Monday, September 29, 2008
Sunday, September 28, 2008
1. Every Elul, I take my mom to the cemetery to visit the graves of her parents. The ritual of visiting my grandparents is kind of a "Groundhog Day" type of affair. My mom says almost the exact same things from year to year. We start at my grandparents' graves and move down the line where her three aunts, some uncles and some cousins are buried. I take comfort from the sameness of it every year.
2. On our way to the cemetery, I was listening to Bloomberg radio, trying to find out what was going on with the rescue plan. On came a commercial for WAMU, the bank that was seized by the regulators on Thursday and whose deposits and branches were sold to JP Morgan. You can't make this up.
3. As Providence would have it, buried one grave away from my grandmother are Doctor Harry Shimkin and his wife. (What the connection is is a mystery).
Dr. Shimkin crossed my path while I was in junior high school and high school at HILI. He was a retired dentist in his late 60s who, somehow, ended up as, for lack of a better description, chief operating officer and disciplinarian. He was uniquely unsuited for the second part of this job. He had never had kids of his own, and certainly had no idea how to deal with teenagers growing up in the
1960's and 70's. Our job, of course, was to torture him to the greatest extent possible, a job that we both relished and excelled at.
Part of me also felt bad for him, especially after the fact. At the end of the day, he meant well and worked very hard for the school.
So, each year, I suppose as a tikun for my actions, I stop by, place a rock on his grave, say some tehillim for him and his wife, and say a Kail Maleh. (He left no children so it is not clear that anyone else ever visits him). I hope he is resting in peace and that he is free from the kind of aggravation he got from us.
4. This year, we also went to visit my father, who is at a different cemetery not far away. Having davened at the 6:30 selichos minyan, and started out for the cemetery very early in the morning, we got to the second cemetery around 8:50 a.m. and were able to drive right up to my father's grave. All I could think of was how proud my father must be that I was able to visit two different cemeteries, be done by 9, and avoid any traffic at all. Yiddishe Nachas!
At this time of the year, I always remember my father's davening for the amud. His niggunim are nusach are inside of me and I will never forget them no matter how long I live.
In addition to watching over his family during these awesome days approaching the Yomim Noraim, my dad in Shamayim will undoubtedly have a keen interest in what happens this afternoon to his "farshtoonkiner Mets".
5. My best wishes for a gut g'benched year to all you silly people who read this nonsense. A sweet year full of health, happiness, Torah, and parnasah. I apologize to, and ask mechilah from, those who I have offended over the course of the year, in particular, a chashuvah Jew from Beitar whom I still owe some answers (and hope to respond to after the financial crisis calms down a little).
Chasivah V'chasimah Tova to all.
Labels: Random Thoughts
Friday, September 26, 2008
1. While Congress decides what they are going to do about the bail out plan, the market continues to tank. WAMU is farfallon, and there is immense pressure on another couple of major financial institutions. I am not particularly happy about all aspects of the plan either, but, guys and gals, it's time to act.
2. The only thing dopier than the SEC's across the board suspension of the short selling rule (which has basically shut down the convertible bond market, among other things) is the ridiculous proposeal by New York State insurance regulators (who can't even spell CDS) to regulate credit default swaps as insurance contracts. Talk about unintended consequences. If this plan goes through, the entire CDS market will simply move to London. Duh.
3. Hot dogs for lunch are looking good.
4. With all the turmoil going on, I heard some wonderful news this morning. One of my good friends became engaged. Reminded me what's really important. Baruch Hashem.
Labels: Random Thoughts
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
I have been under immense pressure at work for the past three weeks. (Don't feel bad for me; I'm doing what I'm paid to do and the issues I'm dealing with are fascinating).
One of the worst parts (but paling in comparison to seeing good friends lose their jobs and savings), is that I rarely get to the gym anymore.
Today, I chapped arein, and ran out for a lunchtime spin class.
Feeling that, under the circumstances, something was coming to me for all my hard work, I decided during my workout that I would buy two hot dogs with mustard and onions at Mendys in Grand Central. Few things are better or more decadent.
Alas, after the class I could not pull the trigger. I'm in training and I just couldn't do it.
I guarantee you this...
If the Paulson bailout doesn't get approved soon, Friday, yes, Erev Shabbos, will be a two hot dog day.
Labels: Random Thoughts
Monday, September 22, 2008
1. Last Wednesday was one of the scariest days I've ever experienced in the market. The global banking system essentially came to a stop. Only talk of Hank Paulson's new plan prevented disaster. I'm not sure everyone gets how bad it was.
