I want to preface that I write this article not to point fingers at anyone, simply for the sake of discussion and thought.
We hear a lot about how the Crown Heights community cannot afford tuition and that’s why schools fall into debilitating condition. But I wonder if perhaps we as the parent body are doing everything we can to ensure the school has the money they need. The fact is that most of us fit into the “middle class”, we get by day to day and are not poverty stricken but also cannot afford a tremendous amount of luxury. However, every one of us knows we each have our own “luxury”, and perhaps these too can be cut back on.
Whether it’s going out for dinner once a month or week driving a fancier car then we could get by with we all have that “luxury” in our life.
True, none of these expenses are “big” money but let’s put it into perspective. If we stop going to the bakery every work day for coffee and a danish we save $3/day that’s $60 a month or another $720 that could go towards school tuition. If we lease a Chrysler instead of a Honda we save $75 a month that’s another $900 a year for tuition. If we eat chicken on the bone instead of shnitzal for dinner that’s a savings of nearly $5 a lb. If instead of flying to Florida on points we drive to a hotel within driving distance for quality time with our spouse/family and sell the excess points that’s another $1000+ in tuition. If we don’t go for pizza once a week with our family that’s a savings of at least $80 a month. This list could go on and on.
None of these will save the school from debt or from closing down but at least it mitigates the deficit that much more. I think if we each choose one luxury to forgo in place of our children’s school there can easily be several hundred thousand dollars more in the school’s accounts.
I’m not implying that we don’t make sacrifices, what I am saying is there is too much of a sentiment in Crown Heights of “how much can I get the board down” instead of “how much can I push myself to pay.” If our children’s schools are important to us let’s not just look how “the big realty mogul” can help us but how we can help ourselves.
If saving up money to buy a house is more important to you then your child’s schooling then why should tzedakah carry the burden? Tzedakah is a last resort that a person should rely on only in times of true need.
As the Rambam writes at the end of hilchos matnos Aviyim: “כל מי שאינו צריך ליטול ומרמה את העם ונוטל אינו מת מן הזקנה עד שיצטרך לבריות והרי הוא בכלל ארור הגבר אשר יבטח באדם וכל מי שצריך ליטול ואינו יכול לחיות אלא אם כן נוטל כגון זקן או חולה או בעל יסורין ומגיס דעתו ואינו נוטל הרי זה שופך דמים ומתחייב בנפשו ואין לו בצערו אלא חטאות ואשמות וכל מי שצריך ליטול וציער ודחק את השעה וחיה חיי צער כדי שלא יטריח על הצבור אינו מת מן הזקנה עד שיפרנס אחרים משלו ועליו ועל כל כיוצא בזה נאמר ברוך הגבר אשר יבטח בה”
“Any person who does not need to take [charity] and deceives the people and takes will not reach old age and die until he requires assistance from people at large. He is among those of whom it is said : “Cursed be a person who trusts in mortals.”
[Conversely,] anyone who needs to take [charity] and cannot exist unless he takes, e.g., an elderly man, sick, or beset by afflictions, but is proud and does not take is considered as a murder. He is liable for his soul and all that he has earned through his hardship is sin and guilt. But anyone who needs to take [charity], but causes himself affliction and temporarily constrains himself and lives a life of difficulty so that he will not overburden the community will not reach old age and die before he provides sustenance for others from his own means. Concerning such a person and those like him, it is stated, ‘Blessed be a person who trusts in God.'”
Wishing only the best on our community and its schools.
Kesiva v’Chassima Tova!