Sunday, January 25, 2015

Why is Charedi poverty getting worse? The kids respond

Mishpacha published a follow up article with 2 main themes:

  1. Responses from kids who are taking money
  2. Suggestions on how to improve the situation
They also mentioned that they received over 250 responses to the original article. 

Below are 2 responses from children, 1 male 1 female. The letters speak for themselves.

My parents pay our rent and we go to them and my wifes parents just about every shabbos, and we also take frozen foods and cans. Yes we are parasites like the ones that you write about with disgust, and all of the older people who read the article probably clucked their tongues. All my life I was taught that I was supposed to sit and learn, also when they married me off, they expected me [to sit and learn] and I expected myself to sit in kollel. In my kollel we get 1000 shekel a month if we get it, sometimes we don't get anything. My wife works and makes 3000 shekel a month. So what do you want? We should die of starvation? We should live in the street? We shouldn't buy diapers? What do you want from us? You know that in the winter electricity costs 500 shekel a month and child care for 2 kids costs 1500 shekel? ...

An irritated/anxious Avreich

They married me off at 18 and three quarters. Suddenly, I learned that 4 pieces of salmon for Shabbos cost 50 shekel and that yellow cheese is much more expensive then regular 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 Avreichim don't get paid. We don't know exactly when a new Avreich 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 for dinner and we also come for shabbos. 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 but I am not chutzpadik, I am frustrated.

Chava L. Yerushalayim

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. 

Thursday, January 08, 2015

The city of Bet Shemesh is running out of money, why is that important?

The city of Bet Shemesh has had Charedi leadership (A Charedi mayor and Charedi politicians in most of the key City Council positions) for the past 6 years and it is running out of money. According to a report on Radio Kol Chai the city has a 40 million shekel budget deficit. The mayor is proposing a budget cut of 25 million shekel, the other Charedi parties do not agree.

Why does Bet Shemesh have such a big budget deficit? In Israel city governments get much of their money from property taxes (arnona), especially from businesses, factories, industrial areas etc. The rates for them are much higher and they provide the money to support the functioning of the city government. Unfortunately, Bet Shemesh in recent years has seen an explosion of building of residential apartments, but NO industrial business areas. The city has grown in population (especially young population) with little to no growth in business leading to the budget issues. All of the children need city services such as Ganim, schools, etc., however there has been no corresponding increase in revenues. In addition, many of the people moving in pay little arnona as they are learning in kollel and get up to a 90% discount.

This is no surprise as for the past few years the Charedi leadership has singled out Bet Shemesh as the place to build affordable housing for the growing Charedi population. This has led to an impressive array of new housing developments but none of the supporting infrastructure that is needed especially in terms of business and industrial areas. As I have said previously (The cash machine that is the Israeli government) Charedim as a group view the government very differently then other citizens. They view the government as a cash machine, give us money and leave us alone. The budget is a zero sum game, whatever we can save and get for us great whatever doesn't go to us is basically lost. This is bad when they are a minor party but is a disaster when they are in power. This is what scares the average Israeli most. In 20 years the Charedi parties may very well be the biggest parties in Israel, and therefore would control the government. What economic policies would they enact (more money for Yeshivos, Avreichim etc.) and where will the money to pay for it come from?

Hat Tip: Life In Israel

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Why is Charedi Poverty Getting Worse? Part 4 - Letters to Mishpacha

In part 3 I quoted extensively from an article in Mishpacha which described how married children are driving their parents into poverty by taking and taking and taking. This week the magazine published 3 letters in response, all agreeing with the article.  One letter in particular is very interesting and reinforces the points that I have been making, here it is:

קשה וכואב היה לקרא את הכתבה של ר" קפלר, על ילדים הנשואים הרוכבים על גבי הוריהם. אך כמה מפליא, יכול להיות שההורים נותנים בכך דוגמא אישית

נאמר זאת, הילדים לא המציאו את השיטה, הם ראו אותה אצל ההורים! אתם עכשיו שבאים בטענות, עשיתם (וחלקם עדיין עושים) את אותו דבר בדיוק! הוריכם ניצולי השואה לא יכלו לחשוב על כך שילדים שלהם יהיו מצוקה ומחסור, ונתנו (ועדיין נותנים) לכם את כל אשר להם. דור ניצולי השואה עבדו כמו חמורים, חלקם בעבודות מפרכות גוף ונפש, וביחד אם הרנטות שהם קיבלו מגרמניה הם חיתנו את הילדים, קנו להם דירות, ועזרו להם לעבור לדירה גדולה יותר, וכן הלאה ככל שיכלו ומעבר לכך.

