Letter: Chinuch is Now a Luxury

This letter is not intended to point blame at anyone. Raise in price is generally to cover costs, but what’s the ultimate end game?

Do any of the school owners, Askanim, Baalai Chassodim, or others with a say realize what it’s like to be a young, growing family in Lakewood today? Is there a plan for it to be sustainable or do we just go on till everything and everyone crashes?

People were suffering from tuition burdens before schools started to make these massive hikes we are starting to see. Many of those people paid 500k for their homes in Lakewood and have a rented basement which covers most their mortgage.

Before any inflation costs on other things such as insurance, groceries, clothing, morahs, bussing, camp etc. Just our mortgage payments will be about $4,000 a month more (no income from basement) than say someone who bought a house 5 years ago. So estimate that at 50k a year!

How in the world do they think we will be able to afford the new $10,000+ tuition per child on top of that?! Am I missing something?! Isn’t it a bad time to stamp all over those of us that are already squashed and suffering?!

Those that have raised their tuition claim to be doing so because donations that the schools have been relying on are no longer coming in. Generally these people donating were “well to do,” if they can no longer make their donations are we regular people expected to be able to afford up to a 40% tuition increase?

We have so much chessed in town from Bikur Cholim, to Chai Lifeline & Misameach to RCCS & Tomchei Shabbos etc. Boruch Hashem the with much help from the community the list goes on & on but why is there no MAJOR ACTIVISM to help fix this Tuition mess which affects a very large percentage of our community?!

(Young) people’s economic situation & affordability crisis is getting worse and worse and now tuition is being raised?

Sadly, maybe people like me in this situation should just face reality that having / raising beautiful children & families has become a luxury afforded to only the wealthy. Is this the new mentality & way of life!?

Signed, a distressed parent of a beautiful family.

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  1. Pause… for a moment!

    I’m a school faculty member that hasn’t been paid in months. MONTHS! Try living like that at your job.

    Schools aren’t raising tuition because they want to or because they’re money hungry.

    It’s simply because their costs have also gone up.

    Food & Cutlery. Projects. Janitorial Services & Cleaning Materials. Electricity. Maintenance. Siyumim & Other Important Events. Prizes. Desks, Chairs, Tables, Cabinets, Closets. And the list can go on & on.

    Schools weren’t exactly raking it in pre-inflation… and now that the cost of EVERYTHING has skyrocketed. How exactly is a school that was already struggling supposed to pay out the extra costs??

    The burden is too much and they have no other choice. I can promise you they spend lots of time thinking through these tuition decisions and they’re very difficult indeed.

    But what else is there to do?

    Signed, A School Faculty Member That Hasn’t Been Paid In Months (With No Future Checks In Sight)

  2. In the same boat here, my friend. And this boat is sinking rapidly. We still live in a tiny basement because we can’t responsibly afford the crazy house prices, and now with tuition, we will definitely never be able to move. But my kids need to go to school, so what should we do??

    • No one asked anyone to spend 500k on a home that they can barely afford. Your chose to believe the realtor that the basement would cover a good chunk of your mortgage. If we all stopped paying excessive prices for homes, the costs would go down. If we all went to Aldi’s instead of the more expensive stores, prices would come down. Sadly WIC and many other programs keep the costs high. I don’t think it’s the schools fault that you have kids that you want educated. The schools aren’t exactly rich on your tuition.

      • In Israel when you run out of money you come to America.
        The problem here is where do the Americans go when they run out of money??

  3. There was once an interview with a Jewish charity organization and the representative said, ‘Not every Jew lives in an upscale neighborhood in North Jersey.’ Well now Lakewood is upscale. I live in West Gate and many families are struggling just for the basics. The concept of a Prince of Torah is not meant literally. It means royalty as a way of acting and mode of behavior. The non-literal meaning is to have every material need possible accounted for, and then some. We need to reshape the meaning of how Jewish life looks so that our lifestyles reflect our avodas Hashem.

