The Cost of Torah

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Thanks to FailedMessiah for pointing out this ynet article about Ultra-Orthodox families in Israel who are struggling financially because of an overbearing modern-day dowry system.

A daughter’s wedding should be one of the happiest events in a parent’s life, but it’s become a nightmare because sought-after grooms are demanding that the bride’s parents buy the couple an apartment, and preferably in a desirable location.

“It’s a known thing in our community that you have to give the whole package to get a good groom, that is, to pay for the entire wedding and buy an apartment and furniture,” Says A. “My two older daughters have husbands from good yeshivas, and each of them got two thirds of an apartment from me.

How do you determine the value of a groom?

Before the wedding the terms of the match are negotiated. The ultra-Orthodox Bakehillah newspaper, which writes a lot on this issue, has published the price list for a groom. For a prodigy in a prestigious yeshiva such as Kol Torah or Hevron in Jerusalem, Or Yisrael in Petach Tikvah or Bet Matityahu in Bnei Brak, you have to pay for the whole package.

For a groom who is half a prodigy you pay somewhere between the whole package and 80 percent of the apartment. For a good guy you have to pay between half of the package and two thirds of it, and for an average guy you have to pay for half an apartment. (MORE)

Interestingly, I first heard about this phenomenon while researching Ultra-Orthodox fiction, particularly the work of Yair Weinstock who criticizes his community for this very practice in Borrowed Time.

I wrote more about this here.

Posted on January 16, 2007

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