miller
    December 15th, 2011 @ 12:08 pm

    About “society’s expectations” for wedding spending:

    Various rabbis and rabbinic organizations periodically issue guidelines or even edicts to control this spending. If Orthodox followers of these rabbis know about these limits and also flout them, how do they rationalize this? Is there some group of anti-sages who promulgate their own anti-guidelines, or is our frumkeit often only lip service?

  64. Michoel
    December 15th, 2011 @ 12:42 pm

    ross,
    you make a good point. For me, when I ask for help with tuition, I feel a certain psychological weight from their opinion about family size. As if I need their approval before having more kids. Maybe it is just personal weakness, but that is what I hear, subtly, going on in my head.

  65. Michoel
    December 15th, 2011 @ 2:09 pm

    thanks Mordechai. I am very much still working this through. We’ll see were it goes.

  66. Judy Resnick
    December 15th, 2011 @ 3:46 pm

    Michoel #64: I certainly hear you. The concept of “family planning” and choosing to limit family size has become so ingrained into contemporary culture that large Orthodox Jewish families are almost inevitably going to get criticized. Rabbonim have commented that soaring Yeshiva tuition does discourage religious families from having as many children as possible, although we tend to stop at a higher number rather than having only one or two. People who are not Jewish or not frum make calculations about future college costs and the quantity and spacing of their children, and of course their mantra is, “If you can’t afford them, don’t have them.” It’s just a sorry part of the lifestyle of the outside world, focusing too much on the financial burden of raising kids, which unfortunately winds up negatively impacting our relationships with non-frum relatives who openly disapprove of big families.

  67. Gary
    December 16th, 2011 @ 12:28 am

    As Judy wrote in #14, Yeshivah high schools don’t have work study programs. However there are work opportunities outside the school that are largely ignored. Would kosher bakeries, groceries, clothing stores and the like turn away a Yeshivah student of either gender looking for a few hours’ work as a cashier, stock handler, shipping clerk or delivery person? I think that the shortage is in job seekers.

  68. Ron Coleman
    December 16th, 2011 @ 12:57 pm

    With all due respect to the commenters who are engaged in the economics of frum life and weddings and snacks, all legitimate topics, I am going to re-ask what I think is the most relevant question to this specific post:

    But if the family can’t pay tens of thousands in tuition, is it worse to accept help from relatives who, presumably, are in a position, financially, to contribute to the cost of the Torah education of their own flesh and blood than to impose that cost on other members of the community — by virtue of a “scholarship” award, which merely means subsidization by the other, mainly struggling, members of the same community? Why?

    Well, why?

  69. Judy Resnick
    December 16th, 2011 @ 1:20 pm

    To Ron Coleman #68: I would say that it is much better to accept tuition help from affluent relatives rather than ask for a scholarship award from the school. The yeshivos expect parents to exhaust family sources first before applying for a tuition reduction. Many schools request the names and addresses of the grandparents, and that is not only for “schep nachas” Rosh Hashanah and Chanukah cards from the grandchildren.

  70. Michoel
    December 16th, 2011 @ 1:56 pm

    Ron,
    Yes, there is clearly a maaleh in bringing money into the community from outside, rather than drawing on internal resources. So assuming that things work similarly in other communities, we are discussing either 1. paying full with the help of family, or 2. Disclosing all familial help on the income disclosure when applying for a deduction. We are not discussing applying for a deduction based on ones paychecks and 401k, and then going to relatives and asking for help.

    The entire discussion began with me agreeing that there are circumstances when one should take from family and I acknowledged that I did just that. This in no way mitigates the personal gain of pushing oneself to not have to receive family help, via popcorn or other means. Or if we must come on to (even willing) family for help, we can still strive to do so as little as needed.

  71. tesyaa
    December 16th, 2011 @ 1:56 pm

    But if the family can’t pay tens of thousands in tuition, is it worse to accept help from relatives who, presumably, are in a position, financially, to contribute to the cost of the Torah education of their own flesh and blood than to impose that cost on other members of the community — by virtue of a “scholarship” award, which merely means subsidization by the other, mainly struggling, members of the same community? Why?

    I agree that more money should be coming in from outside the “community” – I’d like to see that happening by the community increasing its earning power, starting with better secular education.

