Like most of my neighbors, I am becoming increasingly alarmed by the assault on our yeshivas by a small group of critics, represented most recently by Dr. Yitzchok Levine in these pages. The names may change, but the arguments remain the same: Yeshivas are failing to prepare our students for economic success because of their focus on religious studies.
Like thousands of other chassidic yeshiva parents, I’m tired of those who fail to respect the choices that we, and generations before us, have made. We are proud of the education our yeshivas provide, and believe that parents – not the government – should determine how our children are educated.
But I am not just a yeshiva parent. I am also on the front lines of employing Orthodox Jews as the owner of the largest executive recruitment firms serving them, among other communities. And the nonsense I hear from critics who don’t know the facts about yeshiva graduates in the workforce angers me.
My firm works with thousands of Orthodox Jews. Last year we posted almost 2,000 job availabilities with annual salaries ranging from $60,000 to $250,000. And mine is just one of many executive recruitment firms, not to mention dozens of other companies in the employment field. My competitors and I watch each year as thousands of yeshiva graduates land jobs with local firms as CEOs, CFOs, CTOs, CMOs, COOs, general managers, professional chefs, buyers, project managers, and more.
Others are inventors, architects, and investors of software technology used by thousands of corporate companies. Still others are computer programmers who help advance the healthcare system nationwide, as well as entrepreneurs and business owners in various industries who employ tens of thousands of people from all walks of life and give away millions of dollars to charities.
Most of these graduates did not have an extensive secular education. Many of them didn’t even go to college. That has not kept them from prospering and, in some cases, becoming wealthy.
Torah studies provide our yeshiva students with crucial tools needed for financial success.
Our yeshiva boys study the Talmud, which encompasses a sea of knowledge rivaling anything taught at law schools. The keen analytical skills and supreme concentration required of our students serve them well when it comes time for them to enter the workforce. Our institutions also teach high moral standards, which are so sorely lacking in the secular world.
Just as critics continue to misrepresent the employment picture, so do they present an enormously simplified picture of the financial challenges faced by our residents. We are a tight-knit community, with families averaging six or seven children. We strive to live within walking distance of our synagogues, and remain near our Rebbes for cultural and religious purposes. Our neighborhoods are gentrifying, with previously affordable rents now through the roof as South Brooklyn is being taken over by young professionals pushed out of Manhattan by skyrocketing rents.
We send our children to private schools, with the heavy burden of tuition falling on young families. We have many cultural and religious expenses, including marrying off our children and setting them up for responsible married lives. The cost of chassidic living is astronomical, and cannot be easily compared to the expenses faced by others.
It is, however, our sacred tradition to help each other and support each other through difficult times. We strongly uphold the dictum written thousands of years ago that “charity begins at home,” and we pride ourselves on the millions of dollars that willingly change hands from rich to poor every year.
Thousands of students enrolled in our yeshivas today will go on to lead prosperous and successful lives – financially and spiritually. Yes, we are sheltered. It’s our right, it’s our privilege, and it doesn’t hinder us in any way. Of this I am positive, and have multitudes of successful placements in quality jobs to prove it