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For Yeshiva Teachers, Austerity 101

For Yeshiva Teachers, Austerity 101

School’s out for the summer, but for hundreds of area haredi and chasidic yeshiva teachers, the school’s been out of cash for months.

Community agencies dealing with the impact of the recession say instructors and other yeshiva staff are among the hardest hit, many of them going without a paycheck since winter.

“It’s never been this bad,” said Miriam, a teacher at Machon Academy in Queens, who withheld her last name for privacy. “We always had times when the money was late, but not like this.”

Miriam said she did not blame the yeshiva, where she has worked for 17 years, serving a population of mostly Bukharian immigrants, because it was struggling to remain open. But she added, “At the end of the day, I need a paycheck. I have my own children in school and [their yeshiva] is not getting paid as a result.”

It’s not just the teachers that are hurting.

“Everyone is in the same boat,” says Rabbi Yeruchim Shapiro of Bais Yakov of Brooklyn, who said no one has been paid there in months. He said the yeshiva has been hoping that with aggressive fundraising and cutting of programs it could avoid eliminating positions and resume the payroll.

“We hope we can begin to see the light,” Rabbi Shapiro says.

Marvin Schick, a consultant on yeshivas and Jewish day schools for the Avi Chai Foundation, said haredi and chasidic school were in worse straits than others because of their traditionally low tuition.

“They charge less than they need to cover expenses,” said Schick. “And they are generous as a rule in scholarship assistance. Now you have a circumstance where more parents are asking for assistance. The schools fill the gap through fundraising.”

Miriam said that as committed as she is to the school, she is considering applying for a public school position teaching high school math. “If it goes on much longer I will have to leave,” she said. “Although that’s the last thing in the world I want to do.”

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