Pesach Bonuses Are Nice, But They’re Still Demeaning

From the Inbox: Many schools have the practice of giving teachers a significant bonus to help cover Pesach expenses. It’s greatly appreciated, but it’s nonetheless demeaning and fundamentally flawed.

By a past teacher

Many schools have the practice before Pesach of giving teachers a significant bonus to help cover Pesach expenses. Some will even run a campaign to raise money for the teachers.

Of course, this is a kind act by the school’s administration and donors who appreciate the teachers’ plight. These people step forward and support their teachers out of the generosity of their hearts. 

But if we consider it from an objective perspective, we will realize how demeaning and absurd it is.

If we look around, we will notice that no one is running a campaign to raise funds for bonuses for successful bookkeepers or business managers in a company. Why then are bonuses needed for a successful rebbi? This isn’t just for an individual teacher who’s going through a tough time, but for tens of capable and successful teachers. 

The reason is sadly well known: our teachers are severely underpaid. So rather than raise their to match that of the plumber – which when done right, teaching takes more skill and is more taxing – administrations choose to give the teacher a “gift” to help. 

As a past teacher, I can tell you that this is extremely demeaning. Of course, we need the money and we take it eagerly, but it makes us feel second-rate. 

Some will call such an attitude “ungrateful.” I call this “taking advantage of the finest of our young men and women who are willing to make a sacrifice for the future of our children.” As a community, we should admire that, and not take advantage of these dedicated individuals. 

I applaud well-meaning administrators and board members for their sincere efforts in securing these much-needed funds. But I also think that we need to rethink how we view and treat teachers. We need to make sure that teachers are paid respectfully like any other service without the need to rely on “Pesach gifts.”

This topic is also critical for the future of our children. When we begin to pay our teachers properly, we will start to see more people going into chinuch. It’s not just the money. Teachers’ pay is a statement about how much we think teachers are worth.

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  1. The title is misleading, and can be very hurtful, both to teachers and to administrators who go out of their way to make these life-saving bonuses happen.
    It can also send a very wrong message to parents and/or donors who are approached about these bonuses.
    You have an obviously valid point about the salaries, but don’t take it out on the bonuses…
    By a current teacher

    1. I’m very sorry, but I have to disagree. Schools would love to pay their teachers more. They are bending over backwards to raise the funds needed. If only they would have the money to raise the salaries of their teachers. The most they can do is give an additional bonus for yom tov. These bonuses are understood and very much appreciated.

      One person suggested that instead of all the money going to siyumei sifrei torah, these hundreds of thousands of dollars can go to chinuch… just one idea of many.

      Hashem to give all the yeshivas and chadarim a ton of money and harchava that they can promote chinuch to the best of their ability

      1. Perhaps a system should be set up independent of school salaries where people can donate to teachers in honor or memory of someone. Where people get credit for upping the standard of a class, have a hakdasha, even could be where part is for a class fund to cover prizes mivtzahs etc, stuff teachers end up covering often anyway.

  2. From history, putting people in a negative light no matter how subtly usually has negative results.
    There is definitely validity to claiming teachers should be paid more, but I do think schools are starting to get the point. It is possible current regular paychecks are a bit more respectful than a few years ago.
    Maybe “past teacher” can write an article to inspire those who appreciate their children’s educators and “have the means” to turn their appreciation into helping them financially?

  3. Many professionals can really use an extra paycheck for pesach. As someone who deals with raising money for maos chittim, many many people who have real jobs don’t have enough.

    It’s nice to see that there is a real effort to make sure all milamdim are taken care of.

  4. As a teacher, I want to say that this is kafui tov. People are going out of their way to give a bonus and this is how you say thank you? Budgets are stretched thin as it is. Of course I believe that more recognition of teachers is in place, but this is not the way to go about it. Sorry.

