"My parents pay our rent and we go to them and my wife’s parents just about every Shabbos [to eat], and we also take frozen foods and cans [home to our apartment from their house]. Yes, we are parasites.… So what do you want? We should die of starvation? We should live on the street? We shouldn't buy diapers? What do you want from us?" – a young married haredi yeshiva student.
Above: Hasidic wedding (file photo)
Mishpacha magazine in Israel has printed a followup to their recent article on the high level of entitlement expressed by young haredi married couples who essentially live off their parents – parents who in turn don't have money and often have to go begging in the US and Europe to finance their married children's existence. Young haredi married couples have even sued their parents over what the children feel is inadequate support.
The new article contains letters from a few of these married children, and Marty Bluke has thoughtfully translated two of them. [ I made slight changes in Bluke's translation for the sake of clarity.]
"My parents pay our rent and we go to them and my wife’s parents just about every Shabbos [to eat], and we also take frozen foods and cans [home to our apartment from their house]. Yes, we are parasites like the ones that you write about with disgust, and all of the older people who read the [earlier] article [in Mishpacha Magazine detailing the attitude of entitlement many young haredi married couples have] probably clucked their tongues. All my life I was taught that I was supposed to sit and learn [Torah full time forever], also when [my parents] married me off, they expected me [to sit and learn] and I expected myself to sit in kollel [a haredi yeshiva for married students, and study Torah full time]. In my kollel we get 1,000 shekels [$250] a month if we get it [at all], sometimes we don't get anything. My wife works and makes 3,000 shekels [$749] a month. So what do you want? We should die of starvation? We should live on the street? We shouldn't buy diapers? What do you want from us? You know that in the winter electricity costs 500 shekels [$125] a month and child care for 2 kids costs 1,500 shekel [$374]? ..."
[signed] An Irritated/Anxious Young Married Haredi Yeshiva Student
"They married me off at 18 and three quarters. Suddenly, I learned that four pieces of salmon for Shabbos cost 50 shekels [$12.50] and that yellow cheese is much more expensive then regular [white] cheese and that my studies cost so much money that there is no chance that I could ever pay for it myself. My husband learns in a kollel where new students don't get paid. We don't know exactly when a new student turns into an old one [and starts getting paid]. I go to school and my parents pay for it. We go to my parents practically every day for lunch and we take vegetables [from them home to our apartment] for dinner and we also [go to their home to eat] Shabbos meals. If someone thinks that this is wrong, he should think twice before he marries off his next child this way. I know that I sound chutzpadik [brazen] but I am not chutzpadik, I am frustrated."
[signed] Chava L. in Jerusalem
Bluke notes that these letters are just further proof of the haredi community's pending implosion:
These letters paint a very bleak picture indeed. The children are frustrated, angry and upset that they have been put into this situation and you know what I don't blame them, what can they do at this point in their lives? They are married off completely unprepared for life. What is worse is that they are resentful and angry at their parents and Charedi society for putting them in this position. That doesn't bode well for the chinuch of the next generation. If you read between the lines of these letters, there is a lot of pent up anger with the Charedi system which at some point may simply explode.
The articles points out that the average Charedi kid who gets married has no clue about finances, home economics, etc. and therefore their big solution is to have classes when they are engaged to teach them these basics. IMHO, this is like a bandaid for a gunshot wound. Even if you have a PhD in Economics, you can't make something out of nothing. As the Avrech pointed out in his letter, you can't support a family on 4000 shekel a month, no matter how economics savvy you are. If 1500 shekel goes to child care and 500 for electricity that leaves 2000 shekel (about $500) for everything else for the month, that just doesn't add up.
It doesn't add up. And that's why within a decade or so the haredi community will either implode or dramatically change – or, perhaps, do both.