2. Democrats and Republicans alike are making fools of themselves, piling on to Paulson's desparate rescue package. When I hear things like "we need to regulate more", or, "we need Congressional oversight", I laugh.
Don't these bozos know that the major banks and investment banks have regulators swarming all over them? Take Citi, for example. There are teams of regulators from the Fed at Citi's headquarters literally all year long. Do you think the regulators didn't know that Citi had gazillions of dollars in SIVs? No. They (like Citi) simply didn't understand the downside risk. By the time regulators figure things out, it's always too late. No amount of regulation is going to prevent people from doing stupid things.
And oversight? These are the same dopes that took untold millions of dollars in contributions from Fannie and Freddie and let that supposedly private company run itself into the ground on the taxpayers' dime. Puh lease.
They need to shut up, get out of the way, and let Paulson fix this thing. Period.
3. Speaking of which, Paulson should immediately appoint Michael Bloomberg as the chairman of the new resolution trust company (or whatever it will be called). He, at least, is a businessman who gets the joke. And, with no ability to run for a third term as mayor, what better use of his skills could there be than saving the world?
Labels: Random Thoughts
Friday, September 19, 2008
1. It strikes me that we are about to witness the law of unintended consequences kick in in a major way. The SEC's outright ban on short selling financial stocks is a perfect example of regulators giving in to political pressure without thinking through the consequences. The details are technical and complex, but, trust me, it's going to get weird out there.
2. I subscribe to something called the Daily Bankruptcy Report produced by Dow Jones. It's a serious trade rag that follows the distressed market for loans and securities. Today they have a piece with the headline, "Chelsea Clinton Attends Lehman Hearing". It's good to know that my firm is shelling out about $4,500 a year so that I can read an article that belongs in the Daily News.
Labels: Random Thoughts
I'm tired of hearing about the end of Yankee Stadium. Blah, blah, blah.
The truth is what they now call Yankee Stadium is younger than the decrepit and equally charmless Shea Stadium. Yankee Stadium was completely renovated in 1974-75, when all that was unique and charming about the stadium was ripped away.
All that was left was a then-modern stadium where it takes you an hour to get out of a parking lot.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
The following letter was written in coordination with a number of other J-bloggers in the hopes that the message can be disseminated as far and as quickly as possible in a joint campaign against hiding abuse in our communities. We ask that people take a few seconds and copy and send this letter or another letter on the subject to the editors of the Jewish Press in the hopes that this will show the importance of the issue to the public. This is an issue that cannot be avoided or shoved under the rug, and the threats of individuals cannot be allowed to hold sway over our communities. Please take a few seconds and send a letter to the Jewish Press at email@example.com. Thank you!
To the Editorial Board of the Jewish Press:P.S. Please note that this e-mail was a joint letter composed by numerous members of the community in a coordinated effort.
We would like to express our horror at the intimidation and harassment of Dr. Benzion Twerski for his efforts to protect our children from molestation, and we salute you for your courage in publishing the Op-Ed column condemning the harassment of Dr. Twerski. We feel that exposing the actions of the kannoim is the first step in reversing their campaign of terror against members of our community.
We are fed up with the fact that the extremists in our community are allowed to threaten peaceful citizens with threats and we would like to see our police officers arrest and prosecute those who do so to the fullest extent of the law.
If there are any acts of intimidation or threats of violence to Dov Hikind's next appointee to the Child Safety committee; we will join and support a massive email drive to our elected officials – on the local, state and federal levels – to step in and protect those who are helping protect our children.
We respectfully ask you to run an editorial next week condemning this disgraceful act, acknowledging the number of these emails that were sent to you and calling on our leaders and rabbonim to publicly distance themselves from acts of intimidation and violence each and every time they occur with the same fervor reserved for other actions that contradict our holy Torah – and to declare the acts of violence as the sins they are.
Labels: Random Thoughts
1. I spent all of Monday in crisis management mode, dealing with issues that I had never seen before in 22 years in this market. I was wiped. Tuesday morning, on the train ride in, I was reading the Wall Street Journal (as is my wont). Sitting next to me was a businessman who was also reading the Journal. As we pulled into Penn Station, I folded up the paper and let out a bigh sigh. My neighbor looked at me, nodded, and smiled.
2. Yesterday morning after shul I returned to the house to get my train pass which I had forgotten on the kitchen counter. When I arrived, the Toddler was up, very happy to see her Abba. Alas, after two minutes, it was time, once again, to go.
