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July 29, 2014 / 2 Av, 5774
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Where Have All the Earners Gone – Long Time Passing?

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Over Yom Tov, I was privy to a number of discussions that took place at meals, in shul and at the park both in Canada and the United States, where I spent the chag. Despite the geographical disparity, there was one topic that across the board was on the minds of the various young couples – mostly in their late 20’s and early 30’s – as well as their parents whom I had spoken to: the crushing cost of Jewish school tuition, more so than affordable housing.

Typical was the lament of one elegantly dressed young mother who shared that overnight camp was out of the question for her older two kids this year because her third was entering kindergarten. Since her son had “graduated” pre-school, his tuition had now doubled, and her fourth was going to go to pre-nursery.

All in all, this family would be paying over $35,000 for their kids to go to school. Instead of camp, they would take a vacation they could drive to and go to a hotel with a pool for a couple of weeks.

I was kind of taken aback that this family had to “budget” because by any standards they are “well off.”   But her need to cut corners was echoed by her friends, who like her would be viewed as “upper middle class.”   In this particular group, one or both of the parents were in professions that pay quite well – financial advisers, attorneys, accountants, doctors, etc. They were in agreement of the need to “sacrifice” in order to be able to pay tuition which they viewed as a non-negotiable priority.

Some of these couples were out of town guests who lived in various communities and yet, despite their geographical disparity, all were faced with the same issue.

The yearly shelling out of a minimum of $30,000 of one’s net income – which can be the equivalent of $45,000 pre-tax dollars – when you have a mortgage or rent, car payments, and living and work-related expenses can be a challenge even for those earning high wages. And this is for only two or three kids.

Why tuition has skyrocketed is not the point of this article – the reality is that sending several children to yeshiva/day school is a very expensive proposition. What has me greatly perplexed and shaking my head in dismayed disbelief is the mindset that still exists in many communities that young husbands should learn for years, as opposed to one or two, and delay long term their ability to earn a viable income.

If “high” income earners have to be cautious of how they spend their money so they can pay for the necessities of establishing a frum household, the biggest expense of which is arguably paying tuition for several children, and if two “medium” income earners struggle to pay their bills even with a tuition break – chalav Yisrael cheese and pre-checked bags of salad is more expensive than non-chalav Yisrael and unchecked salad – how much more so is it going to be a burden on a one-earner household. With rent, tuition and household expenses, how can a sole-earner not be stressed out and overwhelmed and stretched to her physical, emotional and financial limit?

While it is a given that one of the conditions of a boy going out with a girl in the first place is that her parents agree to provide long-term support – without that guarantee there is no first date which is why so many good girls from middle class homes are being “passed over” and   languishing at home still single – nonetheless, their contribution may not be enough to supplement her wages.

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