Charitable Giving and the Recession

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The deep global recession has forced many to reconsider the way they give their tzedakah. It is more than likely that some changes will stay with us even after the health of the world economy is restored, BE”H.
We can’t speak of a silver lining to storm clouds so ominous and dark that they have kept bread (literally!) off the tables of children.

Nonetheless, we must note with admiration that the Baltimore community has once again scooped the rest of the country, and come up with a protocol worth considering and copying.

The innovation is somewhat radical. Community rabbonim are urging that tzedakah be allocated according to the guidelines actually prescribed by halachah! Those guidelines state that local poor come before all others – including those of Eretz Yisrael.

(A topic for consideration some time should be why so many good and sensible ideas originate in Baltimore and only seem to succeed there.)

The Baltimore proposal has the approval of what looks like all the important rabbonim of the city, including the Rosh Yeshiva, R. Aharon Feldman shlit”a. It is not a takanah, but a list of people who have pledged to abide by the proposal. There is no enforcement; there are no sanctions. The hope is that once some sign, many others will subscribe voluntarily. Some of those behind the initiative also hope that other locales will try similar initiatives.

Two assumptions went into the proposal. One is the aforementioned priority for local needs over more distant ones. The other is that the takanah of R Yehoshua ben Gamla (making the support of children’s education the responsibility of all townspeople, not just parents) should be given some weight, whether or not it is strictly enforceable or not in modern times. In other words, the original takanah of universal education for children provided that it was one of those obligations to be shouldered by all citizens of a kehilah, regardless of whether they were parents or not. The burden was to be borne by all, similar to the defense of the city and the local soup kitchen of the first perek of Bava Basra. In more recent times, it became customary that tuition was collected only from the parents – the end users, probably because it was impractical to enforce an education tax on everyone. But the ethic behind the original takanah was not lost on the framers of the Baltimore plan, and providing for local education was therefore elevated to special status. Many have suggested in the past that crucial local institutions could be saved without any new revenues simply by seeing that a greater percentage of local tzedakah remained within the community.

The proposal does not preclude in any manner or form efforts for any needs and institutions outside of Baltimore. Of course, when funds are not limitless, accentuating the responsibility of giving locally will likely impact on non-local needs. But the global crunch means fierce competition for charitable donations in any event, with a likely survival-of-the-fittest outcome. The Baltimore proposal actually provides a way of deciding who gets and who doesn’t that follows the advice of Chazal, rather than leave it to every person to make arbitrary decisions. The proposal may have what it takes to give schools the ability to stay alive, even as they hold hundreds of thousands of dollars of head checks from people who are now unemployed. It was conceived in the painful realization that even with belt-tightening, not everyone could be a recipient. If a selection had to be made, it should at least follow the guidelines of Chazal that place a premium on upholding the institutions and causes that are closer to the heart of each individual giver.

Here are some paragraphs taken from the website commitmenttocommunity.com

We recognize that there are many very worthy causes and needy individuals amongst our people, locally, in Eretz Yisrael, and around the world. The Baltimore community is known for the generous manner with which it welcomes and supports all of these causes and needs. This is a source of great pride to all of us, and we hope and pray that we are able to continue to be supportive of one and all.

At the same time, we recognize our primary responsibility to the local causes and individuals that appropriately rely primarily on us, members of the Baltimore community. We are painfully aware of the impact that the current economic downturn has had on many individuals and families in our community. And we recognize the ongoing “tuition crisis”, wherein all of our families — parents of students, as well as Mechanchim (educators) — sacrifice greatly for the education of our children.
As such, we pledge B’li Neder:
— To continue to welcome one and all who need our help.

— To allocate a minimum of 51% of our discretionary Tzedakah dollars to the local needy and other local causes.

To allocate a majority of those monies – i.e. a minimum of 26% of our total discretionary Tzedakah dollars – to our local schools.

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37 Responses

  1. Chaim says:

    With an expected increase in localizing the giving, should there also be a decrease in remote collecting?

    I’ve had several occasions of telemarketter type calls considering my wallet which they imagine bigger than it is part of the caller’s local community.

    When looking into the great intention behind the organization that called to provide a wonderful service, it was disheartening to find that with no local (to me) organization that provides that service, to hear flat out that they only service their local community. That those in my community with the very same need they are raising funds to serve won’t be serviced because they are not considered local.

    And this was well before the latest financial worsenings.