    Why is family money from non-frum relatives less desirable?

    1 – it’s nonrenewable – when it’s gone, it’s gone
    2 – as others have pointed out, it often comes with emotional strings attached
    3 – it can be withdrawn at any time, but the recipient often takes it for granted – when it’s withdrawn, it may be at a very inconvenient time, to say the least
    3 – isn’t self sufficiency always better?
    4 – Older relatives may hesitate to say no when a family with many adorable children needs help, but they may not be taking into account their own needs for long term care. People are outliving their savings now.

    If the relatives can easily meet their own financial needs while giving to relatives, if they give the money generously and lovingly with no strings attached, and the recipients are always being gently encouraged to become more self sufficient – then, we are in agreement.

  72. Ben David
    December 17th, 2011 @ 2:00 pm

    Gary #67 –
    I have two very highly motivated teen sons. They want to make money for driving lessons and other goals. They have picked up work as waiters and in general handyman work (fixing up their yeshiva buildings over the summer).

    However – a student in a yeshiva high-school has a very long school day that doesn’t leave much room for regular part time work.

    It’s unfortunate, but true.
    I think parents should encourage teens to work over the summer instead of going further into hock for camp or other perks.

    I had several frum friends who paid a significant part of their college education by working as waiters at Catskill resorts over the summer and holidays.

  73. Tuvia
    December 17th, 2011 @ 8:32 pm

    To Ms. Resnick #66:

    It seems frum folks should be thankful their non frum relatives limit family size. Otherwise, how on earth could a frum person ask for tuition help for his growing brood?

    Over time, even relatives tire of supporting others who are generally smart, educated, white and simply unwilling to lower themselves to working, or working in a financially rewarding field. But the “eved,” the non-frum relative, yes he can work – for you. No way no how this is a good long term idea for frum folks. Just no way no how.

  74. DY
    December 17th, 2011 @ 10:39 pm

    …just curious: would you judge WIC/food stamps beneficiaries just as harshly for purchase of tv’s, etc. as you do of the shtreimel crowd, or is your criticism limited to things you feel you personally can live without?

  75. Tuvia
    December 17th, 2011 @ 11:27 pm

    I responded to something Ms. Resnick wrote. I did not mean to say she receives help, or I am critical of her. My apologies to Ms. Resnick if the tone was off.

  76. Gary
    December 18th, 2011 @ 12:06 am

    Ben David, # 67,

    Your feedback is well noted. The school day is certainly long, and perhaps too long. I think that a systemic problem exists. If parents can’t make ends meet, and the Yeshivahs don’t have sufficient financial aid to go around, the school day should be shortened to allow students to go out and work in many of the Jewish owned business that need unskilled or semiskilled help. These students might also develop skills leading to permanent employment or partnership in the business. Alternatively, students could stay after school and perform chores in school for tuition credit. Tuition credit would not be at the minimum wage that the schools would otherwise pay the students; rather it would be in the amount of salary and benefits that are saved by not hiring someone to do jobs such as filing, cleaning, trash removal, and the like.

  77. Judy Resnick
    December 18th, 2011 @ 12:22 am

    To Tuvia #75: No offense taken and no apology needed.

    Most of my children supported their summers by working. The girls were mothers’ helpers and lifeguards. The boys were waiters and counselors and junior rebbes.

    Like Michoel, most frum people would greatly prefer to be financially independent. I’m sure we all would rather have more money than month. Years ago, the second income from a working wife paid the yeshiva tuition bill. However, if full tuition for five or six children comes to more than what both parents earn, leaving minus for food, shelter and other expenses of life, then frum families are forced to ask for help elsewhere: they have no choice. Public school is not an option.

  78. Charlie Hall
    December 18th, 2011 @ 12:32 am

    “Add to that the cost of music and photos, and even a modest wedding can run $40,000.00.”

    Can, but does not have to. Ours, seven years ago, cost between $10,000 and $11,000, including dinner for 140 guests and a fabulous five piece klezmer band. We got married in a beautiful beit knesset that was far nicer than any wedding hall I’ve ever seen, and the seudah was in the social hall downstairs.

