SEMINARY COSTS: HaRav Shmuel Fuerst Calls Out $30K Tuitions For Seminary In Israel [SEE THE VIDEO]


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In a speech delivered at the Agudah Midwest Convention in Chicago, HaRav Shmuel Fuerst, Dayan of Agudath Israel of Illinois, called out seminaries for charging exorbitant tuition, thereby placing unbearable strains on frum families.

“The cost today [for girl’s seminaries] is about $25,000 to $30,000. Now with the weakening dollar, they have an excuse to hike it even more,” Rabbi Fuerst said.

Rabbi Fuerst called for not-for-profit seminaries to be opened in Chicago so that relief could be provided to families crushed by high seminary tuition and resultant debt.

“It’s time we stop the seminaries in Eretz Yisroel [from taking] advantage of us,” Rabbi Feurst said. “Many of our families sent to Eretz Yisroel and paid $30,000 because they have no breira – they have no choice.”

“And these $30,000 is $30,000 that many families don’t have. We must stop it. And if we do it here in Chicago, I guarantee you that different parts of the country will follow us.”

(YWN World Headquarters – NYC)


  1. Hahaha.
    Just try to not send to a “good seminary in Israel”
    And listen to what shaddchanim say about your daughters resume..its unfortunate, but thats the krum velt we live in.

  2. Agree 100%.

    But, what about camps, even AGMW camps, who charge well over $2000/month. Closer to 2500. If you break that down, that is around the same amount per month as seminary. And Seminary is one child at a time, while camp costs is for each child at the same time. Camps are just as much as a necessity, if not more, than seminary.

  3. Yes, it’s about time we shut down this business called “seminary”. Enough with the garbage, our daughters will do just fine in life having gone to a local seminary. Yes, many English speaking families in EY will need to find a new source of parnassah. That is not an excuse for this ongoing vicious cycle of insanity.

  4. The whole year in Israel after 12th grade for boys and girls has been big business for decades. be honest. The vast majority of kids go and end up having a good time. Maybe some go on to be Rosh Yeshivos, etc, but for most it’s an expensive year abroad. These kids could otherwise be starting college or trade school…and still get in their “Israel time” with organized groups/tours, etc. over winter or summer breaks for a fraction of the cost.

  5. The truth is, at least in the NY area, many Mosdos are very top heavy. Deans, Menahalim, Administrators, CEO’s or CFO’s, fundraisers, or whatever else you want to call them, are making very nice salaries. The top is taken care of.

    There is no reason why Seminary owners should not make the same. They are taking care of the girls 24/7, providing meals, dorm, Shabbosim, trips, etc.. They take responsibilities of the safety and health of the girls, arranging doctor visits, etc.. They take care of student visas and the like.

    They deserve to make a lot more than local Administrators. I would hope the salaries of the principals and Menahalos also reflect their 24/7 care for the girls. They definitely deserve a high salary.

    The difference is that since these seminaries are privately owned, they cannot fundraise and make dinners. If our local Yeshivas and schools would not fundraise, tuition would also be much higher. And that is without having dormitories, providing all meals, Shabbosim etc..

    Another huge factor is the amount of money our Mosdos get from Uncle Sam.

    Factor in Uncle Sam, fundraising, dinners and other donations, on top of tuition, local schools are probably bringing in the same amount per student as the Seminaries.

    Besides, I know Lakewood is different, but in many areas of New York, full tuition is not far from what the seminaries are charging. And nobody makes a ruckus about those schools. (True, most parents do not pay full tuition. I have heard that the reason why some schools charge such high tuition is so they can tell people “85% of our parents don’t pay full!” But they still charge a lot.)

    Unless you want Seminaries to start making dinners, raffles, and other fundraisers, there is no way to get the price down.

  6. Rabbi Fuerst is 1000 percent correct. It is akin to extortion for frum families.
    I will help him build seminaries in Chicago, if that is what it takes to end this extortion.


