Met another well educated committed Jew, albeit unlike last time when the woman was Orthodox, this time the man is somewhere between Conservative and Reform. He’s a lawyer who makes a decent living and his wife is also a professional who makes an excellent living.

His child attends a Jewish day school. He is very proud of her Hebrew and the knowledge she has gained in that school. And yet, he is thinking of pulling her out next year as she approaches grade5.


1. The cost – $12,000 per year with another child about to enter the system, therefore $24,000 per year – is causing strain.

2. The overall quality of the secular education is not perceived by this highly educated couple to be to the standards it should be…and especially not for the price.

Are we noticing a pattern here yet, folks?

About the author



  • As to the quality of education, I can offer one anecdote. When I went to Hebrew U for the spring of my junior year, five other people from my high school went as well. We were all in similar classes, having been through 14 years of yeshiva education. When it came to Hebrew placement, most placed into levels bet and gimmel. One person placed into daled–they had to invent a vav-level, pre-p’tor (ulpan exemption) ulpan class for me, two people who had Israeli parents and the makuya I mentioned in some earlier post.

    I might be more linguistically inclined than most, but I can’t believe that anyone with a yeshiva education would place into level bet or gimmel. I saw the texts for these classes and they were ridiculously simplistic for anyone with that many years of Hebrew study. So this either speaks to the failure of the yeshiva system to teach Hebrew to any population that’s not already linguistically inclined to absorb it, or the utter lack of motivation of those students to enhance their knowledge of Hebrew.

  • Esther, they are pleased with the Hebrew. They noted proudly that their 9 year old has a pen pal in Israel and her last letter was written in Hebrew.

    It’s the secular education they think needs improvement. As I’ve said before, at $12,000 they’re competing with private schools, or they can move into a school district with a very strong public school. Also, as well-educated parents, they have a good sense of what they want for their children in terms of pushing them academically and the school isn’t providing the quality they seek. At $12,000/year they feel that something is wrong with this and needs changing.

    This is a committed family that has already spent about $40,000 (after taxes) on their child’s Jewish education, and is seriously considering pulling the child out. When we start losing the middle class and upper middle class, there will be nobody left to attend the school.

  • As a product of the Los Angeles Jewish day school system, I did the math just yesterday and discovered that my brain is worth $333,000 (includes college).
    that’s INSANE. my parents spent 45,000 each year to put us thru yeshiva-there’s no way in HELL i’m doin that.

    Public magnet schools have more money–>more opportnities, extra curriculars & more non-jews–>less sheltered environment & my kids wouldn’t get suspended for hugging a girl. it happened to me and it sucks.

  • Your parents sent you to the wrong school. 😉

    Ps, I consider the sheltered environment a serious plus, not a minus.

  • luckily i made it through freshmen and sophomore year of uni pretty easily. some others weren’t as fortunate, the social awkwardness preventing them from forming relationships with people in the general population, ie non-Jews, girls, neighbors, roommates.

    plus, they are sheltered, but from what? Crime? Sexism? Drugs? My school, like others, had a HUGE drug problem (still does) with 14,15 year olds slanging coke by the lockers. people hook up all the time, but yes, i haven’t heard of any jewish teen pregnancies. Underneath that transparent image of an Orthodox Day School there’s drugs, sex, fighting. True, not all kids are bad, but with money and peer pressure, from a deviant standpoint, it’s getting hard to tell public and private schools apart.

  • I guess if, and this is a big IF, the kid will spend the year in Israel after HS, they will probably remain in the fold, participate in Hillel on campus, date/marry only a Jew. Altho your friend may balk at the cost there also.
    All I can say, tell him, I am sending more than 2 kids to Yeshivas, on about 50K a year income at this time, plus about 5K of cash income).
    We do not take a family vacation that involves travel by plain and long stays in hotels, but we do usually manage one or 2 nights a year in a resort area. This could be one sacrifice. Other than this we are vegetarians, and have one old car, one 2000. other than not paying full tuition, (we are billed about 20K total, of which 10K is covered by a fund I set up for college for the kids during the ‘good years’), so let’s say 10K, so lets say 20% of the annual gross.

    What % is he at? See his problem is he can’t get scholarship. If I didn’t get scholarship I really would be unable. I would have to take a home equity loan. I wouldn’t.
    It may be better to promote the one year in Israel programs which they do have for public school kids.