  2. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    My apology for an incorrect second URL on the above comment. Go to the Aish website, under Spirituality find Lori Almost Live, under that find Jewish Convert to Islam. There you will find Lori’s response about which I commented. For those who are interested in beshem omro, attributing sources properly.

  3. Jewish Observer says:

    “the handwriting is on the wall and every golus has an end, I will not belabor this point”

    – What’s your evidence that the end of golus America is drawing to a close now any more than you would have thought during the crushing depression of the 30’s or the anxious war time of the 40’s?

  4. L. Oberstein says:

    I have the perspective of both living in chutz l’arertz ,being involved in tzedaka and having lots of grandchildren growing up in Eretz Yisrael. One cannot generalize as both places are varied and there are all kinds of situations. True, you may make more money in America but your tuition will eat much of it up. True, you pay a pittance for tuition in Israel, but many jobs pay only symbolic salaries. $1,000 a month is considered a realistic salary for a rebbe in Israel, who can live on that? The best of both worlds is to live in Israel, send your kids to mamlachti dati torani schools , own a home in Moddin that you bought before construction and make your living in chutz lareretz. The other alternative is having parents in America who bought the dira and who support forever. One choice I would reject with all my strength is trying to assimilate into the Israeli chareidi world that fights against career education, isolates and indoctrinates its charges and believes that it is ok to lose a lot of the youth as long as the real ramilies are pure bloods. They are nice people but they are living in a diffrent century and refuse to adapt to changing circumstances. The best thing that could happen to Israeli Judaism is if enough people made aliyah to make the normal American chareidi life style livable in Israel.

  5. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    I live in EY but recognize that not everyone is ready to pick up and move there tomorrow to next week. Although the handwriting is on the wall and every golus has an end, I will not belabor this point. What I do want to point out is that the ehrlicher Yid in America who is struggling to make a living, school his kids and give tzedaka should realize that making aliya would not necessarily impoverish him and his family. The family’s income would go down and creative solutions and career changes would be necessary, to be sure, but it can be done. OTOH, simchas are much less expensive in EY than in America and tuition is nowhere in the same league. You get to live among Jews and help to shape Jewish destiny.
    That said, we need the Torah of EY in the Diaspora. Jewish outreach is still fighting the last war, of assimilation, shmad and indifference, which admittedly is still going on. The odd character who walks into a shul has to be accepted with better than “you’re sitting in my seat”. But the chilling YouTube video of the Jewish woman at studying at Berkeley has another message.
    See it at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BqgjmG98Hzw .
    Now see Lori Almost Live on Aish with her take on it:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BqgjmG98Hzw .
    Lori looks at this as a simple outreach failure, a failure to be there and be nice.
    I think that the problem is qualitatively different. The powerful attraction of the marching footsteps army of the Islamic nation is very seductive. Being nice alone will not counter it. Showing that we have modesty, prayer, faith, etc. will not be enough either. The only answer we have is the Jewish take on nationalism, Torat Eretz Yisrael. The outreach Judaism of Galut America is not able to plug into it. It takes Torat Eretz Yisrael. By this I do not mean only doctrinaire Religious Zionism of the Bnai Akiva-Mizrachi type. I also include learning Kuzari, Ramchal, Maharal, Gr”a, Eim Habanim Smeicha as well as Rav Kook. In EY we have people like Rav Yoel Schwartz and the Zilbermans among many others. But we have to find a way to deliver this Torah THERE, where it is desperately needed.
    That’s what really bothers me about a totally local approach to dealing with the problems of our people.

  6. Aron says:

    Reading the comment from R’ Fisher annoyed me as well. But realize it is a very valuable comment. It is apparent that he wasn’t intending to offend all of us living in America as Yiddin. Like it or not, many in Israel likely share the perspective that Chaim expressed.

    It really has nothing to do with the topic of the article, which was about how to allocate resources that are earmarked for tzedakah. How to allocate MORE resources for tzdakah is a seperate issue.

  7. anonymous says:

    Comment for Nathan # 29. I honestly don’t think that Chaim Fisher is bitter at his job or learning or the like. I believe he has a very good point that people can lower their standards in which they live and not have it be so impossible to live. We have been accustomed to thinking that we “can’t live” without a particular material something or other as though it is tragic. He is correct that we can make do with less.
    Chaim Fisher is only commenting on the material things – not the spiritual…….

