The cost of being Jewish

  • howard feldman
As talk show host, listener feedback is critical in order to get a sense of the mood and thinking of the listener. There are days, however, when no matter what fascinating subject I try to discuss, that our listeners seem disinterested and even uncooperative. It is on those days, when all else has failed, and I feel somewhat desperate, that I simply pose the question: “Do observant Jews get value for money when buying kosher chickens?”
by HOWARD FELDMAN | Nov 02, 2017

In the highly unlikely event of this cheap trick failing, there is of course always the discussion about the death penalty, but that is less relevant to the matter at hand. What is relevant is that being Jewish, and being observant is expensive. And it is becoming more and more so.

There has recently been a flurry of articles dealing with the cost of being Jewish. Although these have primarily focused on Orthodox communities in the US, the stresses on South African Jews are no different. What is clear, is that the main cause of stress is the cost of tuition and the cost of kosher food.

Jewish day schools are notoriously difficult to manage. Besides trying to navigate Jewish parents and class moms, they have significant additional costs of multiple syllabuses - both religious and secular as well as the subsidy factor - where more and more parents are unable to fully service their children’s school fees.

Yeshiva Maharsha has recently announced that the 2018 school fees have been significantly reduced. Grades 1-6 will now cost parents R2 775 with the high school at R3 775. According to Rabbi Menachem Raff, “the main drive behind school fees reduction is to restore the DIGNITY of parents. With these new rates, 90 per cent and more of parents, will be able to pay their fees, rather than have to apply for subsidies.

“It does cause a major deficit, but we are banking on those people that have been blessed with more, to come forward and help meet the shortfall. Please G-d in this way everyone wins. Please G-d this will be the start and go a long way in sustaining and growing our community.”

Soon to follow was the Rimon Nursery School. According to Aaron Zulburg, “the Rimon Playschool and Nursery School, caters for children 14 months to grade 00. The fees will be R1 999 per month. (They should have been R3 300).

“The motivation was and is, as a result of the tremendous difficulty that many families have in getting through each month financially, we decided to see if we could relook and change the current fee structure. We were able to make this change without sacrificing any quality in the education and so we made the change.”

There is little doubt that the other Jewish day schools too are sensitive and aware of the pressure on parents and discussions around affordability and rising costs is not something that is being ignored.

Friends Restaurant have taken a similar step with regard to the cost of kosher food. According to shareholder Craig Lazarus, “we have reduced prices by around 30 per cent. We have done so by reducing expenditure without compromising quality and by benchmarking our prices off NON-kosher establishments rather than kosher ones. We believe that as difficult as this is to achieve, we have no choice if we want people to continue to observe kashrut and to support our establishment.”

The reality is very simply that given the extreme hardship of a stagnant economy, the fact that the SA rand has low value, is placing significant stress on those who wish to observe a Jewish lifestyle. Thanks, however to some brave initiatives there seems to be the beginning of a trend to push back and to make life just a little easier.


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