  5. Firstly sorry you feel that way I can’t go into it you are rite or wrong as these are your feelings that you penned out

    Secondly. Many professionals absolutely need the help but there’s nobody to give it to them. Take a “successful” professional that’s Bringing home 195,000-245,000 a year and has 7 kids with one in seminary one in a zal out of town and just made a wedding. There’s usually no way they’re covering their expenses and when it comes pesach they surely can use it between all the food clothes and flying kids home for Yom tov

    Thirdly. Teachers stand out as the biggest Mesiras nefesh and ultimately our biggest gain as parents is that we know our teachers really care for chinuch and this is their passion because hey it’s definitely not for the money… but than again who’s getting bonuses chanuka Purim pesach and time off in the summer to go make extra money running day camps and bungalow colonies…? It’s not the “successful” professionals

    All In all. Let’s not discount the structure of how teachers are and aren’t paid. Boruch hashem they all seem to be making it work
    Let’s also not shine too much light on the “successful” professionals because there’s no telling how real the struggle is and if I could throw in the typical rebbe card. Im pretty sure the rebbe was aware of how teachers were being paid and how it was structured

    Thank you to all those arranging these beautiful bonuses and taking away hours and hours of time you could’ve been spending learning relaxing and giving your wife and kids the time they could’ve enjoyed with you keep it up it’s taking tremendous burdens off of our mechanchim

    1. You are clearly not in touch with how teachers are doing.

      You mention professionals bringing home 195,000-245,000. Which teacher brings home anything close to that? A typical Crown Heights teacher is paid under 100k.

      You write that they are getting bonuses for Chanuka, Purim and Pesach. I invite you to ask a rebbi you know how much that money amounts to…

      Finally, you write “Boruch hashem they all seem to be making it work.” What does making it work mean? If they have to live with much less, rely on favors and handouts, work extra jobs and spend less time with their families – is that considered workable? Some may have well to do parents who help them, but many are struggling (which is why these bonuses are so much needed).

      I don’t think the writer meant to knock the bonuses, but to bring attention to the sorry state of rebbis and their families who must struggle. The school administration may be doing a lot, but a solution must be found before we face a serious crisis.

    2. I don’t like the taste of any such letters in general as nothing good comes out of it.
      But about the summer not working. We don’t get sundays off amd never have time to catch our breath. And when we finally have the “summer off” we still need to find a job to pay our bills in the summer.
      Not even if a teacher chooses to not work in the summer. Go calculate all your sundays and holidays and you will see they pretty much add up to our time off! Wishing you much Hatzlacha. And let’s all just focus on our own shlichus and not worry about talking about other people and hanging our dirty laundry in public.

    3. For those who think that a teacher is off during the summer you are terribly mistaken. That is the time when teachers take to prepare their classes and improve their lessons.

      Don’t forget all the unpaid hours of preparation during the year. Then there’s the unpaid hours of marking tests, progress reports, report cards, and talking to parents.

      1. Why in ALL Chassidishe Chadorim, the Melamdim don’t get a 2 month summer break, only 2 weeks?
        Also, I don’t know in which Cheder you teach, but in most of our Chadorim, which teach Limudei Chol, the Melamdim finish their job at 2 latest, verses Chassidishe Chadorim where Limudei Kodesh goes till 4…

  6. It is not only teachers. I work for a different moised and used to get a small bonus for Pesach. For some reason this year there is no mention of it. Anyone working for a moised or yeshiva definitely deserves a nice bonus for Yom Tov especially these days when the price of everything has skyrocketed.

  7. Their are many other employees who work longer hours & are under paid even more then the Rebbis that are also making pesach on their own that work in the same Yeshivas & don’t receive a penny of help for pesach, I find that disturbing.

  8. As someone who gives our bonuses to >>>>>

    The smile on their faces are the satisfaction of knowing people care and people pop up to show their appreciation. Such as Reb S B Drizin SHLITA who gives to all the public Kolel’s in NYC a bonus for years and years. The Kolel Yungerleit love the thought that people think of them !!!! It is help for their families before Pesach and a great show of appreciation for Lomdei Torah.

    Keep the Bonuses rolling !!!!

  9. BSD

    I appluad the letter writter for the article as this issue is a community issue not directed at our hard working adminastrations.

    look at school campaines and ask yourself how far can that money go for the Mossod, when schools work so hard to fundraise people simply turn the other way.

    As a teacher these bonuses are extremly appriciated on one hand and embaressing on the other, not to mention that a five hundred dollar bonus dosen’t take you too far.

    As a community we need to wake up and start supporting our Mosdos with an open arm, and then we can expect good return.

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