Is the frum “business/economic model” sustainable?

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  • #1997955
    huju
    Participant

    The frum lifestyle, or “business model” or “economic model”, as I understand it requires the following, among many other things:

    1. Families of 4-8 kids.
    2. Marriage of women before age 22.
    3. Limited post-high school education for women, limiting their employment choices to relatively low-paying jobs.
    4. Yeshiva and kollel for young men.
    5. Yeshiva/bais yaacov education for all children.
    6. Expectation of financial support from parents of young married couples into the couples’ early 30’s.

    The effect of these practices is to seriously lower the earning power of frum families and raise their expenses. I don’t think this model is sustainable. I expect that, in the future, frum families will, correctly, cut corners on the “requirements” I described and thereby sustain the frum lifestyle. Many frum families do it now, enabling young men and women to become higher-paying professionals, like physicians, lawyers, accountants, teachers (in public schools) and bankers. If the frum community insists on continuation of the requirements I listed, frum life will be jeopardized. Many frum will go off the derech, others will live with unnecessarily heavy economic burdens. Discuss.

    #1998576
    ujm
    Participant

    We’ve been hearing this question and drumbeat for 60 years. Nothing new here.

    The doubters and naysayers keep putting down what works.

    #1998606
    CTRebbe
    Participant

    I agree that it is not logical. However, it does seem to be working. Drive around Lakewood and tell me if you see the average family starving and begging for food. On the surface, it appears that there is plenty of money floating around and somehow people are making it in “business”. Until I a reduction in the following I will assume that your assessment is wrong

    Very comfortable houses that are remodeled and more expensive than the average American house

    Peasch hotel programs or families vacationing in Orlando

    High-end clothing stores in frum neighborhoods that charge 2-3 times the price of similar items in the non-Jewish world

    Travel/ Sleepaway camps that charge exorbitant prices

    A high demand for non-essential food items with prices reflective of the “because we can get away with it” inflated price

    Lavish simchas

    Late-model automobiles (compare the parking lot in BMG with 30 years ago)

    Etc.

    It looks to me like the majority of the frum world is “living it up” while a vocal minority “have not” kvetches make a stink about in coffee room discussions

    #1998628
    emes nisht sheker
    Participant

    We are just at the start of a large generation of Kollel families marrying off their oldest children, while the older generation is moving into retirement.

    No idea if the current system holds up or not, but to say that this has worked for 60 years is to ignore the significant differences now.

    Also saying it works… Well, if the system did not rely on public welfare I would feel much better about it. It would take a blind person to not see how this is a source of strife in Israel and not wonder if this will ever translate to problems here. We already had in NY a push for interference with religious education. Do these things get any better as this system keeps on growing and growing?

    #1998585
    commonsaychel
    Participant

    @huju, “I don’t think this model is sustainable”
    Opinions are like shoes, everyone has at least two and they usualy stink

    #1998709
    yungermanS
    Participant

    Ever Heard of Bitachon and Emunah in Hashem? That is the hishtadlus to a worry free life and a life of happiness.

    Count your blessings and thank Hashem for blessing us with beautiful families of children and making weddings Boruch Hashem instead of getting depressed at the tuition and wedding bills. How many people would pay thousands to switch into your shoes and get your blessings and be willing to pay all the bills it comes with?

    May we all turn directly to Hashem for any help we need from health to financial and anything between etc….

    May we all do Teshuva very soon so Mashiach can come already.

    #1998719

    The question is not only whether something is sustainable [Cuban economy is sustainable], but whether this is a good thing for a Jew to do.

    There is no problem if someone does not chase money, and lives off his meager earnings, as long as his wife is ok with that.

    There is no problem, if someone is supported by an honest private person, if he learns according to the donor’s expectation.

    I am not sure what are the classical sources for using non-Jewish, or Jewish, government funds dedicated to support of poor by people who are able to work, while there are sources condemning it (make your Shabbat k’hol, but do ot rely on tzedokah)

    #1998726

    I bit my tongue the first two times you wrote this but here we go again.
    ” using … government funds dedicated to support of poor by people who are able to work,”

    You made this up. I spoke to an administrator at the public aid office and he disagrees with your interpretation. I was also told that people who take public aid so they can pursue more lofty things (specifically torah study and stay at home mothering) are really the best use of these funds.

