Letter: The Biggest Threat to Yeshivas Isn’t What You Think

Dear TLS,

It’s downright infuriating to see another Jewish school close its doors—not because of low enrollment or subpar curriculum, but simply due to a lack of funds to pay the staff. This issue isn’t unique to Lakewood; it’s a widespread problem in Jewish schools throughout the tri-state area.

Rebbeim are going unpaid for months, and parents are pushed to the brink to cover any unpaid tuition. We could easily blame inflation, economic downturns, political turmoil in Washington, or a slew of other reasons that any financial pundit might offer.

But let’s face the truth—our community is struggling while we’re all supposed to be tightening our belts.

Or are we, really?

Just take a look at the ads and messages bombarding us from every direction. There they are—shiny new Teslas, lavish wagyu beef platters, and the latest Italian fashions. It’s almost laughable.

I’m done blaming those who may be naive, short-sighted, or simply indifferent to the financial traps they’re setting for themselves just to keep up with the Joneses.

But the real issue here is the businesses behind these ads.

Why are they pushing lifestyles so blatantly at odds with Torah values? Why do they insist on promoting a narrative of excess and materialism?

As Orthodox Jews, we actively reject materials that contradict our values, like Christian missionary pamphlets or books on Buddhism. We ensure that everything entering our homes aligns with our Jewish principles.

So why are these businesses any different? Why are they promoting ideals that are clearly contrary to our faith?

It’s time for us to raise our voices and tell them loud and clear: align with our community values or stop expecting our patronage.

Enough is enough.

Y.O.Y.

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77 COMMENTS

    • If someone can explain what does the second part of the letter (about luxuries & lifestyles) have anything to do with the first half I’d be very appreciative ?!

      Y.O.Y. the floor is yours…

      • completely agree with the sentiment, totally disagree with where the blame is cast.
        Its not the businesses, but we, who patronize these businesses, which further incentivizes this trend.

  1. I agree! The excess gashmiyus is abhorrent and it’s doing nothing but distracting us from the mission we’re here for

    • Give me a break. You need to put $5,000 down to get the Tesla lease started. Please don’t tell me that’s cheap. You want cheap? Drive a Corolla. And by the way, the newest shtick is to drive the Tesla Cyber truck which is anything but cheap…

      • I’ve seen Tesla model Y for 40k, after tax refund its about 33k which is on the cheap side for a 7 seater. Obviously not talking about cyber truck or model X.
        In any event, the letter writer has 2 valid points, but im not sure what the tie-in is, I don’t think not allowing luxurious ads will make those living lavish lifestyles pay more tuition.

  2. If you don’t like it don’t buy it. If no one buys it they’ll stop selling it. If they stop selling it they’ll start selling something else. These businesses need to make a living too. And if you think that if people spend less money on luxuries that translates to more money to the yeshivahs your dreaming.

    • You have a point. The Yeshivas should make a rule that anybody driving a luxury car should pay full tuition, and get no tuition breaks at all. You want to live the fancy lifestyle, then pay up!

      • I just got a tuition break letter from my kids school (here in lakewood). You have to fill out what model car you drive and whether you own or lease.

      • Thats not how halachah says it… if I was a rich man and lost all my money the people giving me tzedaka are supposed to give according to my life style I was living… meaning to say get me a nice house nice car etc… but I would have been maskim if not for that halacha

    • 100% 100% the people owning those businesses have to pay tuition as well! How in the world can you blame a business for trying to make money

  3. The biggest threat to the Yeshivas is materialism. Not because people are spending money on luxurious vacations to Cancun or cars that belong in Hollywood more then they do New Jersey, and are then left with no money to pay the tuition. That’s obnoxious. But it’s not the real threat. The real threat is because their children who go to the Yeshivas are being raised with conflicting values. What’s more important in life? Yiddishkeit or Gucci? Unless the parents own up to what they’re doing they’re unfortunately setting up their children for disaster. Ask any teacher or therapist. Lakewood is the hotbed for psychological problems among children and teenagers these days. The OTD phenomenon is real and lakewood is ground zero right now.

    • This will only get worse as the current young couples realize that the goods they were sold by Lakewood society of affordable luxury houses, affordable tuition is not attainable even or actually espyif they get a job syndicating real estate.
      How will the younger generation take it when they realize how hard it is to be Chal…

  4. Agreed 100%. Why are all the so called frum publications packed full of more and more gashmiyus? Yes, it’s a personal choice, but they have a responsibility to push much more of a ruchniyos’dige agenda….

  5. Blame the stores? What are the stores doing wrong? Blame the publications? What are they doing wrong? It’s business for them and they deserve to make a living. If there is a need, they provide. Good for them.

    As long as there are customers buying their products they will continue to supply and advertise. It’s not them. It’s US!

