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MAILBAG: Modern Communities Aren’t Wasting As Much Money As Yeshivish And Chasidish Communities

As a member of a northern New Jersey Modern Orthodox community, it has been very interesting to read of the widespread concerns about scams plaguing the “mainstream” frum community.

As someone who is a rather objective outsider, I want to give my two cents, if I may. I should note beforehand that I’m very familiar with Lakewood (I’m there often) and I work in an industry in which many “yeshivish” people do business, so I’m not completely clueless.

That said, there was a recent mailbag article on YWN that decried materialism as the new Avoda Zarah, and lamented that too many people have bought into the concept that money equals happiness. However, the article didn’t provide a reason as to why this phenomenon is occurring.

As an outsider who works with yeshivish people, I think I know the answer. It seems to me that oftentimes, people who are no longer sitting in yeshiva and go to work, in some ways try to identify more with the Modern Orthodox community than their own. They want to be seen as educated, worldly, and “with it.” The problem is, they have a very blurry perspective of what Modern Orthodox life is actually like.

[MAILBAG: Scams and Schemes: Why Is Everyone Ignoring The Most Important Part?]

For instance, my yeshivish coworkers were stunned that I wasn’t aware of the brands and styles they were into, the types of alcohol they drink, the types of vacations they go on, or even the latest plot twist in some hit TV show. I really don’t know, and nor does my wife or children. We might be less yeshivish than them, and there are certainly quite a lot of things about the yeshivish lifestyle and value system that I aspire to, but I can assure you that we don’t have the awareness of the things they think we do.

Over the past decade, I have been floored by the behaviors aptly described in the mailbag letter and how it has permeated the yeshivish community, specifically those who enter the workforce. There is a certain level of money and brand “consciousness” that far surpasses the community I live in – all in an attempt, I think, to achieve the levels of materialism they wrongly they think the Modern Orthodox community has.

[MAILBAG: Ponzi Schemes And Investors In Our Community: A Warning To All Involved]

Frankly, it is very disheartening to see. Visibly financially successful people (achieved legally or otherwise) in the yeshivish community are treated like celebrities and in some circles have surpassed the notoriety, respect, and example to emulate, that was usually accorded to talmidei chachamim.

It is a challenge with no magical fix but it is very unhealthy for any community, yeshivish or otherwise.

P.T. – North Jersey.

NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of YWN.


(YWN World Headquarters – NYC)

25 Responses

  1. The problem is that we see each community as a discrete group rather than seeing Jews as a spectrum. So people that identify as “yeshivish” might have “modern” characteristics and vice versa. Besides the fact that these labels are asinine.

  2. If these men are into television, movies, goyishe music, and run after materialism…how are they “yeshivish”? Because they wear white shirts and daven with hats and jackets?

    Nothing about their lifestyle is yeshiva oriented. Yeshivish means living a life and having the ideals/hashkofos of the beis medrash.

    Your friends are more modern than you are; they are not yeshivish.

  3. You think you know what’s going on, but you don’t. These yeshivish or chasidish or whatever types you claim to know, are not trying to copy modern orthodox because most of them are not connected to those communities. What a silly assertion. How does trying to seem worldly or educated mean that one wants to be MO? What exactly is your definition of MO? Are you saying that to not be MO one must talk and act especially yeshivish?

    Many people, whatever the type or stripe, run after gashmiyus. Expensive alcohol and food or fancy cars or brand name clothes or a massive sized house or a fancy kitchen or a desire for prestige and honor and a fancy job etc. does not equal trying to be MO. Perhaps you identify as such, so you think, oh gosh he’s trying to copy my type. Sorry, not so.

    Note. It’s funny how if you ask these types, they often claim they really don’t care for the fancy car or whatever…they really do want it but claim their above it. The better type at least is honest enough to admit it. Your type has plenty of it too even if it’s true that you and your particular circle of friends and community are less megushim. The secular world has it in spades.

    “Visibly financially successful people … in some circles have surpassed the notoriety, respect, and example to emulate, that was usually accorded to talmidei chachamim.” The notoriety usually accorded to talmidei chachamim? Does that even make sense? Notoriety means “the state of being famous or well known for some bad quality or deed”. What are you even talking about?

  4. Seems that they are jealous you can wear a chassidish cloth and make a wine for shabbat that taste better then thiers and all vacations only the ones with girls are the best and the TV is a waist of life so you think this guy from yeshiva goes on a vacation like to a fancy hotel and drinks some French potato made whiskey by the television in his red tie is happy but it’s not true he would rather a home with some decorating some shabbat made wine and a blat gemora but he can’t tell you this
    People that make money to eat kosher kugel and not give to the poor should not be respected at all if they seem to be judicial

  5. We need an Adirei Yisroel event to celebrate the 10’s of thousands of ehrlicher balei batim who are yereim veshleimim & raising pure & holy families. They spend large amounts of their income on schar limud & supporting their children in Kollel. They live simply & take very modest vacations. Their devices are filtered & kept away from family members. They stay away from secular entertainment & sports, instead they are kovea itim letorah & have quality family time. If we could idealize this way of life in the eyes of the young balei batim, they would happily embrace this way of life & drop all the false trappings of designer homes, auto’s, & clothing.

  6. AviraDeArah:
    Sorry but you have it backwards. Yeshivish is not about ideals of the beis medrash. Many non yeshivish people have those ideals and are benei aliyah.
    Yes, yeshivish is about outside things. It’s cultural. You are trying to equate yeshivish with frumkeit. It’s a common mistake especially among people who live “out of town”.

