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Give One More for the Yeshiva

yeshiva dinnerThey didn’t know it then, but one of the people entering the banquet hall that night wouldn’t go home alive. Had they known it though it wouldn’t have changed anything, the world must go on, the yeshiva had a lot riding on this dinner, the scholarships they awarded their needy families were funded by this dinner.

Chaim wasn’t a scholar, he wasn’t an ignoramus though by any means, but he wasn’t either a rich person, nor was he poor enough to attract the sympathy of the many communal charity organizations; Chaim was a hardworking family man, with a family to support.

After his mounting financial pressures forced him to leave the local community kollel, Chaim found himself working at as an appliance salesman for a local frum-owned business. At first his increased pay made Chaim feel like a millionaire but when the school began to decrease his scholarship award, in ever-increasing bites, he began to feel poorer than he had before. With his new income he was now responsible for co-pays at every kids doctor appointment, there was no more food stamps, there was no parsonage deduction to reduce his federal income tax and now the school was demanding more for tuition. Something was going to have to give.

When he got the call asking why he hadn’t yet RSVPd for the schools dinner his stomach constricted; he knew he was obligated to attend, it was right there in the tution contract, but he couldn’t. He couldn’t pay the utility bills, fix the broken exhaust pipe on his 14 year-old car, fill up the gas tank on his wife’s minivan and pay the $180 for the dinner. Not to worry, the administrator said, you can pay with a credit card. The credit card, thought Chaim, they have no sympathy for the credit card, the damn thing is already carrying $32,000 on its shoulders more than it can handle. But with no choice another $180 was added to the balance.

As he settled into his assigned seat Chaim surveyed the floral arrangements, table runners, crystal glasses, and ice sculptures and wondered why all this effort was necessary to extract another few hundred dollars from people who were already giving as much as they could to the school; couldn’t they simply solicit the money directly and skip the dinner?

As the dean of the school walked up to deliver his poorly-prepared speech, which was a repeat of last years poorly-prepared speech, Chaim felt his chest tighten; he couldn’t sit through another one of these speeches, he couldn’t clap afterwards and he couldn’t sit through the five self-congratulatory speeches that would follow the first. There was the honoree who was going to humbly suggest that he didn’t deserve the honor, then there would be the alumnus of the year who would humbly claim to not have achieved any of the great achievements attributed to him and then there would be the visiting rosh yeshiva who would give another speech reminding everyone how important a Torah education was for the survival of the Jewish nation.

Chaim had reached the limit of his tolerance for the pain. He stood up and walked quickly toward the exit, hoping no one of consequence would notice his leaving. He almost lost his footing as his chest tightened again, but he quickened his pace as the dean began his speech.

Standing in the parking lot, smoking a cigarette Chaim felt trapped. Is this what debtors prison was like? There was no give anywhere he looked, he had no options as his chest spasmmed again, the cigarette fell from his hand as he grabbed his chest. Leaning over against the hood of a car he wondered whether anyone would find him as he realized that it was his heart that would give.

{ 21 comments… add one }
  • south bend April 27, 2014, 10:03 AM

    Money for smokes but no money for tutiton……love it

    • Alter Cocker April 27, 2014, 10:26 AM

      You make a good point. Plenty of money to waste on cigarettes (and probably booze), but no money to fix his car, etc.

    • Victor Hill April 27, 2014, 10:38 AM

      Yeah, isn’t it great how Chaim picked up his smoking habit in Yeshiva and Kollel?

    • chanief April 28, 2014, 6:53 AM

      Glad to see you’re paying attention to the appropriate take away.

    • war_blur April 28, 2014, 9:14 AM

      missed the point of this article by merely 100%. well-done!

      • Alter Cocker April 28, 2014, 8:27 PM

        Actually, he nailed it.

  • Tired of All the Nonsense April 27, 2014, 3:58 PM

    I certainly agree with the part about the boring, poorly-constructed, identical-to-last-year speeches! Omg, I’d pay an extra $100 not to have to hear them. Just give me a good dinner, take my check, let me win a raffle prize or three and leave me alone with the fake honorees.