הדור השני כבר עבד הרבה פחות, רובו למד בכולל (וחלקו עדיין בכולל עד היום), וחי מקצבאות הממשלה, מתמיכות מהכולל, ומעזרה מההורים. וכשהם הגיעו לחתן את ילדיהם (הדור הסחטן של היום) עמדו הם בלא מודעות בפני שוקת שבורה ולקחו את ילדיהם וזרקו לתוך המים הסוערים. והילדים האלו שרגילים לכך שסבתא היא באר מיים חיים, הולכים גם הם לשאוב. ולפעמים מגש העוף שהם גנבו מהפריזר יהיה העוף היחיד שהנכדים יראו במהלך השבוע ... כי כשאין, אזז אין

הורים יקרים אתם אשמים! אם אתם לא מספיקים לילדכם כלים לפרנסה, ואתם כן מראים לו דוגמה אישית של חיים על חשבון הסבים, אז אתם יכולים להאשים רק את עצמכם

It was hard and painful to read the article by R' Kapler about married children who are dependent on their parents. However, how interesting it is that the parents are giving their children a personal example [of being dependent on their parents].

We can say this, the children did not invent this, they saw their parents doing it. You [parents] who are now complaining did (and some are still doing) the same exact thing! Your parents, holocaust survivors, could not bear to see their children lack from anything, and therefore gave (and are still giving) to you everything they had. The generation of holocaust survivors worked like mules, some in  physically and spiritually crushing work, and along with the reparations they received from Germany married off their children, bought them apartments, helped them move to bigger apartments, etc. giving whatever they could and sometimes even more. 

The second generation worked much less, most learned in kollel (some are still learning in kollel) and live off government and kollel stipends, and help from their parents. So when they came to marry off their children they found themselves in a hopeless situation and took their children and threw them into the turbulent waters. The children who were used to their grandparents being the source of all good, are coming back to take. Sometimes the tray of chickens that they take from the freezer are the only chicken the grandchildren will see that week... because when there isn't any, there isn't any.

Parents, it is your fault! If you don't provide your children with the tools to make a living and you provide an example of living off the taxpayer, you can only blame yourselves.

This letter pretty much sums up what I have been saying, the kids ares simply following in their parents footsteps. The problem is that the generational money is running out and there is nothing to replace it.

The fact that Mishpacha published 3 letters in favour of the article (these are the only letters published) says a lot about what is going in the Charedi community. At least some people seem to understand that there is a real issue here, the question is, what will the leadership do about it?

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Why is Charedi poverty in Israel getting worse? Part 3

The Mishpacha magazine in Hebrew this past week ran an article about the hidden cause of Charedi poverty. The article detailed how parents are going into debt and collapsing in order to support their married children. Because I think this article is so important and powerful I am going to quote highlights from it. I will sprinkle in my commentary, but truthfully, the article really speaks for itself.

  הוא הבטיח לי סידור מלא, התובע גאה ונחוש עמד מול הרכב בית דין. אשתו לצידו כרעייה נאמנה מוכנה להעיד. אבא שלה הבטיח דירה בירושלים ובסוף נתן דירה בפרוייקט
כך היה המעשה: אב ירושלמי הוזמן להגיע לבית הדין כנתבע על יד חתנו ובתו. הזוג הצעיר דרש את כל מה שמגיע להם לדעתם תחת הכותרת סידור מלא
הסיפור הזה מפורסם ...אבל הדיינים בבית הדין מכירים סיפורים כאלו שזורמים אל שולחנם על בסיס קבוע. גם אליהם מגיעים להתדיין בנים נשואים שתבעו את הוריהם

He promised me a complete arrangement the plaintiff proud and determined stood in front of the Beit Din his wife at his side as a loyal wife ready to testify. Her father promised an apartment in Jerusalem and in the end bought them an apartment in the periphery. 
This is the story: A Yerushalmi father was taken to Beis Din as a defendant by his son in law and daughter. The young couple was demanding everything that was coming to to them under a "full arrangement". This story is famous ... but the judges of the Beis Din see stories like this that come to their desks on a regular basis. Also to them come the cases of married children suing their parents

After I read this I was blown away, married children suing their parents for support? What have we come to? What has the kollel system wrought?