  8. My oldest wants to attend seminary next year. Just filling out all these applications and all the NON REFUNDABLE deposits are giving me nightmares! Just because I’m not rich ? I can pay a fair amount , but this is the places that want to teach my kids about life ? Taking as much money as possible ? This is lunacy . The questions they ask and the way they word the application, can make anyone cry. My daughter is petrified of what to write . When and how to send it in. This is insane and I’m glad someone finally is taking a stand. Long overdue

  9. We were very happy with our decision to send our daughter to Lahav, a half year seminary. She had a wonderful experience and tuition was reasonable (especially because we got some local scholarships). It BH didn’t affect shidduchim in any way (but maybe that’s because we were davka looking for boys from simple good families). I have friends who went into debt to pay for seminary for their daughters, and are now r”l staggering under huge debts from making chasunas on top of seminary debt. Although the idea of making a non-profit Chicago seminary is a good one, many girls do want to experience seminary in EY. I agree that more half-year seminary options should open up to accommodate those girls. Our tuition at Lahav was quite a bit less than the 15K the Rav was proposing for a Chicago seminary – and our daughter was in seminary recently.

  10. It’s time for Rabbi Moshe Dovid Perlstein to step up to the plate and roll out a seminary that’s affordable. He has done it with his camps and now it’s time to open up an affordable seminary program that will not require taking out an additional mortgage or LOC to send your kid off for the year BTW in addition to the tuition comes the tickets and spending money…..

  11. I have never written a reply to any article I have ever read online, but feel compelled to briefly respond to this one. It’s difficult to describe how disappointed I am to see an article like this. I am a full time educator in eretz yisrael and do not earn enough money from my teaching jobs to finish the month. I live in a very simple israeli apartment and spend money very carefully. The costs of running yeshivas and seminaries in Israel is very high, and the loss of value of the dollar is not an excuse for higher tuition costs, but a reason for them.
    However, what bothered me about this article is way more than the simple call to fight against the high seminary tuitions. I was recently in America on behalf of the institution I work for. I had the pleasure of spending shabbos in one of the larger NY communities as well as attending two weddings of former students. I never cease to be amazed by the affluence of these communities and the opulent lifestyle led by those who live there. The costs of large, extravagant homes, luxury cars, weddings with prices that could feed a family in EY for multiple years, and a plethora of other high priced staples of American Jewish living are staggering.
    There are so many areas that the fat should be trimmed from, I find it shocking that an attack is being launched against institutions in EY which are by and large run and staffed by ideological people who have sacrificed higher paying jobs and higher standards of living in order to pursue a life of avodas hakodesh.

  12. A Beis Yaakov girl going to seminary in Israel is not only a chance for her to hear shiurim of the highest caliber, but it will expose her to what life in Eretz Yisroel for a kollel couple is like. This experience is invaluable for her to be able to make a decision of marrying an Avrech who wants to live in eretz Yisroel and learn there in Kollel.

    No question about it- the best place to live and learn Torah is in Eretz Yisroel- ask Rav Chaim Kanievsky shlita….
    So instead of making huge show-off chasunas in NY, maybe instead spend the money for her to go to sem in Eretz Yisroel before she becomes a kalloh????

  13. I blame the high schools for both boys and girls. They look at the yeshivas and seminaries in Israel as their kids’ last hope of getting a proper Jewish education. I have a brother who did not go to Israel for the year and was looked down upon as if he wasn’t religious or was not accepted into any yeshivas.

    The yeshivas and seminaries in Israel need to charge a fortune because they have turned into country clubs with weekly trips and every day some sort of extra circular activity and dorms like the Ritz Carlton. Basketball courts, tennis courts, ice coffee machines, etc… Trips that involve staying in nice hotels, rappelling, scuba diving, snorkeling, etc… Whether it’s the student, parents or high schools to blame, the kids are expecting these types of things and more and more kids can not sit through a whole day of learning, so they fill these “once in a lifetime yeshiva/seminary” experience with everything but learning.

    And how many of these kids stay frum, the numbers drop more and more every year. Maybe they should take the $30K and spend it on better teachers and curriculums. We need to be teaching our kids that the they are going to Israel to learn not to have a good time. It should not matter Israel, USA, England, or wherever, if you are going to yeshiva/seminary it is to learn and grow as a Jew nothing else. Everything else is just an extra/bonus.

    I do blame the yeshivas and seminaries for advertising all the extra crap much more than the Torah but they are selling a product that the generation today thinks they need. But the prices seem fair for what they are offering.

