Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Gedolim Cards

Some guy decided to make these “Gedolim cards.” Great. So naïve little me thought, “This is great. This is such a wholesome thing for these kids to get into instead of these perverted pointless baseball and basketball players. They can learn so much from the Gedolim, they’ll familiarize themselves with these important people…” I daydreamed.

But once I heard how the system works, I wasn’t surprised, just disgusted. They are sold in a sealed package, so you have no idea which cards you are getting. You also get an album to fill. The guy made more of some cards, and very few of others, so these kids are forced to continue to buy and trade and extort, because who needs 10 of the same card? And you keep getting the same ones over and over. The goal is to be among the first 5 to complete the album. You turn in your album, and you win a free trip to Israel, a bicycle, a set of Sefarim…and other prizes.

This struck me rather strange. I would think the goal of this is to have the kids focus on people that truly contribute to society and Torah, and once they have the cards, they can learn more about them, and consider them role models. But this twist in the system is typical of the Jewish money-hungry mind. He makes the parents spend a lot of money buying packages of cards. The kids compete with one another. They aren’t collecting them for the right reasons. They only want them so they can turn them in (which is defeating the purpose) for a prize.

That doesn't make any sense to me. He's abusing the fact that the Yeshivish community is more willing to spend money on Jewish themed products. So these mothers are shelling out the big bucks...and it's completely against what it stand for itself. These Gedolim are for simple lives, involved in Torah-not immersed in materialism and all that. I just don't get it.

24 Comments:

At 2/12/2006 8:28 PM, Blogger MUST Gum Addict said...

You might be interested in my recent post on this topic. Orthomom has written about it as well...

http://israeligum.blogspot.com/2006/02/nachas-note-from-rebbi.html

 
At 2/12/2006 9:14 PM, Blogger SephardiLady said...

Check out my two posts on this subject.

 
At 2/13/2006 1:27 PM, Blogger Semgirl said...

You are overthinking it Michelle. This is America, its called capitalism and there are far worse things they could be spending their $ on..

 
At 2/13/2006 1:58 PM, Blogger Angry Miserable Dater said...

I totally disagree on this one, Michelle. If anything, I think the competitiveness is necessary for this whole thing to be successful. You know how kids are, they always want to be the best.

Gedolim cards are nice, but they're not high on the "cool" factor. Let's face it. In Brooklyn 2006, LeBron James will draw a lot more kids than Rav Pam. Most kids will not buy gedolim cards to find out where and when the Alexander Rebbe was born. Doesn't work like that.

This system, however, is great in that it draws on the same things that motivate kids to buy any sports cards. Money!

Think about it. That's how baseball cards work. When you get a pack of cards, you don't care much for the stinkers like Jason Johnson and Craig Wilson which comes up in every other pack. You don't get it to find out Kelly Stinett's lifetime batting average (not in the age of ESPN.com). Getting a card of the lefty specialist for the Padres is not why people buy baseball cards. Maybe it was 50 years ago, but not in 2006.

So what's the thrill of buying baseball cards? It's that chance to get that rare rookie card, or that special subset ("Diamond Kings" in my day) that's worth extra. And that's why I think this system might work.

Over the years, many of these gedolim cards/ torah cards projects have come and gone. None ever lasted too long. Michelle, be realistic. To motivate kids these days, you've gotta draw them with prizes. And if that's what it takes to get kids into gedolim, so be it.

Enough of the "not for the right reasons." The gemara of "mitoch shelo lishma ba lishma" is as relevant as ever in this day and age.

--- And if the guy doing this wants to make a little money off the deal, so be it. He's creative for thinking of this. Ditto to Semgirl's point.

 
At 2/13/2006 4:02 PM, Blogger SephardiLady said...

I too am trying to understand why people are crying out loud that the producer of the cards is making a killing. He capitalized on an idea that would appeal to a sub-set of Orthodox parents and modeled his idea after other collectible cards. It is the parents who need to control their children's spending. I don't see why a person can't make money off selling a religious game using a well-known method (the same one used by every other collectible card manufactuer).

 
At 2/13/2006 4:43 PM, Blogger Y.Y. said...

he wants to rape out our money

 
At 2/14/2006 5:55 AM, Anonymous Yossi said...

"I don't see why a person can't make money off selling a religious game using a well-known method (the same one used by every other collectible card manufactuer)."

-- I agree with sephardilady, especially because otherwise, the kids will spend money on stuff that's much much worse.

 
At 2/14/2006 9:33 AM, Blogger Know It All said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 2/14/2006 9:49 AM, Blogger Know It All said...