  8. another Nathan says:

    Chaim Fisher, are you also this bitter when you teach Torah? If you’re not happy in a job that depends on the generosity of others, get another job.

  9. Bob Miller says:

    Regarding the comment by Nathan — July 1, 2009 @ 10:19 pm :

    Will the sky fall in on someone who dares not to be ostentatious? People without the resources or desire to overspend on luxuries (items or events) should have the self-confidence to do what’s right regardless of what others do. We can change our own behavior as needed.

  10. Michoel says:

    Mark,
    “Do you really need rabbanim to tell you to spend within your means?” My post was not about living within ones means. My post was about living modestly, even when one has the means to do otherwise. And yes, very many people need to be told to do that.

  11. Nathan says:

    About a decade ago, the Gedolim tried to reduce the Frum cost of living by eliminating the obsolete and unnecessary VORT ceremony.

    But I know people who do not listen to this; they have Vorts in addition to expensive weddings and Sheva Brachahs.

    They enjoy kvelling and socializing, and if less affluent Jews can not keep up with that standard, they seem to not care about that.

  12. Mark says:

    Michoel,

    “With all due and enormous kavod to the Rabbanim in town here, perhaps takanos to spend less would have a lot more long term benefit then takanos to keep tzedaka local.”

    Do you really need rabbanim to tell you to spend within your means? Must they do that as well or is that something that we can figure out on our own?

    The job of rabbanim is not to ensure that you do that which is common sense. It is to assist those who have difficulty understanding what the Torah wants from us in specific situations have a clearer view. In regards to tzedaka, there is alot of pressure from many sides to support all sorts of tzedakos, many of which are very worthy. Ultimately, especially in difficult times, this is not possible so they offered guidelines that one can feel comfortable following and not experience the guilt that often accompanies a refusal. Any more than that is superfluous and opens them to criticism.

  13. anonymous says:

    Comment for commenter #21. I have lovely Christian neighbors who depict the mind set and lifestyle that you just expressed. They home school their children. They build all of their own house hold outdoor stuff and when the rabbi’s house flooded two weeks ago, the husband cut lumber in his garage and he and my husband went into the rabbi’s home and lifted the furniture up to place the blocks of wood on the floor so that the furniture legs could be spared. They carried all of the seforim to another home so the heat and water would not damage the “holy books.”
    It would seem that not only is this kind and thoughtful, it is also resourceful.
    I help others in the community to “de-clutter” their homes and we share the no longer needed items to those in need….perhaps if others did this it would save money from having to go out and buy etc….
    What I am trying to say is that kindness combined with resourcefulness can help in a community- no matter what the size is and perhaps this would leave us with more $ to give to help others…..

  14. Jewish Observer says:

    “The innovation is somewhat radical. Community rabbonim are urging that tzedakah be allocated according to the guidelines actually prescribed by halachah!”

    – If you want to pull the halachah card, you have to deal with the complicated (and often problematic for toshavei chu”l) halachic issue of the Baltimore baal habayit’s right to be living there in the first place. Devoting a significant chunk of tzedakah money to EY because you love EY shouldn;t be worse than devoting it to a beutiful etrog or 8 full days of shmurah matzah – which no one here has questioned.

  15. CR says:

    “to match the living standard of the goyish American middle class…”
    “A lawyer in Baltimore…”

    I see comments like this and I see red. R’ Chaim Fisher, WADR, you haven’t the slightest idea what is involved living an ehrliche life in the US. You and far too many of your E”Y compatriots have constructed a grotesque, elaborate caricature of how Americans live. The reality is that the doctor, lawyer or businessman who makes $250k+++ a year is not nearly as common as you think. The vast majority of Orthodox subsist on but a fraction of that.

  16. One Christian's perspective says:

    …….” it is impossible to dance in all the chassanas at once: to match the living standard of the goyish American middle class and still take out of one’s income enormous sums of money for education which the goyim don’t have to take out of their paychecks, and hold down a serious learning seder, which the goyim don’t have to do, and still meet those same gentile outrageously high standards for cars, private home, clothes, restaurants, and so on.” As I said, ‘they don’t have any choice.’ – Comment by Chaim Fisher

    Please do not paint all goyim by the same brush. It is simply not true. Most Americans are moderate or conservative in their values and do not live a lavish life style. Very educated women in my church, have given up the idea of having a career that pays well to ease financial burdens. Instead, they are stay-at-home moms who often home school their children, chose which activities are appropriate for young minds, teach their children by example, look for activities that are creative but not costly that do not include a lot of TV or movies…but, rather family. And yes, these parents give up much so that their children can go to college and get a good start in life. There are many temptations in the world today….but, a godly parent is worth their weight in gold.