    Perhaps some of the Jewlicious officals here can provide details of these programs.

  • I am glad to see that others are struggling with this choice. I want so much to send my child to kindergarten at our Jewish day school but 7500.00 a year is just more than we can handle. It really saddend me when I heard from some Christian friends that the going rate for their elementary education was under half of the Jewish day school. Our child went to Jewish pre-school at our temple and none of the families we spoke with feel that they can afford it either. We do not live poshly by any means, but almost 10 grand! No wonder our children’s Jewish indentities suffer. Compared to the educational
    oppertunities afforded to Christians our day school system is sad.

  • Brandy, the Christian schools simply have a much larger population from which to draw both students and support. Same with churches. A synagogue in my town is large if it has 500 families, whereas most churches around here count two thousand or more families.

    Jobber, you hit the nail on the head. It’s those who make an income that places them in the middle and upper middle class who qualify for small or no scholarships who are feeling seriously pinched by the costs. Having said that, the hit even those who do get scholarships have to take is substantial for their means.

  • I’ve posted on the similar previous topics, but just wanted to agree with encino yeled. A jewish education, at its high cost, does not necessarily mean that the student will be imbued with “jewish values”. In my experience, the products of private jewish day schools who have not experienced any other type of education system (public, etc) often exit their 14 years of jewish tuition with narrow-mindedness, scorn for anyone who didn’t have their “level” of education, and an unwillingness to continue with any type of jewish study or practice.
    I think that rather than spend the exhorbitant amounts required by private jewish day schools for 14 years’ tuition, send your child to the jewish school until middle school/ high school, switch them to public school and supplement their education with encouraged involvement in a Jewish youth movement like Bnei Akiva, Habonim, Betar etc. All the people I know who have stayed true to judaism, regardless of whether they were privately or publicly educated, derive their “continuity” from jewish communal involvement and reinforcing jewish practices in their home.

  • $12k a year? Holy Moses – that family could almost hire a full-time private tutor for the $24K yearly cost of that day school!

  • Me, I do agree, however, that the education is only one component and if the home life doesn’t reflect Jewish values and traditions, the education becomes forgotten easily. I agree with Jobber that a long trip or a one year stay in Israel is a great complement to a Jewish education. All of the Israeli universities offer some form of one year program, by the way.

  • What I hear of In house learning is impressive. I am not sure how that works. The kids stay at home and get some kind of tutoring. Does the tutor just show up to test? I don’t as much of the cost dimension as most of the people chiming here. Those numbers are numbing but it seems many here know what they are talking about. The idea of having the kids at home at what ever level of observance the parents control is appealing. I know some people who are doing that and it seems to work.

  • TM: I’m not saying that products of those types of school systems have problems with their social skills – the opposite is usually the case. As for narrow-mindedness though – I meant that they finished the school with a very slanted, insular and sheltered perspective of the world.
    It’s not only true of Jewish private schools – there was a study done here recently that showed that private school graduates took on average 6 months to a year longer to integrate into University than public school graduates.

    I had a similar experience transfering from private school to public. For the first six months, I was walking around in a daze – I had gone from a private jewish school with 100 girls and about ten teachers, all of whom I had known since the age of 5, to a public school with over 1000 girls – almost 200 in my year alone – from a huge variety of religious and socio-economic backgrounds. The variety made my eyes boggle. I loved every minute of it!

  • I agree that smaller student populations create difficulties for us. And the midddle’s repeated point about heavy institutional funding also runs up against that barrier: the major Jewish philanthropies are also facing declining donations and a shrinking donor base. (and I just don’t think the will is there at the major organizations – for a long time their liberal politics led them to oppose vouchers and other school choice programs that the Orthodox desperately worked for – because the O knew it would spell financial relief for day schools.)

    That is why I think the new alternatives to a brick-and-mortar school hold such great promise for Jewish education. Satellite schools employing distance learning and audio/visual/computer-based curriculum tools are cheaper to run, and can be scaled down to small, dispersed communities – and not being dependent on local teaching talent can help improve the uneven quality of instruction.

    Does anyone see large numbers of two-career Jewish families adopting the homeschool model? That is a sticking point. I think there will still be a core of parents/teachers who will have to run things full time.

    But these types of materials and online forums could easily pump up the content and appeal of many an after-school/Sunday school program.

  • The funding is there, it’s just that half our funds go to Israel. Also, there are donors who have never been asked because they are not going to give $50 million to one school. There needs to be an over-arching organization to funnel the funds to schools.

