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MAILBAG: I’m A Wealthy Man. You Have The Chinuch Financial Crisis All Wrong

Reading your article last week regarding schools struggling to pay their bills, I was struck by several thoughts that I think are important to be shared.

To preface: I am someone who has done considerably well in the business world. Hashgacha led me to the right investments at the right time, and b’chasdei hashem I have the ability to retire at a relatively young age. With that in mind, I would obviously like to remain anonymous.

In the comments section on the article I am referencing, many opinions and points were made. Some made sense while others were the talk of fools. Regardless, I believe they all missed the key point, and honestly, so did your article.

As a wealthy man, I have some insider experience that I think could shed some light on this particular situation and in the world of tzedaka in general.

Regarding schools being unable to pay for tuition, there is actually, in my opinion, an obvious culprit that is being ignored. That culprit is just three letters: E.G.O.

Allow me to explain. Just about everyone loves Kavod. It’s a sad reality, but it’s undeniably true. Wealthy people are no different, and we therefore have a more difficult time remaining humble. The reason is two-fold: we made lots of money, so we must be more intelligent/savvy than everyone around us. And two, more importantly, we live in an incredibly materialistic world, where there are actual discussions about other people’s wealth – as if tabloiding rich people’s lives is somehow a worthwhile endeavor.

Many wealthy people are morally strong and remain objective and clear-headed about their wealth and their relationship to their assets. But most aren’t. (I hope I can consider myself to be in the former camp, but I can’t say so for certain.) Because of this, when mosdos and organizations lavish them with praise and honorifics, they are more likely to give a larger chunk of their tzedaka funds to them.

In recent years, this has become an obvious trend. Wealthy people are “bribed” by large mosdos and made to feel like they are part of some exclusive club; they are wined and dined and brought on luxury vacations and getaways. All the kavod and gifts coming their way are, of course, superficial. All the mosad or organization wants is their money, and they are smart enough to appeal to the gvir’s ego.

Unfortunately, the people hurt in all this are the small mosdos and organizations. They don’t have the resources necessary to stroke the egos of gvirim; all they have is a worthy cause to sell. Nowadays, that’s not enough.

The YWN article noted that many investments have not been doing well recently. It’s true, but that’s not the cause of the crisis. It’s all about ego. Every wealthy person wants to feel special, and the mosdos that are able to do so get a bigger chunk of the pie, leaving smaller mosdos without whom to turn to.

Yes, there are other many facets to the current predicament, but in my view, this is the primary problem that must be rectified if we want it to actually be resolved.

The views expressed in this letter do not necessarily represent those of YWN. Have an opinion you would like to share? Send it to us for review.

29 Responses

  1. I respectfully disagree with your conclusions. There are a plethora of smaller organizations that are doing tremendous Chesed and work for the klal that are supported by wealthy non-arrogant people. There exists a large number of truly intelligent successful businessmen out there supporting mosdos without the Chanifah. The writer needs to come out of his bubble and observe what is taking place in the world of Jewish philanthropy.

  2. I just finished reading your essay on the EGOtistic needs of the g’vir or, better yet, the mosdos who think the g’vir needs all the lavish gifts and honor. Truthfully, some do need and/or enjoy being lavishly treated and maybe too many do however there are still gevirim who like to give בעילום שם and מתן בסתר which Chazal describe as the best way to give Tzeddakah. Far too many gevirim know that haShem has chosen them as His שליח to help מוסדות התורה and other causes including the sponsorship of weddings commonly called תקנות חתונות
    Most gevirim are overly generous and far too often taken advantage of. To be gevir is a great ניסיון – after all he is the ‘שליח ה to help those in need. May they be gebentched with ברכה וכל טוב.

  3. What an arrogant arrogant man. Lots of words with zero substance and zero advice. However did you make money, if you even did!

  4. Most gevirim who I know ( for the most part I only them by reputation) are not that interested in getting kavod from mosdos. They certainly are not looking to be wined and dined and brought on luxury vacations and getaways by any mosod, large or small. If being wined and dined and brought on luxury vacations and getaways brought in so much money for mosdos why can’t the smaller mosdos make money that way too?

  5. I am surprised by all comments (so far). Are you intimately involved with mosdos to know? It seems to me the author has a very valid point.

    And while the author didn’t say it, some of the smaller mosdos are so nauseous of the idea of fundraising in the ways described, they simply won’t do it, further inhibiting their fundraising capabilities.

