Letter: Describing the Average Lakewood Family


I would first like to describe the average family in Lakewood.

The father works from 9-5, sometimes responding to emails at 10 PM (whether correctly or incorrectly, is immaterial to this conversation) in order to support his growing family. And while he would like nothing more than to have his wife take on the mantle of the full time homemaker, unfortunately he simply cannot afford to do so because his life is absurdly expensive, and so she works from 10-3, hopefully netting a bit of income post childcare costs. His $850,000 house, whose real worth is more likely somewhere near the $350,000 mark, that he worked so hard to pay for now costs him between 5- 6,000k per month. So just looking at housing costs before any other expenses he is looking at 60k per annum. Rough, right?

Now that we have a bit of an understanding, albeit a very limited one, of the middle class’ existence in Lakewood, we can discuss how schools factor into everyone’s lives.

Our schools are the most valuable part of our community, the reason we have so many beautiful generations of frum Yidden is solely because of our schools and Yeshivos.

But here are two fundamental issues that we have with the current system in place, and while I would very much like to not conflate the two, I am including them both in one letter.

The first issue is of course cost, considering the above family that has 5 kids in school, their cost is between 25-30k. This coming year has unfortunately seen the most significant price hikes ever. The few prices I have personally seen were either 25% and even 75% price increases.

How do we expect said family to pay for this?

Wouldn’t it make more sense for one person to raise said money (school owner) than unreasonably burden thousands of middle class parents, so that whatever sliver of peace of mind they had up until now is now gone.

Is it time for the un-privatization of our schools?

As a very successful community I see no reason why we cannot have a comprehensive tuition fund in place.

This issue is structurally entwined in our current system and cannot simply be addressed.

But to add insult to injury, after bankrupting our parents the schools have decided to give themselves extremely lengthy breaks between camp and school and vice versa. They also give themselves vacation before every Y”T and teacher “in training” days, which they can simply address by creating a day camp on premises or even giving every teacher extra help at home so that they can teach closer to Y”T. In other words, after raising tuition and rarely giving breaks in tuition they additionally lessen the parents income by keeping them at home watching their kids.

To put this in numbers (as a concept, this is not based on hard data)

The schools remove between 3-4 weeks of work from parents, each calendar year.

This is approximately 16 working days.

Let’s just say that the women are the ones staying at home, and they usually earn $150 per day x 16 days= $2,400

Multiply this by the 10,000 women working in Lakewood= $24 Million dollars.

So the Lakewood schools are costing our parents upwards of $24 million per year.

And we are also ignoring the fact that because the Lakewood businesses are grossly understaffed during this time that the economy as a whole suffers.

And as a middle class parent that makes an honest living I can firmly say that our class as a whole is ignored, we have no power and no money, we stay quiet and therefore have no one taking heed.

P.S. all numbers are very much rough estimates and do not reflect any hard data (which as a community we have very little of)

Your Average Parent

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  1. We’ll said. And I’m glad someone else articulated something that’s been a pet peeve of mine for a while…

    The days off before/after Yom Tov are bad enough as it is. Working parents manage to make Yom Yov without the extra days, why do Morah’s/Rabbeim need it?

    Now that schools are raising tuition due to salary raises, you’d think it would be grounds for the Morah’s/Rabbeim to work a little extra (in most of the world raises come with increased work/responsibilities)

    But of course, no. We as parents pay more, but are still forced to figure out how to fill these extra days.

    The eternal paradox. We have to work to pay tuition, but the schools don’t allow us to actually go to work.

    P.S. Same point for the girls Friday schedule

    • 1. On the other hand, the tuitions of 5-6 K are cheaper than what it costs.

      2. What does “un-privatization” entail ?
      The Costs to run the Schools will still need to be met.

      Does this writer have an actual solution ??

      Sincerely, An average Family in Lakewood.

    • I would imagine you make at least twice what a Rebbe or Morah does even after the raises.

      Settle down a little.

      It has long been the case that the school schedule gave vacation around the Yomim Tovim.

      I’d you have an issue with it, open a school on your own and try to convince teachers to work closer to Y”T.

    • With all due respect, I don’t know what this writer means by a 850k house really being worth 350k. The house is worth what people will pay for it, just like a small dingy appt in Manhattan will cost 1 million. So number one, lets not kid ourselves that we are living in a house worth upwards of one million. The worth of a house is lot more about location than square footage.

      Now, if you wish to have the luxury (yes, luxury) of living in an almost one million dollar house, then affording life will inevitably not be easy if you have a regular job with tuition bills for a few kids.

      The good news is that the world doesn’t end beyond Lakewood.

