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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 6/14/08

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Dear Rachel,

I am an avid reader of your column and I respect your opinion because you seem to be able to see both sides of an issue. I would therefore really like to get your opinion of something that has actually been a phenomenon in our community for quite a while now.

How do you feel about the fact that parents of young couples see nothing wrong with assuming total support of their children? I am not talking about young people who are in school working toward degrees to actually make something of themselves, and the parents are helping out until they graduate. I am talking about couples that marry very young, sometimes 20-21 years old, and the boy is planning kollel or something of a learning future exclusively. The girl may or may not be in school, but then she will inevitably (with Hashem’s blessing) have a baby, which puts her out of commission as far as graduating with any kind of degree is concerned.

This is offensive on so many levels that I do not know where to begin. First of all, what is the mad rush to get married before having the wherewithal to fend for oneself? Why do these young people feel that it is their parents’ obligation to work just to support them? Where is their self-respect? Aren’t they ashamed to be 23, 24 or even older and be waiting for the checks to arrive from their parents? Don’t they want to assume their independence as adults, responsibility for themselves and their families?

Parents in our community typically spend thousands upon thousands of dollars in yeshiva education, and what do they have to show for it? Shameless underachievers who think it’s okay to “play house”, have children they can’t support, and be indebted to their parents on a long-term basis.

I recently ran into an old friend of mine in a supermarket who happily related to me that her granddaughter had just purchased a house. I happen to know that the husband is a kollel learner and doesn’t work at all, and her granddaughter is home with two babies, and I don’t even think she graduated from college! What does she mean by “they bought a house?”

I would never have assumed that my parents would indefinitely foot my bills, and my own children are professionals who will be an asset to their families and to our community.

These young people need to wake up and assume responsibility for themselves and stop thinking that it’s okay to just get married before they are ready to financially be adults and not be an indefinite drain on society and their families.

A disgusted onlooker

Dear Disgusted,

In my humble opinion, children relying on parental support of some kind do not consequentially fit the bill of your purported “mooch off the parents” variety, nor do parents who lend such support necessarily fall under the “spoiling our children rotten” category.

Let’s begin with the age factor − I allude to your comment about children marrying young. In our societies, 20 to 21 years of age is not all that young. In fact, parents of older singles will concur that it is easier to marry them off at such an age than it is to wait until they get older and fussier. Besides, marrying young is encouraged in our religion, and for good reason −which is fodder for another column. Really, there is nothing wrong with marrying young per se.

Now that we settled that, let’s take the kollel couple − another common breed, and a desirable one at that, provided the young man is worthy learning material. Some parents’ wide-ranging goal and aspiration is to be able to support such children for as long as they are feasibly able to. If they can undertake such a noble feat, all power to them. We need our Torah learners just like we need our doctors, lawyers, carpenters and business entrepreneurs.

About that old friend you ran into at the supermarket whose granddaughter just bought a house – you have assumed that because this is a kollel couple, they could not possibly have purchased their home without help from mommy or daddy. But that is merely an assumption. A “savings” could have in actuality been activated with wedding monetary gifts and then set aside for just such an occasion.

And if parents and/or grandparents on both sides were in a position to lend some assistance, that surely would have been most welcome. What a great feeling to be able to help your own children! Of course, there are parents who can and those who can’t, but don’t we all wish we could be of more help to our struggling children? I would call such an investment a most worthwhile one.

There is certainly nothing wrong with parents stipulating their desire to help out their newly married children until they get on their feet. Such an arrangement is obviously arrived at with all parties seeing eye-to-eye.

If Junior, on the other hand, attends trade school to hone his talent, then gets lazy when the responsibilities begin to mount and decides one day that it is so much simpler to sleep in mornings and rely on his good old parents for a handout − that is offensive and should not be tolerated.

The bottom line is that there are different strokes for different folks and families are entitled to their opinions and to using their assets in any way they see fit, regardless of the opinions of others. Yes, a married couple should ideally learn to be self-supportive, and most eventually do − and will one day go on to help their own children, just as their parents have helped them.

What a wonderful act of chesed to help one’s own! How incredibly fortunate and satisfying to be blessed with the means to be supportive in more ways than one!

Thank you for writing to air your grievance, giving us all pause for thought.

About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.


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