Volume 55 Number 28
                    Produced: Thu Aug  2  5:41:48 EDT 2007

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Finances and Judaism (4)
         [Carl Singer, Goldfinger, Andy, Mordechai Horowitz, Art Sapper]


From: Carl Singer <casinger@...>
Date: Wed, 01 Aug 2007 07:44:29 -0400
Subject: Finances and Judaism

There seem to be several discussion threads commingling as we discuss
(complain about) finances.  To clarify in my own mind, I wanted to break
this into four components: (alphabetically)

1 - Food & kosher expenses - the costs of keeping kosher.

2 - Housing - more specifically the marginal increased cost of housing
for living in a "frum" (and I hate the term) neighborhood.  More
specifically, within reasonable walking distance one's synagogue.

3 - synagogue costs.

4 - tuition - the cost of educating out children K - 12, or K - 12 + in
whatever derech we feel is best for them.

These aren't fully independent, but I'd like to briefly look at each as
if they were.

1 - Food & kosher expenses -- I don't know enough about the economics of
the food industry, but there are several factors.

Geography -- For those who live far from large Jewish communities, food
costs are higher -- partly because of transportation costs and partly
because those merchants who provide kosher food have lower volumes thus
must maintain higher margins to stay profitable against their expenses.

Competition -- to no one's surprise when local supermarkets start
offering more and more kosher products changes happen -- the pricing and
quality service attitude of the "kosher only" stores adjust to meet the
competition -- or their business withers.

Manufacturers -- Once on vacation I was sitting across from some
Hassidishe youngeleit who told me that they only bought Plony's potato
chips -- even though it cost more and they felt it provided no better
kashrus or quality (they know Plony doesn't make potato chips, just has
them packaged, etc.)  They argued that it's worth the 5 cents per bag
extra because the money went to a heimishe company and the Mr. Plony was
a big ba'al tzedukah.  I suggested they buy yenums chips (same kashrus &
quality) for 5 cents less and put the nickel directly into tzedukkah --
cutting out the middle man.  For whatever reasons, the kosher food
change has higher margins (thus charging more) than the non-kosher
chain.  Not to rehash oft told stories about how chickens are
"manufactured" -- it is impossible to justify the difference in cost
between premium treif chicken (say Perdue) and premium kosher chicken.
Treif has an edge on volume but also spends considerably more on
advertising, kosher has sufficient volume (at least in the large
metropolitan areas) to have similar economies of scale (for
distribution) and the cost of schita and proper supervision should not
double the production & distribution costs.)

Whether you budget focuses on macaroni & cheese or sushi -- there seems
to be little we as end consumers can do other than complain.

2 - Housing - more specifically the marginal increased cost of housing
for living in a "frum" (and I hate the term) neighborhood.  More
specifically, within reasonable walking distance one's synagogue.

To some extent this has been Jews robbing Jews.  In neighborhoods that
are overwhelmingly "frum" then the housing stock within the eruv (so to
speak) is limited and supply & demand takes its toll.)  When a nearby
community opens a shul (and perhaps constructs an eruv) some of the
pressure is relieved and prices sometimes adjust.  In mixed
neighborhoods such as where I live, where perhaps 1/4 th of the
population is observant, then several things happen. Pockets of "better
streets" (I call it the bungalow colony) have skyrocketing prices and
little turnover.  More mixed streets are more reasonable.  There's not
much one can do unless they are flexible as to where they can and will
live.  Some trade off a long commute to work for more affordable housing
(as does the non-Jewish community at large.)

3 - Synagogue costs.  We used to talk about the edifice complex -- As a
former schule treasurer I have several observations..  One phenomena
that I see today is that, even adjusting for income, etc., there are
those who pay significantly more to maintain THEIR shule than others who
use it.  Whether it's the fellow who rants that this father never paid
synagogue dues and why should he, or the person who talks about tuition
costs being too high (no doubt when talking to the school, they talk
about synagogue costs being too high.)  Or the stam freeloader.  And
everyone wants a full-time rabbi at a part-time salary.  I find the
inequity in what people give to their shule to be very troubling, and it
spirals.  The person who, for example, has $1000 to give to tzedukkah
may if they feel others are freeloading donate only $100 to the shule
and distribute $900 to other charities whereas if they feel that
everyone is paying their fair share give $500.

4 - tuition - the cost of educating out children K - 12, or K - 12 + in
whatever derech we feel is best for them.  I believe Rabbi Teitz
described the situation very clearly.  I believe the only avenues left
to explore are public funding (tuition credits, etc.) which is a most
complex situation.

I do want to add that I believe that both synagogues & schools need to
have income adjusted (or disposable income adjusted) payment (tuition /
dues) schemes -- but these are often too hard to administer and always a
source of contention.


From: Goldfinger, Andy <Andy.Goldfinger@...>
Date: Wed, 1 Aug 2007 08:37:55 -0400
Subject: Finances and Judaism

Regarding the difficulties "anonymous" is having making ends meet:

I shop at two supermarkets.  One, near my workplace, is an ordinary
secular supermarket.  The other, near my home, is all kosher (Seven Mile
Market in Baltimore, MD, USA).  When I visit the secular supermarket
midday (taking a work break), I generally see women with children
shopping.  They are, most often, smiling, talking to each other,
enjoying their kids and pretty relaxed.  When I shop in the kosher
supermarket, I often see mothers who are harried, rushed, and tense.

I think that there is definitely more stress in the observant community.
I see it in myself.  My co-workers talk about their hobbies, sports, and
vacations.  They are pretty free most evenings.  My life style is
different, and I am often either tired or exhausted.

I have no answers.  We do work harder, but we do it for a reason.  We
consciously choose to be "amalim" (hard workers).  I am glad that we do
this -- but we must admit that it can take a toll on members of the
community.  For medical reasons, I really should get regular exercise.
When?  What do I give up?  Dovening, shiurim?  Yes -- I do get up early,
but it is to go to minyan, not to jog.  Shouldn't I get up earlier and
do both?  Well -- then how much earlier can I go to bed?

No answers.

-- Andy Goldfinger


When I drive to work, I pass a church.  It is a sign saying:

"Early Morning Service.  8:30 AM"


From: Mordechai Horowitz <mordechai@...>
Date: Wed, 01 Aug 2007 08:59:31 -0400
Subject: Re: Finances and Judaism

It's very nice to have all these expensive bennies.  However the extra
expense comes at a cost.  I don't have children yet but a friend of mine
told me he has to send his children to public school because the local
day school won't give him a tuition reduction.  (He lives in a small
apartment so I know he isn't rich) My wife is pregnant with twins and we
will have to home school because we will never be able to afford
tuition.  We probably will become tuition refugees to Israel in the
future. (Not so bad I admit)

The Rabbi's at the schools are extremely well paid.  (Much more than I
make) for working half a day and summers off.  They like to cry poor but
clearly the Rabbinic establishment is taking care of itself well.  I'll
never afford the hotels or the kosher cruises they go on.  No summer in
the catskills for me.  No yearly trip to Israel.  And they do take 2nd
jobs with their free time.  Charging parents to tutor their children
after school, or sometimes charging adults to learn with them.  Torah is
a very good business proposition.

For the rich who can afford the schools the improvements may be nice.
If the Rabbi's in yeshiva didn't all pretend to be starving I might have
made a different career choice and gone into education for pay, rather
than volunteering my extra hours helping run programs in the community.

Unless you are prepared to donate millions, tuitions either must come
down dramatically or large numbers of children will be left out of the
system.  All Jews aren't rich and schools and Jewish institutions aren't
great on scholarships.  Even when they are they take away your dignity
as you come before the "committee" 1040 at hand begging for a discount.
When the schools wants volunteer work out of us of course its a mitzva
of course.

From: <asapper@...> (Art Sapper)
Date: Wed, 1 Aug 2007 09:01:52 -0400
Subject: Re: Finances and Judaism

Rabbi Elazar Teitz writes: " The real problem is that the Jewish
community does not consider education its first priority."

The real problem is that the Jewish community is in competition with its
own tax dollars.  State and county governments force us and everyone
else through taxation to support public schools, which then consume the
available teachers and land using those tax dollars.  The Jewish
community must then struggle to compete to hire teachers and purchase
and maintain land and buildings with dollars that we must raise
voluntarily.  We can never win this struggle.  We must have tuition
vouchers, for every study shows that Jewish day education is a major
bulwark against assimilation

But there is another aspect to the matter.  Every Jewish community is
being drained of millions of dollars every year to support public
schools to which we cannot in good conscience send our children.
Jefferson observed that "[t]o compel a man to furnish contributions of
money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors is
sinful and tyrannical."  That is our situation exactly.

                                                        Art Sapper


End of Volume 55 Issue 28