  4. If you are young, the solution is go out of town to somewhere with vouchers and leave Lakewood behind. I am not young. My kids are settled in school. I cannot at this point uproot my entire family and resettle kids who are up to high school. I didnt have the money to buy a large house when they were 500k so now I have to pay a mortgage for a small house plus through the roof tuitions (wait until your kids are in high-school and mesivta. For a large family the cost of tuiton is astronomical).
    What I don’t understand is if all these rich people lost their money, why is Lakewood still the hotbed of materialism??

    • Your HS and mesivta aged kids, and jr hs kids- do they dress in $5,000 wardrobes each season? Social pressure is real, and fitting in is “socially on” and important. If your answer is yes though, you are living in a place that is twisting your priorities. Settled or not, if you can’t straighten them, move out. Your kids will only see benefit from that.

    • If you are young or old or anywhere in between the solution is:
      Move to an affordable city with vouchers (i.e., Cleveland, Cincinatti, South Bend).
      Don’t point fingers at anyone. Do the right thing, for yourself and Klal Yisroel.

  5. I’ll say this 1 more time…..
    Move out of town everyone runs to move to lakewood then complains abt everything…
    Out of town is less hustling a bustling houses are much cheaper less pair pressure…
    I’m really not sure why everyone runs to lakewood besides if your learning in bmg etc…
    But I don’t think the guy driving the genisis is learning in bmg full time…

    #get over living in lakewood and give up the meat boards

      • amen v’amen. out of town (out of any big frum area) is just as hard a struggle sometimes. employment opportunities are harder to find. food costs more. tuitions are usually higher (though you may find voucers).

  6. While I understand the pressure, why is there an attitude that someone else should pay for your kids’ tuitions more than they should pay for your groceries or cars?

    • Because Jewish Chinuch is an expense that is on the same level as health insurance, groceries, mortgage…If you couldn’t afford it you home school or send to public school…$23k paid done deal.

      People forget that when you make over 175K, you are in the top 5% of the country. The spending power for a frum lifestyle on that is about 90K…good luck.

    • It’s all sourced from someone called Rabbi Yehoshua ben Gamla.

      See also introduction to Derech Pikudecha and the Sefer Tamchin De’oraysa from Reb Zvi Elimelech of Dinov. Basically, you are not yotze your mitzvah of learning Torah if you do not ensure that there are viable chadarim in town for everyone, poor and rich.

      Scary words.

  7. It’s not just young people, As usual middle class getting crushed!!
    Only difference is this time we are causing it on ourselves. Gonna be very hard to start a job and survive.

    We’ll prob see a massive increase of people just sitting in yeshiva scared to leave the support from parents and kollel check behind …

    • Hello???
      Who says the parents aren’t running dry? They’re aging and working till they drop, ch”v. We have a major problem that’s going to burst any time now…

      • Unfortunately anyone who cared to pay attention could have seen this coming 10 years ago. We have collectively chosen to continue kicking the can, just like this country is unfortunately doing.

  8. My tuition wasn’t raised more than it normally has been the last few yrs!! I also work in a school who raised tuition minimally ( approx $25 a month).

    It doesn’t have to make sense to you. Hashem has his ways… So big deal you feel like you’re being crushed out of society. Maybe that’s what hashem has planned for you. Just fork over all your hard earned money & SHH!!

    • Not sure if you are a troll just trying to anger people, but just in case I will answer…the problem gets worse outside of lakewood. The running joke in five towns is that “tuition is the best form of birth control… R”L.

      we are supposed to be different. Torah is paramount to everything, not just a higher level of education as the way it is seen in “other circles.”

      This may sound cliche, cheesy, simple or what have you…but this is going to come down to our Gevirim choosing between luxurious 100K+ trips on pesach or succos, that 140K range rover, rivian, suped up tesla what have you.

      YOU ARE RIGHT…! who are we to tell others how to spend their money? who are we to make such statements when most gevirim are already giving away 40% of their income? WHO ARE WE? WHO ARE WE? WHO ARE WE?

      This is where we are headed…mark the words. our wealthy, upper middle class, lower middle class and kollel families are going to have sacrifices to make…now you can start bashing me.