    “make your Shabbat k’hol, but do ot rely on tzedoka”
    Here’s where you do that make up halachik interpretations thing. Is your declaration of public aid being tzedaka based on something a posek told you or is it based on your feelings, your deductions or just a “sounds right”? Halacha doesn’t work that way. And if halacha doesn’t support your stance, are you willing to drop it?

    #1998725
    AviraDeArah
    Participant

    The situation you described is inaccurate and mixing together the “chumros” of the Litvish and Chassidish world. Litvish stay in kolel more, but the women by and large all get degrees and bring in salaries of 60k+ once they get off the ground. Chassidim do not go to school(the majority, both men and women) but the men go into business and do quite well most of the time.

    Also, as someone who has been in the yeshiva world (not the coffee room) for the past 15 years….a very large number of men are going to school. I’d say most at this point, outside of Lakewood, have gone or will go to college at some point. In Lakewood too, things aren’t as clear cut as they were 10 years ago, but the average yungerman in kolel will go to work in some capacity within 10 years of marriage.

    #1998730
    AviraDeArah
    Participant

    Also, the mindless quoting of chazal and rishonim who advocate going to work instead of taking tzedaka to learn is without defense. It remains an established fact that the achronim down to contemporary poskim – deciders of what halacha means – not lnly allowed but encouraged being supported in order to dedicate one’s self to learning. The early achronim including the radvaz say that if we’d follow the rambam’s psak, “Torah would have already been forgotten from klal yisroel”. Then again, modernishe people would applaud forgetting Torah besides social justice, “cultural” shabbos and kashrus and of course yishuv etetz yisroel performed by people who have the halachik status of goyim as mechalelei shabbos befarhesya. (Had to throw that in)

    Rav Moshe wrote 40+ years ago that if someone says he wants to be mekayam gadol haneheneh meyigas kapo nowadays, he is arrogant. How much more so today?

    #1998785
    Yabia Omer
    Participant

    4. and 6. not sustainable

    #1998798
    akuperma
    Participant

    Is Olam Ha-Zeh sustainable?

    Probably not – but that has never bothered us too much. Our tradition is to define a happy person as one who is content with what they have. Historically as soon as Yidden made enough to survive, they cut back on work in order to focus on more important things (Torah and mitsvos).

    If you compare the standard of living of frum Jews in America in the 21st century, to what almost all frum Jews experienced a few centuries ago, you will realize that even beggars live better than the typical Baal ha-Bayis in the past .

    #1998824

    “as I understand it ”

    I’m not sure you understand it correctly

    #1998826
    Yabia Omer
    Participant

    If that were true, why does it say Vayiahman Yeshurun Vayiv’at? Must mean that the Torah knows that what you said isn’t necessarily always true.

    #1998849
    huju
    Participant

    To common saychel: How do you know that shoes usually stink? Do you sniff shoes? Yours? Or others? (My shoes are fine, but I know nothing about others.)

    #1998857
    Avram in MD
    Participant

    huju,

    “1. Families of 4-8 kids.”

    Do you have a problem with this?

    “2. Marriage of women before age 22.”

    What would you recommend? Living together unmarried for years like secular people do and then throwing a lavish meaningless wedding at age 42 and collect a lot of presents?

    “3. Limited post-high school education for women, limiting their employment choices to relatively low-paying jobs.”

    I’d recommend checking out the real frum world rather than some Netflix slander.

    “4. Yeshiva and kollel for young men.”

    Beats going to Party State University and changing your major 15 times before graduating with a BA in English Lit and years of student loan debt after getting harassed in the student union by pro-Palestinian students for being dressed Jewishly.

    “5. Yeshiva/bais yaacov education for all children.”

    What else would you recommend? Public school?

    “6. Expectation of financial support from parents of young married couples into the couples’ early 30’s.”

    Some do, some don’t. It’s discussed by individual families.

    “I don’t think this model is sustainable.”

    I suspect that you don’t like this stereotyped “model”, and the complaints about its economic sustainability are a cover for that.