  79. Judy Resnick
    December 18th, 2011 @ 12:49 am

    To Charlie Hall #77: Aside from your “day jobs” as eminent scientist and renowned pediatrician, maybe you and your wife could moonlight as “affordable wedding planners” to our community.

    Seriously, if you would share your secrets, “how we did it,” other families looking to make affordable weddings would be very grateful.

  80. Charlie Hall
    December 18th, 2011 @ 12:58 am

    “I believe that instituting a system of affordable universal health coverage would help to encourage those currently receiving benefits to look for gainful employment.”

    The Orthodox lifestyle results in very high healthcare costs. The big contributor is the large number of children, as childbirth can be very expensive.

    ” Not to mention a reduction in the jobless rate from 11 percent to 2 percent, where employers are hiring, not firing.”

    I know of no developed country in the world with 2% unemployment. North Dakota has a 3.5% unemployment rate but of course there are no Orthodox synagogues there — not even a Chabad House. Norway has a 3.3% unemployment rate and there are two Orthodox synagogues there, one in Trondheim and one in Oslo. Norway does have universal health insurance with a single payer system, along with some of the highest taxes in the entire world. (So much for high taxes automatically stunting the economy.)

  81. Gary
    December 18th, 2011 @ 2:15 am

    An issue with wedding costs is the 500 person minimum for some halls. These places are often only two 75% (or less) full. This means hosts paid thousands of dollars for seats that were destined to be empty from the start. In such situations the caterer may throw in some extra beverages or desserts as consolation to the hosts, but I am sure most people would prefer to save the cost of over 100 empty seats.

  82. Steve Brizel
    December 18th, 2011 @ 8:59 pm

    Financial independence AFAIK means that you are financially on your own. Perhaps, it is unrealistic to think that BTs should either be in Klei Kodesh, as opposed to professions where their skills are valued as members of their community-whether in Safrut, or even as plumbers, electricians, or even in the health care related professions.

    I can’t speak for Ron Coleman, but I would advise any BT thinking of the legal profession to seriously consult others in the field as to the feasibility of the same and DON”T enter the field if you are a kollelnik or mchanech simply looking for a parnasah or a liberal arts major wondering how to earn a living unless you are ready to be Moser nefesh for the profession.

    I know of a few who successfully perform the balance act, but one should never fool oneself and think that the skills in learning Talmud automarically translate into a great and rewarding parnasah. IMO, it borders on the delusional to think otherwise.

    In contrast, while training as a doctor, dentist or mental health care professional takes a while , if you maintain sedarim even while in your professional training, you will continue them as a professional. IMO, when faced with such a choice, the best choice is to follow your heart, not your head.

  83. Ron Coleman
    December 18th, 2011 @ 10:09 pm

    I agree 100% with Steve about the legal profession: For almost everybody, an awful idea:
    Law School Bubble
    From: The Best Colleges

    And for most frum people, it’s an even worse idea (no infographic available)!

  84. Ron Coleman
    December 18th, 2011 @ 10:19 pm

    Tesyaa wrote:

    Why is family money from non-frum relatives less desirable?

    1 – it’s nonrenewable – when it’s gone, it’s gone

    That doesn’t make it less desirable. It makes it less. All money is non-renewable in that sense: When it’s gone, it’s gone. OK, but till it’s gone, it’s there.

    2 – as others have pointed out, it often comes with emotional strings attached

    And sometimes it doesn’t. Even when it does, can this be a reason for a “broad ban” in all cases? People can make up their own minds about how much help to tolerate.

    3 – it can be withdrawn at any time, but the recipient often takes it for granted – when it’s withdrawn, it may be at a very inconvenient time, to say the least

    Maybe this is the point you meant to make in (1). Yes, it may be inconveniently withdrawn, just like a job can. I’d still rather have the job.

    3 – isn’t self sufficiency always better?

    Certainly it is not if it permits one to believe that he is, in fact, “self sufficient.” In any case, yeah, sure, if you can do it — as I said, however, most of us can’t. “Self sufficiency” is certainly not “scholarship.”

    4 – Older relatives may hesitate to say no when a family with many adorable children needs help, but they may not be taking into account their own needs for long term care. People are outliving their savings now.