    Vouchers might help, but that’s a different ball of wax.

    You are correct that home-schooling is not an option for most, especially two-income families. The idea of distance learning is interesting, but does not enable the child to have a community of peers. That has to be a critical part of any program you offer children.

  • I don’t consider it that much of a sacrifice, but that is bec. I am very happy w/ the education they are getting, the school is very pro-active about education and social problems, the schools are high standard. There are no drugs. Now I am not saying that if someone is so inclined they could not be stoned at school, but a culture of partying and carrying on is not allowed, they will expel, this is the NY area, they take 0 crap for the most part.
    Those parents who send to Jewish schools and have a drug and anti-social culture there are fools. If you can get them to a more serious place do so. If not get in the principal’s face, I have done this on a different issue.
    It’s your hard earned money. And more importantly it is for your children and their friends.

  • Yeshiva is alot of money, which I could cheerfully spend on something else. That said, I just finished some training for a volunteer position; in the class I took were a number of high school students from local public schools (pretty good ones, too). There is no (freakin’) way I would want my son to grow up like that. While they were reasonably nice people, they have no modesty, their ethics were frequently questionable, and they were absorbed with trivia. Yes, a religious education costs alot– but I’m persuaded that it’s worth it.

  • Tuition for our two children, with a sibling discount, would cost $22,000 or 2,200 a month for ten months. Last year, before taxes, we brough in around $60,000. It seeemed obvious to me that we should qualify for financial aid, but we were declined.
    The reason? Two years ago we worked our tushies off building our own house and gained some sweat equity.On the application for aid we had to list what we owed on our mortgage related to the current market value of our home. Oops, looks like we have a hidden $75,000 which disqualifies us for financial aid.
    Of course equity is a hard thing to cash in, leaving us with few options.
    We could sell the house and pay more than tuition in realtors fees and closing costs, buy something not as desirable for more money, and then have maybe have two years tuition in the bank. Ignore the hurt in having to sell the house we worked so hard to build.
    Apply for a home equity loan. Of course, in order to do this you must be able to qualify for and be able to make the higher mortgage payments for the next 15-30 years. We cannot.
    Now I understand the financial aid policy of having parents fund their child’s education to the best of their ability, but this seems nuts.
    Sure, I want my children benefit from the education I would like to provide, but I believe that having some economic stability is also an important value.
    I believe in sacrifice, but it would be financial suicide for us to send the children to jewish day schools.

  • I’m a Jewish homeschooling Mom who’s successfully and religiously educated my now-18 yr. old. For us, the decision was a no-brainer. The local public schools were far too Christian/California Cultural Eclectic for us and the local day schools, while providing an excellent curriculum in Judaica, were sadly lacking in science/math/technology. We live in Silicon Valley. This is obviously important to us as well. Local private schools were equally expensive, but offered nothing that my kid couldn’t get at home. So we decided to take matters into our own hands and “do it ourselves.” I have no regrets. The “product” is truly outstanding. We used Community College classes to supplement home learning. And other things like music, opera, storytelling were an important part of our curriculum. Jewish studies were incorporated so naturally since they’re an integral part of our lives. Homeschooling is definitely the way to go!!!!!
    Be well,
    Helene Rock Los Altos, Calfornia

  • I found that it required quite a bit of lobbying to get the tuition down to a more reasonable level. Talk to your Rabbi, or someone else. Often, it is easier for someone else to lobby for you. Definetly make them aware of your process.

    It is really amazing how the Jewish coomunity spends so much on “kiruv” when they could keep people who already want to be “in” but can’t afford to.

  • Comma, definitely talk to somebody before accepting rejection of scholarship funds. You should qualify based on your income. Speak to the principal or a school board member and ask them to have your application re-evaluated on the basis of what you have described.

    Helene, not all of us are able to homeschool in, say, science.

  • themiddle,
    Thanks for the response and suggestion. We did ask about a re-evaluation/appeal and were told that the school relies on an outside company to evaluate all applications and that for the sake of fairness,recommendations are always honored.

    The problem is that the school, board of trustees, parent council, etc. have decided that they wish to remove themselves from the financial aid application process. Getting into money matters within the community was deemed too uncomfortable for both the families and the school.
    You fill out the form, send it off, and wait for the verdict. Then its up to you to figure out how to make it work, or in our case,figure out alternatives.