TT asked me where I was going. I said, "I have to go to the jungle". She looked at me with a curious smile. "Abba's going to the Jungle?" I said, It's not a real jungle, but it's like a jungle." TT repeated, "Abba's going to the jungle, Abba's going to the jungle!" I could tell by her look that TT thought her Abba was very strange.
3. Yesterday afternoon, in one of the few free moments I had, I emailed my brother and sister with the subject line, "No Words". My brother email backed, "No attachment either". I replied, "There is no attachment".
4. It is appalling, no, beyond appalling, to realize how unprepared both Obama and McCain are to deal with the financial crisis. They are both making jackasses out of themselves on the campaign trail. They should just both shut up. One can only hope that whoever wins will delegate authority for handling the situation to someone who knows what a credit default swap is.
Labels: Random Thoughts
Each day I spend a few minutes in the car driving to and from the train station (and shul). I always have my radio on during that time.
You know things are serious in the financial markets when I listen to Bloomberg radio rather than WFAN or ESPN.
Labels: Random Thoughts
Monday, September 15, 2008
Last week, while driving "Judah" back home after the Met's game (ok, after the seventh inning of the Mets game), I asked Judah what time he had to get up the next morning. (His school is a ways away from his new home). He started asking me when I got up during the week. Then he asked about Shabbos morning.
I told him I usually got up at around 7:15. I explained that the hour before I leave for shul is my only "quiet time" of the whole week. I am the only one up and I cherish that time to read or learn and have my cup of coffee.
Judah said that he also enjoys quiet time at his new home. He gets home before anyone else and gets to spend some time alone every day. (He didn't have any quiet time in over four years in his residence).
This discussion got me thinking about quiet time in general.
It used to be that my commute on the Long Island Railroad provided me 90 minutes of peace and quiet each day. That is long since farfallen.
The train ride has gotten worse and worse. People have no respect for others. They talk loudly and have 25 minute conversations on their cell phones as if they are in their own homes. If not for my Bose Quiet 3 headphones drowning out the chatter, I would go crazy.
So, my Shabbos morning quiet time is even more important than ever.
Of course, this Shabbos the Toddler decided to wake up at 6:45 a.m.
But that's another story.
Labels: Random Thoughts
Most Peculiar Moma.
1. Yesterday, I rode in the Golden Apple century bike ride starting in Goldens Bridge, New York (Westchester). I was originally planning to do 75 miles (the maximum was 125). In the middle of the ride I decided I wanted to finish sooner and switched after a rest stop to the 50 mile route. (That would have meant a total of 56 miles).
Somehow, I got lost towards the end of the route. I found myself back on the 75 mile route. At the end of the day, my mileage was 78 miles. Sheesh.
2. In the car on the way home, I fielded a call from one of my board members regarding a certain investment bank that has been making the news. I spent a good portion of Sunday afternoon and evening on conference calls.
3. During the day, I got an email from The Great Joe Schick asking me whether I was purposely losing my Fantasy Football game or whether I was just oblivious to the fact that the Houston-Baltimore game had been postponed (Three of my starters are from Houston). Truthfully, I did hear that in passing on motsai Shabbos but I didn't give it any thought because (i) I just assumed (incorrectly) that the scoring for the week would be deferred until that game was actually played, and (ii) I was busy preparing for the next morning's bike ride (You have no idea what my pre-ride hachanos are; one day I will post about them). In any event, since I got back from my ride way too late and I was engaged in some "issues" at work, I didn't do anything and will lose this week in a match that I might have had a shot at winning.
4. Today was one of the craziest days in my professional career. It's ugly out there.
Friday, September 12, 2008
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Last night I attended the Mets game with our old foster child, "Judah".
(The Mets, despite the repeated efforts of their pitching staff, prevailed 123 to 120 (or so it seemed)).
Judah has been living with a family for the past two weeks (after spending the previous four plus years in residences) and seemed very happy.
Judah reminded me of the first Mets game that we went to, 9 years ago. This is what I wrote over at my other blog (which has long-since been shut down):
In August, 2000, I decided to take the boys [Judah and his brother, whom we were also fostering] to a Mets game. (This, too falls into the category of "What could I possibly have been thinking?"). Having taken our own kids to ballgames when they were little, I thought I knew what to expect, to wit, stuffing their faces with hot dogs and soda, hanging out for a few innings, buying a stupid, overpriced souveneir and going home around the fifth inning.Well, Judah clearly did remember the game after all these years.