      • It’s not just the gevirim. We’re ALL going to have to go back to a lifestyle more similar to previous generations.
        Except that there’s no going back to prior generations’ health insurance rates, unfortunately.

      • Is the 5 towns the only place aside for Lakewood in America? the only thing they have in common, is too many people living like millionaires without having the funds.

  10. The high price of chinuch is not new. Think of the story of Hillel and how people struggled through the years to pay the melamed.
    Every mossad works hard to cover funds for those who can’t pay and it’s a burden that’s unrealistic to place on those who run the schools. They are also people.
    While we may not be able to solve the entire “crisis” almost every family has they ability to achieve financial stability and learn to live with the real price of tuitions.
    Along with working on true bitachon, Financial Coaching is a very powerful tool that brings families into the path of stability and financial independence. As a coach I am able to witness families achieve their goals and dreams that they never thought possible.
    I would love to see families working to become financially secure over watching them try to fight reality.
    If anyone would like to discuss these ideas, I can be reached at @gmail.com
    Wishing everyone true hatzlacha!

  11. This is a shared sentiment for so many of us. Sometimes it feels like the importance of raising a torah family does not extend to those who are in the middle class.

    What are the proposed solutions?

    Think about the shear cost of providing lunch to 2000 talmidim.

    Think about the shear cost of payroll for the massive staff of the large schools.

    Where is that money coming from?

    I think its glaringly clear how unsustainable the whole system is. But where are the solutions?

    I dont have any. And im not sure anyone else has any. Im at my wits end and many others are too.

    Hashem runs the world. He’ll provide be”h.

    • You are multiplying the expenses without multiplying the income.
      Let’s take one class: 25 children
      Rebbe’s salary $85,000
      $3400 per child
      English staff salary $40,000
      Menahel for three grades of five classes $110,000
      $293 per child

      We have reached $5293 per child.

      Lunch etc is paid for by the government, or a separate lunch payment.

      Maintenance and upkeep prices add to the price per child, but are divided by the entire school.

      So let us hear about the shear (sic) price of education, what is it? How is tuition up to $11,000 and rising?

  12. there is plenty of money in Lakewood, why do you think the Israeli Gedolim came?!? But giving to schools and Torahdike families doesn’t come with honor. We need to “mun” the wealthy of Lakewood to give more, they live such incredibly lavish lives

    • You sound like the left wing SJW’s demanding $20/hr plus benefits for a French fry fryer at McDonald’s.
      What gives you the right to tell them where to give their tsedaka?

      • Unlike the goyishe mentality, you don’t have a right to decide where to give your tzedakah.

        Local mosdos are an obligation on the rich, not a choice they make. We pretend it’s a choice, because it makes them give more. But halachically it’s not.

        Perhaps Torah is ‘SJW’, or perhaps your anti-left wing opinions are not based on Torah.

  13. I feel for The writer that they feel overwhelmed but I do Agree that there seems to be an entitled mindset in the letter that “someone else” is responsible for the problem they are facing.

    It seems like they are feeling house poor which mignt mean that they are imagining or already bought a house They can’t really afford.

    I agree that many ppl either buy on the outskirts of lakewood to buy a more affordable House or move out of Town where they can afford their life.

    When we first Bought a house, we had no rental Income- the house was too small for Other ppl to also live in it and we couldn’t afford our tuition for our first
    Child. We bought the cheapest house we could find.

    We had to change all of our financial habits.
    We stopped Shopping in Costco and other luxury stores and started shopping for cheaper foods and got off of all credit cards. It wasn’t easy, but we had a priority to send our child to a frum

    Jewish schools used to be a luxury. In Europe, Russia, even in America in the 1950’s-60’s.
    the time might come again that it could be a luxury. We will have to decide what do we want our luxuries to be? Nice clothes? Nice furniture? Expensive food? Expensive cars? Or expensive frum
    Schools. We haven’t been tested as a nation in decades in this area. As it’s an area starting to rise we have to actually change our habits and show HKBH what our true priorities are. And so I respond to the writer- this is ur moment to
    HKBH and urself- what ur true priorities are. That isn’t a responsibility you can pass on to someone else…

  14. Cleveland and Arizona have free tuition. Maybe time to get together with a few chevra and move. Let’s ask the gedolim while they are here.

