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Dear Yeshiva Administrator

Okay, dipping my toes once more in the controversy, here follows – at the expense of my family’s Shabbos food – my reply to the fairly well-thought-out screed of the Yeshiva Administrator:

Dear Yeshiva Administrator:

Thanks for your post!  You were probably the friendly voice behind the "cheery phone call" I mentioned in my original post.  The administrators I have had to deal with have always been invariably discreet and friendly, so thanks!

But yes, I am guilty as charged.  At Pesach, it's hard to keep that one month's tuition cheque from bouncing.  I actually do negotiate with the grocery store, putting back every tempting prepared or frozen product and dreading the schleppery of once again creating eight times three delightful, original meals out of POTATOES. 

Our big Pesach splurge was not a hotel, but $120 worth of hand shmurah.  Chol ha moed?  Maybe we had free museum passes, or took the kids mini-golfing.  But mostly, I just cooked.  And cleaned - have I mentioned we're the only family in the school with no "help" at home?

Still, the potatoes and dish soap add up, and so yes, that cheque bounced.  And then it was hard to find the "extra" money to make it up - like I said, it was in the cash drawer at Superstore.  I'm sorry you had to call to remind me.  I’m even sorry and lied that we’d get it in right away. 

I guess it’s hard to come right out and say, “our bank balance is at zero this month,” but you’ve seen the forms – maybe you could have guessed.

Funny you should mention dental work.  Even with an excellent plan, I have five teeth now with root canals which I've been told will soon crumble without crowns.  Crowns are cosmetic; they're only reimbursed at 50%.  School tuition came first last year, and every year before that.

ALSO funny, on the topic of dental work:  I found out last year that my dentist is only getting back 80% from our insurance - I thought it was 100% because I never got a bill for the rest.  One day, last year, a bill arrived.  He took me aside at our next visit and said it went out by mistake because of a new secretary.  He told me not to pay it.

Menschlich, right?  Just a nice guy, who can SEE from looking at us that we're not just acting poor.  We had never discussed finances before or since.

I'm sorry you think I'm one of the parents demanding "educational excellence" or anything else.  Frankly, you've made me so ashamed through the subsidy process that I really don't feel like I have a right to speak up at all; not on a par with those full-fare parents, anyway.

However, I've also decided my younger kids don't have a place in Jewish schools - until we make aliyah, God willing, in 3 years' time, they will learn at home like my Bubby used to.

Speaking of whom.  My Bubby was indeed moser nefesh to come to Canada, on her own, only 19 years old.  For her, it meant throwing away old-world appurtenances.  Little things like sheitels, yeshivas, oh, and Shabbos and kashrus.  Her kids grew up speaking English, proud of their fine public education.  Sad and surprising indeed.  I've already mentioned the OTHER grandparents:  well-established, well-educated and unwilling to compromise on their daughter's fine Anglican education.

Don't assume all families in your school have the same back-to-har-Sinai committment.  For some of us, that committment is fierce but shallow, unrooted in generations of Torah observance.  Yet we need day school more than others:  how else are my FFB kids going to fill in the total blanks in my own Jewish education?

Have your kids ever been to summer camp?  One of my four children has:  it was her bas mitzvah present from me and three grandmothers, and even as she loved her summer there, she heartbreakingly knew it was her first and last.

Finally, I'm sorry to hear that the shorter subsidy form "doesn't change a thing." Sorry and surprised.

I really hoped that creating an atmosphere of mutual respect, where nobody has to beg for what both parties feel is our kids' right, would solve some big problems.  Maybe you just need somebody like my dentist running the office - somebody with the good sense to know who really needs it and who doesn't, and to apply the guidelines quietly and with dignity.

We're not adversaries, though it may feel that way sometimes.  I believe we are working towards the same goal.  I acknowledge our great debt to the community; at times, too humbly.  But I also look forward to moshiach each day, if only so I don't have to haggle with you again next year.


Jennifer in MamaLand


  1. Actually, your dentist is committing insurance fraud.

    And yes, it would be helpful if Yeshivah administrators could separate the ones who really need it from the ones who are gaming the system. But it isn't always easy. And even when they know that the parents are gaming the system, they are reluctant to take it out on the kids. After all, despite the rantings of some, most people go into chinuch because they want to spread Torah; there are better ways to make money.

  2. Fraud: really? We really do owe him; it's totally on the books, and I have no doubt that that is what his services are worth.

    I suppose he *ought* to make more of an effort to collect the money we owe him. But perhaps that's just laziness, rather than fraud?

    If we win the lottery, he's right up there with the yeshivas (and El Al) to get our money.

    However, that would probably necessitate buying a ticket... ;-)

    Good Shabbos!

  3. How sad and despressing.
    Some of the Jewish schools are taking it out on the teachers, too. Besides the disgraceful fact that salaries are individually negotiated, meaning that some teachers are paid much more than others and not for their experience, they've lost "extras" like health insurance.

    Yes, a shanda!

  4. I've heard that some schools here are not meeting payroll. In fact, there's a whole discussion of that over at DovBear: whether a yeshiva is a business, and if so, why it's not run like one. Ie, if you can't make payroll (perhaps with repeated attempts), you go under. I dunno.

  5. I really enjoyed reading your blog. I worked as a psychologist at a MO yeshiva and was always paid, without exception, for only 70 percent of the hours I worked. At the same time, the school had a head of school, three prinicals, and three assistant principal plus an executive director, director of opperations and director of finances all making over $100,000 for a school of 300. My observation is that most of the tuition goes to administrative costs and that most boards basically give the head of school whatever he or she wants because its not coming out of their pockets.


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