web analytics
July 5, 2015 / 18 Tammuz, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


The Legacy Of Rav Aharon Kotler

Rav Aharon Kotler

Rav Aharon Kotler

Not long ago I received an e-mail from a man who has helped the Rabbi Jacob Joseph School with great generosity, a man who though not of our community understands better than many within the community the ideal of communal responsibility for basic Torah education. He wrote, “It simply amazes me that the Orthodox world, which has grown materially in numbers over the past two generations and which has produced a large number of successful business people, has difficulty replacing [the previous generation’s] much smaller demographic cohort of donors.”

This is the point: In the early years of the day school movement and continuing after Rav Aharon’s death, yeshivas relied substantially on voluntary contributions from affluent persons who were not parents. Parents were asked to pay a fair tuition by the standard of those times; if they could not, their children were accepted and not turned away. To be sure, yeshivas struggled to meet their obligations, faculty and staff were woefully underpaid and often paid late, and there were other difficulties. But at least our schools kept their doors open and they kept them open to students from marginally religious homes whose parents perhaps could pay tuition but would not.

As those donors passed from the scene and as the Orthodox community developed its own cadre of affluent people, there was a critical change in attitude. As I have often written, parents were now regarded as consumers of a service and, as is true generally of consumers, they were expected to pay for the services that were being provided. Torah education was like a bottle of milk purchased at a grocery store. Rich and poor customers alike are required to pay for the product.

The consequence is that over the years, in most day schools and many yeshivas, parents were required to pay an ever-increasing share of the costs, with contributions constituting a declining share of the budget. By the 1980s, this attitude had become dominant in many schools.

In the late 1980s there was a financial crisis in Torah education in Los Angeles, centered particularly at the largest yeshiva in that generally affluent community. This school and several others were behind in payroll and increased pressure was put on parents. The suggestion was made that kollel wives should pawn their wedding rings and that families that receive scholarship assistance be required to take out additional mortgages on their homes or agree to have a lien placed on their homes equal to the amount of scholarship assistance that had been provided. If the homes were sold, the institutions would recoup the scholarship assistance provided years before. This unprecedented approach received rabbinical approval. I strongly protested to the roshei yeshiva of Torah Umesorah, pleading that what Rav Aharon had taught us was being betrayed.

I was not successful.

The damage was done and a new attitude took root in too many communities and too many schools. What happened was dynamic, meaning that this departure from previous approaches inevitably expanded in its untoward consequences. In truth, chassidic schools in the main have a more caring or benevolent approach to scholarship assistance, as they rely substantially on fundraising, primarily within the groups sponsoring the schools. There are yeshiva-world schools that remain faithful to the standard set by Rav Aharon. Regrettably, however, there are many yeshivas and day schools that have embraced harsh policies.

Even greater damage has been inflicted on outreach schools and, more generally, on the kiruv movement. The abandonment of basic Torah education has inevitably encompassed those schools that reach out to and educate children from homes that are not Orthodox. What I constantly hear from those who struggle to maintain kiruv schools is that “no one cares.”

We need just reflect on what happens each September at many yeshivas and day schools as a new school year opens. Children who are eager to join their classmates are not admitted. At many schools there is the egregious wrong, even cruelty, of withholding report cards because parents are behind in tuition payments.

I do not come here to defend the parents. I write to express caring about the children who are always innocent. They are to suffer? How can this square with what Rav Aharon taught us? How can it square with our values and teachings as a religious people? Hurting children is not what Rav Aharon taught us. I recognize from an abundance of experience that schools are confronted by harsh economic realities. Whatever they are, children must not be made the victim.

About the Author: Dr. Marvin Schick has been actively engaged in Jewish communal life for more than sixty years. He can be contacted at mschick@mindspring.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “The Legacy Of Rav Aharon Kotler”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with Prime Minister Netanyahu in 2012.
Hillary Clinton Says She Will Be Better Friend than Obama to Israel
Latest Indepth Stories
U.S. postage stamp honoring Haym Solomon.

Haym Solomon, overlooked hero of the Revolutionary War, was America’s “Funding Father.”

Jelgava Synagogue, Latvia

Latvia, July 4, 1941 they forced many Jews in the shul putting it on fire; everyone was burned alive

United Nations Building, New York City

There’s blood on the reporters’ hands AND New Israel Fund for funding groups feeding lies to the UN

Zuckerman-070315

Respect & appreciation for our country is not only a civic value but an essential Jewish one as well

When words lose meaning, the world becomes an Orwellian dystopia; a veritable Tower of Babel

Israel, like the non-radical Islamic world. will be happy see the ISIS beheaded for once.

Kids shouldn’t have “uninstructed” Internet access, better to train them how to use it responsibly

What if years from now, IS were to control substantial territory? What world havoc would that wreak?

Rambam writes the verse’s double term refers to 2 messiahs: first King David; 2nd the final Mashiach

The Gaza flotilla has been rightfully and legally blocked by Israel’s Navy, with greetings from Bibi

The president described the attack as “an act that drew on a long history of bombs and arson and shots fired at churches, not random, but as a means of control, a way to terrorize and oppress…”

“The only [candidate] that’s going to give real support to Israel is me,” said the 69-year-old Trump.

And whereas at the outset the plan was that Iran would have to surrender most of its centrifuges, it will now be able to retain several thousand.

Now oil independent, US no longer needs its former strategic alliances with Gulf States-or Israel

More Articles from Marvin Schick
Marvin Schick

My guess is that most yeshiva students also winged it or cut corners because they, too, had rather onerous schedules.

Marvin Schick

To say he was beloved because of the way he loved his students does not sufficiently capture the reality.

Although I was not a Zionist, like most others I knew in Agudath Israel in which I was active, I was zionistic.

We now are in the season of advocacy of preschool, referring specifically to the education of children who are four years old.

Two months ago, the Pew Research Center issued a comprehensive study of American Jews and ever since the American Jewish community has been debating the findings. I have contributed my share to this debate, which concerns matters of critical importance.

As the Torah teaches, poverty will never be eradicated, nor will our obligation to assist those in need.

As we commemorate the fiftieth yahrzeit this Friday, the second day of Kislev, of Rav Aaron Kotler – the greatest Jew, in the opinion of even many of his fellow Torah luminaries, ever to set foot on North American soil – we are obligated to reflect on his achievements and the lessons he taught.

A major sociological characteristic and consequence of modernity is the tendency for people to join together in associations that express a common goal or interest or a shared experience. The United States has been a nation of joiners from day one and perhaps even before independence was declared. Alexis de Tocqueville described this tendency in Democracy in America, the epic prophetic work published a century and three-quarters ago.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/front-page/the-legacy-of-rav-aharon-kotler/2012/11/14/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: