Friday, August 4, 2017


I came across an op-ed article yesterday from the LA Times, titled "It's too expensive to be Jewish". To read it, click here. In the article, the mother is complaining about the cost of bar mitzvah lessons. One quote is for $140/hour, another for $80. Her kids attend a Hebrew school that meets twice a month and reading Hebrew is not part of the curriculum. She goes on to talk about the cost of membership in a Temple that does have Hebrew as part of the curriculum, and the cost of High Holiday tickets.

Now, I get that there are times that being Jewish does cost extra. If you are sending your kids to day school, tuition does not come cheaply, neither does kosher meat. But within the Jewish lifestyle there is plenty that is free and inexpensive. Lighting Shabbat candles once a week, is not an expensive habit. Having a family meal together without the gadgets is recommended by experts who have studied the breakdown of the nuclear family. Making that family meal on a Friday night with some wine and challah make that meal a holy one, something really special. Bringing that meal to a holy level, to connect with all the Jews around the world, all saying the Kiddush will make an impact on everyone at that table.

There are plenty of synagogues and organizations that do not charge astronomical fees for praying on the High Holidays - one just needs to take a quick look around. Chabad, for one, does not. And it's as easy to find them as the 7/11 on the corner.

The question really are priorities. This woman sends her kids twice a month to a Jewish Hebrew school. I applaud her for that. However, does she think that those two times are really going to make a deep impact on her kids? Does she re-enforce the lessons taught at school... at home? Does she read Jewish books with them? Does she light Shabbat candles and have Friday night dinner as a family sans electronics?

The op-ed ends with this thought:
As for Nathaniel, baseball and sleep-away camp and a million other not-so-good excuses have prevented me from setting up his first tutoring session. But it's on my to-do list.
Priorities. She manages to find the money for baseball and camp (and who knows what else) - but not for a Jewish education for her kids. Like I said, not everything Jewish costs money - but some things do... she needs to be honest with herself - if there is limited money (and she makes clear that she did not win the lottery), then how is she budgeting. What is most important to her and her family? Judaism and Jewish continuity or baseball? Perhaps it's a Jewish camp - that would be fantastic. That would be a good use of money. But we don't get that sense from her writing.

I wish her and her family the very best - and I hope that she finds a way to inject a joy of Judaism into her kids and not boil it down to nickels and cents... especially since she's finding other ways of spending that change.