    • Have you spoken to the rabbeim in this town? Do you know their salaries? a fraction of what it costs to live, pales dramatically to other vocations, and no, many, most or all don’t get raises proportionate to increases in tuition (or cost of living). Why don’t you check what a successful professional with 10-15 years of experience makes, and compare to chinuch? And this is highly skilled labor. Yes, businesses generate income so can pay salaries, but, mechanchim are the single most important part of our society. Don’t advocate for them, although you desperately need them, but thats fine, they get that too, but don’t detract.

  2. Kol ha Kavod! We have so many funds here, but a glaring taboo on giving towards tuition! Schools are sitting on a 20 million dollar asset of a building, paid for by parents and donors, we can as a community raise 80 million dollars for tuition in E”Y in a week, but we somehow have to give to more important causes than our own children’s chinuch? Something is terribly wrong, and nobody wants to talk about it. What good is a kallah fund if the kallah’s parents can’t afford tuition for her sisters? Would we even need tomchei shabbos if people didn’t have to pay as you said, 25-35 thousand per year for tuition?

  3. “Our schools are the most valuable part of our community.”
    True! Have we ever considered looking “outside our tent” for aid in covering these costs?
    I grew up in an OOT community where the “Non-Frum” through the Federation supports the Frum schools in many significant ways.
    They say the exact same thing as you did on their site.
    “We know that Jewish Day Schools are the cornerstone of a thriving Jewish community.” “Whether it is funding for scholarships to help make tuition more affordable, stipends for a gap year in Israel, or in-classroom support for those with learning difficulties, we are planting a passion for Jewish learning now & in the future.”
    Then they list the schools they work with. They are the communities mainstream Bais Yaakovs, Cheders, & Yeshivas.
    Money FROM the Frum community TO the Frum community doesn’t go very far. But when “outsiders” are injecting millions of dollars into the Frum community’s schools it makes a huge difference.

  4. The problem is we are paying tuition twice.
    Once for the inefficient public school, once for local.
    We have a president who printed money and destroyed the economy temporarily.
    If everyone in reading this makes sure they are registered to vote.
    Then votes in November of this year for Trump. (A brand new poll put him basically tied in NJ.) Inflation will stop and wages will catch up. Also tax cuts are in the pipeline.
    And also vote red next year November for a republican governor who will try to get us vouchers.
    There is more than enough money, the problem is we don’t all vote our interests.

  5. Mental health fund, tuition fund! We need help everywhere! I always wondered about adopt a kollel and now raising millions of dollars in days for EY!! What about our own community???

      • Yes, moderator: It was a spelling error (probably a mistake in voice dictation). Can you please correct it in the first comment ‘Interesting’ made. It’s not a joke. Yasher Koach

    • Your financial struggles don’t compare to the poverty in Eretz Yisroel.
      Lay off it.
      There was a direct attack on the Chareidi world of Torah’s financial ability to keep Bnei Torah funded with the bare minimum. The social safety nets we have here mean that it is virtually impossible for anyone on this forum to compare their struggles with the dire need there.

      I’m not denying your difficulty, I’m calling you out for questioning those who are helping our brethren whose sacrifice for Torah knows no bounds.

  6. The average family in Lakewood the tatte zetzich avec lernen in di heilege beis medrasho shel Hagaon R’ Aharon, un di Mamme arbit. Un di medinah shel chesed helfed arois mit di momunus.

  7. Maybe move out of town, it’s much better there. Tuition is a mere $13-20,000.
    Even with all the increases, Lakewood tuition is the least expensive of any community.
    Thank you to all those brave people who start mosdos so our daughters and sons have schools to attend. HOpefully anyone else thinking of doing the same will ignore this letter writer and recognize that the majority of us do appreciate what you are doing for our children.

    • Okay come on. I’ve lived out of town. A VERY small percentage are paying full tuition. The ones who do, can afford to do so.

  8. For anyone that opened a school or is on the board, they understand how much more costs there are AFTER all tuituon was paid…It is a lot of money to keep a school open and it is very rough.. Just believe and trust that Hashem will get you through paying tuition. Its a miracle year after year.

      • When was the last time you were able to find a house for that price?? I’m not talking about the 3 bed 2 bath houses that a family size of 6-8 can’t breath in. Houses are way more that that!!

        • Why can’t a family size breath in a house with 3 bedrooms plus a basement bedroom plus often and atic bedroom? My wife grew up with a family size of 14 in that size house and probably smaller. a family szie of 8 can easily fit with just 2 per room in 4 bedrooms. Whats so bad?

        • Talk for yourself . Who told you that most people bought then? What about all the people who weren’t at the stage of buying yet then?