    “I expect that, in the future, frum families will, correctly, cut corners on the “requirements” I described and thereby sustain the frum lifestyle.”

    I expect that frum families serving Hashem and being all in all intelligent will, with siyata dishemaya, figure out how to sustain their frum lifestyles without cutting corners on what’s important. We’re even seeing evidence of this to some extent with the mass migration to Florida where there is more support for private school education, more affordable housing, lower taxes, etc.

    “Many frum families do it now, enabling young men and women to become higher-paying professionals, like physicians, lawyers, accountants, teachers (in public schools)”

    You lost me there. Public school teachers are, unfortunately and undeservedly, not high earners like the other professionals you listed. So your strange inclusion of public schools specifically within this list of high earning professions tells me that your agenda is not purely an altruistic concern for the economic well being of your fellow Jews, but rather a desire that they abandon their lifestyle for something more palatable to you. So my question is, what would be more palatable to you?

    “If the frum community insists on continuation of the requirements I listed, frum life will be jeopardized. Many frum will go off the derech, others will live with unnecessarily heavy economic burdens. Discuss.”

    I think you know little about frum families, I think you are creating a false dilemma between these so-called “requirements” and disaster, and I think your personal distaste for these perceived requirements is limiting your ability to see other potential solutions. Discuss.

    #1998904
    Avram in MD
    Participant

    Always_Ask_Questions,

    “The question is not only whether something is sustainable [Cuban economy is sustainable], but whether this is a good thing for a Jew to do.”

    Good thing there are many rabbis and poskim who are aware of how frum Jews live and who advise Jewish families.

    “I am not sure what are the classical sources for using non-Jewish, or Jewish, government funds dedicated to support of poor by people who are able to work, while there are sources condemning it (make your Shabbat k’hol, but do ot rely on tzedokah)”

    Do you count the taxes you pay as maaser?

    #1998911
    commonsaychel
    Participant

    @Huju, I envy you, you have no other worries in life other than this

    #1998919
    follick2
    Participant

    The Child Tax Credit is a huge help to the Jewish Community. A monthly payment of $250-$300 dollars per child will help the frum community much more than almost any other American group. If askanim were trying to invent a way for the government to disproportionately funnel money to the frum community without getting involved in our schools it would be hard to top the Child Tax Credit.

    A look at census statistics shows that most American households have no kids at all. Those that do have kids almost all have only one or two. Families with 4 or more kids are rare. In the frum community however, we live in the land of the double stroller.

    While this money directly helps parents, indirectly it will be a big help to schools (by helping parents to pay tuition) and to other frum businesses. It will also indirectly help all those employed by schools. How many times have I heard about teachers being paid late or even not getting their full pay at all because mosdos are financially distressed. If schools are collecting more tuition, then teachers will also benefit. Also if schools are in better financial state then there will be more money for other tzedakahs since there will be less pressure on donors in the community to support the schools.

    I hope that this policy is extended. Please contact your Senators and Congressmen to encourage them to extend the Child Tax Credit.

    #1998936
    Benephraim
    Participant

    The issue of whether the עולם התורה is or is not a הוראת שעה.

    #1998947
    AviraDeArah
    Participant

    It would seem that huju lives in either a very modern homogeneous community, with his knowledge of the frum world gleaned from the internet and Netflix, as Avram pointed out….or this is just trolling.

    #1998979
    Avram in MD
    Participant

    huju,

    “How do you know that shoes usually stink? Do you sniff shoes? Yours? Or others? (My shoes are fine, but I know nothing about others.)”

    Sometimes they’re just left right in the middle of the coffee room floor and you can just… tell 😝

    #1998974
    AviraDeArah
    Participant

    Benephraim, there is some truth to the idea that the kolel system is a horaas shaah, but there has never been a shaah that was in greater need of it then our time, with its hitherto unthinkable nisyonos and toxic culture

    #1999042
    huju
    Participant

    To Avram in MD: You have utterly and completely missed my point.

    #1999013
    huju
    Participant

    To common saychel: I do not envy you. You cannot distinguish between thoughts that pop into your head and actual observance of the world.