  15. Askonim Seek To Replace High-Priced Chinuch System With Outdoor Barbecues, Strolls In The Parks & Self-Taught Classes
    Responding to a recent letter on TLS that laments the fact that the chinuch system in Lakewood has become an unsustainably high-priced luxury, askonim in Lakewood, NJ are calling on the Lakewood Jewish community to replace the non-viable, exorbitantly high-priced education of their children with more affordable educational activities, like hiking, strolling in the parks and sightseeing tours.
    “The aforementioned activities are relatively inexpensive,” said local askan, Yossele Feldenweiz. “I mean, how much does it cost to purchase a pair of hiking boots or walking shoes for your children, or a barbecue grill and a few packages of hot dogs and mustard? Not much, right?”
    However, veteran askan, Cheskel Bloomenburg, told reporters on Sunday that chinuch tuition in Lakewood could be reduced to almost zero if, “They’d simply do away with the rebbeim and the teachers, and the classroom environment.”
    “I mean, we’ve got self service gas stations and self service buffets in NJ, so why can’t they institute self service chinuch stations in Lakewood, where the children would be self-taught and where the kids would provide themselves with their own chinuch and education without the teachers and school principals?” he asked.
    “Hmm, I’m all for self-service education!” said 10-year old Lakewood resident, Aryeh Gutfelzer. “But I believe Yossele’s education initiative – the hikes, the strolls in the parks, the sightseeing tours, the barbecue grills and the hotdogs and mustard – is a whole lot more conducive to our dietary, culinary and recreational education needs.”
    “Moreover, with Yossle’s initiative, there’ll be no need for recess breaks,” he said, “which would streamline the entire chinuch operation. Yossele’s initiative would be a win-win situation for all of us, including the kids, the parents, and the teachers, who will no longer need to hold on to their strenuous jobs!”
    When asked whether Yossele should be put in charge of organizing the new chinuch operation, the ten-year old Lakewood resident told reporters, “Neh, I could organize the whole thing myself. I mean, I know a whole lot more about barbecue grills and hot dogs than Yossele does. In fact, I ran a hotdog & lemonade stand outside my home last summer. I’m serious, I’m a self-taught hot dog and lemonade provider.”

    • You seem to be unaware of the true costs of a barbecue.

      When you are grilling aged meats, expensive cuts of beef, and freshly killed venison, you need an expert chef at the fire. Can’t leave any old shmendrik with a pair of tongs.

      And the wine pairings must be perfect too. Imagine drinking a Chardonnay with your steak!

      I don’t think your solution will work.

      • Hot dogs may not be the healthiest choice of meat, but they’re also an option, and they’re inexpensive. I beg to differ with you, I think Yossele is on to something. Lakewood is lucky to have askanim like Yossele, who, when they can’t find the box, think outside of the box.

  16. Curb the excess in every other area of your life and then you can complain about tuition rising to a level that is still below normal in other parts of the US. Shop kosher groceries for meat/chicken only- be matir neder on pas yisroel so snacks can be bought at shoprite and aldis, produce and starches as well. Only shop the kosher meat/chicken/dairy that’s on sale that week. Don’t buy luxury shoes/clothes etc for your kids. And here’s where out of town comes in even though tuition and kosher food are more costly- if you can’t say no to your kids who “need” certain items to wear to school, take in their lunches etc- you need to leave that environment so you can afford your life. If you’re doing all those things, you can complain about the high cost of tuition.

    • Shira you write a very nice letter and you’re a hundred percent right. But I think you were too soft on this. Who the heck needs the silly 950 dollar strollers , carriages and silly name brand clothing for the kids. Restaurants in Lkwd are insanely expensive. Why go there? Pizza / ice cream is enough. One a month at most and 30 bucks tops. Young people have zero understood saving money and the value of the dollar , which sinks by the day. In addition, because young people are so spoiled today, most men never really work till after Kollel and years later. They also never really figure out how to make a living or live on a budget. My wife and I were always frugal and invested like crazy. It worked and we’ve never had debt.

