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Opinion: Our Rebbeim Deserve Better | Avi Gutfreund

In an piece I penned before Pesach, I decried the ever-rising prices of matzah and how paying to bake one’s own matzahs with a chabura has become almost unbearable. While there was a mix of those agreeing and disagreeing with my point in the comments section, there were several comments which I found absolutely abhorrent and which I find it necessary to respond to.

Several commenters wrote that matzah baking wasn’t intended for working-class people like me, but were rather for rebbeim who “don’t pay tuition and don’t pay for chasunas.” Others chimed in, saying that rebbeim get unfair discounts and promotions which those not in chinuch do not receive. They argued that it is more financially viable to be a rebbi than to be average working man. They therefore found it inequitable that rebbeim get special discounts.

If you haven’t been paying attention, and clearly these commenters don’t, the vast majority of rebbeim barely scratch by. Our children’s rebbeim are individuals who put their lives into educating and molding the next generation al pi derech hatorah and for this they earn a stipend which often does not even cover basic expenses. Moreover, many yeshivas don’t have the funds to pay their rebbeim on time, sending these selfless educators into heavy debt so that they can feed their families and keep the lights on.

As Rabbi Yaakov Bender, the famed menahel of Yeshiva Darchei Torah often says, our rebbeim are superstars. They are highly competent and capable individuals who could have gone into business careers, yet chose to dedicate their efforts to educating the next generation of Klal Yisroel. And to say that they have it better off than the average guy in a 9 to 5 job is absolutely ridiculous.

Whatever your opinion is regarding prices and your ability to pay for things, don’t disparage rebbeim in the process of voicing your opinion. They need our support and our help as much, and often more than anyone else. Don’t put them down – they deserve a whole lot better.

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There are 28 Comments to "Opinion: Our Rebbeim Deserve Better | Avi Gutfreund"

  • Yes says:

    Well said!!!
    Superstars!!!

  • Joe burger says:

    I would disagree and without the drama and superstar etc…. If you crunch the numbers of a person making let’s say 100k a year and a rebbe getting perks and programs, with tutoring at night with all the discounts etc… See who makes more

    • Esther says:

      Then nobody is stopping you from doing the same! Go ahead and become a rebbe!
      “…with tutoring at night and wife working…”- and even if you are a businessman and not a rebbe, who is stopping you from tutoring at night and having your wife work? These two additional “perks” are not exclusive to being a rebbe. Anyone can choose to take on an extra night job and have his wife work… However, if you compare his actual salary from his day job of being a rebbe, he is not making more than you. But again, feel free to become a rebbe if you think they are rolling in wealth…
      Signed,
      not a rebbe nor married to a rebbe, just a working woman who has only the highest respect to rebbeim for all they do for our kids

    • mobile says:

      I believe your comment doesnt have merit for two reasons:
      1. A rebbe knows going into his career that, if he is at the top of his game, he will barely make it. Your comparison is not apples to apples. Someone making $100k, generally is not at the top of his field.
      2. Even if rebbeim were extremely well-compensated, I think, by virtue of their job, we should do whatever we can to help them.
      No, I am not a rebbe, but I am very aware of the toil, care and professionalism that is required of a rebbe nowadays – especially in Lakewood.

  • Abe says:

    I was never a rebbe. But you were never in the shoes of a person like many of us working “longer” than 9-5, making 100k, but cant makes ends meet.
    We get no govenment programs. No help before Y”T ( because Kupas Y”T only help Bnei torah – as they advertise). No discounts in tuition. ETC.
    So I’m not sure you are correct.

  • rebs says:

    i always wondered why no one asks why the brain surgeon gets all these perks and all those days off along with his high salary. he gets them bec he can do what others cant. he has a specialty job like the 400 dollar an hour lawyer. a rebbe can do what you cant why doesn’t he also get “what comes with the job”

  • Rebbe says:

    If you”re not a Rebbe, does your employer pay you on time, or weeks [or more] late like mine?

    Does your employer owe you one, two or three payroll checks from last year like my employer? Eventually we”ll get them.

    Did you have to borrow money to cover the bills you just paid because your boss’s checks just bounced, like I just did?

    These are some of the “perks” of a Rebbe you may not have thought about.

    My real reward is when I get your son to understands, overcome challenges, and become a better person, so I”ll live with all “perks”.