  • Always happy to have TM bring up this subject…we recently decided to send our son to kindergarten at the public school within walking distance from our house next year rather than spend $8000 (for kindergarten!!) and drive the daily 40 mile round trip to the nearest Jewish day school. Sounds like a no-brainer, but it was a hard decision as our boy took to Jewish education at the preschool for two years like he’s a reincarnated rabbi. But we don’t have the money, he has a little sister who needs to share the resources and I’m just plain opposed to driving that much.
    I agree with those who say a Jewish education is irrelevant if not reinforced at home, so now I’m faced with the task of keepin’ the faith, so to speak, if I want my children to know about their religion and culture. The Renewal congregation we belong to here in NoCal is a bit hippie for my tastes, but its Sunday school will have to be enough for now. As my husband and I agreed, there are other things to learn besides Jewishy things, like math and science (both emphasized at the public school.) Perhaps when he is closer to bar mitzvah age we will choose to return him to an immersed Jewish learning environment, but for now, the Jewish day school system offers too little and costs WAY TOO MUCH, not just financially, but in terms of family time and local (non-Jewish) community involvement.
    Still, I’m truly going to miss the Yiddish-speaking teachers and not having listen to farkokte Christmas carols in December.

  • Jessica:

    Find a teacher of Hebrew and/or Judaism. Place an ad in your local paper to locate 5-10 other children. Find a room in a nearby school that you can rent for 4 hours a week. Pay this teacher $1000-$1500 per child for 4 hours a week for 9 months of the year (this will exclude Jewish holidays and the summer). And of course, try to be more observant in the home.

  • Thanks, TM. What I’m actually working on is helping the lame little Hebrew school we’ve got goin’ find some real teachers with real knowledge. We already have the kids and the space, but the teachers have been parents with limited knowledge thus far. So in the coming year, I hope to help the community find someone more qualified…and in the meantime, we add a little more observance day by day. Would you believe I was invited to someone else’s home for Shabbat for only the second time in my adult life last week?

  • This is a struggle for most day schools. Our day school in San Francisco decided to raise its academic rigor and compete primarily with other independent schools. Consequently it’s become even more appealing to more Jewish parents who want a Jewish education for their kids, but want them to have a good secular education as well. Still, the price tag is prohibitive for many Jewish families, particularly those with more 3 kids or more. We’ve tried to address that by increased fundraising in the community so the school can provide flexible tuition. My children and our whole family has benefitted so much from this school. It’s absolutely worth the price. What could be more important?

  • I think everyone agrees that education is worth the price and that it is of extreme importance. The fact is that many parents are not choosing other priorities over educating their children, they simply cannot afford tuition and provide for the basics at the same time.

  • The education is expensive and that is one problem. Another is that the secular education at some schools isn’t that great, and when one considers the cost, it becomes a problem.

  • I teach in a public HS and spend a considerable amount to educate 3 kids in yeshiva. Outside of NYC why don’t you consider Chabad.Surely they have schools in CA.

    You’re the consumer -look at what you’re paying for. Work with the school if there are areas that need improvement.It all too easy to complain. Stop whining and do something about the “poor english education”.

    like everything else in life – you make choices and adjust your priorities accordingly. So I won’t go away this year and won’t have a new car. That’s my choice. My question for the couple that you spoke about in the beginning is this – what is important to YOU, your answer will determine where your kids go to school.

    Encino- I feel sorry for you. Not all schools are as bad as yours. please don’t judge all schools by yours. Public HS isn’t the wonder you seem to believe it is. Despite your “terrible” school you made it into college. Something to think about.

  • Middle to Jessica:
    Find a teacher of Hebrew and/or Judaism. Place an ad in your local paper to locate 5-10 other children. Find a room in a nearby school that you can rent for 4 hours a week. Pay this teacher $1000-$1500 per child for 4 hours a week for 9 months of the year.

    Jessica to Middle:
    Thanks, TM. What I’m actually working on is helping the lame little Hebrew school we’ve got goin’ find some real teachers with real knowledge. We already have the kids and the space, but the teachers have been parents with limited knowledge thus far. So in the coming year, I hope to help the community find someone more qualified.
    – – – – – – – – – – – –
    … and here is just one example of where distance learning, online forums, and computer-based programming could all come in handy. It could be used to raise the level of the existing Sunday school, or be used to create an informal “homeschool” after-school Judaism program.