  9. $850K for a house? I realize that anything with a decent yard and build is that price. And its far geom any sort of ostentatiousnous. But that’s because we are spoiled and fooled into thinking we need that kind of a house . When I grew up in Brooklyn and houses cost a lot people just squeezed into smaller less fancier houses. And a yard forget about it. You can find houses for 600k whether an “old “ Lakewood townhouse with 5 bedrooms plus a rentable basement (maybe that’s 700 but it has that basement) or a smaller new townhouse with 3 rooms upstairs plus a room in basement. Or you can find in Manchester or Howell. Sorry if you pay 850 I don’t have pity on tuition costs.

    • In Howell the houses are upwards of 620 for 1700 sq ft with no basement. That’s around 4500 for monthly payment.
      That’s 54k annually! If you need to make that much just for housing, say goodbye to any Medicaid or food stamps.

      • I agree its money but its not 7K a month like the writer is suggesting. Also like i said, buy an “old” townhouse with a rentable basement. Then you have 5 bedrooms plus rent. Your costs would be roughly 4-5K net. I get thats nerdy

  10. The funny thing is, Rabbeim & teachers also have kids in the system, so the more they raise tuition, the less they gain from their “salary increases”. I’ll bet they actually lose!

  11. I’m a middle class working parent just like you and I hear you out.
    I think if we all strengthen our belief that money spent on kids tuition is not included in the cheshbon set for you we would all be much calmer in regards to the high tuitions.

  12. @middleclass show me where you can find a townhouse for 600k in Lakewood? Try minimum 800k is More like it. And it’s unsustainable.

    • Sterling forest and those devlopments go for around 700K plus a rentable basement.
      Lakeview is like 500K Ok those are a little small. But how about across from there? (I forgot the name.) Those houses are Lakewview size but come with 1 bedroom in the basement and a bedroom in the attic so 5 bedrooms and they are roughly 600K. (same with Shevy Lane).

  13. I am aware that schools are for profit (though not very lucrative). Let’s put that aside for now.

    How do you demand that others provide services to your children for free? There are countless expenses that the Lakewood community puts on itself. Luxury clothes, strollers, several wigs, restaurants are full and thriving. Lakewood is full of current and luxury leased cars when well-maintained older cars are available for purchase at half the price.

    Jewish schooling is already being provided at below cost. New Jersey spends an average of $25,000 per public school child each year. New York spends almost 30k per child. Idaho spends the least per pupil in the country at just under 20k per year. Some Jewish day schools in NJ charge 30k with no option for breaks. It costs a lot to educate children. It is a service being provided by individuals who need to be reimbursed for their work. In most communities the cost of schooling is understood to be non-negotiable, just like other services.

    According to Torah law and civil law, education is a parents burden. Why do you think you should be able to pawn off this responsibility on others? Why should others live on a pittance for you?

    Yes, life is a real struggle. Maybe there are other areas where we can cut corners. Maybe the overall standard of living is unachievable and needs to be taken down several notches. But you can’t demand the service of others without proper compensation. That’s communism. And it doesn’t work.

  14. Do you think the letter writer will demand that their cleaning lady lower her prices? Or maybe that the stores cut their costs so you can have the clothes/products they sell?

    We have a consumption problem that exponentially exacerbates the money issues we face. Just a generation ago if we had too many expenses we would buy fewer outfits, check lettuce ourselves, go without, wait another year for a new coat…etc. what happened to the days of walmart and target for pants. We all wanted to look put together, but we lived within our means. Today its normal and expected for children to be dressed in the latest, with outrageously priced accessories that my OOT and even NY nieces and nephews don’t know of. The cost of living is ridiculous and a lot of it is our own fault. How did this become the norm?!

    • Well said. People used to live more within or below their means. Today, people spend way above their means and won’t do with less or without. I think that has become the mentality. There is no such thing as “we can’t afford it,” today.

  15. Working with kids is more tiring than Working in a office because I did both. Coming home to your children after Working with kids was more overwhelming than from a office. Also if you only thank hashem for everything you have he will send you brocha

  16. 10000% agree about all the extra days off. If a rebbi needs off to prepare for Yom Tov I would suggest the boys schools give off one Sunday a month or two Sundays closer to Yom Tov and Morah’s should be able to take off one random day before Yom Tov with a sub. For all of us working manage to make Yom Tov and don’t get off before.

  17. Your claim might add up practically but you’re asking for something ridiculous. It’s as if you went into the grocery store and expected someone else to pay your bill so you can feed your large family. While the numbers may not add up as you want them to you’re sending to a private school everyday with qualified mechanchim you don’t have to. You can home school. You can send to public school. I’m it sure what you’re asking the world should cover your expenses that you’re choosing? Why?
    The issue we have in our communities is that we think we’re doing the world a favor by paying tuition. We think it’s an extra that we’ll do if we can.