  • Say, what ? says:

    @Esther ur in La La land. It is absolute near IMPOSSIBLE to get a Rebbe job.
    The fact is, Rebbes work very hard and their salaries are a bizayon HaTorah and everyone knows it.
    However, the other fact is, not every working guy is making a killing. There are many nice, smart, working people who are not making alot of money. In that case, then YES, the Rebbe is a LOT better off due to tuition breaks, food discounts etc etc.
    Hatzlocha Rabbah to all our wonderful Rabbeim. Collectively, they’re doing an amazing job.
    Tizkee L’Mitzvot

  • Yakov says:

    I am a rebbe and my yeshiva is over 3 months behind. You have no idea what it means not to know when you expect your next paycheck. What’s especially so hard is that I can never pay down my debts .

  • Working says:

    Why do people have such a hard time realizing that you can have it hard and acknowledge that someone else also has it hard without fighting over who exactly has it worse? The grass is always greener on the other side. Lots of people are doing their best to scrape by whether we pay for insurance or get programs and whether we get other perks or not. How about we feel for each other and be happy for someone who’s burden was eased just a little.

  • Sruli says:

    HEY HEY HEY

    ITS VERY SIMPLE.

    A YESHIVA DOESN’T GENERATE MONEY, BUSINESSES DO.

    SO BUSINESS EMPLOYEES HAVE A MONETARY VALUE & GET PAID ACCORDINGLY, BUT REBBEIM HAVE A ZERO MONETARY VALUE, THATS RIGHT: 0

    THEREFORE, WHATEVER A REBBE GETS, IS LIKE A RESPECTABLE HANDOUT.

    [HOWEVER, TEACHERS DO HAVE A MONETARY VALUE, BECAUSE THEY TEACH SUBJECTS THAT WILL EITHER EARN YOU A DEGREE ONE DAY, OR FOR THE LEAST PART THEY’RE BASIC SKILLS FOR MAKING MONEY & DEALING WITH THE BUSINESS WORLD, SO OF COURSE THERE’S MONETARY VALUE, TO IT. THIS IS WHY COLLEGE COSTS A FORTUNE.]

    SINCERELY,

    OF COURSE!

  • Another Rebbe says:

    Some more unlisted perks that a Rebbi gets that aren’t talked about are we get to work six days a week including all legal holidays, we get to have our jobs evaluated and reported to our bosses by 30 sets of partners a year, and we get to be available at all times for these partners to get info give an opinion or complain in person, we are fair game to be publicly berated and challenged by any person who doesn’t agree with us, We also can work our way up to a top salary that we make enough money to for almost half of what it costs a family with six children to live.
    We know this before and do it anyway because we know that we don’t work for you we work for Hashem and if you don’t want to give that money Hashem will get it to us a different way.

  • oh says:

    why is it that only the rabiem can complain about how hard they work.. underpaid

    and a working guy cant

    i know a rebbe from out-of -town who all he does is complain when he only has 12 boys in his class

    some are complainers and some are not weather you work or teach.

  • Mordechai says:

    Rebbeim are moser nefesh and are due all the perks and then some. I’d like to see someone advocate for mashgichim in kashrus who work crazier hours in less than optimal conditions get no paid vacation yet get zero perks or recognition.

  • J White says:

    IF WE UNDERSTOOD WHAT A REBBE DOES FOR OUR CHILDREN AND KLAL YISROELS FUTURE, WE WOULD NOT BE HAVING THIS DEBATE. THEY SHOULD BE THE HIGHEST PAID INDIVIDUALS IN OUR FRUM SOCIETY. WHY DO YOU PAY A DOCTOR OR LAWYER WHATEVER THEY CHARGE? BECAUSE YOU UNDERSTAND HOW IMPORTANT THEIR WORK IS. WE SHOULD THINK OF OUR RABBEIM THE SAME!!

  • Mrs weissman says:

    Both my husband and I are moser nefesh for chinuch.My husband works 6 days a week 11 months a year for the last 25 years full day and his salary is less than every menial worker. Please have respect for your children’s educators who give Lev and nefesh to your children and be happy for them that there are some extras for them as none of you would work for the salary they receive.May everyone be blessed to earn what they need as Our Father in Heaven has enough for all of us. May we all wish everyone well.