What I didn't anticipate was how hyper the boys were generally (especially relative to our well-behaved kids) and how this was exacerbated by the impact of a parental visit that immediately preceded the Met's game.
I picked up the boys at OHEL where they were having their weekly visit with their sister ("Rachel") and parents. Rachel, who was about 2 1/2, was staying at another foster home where she had been since the day that she had been pulled out of her parents' home. (This part of the story has the best ending, at least so far. After a five year struggle, Rachel's foster parents, with the help of OHEL, were finally able to terminate the birth parents' parental rights and are now in the process of adopting her) [They have since adopted her and she is doing very well].
I had been told that the weekly visits, which were mandated by the court, were chaotic. Until I saw one for myself, I had no idea what chaos really meant. The mother was clearly mentally ill, esentially disconnected from reality, almost staring into space. The kids ignored her. Instead, everything revolved around the father. There was a lot of running around and screaming and vying for attention (in both directions...the kids to the father and vis versa). If this was what happened in a meeting supervised by OHEL at its own office, I could only imagine what had gone on in their own home.
We got to the game and went to our seats. My brother met us at our seats, which were great field level seats that I had gotten from one of the law firms that works for my firm. The boys didn't sit still for a minute (literally). I can't even imagine what the people around us were thinking.
We lasted about five minutes before I had to make the pilgrimage to the kosher hot dog stand. That kept the boys occupied for about ten more minutes. When we got back to our seats the boys decided that they wanted to go to the top of Shea Stadium. So, we climbed up the escalators and visited the nosebleed seats (which were virtually uninhabitted). The boys were running around like meshuganas and it was all I could do to keep tabs on them. (I was thinking how goofy it was that we had the best seats in the house but the boys were having much more fun in the rafters). We lasted about three innings altogether, packed it up and went home.
I still remember the first time my dad [of blessed memory] took me to a ball game. It was the Yankees, in 1964 or '65. Mel Stottlemeyer hit an inside the park grand slam to the monuments at the old Yankee Stadium. Though the details have gotten fuzzy, I still remember the very special feeling of seeing the great green baseball diamond for the first time (remember, we had black and white TVs then) with my brother and my dad. I wonder if Judah remembers the Mets game. I will ask him next week.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
...upon the birth of their son Chaim Moshe. Did you call OOS?
Labels: Random Thoughts
I spent this morning in family court. A trial in connection with The Toddler had been scheduled to begin (postponed from the spring). Not surprisingly, it was, once again, adjourned, this time until January.
TT is now 40 months old. We've had her 38 of those months.
As Reb Shlomo might have said, "One day, one day, one day...."
The good news is that, notwithstanding the adjournment (for reasons that I am not at liberty to talk about), I am more confident that the ultimate outcome, b'ezras Hashem, will be a good one. Not a small thing.
Monday, September 08, 2008
I managed to win my first fantasy football match against Akiva despite my quarterback scoring negative 1.5 points, my second receiver scoring 1 point and my kicker scoring 0 points. I remain in first place (where I belong) and have now won almost a million games in a row.
How did I do this?
Awesome defense but, mostly, luck.
I got decent output from the rest of my offense, with my top wide receiver (whom my guru predicts will be the top wide receiver in ff this year) putting in a particularly solid game and my two RBs coming through. (My late pick of Thomas Jones may end up saving my season).
My defense was monstrous, more than making up for my weak offense.
But, at the end of the day, it came down to luck. Akiva's QB, Tom Brady (the number 1 pick of the draft) suffered a season-ending injury in the first quarter and scored only 5.5 points. Had he played a full game, the match might have been extremely tight.
My "takeaways": Tory Holt is going to be a bust. His team, and quarterback, look like they stink. I will replace him next week with Marvin harrison (which I should have done this week but was too busy riding my bike). I am also worried about Palmer and the Bengals but I will give that some time to play out.
Labels: Fantasy Football
Saturday, September 06, 2008
This afternoon, I had just cut some watermellon and placed it on a plate which I put on the kitchen table. TT swooped in, took the plate and walked into the den where she proceeded to eat it.
MHW told her that eating in the den was not permissible and I took the plate and placed it back on the kitchen table, at her spot.
TT then said to me: "I want to eat in the den".
I, invoking a higher authority, responded, "Ima (mommy) said you can't eat in the den."
TT, trumping me with an even higher authority said, "Hashem told me I could eat in the den."
