I Wish I Had to Pay Yeshivah Tuition
As told to Ita Yankovich
While everyone around me seems to be complaining about the cost of yeshivah tuition and the strain it puts on their family budget, I’m not in a position to sympathize. You see, I wish I was paying yeshivah tuition.
My son is enrolled in a secular school so he can receive all the services he needs that no mainstream yeshivah can adequately provide, at least for now, in my area.
So, while all the mothers waiting at the corner bus stop are venting about last night’s kriah homework or making it to the Chumash play, I will be packing my son’s kosher lunch, making sure to remind him each morning that although he is allowed to mingle with his classmates, his food cannot. In school he is not my little Moishy, but rather Moe, to make it easier for the staff to pronounce his name. I will tuck his precious curls behind his ears, so he can blend in and not be singled out for his “ethnic hair.”
Yes, yeshivah tuition is high and it causes many families stress, but it is also a blessing. Attending yeshivah means your child is capable of handling the dual curriculum of both limudei kodesh and secular studies. Attending yeshivah means your child will not be exposed to improper speech, attire, or behavior. Attending yeshivah means your child is being enriched with not only secular knowledge, but with the wisdom of our beautiful culture. Attending yeshivah means you don’t have to make excuses for why your son cannot attend the Saturday birthday parties of his fellow classmates.
As much as admire the arts and crafts projects my son brings home, I wish they displayed shofaros, Torahs, and menorahs, instead of Frosty the Snowman and the Easter bunny. He comes home singing jolly tunes such as “Yankee Doodle,” “Let it Snow,” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” I get progress reports about how he is doing in art and gym, but not the important subjects of kesivah and parashah. He jumps off the bus waving goodbye to Keisha, Chris, and Amal instead of Kalman, Chaim, and Avraham. On Sukkos, while the whole family enjoyed a week of Chol Hamoed outings, Moishy went to school. His case counselor advised me that children like him thrive with structure and consistency. She told me that although he will not be penalized for religious absences, it would take his team of P3 and SEIT providers weeks – if not months – to make up for those five consecutive days of missed academics. So, he attended school, but at what cost? The family pictures we took of our excursions will be a forever reminder that Moishy wasn’t there with us.
Hopefully, next year he will improve enough, just enough, so I can pull him out of there and place him instead in the gentle cocoon of a yeshivah. When I told another mother that I may not register him in public school for next year, she challenged me: “Don’t you want him getting the best services possible? Why would you want to place him in a bubble instead?” People like her don’t understand the power of this illusive bubble. It’s a bubble that’s seemingly delicate yet has the power to escape menacing winds. Diversity is great, but my child would feel so much more comfortable with a staff that resembled his Bubby and Zeidy. He is still young enough not to understand the significance behind rainbow flags and school committees voting on BDS.
Next year, I hope to rip open an envelope containing my monthly tuition statement. I imagine myself gazing at it as if it held the winning lottery numbers. I imagine myself proudly filling out the check and jotting in the memo: Moishy’s tuition.
Until that day, I’m not saying you’re not allowed to vent about tuition and long mishmar nights, but please consider my perspective. I wish I had your problems.