Is There a Solution for Crown Heights?

From the Inbox: There are tens of frum communtities around the world that have systems in place to help large families in central cities. Could that work in Crown Heights?

By Meir L.

The widespread conception is that having a Chabad family today in the central cities is impossible. Much ink has been spilled, and much heartache imposed, trying to figure out solutions for this issue.

Unfortunately, the solutions that have been raised are far from adequate. Frequently, one hears one of four “solutions”.

1. Moving to the suburbs. This stands against the many sichos of the Rebbe stressing the need to strengthen the Crown Heights community, and decrying ‘escaping’.

2. Having small families. This is problematic both halachaicaly and hashkafically, and beyond the scope of this article.

3. Going onto all sorts of government assistance.

4. Living a low standard of living. This can include holding your child back from going to camp when all his friends are going, living in tiny apartments with too little light and air, not being able to pay tuition and having the kids punished because of it, etc. etc.

But is there a real solution? Can Crown Heights once again see many large families who manage to live decent lives?

I believe that the answer is a emphatic “Yes”!

But how?

If we can go back to the pre-Gimmel Tammuz standards, and learn from other Frum communities, I think we can manage it.

Here are some ideas:

1. School year continues with regular lessons till Tisha B’Av. The new school year starts Rosh Chodesh Elul. That would be no overnight camps. There would be a three week break from 10 Av until 1 Elul, just enough for a fun and relaxing day camp.

2. Tuition is paid by family, not per student.

3. Parents are ‘respected’ by schools. This will naturally lead to them returning respect to all school personnel, causing Hashem to send a lot more money to the school through the enthusiastic parents (well beyond their tuition pledge). Otherwise: a cycle of negativity. Enough said!

4. Tuition is a annual all-inclusive amount. No hidden fees, no additional ‘expenses’ in middle of the year, and no extra obligations that parents didn’t sign up for.

5. Schools should not judge parents based on their recent ‘purchases’. You can never know who paid for the item, and for what reason. Sometimes a low-income family might have received a ‘luxury item’, and it does not reflect on their financial status. You need school leaders with common sense to know when and how to be aggressive in collecting tuition.

6. Transparency to all parents of all school finances, including all salaries.

7. Simchos: This is a big one.
The average Bar Mitzvah night costs $6,000, and that’s before clothing and purchasing Tefilin. A Bar Mitzvah can cost way less than $1,000 if done nicely, but modestly, in a Shul. A Bas Mitzvah should cost even less if no men attend, even not the girl’s father. If done right, weddings can also cost very little, even with hundreds of guests.

8 . Setting up a system of gemach loaning funds, or even giving new growing families the money down needed to buy a regular full house with yards, and the possibility to enlarge the house.

Yes, none of these will be easy. It would take a community. Guess what: Hundreds of communities, around the world, have already done this.

Could Crown Heights have such a community within the community?

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