Oh boy. I needed to think quickly....
I responded, "Hashem told you?" She nodded.
I continued, "But Hashem didn't tell Ima that you could eat in the den. Until Hashem tells Ima you can eat in the den, you have to eat in the kitchen."
TT thought about it for a second and went back to chomping on the watermellon.
Thursday, September 04, 2008
This is a true story about two friends.
One lives locally and the other in Jerusalem.
The one who lives locally is a young, but successful businessman. He is a very sincere and devout Eved Hashem. He used to travel all over the country as part of his job but, more recently, switched jobs in order to have a more normal lifestyle. (Don’t get me wrong; he still works extremely hard but he just doesn’t have to travel constantly). He gives away huge amounts of money to a variety of Jewish causes. He is involved in communal affairs. He is a huge talmid chacham. Scary, even. He gives a weekly gemarah shiur to a bunch of friends. He studies esoteric seforim that I can’t even pronounce.
My other friend lives in hovel in a chareidi neighborhood in Jerusalem. He is a very sincere and devout Eved Hashem. He learns in kollel while his wife, who has a newborn baby, ekes out a very meager living. They live from hand to mouth with assistance from friends and family. He has no particular marketable skills, no training and no education beyond high school. As far as I can tell, he is no, and never will be a, talmid chacham. He has been in Kollel at least five years with no immediate plans to leave.
Which of my friends should be the role model?
I was privileged this morning to take the 7:20 a.m. Long Island Railroad train with Our Older Daughter. She began graduate school in social work at my new partner (and alma mater), New York University.
After four years of the fantasy world called Seminary/Stern, OOD has joined the ranks of the commuter, training in to school two mornings a week. OOD does her clinical work three mornings a week. She was quite lucky. She was sure that she'd be assigned to a maximum security prison in the Bronx but ended up at a family clinic 20 minutes from home.
(It is not clear that OOD knew that there was such a thing as 6 a.m. until this morning, her first day of school. As I told her while we were rushing to make the train, "welcome to my life".)
I am proud of OOD and the choices she's made. I bless her that her transition to "morning person" be smooth and painless.
Labels: Random Thoughts
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
Whether you are a supporter or not, you have to admit that Sarah Palin's speech to the RNC rocked.
I received the following comment to my second post on poverty:
As college educated centrist Orthodox Jews, we fully expected our children to go to yeshiva/seminary and then get professional or vocational degrees so that they could support their families and fully participate 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 correct hashgofa. 10 years into this chaos, these smart not-so-young people -with growing families -can't see their way out of their desperate 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 associated 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?A few thoughts....
1. I have seen this scenario play out time and time again. Professional people raising kids who are convinced by the Yeshiva/Seminary system that the only way to have a meaningful life is to sit in Kollel. The children are not really prepared to make the sacrifices called for by such a lifestyle and, instead, end up sponging off parents. The stress and pressure put on parents is apparently of no concern to the Yeshiva world that promotes this hashgafah.
2. So, what's a parent to do? My approach is de-programming from an early age. One must explain to his children in the clearest terms that if they choose this lifestyle they will be poor (or, if they know you won't leave them hanging, that their children will be poor). Explain that you've done your fair share and it isn't in your plan to work until you're 80 years old so that you can support them. Explain that being poor is not as good as having money. Being poor creates a huge amount of stress and, often, dysfunction. Explain that, notwithstanding what the seminary says, one can lead a very fulfilling, meaningful Jewish life by marrying someone who works hard, gives back to the community and is kovei'a itim in learning. (I am firmly of the view that, after 120 years, we will find out that the One Above values this kind of lifestyle more than that of the child who learns full time but lives on the back of his parents**).
3. At the end of the day, grown up children have to make their own choices. Our avodah, our responsibility, is to teach them what's right and try to raise normal children (and then hope that they marry someone normal).
(** A Note: There are exceptional children who do belong in bais medrash and who the community should be supporting. If we get rid of the 80% who don't belong, we will be able (and privileged) to support them in a b'kavodik way).
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.
Labels: Random Thoughts
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
One player is hitting .309, has 29 homers, 85 RBI, an on-base percentage of .395 and a slugging average of .579 (OPS of .974).
The other is hitting .259, has 31 homers, 95 RBI, an OBP of .345 and a slugging average of .499 (OPS of .844).
The media is heralding one of them as a possible MVP candidate and the other as a failure.
Which one is which and why?
Every year around this time, I schnorr for Alyn Ride sponsorships.