  14. I don’t understand why he suggests the seminary should be in Chicago. Why not open it in Israel where salaries are much less? Open it as a non-profit where the objective is the same, the lower the cost of seminaries and girls will not lose anything.
    Most of what is to be gained from seminary is the experience of being in Israel. That can not be accomplished in Chicago. If you look at the curriculum in most of the seminaries, you will see that most of it is a waste of time. It would be nice if the curicula in seminaries were also fixed, but if the main objective is to lower the cost Israel seems to be the most logical place to do it.

  15. A tremendous problem we have today is a lack of LEADERSHIP. A lack of anyone with GUTS. Occasionally you’ll get a situation where someone powerful like S.Y. Rechnitz will stand up and slam something but then he gets knocked down too and loses the will to do it again in other areas needing change. As one noted above; we live in a very krume velt. We know (see mesechtes taanis and other places in hilchos shabbos) that Chazal were very sensitive to Jewish money. So why is it that today it seems one just has to fend for himself, why do our gedolim not stand up when it comes to matters affecting the Tzibburs money? We’re talking fortunes of money. All this- right before making weddings, right before one is expected to take on monetary support for idk, as long as the “market” dictates. Why do we not see forceful and strong leadership on these issues?

  16. Rocky,

    Good points. I believe there are US seminaries that take the girls for a month (maybe more?) to Israel to get the “experience” (but more likely, to be able to stand a chance at competing with the Israeli sems). Tell me though; look around Lakewood. There are thousands of women that got the Israeli “experience”. Does it affect their lives even one bit (beyond the first 6 months after returning from “sem”)?? I, for one, just don’t see it. They may get inspired but I don’t see it leading to any real change in their lives. And the few that do, I truly believe it is very few that directly benefit from THIS seminary experience. Can it really not be achieved right here in good ‘ole USA?? Our bubbies didn’t get the “experience”, nor their bubbies. Yet, they were more solid in their frumkeit than the vast majority of the women in Lakewood, proud alumni of the Jewish worlds most “prestigious” seminaries. And yes; I have seen some seminary curriculum, it is laughable, seems like they truly need ways to pass the year.

    I think if we are honest with ourselves, we will realize it is mostly just convincing ourselves, more likely, just a good marketing campaign over decades by English speaking brethren in Israel that found a good way to make a living, or a killing, on our cheshbon.

  17. “Many of our families sent to Eretz Yisroel and paid $30,000 because they have no breira – they have no choice.”

    Of course they have a choice – don’t send them to sem in E”Y.

  18. Figures this topic was brought up at a Torah Umesorah convention and not at the Agudah Convention. All the rabbonim & mechanchim who are copying the Joneses are chocking from the exorbitant costs bring up the topic at their convention. Bring it up at the Agudah event all the fat cats would laugh. How could they possibly
    Disappoint their princesses and not send them to Israel and ruin their chances of not chapping the best Briskers. We had this complaint when the cost were 15,000 then 20,000 and
    25,000 but nothing changed. The seminaries all ran to their local rabbis
    Who declared it was a chutzpa to take away the Parnassa of so many Israeli
    Kolel couples and everything died down till the next raise.
    Just like the wedding takonos didn’t last too long so too this complaining
    Won’t last too long. Nobody with a backbone is around to push an end to this narishkite. Parents have a hard enough time getting their daughters married off but the thought of not sending them to Israel for the year terrifies them. As a shadchen I know that girls today who did not go to seminary in EY generally have a harder time getting dates.
    Rabbonim have to strongly come out
    Against this mentality and also have to condemn the arrogant teachings of seminaries that brainwash the girls to only marry long long time learners. This idea is not sustainable and is putting many families in huge debt.

    Moderators Note: Clearly, you didn’t read the first sentence. But that’s ok. “In a speech delivered at the Agudah Midwest Convention in Chicago”

  19. If people in Chutz La’aretzwould stop sending to the Seminaries and and Yeshivos in Eretz Yisroel, the cost of housing and life in general would greatly improve for the locals. Shut it all down!

  20. Uncle Mo,

    I think that we are on the same page for the most part but I think that perhaps your observation as to the weak long term effect of seminary may be related to the curriculum. Perhaps if there was more focus on practical and important issues the effect would be longer. In my daughter’s sem there was a big focus on teaching kabbalistic super deep analytical studies on issues. Perhaps if there was more discussion on hashkafa and mussar it would last longer.

