Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Jewish Birth Control

West Bank Mama wrote a thought-provoking post about the differences between Torah/Jewish life here in Israel vs in the states.

I've been hearing the "joke" about Jewish Day School tuition being euphemistically known as "Jewish Birth Control."  Life here in Israel has its financial challenges for sure, but the myth of the "easy life" in the states is no more than a myth.  Sure, some people are living comfortably on their incomes, but many aren't and many survive financially because they have fewer kids than they had planned and G-d could have given them.  Yes, it's a trade-off.

Many in the baby-boomer generation benefited from financial help from their parents who had few children and enjoyed the post-World War Two affluence.  As grandparents, my friends can't do the same for their kids.  So, in the states, the middle-class kids are having trouble paying day school tuition.  As a result, they are afraid to have as many kids as their parents had. 

In the high-living suburbs the day schools are starting to feel the crunch.  More parents are demanding "scholarship" and tuition reductions, "...or we'll be forced to take our kids out and send them to public school."

Young parents raised going to all-summer sleep-away camps, vacations and Jewish Holidays in hotels etc don't know how to live frugally.  Since they want to give their kids the same and more fun experiences and childhood,  they "reduce expenses" by having fewer kids.

OK, financially it's also tough here in Israel, but it's much easier to live a Jewish life without major outlays of money.  You don't have to live in Jerusalem or Ra'anana if you can't afford it.  There are many places here with great education, much more reasonable housing and very non-materialistic life-style and values.

Make a "cheshbon nefesh," accounting of the soul to reveal your true values and priorities.  Don't sacrifice the next generation.  We need more Jews! 


nr said...

You've left Ba'al Teshuvahs out of your equation. Many of us didn't know what we were in for having many children and wanting to educate them Jewish. By the time I figured it out, I already had my children (I started in my 30s), but I can see how an FFB who knew what to expect might not have as many children. Mainstream Jewish organizations' priorities have to change - and invest more in Jewish education, less in intercommunity outreach.

Netivotgirl said...

You hit the nail on the head about folks not knowing how to live frugally there. I am grateful to Hashem that my parents were far from wealthy. I babysat and slaved every summer after age 12 to save money for college.

Here, because it is not easy financially for many/ most of us, we can more easily raise our children with Torah-dik less materialistic outlooks. (Yes, I know it's not easy, but easier than in the States it is, I believe.)

Just one more reason to thank Hashem for helping us make our homes here... at HOME!

Batya said...

nr, the BT part "rankles" in other ways. Just like I was taught Shabbat and Kashrut, I was taught not to speak during dovening especially certain prayers. So when I see FFB's yapping away I go nuts.
re: your kids. Would you trade them in? No, so B"H, you had them.

Esther, thanks, I could never imagine rasing my kids in Chu"L.

Anonymous said...

I just feel the need to point out that there's a difference between having, say, 4 to 7 children, versus having 10+.

I see too many cases in Israel of families (parents and children) that can't cope, both emotionally and financially. About the latter, I'm not talking about living beyond means. I'm talking about poverty, below the frugal line.

Most of these cases are very religious people, of different "camps", with their Rabbis blessing them the more miserable life becomes for them, while at the same time prohibiting them from using any effective method of birth control.

Netivotgirl said...

I'd like to make a point here: I'm very active working with women from the charedi/ B'T /non-religious segments of the population about Taharat Ha'mishpacha. UNLIKE about 20-30 years ago, most Rabbanim DO indeed give heterim for birth control.

No longer is it "3 months and that's all." Rather, "1 year, and then tell me how you feel." Rabbanim saw too many women in major depressions and in situations that left their families without a functioning mother.

Sadly, there are many "Babot" and "Psuedo-rabbanim" that people shouldn't be asking advice from, who give ridiculous untenable "advice." The results are catastrophic!

Batya said...

Good points from both of you. It's heart-breaking to see women in their mid-twenties looking wiped out and old dragging themselves and their four or more kids. Spread it out.

In the states tuition and other expenses and the lack of maternity leave and benefits are causing families of two, three kids. So when you calculate the whole picture, birthrates and Jewish population are shrinking drastically.