  • UMAUUBUA April 27, 2014, 6:17 PM

    The person most to blame for the tuition crisis is the subject of this little vignette. If the average frummy just dropped out of the system and *gasp* sent his children to public school, like many religious people did 60 years ago before the logic fell out of many corners of American Orthodoxy, the world would not end. Private education is a luxury, and it’s grossly irresponsible that the entire religious structure has made it into an expectation.

    • The Other Mike April 27, 2014, 7:14 PM

      Right on! Why were previous generations not so scared of pritzus that they could send their kids to public school? Many on them even came out speaking the English language correctly!

    • Too tired to think of a name April 27, 2014, 8:18 PM

      Is he really the most to blame?
      Are the people in North Korea to blame for keeping themselves subjugated to the system they uphold? Should they all just revolt?

      • UMAUUBUA April 27, 2014, 8:33 PM

        The people in North Korea aren’t to blame, because there’s a very real threat of bodily violence for revolt. The Jewish religious world, however, is not North Korea. One can go into plenty of shuls and find people who inside themselves know that the way these corners of Orthodoxy have gone is absurd, and yet do nothing to bring sanity back. There are sane communities out there, but these communities aren’t the models that are emulated by those who have a choice. Instead, the message of more insularity, more stringency, and more insanity is driven home over and over. When given the choice, too many people choose to embrace the insanity over the rationality.

        • Shragi April 27, 2014, 8:42 PM

          Where are there any communities where people don’t send their kids to private day schools? Heck, even the Conservative and many Reform and non-denominational Jews send to private schools.

          • A. Nuran April 28, 2014, 3:05 PM

            Are they the majority? If they are are they the majority outside a very small geographical area? And it certainly wasn’t the norm even fifty years ago. The system is a historical aberration and is economically unsustainable.

            • Shragi April 29, 2014, 7:19 AM

              They don’t have to be a majority of the world’s population in order for the social conditions they live under to have a serious stranglehold on them.

            • zorach May 13, 2014, 6:48 PM

              Of course its a historical aberration. For800 years jews were going to public school and collecting baseball cards. I hear they found the maharsha’s iphone and he had candy crush on it. These frummers just rewrite history.

      • jus saying April 28, 2014, 2:52 AM

        Yes he is partially to blame.

        Perhaps if people like Chaim weren’t in kollel to begin with (note: “Chaim wasnt a scholar,”) on the community’s dime – which forced the
        community to not only pony up for Chaim’s stipend, but put his kids
        through school, give his wife a teaching job that perhaps she wasn’t qualified for, and give Chaim an easy salary which induced him to give up on the chance to obtain otherwise family-supporting vocational training, then *perhaps* the community could better support their school and rely less on continual fundraising from the otherwise overextended parents.

        (to the fictional school’s defense, I’m sure much of the standard dinner extravagances are typically donated -albeit possibly in lieu of cash donations)

        Also- why does the school need a salaried dean? Is he different than the principal? Where else is the administration bloated (perhaps by other failed kollel yungelite)?

        • Shragi April 28, 2014, 11:01 AM

          I don’t necessarily disagree but when it’s almost as hard for someone to leave kollel as it is for them to go OTD, and just as hard to send their kids to public school as it is to go OTD, there’s some room to spread the blame.

  • Sholom Keller May 8, 2014, 11:52 AM

    The Orthodox Jews are so pseudo-egalitarian (i.e. inured to the
    existence of class warfare), their hovels and McMansions are sometimes
    located on the same city block.

  • ldude May 13, 2014, 7:54 PM

    If he took the money he spent on cigarettes and invested it in mutual funds since he was a bochur he could of still been in collel doing ok

  • Barakas August 30, 2014, 4:03 PM

    This story is not about Chaim spending his money on cigarettes, shut up all of you, Chaim could have been chewing gum, or picking his nose. Its about the outrageous cost of education. And yes, private education is a luxury and so is a bachelors degree. It’s a freakn luxury.

  • Deb October 28, 2018, 9:19 AM

    The reason I pulled my kids out of Yeshiva 3 yrs ago and put them into the local public school. Because the yeshiva didnt care how much debt we went into. Even gave up the 401k because scholarship parents dont get the luxury of saving for the future. Best decision we ever did pulling them. My kids are flying high in public school and opportunities are afforded to them on merit and not on donation size. Its not the scary place everyone thinks it is.

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