    We also need to be aware of the environment the girls are being brought back to is nothing like our Bubbes had back in the day. The levels of materialism and entitlement are through the roof in a way that our Bubbes never had to deal with.

    And for all those chachamim who posit “just don’t send your kid if you can’t afford it” probably never had a daughter. It may sound logical but it is really hard to tell your kid that she is different than 99% of her friends and classmates.

  21. Too little too late. The damage is already done. I did not subscribe to this daylight robbery concept of sending my daughter to Israel and she found a wonderful seminary here in the USA. She has yet to find her bashert and I was told on multiple occasions by so called shadchanim that her prospects look grim because she did not attend seminary in Israel. Because I chose to live within my means and use my seichel and not live with the Jones’s she has to suffer? When a Rav has to get up at a convention and finally address this absurdity 30 years too late is in it of itself a travesty.

  22. It`s all supply and demand. If he can do fund raising, and market a Chicago seminary, then go ahead. By the time he will be done he will see that the price.

  23. What in the world is going on here??? Did this “rabbi” speak to any seminary before attacking???
    Looks like the goish attitude got to Jews.
    This is simple lashon hora and motzi shem Ra!
    Simple killer people have lost lists of money with the weak dollar.

  24. Use the $30,000 to send your daughter to a local community college for 2 years so she can obtain the needed education and skills to earn a good parnassah, if supporting her future husband while he learns in kollel is part of her agenda. If one parent doesn’t want to work and the other is limited to minimum wage jobs because of a lack of an education, not a great foundation to build a bayis ne’eman b’yisroel.

  25. For the first time in their kid’s schooling, parents have to pay full price and not receive charity from the school and they freak out.
    Why can’t they be moser nefesh for me just like the high school and elementary moros were moser nefesh and worked for pennies.
    I demand that seminary teachers work for pennies as well.
    A chutzpah that I should have to pay full price!

  26. Majority of the chasidishe girls in ny do not go to seminary. They finish high-school, get a job, get married & live life. The litvacks create their your own problems. Stop this seminary situation & stop complaining!

  27. israeleducator-

    Thanks for your dedication in educating our next generation, I appreciate your מסירת נפש and hope that השם always gives you the ability to provide for your family whatever they need.

    I live in the US and would like to present the situation from my point of view.

    Life as a Yid is expensive- there’s no arguing about it. There are some fixed costs and there are variable costs. If there’s something I’m trying to save for there are areas that I can cut back on and there are areas where I can’t.

    Our largest fixed cost, by far, is full tuition and there’s no option to save in that area. It’s more than four times our mortgage.

    The families that you saw with the extravagant spending didn’t necessarily have the funds to spend like that but felt that they needed to be on par with their friends and neighbors.

    We save lots of money by making plain שמחות, not eating out too often, taking good care of our cars and not going on luxury vacations. However, it’s hard to build up savings when tuition is so high. (Please don’t get me wrong- I’m very appreciative to have a reason to pay tuition.)

    Seminary is another one of those fixed expenses. My daughter said that out of her entire grade of 100+ students only one doesn’t plan to go to Israel. I went to Israel for a few years post high school and those were probably the best learning and growing years of my life. I want my kids to have the same experience. (I’m not even going to get into the topic of the red flags that’ll get raised if my daughters don’t go.)

    Regarding the extravagant houses, cars and weddings that you witnessed- it reminded me of a story that happened with an entry level colleague of mine who was looking to move from a starter home he currently lived in to a larger home in the “in” neighborhood. He showed me online the house he was looking into and I suggested he look into a house a half mile away that was 1,000 SF larger and $100,000 less. He sheepishly responded that he hopes one day to be able to make decisions based on what works best for him and not out of concerns of what others think of him.

    As of now going to Israel for a year is a fixed expense and families are forced to come up with the money somehow. If comparable experiences were to open up in the States it would become a variable expense that families could decide if they can afford it or not.

    The families that spend on luxury cars, vacations and weddings will probably still spend $30,000 on Seminary so they won’t be outdone but everyone else can make a decision based on if it works for them or not.