  • Cant manage says:

    As a working wife/mother whose husband literally works all day and night we still cant make ends meet and no we dont go on vacation even once a year!!! Rabbeim get off even if they dont go away. certain things they know they will have regardless of how much $$ they earn such as food for pesach and all the discounts they are entitled to. They deserve it. My question is why isnt there anyone looking out for the people that work or overwork but still cant make ends meet and are in debt as bad or worse than the rebbi.noone gives us $$$ when we make a wedding or bar mitzvah. We also dont habe parents with the means to help so yes I would venture to say the rebbi ia better off then we are.

  • Entitlement society says:

    @sruli

    There’s a reason why Harvard Law School and other Ivy League law schools honor a BTL from BMG and other yeshivos. ….Because the rebbeim of these men taught them how to learn Gemara which is prelaw. This is besides the fact that for some reason the Lakewood economy is booming even though so many are just “learning Torah” throughout their school career and life.

  • Chaim says:

    Whilst it would be nice for everyone to have as much money as they need we can clearly say that will never be the case.
    Having said that it seems people don’t realise that a Rebbe job is a job like any other, in which the pay is dependent on basic supply and demand rules -meaning if there are for instance 100 qualified lawyers waiting on deck to be hired than the employer has the benefit of paying them less. However if there are only a few who are qualified then he must offer much more money or they will walk away, and easily find a better job elsewhere.
    There was a time in which no one wanted to be a Rebbe, and a few choshuve individuals sacrificed going into the working world to teach the next generation. For better or for worse those days are long gone… We now live in a time (especially in Lakewood) in which these Rebbe jobs are the most sought after jobs around. You can literally have 100 people vying for the same slot. You have cases in which “the Shver” will pay off the school to “give his Eidim a Shteller”. Is it a wonder why the Mosdos than have the liberty to compensate whatever they Feel like??

  • Chaya says:

    Your children will have as much respect for their rebbeim as you do.

  • PG says:

    “Sruli” post is apikursis. As the gemorah teaches us, anyone that says mai ahani lon rabbanan is apikursis. Hey, Sruli, Bulletin, value is not only money. How much would one pay for gan eden? For the sechar of a mitzvah, etc. That too is value. True, yeshivos don’t generate money, the generate much more. If you believe that Rabbaim have zero value I fear for your future generations.

  • Sruli says:

    @PG Waxman

    You’re so wrong!

    A Rebbi has zero monetary value. He doesn’t generate a penny.

    You want to talk about spiritual values, what’s that got to do with BOTTOM LINE MONEY.

    A REBBI DOESN’T EVEN MAKE A PENNY FOR THE COMPANY [A.K.A YESHIVA] SO HE HAS A ZERO MONETARY VALUE.

    WE DONT GIVE REBBEIM A “””SALARY””, WE GIVE THEM A TOKEN OF APPRECIATION FOR TEACHING TORAH TO OUR CHILDREN. ITS A RESPECTABLE HANDOUT OR LIKE A GIFT.

    Bringing in to the discussion how much we value ruchnious, in terms of how much money we would give up in order that our child should be taught Torah is not the discussion.
    Bottom line a Rebbi is not an employee, he’s just someone who’s adding ruchnius value to our child not monetary value. Now go put a price on ruchnius. Can you? No. So you got to give something otherwise there would be no REBBEIM, so as long as the amount we give is sufficient to keep REBBEIM, why do we need to start compensating for ruchnius??

    Right?? That’s all.

  • PG says:

    I am not PG Waxman. I do not care to debate, just felt it unfair that you think its PG Waxman.

  • rebs says:

    no offense to lawyers….

  • judah f. says:

    Sruli, can you please explain yourself. I hope your not saying what it sounds like your saying. If so, I’m surprised the moderator let such a ridiculous statement be posted.

  • Shmuel says:

    A rebbe is just as essential, if not more, to our society and community as any other job—be it Doctor, Lawyer, or anything else. Their role is one which without undermines our entire existence as Yidden. The Torah-true personalities that we all are is largely due to the influence of our rabbaim. Many, of not all, really care for our children’s success, and play a big part of their upbringing. If we are doubting their entitlement to a decent salary, we really need to rethink our priorities. Besides, if we aren’t paying our Rabbaim enough, how can we expect them to be able to apply themselves in a way which our children can benefit most— thus causing the amount we do pay, to be utterly wasted.

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