    Using online chat would also allow Jewish kids in small communities to feel less isolated.

  • Ebashan, nobody is buying new cars, and the vacations are stripped bare to a point where they cost virtually nothing. In fact, the ability to visit Israel is hampered. The issue is deeper in that you end up with significant and difficult choices such as funding retirement, college, or even the quality of your housing.

    We’ve had this discussion before:

    and here (sadly, we lost over 60 posts from this one):

    Also, why do you think people are “whining” and not doing anything? What would you do, ask to have teachers fired and lose their livelihood? Force a principal, meaning an education professional, to take lessons from the amateur parent on running a school? You talk, you suggest, you lobby, and you hope some small part seeps through.

  • Dear themiddle,

    I greatly appreciate youre wisdom on this
    issue. Youre advise is right on about what you
    said in #25 to Jessica, the lady in North
    Carolina . I am with you at least 110% .

    I bet that you can combine what you are
    saying as what did Helen from Palo Alto in #20
    said. I have my experience for which I can say
    that. My Mother used to make a Jewish
    Sunday school in our house with some of the
    local kids in the neighborhood. I loved it, my
    friends who went to the little class loved it and
    I remember much of what I was taught. But
    then My Mom is teacher trained in a Jewish
    teachers College whose Rabbi is reknown
    from one of Biggest, if not biggest Reform
    temples in town, Stephen S Wise. Now I
    contrast the times I had with the little class my
    Mom taught in with the local Conservative
    Hebrew school I went to later when my Mom
    didn’t have the time anymore to teach us.
    Later I went to Stephen Wise itself and didn’t
    fare any better. I have certainly had my issues
    with all these labeled type of institutions. Thats one part of the story. My secular education
    was “handled” by public school.

    I had experience that is worthy of note here
    as relative to what Helene said in #20. In High
    School I failed Algebra 1 five times I kid you
    not in the big public High School. I wanted to
    keep taking it even against the advise of
    counselors, who knew I would fail and I did. By
    the time I finished my Senior year in HS I was
    a few classes short of my diploma. My grades
    were just barely passing but passing. The
    number of classes came up short. I went to a
    big local Junior College and took both
    semesters of Algebra 1in one remedial class. I
    aced it. Then I took Algebra 2 in the next
    semester, aced it. Then Trigonometry, aced
    it…Then Precalculus… then 2 semesters of
    Calculus. That worked for me. I simply placed
    my first semester College classes towards my
    High School diploma to graduate in my Class
    properly. So what, no prom, no graduation
    ceremony. I didn’t care about that myself

  • I didn’t mean to gripe-I think Jewish day school is a great idea, but in practice is very difficult to pull off for someone who’s making less than 100k combined. The costs (literally) outweigh the benefit. I don’t want to put my 4 future kids in a mediocre institution when I can spend the money on karate and violin or guitar lessons, jewish youth groups and camps, and a private tutor. Plus, there’ll always be ME there, able to teach them a perek here and there, too.

    Off to europe! Later Playerz.. Encino

  • psst! here’s a hint! Move to Israel- where Jewish education is free. You may earn less here for doing the same job, but with what you save in Jewish ed, not to mention college (it costs about $2-3,000/year) you may find you still come out ahead financially, if that’s the priority.

  • Laya,

    From what I know you are right. Israeli values have just about no connection to what I see here, especially with regard to education. But I don’t know enough to really say exactly how. I do know I went to the system of Yeshiva in New Jersey for middle low kind of money for 2 years and then continued in Israel for 2 more years of State of Israel subsidized tuition that didn’t charge. Although, I heard that same Yeshiva in Israel no longer gets State of Israel money anymore. How or why I am not current with. But I have reason to say that our sense of money and where it goes here is not like Israel, simply put.

  • I’m goin, I’m goin! that’s it I’m going! No seriously…in a year, work at j post, get me a journalism job a wife and make some jewish babies. all by age 23.

  • Laya: with what you save in tuition, you may just come out ahead…
    – – – – – – – – – – – –
    NOT! NOT! NOT!
    (rolls his eyes at typical starry-eyed single’s view of aliyah…)

    I know of NOBODY – including some very wealthy people – who has made money by moving here.

    Israel has a punitive tax structure and a perpetually squeezed housing market due to the ongoing ingathering (Buy Now Before the Temple Is Rebuilt and Prices Climb Even Higher!).