  28. Israeleducator: Despite what you observed, all frum Jews are not well off and do not live extravagant lifestyles. Of course, there are those who have no money but still borrow or whatever to put on a fancy simcha, but there are many many people for whom the neighborhood raises money before Pesach and Rosh Hashana. There are a lot of people with large families who barely make ends meat or drive up their credit cards without being able to pay it off. So despite what you may think, American Jews cannot all afford the overpriced seminary.

    My daughters went to top seminaries and we paid full price, but the curriculums were geared toward training teachers and most of the girls attending have other professional plans. It truly was an experience to live in a Israel but it probably would have been cheaper if they stayed here for half a year and spend the rest in Israel.

  29. The coveting of what others have is a transgression and leads to the status seeking and elitism of demanding a shidduch of only “the best” boy or girl, based on superficial attributes of mosdos listed on resumes. Extraordinary expense and measures to seek only “the best” in shidduchim and gashmius, at great financial and spiritual cost, suggests a lack of gratitude, emunah, bitachon, humility, and even modesty.

  30. I don’t understand. Instead of regulating what sems could or could not charge because parents have no choice, why not regulate whoever is behind the madness of parents having no choice? And to all of the above who are whining about all the Americans who have no money and comparing them to impoverished Israeli families, you obviously have no clue what real poverty looks like. The worst families in America (and I know quite a few) don’t compare to the hardships of about 10-20% the ultra-chareidi population in Israel.

  31. Is the pressure based on parents’ desire, shidduch considerations, or kids desires? In my experience, kids “desires” were generated by schools who were telling them from 9th grade that they will miss out on everything in life. I am sure teachers meant well trying to strengthen kids’ yiddishkeit, but I am also sure that they have no idea about the families. The only question the teacher asked me about the family was “if you do not want seminary because you can not afford it, let me know, I’ll try to find you a place that will take you”.

    Still, to be fair, I understand that a number of seminaries give classes that can be used for college credit, so it might be reasonable to pay similar prices.

  32. circle > For the first time in their kid’s schooling, parents have to pay full price
    Pepper> Our largest fixed cost, by far, is full tuition

    I think the commonality is that, in both circumstances, this is your first large optional payment. Before that, you either were subsidized or did not feel you have a choice. So, in that sense seminaries are not better or worse than other schools. how would you feel, for example, sending a girl to Israel for 12th grade school instead of a seminary? Is there some magic in having davka 12 years in a school building (after K and pre-K) that a lady is mature enough to spend another year and that it all together makes her into a worthy bas Isroel? what if you look at the curriculum, at extra activities, cut here and there and educate a bas isroel in, say, 10 years. Or maybe some need 15. Who said 13 is the number?

  33. Always_Ask_Questions-

    Sorry if something that I wrote wasn’t clear.

    I intended to convey that (in our circles) Seminary is NOT optional. If out of 100+ graduates only one doesn’t plan to go to Israel- it becomes mandatory for parents to send their daughters.

    If it was optional then everyone can decide for themselves if this is how they want to spend their money. When virtually 100% percent of the grade is going- it becomes a fixed expense that families need to come up with the money for.

  34. The inherent problem is that if we charge reasonable tuition, we will need to to pay teachers poorly. And if we pay teachers a reasonable salary, tuition will be so high that most families will have to home school or send children to public school. Historically, we have always preferred the former (underpay teachers, but offer Jewish education to all students).

  35. Your all kidding me. If your daughter doesn’t attend a seminary in E”Y she will not be able to do a shidduch? Absurd. I thought that shidduchim are made by the RBS”O. Don’t recall any Chazal saying that it all depends on going to a seminary in E”Y. What happened to the “bitochon” we are told to need for shidduchim? Not necessary if she goes to seminary in E”Y?? That’s only for those that go to seminary locally or don’t go at all?
    This is a self-inflicted problem and mostly affects the yeshivish crowd.
    100% of the class is going to E”Y and my daughter will be the only one not going – can’t do that. And why not? Can’t stand up to the crowd? You always follow the Jones?
    You think the local seminaries are not just as good? Check it out. They don’t offer the chance for your daughter to go eat on Shabbos/Yom Tov by other young couples (that can’t afford to feed your daughter) – true. Your daughter won’t be able to run loose in Geula on Erev Shabbos or Motzai Shabbos – true. Can’t go touring – true. Missing a year of “tons of fun” – maybe.
    Wake up and smell the coffee. You are not doing your daughter or yourselves a favor by sending them to E”Y. Just inflicting financial ruin on yourself. On whose cheshbon? You parents and in-laws? Skimping on your tuition for your other kids? Have to accept tzedakah to marry off this daughter when she returns?
    Of course Rabbi Feurst is right. Kol Hakovod.
    Halevai it makes an impact on our meshuganah society.
    BTW – make up your mind. Seminary is great for those that want to become mechanchos – but we are told that there is a crisis – no one wants to teach anymore. To become a SIET or P3 you don’t need a seminary in E”Y.