    So?

    If the relatives can easily meet their own financial needs while giving to relatives, if they give the money generously and lovingly with no strings attached, and the recipients are always being gently encouraged to become more self sufficient – then, we are in agreement.

    You mean we are in agreement as to the conditions under which you will accept help. As to anyone else, I consider it not only their personal choice, but one regarding which I have nothing to say at all — unless they choose the illusion of “self-sufficiency” and turn down family help in favor of my “help” by reducing their “ability to pay” and increasing the strain on other parents, including me, to support them in this personal journey to self-respect.

  85. tesyaa
    December 18th, 2011 @ 10:28 pm

    Ron, I said in my first paragraph that I would like to see people aim for self-sufficiency – that they should AIM to avoid scholarship, and make educational choices for themselves and their children that will minimize the possibility that they will need scholarship; I’d say they should make spending decisions with the goal of self sufficiency in mind too.

    So no, I don’t think your neighbors should reduce your means by begging for scholarships. I think you should be encouraging young frum people to get good secular educations, including higher education, so they will be able to fully support themselves and their families.

    Then they will not have to “mooch” off of you.

    And not every BT, or FFB, has family money (duh), and those with family money are not always in a position to receive it. So encouraging people to take family money will not substantially reduce your “burden”. Encouraging the community to increase its earning power is more helpful, IMO.

  86. tesyaa
    December 18th, 2011 @ 10:30 pm

    When I say that those with family money are not always in a position to receive it, I mean that a BT’s parents may not want to give it to a family that doesn’t share its values, and an FFB’s family may have many, many families of children and grandchildren sharing one pot of wealth. I am not saying any family member should not take offered funds, if the family dynamic won’t be damaged by taking the $$$.

  87. Bob Miller
    December 19th, 2011 @ 9:28 am

    As an aside, current economic conditions have had an impact on salaries and employment among Jews. There’s no telling who will be dependent on whom; education and ambition are necessary but not always sufficient.

  88. Michoel
    December 19th, 2011 @ 10:00 am

    Ron,
    …personal journey to self-respect.

    If the personal journey to self-respect will unltimately lead one to be able to shoulder a greater share of the burden, then community gains from it.

    Schools are a chovas tzibbur and paying full is not a chov on any one parent in the way that paying the full price for a dozen eggs is.

    But in general, yes, I would agree that it better to take from family than to take from other parents.

  89. Judy Resnick
    December 19th, 2011 @ 10:02 am

    To Ron Coleman #83: Right on. And, write on.

    It is far past the time when the legal profession did something about the huge numbers of law graduates being churned out each year with astronomical debt and no jobs. There was a warning about “Too Many Lawyers” back in the middle of the nineteen-eighties, more than twenty-five years ago.

    Law firms enjoy the situation because it holds salaries down and allows them to hire staff attorneys at lower salaries who have no partnership track and no career ladder, instead of expensive associates who expect partnership in seven years.

    Law schools enjoy the situation because they can continue to raise tuition and fees and enlarge class size and still get ten applications for every seat, despite the dismal job market.

    Of course, the pain falls on the young lawyers who graduate, pass the bar exam, and then discover they cannot make a living. The sad tales I have read recently of one young lawyer on food stamps and another working as an exotic dancer are probably not unique. I have gotten emails about highly qualified young frum lawyers with excellent skills, academic awards and prestigious internships who are out there looking without jobs or job hopes.

    The legal profession has to decide that certain law schools must be shut down, or at least downsized. Either a ten percent reduction in class sizes across the board, or the bottom ten percent of all law schools close completely, or a combination approach where the bottom law schools reduce their class size by half and the middle tier schools reduce their class size by twenty percent.

    Unless drastic measures are taken soon, the legal profession as a whole will suffer. (Why pay a thousand for your uncontested divorce when you can get it done for only three hundred? And so on throughout the gamut of legal services).

  90. Michoel
    December 19th, 2011 @ 10:10 am

    Ron,
    In truth, anyone that takes a tuition deduction over family help (and thus increases the strain on other parents) has a variety of other options. They can get a tzetel and go door to door collecting tzeddekah, they can home school, they can take another job, (or a first job if they are in kollel), they use birth control, etc.