Angry Miserable Dater, you're wrong. Michelle is right. Here's why:

(a) You're exploiting gedolim. It's disrespectful. If the idea is for kids to get to know them, then it's worthwhile to sell the cards, and even make money off it. But that's clearly not the idea here. It's so that the greedy bastard can get rich, and who the hell cares about the gedolim on the cards? Will this make the kids research the gadol and thereby try to emulate him? Uh, no.

(b) Think of the poor parents who cannot afford to shell out money to buy these cards, but whose kids are going to bug the hell out of them because they want their bicycles. If it's a thing where they collect them to know the gedolim, they'll have one or two packs, and they'll be satisfied. But here, that's not enough. It makes the kids greedy, which is lousy chinuch.

(c) They're only giving away 5 prizes (according to Michelle), so that the sixth schmuck, who shelled out a ton of dough, gets nothing anyway except eighty thousand cards, most of which are the same. I wonder if the kids who get nothing will be crazy about gedolim after that....

(d) It's cheaper to just buy the damn bike than to spend money on this stuff.

(e) Yes, America is a capitalistic society, but for the millionth time, IT DOESN'T ALWAYS HAVE TO BE ABOUT THE MONEY! So he'll make less profit and do a mitzvah in the process. Yes, baseball cards are all about finding the superstar, but again, MUST WE DO EVERYTHING LIKE THE GOYIM?

(f) If anything, once the kids are done with this, they'll move on to baseball cards, even if they never had any interest in it before, just because the business model is the same.

(g) The argument that if it's not lishma, it will lead to lishma is invalid in this case, because it won't lead to anything. A kid doing it just for the bike will not say after the whole thing, hey, now that I have my collection, let me learn about these gedolim. Nope. Especially if you're telling me that these are kids who'd otherwise be collecting basketball cards. The yeshivish kids will be interested in the gedolim without this sham of a program. The Brooklyn kids won't give two hoots about these gedolim once they get their bikes.

(h) If anything, it makes more sense for them to collect baseball cards because there's a chance for them to make some real money down the road. A picture of Rav Pam will not fetch $500. A card of Albert Pujols may.

(i) If the guy is making it nearly impossible to get the whole set, say, by putting in very few of a certain card, it's blatant dishonesty. Mitzvah habo'oh ba'avaira = no mitvah.

 
At 2/14/2006 10:30 AM, Blogger Michelle said...

Know It All-Thank you for clearly enumerating and clarifying my argument. You elaborated and explained it better than I could have.

About the prizes-I am not totally sure-but I know the top 5 are the biggest prizes.

Ugh, the thought of this is getting on my last nerve.

 
At 2/14/2006 12:17 PM, Blogger Angry Miserable Dater said...

In response to Know It All: The argument about exploiting gedolim - okay, so where do you draw the line? Is Machon Yerushalayim's publication of the Minchas Chinuch exploiting gedolim? Is Artscroll exploiting Ravina and Rav Ashi by putting their gemaras? On some level, the gedolim are always exploited.

Is it realistic to expect Artscroll to put out gemaras for free? Or to put out a gadol biogrpahy for free? If not for the money that the authors and others got, none of this stuff would ever exist.

2)If it's not gedolim cards, the kids will find other things to bug their parents to buy. There's no shortage of cool toys and other such items out there. If it's not gedolim cards that the kids will bother the parents about, it'll be baseball cards. Or bicycles. Or Nintendo games. In Brooklyn 2006, where everyone has to keep up with the Levy's, that's the way it is - everyone has to have what the other one has.

SO if kids are gonna inevitably bug their parents for whatever the newest phase is, then better it should be gadol cards than baseball cards or something worse.

Besides, as mustgum pointed out on his blog, these can lead to opportunities for kids to share.

These cards and other programs don't CAUSE kids to get greedy. As tat story proves, it's an EFFECT from the chinuch they receive from their home, schools, and kids. If kids are raised to be selfish, spolied, and greedy, they'll be that way with everything. And if they're raised to be generous, like the kids in the story, then you don't have to worry about jealousy and the like.

3)Who said they're only going to give out 5 prizes? Maybe there will be additional promotions. And if they don't, I'll agree that the program is flawed in that respect.

And again, the idea here isn't that the kids should hoard gedolim cards. Rather, it's to get them interested in gedolim.

It's like those Motzei Shabbos programs with pizza and raffles. The pizza is there to get the kids into learning, even if they're learning for the pizza and not lishmo. Same here.

4)Of course it's cheaper to buy the bike!! So, what's the difference between this and getting a lotto ticket (aside from the fact that here, some spritual good may actually result)?

