Opulence Worshippers

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    Reb Eliezer

    CTLAWYER, as you don’t call yourself a nouveau riche, did you inherit your wealth?


    R Yitzhak Adlerstein brings aq quote from Michtav Me-Eliyahu vol.3 pgs 355-360. – R Hirsh’d system in Germany produced observant Yidden but no Talmidei Chachamim. Eastern Europe with Torah-only education produced a lot of Talmidei Chachamim but at the expense of tremendous drop out rate from observance. An anonymous wrote a response in 1960s questioning the downside of German system:

    The upshot of all this is that the claim that the Frankfurt approach was not capable of transforming gifted students into geonim in Torah is erroneous. It is certainly true that gifted students suffer no loss of talent by engaging in increased study. Thus, quite the contrary to the extent they increase their secular study, their minds are broadened and their Torah studies are deepened proportionately, so long as they truly study for the sake of Heaven. On the other hand, a student lacking in intelligence, who is also denied exposure to secular study, will hardly grow in Torah and become a distinguished gaon due to that denial alone. R. Baruch of Shklov [the talmid of the Gra]…states: “There are Jews who are bereft of intelligence and secular study, which is precisely why they denigrate the wisdom and knowledge they lack. Moreover, they hurl accusations of heresy against the wise, so that they be stigmatized and viewed as outcasts by the masses… Had not R. Samson Raphael Hirsch established this approach for us, we would not dare to expropriate it without the prior approval of the roshei ha-yeshiva and gedolei ha-Torah of our generation. But since R. Samson Raphael Hirsch merited producing several generations…all who follow this path walk in a well-trodden path and drink from a well dug by experts. Those who, for the sake of Heaven, oppose this approach must admit that such a ban on secular study in our time and in our countries [i.e. in contradistinction to Israel, as he writes later] would be a “decree that the majority of the community could not comply with… It seems to me that both [i.e. the approach that allows secular study, and the one that does not] educational approaches are well-grounded in the sources, and both are essential for the continued existence of the Jewish people in our time. So it shall remain until the redemption takes place.


    I could not find R Moshe’s speech yet, but let’s presume for a second that you quoted without distortions. The argument seems to be that most Yidden can reliably (without miracles) earn enough for honest parnosah without college. The downside is time wasted from learning Torah (not sure, is this about time during college or occupation during the rest of the life). Let’s apply this to our times:

    most importantly, what percentage of people went to college: 1960-80 had tremendous growth from 8% to 16% of population > 25 y.o. graduated from college (and 40% to 78% high school). Currently 38% of population graduated from college. Now a lot of this is from women (male enrollment went from 3 mln in 1970 to 5 mln in 1990 and 7 mln now, women – from 3 mln in 1970 to 6.5 mln in 1990 to 10 mln now), but still …

    So, if we presume that education correlates with wealth, then R Moshe says – you don’t have to be like top 10% – and this is obviously true for 90% that will not be and may be true for those who want to be in 10% but can live without it. In our times, this is saying – you don’t need to be like top 40% .. I wonder what this number will be if you only count areas where R Moshe thinks it is proper for a Yid to live, presumably area between Queens, Stamford, Monsey and Lakewood.

    So, to normalize R Moshe’s position to our times, it would be – you don’t have to go to Ivy League (1% of total college population), or even top 30 colleges (7%) So, Touro is OK. YU (in about top 100) is marginable – given that it has Torah learing also).


    common > college grads are almost never the opulence worshippers

    indeed. As Wall Street hustlers asked economists – if you are so smart, why are you not wealthy?
    To which economists relied – if you are so wealthy, why are you not smart?

    average college grad is reasonably secure in his job (unemployment < 1% over many years) and he can think about other things. Hopefully, learning, but often – vacays, of course. A hustler is not secure in his future, so he runs after the next deal. He also has no competitive advantage in skills, so he needs to compensate wit zerizut and boasting, hopefully not by dishonesty.