    Salaries in Israel’s hi-tech industry are pegged just above India. Salaries for all other professions – ESPECIALLY medicine, which is largely socialized here – are a fraction of what they are in America.

    The market for detached and semi-attached housing is fairly recent here, and prices are high. (of course, there are outlying settlements… if you can find a job in the boonies.)

    The only people I know who have 2 cars here are couples with 2 hi-tech/professional incomes (due to the punitive tax structure, it becomes advantageous at some point to take a company car instead of a salary raise).

    Yes, you will spend a lot less on Jewish education – but in many areas the good schooling uses a combination of government subsidies and out of (parents!) pocket funding. So it’s not exactly free. And it’s the same as in America – you have to move into a “good” neighborhood to get good schools. The only exception to this is the settlements in West Bank/Gaza, where an educated, idealistic population has given a lot of attention to the schools and the housing is somewhat cheaper.

    Bottom line: for many immigrants, what one hand gives, the other takes away. There are a lot of other financial factors in the move to Israel. It’s by no means a panacea.

  • middle: I think the solution will come from the grass roots. I just don’t think there is enough of a will from the major Jewish philanthropies – to say nothing of the logistical headaches.

    The costs of multimedia development have plummeted. Here in Israel there are already some small, scrappy production houses that have made a profit by targeting the relatively small haredi market with video CDs and interactive “edu-tainment” applications. I’m sure they have their counterparts in Brooklyn and elsewhere. Look how Jewish music is exploding. The NY Times this week ran an article about the great progress in videoconferencing applications.

    A small group of people can act as a clearinghouse for this activity by:
    – building a forum of schools, shuls, youthgroups, and homeschoolers.
    – defining a core curriculum with their participation
    – giving developers a roadmap (the curriculum) and a somewhat committed audience/trial market among member schools/shuls.

  • Ben David, I was clearly being overly simplistic. To move to Israel for purely logical reasons would be crazy. But then, so is the very idea of a Jewish state existing on swamp land surrounded by hostile arab nations.

    Nonetheless, the savings on education is incredible, Sure, you can make twice as much a year in America, but if you’ve got 3 kids to send thru Jewish education, college and grad school, that extra money doesn’t do you much good. You live with less here, but you may also find you need much less to be happy than the folks on Madison Ave. would have you believe.

    Rent is cheaper here and I don’t mind paying higher taxes for things like socialized medicine, cause I know it means our poor and elderly are getting taken care of as well as the wealthy.

    We also have a great public transit system here so cars are nice, but less necessary, and personally i don’t mind fewer cars on the roads and less pollution.

    That having been said, quality of Jewish life on a level that has nothing to do with money is why Americans seem to leave the land of plenty behind.

  • It is frustrating to continually hear that it is just a matter of setting priorities. This is not a matter of skipping vacations, buying clothes on sale, or driving older cars. Parents have already downsized and scraped together their limited resources as much as possible. Tuition can cost a couple THOUSAND a month, leaving parents unable to afford the basics such as helath insurance and groceries. Why is it so hard to see that for some parents no amount of sacrifice will magically recoup 24,000 grand a year to cover tuition? The issue isnt about vaulues, its about math.

  • That “quality of jewish life” Laya said there is a universe full… Ben David, the specifics you list and describe are impressive and accurate to
    me. Also, the information about the cyber
    developements and changes is very exciting
    and informative. All that was said in way that
    was a little dry… I find comparing life in Israel to the rest of the World hard to do so simply in the rest of the worlds terms. I am just
    speaking for myself; not in an authoratative
    way, like I know what I talking about, but more
    in the way I feel.

  • Post number 20 is very interesting. About a Jewish home-schooled child, now 18, job well done. Maybe the poster can report some good resources, methods.

  • Even parents with the child in a school can use home-school methods in the home with excellent results. As a supplement. Very good to learn this stuff!

  • I hear ya Miriam. In my life, my gold standard has always been my parents. My parents came to Canada with very little, barely able to speak the language. My Dad had a certificate as a class C electrician and my Mom was a trained manicurist. We weren’t very religious but my parents decided that their children could only go to religious hebrew day school. I attended a yeshivah type place for kindergarten and my parents decided that wasn’t really our thing and moved me to a Modern Orthodox Zionist school. That’s where I and my 3 sisters received all our primary and secondary education.