  6. It may be different reasons for each situation. In general I suppose the larger and more established Mosdos have more leverage as if this guy looses money someone else comes in. But in the case that certain smaller Mosdos or a larger one not part of a Kehila or so, that relied on a few wealthy people, these are in a tougher situation as there’s very little leeway. But it’s all חשבון נפש. We have to think of what we can fix
    But also maybe it has to do with the Shiduch crisis as in the Gemara there was a story of things getting very expensive and they found out someone did an aveira and so on. Older singles not married is also dangerous for us. And maybe we should start moving upstate so the houses won’t take away all our income.

  7. @huju

    I was thinking the same thing.

    Anyway- if the culprit is three letters- EGO, why not use it towards the yeshivas advantage- how about publishing the names of those who pay full tuition. Won’t that make everyone seeking כבוד want to make sure they’re on that list?

    (For those who don’t know me- that was supposed to be sarcasm, I don’t support the idea of anyone knowing how much tuition anyone pays. It’s just not fair for their kids, amongst other reasons.)

  8. 1) מצוה לפרסם עושי מצוה – So it’s not ego at all. They deserve it and it is not only permitted, it is a mitzvah!
    2) I have met many individuals who have been blessed with wealth. Many. All are selfless individuals who give of their money AND time very generously to varied mosdos and causes.
    3) Like all of a Yid’s actions, they are guided by halachah. Hilchos tzedakah is very clear about priorities. Poor Torah Scholars Poor of your family, of your community. (not necessarily in this order) Prioritizing our gifts to local yeshivos will go a long way to solve the issue being discussed and to increase the “segulah” that tzedakah brings in its wake.

  9. I have never heard this perspective and I wonder if there’s any truth to it. If a person has enough money to be supporting a mosad, they probably don’t need the pandering described in this letter.
    People are clearly giving – just not to yeshivas. I see two reasons for this.

    1. Many of those being asked to support yeshivos don’t have particularly pleasant memories from when they were in school. Unfortunate, but true. Even if their yeshiva is currently utilizing a different approach to discipline and/or education, with qualified Rebbeim, people won’t necessarily want to make the yeshiva their cause.

    2. Other causes are more ‘obvious’. In many other tzedakah cases the money goes directly to a cause, finances are often public, you see tangible results.

    I think these are the reasons people are choosing the more “aesthetic” or emotionally fulfilling projects to support.

  10. I bet whoever wrote this article is probably a board bochur (with no money!), and he is laughing his head off by all the triggerd people in the comments! 🤣

  11. You are not a rich man and you are just giving your silly opinion and you think if you write that you are rich man people would take what you are saying seriously.
    It is foolishness at best.

  12. I stopped reading after about half way through . I simply couldn’t take it anymore..
    after every few words islts about his wealth and again his wealth and then wealthy people… it’s sickening..
    No I’m not wealthy and while I wish I was (I’m honest) I’m absolutely not jealous of anyone that is but this letter writer just cannot stop talking about his wealth and about other wealthy people that noone is taking this letter seriously…at least not me..

  13. such nonsense, bemes all mosdos are trying to do the right thing in raising the next generation of yidden from day schools to pupa & belz , from nevei to ponevitch so yes there is competition for the tzedaka dollar ,
    another point is causes vs mosdos- bike for chai, rccs, bonei olam, mikva usa, yad eliezer… vs 100’s of yeshivos ,
    finally kollel general pot vs. individual relatives of yours who are in kollel – niece, cousin einikel.. so if u have 5000 to give to support kollel do u drop it at the dinner or give it to ur brother in law in bmg before yomtov? gevirim have plenty of problems like the rest of us ,and and seek brochos & yeshuos and as the ziknei hador are elderly and their time to see people is limited that access has become valuable and dif gedolim have allowed certain mosdos access IN CONCLUSION GEVIRIM DONT NEED KOVOD AND DONT GET KOVOD U CALL 2 MIN SOUNDBYTE ONA VIDEO KOVOD or some pastrami at a carving station mekes the gevir give nonsense ( 60 million for bmg and at adirei hatorah the balle batim are not even on the dais ” BUTLAH KOVOD”

  14. PART of the problem is the many shuls in the neighborhoods and hachnosas seifrei torah. IN all honesty, why does a shul need more than 3-4 sifrei torah at $50,000 per piece, that’s not counting the additional insurance. A sefer torah after the hachnoso is $100,000.

    Bichlal, why do we need so many shuls??? Where I live, many have small crowds and would be better off joining existing shuls instead of opening a new one for a million dollars.