    @AAQ, Well said


    AAQ: German Jewry had a greater drop out rate (to Reform, secularism and Christianity) than Eastern European Jewry.


    ujm, of course, especially early on, as modernity came there early and Jews were unprepared (nobody was). This discussion is specifically about a starting point with R Hirsh’s observant followers v. Eastern European Jews at the same time. One can say this is not a fair comparison – R Hirsh is dealing w/ a group after many non-observant people left, while Eastern European Jewry at that included everyone, including future Maskilim. Still, R Dessler’s position seem to be that he respects Frankfurt approach in producing observance, but not great Torah, while his anonymous opponent disagrees with the latter. Maybe R Dessler is under-counting relative success of EE Jewry given that he saw loss of their observance with his own eyes …

    We can also see that post-war yeshivos did not replicate pre-war, or emulated R hirsh, moved to a third model of popular Torah learning rather than just focusing on raising gedolim, and had tremendous success along that path.


    @Reb Eliezer…………….
    I am 5th generation American
    My parents and grandparents were college graduates, professionals or business owners.
    I grew up in comfortable circumstances, as in the mid 1950s when a middle class white collar worker made $7.000 per year, my father was making between $75+100K.
    I invested early, buying my first rental 3 family house for $27,000 ($3,000 down and a bank mortgage) at the age of 21. The money came from my earnings.
    I didn’t inherit wealth, I was given benefits that allowed an Ivy League education and entre to certain people and organizations that allowed me to make and accumulate a large amount of money.
    When my parents died, the only inheritance I received were personal effects, such as jewelry.
    If one was raised in a family of means, one is not Noveau riche if he makes his own money and continues to be able to live at a similar or better lifestyle than the previous generation.

    B”H my parents and grandparents lived into their mid 90s. They retired in their mid 60s, their children encouraged them to live well and enjoy their accumulated wealth, not worry about leaving it to us.


    you are being modest. You said before that your 5th generation come from Germany where he was in big business. It may not mater exactly when someone arriving has funds with him, but rather education and attitude. I had relatives who lived through tumultuous times, building and losing businesses for economic and political reasons, and the attitude was a more valuable inheritance to the next generation than a specific accumulation.

    Sometimes you can hear family history in little things. I heard, amazed, from a hoshuve (MO) Rav discussing an eruv and mentioning that his family lived directly opening to a huge highway at the entrance to a big American city. I am pretty sure that, whatever financial circumstances are, people coming from some families would get a house where kids do not run out of the house on the huge highway, eruv or not.


    My maternal side came from Bavaria, leaving for America 3 years before the unification of the German Empire.
    My paternal side came from an ever shifting area of the Pale which had been under, Polish, Lithuanian and Russian rule, today one of the towns is in Poland, the other in Belarus.

    Inherited money, is not a thing in our family, heirlooms such as jewelry and silver is. We were given educational opportunities that were afforded by our families, but all was not rosy in every generation.

    My maternal grandmother left school at 14 to work and support the family. Her father made a large income, but was a gambler who lost more than he made. She worked days and went to business school in the evening. After getting her certificate, she went to work for a concern owned by a German Jewish man. Within 6 months he had asked her to marry. After having two children, Oma ran the business and Opa went to school to become and eye doctor. They led a privileged life until the great depression.
    My Paternal great grandfather had only daughters. He was a necktie manufacturer. He set up each successive son-in-law in a complementary clothing manufacturing business. My Zaidy made shirts, the next daughter’s husband made suits, the next made underwear. The last went on the road as the traveling salesman, peddling a complete line of men’s clothing to Jewish (and Non-Jewish <future President Harry S Truman was a customer>) owned menswear shops across America.

    The only inheritance of dollars I recall, was when an unmarried great aunt died. They cleaned out her desk in her Brooklyn apartment and found that she had bought US Savings Bonds for her great nieces and nephews through the payroll deduction plan during the 1950s and 60s. By the time we got them they already had stopped drawing interest. I believe I received $750 in 1996.

    Having made sure that their children were educated, housed and established, my ancestors in America tended to bequeath their real estate and money to charity not family members, who did not need it to live.

    B”H my children and grandchildren are educated, I am now semiretired and we have more than what we need to live comfortably. When the time comes, our children and their children will receive our personal effects and choose from our artwork and furniture. The CTL compound is titled in family trusts. Should they wish to live here, they can negotiate a lease with the trustees. The money, stocks, bonds and commercial real estate will all benefit a list of charities, both Jewish and communal.

    Reb Eliezer

    My wife a’h enjoyed crystals, limoge porcelain and silver but she also enjoyed honoring guests by serving them with it.

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