(Unless op-ed writers begin stating their real names, I ask COLlive to keep my identity private. I will say that I am a teacher in a large Chabad girls school and both of my parents are long-time educators.)
I have been unsettled since reading the op-ed titled “Who Is Worrying For OUR Children?” questioning the sustainability of a frum lifestyle. Unsettled is really an understatement. I am troubled that my children will be raised in a world where someone can publicly contradict the Rebbe’s directives, on a Chabad website, and not be challenged. And so I write.
I would like to start by pointing out that not once in your entire article is there any mention of Hashem, the One whose commandments define what you call “a frum lifestyle” and upon whom we rely on to help us sustain our families.
You write: “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…”
The two way deal is with Hashem, who gave you the children. The Rebbe has said that we can trust Hashem to sustain our growing families, just like He sustains all of His creatures.
You bring up an excellent point of the ever increasing unaffordability of tuition. Your analysis however is less than accurate. For starters, private school tuition is expensive; it has nothing to do with “a Chabad lifestyle.” In fact, the tuition at Chabad schools is less than most in the frum world, which are easily over ten thousand dollars a year at the elementary level.
Secondly, I would like to address the underlying attitude of your arguments. You simply do not value the beauty and the privilege of raising children to follow the ways of the Nasi Hador. You do not have to send your children to a Chabad school; it is your privilege to send your child to the Rebbe’s mosdos.
Your insinuation that an imaginary “Central Corporate Chabad” holds the responsibility of “perpetuating” Chabad to the next generation explains why you expect Mesivtas and seminaries to be free. Children will only carry on the values that their parents valued. When we expect things to be free, it is a reflection of the value we associate with that item or service. Thankfully we do not have to risk our lives to give our children a proper Chinuch. Mesiras Nefesh that parents have for Chinuch will surely be rewarded by Hashem.
What you value makes you rich. If you value money, lots of money will make you rich. If you value healthy, happy, frum children, then as many children as Hashem gives you will make you rich. Look around this crazy world and see how lucky you are to be raising kids according to the Rebbe’s vision, and then look at your beautiful healthy children, and you will recognize the millionaire status that Hashem has bestowed upon you.
Now, I would like to address certain points you bring up:
Firstly, your suggestion of limiting a family’s number of children as a solution to anything is very disturbing. Anything that directly contrasts the Rebbe’s words is obviously not a solution. What would you tell a person who wanted to work on Shabbos in order to pay his bills? There is BH “an Aibershter af der velt,” and if He gives us children, He will find a way for us to sustain them. We don’t have children because of what you write, that people will say “oysh, nebach, I bet they have some health problems, we should daven for them,” or “they are so modern, we should talk to their mashpiah.”
Children are the greatest blessing that Hashem can bestow upon a couple. It is true that raising children uses all our physical, emotional, intellectual and monetary reserves. Can you tell me a better way to use our strengths and money?
Secondly, Shluchim and Baalei Tshuva have nothing to do with the tuition crisis. If anything, Shluchim struggle more with tuition, as many have to send their children away from home at a young age, and have the extra costs of airfare and room and board to pay for (to Crown Heights families!)
In addition, many schools do not have a Shluchim discount. If they do, the Shluchim are paying the full discounted price, unlike “regular” Lubavitchers that can easily drag out payment for years.
Your allegation that Shluchim are draining the coffers of Chabad is erroneous and inflammatory. The majority of Chabad House funds come from the very communities they serve. Obviously there are families who choose to give their ma’aser to their relatives on Shlichus. There are HUNDREDS of other organizations that raise thousands of dollars every year from WITHIN the community, including schools, camp scholarship funds, hatzalah, special needs organizations (other than Friendship Circle), organizations that help the poor, infertile couples, and the list goes on.
People have a right to donate their money where they want to. Some people chose not to give a dime to Shluchim. I am sure that if a credible tuition organization was started, they would also be able to raise thousands of dollars every year, without forbidding families to donate to their relatives on Shlichus.
In regard to your complaint of “little or no programming funds, resources, or attention paid to ‘regular’ Lubavitchers,” I would also like to bring to your attention the amazing work of organizations like JEM and Chayolei Tzivos Hashem that raise thousands of dollars a year for the sake of our communities.
JEM’s tremendous Living Torah collection is a must for every Chabad home (Rabbonim have actually said you can use ma’aser to pay for these videos) and Chayalei Tzivos Hashem (which is specifically geared to Lubavitch children) has done wonders to create a first class program to encourage children to act like a Chassid should, including a full color glossy monthly newsletter, high tech miles system and fantastic prizes.
(As a side, JEM and Chayolei Tzivos Hashem are recipients of the generosity of the Rohr family whose tzedakah started out with a single Chabad House and has benefited all of Chabad, so frankly, your theory does not quite add up.)
Third, your comparison of Chabad to other Chassidic communities leaves much to be desired. I am not familiar with the tuition systems in other communities; however I would discourage you from comparing apples to oranges.
In other frum communities, parents incur the tremendous pressure and expense of setting up a young couple with a fully furnished home (including dining room set and bedroom set) and/or supporting a young couple for one or more years. The parent’s ability to afford these expenses often dictates the type of shidduch their children will have, something which is BH far from the norm in Chabad.
Fourth, your suggestion of creating institutions to help people, who will not be going out on Shlichus, to find a Parnassa is not a new one. In fact there are many frum institutions that offer accredited courses, to both men and women, for training in various careers. There is no need to begin career counseling “at the age of 14.”
As for controlling the tuition crisis, you are 100% right that something must be done. However, it as much as the schools should be making an effort to make tuition more affordable, parents must also be willing to set their priorities straight. Schools and donors are wary of parents who want a break in tuition, while splurging on other expensive items.
I remember hearing a story about Rabbi Shmuel Spalter who was interviewed by a TV reporter who questioned him about his ability to afford private school tuition for his nine children on a modest income. Rabbi Spalter answered “It’s tough, we have to make sacrifices and really prioritize, but a Jewish education is our number one priority!” The reporter was taken aback.
“Number one priority? What about bread and butter, would you sacrifice that for a Jewish education?” Rabbi Spalter calmly replied, “Not bread, but butter!”
When you appreciate a Chabad education as the bread of your children’s lives, you would be willing to sacrifice the butter.
That said, parents should choose representatives to approach Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch to create a tuition branch that will work with both the schools and the parent representatives to create a viable tuition system and create a scholarship fund to help families offset the huge costs of tuition.
Finally, we must all be thankful to Hashem who gives us the opportunity to spend our money to educate our children al taharas hakodesh. It is parents, who are responsible for the Chinuch of their children, but we need not worry, Hashem is looking out for our children, “un der Rebbe bleibt nisht kein ba’al chov.”