    I can tell you this – our education was my parents top priority. While I was in school my dad literally wore a blue collar to work as a building maintenance dude for a Montreal Office tower. My Mom worked as a manicurist. In addition to these jobs, my parents worked as the building janitors in the apartment we lived in. My Dad also drove a cab. In the 11 years I was in Hebrew Academy, I do not recall my parents ever going on a vacation other than the occasional Sunday drive for a pic nic by the lake. We also drove to Florida once and flew to Israel to see family once. My parents never, and I mean NEVER went out to dinner or ordered food out. They scrimped and saved and worked their asses off because they had priorities and did what they had to do to realize them. We always had shabbat dinner, always had kosher food, always had home cooked meals and despite the fact that we were effectively poor, we never felt deprived.

    So I figure if these two immigrant bumpkins, with no college education, who came to Canada with no family or friends to greet them, could do it – send their kids to school, give them a warm Jewish home etc., well how hard can it be really?

    OK. I am being disengenuous. I know how hard it is. I saw how hard it was. But is it really impossible? Don’t we all have priorities and order our lives along those priorities?

    I know this is a delicate matter and I don’t want to insult anyone – but I recall having a conversation with this dude who was trying to tell me Jewish education was too expensive. He was driving a new car and lived in a relatively large house in a nice suburb. Clearly, Jewish education was NOT too expensive. It just wasn’t a priority. I told him to think about that next time he went to Starbucks. Heh.

  • Ck, you have to believe in the education the child is getting to commit in that fashion. If the education is not competitive, you are confronted with a different set of decisions that revolve around much more than cost.

    The stories about new cars and homes are plentiful. I know people who have beautiful new cars and have made the inside of their home beautiful, while keeping their child out of Hebrew day school because of cost. That is not who we are discussing here. We are discussing those people with the right set of priorities but who cannot make the numbers work out.

  • ck, Great post ck. but times are different now. People today have a more of an entitlement feel to them. I am living as your parents did more or less btw. THere’s tradeoffs but I am happy w/ the way my kids are turning out.
    People today have more of a mogul mentality. They have to have a second home by the time they are a certain age.

  • entitlement, please.We are not eating out, living in luxury, or saving for a second home.
    we drive a 1989 volvo, have a mortgage on a very modest house, buy clothes at thrift shops, and still struggle to make the payments on those little extras like health and life insurance.
    not lattes.
    How much sacrifice is enough? Should we sell our house and get a cheap rental in a sketchy neighborhood? Should I put the kids in childcare so I can take an extra job that pays only a little more than the childcare costs? Cut back on insurance coverage and hope we stay healthy? Eat fewer meals? Tell the kids that for college they are on their own and that they better study hard and earn good livings because they will nheed to take care of us in our old age because we havent been able to save a penny for retirement?
    I’m not looking to become a mogul, I’m just trying to stay afloat.

  • miriam. Don’t get defensive! I wasn’t directing any criticism at you – I don’t know you, I have no grounds to criticize you. Please forgive me if I wasn’t clear on any of that.

  • ck,

    I am sure you realize us unmarrieds and really unattached don’t know what it is to support a family and sacrifice for them. I guess you can have an exception when some would have to help the family in a serious way, Chas Vesholom. I have every reason to believe these folk here really know what they are talking about and I am all ears. Like, themiddle here, in this issue, I do not consider myself in a position to really challenge him. I would look up to him as my senior in this respect. What themiddle has said here is very noteworthy. With other issues here he shleps out his oppinion for sporting debate, as far as I am concerned.

  • ck,
    I take no offense and am sorry if I sound defensive. Sometimes you can have the best intentions, desires, and willingness to work for a solution and still come up short. I feel frustration and sadness that providing my children with a private school education would mean depriving them, now and in the future, with some sense of economic stability.

  • I dont want this to be an argument between those that have seen their families struggle who believe that if you want it bad enough you can achieve it and those who feel the cost is just unfair.
    Unfair, I guess thats what I feel it is. Why should people be forced into poverty to educate their children? Not cut back, but really choose poverty and an uncertain future and possibly bankruptcy after funding 12 years of schooling.
    I see my parents, who havent sacrificed for our schooling, struggle and the feelings of obligations and duty arise, and I cant imagine if they did, say spend $300,000 grand, what guilt I might feel. When you have a young family of your own and see your parents in serious financial trouble you become extremely concerned that you dont inflict that upon yur own children. If I put myself in a bad financial position, and ever become a burden to my children, its like I am taking from my grandchildren.
    No one should have to live in poverty to educate their children.