  36. Paying full tuition in the Mir is half of what other yeshivas and seminaries charge. Because guess what, they don’t go on any fancy trips to Medzhybizh and Kerister.

  37. Dr. Pepper > (in our circles) Seminary is NOT optional

    Logically, this does not make sense. Every kid is different and there are multiple ways to address those needs. Some may need a specific seminary in EY, others might need something else. How about a part/time seminary with girls attending a local or an online college at the same time, for example? You seem to be financially independent, so what pushes you to do a mindless thing? If you are afraid on how people will look at your daughter later, this may be a brocha in disguise – do you want such mechutonim? look for ones that will understand your derech.

  38. akuperma > if we charge reasonable tuition, we will need to to pay teachers poorly.

    Let’s do some math. Say, we pay teachers $60K + benefits = $80K/12-month year. That will get you an experienced teacher. You need one teacher per class of, say, 16 people. Then, the teacher will cost you $5K per year, per person, or $3.5K/year subtracting summer and vacations. Add 30% overhead, back to $5K year, although parents should be able to do overhead – schedule teachers, arrange an apartment for classes – themselves, you don’t need to be a Talmid Chacham for that.

  39. try doing math with Seminary costs: 15-20 israeli or american-israeli teachers making $20k/annual each max (any more then this and they wouldnt complain their short on money as their lifestyle is much much cheaper the US) is about 300k. 100 girls paying $30k each is $3 MILLION. assume for arguements sake they spend $1 MILLION on expenses theres plenty extra to line the pockets of the “for profit” owners.
    to the israeli mechanich- Try to understand the cost of Tuition has nothing to do with the rock bottom salaries they give their teachers

  40. Always_Ask_Questions-

    I apologize if I wasn’t clear in my earlier comments. My intended audience was israeleducator, I wanted israeleducator to see that it’s not easy to compare the expenses of a US Frum family to the expenses of a similar type of family in E”Y.

    While I’m going to assume that our house is larger than israeleducators apartment we probably spent less than the value of their apartment on our house. We have a monthly mortgage while (from my understanding) most Israeli families do not carry a mortgage. Another difference is tuition- from what I understand tuition is virtually nothing in E”Y while in the States it’s pretty significant.

    I don’t know if household income is asked on any Seminary application but I was surprised at some of the questions that were asked about me (e.g. where I went to college, what I majored in, what professional designations I earned, what my occupation is and where I’m employed). Without knowing the differences in expenses, it wouldn’t be fair for an Israeli to look at (or estimate) the household income of an American family and wonder why they’re complaining about the cost of Seminary.

    I don’t think I implied that I’m only sending my daughter to Israel because everyone else does and it’s a necessity. The years that I spent in Israel were probably the best learning and growing years of my youth. This was not a mindless decision that I made based on what everyone else does. Even if a cheaper (local) opportunity came up and going to Israel was considered a luxury- it’s something I would splurge on for my daughters.

    There were some growing experiences (e.g. budgeting, getting along with roommates…) that I’m glad I learned before getting married. I’d like my kids to learn the same independence skills as well.

    With regards to future mechutanim- I’m not sure if you’re familiar with my feelings towards Shadchanim (if you read some of my disastrous interactions with them in the Coffee Room you’d understand), but my plan is to avoid them at all costs and network with family and friends to find a bashert for my kids. And yes- one of the things I’d be looking for in a mechutan is someone who spends money on something that they want because they want to- not because they’re concerned about what others will think of them if they don’t.