  7. I agree with Torah Life that AviraDeArah has it all wrong. the term Yeshivishe as it is most commonly used is defined completely by externals (dress, speech, mannerisms, the society with whom you hang out etc.) There are many people (especially in EY) whose ideals aspirations and hashkofos are defined by Torah and would certainly not be defined as Yeshivishe by most who see them. I think that more often it is girls who lack this understanding. Perhaps it is because the lines between yeshivishe and MO for them come closer to Torah issues than for boys.
    For the most part, the difference between Yeshivishe and MO is self-defined. It is a society with whom you would like to identify. When people start interchanging the terms with “good and bad” is when moral confusion takes off.

  8. This letter has got to be a joke. 25% to 50% of a Modern Orthodox teenagers and young adults go off the derech. Whatever problems the Yeshivish communities may have, the MO communities have problems 1000 times worse.

  9. Torahlife said:
    “You think you know what’s going on, but you don’t. These yeshivish or chasidish or whatever types you claim to know, are not trying to copy modern orthodox because most of them are not connected to those communities. ”

    That’s exactly what the author said. They don’t have a good understanding of MO, but they conjecture.

    “Many people, whatever the type or stripe, run after gashmiyus.”
    True, but many Yeshivish people will say they live in a Makom Torah and are dedicated to a Torah lifestyle – פַּת בְּמֶֽלַח Then go to the other extreme. Furthermore, one can’t say they fear Hashem and then fear what others may think.

  10. Ujm, where do you get your numbers from? They seem to be invented. Also, there is a spectrum of people who are considered “Modern Orthodox.” Jarrod Kushner may be considered to be this label but I doubt the author of the article is has much in common with that style of Judiasm. There is a very wide spectrum and he was commenting on what he observes from his relative observation point. These labels are cultural. People who self identify as one AND SEND THEIR kids to institutions affiliated with a certain label are to be identified as such. Their level of religiousity is totally irrelevant.

  11. They’re wasting money on private colleges and going to YU. The standard of living in NYC is different than north Jersey. The MO in 5 towns or UWS are very materialistic. And while you might not be holding in TV, most MO are.

  12. UJM – You are completely wrong when you accuse 25 to 50 percent of MO teens going off the derech. I don’t know where you come up with this stuff but you’re completely wrong. How would you like it if I said that 25 to 50 percent of chasidish/yeshivish teens end up in illegal business practices and steal from the government?

  13. I have lived in both the MO and Yeshivish world, and I definitely agree that the materialism is way worse in the yeshivish world. It’s not that MO don’t have big spenders – of course they do. But the display of wealth has become an integral part of yeshivish community culture in a way that is not paralleled in the MO community.
    That said, I disagree with the author’s assertion that it has something to do with Yeshivish people wanting to emulate the MO. I can tell you, Modern Orthodox Jews often compare themselves with the Yeshivish community in matters of hashkafa, halachic practice, politics, etc. But the interest goes one way- Yeshivish jews barely give the MO world a fleeting thought.
    So what explains the difference when it comes to materialism? Firstly, Modern Orthodox culture values privacy and individualism, while Yeshivish culture is far more communal. So the MO enjoy their wealth more privately.
    Secondly, the Modern Orthodox community has a more normal distribution of wealth due to their higher rate of education. There are very wealthy business-men, upper-middle-class professionals, middle class professionals, etc. Therefore, their institutions source their funding from a broader segment of the community, and there is less dependency on the ultra-wealthy. This reduces the need to shower praise and honor on wealthy community-members. Furthermore, there is no real kollel system in which people learn and depend on others for support – further reducing the need to trade honor for donations. Contrast this to the yeshivish community, where the wealthy are expected to donate way more money to support the community – and the result is that they are treated like heroes and idolized.

  14. We still got a problem with gashmius that’s totally out of control. Do I need to explain? Comparing to modern orthodox is not the issue; let’s fix the situation in hand!

  15. I forgot to mention how wealth plays into shidduchim. In the MO world, men (and women) are expected to get an education and obtain a means to support themselves before they get married. In the yeshivish world, newly-married men are expected to learn which results in pressure to marry into families that have the means to provide financial support which results in the pressure to display wealth so as to raise the value of ones family on the shidduch market.

  16. In Lakewood, the rich also make the rules. If you’re rich your kid can stay in the bungalows while Yeshiva starts. If you’re rich you get into any yeshiva without begging. If you’re rich the rules about materialism don’t apply as long as you’re paying off the right people hamavin yavin. If you’re rich and donating to yeshiva it doesn’t matter if you engage in ribbis or shady practices.

  17. This article is right on the point!
    Well done.
    I don’t remember the last article on YWN so resembling emet.
    especialy the part about the ‘yeshivish’ wanabee’s trying to copy the MO Jew. as always, the fake trying to copy the real, will outdo and go much further/more extreme then the real thing, because he/she needs to prove that they are the ‘real’ thing. nebach…
    shkoich to the writer!!

  18. I dont know who wants to emulate who. “New money” always behaves differently – more showy, obnoxious about it etc.. – than old established money. This is true in any society.

    In every story about “the heim” the town Gvir was always larger than life. 200 years ago it was THE gvir. Now, Hashem has given many, many people the opportunity to become that Gvir, but, once achieved, they dont have the hadracha what to do with the wealth.

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