  17. Ori says:

    Chaim Fisher: A lawyer in Baltimore cannot move his family into a dumpy three bedroom apartment and ride a bike to work so he can keep up a huge learning seder and pay all the schar limud and tell his family it’s all for Torah. He’ll be out of a job. Something’s gotta give.

    Ori: Exactly. Furthermore, unless you’re going to rely on miracles, the Jewish people cannot afford for all the Jewish lawyers in Baltimore to become full time Torah learners.

    If Leizer Lawyer needs to spend 47% of his income having a lifestyle that would work for keeping his job, and another 47% paying tuition for his kids, that leaves only 6% for charity. But it’s still more than the nothing he’d be able to donate if he moved to Israel. Leizer doesn’t know Israel law, and does not have a license to practice law in Israel.

    Tough economic times mean that there is less Tzedakah money to go around. I don’t see how this could translate in the Israeli Charedi community to anything other than less Torah learning. Maybe it would be possible for Leizer Lawyer to oursource some paralegal work to former Kollel students whose Talmudic study taught them logic, assuming their English is up to it.

  18. Michoel says:

    Chaim,
    I hear, and I agree with you. Your initial post came across as kind of critical sounding. But I agree with you that there is a lot of gahsmius, a huge amount, that we in the US could trim off. It is a huge avoda to raise modest, idealistic kids in America. We got a nice dent in the front of our 10 year old mini van. The insurance company wrote us a check for about $3,000 to fix the damage. When I told my wife (who c’muvan is more concerned about gashmius than a man) that we could fix the van or use it to pay tuition, she told me immediately that we should use to pay tuition. Now I know that she notices when her friends get fancy new vehicles. So I thought, Baruch Hashem I married such a holy woman. But in Eretz Yisroel, people would laugh at the choice between fixing a dent and paying tuition (or some other basic need).

    With all due and enormous kavod to the Rabbanim in town here, perhaps takanos to spend less would have a lot more long term benefit then takanos to keep tzedaka local.

    I apologize for the tone of the previous email. I misread your intent a little.

  19. Chaim Fisher says:

    Michoel, ashrecha.

    The point I’m making is that it is impossible to dance in all the chassanas at once: to match the living standard of the goyish American middle class and still take out of one’s income enormous sums of money for education which the goyim don’t have to take out of their paychecks, and hold down a serious learning seder, which the goyim don’t have to do, and still meet those same gentile outrageously high standards for cars, private home, clothes, restaurants, and so on. As I said, ‘they don’t have any choice.’

    A lawyer in Baltimore cannot move his family into a dumpy three bedroom apartment and ride a bike to work so he can keep up a huge learning seder and pay all the schar limud and tell his family it’s all for Torah. He’ll be out of a job. Something’s gotta give.

  20. Southern Belle says:

    The pledge is to give 51% to local causes. Doesn’t that leave 49% to give to causes in Eretz Yisroel or other cities? It’s clearly not an all-or-nothing proposition and almost as money will be available to the non-local causes as the local ones. So why begrudge a community that can garner such achdus and committment?

  21. Raymond says:

    I have another solution that would virtually guarantee that private, Jewish schools would almost immediately have far more money at their disposal than they do now, and that is to privatize all public school education.

    As things stand now, private schools have no realistic chance of surviving, as they simply cannot compete for funds with government-run schools, who have the advantage of getting taxpayers money. As a result, those heroic parents who send their children to private school, have to pay for education twice: once for their own children, and then for some stranger’s children who may not even value education in the first place.

    But nothing brings out cost-effectivness like the competition of the free market. If all schools had no other funds at their disposal other than what they receive from private funds, they would be forced to produce the best product for the least expensive price. But if things continue as they are, government schools will continue to take huge chunks of our tax money, to produce a truly rotten product, while private schools continue to struggle for survival despite producing far superior results.

  22. lacosta says:

    the whole tzedaka industry could use data accumulation. especially in the
    case of individuals , mail order, phone solicitation.
    how does the network of meshulachim work, especially individuals, who fronts them money to travel overseas? how much are they bringing in? is the economy decreasing the return?
    in towns where literally hundreds, nay, thousands, come collecting per year, how can any average yossi pay his bills and them as well?

    i don’t understand orthonomics; it is trans-rational, and therefore enters the nes category….