  17. You choose to obligate yourself to pay more than you can afford for the luxury of owning a house and therefore can’t afford the necessity of proper chinuch.

  18. The materialism in this town has become out of control. What used to be considered luxuries has become necessities…. I won’t start listing specifics because the list is endless, but if we wouldn’t NEED so much, life would be much more affordable!

  19. Here is an idea. Maybe the schools don’t need such fancy shmancy start of the art buildings? Do i need to see every mesifta lite up from miles away because they house 100 bochrim? Its not juts mesfitas. But if we just take all the millions spent on show off buildings and shift “school funds” from a “building campiagn” to tution, issue solved. The money is in the shcool system already .Time to cut down on these fancy buildings.

  20. Apart from regular Hishtadlus, listening to a daily Bitachon class would be the one and only solution to this problem, and to other problems. And to internalize it. And live it.

  21. Your vent is correct but it’s directed at the wrong party. The tzibur should have a fund for lowering tuitions . But the schools are not able to help you . The same way the grocery doesn’t help people ,but Tomchei Shabbos does. And the chasunah halls can’t help people ,but hachnosas kallah funds do. Schools,especially girls schools don’t really have the ability to raise funds ,unless they have a rich parent body. So either the kehila does it or parents just keep paying higher tuitions every year.

  22. Dear School Owners,

    You will be outdone. Stop competing for the nicest building. It’s counterproductive. Not only is it making the cost of tuition go up, it’s actually destroying our children! You are raising our children’s standards, with the side effects including: Not being able to handle anything less than the freshest and newest and fanciest…

    I work for a Mesivta in an older but decently well-kept building. The amount of boys that walk in thinking that it’s a dumpy old building (despite the fact that it truly isn’t dumpy), so therefore they “pashut can’t shteig here”, is appalling and a direct destructive outcome of your poor education.

    Dear Writer,

    Maybe read that new book about Emunah in Parnassah. HKB”H has an unlimited amount of money. He can provide much more, you just need to ask the right way. Live with Emunah not Fear.

  23. It’s a big aveira (sin) to complain about tuition for chinuch . If one wants to have good frum children he better pay his full tuition for each child on time and without complaining.
    All my life I commuted very far and worked very hard for my money, but when it came to to my kids tuitions ( which weren’t cheap for their time) I always paid whatever the schools asking price was and on time.
    Today a normal responsible man (except baalei chinuch) should be earning at least $350,000 a year and happily pay full tuition for each child.

  24. It’s not just Lakewood. I live in Brookyn. My apartment is smaller then a Lakewood basement. We have 2 jobs and can’t pay our bills. Choosing to be in Chinuch is no different then choosing Kollel for life. See mishna pirkei avos how to live. Pas bamelech toichal, Mayim Bemsurah tishteh. You can’t choose to be in that life and expect to live like a financial millionaire. Cost of living is through the roof. Income doesn’t rise with the cost of living. BTW Lakewood people expect much more in Gashmiyus then Brooklyn people. All my relatives in Lakewood complain about their living expenses, yet they are always on vacation and spending sprees for kol kulo gashmiyus.

  25. My personal opinion is ( I might very likely be wrong) that our lifestyle is marked by significant financial burdens: exorbitant tuition costs that can be allot of money for a simple large or small family, large family’s, expensive housing in every frum community, seminary,and wedding expenses even simple ones are very expensive they all come with very steep price tags,and there is an expectation to maintain a lifestyle with nice cars,nice upscale.homws. Personally I hope the whole system collapses and forces us to declare bankruptcy so we can start afresh. Our lifestyle is not sustainable for the average person whatever way u slice it it simple doesn’t work. I hope that once it collapses, we will either implement necessary changes or continue to endure the financial misery so many of us face.

