The rambling thoughts of a Modern Orthodox Chassid (whatever that means). Contact me at emansouth @

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Poverty: Some Suggestions

In the immortal words of Micheal (no, that's not a typo), Ray Richardson when referring to the Knicks, "The ship be sinking".

That is an apt description of what is happening in the chareidi word today. The ship be sinking and, as Micheal Ray said in response to a reporter's follow-up question, how far can it fall?, "the sky's the limit".

The proximate cause: Poverty

So, what are the solutions? How do we break through?

The answers are quite simple. Getting there will take leadership and courage and a sea-change in the attitudes of the leaders of the chareidi world.

The good news (from the bad news) is that the convergence of a weak US economy and pressure on the dollar (although that pressure seems to finally be letting up a bit) may force this sea change where nothing else has. I will explain later.

So let's start:

1. Work. The best way to fight poverty is to empty the kollelim of 80 to 90% of the avreichim and send them to work. We all know that, at most, 20% of the men in kollel belong there. Give all post high school graduates two or three years to prove themselves. Test them. If they don't make the grade, kick them out. Period. (I understand that this is done among many of the Chassidic sects albeit after a five year trial). We are producing a generation of welfare receiving shnorrers. This has to stop. (When before in history were Jews not machshiv hard work?)

2. Education and Training. In order to work, people need skills. We are producing a generation of illiterate ignoramuses who have no skills, no education, can't write and can't articulate a thought or idea. A little less time in the bais medrash and a little more time teaching fundamentals. (When before in history were Jews not machshiv education?)

3. Army One of the supposed barriers to work (in Israel) is the army. The way the vicious cycle works is that a man must either stay in bais medrash or go to the army; he cannot work unless he goes to the army. I have two words for that. Nachal Hareidi. You don't like it? Tough. Work it out. I know that Israeli politics is a swamp but somewhere there is a solution that can make this work. Do I think it's easy? No. Probably brutally difficult. But so is abject poverty.

The high level solutions I propose are obvious and have been for a while. But, with charitable funding from the U.S. likely to drastically fall, and with the dollar so weak against the shekel, the pain of poverty is certain to increase. Now is the time to act.

Next, more granularity and a word about leadership.



  • At 10:38 AM, Blogger Honestly Frum said…

    I saw an article this morning on Vos iz Neias that they are now instituting a "hechsher" on Jewish music. This tells me one thing that the priorities of our dear brethren on the right are out of whack with reality. I was speaking with a lifelong kollel fellow the other day and he was adamant that no change is necessary. He said people have been saying for 20 years that the system is going to fail and it hasn't yet. He then went on to tell me why they like voting Democrat for all of the enhanced social programs. I personally believe that there is going to be a serious break very soon in orthodoxy between the more moderates (including moderate charedim) and the radicals. It began to come to a head with the Rav Druckman incident, lets see how this unfortunate episode ends.

  • At 11:23 AM, Blogger MoChassid said…


    Everything is just fine. There are no problems at all. This can go on forever. As long as the music has a hechscher, we're ok.

  • At 12:11 PM, Blogger PsychoToddler said…

    You have my vote.

  • At 1:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    MoC- you refer to the Chareidi world. Are you only referring to Israel- b/c granted the bigger problem with poverty is over there but here in America we are at the not-so-early stages of devoloping a similar problem. Kollel couples dependant on their parents for support and then when/ if they are ready to work- they don't have proper training. Vocational schools work in Israel but not in the US.

  • At 1:59 PM, Blogger MoChassid said…

    anon 1:02

    Israel is worse but we are only one generation behind in the US. How will this generation of yungerleit take care of the next generation?

  • At 4:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    As college educated centrist Orthodox Jews, we fully expected our children to go to yehiva/seminary and then get professional or vocational degres so that they could support their families and fully particpate in Jewish life (pay tuition, shul dues, give Tzedaka, buy a house etc.)The joke is on us and others like us - the Yeshiva system steered them away from our rational thinking and convinced them that Kollel and being stay at home mommies, dependent on parents and in-laws was the corect hashgofa. 10 years into this chaos, these smart not-so-young people -with growing families -can't see their way out of their desparate financial situations. We have slowly weaned them off the parental payroll, but there are no adequate pay checks to pick up where we left off. The only way the system will change is if the Yeshivas and Seminaries point the youth on to a path of education and careers with reasonable earning potential - and remove the guilt assocaited with college and secular careers. In our view, the real winners in Jewish life are the young people that have what to give to their families and communities, not just take from others, and still make the time for Torah learning every day. Who's going to pay tuition, pay for orthodontia, make weddings, etc. for their children?

  • At 5:38 PM, Blogger Religion and State in Israel said…


    Under "Education and Training", are you inferring that the Haredi education system in Israel teach the "core curriculum"?

    Joel Katz
    Religion and State in Israel

  • At 6:02 PM, Blogger Jack said…

    I don't know how parents can put their kids into schools that do not provide a complete education.

