Volume 14 Number 32
                       Produced: Tue Jul 19 21:42:40 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

         [Joe Abeles]
Yeshivos, Skeptics, and Detractors
         [Yitzchok Adlerstein]


From: Joe Abeles <joe_abeles@...>
Date: Mon, 18 Jul 1994 15:38:10 -0400
Subject: Professionals

>Face it.  As Arnie pointed out, yeshivas have relied on the really rich
>in the past.  I believe they will need to continue to do so.  Being
>professional almost guarantees that you'll never really be wealthy.

This is an interesting assertion with which I would like to take issue.
But first, who is a professional?  Strictly speaking, such a person is a
graduate of one of the following types of schools who earns a living by
applying skills taught expressly at those schools, and for which a
license by the state is required: Accounting, Architecture, Dental,
Chiropractic, Education, Engineering, Law, Medical, Optometry,
Osteopathy, Pharmacy (did I leave any out?).  It is interesting to note
that very few engineers work as professional engineers.  Interestingly,
university professors are not professionals, whereas high school
teachers are.  Achieving professional status is not necessarily the top
of the rung nor the pay scale (in agreement with the above assertion)
but neither is it necessarily the highest goal upon which a person
pursuing higher education sets his sights!

Of course, when describing a potential shidduch, or one's grandchild, it
is nice to use the term "professional."  I suspect this use arose from
the use of the word professional as an adjective (as in "she did a
professional job") and later spilled over to a colloquial usage which is
now widely accepted in our society.

So I would reinterpret the statement "Being professional almost
guarantees..."  as if it had read: "Successfully completing a course of
higher education almost guarantees that you'll never really be wealthy."

But is that so?  I suppose the idea is that those people who make really
sizable amounts of money are business people who lack a secular
education, and that there is no need for an advanced secular education
to create a successful business (indeed an empirically verifiable fact).

Before addressing the main point, it is worthwhile to point out that
lacking a college education and hoping to make it big in business
represents a risky lifestyle.  Aside from the fact that many such
entrepreneurs are tied with long hours to small businesses from which
there is little respite nor vacation and frequent fear of business
failure (to which small businesses are far more susceptible than large
businesses), it is necessary to point out that very few are successful
beyond the level of a well-paid salaried career employee.  For most
stable corporate careers (computer programming being the closest thing
to a notable exception), a college education (at minimum) is required:
And, during the 1980's the difference between incomes of
college-educated and non-college-educated individuals in the U.S.
increased dramatically.

To underline the dangers further, some of those who seem to the casual
observer to have done well in business are at the zenith of success and
are in store for a rough awakening when later the ups and downs of the
business cycle take them by surprise.  And when business fails, the
experience of the businessman is less transferable to another position
than that of a college-educated worker.

On to the main point: To illustrate the powerful economic success of the
college-educated, I would point to the great private colleges and
universities of this country, places like M.I.T., Harvard, and Princeton
news of whose finances I have followed during my sojourns in
Massachusetts and New Jersey.  These schools have amassed huge
endowments (i.e., savings accounts) of billions of dollars (far in
excess of any Jewish institution, of course) almost exclusively from the
contributions of their alumni.  Alumni are, of course, the
college-educated people whom the original assertion seemed to claim lack
financial success.

Princeton, probably the best example, funds 80% of its
non-tuition-financed operations from income on its endowment (the rest
through research contracts obtained by faculty).  No federal funding
goes to create those endowments, and one can be reasonably sure that
none of it has been obtained illegally (sadly, as compared with the
money-laundering scandal which was widely reported from one rather
well-known Manhattan yeshivah in the 80's).

And, all these alumni are "professionals" or at least have "successfully
completed a course of higher education."  How can we explain this?
First of all, many businessmen are college-educated.  Second, many of
the most lucrative careers seem to require at least some familiarity
with analytical and communication skills, as well as a familiarity with
western culture, which are imparted during the process of higher

In fact, many of the graduates of these schools have developed highly
lucrative careers and businesses based on those careers.  As for career
positions, perhaps people are not aware that partners in top law firms
are compensated to the extent of $1,000,000 per year, salaries in many
corporate positions are in the neighborhood of many 100,000's of dollars
per year, and that many medical doctors receive income in the same
range.  There are also many alumni of these schools who, after working
in corporate life for a period of time, have started their own
enterprises, and for them the sky is the limit.