  26. As someone involved tangentially with a few schools, I can’t tell you how many times this conversation has come up.
    Everyone knows that it is a struggle for parents to cover tuition. There is just no option in most cases to cover the expenses without correcting these tuitions.
    Yes there is one outlier school that raised tuition above $10,000, but for most schools in town are still in the $5000-8,000 range. Of that, most parents don’t come close to paying full tuition.
    Depending on the school and parent body, most schools I deal with collect an average of $2,500-5,600/child.
    This is up from full tuition being $3,600-7,500 in the early early 2,000s and average collections ranging $1,800-4,500 at that time.
    The schools are trying their best to keep costs down by growing class sizes and limiting pay increases (which is detrimental to the chinuch of our children) among other cost saving measures.
    What other expenses have risen this slowly in the last 20-25 years?
    Remember, the options are inflation (where the cost goes up) or shrinkflation (where the price stays relatively stable with only slight increases, but the product gets worse).
    Are there examples of schools spending money somewhere you think is unwise? Absolutely! But there is invariably a story behind it. For example a donor who is giving a significant amount wants the lobby where his plaque is mounted to have marble tile. Is it silly? Maybe. Is it wasteful? Maybe. Is it wrong? I don’t think so.

    • The problem is I am sure many schools will follow with the tuition increase
      PS – I applied for primary this year for my son and one school said on the application, tuition is $12k please check if you will pay or need a tuition discount. I checked discount as realistically I can’t afford $12k and guess if they even gave me an interview (no)

  27. We know that everything is midah keneged midah….so why is Hashem doing this to us?
    Obviously if he punishes us like this, he is sending a message. To me the message is clear…..
    To put it bluntly, Hashem is saying:
    “If you don’t have value for my money, I will make your money valueless”.

    If you are:
    Driving your fancy cars for $70, $80, $90K etc
    Living in fancy millions dollar home (with custom made furniture worth hundreds of thousands of dollars) Wearing fancy clothes and shoes worth thousands (honestly, do you need a $100 tie?),
    Eat in fancy restaurants spending $400 on a meal
    Spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on fancy chasunas etc etc etc etc etc…..you get the drift.
    Then you are showing Hashem that you have ZERO (let me rephrase that….ZEEERRROOOO) chashivus for money – so Hashem makes us all suffer by devaluing his money.
    And save me the reply that “everyone can do what he wants with his money and they give tzdaka etc etc “….that is true. But that doesn’t change the equation above.
    If you get it, great. If not, have a great day!

      • If Hashem punishes midah keneged midah, then that means that we have to try and understand it like I said in the beginning and it has to make sense which this does!
        And like I predicted your response in the end of my comment, I again say have a great day!

  28. My dear brothers and sisters, it pains me to see how many are suffering unnecessarily in the US. We made Aliyah 4 years ago and things are VERY VERY VERY good. We have basically FREE tuition K-12, that’s right you read correctly, FREE tuition with amazing talmidei chachaim rebbeim and incredible morahs. I think we pay like $200/year per child. We pay $100/month for top quality healthcare with American doctors (for the whole family!!) We live in RBS where there are many kehillahs and many options across the frumkeit spectrum, and most of all we get to live in our land that HKBH blessed us with amongst other Jews without the hashpaos of the goyim (for the most part). We get to drive in any direction and see incredible parts of EY, ancient ruins, kivrei tzadikim, mekomos kedoshim, and visiting gedolim. You can have a well rounded quality of life here with many of basic amenities and even luxuries in the US (if that’s your thing). There are plenty of job opportunities in a frum environment. Above all, the hasgacha pratis and kedusha are palpable everywhere you go. I plead with you to make Aliyah. You don’t know what your missing. You’ll see how quickly you’ll be wondering to yourself how you ever lived outside EY. Aliyah is not what it was 20 years ago; it’s much more streamline and easy today. Feel free to email me with questions [email protected]

  29. If only the people who are running to see Rav Dov Landau would live the lifestyle of Rav Dov Landau… all these problems would be solved.

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