    So if one does not have any family that can help them and they do not choose one of the above options, why should they be more entitle to a p’tur from the ignoble title of burdening other parents?

  91. tesyaa
    December 19th, 2011 @ 11:44 am

    If there is a question of burdening the community with requests for tuition reductions, let me ask if any family with a stay-at-home parent (by choice) should be allowed tuition reductions?

    If there is no family money available, should a mother be asked to go to work before a reduction is granted?

    Certainly community-provided childcare at a reasonable rate would allow more mothers to work, while bringing in more funds via employment.

  92. Ron Coleman
    December 19th, 2011 @ 11:59 am

    Tesyaa, I appreciate your thoughtful analysis and clarifications. The question of the stay-at-home mother is complex, economically; in many cases the net economic benefit to a second income is marginal. As you suggest, “free” or “reasonably-priced” child care could help that, but mandating participation in such a system in order to qualify for tuition assistance is rather chilling.

    We’re not talking about what people ought to do to make more income available for chinuch; we’re talking about whether they should turn away money that has been made available to them for chinuch when they are otherwise — all else being equal — unable to meet the cost of full tuition. Same response, therefore, to Michoel, except regarding birth control, which is not an halachic option (i.e., for purposes of finances) to my knowledge.

  93. Anonymous
    December 19th, 2011 @ 12:01 pm

    Yes, people should think very critically and carefully about attending law school. But a specific law school applicant’s odds of employment and job quality can usually be approximately quantified based on a handful of predictive factors. Therefore, each person should be advised on an individual basis. Even in today’s climate, it is possible to identify people (though far fewer than a decade ago) who have good odds of making a comfortable living with law degrees if they can deal with the lifestyle. Lifestyle varies more than people think, both across legal markets and legal practice areas.

    -almost-lawyer married to lawyer

  94. Michoel
    December 20th, 2011 @ 10:47 am

    This post was intended as food for thought, without really bringing it down to the “oilam ha’asiyah”. Ron has done a nice job of forcing some clarity on this all works in the real world. I agree that being overly righteous in my own avodah of sinas matanos, is not correct when that will cause other parents to have to pay more. However, I am having difficulty imagining a situation where that would really be the case. \

    “Col ha’chosheid ba’ksherim lokeh b’gufo”; one who unjustly suspects another kasher Jew suffers …”, Chas v’shalom to say something bad about Klal Yisroel. However, there may be a certain percentage of hard-working parents that apply for a tuition reduction based on their tax return, receive one, and THEN get help from family in paying their reduced tuition. So refusing that type of family and help and rather insisting on paying what the school assesses the parents on their own, clearly does not hurt the school or other parents at all. The refusal of help only impacts the family and forces them to make more and / or spend less. Both very good things to do.

    Similarly, if Yankel is paying full already, and now asked his cousin for help to lighten the burden, a refusal of that help does not impact the school / parent body at all.

    The only case where the parent body feels the brunt of the “baal mussar’s” piety, is where I l’chatchila make clear to the school, “Although my net income is only $75,000 a year, and my tuition bill is $40,000 which would entitle me to a deduction, you (tuition board) should know that my uncle can give me $25,000 to cover the deduction.” Or, alternatively, just pay full and not tell the school anything. Ahd cahn fine. But I think we need to ask, exactly what are we telling the rich uncle. “I am short $25,000 for kids tuition. If I asked for a deduction, I would certainly receive one, and in fact, about %80 of parents pay less than full. But since I don’t want to burden the other parents, I would like you to make up the $25,000 difference for me.” Non-frum uncle says “of course, I agree with you. Here’s $25,000.”

    There are not that many non-frum relatives that would be willing to do that. So Ron’s case of burdening other parents so that I can feel good about myself is not often a real-life situation.

    (my personal situation was such that revealing family help did not impact the reduction amount.)

  95. Jay
    December 20th, 2011 @ 11:24 am

    The question of the stay-at-home mother is complex, economically; in many cases the net economic benefit to a second income is marginal.

    A full time minimum wage job would likely net close to $1000 per month, even after child care, transportation, and taxes.

    How is that “marginal”???

