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September 20, 2014 / 25 Elul, 5774
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Can ‘Yoni Ploni’ Afford To Be Frum?

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Currently there is an 18-year-old daughter in seminary at a cost of $12,000, not including her trip home for Pesach and other expenses – like the trip to Poland.  Then there are two kids in yeshiva gedolah and one in elementary school. Tuition for the three is a bargain at $25,000.  Summer camp or a trip to visit out of state siblings and their children – so the cousins can feel connected – eats up another few thousand dollars.

For Rosh Hashanah, new suits, hats, dresses and accessories must be bought. The kids and teenagers, both male and female, need to be “dressed” even before they enter the parsha. And there are shul membership/building fund fees to be covered as well.

In the old days, one lulav and etrog for Sukkot was enough per family – now each male over bar mitzvah expects to have his own.  And of course Pesach is in a class of its own in terms of putting a hefty dent in the family budget.

So here is a man who earns an enviable six figure income, but has expenses that eat a good chunk of it – even before he has to deal with his non-Jewish related expenses:  There is still a mortgage to be paid, car payments/repairs; maintenance of the house (like when the furnace breaks down or there are plumbing issues); medical insurance/co-pays; dental expenses (crooked teeth could ruin a shidduch!); cell phone/computer costs; gas and electric bills; gifts for simchas – all in addition to the day to day  living expenses –like eating.

And of course, as we experienced recently, there are federal, state/provincial and even city taxes to pay.

Once the baal habayit pays for living like a religious Jew – over $65,000 – what’s left after he pays his taxes barely covers his living expenses. There is even the possibility that he will be in negative territory.

If a well paid professional is barely keeping his head above the financial waters – what about those who make an “ok” living, but have the same bills coming in?

A friend of one of my sons confided to him that he buys cheese with the “not so accepted” hechsher since it is so much more affordable than the ones with the universally accepted ones.  A baal teshuva, he was told in his more idealistic days that it was a mitzvah to have lots of kids, but the rav never mentioned how costly it would be to feed and educate them.   Now he is facing the dilemma of putting some of his kids in public school.  Financially strapped schools can only give so much of a break to financially struggling parents.

He is one of many who find themselves in this quandary.

Another family says salad has become a Shabbat treat because the pre-checked, bug–free salads are so expensive.  Neither husband nor wife feels they are competent enough to properly check unwashed leafy greens on their own.

With all the chumras and stringent rules that seem to multiply with each passing year, people are afraid to do anything themselves – so they end up paying more money for less product. Or do without.

In cities where there is a large frum community, competition does keep the price of food and some services down – but that is not necessarily the case out of town.

As I said, this concerned Bubby asked me to highlight this problem – maintaining a frum lifestyle is becoming an out of reach luxury for too many erliche yidden.  They are caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place in terms of living a Torahdik life – and it is crushing them.

I don’t have the answers – all I know is that viable solutions are needed fast.

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One Response to “Can ‘Yoni Ploni’ Afford To Be Frum?”

  1. Moses613 says:

    $20 is cheap, sorry. Well, if not cheap, well within the regular range, and the truth is: it’s not price-gouging. I agree that many Pesach products are ridiculously overpriced, especially baked goods, but I just don’t think shmura matza is one of them. It is a *very* labor-intensive process, high-pressure, and all those workers have to be paid. Each chumra added on costs more money to the factory. For example, I heard of a chabura where there were two “production lines”: one where 5-second ‘shehiyos’ (the amount of time dough can sit idle without being worked) were allowed, and one where only 2-second shehiyos were allowed. The 2-second line required harder work and diligence on the part of the kneaders, as well as throwing any dough that was left idle for more than 2 seconds in the garbage. That adds cost! They charged $11 more per pound.

    End of the day, my opinion is that you pay for the chumros you want, and if you want more, you just have to pay more. I bought matzos from a kollel that rents out a factory for a few hours and they make matzos up to their strict standards. They are completely non-profit (of course the factory owner is making money by renting out the factory), and the price: $24/lb.

    Yours,
    Moses

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