Not everyone takes their parent to Beis Din, some simply come to their parents and take stuff.

להרבה זוגות נשואים יש שוק קטן ופרטי שמכיל הכל: המטבח של אבא ואמא. כמה פשוט קופצים לשבת או לערב, פותחים ארונות נזכרים ששכחו לקנות פסטה או שמן. לוקחים
לפעמים ההורים מזמינים משלוח של קפואים הרבה מגשי עופות והודו, שיספיקו עד ט"ו בשבט. ככה לפחות הם חשבו. אבל הילד שלהם, אבא לשלוש בעצמו רואה שיש להם בפרוזר המון עופות ולוקח כמה מגשי פולקוס. מי ירגיש שהיו כאן עשרה מגשים ועכשיו יש רק שבעה?
סיפרה על יהודי מכובד מאשדוד שבכל פעם לפני שנשואיו היקרים מגיעים, הוא עורם קופסאות שימורים ומעביר אותן לארון העליונה ... מסלקים הכל

Many young couples have they own private little store, their parents kitchen. How simple is it to just come over for a night or Shabbos open the cabinets and remember that you forgot to buy pasta or oil and simply take it. 
Sometime the parents order a large delivery of trays of chicken and turkey that will last until Tu Bishvat, at least that is what they thought. But their child, a father of 3 himself, sees the freezer full of chicken trays and takes a few. Who will notice if before there were 10 and now there are only 7?
Someone told about a respected Jew in Ashdod who, every time his married children come for a visit, moves all of the cans to a higher closet, they hide everything.

This is simply mind boggling. The article mentions as well that this practice in many cases is simply stealing al pi halacha. The question is where does this attitude come from? The article answers this as well:

להבחורי הישיבות של ימינו נותנים הכל מסביר למשפחה הרב צבי טברסקי, מחנך ותיק ומדריך חתנים. וזה טוב ונכון, כי הם לומדים תורה והם חוד החנית של העם היהודי. מפנקים אותם מכבדים אותם על בסיס קבוע: הם צעירים בני שמונה עשרה-תשע עשרה שמקבלים חינם מגורים וריהוט, חשמל ומים ושלש ארוחות ביום. כך צריך להיות ... אבל לפעמים במקביל לכל השפע הזה, קורה שהבחורים מתרגלים שהכל מגיע להם. מתרגלים לקבק. אולי לא מספיק חינכו אותם להכיר טובה אולי לא הבהירו להם שיש מי שעובד קשה כדי שהם ייהנו מכל הטוב הזה

The yeshiva students of today get everything explains Rav Tzvi Twersky, a veteran educator and marriage counsellor, to Mishpacha. This is good and correct because they are learning Torah and they are the tip of the spear of the Jewish people. We pamper them and give them honour regularly: They are 18-19 year olds who get for free a furnished place to live, electricity, water, and 3 meals a day. This is how it should be. ... However, sometimes, with all of this abundance, it happens that the boys get used to the fact that they should just get everything. Maybe we don't educate them enough to have gratitude, maybe no one explained to them that there is someone who works very hard so tha they can enjoy all of this abundance.

I would say not maybe but definitely. IMHO this is the root of the problem. The Yeshiva boys just get and get and get and really feel that everything is simply coming to them. Yonasan Rosenblum wrote a good column about this a few years ago:

The second major reason not to grant draft exemptions from Pesach cleaning is that it fosters a sense of entitlement that can work against true striving in Torah. Contrary to the common impression among yeshiva bochurim, limud Torah is not a general exemption from all responsibilities in life. As one who was zocheh to learn in kollel for nearly 15 years, I view the expansion of kollel learning as the glory of our generation. But nothing will ever come from one who views yeshivah or kollel as life with an E-Z Pass.
But acceptance of the yoke of Torah must come first. One does not demand that one be freed from responsibilities in order that one can learn. Nor does the yoke of Torah provide one with a right to demand from others that they take on one's responsibilities.
More and more, especially in shidduchim, we hear the attitude expressed that a ben Torah is entitled to be spared all life's worries and to be able to live in comfort in order that he can learn in peace. Such an expectation is both unrealistic and dangerous. It is impossible to protect oneself from all worries: illness strikes, fathers-in-laws' businesses go bankrupt, wives who undertook the burden of parnassah find that they are no longer physically or emotionally capable of doing so six children later, or that the children are suffering from having a permanently drained and part-time mother.

The quest for comfort can be inimical to spiritual growth in general and to growth in Torah learning in particular. When the Mishnah in Avos (6:4) describes the way of Torah – "bread with salt shall you eat, water by measure shall you drink, on the earth shall you sleep" – it is hardly describing a life of comfort.
An acquaintance told me recently that her brother had been advised against a certain shidduch by his friends. They had pointed out that the girl's parents were already in late middle-age, and that she had only one sister, so she might end up having to take care of her parents one day. At least her brother was embarrassed when she pointed out: "Oh, so you expect your in-laws to support you for twenty years, but, chas v'Shalom, you should ever have to do anything for them." No doubt such bald-faced selfishness is rare, but the extreme examples often reveal more than we care to admit.

It seems that we are raising a generation of children who feel entitled to everything. It seems that today's Yeshiva Bachurs never heard of the famous idea of נהמא דכיסופא, that Hashem put us here on Earth so that we wouldn't feel shame getting a free ride in Heaven, that rather we should earn it. Today's children have no problem whatsoever with נהמא דכיסופא in fact not only aren't they embarrassed but they want it.

Why is this coming to a head now? Why now can't the parents afford this now? The answer is what I have been saying, there are 2 major reasons:
1. Generational money is gone
2. Large families

פעם היה לנו יותר אפשריות אומרים לי אבות ואמהות לנשואים. מדובר בכאלה שחתנו את בנם הבכור לפני עשור ושניים, והרגישו את עצמם עשירים גדולים: היו להם כך וכך מאות אלפי שקלים בתכנית חסכון, עשרים אלף דולר מהסבא ניצול השואה ודירה קטנה בעפולה להשקעאה. 
את הזוג הראשון חתנו בלארגיות נתנו קנו תמכו. ... היום אם חתונת הילד השישי, הבסיס הכלכלי נשמט מתחת לרגליהם. מאות האלפים נמוגו עם החתונות, הסבה הקשיש נפטר, והדירה בעפולה ממושכנת ולא מכסה אפילו שליש. אבל הילדים הנשואים מסרבים להבין את המצב.

הבת החמישית רוצה לתינוק שלה אותה עגלג כמו שקבלה אחותה הגדולה. 

Parents of married children told us that in the past they had more options. We are talking about people who married off their oldest child 10-20 years ago , at the time they felt rich. They had a few hundred thousand shekels saved up, twenty thousand dollars from their grandfather, a holocaust survivor, and a small apartment in Afula for investment purposes. The first child they married off in grand fashion. and they gave them everything and supported them. Today however, with the marriage of their sixth child, the rug has been pulled from under their financial feet. The savings are gone, spent on the weddings. The grandfather is dead, and the apartment in Afula is mortgaged and the rent does not even cover 1/3 of the mortgage. But the married children refuse to understand the situation. The fifth daughter wants the same (expensive) carriage as her older sister got.

This article paints a very bleak picture of the future of Charedi society in Israel. As I said in my previous posts, the money is simply running out and the second and third generation kollel parents have nothing to fall back to. There is simply no way that they can support the next generation in the kollel lifestyle when they can't even support themselves. What is the father of 3 who takes (steals) chickens from his parents going to do when his parents are dead and he needs to marry off his fifth child while supporting the first four? Where is the money going to come from?