  23. Bob Miller says:

    Let’s say you live, not in Baltimore or NYC, but in a small or medium size metropolitan area without a highest level yeshiva, so that students from your area would have to go elsewhere to get that level of education. It makes sense to donate to one or more of those yeshivos, wherever they may be, if they attract residents of your area.

  24. Michoel says:

    R’ Chaim Fisher,
    I live in Baltimore, my wife does have cleaning help before Pesach but not during the year (unless I count). Her shaitel was ten years old until she recently got a new one from a friend for free. We have one car which we got used and it is 10 years old. If we didn’t, our sons might have to walk 15 miles out to Owings Mills to go to cheder. Do your kids walk 15 miles to cheder? I pay in two tuitions more than you pay for all of yours, and that is after my steep deduction. The amount of tzedakah that is given by the kehilla of Baltimore to Mosdos and individuals in Eretz Yisrael is probably in the range of $20,000,000 annually. Yes, I will explain how I come to that number. There is about $3,000,000 that goes to all m’shulachim through the Agudas Yisrael charity fund to all m’shulachim. The large majority of m’shulachim are from Eretz Yisroel. The Agudah fund is a small percentage of the total tzedakah given. It does not include cash given directly to m’shulachim or check written to there mosdos, parlor meetings, the huge amount of direct mailings, Lev L’Achim, EFRAT, Chinuch Atmai etc etc that all come to Baltimore and have fund raisers. If the takanos can keep even $4,000,000 more in town, I would view that as a very positive development. There are a large number of people here that are worse off then I am, although it is below the radar.

    R’ Chaim, agav, is absolutely assur for people that live in Eretz Yisroel to complain.

    You are living below the poverty live but k’nireh you can afford a PC and a web connection. I don’t have that at home. Nearly every yeshiva student in Eretz Yisroel has a Borsalino and a cell phone. I don’t have those things. You learn and teach Torah. Ashrecha! Do you receive a stipend or modest pay check that comes, at least in part, from American tzedakah money? If so, you need to make a very, very careful cheshbon as to whether it is really the right thing for you to indulge in owning a computer, as it is clearly not a life necessity.

    You certainly believe that Hakadosh Baruch Hu is going to give you parnassa, so what do you care if Baltimore takes care of its own people first? Aderaba, as a ben Torah, you should be thrilled to see a kehilla committed to keeping the Shulchan Aruch. Don’t you agree with me?

  25. too tired says:

    ClooJew is 100 % wrong. First of all, in the out-of-town community (Cincinnati) where I reside, day camp (!) costs more than monthly tuition. Second, the gedolim heve ruled that summer camp, even the sleepaway variety, is of paramount importance in a child’s development in that it provides a safe,supervised and wholesome respite from the yitzrei hara that unfortunately abound in our larger cities. As such,tuition committees are supposed to somewhat discount the price of camp as a factor in arriving at their decisions. No one is saying that people should be allowed to take advantage of such a system, but to totally disallow camp to applicants for reduction would be draconian and counterproductive.

  26. cvmay says:

    Are meshulachim from Eretz Yisroel aware of this new takanah?

  27. jeff says:

    baltimore is not the first teaneck was (rhs, rmw) please check your facts

  28. Barzilai says:

    In Chicago, at least, most of the gevirim have second, third, and fourth homes out of state, which renders meaningless such a mandate. I don’t know this for a fact, but I suspect that the charitable institutions subsist primarily on the donations of these individuals, not the average Joe. Also, there are institutions of international prominance, such as Lakewood and Mir Yerushalayim, which would blow away like dust if this was followed seriously. I wonder how Baltimore is dealing with these issues?

  29. CR says:

    “We can’t speak of a silver lining to storm clouds so ominous and dark that they have kept bread (literally!) off the tables of children.”

    Actually, yes we can. For far too long there have been too many communities of our brethren (with shtemplech of kashrus from various “gedeilim”) who are content to live off the “Tzedakah” of other communities rather than seek productive working careers. I have noticed a very sharp increase in the number of meshulachim at my door demanding a three-figure “Goote Tshek”, usually followed by a seriously off-putting attitude when this cannot be done sight-unseen. Perhaps the thousands now aggressively begging in Chutz LaAretz to pay off six-figure chasunah debts, medical bills and the like will be a clarion warning call to future generations that their lifestyle is structurally unsustainable.