Perhaps the thought of the typical member of the orthodox community is
that these numbers don't seem as big as the wealth of Donald Trump or
the Gruss family or George Soros or perhaps they are thinking of one of
the others.  Well, these examples are few and far between, and the
yeshivah world does not, I would warrant, benefit from too many of them
(whether college-educated or not).  I suspect that some of these guys
are college-educated.

I hope I have convinced everyone that being college-educated and
pursuing a career (whether as an employee or as an owner or part-owner
of a business) does not mean an individual will not "ever be really


From: Yitzchok Adlerstein <ny000594@...>
Date: Fri, 15 Jul 94 00:44:32 -0800
Subject: Yeshivos, Skeptics, and Detractors

Unlike the "real" world, problems on m-j tend to disappear if you forget
about them for a few days.  By that time, other readers have already
responded to what initially made your blood boil.  I thank the many
contributors who have by now made my task much easier by their excellent
critique of Arnie Lustiger's last volley , and through their personal
correspondance with me.  I think we should also thank Arnie for his
coolness and levelheadedness - even those of us who reject his thesis

Since his last comments were directed at me, I would like to make some
response, lest my silence be construed as acquiescence.  I have two
chief charges to level against Arnie, and a collection of ancillary
points.  My main contentions are first, that Arnie has isolated the
wrong problem regarding the etiology of frum fraud, and secondly, that
in the process he has missed the real root causes IMHO.

Many readers have already thoroughly demostrated that more professionals
will hardly produce more Zevuluns.  In my community, all the kollel
people I know are employed, although hardly raking it in; by contrast,
we have a weekly collection for the hard-core unemployed professionals.
(What do you call an engineer in Southern California?  "Hey, taxi!!")
With day school tuitions at 5-8K per child, how many professionals do
you expect in the haredi camp who will pay $30 -40,000 per year for
their average five or more children, and still have money left to become
some Yisachar's sponsor?  (Maybe we should conclude, chas v'shalom, that
too many children is the problem?  Mybe someone can find a new creative
[no pun intended] approach towards the laws of Pru U'revu from Rabbenu
Malthus?  Perhaps a glatt-kosher Modest Proposal?)  As many pointed out,
the only professionals who have enough $$$ to be Zevuluns are the ones
who left for the world of business.  So how do we criticize the yeshivos
for skipping the step that won't work anyway (paying tuition for 5,6, 7
or more children, there is only one profession I can think of that
reliably generates enough money for a family to live on.  And the boys
from Medellin really do not appreciate competition) and pushing their
grads into business?  [Thanks to Josh Proschan for this point.]

Also for the record: I write just a few blocks from where one of the
more egregious alleged scandals took place.  It came not from a bunch of
kollel people, but from the only shul in the neighborhood that can be
seen as the haunt of many, many people of Zevulun-level resources (who
nonetheless are far from Zevuluns.)  I think we have scotched the idea
that more professionals are going to eliminate fraud and poverty.

I would venture that the root causes of people risking chilul Hashem are
three.  First is the excessive reliance on entitlement programs.  People
begin to believe that society "owes" them.  Second is the unfortunate
attitude of bitul [negating the value of everyone and everything that is
not part of your own world] that is a common and growing feature of a
community that desperately and intensely values every neshama in its
midst, and will use this artificial means to make dropping out seem
unattractive.  If you attach no value or meaning to the "other," it
makes it that much easier to rationalize defrauding him.  The third
factor is the absence of the spirit of Volozhin.  Ironically, all
yeshiva students know that Volozhin was closed, rather than compromise
principles of the yeshiva.  We were taught to applaud that decision.  We
should feel that the sanctity and nobility of Torah are so important, so
inviolate, that we cannot compromise them by linking Torah's students to
the behavior of the street.  No matter what the cost.

Now for a potpourri of other points.