This year, I am urging my readers to sponsor fellow blogger and Alyn veteran Gila instead. (Scroll to the bottom).
Why am I being so gracious? Frankly, I don't need the sponsorships and Gila does. I have already far surpassed my minimum and am well on the way to reaching my lofty goal. (It helps to be connected in Corporate America).
So, as long as the money goes to the hospital, I am happy to help out a friend, especially one who linked to me (twice) as the master of Havel Havalim #180.
Labels: Riding My Bike
This week's Mishpacha Magazine had two remarkable articles on poverty. One was an opinion piece by Yonason Rosenblum (available here) and the other was a "true story" written by the brother of a mechanech who died of a heart attack at a young age purportedly from the stress of the debt he incurred in marrying off his daughters.
That Mishpacha, a "progressive" Chareidi magazine printed these articles is a good thing; a society won't change unless it admits that all is not well.
What disturbed me, however, is that Rabbi Rosenblum's article did not go far enough.
He skillfully described the scope of the problem:
The poverty figures are well known. What is less frequently discussed, however, is the toll that crushing poverty takes on individual lives and our society as a whole. I would not go so far as the talmid chacham who recently told me that poverty underlies every one of our problems as a society. But I would say that poverty exacerbates, sometimes greatly, every single problem from drop-out youth to marital discord. Speak to any chareidi social worker, working mainly with low-income clients, and you will quickly understand all the multiple consequences of never-ending financial stress.But he did not go far enough.
Every expert in the field of "at-risk" youth, for instance, will tell you that learning difficulties are a leading predictor of later drop-out. Many early learning problems can be overcome. Tutoring, different forms of remedial therapies, and sometimes drugs or alternative medicine remedies can all play a major role. But tutoring is expensive, often prohibitively so for a family struggling to put food on the table. And even where therapies are covered by health plans, stressed parents, with multiple children to attend to and no car to easily transport the child in need, may simply not take advantage.
If lack of money is the subject of perpetual discussion, not to mention fighting, between parents, then chareidi life may come to be associated in the children's minds with deprivation and strife. No matter how much genuine mesiras nefesh the parents have made for Torah, the children may focus more on their own deprivation and reject the way of life that they associate with being constantly denied.
Severe financial stress intrudes in many intangible ways. Constant money worries present challenges to one's ehrlikeit in financial dealings. It makes us, as a society, extremely vulnerable to con men offering unbelievable returns on one's money. And the long-term dependence on others for support – often given grudgingly or not at all – drains self-respect.
Considerations of money have distorted the shidduchim process beyond recognition and led to many ill-suited matches. Even where a young couple is well-matched, early financial pressures can make it difficult for them to get their bearings and establish a firm bayit ne'eman b'Yisrael in which to raise children.
And those pressures take their toll on our health. When I read a glossy flyer in shul about a family in which 13 kids are sitting at home because they cannot afford school or yeshiva tuitions, it is no surprise that the family breadwinner has collapsed under the strain. Illness, it has been said, is the vacation of the poor.
The widespread poverty in the chareidi world – according to government statistics 18% of Israelis living below the poverty line are chareidi – will only worsen, as the parental resources to assist each successive generation become thinner and thinner. What the solutions might be I do not know. But it is clear that we cannot afford to hide our heads in the sand and not address the issue. (emphasis added)"What the solutions are I do not know"?
The solutions are obvious. Achieving them will take courage and leadership, something appallingly lacking in the Chareidi world.
I hope to focus on solutions in my next couple of posts.
Labels: Random Thoughts
Monday, September 01, 2008
I put on over 280 miles on my bike over the past 10 days and have developed a "Modified Dave Wiener Tan".
What's a Modified Dave Wiener Tan? Funny you should ask.
Dave Wiener was my high school basketball coach. During the summers he worked at a camp where he wore the same outfit every day. To wit, a tennis shirt, Bermuda shorts to just above the knee, and white, mid calf sweat socks.
Consequently, when he showered after basketball practice started at the beginning of the school year, Coach would sport the goofiest tan: Face, arms and legs between the knee and halfway up his calves. My friend and teammate Jack, a keen observer of the human condition, started calling it a "Dave Wiener Tan" and, of course, the term stuck.
These days, when I look in the mirror after a ride, I see the same tan except that mine goes from my knees (where my bike shorts end) to just above my ankle (where my biking socks start). Hence, thirty five years later, I am sporting a "Modified Dave Wiener Tan".