Sunday, June 12, 2005

Rabbis' responsibilities in lowering the cost of being Jewish

Orthomom asked me to make a list of ideas. Here are a few 'motzei shabbat' ramblings. Further suggestions welcome!

A few first suggestions of how community rabbis could lower the cost of being Jewish:

OVERALL: Recognise that Yiddishkeit is pricing itself out of the market, and is becoming a hobby for upper-middle class people. Make it a constant theme that Rabbis are purposefully set on lowering the cost of Jewish living.

- by reversing the ‘hechsher’ madness, and publish lists of proprietary foods that may be eaten without needing a hechsher, both year-round and at Pesach.
- Next step: refuse to allow sale of unnecessary products in kosher shops – prime example: Kosher l’pesach bottled water, imported from Israel. -
- Institute a two-tier hechsher system – definitely need supervision; supervision preferred, but not necessary
- Make it clear that excessive spending on domestic appliances (cookers, sinks etc) is unnecessary.
- Setting standards for entertaining on Shabbat and chagim

- By enacting new ‘sumptuary laws’ regarding acceptable dress in shul for men and for women, with the aim of making a wider style of clothing acceptable for men, women and children.
- considering items such as sukkah, arbah minim (does every [male] member of the family need a set of arba minim?)
-- set clear limits on kiddushim
-- stop enacting expensive ‘chumrahs’, each of which has a price tag.

3. ENCOURAGE AND LEGITIMISE living away from the major and expensive Jewish suburbs. Encourage young rabbis to live in and service the needs of less expensive areas.

4. S’MACHOT (“Simchas”)
– stop giving hechsherim to functions that cost over a determined amount.
- Reverse the simcha culture.
- Refuse to be flown halfway across the world so that ‘the chosson’s Rosh Yeshivah can say a sheva brochah”.
- Refuse to attend outlandish functions, and encourage more modest ones.
- Set limits on some components of s’machot, and in particular on bar-mitzvah celebrations.

5. SCHOOLS – make raising endowment funds for day schools an overriding prority in every community. Do not permit the opening of new schools unless the need is clear and independently confirmed. Encourage central services for some schools. Recognise that a ‘year in Israel’ is financially beyond the reach of many parents, and stop making it a social norm, so that those who cannot afford it don’t feel demeaned.

6. WORKING FOR A LIVING …. Need I elaborate? This is closely tied to ‘Shidduch expectations’.

-Anyway, that’s a fairly basic first list.

1 comment:

Lyss said...

Sound good. Practical. Pragmatic. Good thoughts.