    “I am somewhat of two minds on the issue. The notion that there is a tuition “crisis” when people continue to spend 150%-200% of their monthly tuition bill on summer camp is, to my mind, outrageous.”

    It is not just tuition and summer camp although those are big contributors to the problem. It is kashrus (3x the food budget of those who eat treifos/yayin nesech/cholov akum/etc.). It is the need (yes, the NEED) to have a large house in a “shtatty” neighborhood near the good shuls and yeshivos which means higher RE costs (and usually higher taxes as well). Those costs are high and fixed, regardless of the state of the economy and/or personal incomes. Accordingly, the “discretionary” expenditures get axes first when salaries are decreased or someone gets laid off, R”L.

    BTW, I double-dare you and yours to try holding the two FT incomes necessary to pay a $50-80K tuition bill while your kids are at home all summer unsupervised. And, no, it is often fiscally and professionally impossible for Mom to stay at home June thru August.

  30. L Oberstein says:

    I am Secretayr of the Vaad Harabbanim and we are frequently asked to issue a letter for a specific worthy cause. Generally, our policy has been not to do so as an organization because we want people to prioritize local mosdos hachinuch.
    I was once asked by a Jew in Philadelphia why he should give money to a yeshiva in Baltimore. I answered that we have ,for example, twenty students from that city and provide, for example, $150,000.00 in tuition aid to boys from his city.We provide a number of communal rabbis, teachers, etc. and many baaleibatim are alumni. My point is that if one only gives locally, what will be with national and international institutions that serve all of klal yisroel.
    Tuition bills are crushing many families. The problem is that the entire community does not share the burden, only the donors to that school. If a divorced mother with five girls moves to town and shows up at a local school and can’t pay more than a token amount, who pays the rest? Her answer is “I know that Baltimore is a city of chesed and you won’t deny my children admittance.” The program of the Vaad Harabbanim is designed to educate the general community to prioritize so that educating these five childrn doesn’t only fall on supporters of that school but on the entire tzibbur.
    If you feel you are a tzibur, you can do it. If you don’t know your neighbor or feel any responsibility for him, then you can’t.

  31. Avi says:

    Some thoughts on Baltimore Takonos

    1)There are only a few Yeshivos\Bais Yakov in Baltimore.(I believe less than 10)

    2) The schools are truly public institutions and do not identify with any particular group or individual.

    The above conditions allow the whole community to take responsibility for all their children’s education.

    In larger communities there are different dynamics. Would the Satmer Kehilla fell obligated to( or even want to) fund a Lubavitch or Modern Orthodox school ,or vice versa?

    Unless we develop some sort of Achdus, the Baltimore takonos would be limited to smaller Jewish communities.

  32. Leah says:

    comment for “ClooJew”
    Hmmmm…..summer camp…..I hear you in some ways, yet I disagree in other ways. We send one of our children to a Jewish summer camp. The other two we keep at home and they go to a local Jewish camp. The child that we send to the out of town camp, we think, needs this type of environment. This is not simply a justification of any sorts.
    This is a child who, in our community, goes to a Jewish school and receives a good education, yet needs more during the summer that can not be provided here. We live in a very small town with about 2 – 3 boys his age. They either visit family out of town or go to camp as well. When he goes to camp he has the constant learning and sees that their are other yiddishe boys his age from all over that do the same things that he does. He also interacts and receives chizzuk from some very excellent rabbanim. I understand this, yet someone like yourself may not necessarily see this as important. I think it’s great that he has the opportunity to make Jewish friends from all over and is not sitting at home with yes, nothing to do. Not enough kids here to have a home camp with and while he loves his Ima, Ima cannot provide everything that an active boy his age needs. In other words, one cannot lump sum everyone’s situation and brish one’s hands of it….
    My husband and I are not really able to afford this type of camp, yet we “just do it” and pay it off. There are many of my friends whom have children and who understand this. The school tuitions and camp fees are definately outrageous and at the same time are not wasted because the fees simply pay for the costs to run these very programs. In other words: No one is getting rich off of the program.(or at least I don’t think so.)
    There are other areas that one could place your comment to. For example, seminary tuition for one year is approximately $25, 000. I sometimes think that a girl can go to a Bais Yaakov extention and save the money there, too, yet I understand that there are those who would disagree…..