    Who in the community should be forced to pay an extra $1000 so that mommy can stay home?

    except regarding birth control, which is not an halachic option (i.e., for purposes of finances) to my knowledge.

    Of course it’s an option. Great financial difficulty = emotional stress = very good grounds for a heter for birth control, especially if the couple already has children.

  96. Anonymous
    December 20th, 2011 @ 11:56 am

    “The question of the stay-at-home mother is complex, economically; in many cases the net economic benefit to a second income is marginal.”

    The net economic benefit of a second income on day 1 of employment is not equal to the net economic benefit of a second income over 40-50 years of employment. When the employee works hard, takes the initiative to learn and grow and seek promotion, the latter is usually not marginal.

    Of course, some people will be too slow or otherwise mentally or physically held back to improve their income much even with a solid work ethic. But the majority will not stay at minimum wage or even close to it for their entire working lives.

  97. Bob Miller
    December 20th, 2011 @ 12:20 pm

    I’d guess that the typical family’s dilemma is not which potential tuition sources to use, and which not to use. Rather, it’s that tapping all the available sources (including income and assistance) may still not be enough to get all their children through the available Jewish schools—K thru 12 and beyond.

  98. Michoel
    December 20th, 2011 @ 1:13 pm

    Jay writes:
    “Who in the community should be forced to pay an extra $1000 so that mommy can stay home?”

    Jay, while I am certainly in agreement that we need a greater stress on pulling one’s own weight, I don’t quite get your question.

    Who in the community should be forced to pay an extra $1000 so that someone should sit in kollel, or allow fathers to have a night seder, or allow families to buy meat for Shabbos? We get into dangerous grounds when we presume to know what other families should be able to do.

  99. ross
    December 20th, 2011 @ 1:16 pm

    Whenever I get down about not being able to afford something for my family, I tell my wife, “I guess I made a mistake by not becoming a doctor or a lawyer.”

    Whenever I pass by huge homes in the neighborhood, I think, “It must be nice to be a doctor or a lawyer.”

    So all this time I should’ve just mentioned the doctor? Big chidush to me.

  100. Michoel
    December 20th, 2011 @ 1:23 pm

    ross,
    I don’t understand your comment. Please clarify

  101. Orthonomics
    December 20th, 2011 @ 6:39 pm

    A full time minimum wage job would likely net close to $1000 per month, even after child care, transportation, and taxes.

    Not to be rude, but where in the world will minimum wage net this after tax and childcare?

    40 hours a week for 50 weeks a year at $7.25 is $14,500. Less employment taxes at the regular rate of 7.65% is $13,391.75. Take off taxes at the marginal rate (say 23% total, or 15% federal and 8% state) and you have a tax burden on the second income of $3335. Now you have $10,056.75.

    If you have no childcare, great. But if you have childcare, well, I know of few places that will take a child full time for that amount.

    (Note: I’m not at all saying one shouldn’t take minimum wage work if that is what it takes to bring in needed money into the household.

  102. Daniella
    December 21st, 2011 @ 10:35 am

    Im a BT with a very low paying job. My husband and I had our first kid a year ago and were expecting our second in 4 months. Babysitting and daycare is very expensive. We have gone weeks without food just to make sure we can pay the babysitter and feed our son. We live in a very frum community and we don’t get help or support. It’s very difficult. People have told me to not have kids, but I dont think it’s fair to tell me what to do. I am a college graduate living on a minimum wage salary…The government doesnt help me because I make $100 over the poverty level and therefore I am disqualified from receiving anything……it’s tough people, but I’m going to keep trying to figure things out….Yeshiva doesnt seem like an option….sadly.

  103. Jay
    December 21st, 2011 @ 2:56 pm

    Orthonomics – you’re correct. I was assuming slightly higher, maybe $9 or $10 an hour. I also didn’t realize the 25% tax bracket kicks in at $69k, so if it’s a second income, you’re right about that too. I guess bubby will have to watch the kids.

    Daniella – yeshiva is not an option because your kid is a year old. You have plenty of time – you could get a masters degree in 2 years and intern for 2 years before you have to worry about tuition. I’m not sure why you write with such drama and despair. It’s rather lacking in credibility also; “gone for weeks without food” ?

  104. Orthonomics
    December 22nd, 2011 @ 2:21 am

    Jay, I better be right! Taxes really take a huge bite out of a second income. This is where Bubby can make a huge difference. But few have free Bubby care.

  105. Jay
    December 22nd, 2011 @ 11:49 am

    > But few have free Bubby care.

    You mean, few BTs.

  106. Elm
    December 22nd, 2011 @ 3:06 pm

    I found this entry really fascinating (and illuminating…) as some of you remember from my previous adventures on this board, I have a BT relative by marriage (and another one on the way!)

    I wonder if I can ask a couple of questions about this
    1. Do parents (and people in general) get “z’cus” (quotes because I’m not sure of the spelling) for supporting their adult children in general, or only for private tuition?
    2. Is there an order in which parents are supposed to support their children for this? Like, FIRST you provide food and clothes for the ones still at home, THEN you have a big wedding, THEN you support tuition for your adult kids?
    3. How is it sustained in the long term? I mean, if it is normal to still be taking assistance from parents by the time the grandchildren are getting married, who gives money to the recently-married children if the parents needed help for the wedding?

  107. Mark Frankel
    December 22nd, 2011 @ 5:36 pm

    1) Helping people is called chesed (lovingkindness) and giving and lending money is one way we help people. It is fundamental to what the Jewish people are about. You get z’chus whenever you help people or do any other spiritual act.
    2) There are a lot of factors that go into priorities in performing chesed. There are no hard and fast rules.
    3) Again, every situation is different and it partly depends on the assets of the giver and the needs and relationship of potential recipients.

  108. Orthonomics
    December 22nd, 2011 @ 5:55 pm

    Jay, There are BTs with free bubby care as well as ffbs. I think it is the “luck of the draw.” Not everyone has parents who can care for children. Not everyone wants to have that type of relationship. And, not everyone has parents who are physically healthy enough to watch little children.

  109. Anonymous
    December 22nd, 2011 @ 6:10 pm

    By the way, another thing with support is the resentment it can lead to WITHIN families.

    Scenarios I’ve heard:

    1)parents start out giving a lot to the older child(ren) for weddings, grandchildren, college and so on, and then run short when it comes to younger ones. This can lead to a lot of resentment.

    2) Parents disproportionately support a less responsible child on the grounds that he/she “needs it” which can lead to the responsible one(s) who often are getting by but not swimming in cash feeling resentful at being “punished” for doing everything right.

    3) Parents give one child less support because they think that child’s in-laws could/should be giving more than their other in-laws. In-laws may or may not be feeling/doing the same. Resentment ensues.

  110. Judy Resnick
    December 22nd, 2011 @ 8:53 pm

    I havw been in my life both a stay at home mother and a working mother. I can remember that paying for childcare ate up most of my take home salary. Don’t forget that the working mom who gets paid for 9 to 5 employment herself has to pay the babysitter for 8 to 6 (due to commuting time).

    Of course it’s great when a relative is able and willing to provide free or low cost child care. Without that, it is very hard to manage.

  111. Ora
    January 17th, 2012 @ 11:10 am

    I hope this won’t come across as too harsh, but I was disappointed by this article.

    Michoel, I just don’t see how your personal story has any connection to what you’re telling people to do. It doesn’t sound like you did much to get off support. I mean, kol hakavod for making some changes like turning down the heat, but it strikes me as odd that you openly say that your wife didn’t seek work and that you didn’t seek extra hours, but then advise others to do “whatever you can.”

    To me, “whatever you can” suggests a lot more than turning down the heat and waiting for a better-paying job to come up. “Whatever you can” means putting the kids in full-day daycare so mom and dad can both work. It means the husband working 50-hour weeks, maybe more. It means moving to a terrible neighborhood if necessary, to save rent money. Sending your kids to the cheapest schools. Taking work you absolutely hate. Etc.

    It doesn’t sound like you did those things, and more importantly, it doesn’t sound like you recommend those things. So what exactly are you recommending? It’s not like most people who are taking money from family have the option of “find a better-paying job” available but are choosing to earn less for no particular reason.

    That said I think you did a nice job explaining the good feeling of being self-supporting. I’m happy for you that you were able to achieve it.

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