  18. The wealthiest Jews in our communities can fund our schools and institutions in perpetuity without making much of a dent in their finances, with parents paying only a modest amount of tuition.

  19. Jewish life is expensive, tuition is a necessary cost. The fallacy here is that we think that because we (culturally speaking) must send to yeshiva, they need to accommodate us. They don’t.

    Some key points re the above letter and some nonsensical comments:

    1. One of the only things keeping people in chinuch is the schedule. It doesn’t pay enough for the workload, is often looked down upon, and is pretty thankless most of the time. I can’t believe how begrudging some of these comments are about the minimal raises the Rebbeim and Teachers were promised. “I can’t handle having my 5 kids home for a week, but why should the Rebbi get paid a little bit more reasonably to grapple with 30 all year?”

    2. “Extra days off” I don’t live in Lakewood, but in NY every school needs to fill the mandated 178 days. That is the standard. This year, the Yeshiva my kids go to had 187 school days. This number doesn’t include the legal holidays and Sundays when they had school, which doesn’t count towards the total. It’s my understanding that Lakewood boys’ schools go almost until bein hazemanim. Why do you complain so much!? Also, do you really want to be getting your kids out of bed at 6am on Isru Chag, or waiting for them to get home the night of biur chametz? (My boys had yeshiva until 2pm this year.)

    3. You get way more than you pay for. The tuition you pay probably doesn’t even cover the cost of educating your child for the year, even at the increased rate. And it’s not because the Rebbi and teacher are making big bucks (because they’re making not making much more than the average just-off-the-boat seminary girl who is working in an office for the first time). It’s because it costs money to run a school; maintain a building, office staff, purchase materials, electric/AC/insurance etc. There are many costs that you aren’t accounting for.

    4. Your tuition was raised to LESS than what we’ve been paying for years in NY… and we have one month less. Another commenter already said it, but we pay well below what day schools are asking for and what public schools spend.

    Ultimately, it’s a necessary burden and there’s no use blaming the schools.

    I think it’s time to strengthen the push to have our tax dollars allocated towards our own childrens’ schooling.

    • You think its time to strengthen the push to have our tax dollars allocated towards our own childrens schooling? So you confirm that by doing this you raid money for the public school system and direct towrds your own. That very statement you made is probably the #1 reason why people in surrounding communities resist influx of orthodox, not jewish as whole, but orthodox people. That starts accusations of antisemitism.
      Let me ask you, if a group of non orthodox families moved to Deal NJ and started the groundwork for the creation of a public school system, would native people of Deal welcome this with open arms? Of course not. Would it be correct for supporters of public school system to cry out accusations of antigentilism? Of course not. This is a group of people settling in to an established community and throwing it into chaos. That is exactly what is happening in surrounding communities around lakewood. So if by saying you want to support your own schools be more specific as to where $ is coming from and dont be so quick, not you but others, to start antisemitism accusations because its getting really old

  20. I live in Brooklyn. We are a family of 6 in a small coop. Many of the neighbors fit into the same category. Non of us have homes the size of Lakewood. there are basements in Lakewood 1-1.5 times the size of my coop. If Lakewood is too expensive, come to affordable housing in Brooklyn. You can manage with no cars, as there’s legit public transportation. A car service or Uber wait is 2-3 minutes, unless during peak time of day or late at night. If you choose to live in Lakewood, and live by the standards of Lakewood in 2024, that’s your problem. In my neighborhood, most shuls only have a kiddush if there’s a simcha. No meat boards in 99.9% of the homes EVER. Move to a community that is truly about Ruchniyus.

    • Or find a home the size of yours in Lakewood and then life is affordable since its cheaper than Brooklyn. Per square foot a home in Lakewood is still far cheaper. Its only because the mindset is , that if you live in lakewood it has to be so much bigger. Change that mindset.

      • My apartment is paid off. My maintenance is a quarter of you mortgage, if not less. I have been able to downsize to one car. Why do I need more space? To keep up your obnoxious level of Gashmiyus? I don’t envy any part of Lakewood. I’m happier in my life then most of Lakewood people. If you thought I was complaining you’re mistaken. My cost of living is less then yours. Your need for larger living space is based on a need for Gashmiyus. Again, your basements are bigger and much more expensive in the long run. The vast majority in Lakewood must have 2 cars to manage. In Brooklyn, depending on ones job, you can do without a car at all. Not an option for almost anyone in Lakewood. Even for Kolel newlyweds at least one car is a must.

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