Editor’s Note: Rebbetzin Jungreis, a”h, is no longer with us in a physical sense, but her message is eternal and The Jewish Press will continue to present the columns that for more than half a century have inspired countless readers around the world.
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Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis:
My husband and I read the letter to you from the young man who is upset that “working boys” like him are not considered prime marriage material by many girls, parents, and shadchanim, who place a greater emphasis on learning than on earning. We also read your response with great interest.
I would like to present a different perspective on this problem.
When my daughter graduated high school, she, like many of her friends, went to study in Yerushalayim for a year. When discussing her hopes and dreams for the future, she expressed the desire to marry a “learning boy.” With our blessings, she chose a seminary that advocated that lifestyle. My husband and I had no problem with that. We were in a position, Baruch Hashem, that enabled us to undertake full-time support.
Our daughter is a beautiful girl who throughout her school years excelled not only in learning but also in acts of chesed, and was always in the forefront in spearheading bikur cholim projects.
When she returned home after a year of study, we were bombarded with shidduch recommendations. Friends as well as shadchanim kept calling, suggesting boys of the highest caliber. Baruch Hashem, she found her basherte, and like many other young couples they moved to Yerushalayim, where her husband continued learning full time.
Our in-laws are lovely people but are unable to participate in supporting the couple (they weren’t even able to contribute to the wedding). My mechuten is a yeshiva rebbi with a large family and struggles to make ends meet. However, this was not a cause for concern to us. We were pleased that our daughter had found her basherte and that she was happy.
Our son-in-law is an outstanding Torah scholar with fine character traits, and we have much to be grateful for. We rented a lovely apartment for them in Yerushalayim and gave them a credit card (which they never abused). Everything seemed to be fine.
Today, six years later, with three small children and a fourth on the way, there are major problems. Unfortunately my husband has had severe business reversals. It’s much harder now for us to support our other six children – yeshiva tuitions, camps, clothing, etc. – and to keep up with our many other expenses.
Sadly, we were forced to inform our daughter and son-in-law that as reluctant as we were to do this, we would have to discontinue our support. This came as quite a shock to them. What was my son-in-law to do? What sort of employment could he possibly find?
He was anxious to continue learning and my daughter was determined to make it possible for him to do so. She was prepared to go to work, but then who would care for the children? Hiring help presented an additional expense that the meager salary she would earn could hardly justify. Our hearts broke, but what could we do?
My daughter came up with an idea. She started a small business out of her home, providing services that were much needed by other American families in Israel. Since she would be working from home, she would not need to engage help to care for her children. Baruch Hashem, she’s been managing, although it hasn’t been easy.
My son-in-law has taken on some tutoring jobs but, as you can imagine, the income from that is very small. He says that this year he will try to find full time employment as a rebbi. But not only are the salaries of rabbeim in most Israeli yeshivas inadequate, most of those yeshivas are in the red, and months can pass before rebbeim get their paychecks.
So yes, while my husband and I are all for learning, I am also deeply concerned with what I see going on in so many frum communities. I feel this entire mindset about full-time learning needs to be re-examined, especially given the uncertain economic times in which we live.
I realize there are no easy solutions, and for most of those who are determined to stay in learning or in chinuch, there are no viable options. They have already made a life commitment to learning and teaching Torah. But I wonder how this lifestyle will be sustained on a mass scale, especially when the parents who are supporting full-time learners begin passing from the scene and the current generation is faced with the dilemma of how to make a living.
Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis