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October 26, 2014 / 2 Heshvan, 5775
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Stop Throwing Away Money on Self Indulgent Weddings

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A rented apartment is unacceptable nowadays in certain circles. And the chances of someone with no serious secular education getting a good job are massively reduced in Israeli society, indeed in any society nowadays. Some families can support indolent, sponging, trust fund parasites. But the number of wealthy families who can do this is shrinking, because the open hands increase exponentially in each generation without any new infusion of money-earners. At the same time the culture of universal life-time study as the norm for adult Charedi men is reaching the point where either poverty or social dislocation will produce disaffection and even violence, as it invariably does regardless of religion.

Now it is true that Judaism is expanding because of its families blessed with many children. And it is true that social welfare (incidentally a product of the secular culture they despise) enables this mindset. But at some point social welfare will eventually have to be cut back as fewer and fewer enter the workplace to fund all this with their taxes. Shouldn’t we be thinking longer term?

If we cannot survive and grow without our families, it is also true that for Judaism to survive we need education and Jewish schools. In America there is a massive crisis over the cost of Jewish education. At $30,000 per child per year, after tax fewer and fewer Jewish families can afford Jewish schools. The Charedi world has a way of taking care of its own. The absence of significant secular education cuts their expenses by more than half. Secular or less religiously committed Jews don’t bother with Jewish education altogether, and the resulting assimilation is now a veritable tidal wave. It is the modern or centrist Jews who carry the massive burden, because they want a dual-track Jewish and secular education. But the costs are making it harder and harder to afford.

In Britain state aid has made Jewish education affordable. But there are not enough schools. A well-known campaigner for Jewish schools in London recently confided that he has a list of 1,500 Jewish children in the northern suburbs who are clamoring for Jewish education, but he cannot raise the money to start a school that, once it is running, the state would then support. The Charedi rich only contribute to Charedi education. The non-religious only care about non-Jewish education, and the middle either can’t afford to give or don’t care enough.

For our own good as a people, we must call a halt to throwing so much money away on pure self-indulgence. If we care for our future we must give as much attention to supporting Jewish education as we do to Jewish reproduction. The place to start is weddings. Make your calculations. Then carve them in half and divide the sum evenly between the two pillars that keep us alive and well and Jewish.

About the Author: Jeremy Rosen is an Orthodox rabbi, author, and lecturer, and the congregational rabbi of the Persian Jewish Center of New York. He is best known for advocating an approach to Jewish life that is open to the benefits of modernity and tolerant of individual variations while remaining committed to halacha (Jewish law). His articles and weekly column appear in publications in several countries, including the Jewish Telegraph and the London Jewish News, and he often comments on religious issues on the BBC.


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12 Responses to “Stop Throwing Away Money on Self Indulgent Weddings”

  1. Liba Engel says:

    This past Lag B'Omer, my husband & I had a modest wedding which was thoroughly enjoyed by all. I agree, there is no need for such unnecessary extravagance, especially if one cannot afford it

  2. Amen. If financial stress is the most common reason for divorce, why do so many couples start off with a huge debt because of something as superficial as a wedding ceremony? It makes more sense to use that money to provide security for the family or if they're already rich, why not use that money to do some good outside the family? It's a waste. And when the whole thing is catered and full of pomp, it loses the intimacy of a family get-together. While we're at it, quit wasting money on jewelry and expensive clothing too, girls. You may be princess, but your father and husband aren't kings.

  3. Myriam Obadia says:

    Oh, puleeze. When the government itself over-indulges and fosters, rather than prevents, the development of filthy rich corporations, while keeping elderly shoah survivors in abject poverty, who is going to listen to admonitions of this kind?

  4. Myriam Obadia says:

    Oh, puleeze. When the government itself over-indulges and fosters, rather than prevents, the development of filthy rich corporations, while keeping elderly shoah survivors in abject poverty, who is going to listen to admonitions of this kind?

  5. James Malin says:

    i would extend the Rabbi's comments to include Bar/Batmitzvahs particularly in New York!

  6. Marakkubbaadom says:

    You are absolutely spot on. The cost of Jewish schooling in Melbourne Australia and high costs of housing to live in Jewish areas is also causing an unsustainable financial burden. I do however think you are a very brave man….not sure about your future social calendar ;)

  7. If an extravagant wedding/bar mitzvah causes parents to go into debt, then I would agree with the Rabbi. But if parents can well afford the extravagance, then I am totally in favor of them spending their money on the celebration. What the Rabbi fails to mention is all this spent money supports everyone involved in the affair: florists, caterers, waiters, linen suppliers, cooks, etc., etc. All that spending enriches the economy. It circulates money into the market place. If you have it, then by all means spend it!

  8. Shoshanna Goldstein Sanders says:

    You're right, but in the circles he is talking about the young couple don't take on the debt, their parents do.

  9. I agree with the sentiment that weddings have become overlay lavish and needlessly expensive — no argument there – but you make a couple of troubling comments —

    A wedding is not a "one-night bash that disappears into photo albums a few hours after it is over". It's a celebration of unity and love, a new begining, the start of a new chapter. Our wedding album sits open by our front door, each day or two we turn to a different page so there's always a new picture and memory to revisit.

    Secondly, if the wedding is not "not just for brides and grooms" haven't we missed the point. If these people have fallen in love and chosen each other, let them have their day. Let everyone work around their needs or wants. Let them have ONE day be about them.

    There need not be "laws" limiting spend on weddings, just some common sense. The lavish buying of apartments or supporting adult children who choose not to work is absurd. Half a million dollars of debt seems ridiculous to me.

  10. Weddings are supposed to be about the chatan and kallah and their starting a Bayit Ne'eman B'Yisrael. And bar/bat mitzvahs are supposed to be about the child's religious coming of age. How are these things really celebrated when there's so much emphasis on the superficial details that cost so much?

  11. Judy Yehudit Yazersky says:

    you forget…..they spend so much money and then the marriage lasts only a few years….Maybe the parents should put a clause, that the marriage has to last at least X number of years or they have to pay the parents back for the whole wedding….

  12. Judy Yehudit Yazersky says:

    is the bar mitzvah more BAR or MITZVAH? If it is more BAR save your money and take the kid to disneyland or even better, give to charity….

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