  • At 7:02 PM, Blogger -suitepotato- said…

    It's not a lot different in the secular world. They just fail to give a proper education, fail to encourage one, the mass media culture encourages and celebrates willful self-deception, self-absorption, self-delusion, and ignorance and naivete in favor of emotionalism, and unthinking fanaticism in pursuit of themselves.

    The result is that schools which once had good metal and wood shops now have "technology class" where American kids learn to do cutsey faux-CNC programs on German-made jewelers' lathes and make plastic chess pieces and THAT IS IT. The basic math, geometry, physics, machining, manufacturing, logic, mechanics, electronics, etc. to make those machines are not taught in public schools.

    Parents or the kids suddenly become young adults now have to foot the bill in private schools for that and since they were ill prepared for the private sector, they either stumble through menial and worthless jobs or go into something the modern American life has many opportunities to learn: Internet-related disciplines.

    There's no mystery why the IT industry is completely overloaded with new people, getting worse every year, and the people coming in less worthy of the jobs, more mediocre, more pathetic at it. When your pre-employment experience is surfing for adult movies and browsing friends' Facebook and MySpace accounts, there's not a lot that says "competent at IP networking" or "Windows support".

    While the charedi world is filled with a sense of self-righteous entitlement (doing G-d's work and bringing Torah to all, or whatever), the public school world is filled with a sense of self-righteous entitlement in the school teachers who have long since stopped giving a rat's behind about "the children" and for whom it is instead all about a jealous, predatory, rapacious obsession with their paychecks.

    It's gotten in many schools that teachers' salaries are so out of whack that basic supply budgets had to be slashed and the money allocated to salaries and benefits and the teachers buy the supplies themselves. So no uniformity of quality and utility of the supplies, and a total loss of the bulk buying economics of the school doing it versus a few hundred teachers.

    These charedi you want to get a job might find the market begging for ANYONE who has the discipline to learn, learn well, be responsible, and disciplined at showing on time, doing the job without shirking it, and providing quality results. If you can nearly memorize the Talmud and Torah and do it largely on without someone pushing you every day, you're probably pretty darn disciplined and motivated. Get thee young man to a community college IT or other course, and get the jobs the secular world is blowing off.

    One day, every other person in many professional jobs might be wearing tzitzit.

  • At 9:42 PM, Anonymous gabe said…

    anyone ever wonder why the injunction of 'uvchol meodecha' (loosely translated-with all your resources) is not repeated in the second parsha of Kriyas shemah?
    1st parsha:
    "b'chol lvavcha, uvchol nafshchah, uvchol meodecha"
    2nd parsha:
    "bchol lvavchem, uvchol nafshchem" no mention of 'uvchol meodchem' it possible that when addressing an individual the torah instructs one to strive to expend all his capabilities towards torah and avodah, however when instructing the masses (as in the plural format of the second parsha) there is no room for such an injuction?
    Just wondering?

  • At 11:52 PM, Blogger muse said…

    My experience is in Israel.
    When my eldest was entering the first grade, I couldn't understand how our Jerusalem neighbors, all university educated, could send their kids to a school system which didn't provide for a high school diploma.

  • At 5:58 AM, Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said…

    MoC: In Israel the army and work are tied together -- once you have gone to the army, you can go to college/university and then get a decent job (meaning, paying more than the meager kollel stipends).

    One of the most fascinating things I have seen though is chareidi women in Israel who work in high-tech to support their families, while their husbands learn.

    These women bring home decent salaries -- something almost unheard of in Israeli Chareidi circles -- and it's wonderful that their wives can earn 15-20 thousand NIS a month.

    However, as I have written before the problem is Israel is that the political Chareidi askanim do NOT want people to leave yeshiva under any circumstances. Its not an issue of the IDF being treif, or not Badatz enough, or women in the's an issue of refusing to let bochrim LEAVE YESHIVA.

    Yossi Beilin was BASHED by Shas and Aguda for suggesting to ELIMINATE THE DRAFT. Can you imagine -- if Chareidim didnt HAVE to avoid the draft by going to Yeshiva...then they would all flee yeshiva -- and that makes Yossi Beilin an "ocher yisrael"

    Now I'm far from being a fan of Yossi Beilin, but to bash him over this issue is simply preposterous.

    Can these politicians seriously, intentionally want to keep Chareidi familes poor, just to retain their stature as the "saviours of the Chareidi community" by ensuring meager kollel stipends and keeping the yeschivot stuffed?

  • At 8:43 AM, Blogger MoChassid said…


    You make an excellent point. The "askanim" (or kanoim) are the ones that must be challenged and defeated. And, it's up to guys like Yonason Rosenblum to take them on.

  • At 1:16 PM, Blogger Still Wonderin' said…

    "Can these politicians seriously, intentionally want to keep Chareidi familes poor, just to retain their stature as the "saviours of the Chareidi community" by ensuring meager kollel stipends and keeping the yeschivot stuffed?"

    Yes. And it's reprehensible.


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