  • Miriam, you are absolutely right. And the issue is not even related only just to poverty, it affects the middle class as well.

  • M, there is no need to be so defensive, I am in the same boat as you are. my part time job possibilties are limited to light moving, shlepping, driving, gardening, etc… WHich I do on the weekends and nights whenever I can.

    Everything you said is valid. I am also not saving much for retirement. I can’t worry about it now. I feel that, my children are happy being in this Yeshiva day school environment and I will provide for this, at the expense of expanded cable TV, entertainment, new clothes, and yes, real estate investments. I don’t want to take a chance throwing them into Public school now, which BTW, where I live is rampant w/ anti-semitism, as well.

    It is understandable where someone says they can’t handle it anymore. That is the point of this thread and the previous one. WHere are the great Jewish minds and philantropers when it comes to cases like ours? That is what this thread is hoping to stimulate, and this Jewlicious is providing concern and support for exploring answers, as they recognize this as a serious problem to the issue of a strong Jewish community, wherever it may be.

  • Sorry to jump in so late:

    Hooray for High Tuitions!
    by: Shmuel Sackett
    Sivan 5765 (June, 05)

    Recently, the Yeshivot and religious schools in America mailed out their tuition charges for the coming school year. Within minutes of receiving this mail, parents across the country gave out a loud and heartfelt scream. “My 3 kids will cost me $40,000 next year!” “I have 2 kids in school with the oldest in 4th grade… how dare they charge me $23,000!”

    Sounds familiar? Chances are that many people reading this article made similar complaints and a national shoulder was needed to cry upon. If this problem truly bothers you and you are serious about a solution, read on, for I have good news for you.

    No, I am not suggesting we send our children to public school. Heaven forbid! Rather, I have a far better solution. One that is rational, reasonable and highly advantageous. It is a solution my wife and I did back in 1990 when we lived in Woodmere, NY (one of the “Five Towns”) and had just 3 school aged children… and every one of them thanked us for it. We moved to Israel!

    cont’d here

  • josh, the giveaway line comes later in the article:
    Before you know it, you will have switched your maid for a metapelet (“housekeeper”)
    – – – – – – – – – – –
    … this guy came from Woodmere. This is a very wealthy area.
    The old joke goes: if you want to acheive a small fortune in Israel – come with a large fortune…

    Aliyah is not a panacea. It is most definitely not justifiable for most American Jews on financial grounds – not without careful planning and a willingness to adapt.

    For non-Orthodox American Jews used to thinking of themselves as “the norm” Israel offers relatively few communities like those they left, and a population that is simultaneously more knowledgeable and largely uncomprehending of their streams of Judaism – which can be a learning experience for some, infuriating for others (folks like the middle who have low tolerance for confident Orthodox Jews would probably blow some major arteries here in Israel).

    In fact, it would probably be far less of an upheaval for most American Jews to stay put and start homeschooling.

    I LOVE living in Israel and can’t imagine living anywhere else. But:
    – I came relatively early, before I had settled into suburban American material expectations.
    – Both my wife and I were ideologically willing to consciously forego the lifestyle we were raised in to pursue other values.
    – My job skills slotted easily into the hi-tech market.
    – I am Orthodox, and have been fulfilled rather than challenged by the move here.

    Aliyah must be a carefully considered move as well as an inspired choice.

  • When I made aliyah, I was not religious. Already back in 1991, in a family not even saying kiddush on Shabbat, I saw that the future for Jews was drying up in North America. Becoming religious was not instant turn around by some sweet talking ‘weirdo’, it was just something that just seemed to become natural living in Israel, so that when I finally got drafted within the first year, my kipa was on full-time.

    Aliyah is definitely not easy. You have to be VERY flexible to accept the culture shock and roll with it. At first, I tried to stay ‘American’, but I gradually realized that it was a waste of time. Sure I still say please and thank you and also let people merge into my lane (if they indicate!), but I learnt early to become Israeli, and if no one is letting you merge, even while indicating, then you force yourself into the lane. Another thing, until yesterday, I didn’t even know that the NBA finals were on.

    Education is only one problem for the galut Jew, homeschooling solves only one problem of tuition. Assimilation is another issue, but the thread is about education, and I’m in the middle of ‘sponga’, so I’ll leave it at that.

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