    We need to stop buying all these things you mentioned. We need therapy to help us work through our need to keep up with the Joneses. We need to get self control to know what we should or shouldn’t be bringing into our homes. We need to take responsibility for this terrible situation.

    It’s on us, not them. You have it all backwards

  6. Like it or not America is a capitalist society. If people don’t buy it, people don’t advertise or sell it. It’s not the job of a business to determine what level of lifestyle a person or community should live or can afford.
    (Ever notice there are no ads in the Frum papers for Pork loin or Bacon? That’s because there’s no market for it.)

  7. The real problem is theres a rat race to show that u made it in life, and that stems from low self asteem and feeling empty inside with no meaning, so people just want to feelgd in the moment wich is why they keep chasing this material life, me in included.

    Wich means there has to be a drastic change from all over not just the stores , but mostly to also shift the focus on mental health, wich bh has become way more of the focus over the last 5 years. But theres still a long way to go.

    Also we have to start teaching our children that having money and giving tzedakah is a buitiful thing, but not to idolize those gvirim as their roll models,, Yes of course we have to show hakaras hatov to them, but we dnt to throw achashverosh partys for them, and trip over people when they show up to speak at your yeshiva,

    • There is one big cycle that is continuing and go figure who can stop it. The Yeshivos need money so they “idolize” the wealthy people and give them huge amounts of kavod so they should give more money, and the “regular” adults and kids aren’t blind so now they want to also make money and live rich to get all that kavod, so the standards get raised, and the “regular” people can’t pay tuition and everyone’s hasagos go up, and the schools need more money, so they give more kavod to the “gevirim” who will then give them more money etc. etc. happy living !

  8. Temptations to materlism has been around since Adam and Eve. Live with your G-d and you’ll see only happiness and peace.

  9. is every am haaretz a daiah now? good grief!
    if a yeshiva shuts down, many times its because of mismamagememt or other reasons, not glosdy ads. btw many people go to cancun on points and as far as my tesla is.comconcerned it was.comcheaper than a honda no money down and a 7500$ tax credit. But I digress. I think the biggestthreat to our Yeshivas is Amaratzes not governed by das torah and the letter writer is part of that movement. Whatever happend to Mah Tovu?

    • Points aren’t free…you gotta spend money to get the benefits. I’m not talking about people who live simply. Their points are enough to by a simply human 200$ garbage can (anyone, remember those?)

  10. I have been against the publications for years. The business owners are not the problem there have always been high end stores for every product and the stores can cater to whoever they want but once all the ads go into the paper and is shoved in your face you just raised the bar and the consumer thinks this is the norm……

  11. The luxurious materialism and related marketing we are surrounded with definitely pose many issues to the community and our children.

    Though that is not what I would say is what is causing schools to close down financially!

    For every family that’s overspending on lavish lifestyles there are another ten that are not and are trying to figure out how to make ends meet without the luxury because prices of everything basic like food clothing and shelter and tuition have gone up so high we can’t cover those bills and send our kids to basic camps.

    Many jobs don’t pay enough to cover what rent and mortgage costs now that some glorious people hiked the prices to levels that Lakewood has never known.
    Inflation is everywhere we turn and parents cannot afford to keep up with the costs of the schools. There are Rayze its and raffles and money is being raised for the schools but that money seems to never be enough for the Rabbeim/teachers which is the first place it should be going.

    Materialism has plagued us, I’m not going to argue that fact.

    But I think the biggest cause is the real estate market, the food market, the clothing manufacturers and the camps and institutions that have all gone up to unaffordable levels and I fear that schools closing is not the only affect that these issues will cause to topple.

    May Hashem help us all.

    • People are also committing to buying very large expensive homes with mortgages they can barely afford to begin with. Many working people cannot afford a 4 to $8000 monthly payment-that’s without heat, electricity, landscaping etc

  12. The magazines are not our mashgichim. Businesses are not our mashgichim. I agree with Anon21 above. If people stop buying, the businesses won’t sell. They’re just trying to make a buck. It is we the people who are responsible for the out of control materialism in our community. Our Ihr Hatorah is now known and the most materialistic frum community. It is not the fault of businesses or magazines. It’s our own fault. If we are too immature not to give in to peer pressure even if we are beshita against it and even if we can’t afford it, it’s our own fault. It’s time for adults to be the adults in the room and stop blaming everyone else.