    #1999050

    How did he miss your point? I thought he proved your question was really a myth.

    #1999060
    YeshivishDiscord
    Participant

    No and we wont change it.

    #1999061
    Avram in MD
    Participant

    huju,

    Not accepting the premise of your point is different from missing it.

    #1999116

    Huju, kindly explain how you think Avram missed your point.

    #1999209
    AviraDeArah
    Participant

    Because if Avram understood the incontrovertible logic of huju, he would unequivocally agree. Therefore, it is per force that he simply didn’t understand it.

    Huju doesn’t like people who learn more or keep mitzvos better than he does. With a paltry education, how exact can one be in shmiras shabbos before putting up one’s hands in frustration at the son/daughter who comes home from Israel with a black hat/acceptable tznius clothing, pointing out error upon error, questioning their ability to eat in their parents’ home?

    #1999214
    AviraDeArah
    Participant

    “” I expect that, in the future, frum families will, CORRECTLY , cut corners on the “requirements” I described and thereby sustain the frum lifestyle””

    You are clearly saying that at least some of your requirements should be changed philosophically, not just practically. As Avram pointed out, do you believe in cutting down on mitzvas peryah verivya? The minimum is a boy and girl, but the mitzvah is to have as many as possible. Cut down on yeshiva/beis yaakov? That is the very source of the continuity of klal yisroel. Have women go to school after seminary? That’s already happening 90% of the time by Litvishe women. They’re not going to New York University though, so maybe they should in order to get better educated about why they should be feminists and BLM activists with pronouns in their twitter profile. Maybe that’s what you want out of klal yisroel.

    #1999287
    akuperma
    Participant

    I am responding to the posts complaining about the “paltry” education of some hareidim.

    1. Most are fluent or literate in four languages (two Germanic one, English and Yiddish, and to Semitic ones, Hebrew and Aramaic). They have at least sufficient math to function in the real world (probably not multidimensional calculus or quadratic equations or hexadecimal math, but do you really need those to run a store in Boro Park). While they lack basics of American business law or accounting, those are subjects not normally taught in high school, so the are no worse off than an American high school with a “Regents diploma” or the equivalent. Whereas the goyim used to concentrate on a “humanities” curriculum (strong on Greek and Latin, weak of practical skills such as math and science), they gave it up and it isn’t all clear if they are better off for it; hareidim still prefer the traditional Judaic humanities (modern Orthodox try to do both, at a high cost in money and in driving the kids crazy with overwork).

    2. If you have a beard and pe’ot, do not dress “modern”, never eat in a treff restaurant (even if it serves a kosher item), and avoid secular work on all days during which secular work is prohibited – you can probably forget about 90% of the jobs for which a secular education prepares you. If you look at the CEO’s for the Fortune 500, or the Wall Street “brown shoe” law firms- you will find no one there who looks like you do. For all purposes arguing that Hareidim should prepare themselves for the well paying jobs in the secular economy is like telling Blacks under Jim Crow to prepare for careers in areas that never hired Blacks. For a career largely limited to work within Hareidi communities, the Hareidi humanities (non-scientific, non-vocational curriculum works fine); if you have doubts, note the housing costs in Boro Park or Williamsburg – if the theory that Hareidi education leave the child unable to function in a modern economy, those neighborhoods should have the cheapest housing in the region and that is simply not the case (the cheap areas are those inhabited by public school alumni whose educations left them unable to compete in the modern economy)

    #1999315
    commonsaychel
    Participant

    @Huju, Being that you losing sleep worried that the Chasidim and the Black Hat yshivish wont make ends meet, here is a partial list of charidy Multi Multi Millonaire or Billionaires:

    Ruby Shroen -Yeshivish – Real Estate
    David Lichenstein -Yeshivish – Real estate
    Benzion Freshwater- Chasidish, Nephew of a Rebbeh -Real Estate
    Ellish Englander – Satmar Chasidish- Real Estate
    Shlomo Rechnitz- Yeshivish- Health Care
    Ralph Hertzka -Yeshivish- Finance
    Yosell Tabak- Chasdish- Real Estate
    Shlomo Werdiger- Gur Chosid – Clothing
    Harry Klein -Chasidish- Retail and Real Estate
    Hershal Schreiber _Chasidish- Retail
    Leizer Kestenbaum -Chasidish -Real Estate
    Barry Ziskind and Karfunkel brothers- Yeshivish_ Insurance
    Shimmy Glick- Yeshivish- Retail and Real Estate
    Ruven Dressler- Yeshivish- Clothing and Real Estate
    Hershy Freidman- Yeshivish – Plastics and Real Estate
    Chaim Shia Babad- Chasidish- Real Estate
    Ben Philipson- Chasidish- Health Care

    Just some names the came to the top of my mind, Can You match a similar list of MO people in that net worth?

    #1999347
    huju
    Participant

    To common saychel: There are plenty of rich frum Jews. I cannot name a single one. So that conclusively proves … what?

    a. I don’t keep track of who is wealthy?

    b. I am wrong about everything I ever said about the high cost of the living by the “requirements” I listed of frum Jewish life?

    c. You worry too much about who is wealthy?

    d. My shoes probably smell bad?

    #1999417
    CTRebbe
    Participant

    huju: Yes you are correct that there is a high cost of living but you have not proven that it is not sustainable. The last 50-70 years actually prove otherwise.

    I don’t know if it proves anything about the smell of your shoes but I am grateful to commonsaychel for sharing that line (I am surprised I never heard it before)

    #1999439
    ari-free
    Participant

    There are two models. The other one is bochurim who learn in yeshiva by day and go to touro at night, major in a field that makes sense for parnasa such as finance, computers or accounting, become frum professionals.
    On the other hand, many modern orthodox spend even more money on university, major in art history or philosophy because that sounds more interesting then end up in debt and are finding they can’t afford day school tuition. Many are now sending their children to public schools… and it’s not as if they were strong in the jewish department to begin with

    #1999516
    commonsaychel
    Participant

    @huju No, Yess, No and Yes
    I am not hyper focused on other peoples finances, its you who is busy with that.

    #1999520
    huju
    Participant

    To CTRebbe: I was not trying to “prove” anything. I was hoping for an intelligent and informed discussion. I am, among other things, an optimist.

    #1999522
    AviraDeArah
    Participant

    Ari; that’s very true, especially when MO move out of Brooklyn and aren’t as embarrassed to send their children to public school r”l. I have talmidim who are in danger of going to public school because their parents would rather finance a new house; I’ve had yo move heaven and earth to find a school for them.

    #1999554

    Ari > many modern orthodox spend even more money on university, major in art history or philosophy
    Avira> MO move out of Brooklyn and aren’t as embarrassed to send their children to public school r”l.

    I think you guys generalize somewhat. A lot of people go into engineering, computer science, medicine, law. True some elitism is there. A friend who sends kids to YU & Stern to be ina Jewish U, reported that some of them were looked down by classmates by going to an inferior school. There is also an assimilated idea of “kids going away to college” as a bar-mitzva of sort, need to separate the idea of education from “exciting experience” that indeed often ends badly. Sending kids to a local university should be a fine alternative. Some “MO” students, though, are mature enough and thrive in colleges, continuing learning and fully observant. I think you can see in advance which ones can do it.

    I am not well versed with the Brooklyn exodus phenomenon, but maybe these people were not able to send kids to public school in NY and now moved to suburbs where they can. So, it is not that they compromised their values now, they just did what they had to do to save their kids from bad public schools while they lived in Brooklyn.

    And “rather finance a house” is something to think about.. for people who pay full, or close to full, tuition, Jewish school, whether MO or not, is a major expense (that includes paying part of the tuition for those who do not). If the school also doe not prepare kids for professions at their parents level, it is a very hard proposition to keep kids in such schools.

    #1999555

    Avram > Good thing there are many rabbis and poskim who are aware of how frum Jews live and who advise Jewish families.

    This is not an answer. There is a reason we are learning traditional sources. We learn from Gemora/Rishonim/Aharonim who to resolve modern issues. You are welcome to quote specific psak and analyze how it applies to previous ones and to modern conditions, but simply outsource a solution is OK for an Am Haaertz, but if someone is trying to defend a lifestyle of learning Torah, you should do better than that.

