Chabad's resources are put into outreach and missionary activity directed toward non-Orthodox and non-Chabad Jews. But it does little for Jews who already are Chabad, leaving Chabad adherents with exorbitantly high school tuition bills, and extremely high cost of living, and few of the benefits members of other hasidic groups get. Chabad's large families are often in crisis as a result.
Turn Chabad upside and focus on “in reach”
By Chabad Spring • Special to FailedMessiah.com
Is a Frum life style sustainable? A better question is Chabad Frum lifestyle sustainable? I suspect that Chabad Frum lifestyle is less sustainable than a plain "frum" lifestyle. Here is why.
Before I begin I want to pre-frame this all by a disclaimer that as a pure Oholie Torah’nic the grammer may be lacking, with some luck and help from auto-correct by Microsoft word, this piece will be more readable.
I am a Jewish Frum Chabad married Working [not on Shelichus] father of a 5 kids, My wife and I is what you would call a normal working class gezhe family, the following are some thoughts I would like to share.
We were both brought up in, and graduated the Chabad schools system, I went to yeshiva my whole life, then went on bochur /yeshiva shelichus, then got semicha,went on Merkaz shelichus, and learned in kolel. My Wife, went to Chabad school, Camp Emuna, Amazing Seminary, she is what they would refer to as “an amazing girl”. we never rebelled, and dedicated our lives to grow our family like a normal Chabad family.
Here is the problem;
We are brought up with a certain hadracha and hashkafa, which for the most part dictates the behavior our daily life, but in addition to Halacha, if you are living in the Chabad lifestyle, there is a lot more that is an unspoken expectation of you and your family. For Example, You have to send your kids to a Chabad School –No matter the cost of tuition, you have to send your kids to a Chabad summer camp, no matter the cost of tuition, just so the kids are not marginalized, and labeled an outcast.Then there are the elite mesivtos and seminaries, out of town schools, and with the games surrounding the artificial supply and demand for the limited spots at the elite Mosdos, and the price tag to send our children are not cheap. A recent article on shturm.net amplified this concern related to tuition, “$19,500.00 for Oholie Torah Yeshiva Gedola, $8,000.00 for K-8 at Oholie Torah, at Beis Rivka they charge $6,000.00 per student per year, and of course the seminaries that charge $16,000.00 for the year excluding the airfare and other expenses.” In short, if you calculate the cost of having a child, to educate them, and see them thru the system and helping marriage within the framework of “the system”, it can cost between $200,000 -$300,000.00 each, depending on the schooling options you choose.
The first logical knee jerk reaction to this would be it to have a smaller family. While logical, it is not practical. Let’s be honest, have you seen a couple with a small family of only 2 kids, (that other couples their age group and time married would have by now 5 kids,) it is embarrassing for them, they are the unspoken talk of the town, people start talking “oysh, Nebach, I bet they have some health problems, should we daven for them”. or “ they are such frieyaken, I think they are part of chabad 2.0 /Newbavitch and they are family planning”. Oy, I should talk to their mashpiah.
As Chasidim we all do our best, we sacrifice a lot just to be mekusher to the Rebbe. But I feel it’s a 2 way street, if we keep our end of the deal and have a large family, we keep our kids from going to anything but a yeshiva “al taharas hakodesh”, there should be a central organization that supports our lifestyle, and not a nebach case special need tzdeka recipients. Let me explain, If we tear a page out of the Catholic school and education system playbook, we can learn a thing or two, they subsidizing education from the top down, tuition costing $3,000 per child. (extra subsidies for larger families,) they put up the money to encourage parents to send their kids, in order to educate them with their beliefs, and get them to become followers, etc. and this keeps the cycle running. Sadly, we have a broken wheel, our system is broken, the wheels simply fell off the wagon. We create baal teshuvas or, we are born into Chabad. Our parents listened to the Rebbe and never went to college, so at best our parents got a mediocre job, they had a large family, our mothers could never go to work since they are the “Akeres Habayis”, so the family struggled their whole life, and once the kids are old enough,eother they would follow the steps of their parents, or choose to leave, go to college, get educated, get a good job or go into business, or just become an accidental entrepreneur. Sadly 90% of talmidim graduating the Yeshivoth don’t have the basic skillset to compete for a real job. Alternatively, if you wish to tear a page out of the Satmar school system playbook, their tuition is heavily subsidized, and so they still keep having large families. Buy the fact of the matter is, that we don't have a sustainable model.
Reality is, and it’s no secret, almost all our resources are going towards fishing for new Jews to join into our system, and making more frie people frum. We have Friendship circles, holocaust survivor circles, release time, youth programs for college kids, youth programs for kids who come to Chabad house, Camp Lemaan Achy, Camps for yalday hashluchim, you name it if you are not yet Frum = Chabad has something for you. Every sheliach out there is doing his best to be mekarev yidden, yet the fact of the matter is that there is none or little programming funds, resources, or attention paid to us, who are actually living the Chabad Working lifestyle.
Shluchim the default discounts.
If you are a sheliach, you are truly living a not-for-profit lifestyle with mesiras nefesh, and kudos to you and your family, you are doing the Rebbe's work. To appreciate your dedication, you get all the discounts, the beneficiary of donation from “working Chabad” plus schluchim discounts at many Mosdos, in additon, you get discounts in many stores on Kingston. Not to mention other perks that are well known.
But what about us, those of us who are not on shelichus and working to pay for our expensive lifestyles?
As “working class Chabad”, there are no or little breaks for school, or camps, and other programs we are expected to send our kids to, it’s at a point, where I feel that I should be temporarily donating to “Inreach” programs and to discontinue supporting Sheluchim who are doing ”Outreach”.
I imagine that if all “working Chabad” took all their donations and contributed to a central education fund for tuition, or camp funds, to give a break to those who are working and struggling to keep our kids “in and thru the system” .
There seems to be an absolute vacuum in leadership when it comes to “IN reaching”, and so, to get the conversation started and until someone can come up with some better ideas, allow me to name a few, and hopefully some leadership or organization will emerge.
1) Camps day camps and overnight camps: cap the tuition to $1,500 for the summer, or $3,000 a family no matter how many kids you send to camp.
2) Schools should start teaching and offering a track for Parnasa, Shelichus is today not a given anymore as an absolute outcome of your education, it is now based on a connection you have, family or other, or if you marry into a shelichus family. Everyone needs the basics of reading writing, a career counselor should work with every child at the age of 14 and determine their strengths and weaknesses and help coach the student into a path that best fits their abilities.
3) Institute a cap if you have 1 Child in school, its $5,500 the second child pays $4,500, the third $3,500 etc, with a $15,000 cap. No matter how many kids you send to school. The rest should be totally subsidized by Merkaz.- Your Tuition portion should be paid to Merkaz - Merkaz in turn will send a cehck with other subsidized money to the Chabad run school of your choice.
4) Mesivta and Zal should be free –YES FREE. if we want our kids to stay in the system we need to find a way to make it FREE, seminary for girls should also be FREE. This must be placed on the shoulders of Central Chabad Corporate – if you want to promote the perpetuation of Chabad for the next generation make it FREE.
5) Proposing a freeze on all shelichus donations and instead donate to the Merkaz Central Education Fund .
6) Satmar also don’t have all business run by educated MBA’s, however, they have a strong ethic of trying to promote each others business, no matter what.
7) I also think that 4-6 kids should be the largest families we should be having, we can’t worry about the guilt placed onto us about having large families, All those groyseh chasidim who are running the Mosdos, conveniently forgot that the Rebbe asked them to keep the tuition low and affordable, but now 18 years after Gimmul Tamuz, we are the ones holding the bill, begging for their mercy to let our kids into the same Mosdos at a discount. If the same Groyseh Chasidim running the Mosdos send the bill directly to Merkaz, we will have as many kids as you want.
8) Have a petition signed by every working Chabad family in Lubavitch and demand that we reform the current system with real actionable steps right away. Let there be a focus on fundraising $100 Million dollars and inviting Chabad Yeshivos and Day Schools to be under the Merkaz umbrella,
9) we start today the Chabad Spring, and make it your focus to talk about this very issue, all the time, and with all your friends, we started a petition that will be presented to Merkaz, please sign it here today. http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/chabad-spring/
I write this as a warning since the writing is already on the wall. Dear Chabad HQ, you are losing your base. Focusing on bringing in new baaly teshuva into chabad is clearly the current focus, its a very nice activity, it’s the Rebbe’s work, but working with those already here is even more important. Please pay attention to us, before the already broken system explode in our faces.
To sign the petition, demanding that, Merkaz Linyonay Chinuch shoulder Chabad Education, click here.