1) I cannot understand why a number of people typified my defense of the
haredi world as "idyllic."  I don't believe that my community is idyllic
at all.  It has lots of real problems.  What I did was to show what it
has accomplished, what it has done to enrich the entire Orthodox
community.  That is not idyllic, but a matter of record.  With all the
cracks in the edifice, haredi Judaism in America has erected an
astounding structure.  (To Shalom Carmi, whose scholarship I much
admire: I think you have missed the point.  Indeed, as long as haredim
dominate chinuch, they will subvert centrist values in the classroom.
But calling for centrist replacements is an impossibility.  The value
system of centrist Judaism, with its open invitation to taste the best
of both worlds, will never produce masses of people (with many notable
individual exceptions) so passionately in love with Torah that they will
drop aspirations of wealth and security and teach Torah in the
classroom.  Only haredim can do that.  Centrism doesn't inspire passion
for Torah.  [In my community, of the three major Aguda activists, two
hail from YU.  One is a professional, the other an academician.  The
third comes from roots even further to the left.]  Sorry, centrists in
moments of candor have conceded this on and off for the last twenty

2) I stand by my contention that yeshiva grads who enter the professions
do not harbor a sense of anomie towards their alma maters.  Perhaps I'm
spoiled by living in LA; more likely, Arnie is looking at Lakewood
alone.  I believe that what I am talking about is true in lots of
places: Toronto, Cleveland, Detroit.  See how many professional, with
close ties to their yeshivos, daven with Rav Dovid Cohen, shlit"a, in
Flatbush.  Again, most students know that the yeshiva MUST push for
complete adherence to the Torah-only approach, while tacitly allowing
that individuals must often come to different determinations for
themselves - without cutting ties to their yeshivas.

3) Arnie says that he really does not know whether fraud practiced by
the individual heads of a yeshiva "negate the learning of all the
students in that Yeshiva who are not involved in the infraction."  I
don't see why he does not know.  See Orach Chaim 749:1 and meforshim,
that even objects used directly for mitzvos lose the disqualifications
of theft and of mitvah habah be-aveira [mitzvah that comes about only
through a transgression] after the object has passed through enough
hands.  In our case, we aren't talking about concrete objects, but the
benefit that comes through funds illicitly gained, which is even less
likely to be problematic to a third party.  I don't think that there can
be any case for invalidating or disparaging the Torah of hundreds of
unimplicated talmidim for the actions of a small number of people in the
financial administration of their institutions.  So let's put the stress
where it should be - making ourselves more conscious of the devastating
effects of chillul Hashem, and helping people understand what nisyonos
[tests] Hashem has placed in the paths of those who wish to spend many
fortunate years in the beis medrash, and how to pass them.

4) Arnie claims that Yisachar-Zevulun is THE paradigm for a viable
community, and it is being ignored.  Really?  Is this the only way?  How
about some more belt-tightening, some greater moderation in our life
styles? Or how about, for that matter, electing Jack Kemp President?
(Not entirely a joke: if money is the issue, according to Arnie [and I
do not think it is, but honesty and proper bitachon in Hashem], then
calculate what the effect on the community would be if the Federal gov't
finally gave tuition tax credits for yeshiva education.  It's not going
to happen this year, but I think it would take less to occur than krias
Yam Suf [the parting of the Red Sea.])

5) Arnie claims that a real issue that divides us is the possibility
that if Hashem wants the continuation of the present explosion of
interest in serious Torah study, there might yet be a Divine bailout.
He asks why we might merit such intervention.

Actually, the Rambam already provided that answer! (Shmittah V'Yovel,
13:13) "...and not only the tribe of Levi, but every person...whose
spirit moves him...to stand before Hashem to serve Him... and who
unburdens himself of the considerations that motivate the masses, he is
sanctified to the highest level of sactification.  Hashem will be his
lot, and his inheritence will be eternal, AND HE WILL MERIT IN THIS

6) I should stress that my disagreement with Arnie stems from what
seemed to me to be an unfair trashing of the entire yeshiva world (I am
prepared to believe that he did not mean it as such; my interest was in
perception, as much as reality.), and his view that the problems
associated with parnasa are the cause of the recent incidents of chilul
Hashem.  I do share his concerns about prevailing attitudes towards
parnasa, although not for his reasons.  I believe it to be untrue to
Torah circles to degrade the seeking of parnasa, and to try to force all
people into one mold.  I understand where it is coming from.  We needed
a hora'as sha'ah [emergency edict] to put all our energies into Torah
growth, to rebuild Torah from the ashes of the Holocaust.  Such
artificial devices, for all they accomplish, can take a terrible toll on
the lives of individuals and communities.  We await the considered
judgment of Gedolei Yisroel to determine when to get back to "reality."

Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein
Yeshiva of LA


End of Volume 14 Issue 32