Undeserved Stigma

Letter to the Editor

Published August 09, 2012.

Your June 29 editorial “The Undeserving Poor?” argued that poverty in the Orthodox community is a “choice.” The premise is that Hasidic Jews refuse to go to work and earn an honest living.

I beg to differ. I oversee a school where several hundred men and women are trained annually as junior accountants and about 100 others graduate as fully accredited accountants with a BA eligible to become CPAs.

Our program is hardly unique. There’s TTI, Machon L’Parnassah, Touro College and various other programs run by Orthodox groups and focused on training Orthodox men and women in the pursuit of an advanced degree leading to a career. Your editorial claims that “skill based teaching” has disappeared in our community. This is simply not true.

Furthermore, the vast majority of men in the New York Hasidic and ultra-Orthodox community are actively employed or seeking employment. Walk the streets of Manhattan, and you will find Hasidic businessmen, accountants, therapists, attorneys, educators and professionals of all types. Like in any community, some are very successful at their vocation while others are struggling.

Let me make one thing perfectly clear. Torah learning is the number one priority in our community. Nothing, not even climbing the corporate ladder, will ever change that. But just visit virtually any Orthodox synagogue during the early pre dawn hours or late into the night, and chances are you will find dozens of men — young and old — poring over the ancient scripts. They may be working 9 to 5 in order to support their families, but their commitment to Torah begins well beforehand and ends hours later.

Leon Goldenberg
Board of Trustees, Agudath Israel of America
New York, N.Y.

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