  15. Way off target.
    I know small schools that are fundraising pros and large schools that can barely raise anything.
    The reality is that in the time that rents tripled, payroll multiplied by two and half times food costs more than doubled and many schools saw fit to bring in more staff such as resource coordinators, therapists etc., tuitions at most schools only increased by 60-80%
    If when tuition was $3k and a teacher made $12k (less than half day) a year schools were struggling, now tuition is $4,800 and a teacher makes $22-32k how is a school supposed to handle?
    There are many factors as to why this is coming to a head now, and I’ve addressed some of them here and some of them on the other article and there are many that not only have I not addressed but I probably am not aware of them!
    But anyone who wants to hang any complex topic on one issue is either trying to sell you something or (like in the case of this letter) is trying to feed their ego!

  16. I am not commenting if this article makes sense or not but he is right on the point the amount of Chanifah Mosdos invest in their rich philanthropist.
    Last March one major donor made a sheva Bruche’s for another donor in his circles for over half million dollars.
    It was an avyereh of Oyvar Bal Tashchis flushing down so much $$$ for Chanifeh? Where has this world come to blowing away so much money to party for one night?
    People were sitting on my table enjoying their steaks and making fun of the Host for wasting this money.

  17. Bribing the small donors aa well with fancy dinners, famous entertainers, auction prizes…etc.
    It’s time for more transparency. Show me an organization that is willing to say how much they spend on salaries, marketing and how much actually goes to the cause.

  18. I was once at a dinner for a very well respected Kolel in Boro park and the speaker a well known Magid was asking the crowd how come that the only talk we hear in shul is how much money moshe made this year and how rich Yankel became from COVID and why doesn’t anyone talk about this table of Lomdei Torah who just were tested for the entire Hilches Shabbos?
    Unfortunate the Gashmios is more attractive than Lomdei torah

  19. >>>Many of those being asked to support yeshivos don’t have particularly pleasant memories from when they were in school

    OK. So they should donate to yeshivos that are more in accordance with where they would have been comfortable

    >>>Other causes are more ‘obvious’. In many other tzedakah cases the money goes directly to a cause, finances are often public, you see tangible results

    I don’t understand this at all. What is a more obvious cause than a flourishing Yeshiva putting out Talmidim?

  20. If the Yeshivos & schools really cared about educating in the real world, they would make sure that their students were successful and making a parnosa. Not everyone is expected to become rich, but school should at least teach enough to enable its students to earn a basic parnosa that can cover expenses.
    Surely if they can’t do this, then what is the point to studying for so many years.
    The Jewish education system should cover itself to be able to support itself too.

  21. @smerel
    Should? I’m speculating why people are making their choices, not making their choices for them.

    People donate to causes with which they connect. They also want to see where their money is going (whether this is correct or not, I truly don’t know).

    Chinuch, unlike many other professions/causes, doesn’t have a valid metric for ‘success’, at least in the short term. When you donate thousands to an organization and you see evidence i.e. babies are being born, patients are being aided and supported, food is being delivered, etc. The donor at least has the feeling that their money is enacting positive change.

    It’s harder to see that when supporting a yeshiva. Most of the progress and successes of yeshivas have long term outcomes. An example of this might be holding on to great Rebbeim, maintaining a teaching staff with experience, which ultimately (statistically) improves the social, academic, and behavioral outcomes for students. The effects aren’t as obvious or as immediate as they are in other causes.

    Yeshivas know this. It’s one of the reasons why they often ask for donations for classrooms, buildings and the like. Donors are more likely to donate money that they can see “working”.

    I think yeshivas are as worthy a cause as any other. I just understand why it can be the lesser choice in a donor’s mind.

  22. Yeshivos and Mosdos yes. But the same is true in many businesses, as a professional accountant or attorney you can provide your client with 10s of thousands of savings or spend days on their specific issue. But when you send an invoice, (I thought this would cost bubkes) you actually have a bill you have overhead, you also have to make parnasa, Neh? It’s a form of gezel.

  23. The gvir sitting at the center of the dias at various Siyum, while flocked by gedolie yisroel who pretend that the gvir is one of them, calling him harav hagaon…it sure keeps the money flowing. The greatest of roshei yeshiva dance with the gvir, holding his hand as they sway to the singing of the choir…and the checks keep coming. I watch as this gvir actually believes that he has become a gadol! He really thinks he joined the club of gedolei hador! And THAT’S how they get the big bucks. Dirshu – seek, and you will find the solution.

  24. I read it the first time assuming it was a serious article and was left rather confused. I read it a second time wondering if it was written as a satire on the situation and it made more sense to me that way….

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