  13. We are not a communist or Marxist society. People that Hashem blessed with wealth may enjoy it. True it’s a contradiction to true Torah values but this problem has been around forever. Stores selling and advertising upscale things is their Parnasa we don’t have to patronise them. We must instill in our children and ourselves proper values ,and if the rabbonim and roshei yeshivas would not be so beholden to their supporters, they would be able to put some of the more extravagant practices to rest. Unfortunately the world is such that everyone needs the support of the wealthy, and don’t want to ruin their relationship with them. You need the strength of the alter of navardok to totally believe that every penny comes from Hashem and the wealthy man is a shliach from Hashem to hold on to my money. When he went to a man for a donation there was zero flattery because he was coming to pick up his own money. May we be zoiche to Rabbonim and roshei yeshiva to lead us and guide us. ( there are still some living with us today bh)

  14. Listen up for a sec. I agree it is hard to watch a yeshiva close for lack of funds.

    But recall that there are thousands upon THOUSANDS of yungerleit in lakewood that receive $1k checks every month… thanks to who?

    Like “Oy Vey” and others mentioned above, if you have a problem with the luxury items, it is not the problem of the business owner. They are trying to stand out and make a parnassah like everyone else.

    • The Thousands of yungeleit receiving high Kollel check is itself the problem. Nobody gainss from all these raises. They just cause more inflation.
      If anyone really caress about the yungeleit or the tzibur in general they should be helping yungeleit move to places wher housing is affordable and tuition is covered by the government.

  15. Yes he schools that are closing down because of all the gashmius… but the gashmius is propagated by these same schools! Our education system has not kept up with the current needs and has remained a purely academic relic when the kids need so much more. When we tackle that, the gashmius will subside.

  16. I’m personally involved in 5 schools, all of them are struggling, 4 of them didn’t pay since March, something drastically has to happen, this is crazy.

    I’m Not sure where the second half of this article come in, if someone could afford these luxury they should buy it, if not don’t buy it, self control…

  17. When will people call out the real problem?
    When will people recognize how silly are we are?
    The U.S. government rolled back all the Covid giveaways, raised the interest rates, all to fight inflation.
    Yet we are still promoting more and more raises for yungeleit and school employees without addressing the problem of inflation at all.
    If we care about our future we need to fight inflation. We need to help people move out of Lakewood to places where housing and tuition is affordable. All the talk of raising salaries just adds flame to the fire

  18. No one is obliged to purchase anything which does not align with their values. The school problem is two fold.
    1) like businesses schools have to have a plan how they are to be funded and many do not. Some schools are under funded from the start and it is a recipe for disaster.
    2) Parents have to be educated that the first tzedoka should be their children schools. No need to be involved in dozen of causes when your own kids school cannot make it.
    As long as parents are not on board you have a problem. Parents have to be involved. At one stage I was going through difficult time and could not pay my tuition when I came dinner time I sat every night given calls sending letters and raised well over what I owed. It boils down to taking responsibility.

  19. Im personally involved in 2 schools. Yes I try to be dan le caf zechus but its hard. Parents are driving fancy cars and living upscale lifestyles and tuition is on the back burner.
    Tuition should be priority.

  20. Ok its not the Tesla anymore, now its the GERMAN cars and the other high end cars all over lakewood, why dose a yid need a mercedes maybach, or alfa romeo that has a cross on its symbol.
    Why is my son asking for $200 weekday shoes?
    its getting out of control.
    All his points are on point, just on the Tesla model 3 wrong.

    • If you can afford it why not get it
      Just because you guys are insecure about yourselves doesn’t mean you should put down rich people.

      • German car companies were directly involved in the Holocaust. Hitler Yimach Shemo drove with a prominent Mercedes Benz emblem on his limo. We don’t drive with the same emblem. Not only do we not forget, but we also don’t forgive.

      • It’s not about whether one can afford something or not. It’s called the “need to have” mentality. I can afford some nice things. I don’t necessarily buy them because I don’t have the need to have the same thing everyone else has.

  21. 45 years ago a high maintenance Boro Park girl whom dressed in the fanciest outfits was called “A Real Boro Parker” and all out of town communities bashed Boro Park.
    Today Lakewood is 10 times more Gashmiadik than Boro Park ever was and all out of town communities are bashing Lakewood.
    However many of the biggest Baal Gashmias people support Yeshivas not with thousands but with hundreds of thousands.
    The yeshivas whom don’t have these supporters struggle terribly.

  22. Even peoole whilo really are not well to do fan sound 15 yo 20 k on seminary , spend 5k armored on Bain hazmanim trips ,send many thousands to send their kids to camp . But for tuition they demand the lowest kollel amount . And the truth is they really don’t have the money and they really do struggle ,but for some reason most people belive that camp ,seminary and a basic summer vacation are necessities while tuition is an annoyance that you try to pay the least.

    • The same school that is crying about money is also telling you that you must send your daughter to seminary. So go figure. I know of one school (in Monsey) where all the teachers push that everyone needs to go to E”Y for seminary but if a girl does, then full tuition is required for younger siblings and no scholarships are available and previous ones given are recinded. (talk about dual messages). At the same time camp is spoken about as a need not an extra.

  23. nieve & frustrated ! anyone believing anything in this article has no clue how the gears of a successful mosad turns, very briefly
    1. leave out of town dayschool yeshivos out of this conversation , they have small class size, harder to recruit staff….
    2. ” NITVOYIN VENOSNIN”- a yeshiva needs a great chinuch staff but EQUALLY important is a capable business office…good intentions & sincerity is NOT enough
    3. 95% of payrolls have been on time for past 20 year, before that most rebbes were months behind and post dated
    4. mosdos today are more stable than ever before yet because there was alot of covid money bichlal ubifrat and mosdos upgraded( shabatons girls plays…)now that ran out
    5 THE CHASSIDIM – are amazingly more efficient we need to take some lessons from them and they can learn a thing or two from us as well

    • Not sure what their secret is, but you are right, the mainstream chassidish crowd seems to have figured it out. Say what you want about Monroe or Skver, but the people there don’t chase after all these silly things, and have a much more peaceful and happy lifestyle. I’m not saying it’s perfect. But they’re definitely not on the same keeping up with the Jones’s intensity level as we are. Sometimes ignorance is truly bliss…

  24. Here’s a thought: What if the parents of school-age children were not expected to shoulder a significant portion of the burden of funding our kids’ education, especially when many are at the beginning of their careers? Does Klal Yisroel as a nation have a vested interest in teaching Torah to our future generations? If so, then everyone should step up together to fund our precious schools, regardless of whether they have kids or grandkids in yeshiva or bais yaakov.

  25. Klal Yisroel is not 75 yrs old, we have been around with yeshivos for 3,700+ years already, many many Gedolim and tzadikim were very rich, and many rich people today are gedolim and tzadikim, the problems are what they always were, shemiras einayim and shemiras halashon which if they are not upheld then it is much more difficult to uphold a Torah lifestyle.

    it’s not the Tesla, it’s where you shouldn’t drive, not even in a toyota corrolla.

    it’s not the steakhouse, it’s who is serving, sitting nearby, etc.

    and this can also be in a minvan at wawa, quickcheck, or even in the frum areas.

    the best advice is to move the marriage age to earlier, like instead of 20something road trips thru open America, use that time to focus on preparing yeshiva bochurim for life with reality, and try to encourage a lifestyle of tahara with non negotiable red lines.

    if the bochur is interested in learning evrything should proceed to make a fine yungerman to be proud of along with the mechutanim.

  26. WHAT ABOUT THAT SCHOOLS NEED TO BUILD STATE OF THE ART $$$10 – $$$15 “MILLION” $$ BUILDINGS, WHAT’S UP WITH THAT “BUSINESS”????? what are they teaching this generation????

    • This is actually a valid point as well. Some of these school buildings look like mansions or mini skyscrapers that belong on 5th Avenue in Manhattan. Not sure This is considered the best example of Chinuch for our children, especially since it’s the building that they’re supposedly learning in. Having a nice, fresh building is one thing. Having a luxurious and fancy State of the art building is a whole other story.

    • They may be overdoing it. But they work hard at a job most people don’t want or have the capability to do. This little extra they take for themselves is ok, as long as it’s not on the expense of the parent body
      I don’t own a school and I struggle with tuition, but I know the school owners are doing something for me that I can’t do.

    • Would love to see these schools open their books to the public, and show how every single penny is being accounted for. Chances are the school’s not going to want to do that. Especially when you have the administrator driving a $75,000 vehicle paid for by the school, and his kids are all getting nice salaries. Perhaps if they have more transparency about the finances in these schools, parents would be more willing to give.

  27. The letter is very on mark and makes a very valid point. Always bothered me as well. However; at the end of the day, it is OUR responsibility to choose what we wish to buy. It is OUR responsibility to set the gedorim in our families. WE need to teach our children what the right way is. WE need to learn to stand up and say this is not right and we will not do it.

  28. How can there be a post that won’t connect in the “ shidduch crisis “ I mean the current gashmius infested world is the root of the crisis, ppl need higher standards hence great shidduch ideas are turned down immediately…..

    • a shidduch should not be about all you can get rather the focus should be on how much YOU can become and that depends on the attitude on both ends which usually is more positive on the younger side…

  29. Wow, I didn’t realize so many people have so much time. Do yeshivah-liet have more time than bala batim, maybe that is the problem. Everyone find something passionate about and work at it and don’t look back. Some confidence heligeh yidden!

  30. Here’s my two cents All the comments and replies are correct
    How is that possible?
    Because everything we do has some effect on the klal. Some greater, some smaller
    So all we can do is try our best that the actions we take have as positive an effect as possible on the community

  31. You can’t budget yourself out of a low income. At the end of the day the community needs to encourage men and women to upskill so they can get better paying jobs.

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