  33. Joel Rich says:

    The Baltimore proposal actually provides a way of deciding who gets and who doesn’t that follows the advice of Chazal, rather than leave it to every person to make arbitrary decisions. If a selection had to be made, it should at least follow the guidelines of Chazal that place a premium on upholding the institutions and causes that are closer to the heart of each individual giver.
    ====================================
    I’m unsure what that second sentence means in practice (For example, if one feels that Jewish destiny will be played out in Israel and not Baltimore, does the 51% still hold?)

    In any even, imho a review of the halachot of tzedaka/maaser ksafim

    (you can check out R’ Daniel Feldman as reviewed recently on Hirhurim: tml where
    he gives the following formula-list your priorities based on halacha and then give a declining sequence to each (don’t fill top need with all your money but give Y=at least ½ x {where x is your charity budget) to top priority; then give at least ½ (x – y) to next category etc. {I can’t wait for the actuaries ‘ practical comments}.)

    indicates that chazal provided very broad guidelines with much subjectivity (e.g. what level of sustenance is required before moving on) and differing priorities for an individual versus a gabbai tzedaka. What’s missing is imho is a kehilla approach (and for this we can only blame ourselves) which can make these tough decisions.

    KT
    [We don’t have to go to the blogosphere to learn that there is much subjectivity allowed in hilchos tzedaka. (Incidentally, I haven’t heard the referenced shiur, but I did write a blurb for his new sefer. His treatment of the different shitos on tzekada is masterful, as usual.) The Baltimore priorities cited, however, have more than a bit of traction. They are in the gemara, and brought in Shulchan Aruch. It is certainly a better way to go than to write checks without regard to priorities at all. – YA]

  34. Daniel B. Schwartz says:

    ClooJew, what do you tell a family in which both parents work full time (sometimes more), and the children are, say, between 6 and ten years old, not quite old enough to be home alone all day every day. Is camp a luxury? Granted there are more expensive and dheaper camps out there. But camp itself is no luxury. It’s the only way to try to insure kids’ safety while parents work to pay the mortgage and yeshiva.

  35. Moishe Potemkin says:

    A topic for consideration some time should be why so many good and sensible ideas originate in Baltimore and only seem to succeed there.

    My two cents: First, Baltimore’s rabbanim have always been committed to communal unity – regardless of ideological disagreements, all rabbanim are treated with respect by one another. That helps minimize the disagreements that can arise elsewhere when ideas are rejected because of their originators rather than their validity.

    Baltimore is also “blessed” with a dearth of wealthy people compared to many other larger frum communities. This isn’t always a plus, of course, but it helps cut down on well-funded silliness that seems to pop up elsewhere with some frequency.

  36. Chaim Fisher says:

    I live in Israel. We have just decided not to send our son to the expensive summer camp because it costs $250. Instead we’re sending to the cheap one.

    My wife has no maid ever, not even erev Pesach, no car, no vacations, no hotels, no restaurants, and a new suit once every year or so. Even though she has leg problems she still drags a cart on the bus to Machane Yehuda to save money on vegetables. Her wig is 8 years old and looks like a mop. Our children, married and otherwise, are all way under the poverty level in the US. I learn Torah and teach Torah.

    I still think it is a fine idea for people who live there to keep 51% of their tzedakah money in Baltimore. That way people with cars, occasional maids, occasional vacations and Pesach trips, wigs that cost more than $200, and so on, can satisfy their complaints about how desperate their financial situation is and keep as much money as they can in their neighborhoods.

    They don’t have any choice.

  37. ClooJew says:

    These movements are, lulei demistafina, gaining speed. In Bergen County, there is an enormous push for communal needs – read, Yeshiva tuition – to come first. I am concerned that this will further erode the level of support for institutions in the Holy Land.

    I am somewhat of two minds on the issue. The notion that there is a tuition “crisis” when people continue to spend 150%-200% of their monthly tuition bill on summer camp is, to my mind, outrageous.

    It does seem some people are sending their children to cheaper camps and I have met one family that is simply keeping the kids home. Nonetheless, I would make it mandatory for all yeshivos to decline any scholarships to children who are going to summer camps that cost more per month than yeshiva. Unlike yeshiva, camp is simply a luxury. No one ever died from staying home for the summer and if enough kids did it, there would be plenty of biking, swimming and ballgames in the park.