    #1999558

    Avira, thanks for acknowledging that Chareidi lifestyle is an emergency decree, and it produced measurable results in terms of dedication to Torah and cohesive communities. And I understand your feeling that the dangers are higher and higher.

    There is a reason that this is a emergency decree, so Torah/Chachamim would not want us to live like that under normal conditions. So, the next question is to ask honestly – what are the downsides and how can we mitigate them without losing the positive sides. And situation is different: we are 200+ years into modernity, 100 years in USA and Israel, we have more tools to deal with it than 100 years ago.

    #1999568
    commonsaychel
    Participant

    @Huju ” I am, among other things, an optimist”
    So am I, therefore I daven 3x daily Boruch alaynu and on Rosh Hasona and Yom Kippur I daven Unifah Tokef, not sure about your level of belief.

    #1999642
    huju
    Participant

    To common saychel: Real optimists don’t daven. Real frum Jews do daven. Before COVID, I davened Shachris daily, Mincha/Maariv not so much. You are a real frum Jew. I’m, well, kind of borderline … maybe even “south” of the border.

    #1999653
    Reb Eliezer
    Participant

    The Ksav Sofer gives us a remez, hint of how one should like one’s life both when going good or ch’v badly. It says, וה’ הולך לפניהם יומם when Hashem provides someone hatzlacha, success, בעמוד ענן לנחותם הדרך, a person should keep infront the dark cloud, not make his wealth sway him from Hashem but realize that his wealth comes from Hashem who can also take it away, ולילה בעמוד אש, and vice versa, when going ch’v badly, he should keep in mind the cloud of fire, not to get depessed but realise that Hashem can make it better. ללכת יומם ולילה. this will help to live when doing good or not.

    #1999668
    AviraDeArah
    Participant

    Huju…so, perhaps you want the Torah community to be more like yourself?

    Reb Eliezer, I really like that vort, very meduyak

    #1999678
    Reb Eliezer
    Participant

    The Chasan Sofer, who was a talmid of the Ksav Sofer, interprets the Haggada as a seder, rule for the whole year, בשעה שיש מצה ומרור מונחים לפניך to keep the good and bad constantly infront of us.

    #1999672
    commonsaychel
    Participant

    @Huju, “Real optimists don’t daven.” Your wrong on that, I daven, do my histadlus and leave it in Hashems hands, You on the other hand are a pessimist always worried about things not effecting you.

    #1999676
    Reb Eliezer
    Participant

    Above should be. live one’s life

    #1999716
    Avram in MD
    Participant

    Always_Ask_Questions,

    “This is not an answer. There is a reason we are learning traditional sources. We learn from Gemora/Rishonim/Aharonim who to resolve modern issues.”

    Those same traditional sources say asei l’cha rav. We are supposed to subordinate our will to Hashem, and unless you are thoroughly steeped in Torah, part of that is to ask shailos and have a rav to guide you. Otherwise you risk using the Torah as a spade, to dig out from it what fits your own beliefs rather than allowing it to guide your beliefs.

    “You are welcome to quote specific psak and analyze how it applies to previous ones and to modern conditions, but simply outsource a solution is OK for an Am Haaertz, but if someone is trying to defend a lifestyle of learning Torah, you should do better than that.”

    Wow, just wow. In Brachos perek vav, we learn Rabbi Yishmael’s view that we should combine Torah learning and earning parnassa, whereas Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai holds to engross yourself completely in Torah, and in that merit others will take care of your parnassa. But even that work/learning balance of Rabbi Yishmael is nothing like what we have today, unfortunately. As Rava said to his talmidim, go take care of your work during Nissan and Tishrei, so you can learn the rest of the year! If you’re going to come at me with “traditional sources” and what they say about learning Torah, you’d best understand their world. It’s nothing like what we have today. And nobody has to defend a lifestyle of learning Torah, ever. The earlier generations made Torah learning their “keva”, and working their “arai”, and they were successful in both. But the weaker generations (still so much greater than us!) did the opposite and they were not successful in either.

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