5)Stop living in fantasy-land. For better or worse, the world revolves around money. That'd why there are seforim stores, and you can't just get any sefer you want for free. That's why we pay tuition.

So if the guy wants to do this for a living, I don't see what's wrong with it. Like people working for Artscroll, he may have a chance to be mezakeh the rabbim.

6 & 7) Who knows? Where's your evidence? I don't doubt that some kids won't be into it long-term. But maybe some kids will be influenced by the cards.

And of course there are outside factors that will affect whether the kids are influenced. A kid who has a lousy chinuch and hates his yeshiva probably won't care much for the gedolim. But then there are those on the borderline, who can go either way. These cards have a strong chance of influencing those kids.

And perhaps if one kid is motivated to emulate the gedolim as a result, it's all worth it.

8) About the Albert Pujols card argument - WHY DOES EVERYTHING HAVE TO BE ABOUT MONEY!? DO WE HAVE TO DO EVERYTHING LIKE THE GOYIM?

You gotta look at the spritual value here, and the potential positive effects it can have on many young neshamos.

9)Why is that a lie? Is he promising that every card is in each pack? Is Topps lying when they make it harder to get cards from a special set? Or make it harder to get a rookie card or the like?

When you buy a pack of cards, you know there's randomness to it. And you know that some cards will be harder to get than others. And if you don't realize that, then welcome to the world.

 
At 2/14/2006 3:38 PM, Anonymous Curly said...

AMD-

I agree with a lot of what you say (I don't have particular problem with Torah themed cards, or capitalism for that matter) but I do take issue with this:

And again, the idea here isn't that the kids should hoard gedolim cards. Rather, it's to get them interested in gedolim.

What aspect of Gedolim are kids learning about by trading cards? At best it is not very educational, and it seems kind of superficial to me. Gedolim don't have stats like baseball players do, so I can't imagine that there is much conversation among kids about the different Gedolim.

If you haven't read Orthomom's take on this: http://orthomom.blogspot.com/2006/01/gedolim-gripes.html

She identifies the real problem with these cards.

 
At 2/14/2006 6:49 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

AMD-talk about fantasy land-this will lead kids to share???
MGA's story was one in a million, whereas the opposite situation is much more common.
I am still with Know It All on this one.

 
At 2/14/2006 7:22 PM, Blogger Angry Miserable Dater said...

Michelle: re-read my comment; I NEVER said the cards would lead kids to share. That would be quite a silly assumption. All I said was that whether the kids will share or be selfish with the cards will depend upon their previous chinuch. And the kids in MGA's story, apparently, were very well-raised kids, long before these cards ever came out.

After all, if these gedolim cards weren't around, there would still be plenty of things to get the spoiled kids jealous. They would get jealous over baseball cards, instead. Or X-box games. In this day and age, there's no shortage of things to get kids jealous.

How do you deal with that jealousy? As sephardilady alluded to, it starts from the home. Raise kids who are content with their lot, and be willing to say "no" every once in a while.

 
At 2/14/2006 7:27 PM, Blogger Angry Miserable Dater said...

Curly: it gets them interested in the sense that, the same way baseball cards depict athletes as heros, the gedolim cards are to show the kids who their heros should be.

Nobody collects cards of accountants. People collect cards of those they want to emulate. That's the message behind these cards.

Also, as a kid who was into the gedolim kids from way back when, they were very helpful in familiarizing me with who the gedolim were. When my rabbeim mentioned Reb Shimon Shkop and the Rogatchover, I actually knew who they were talking about!

 
At 2/14/2006 9:12 PM, Blogger MUST Gum Addict said...

And the kids in MGA's story, apparently, were very well-raised kids, long before these cards ever came out.

Are we talking about the same 3rd grade? :)

Seriously, I will agree that these kids were a bit different because of the Rebbe they have this year. The story I told was just one of many similar things that have happened this year. This is a Rebbe that the kids really look up to and identify with. Which proves the point I want to make:

You can't blame the cards. You can only blame yourselves. If you think it's the cards that is the problem, well then, there are deeper problems. If a Rebbe talks about Gedolim and if parents give the proper kavod when talking about, and if you tell stories about these gedolim, then the kids really do treasure them.

My son learns with Rav Pam's son and I can't even describe how excited he gets when he adds a new Rav Pam sticker to his book -- because he can identify with it. And when I tell over a story that I heard from my Rav or read in a book somewhere, my son will exclaim that he has that Gadol in his book.

So as a parent, you choose how your son looks at things. He usually will see things the way do (and how you react to them). And if he's lucky enough to have a great Rebbe in yeshiva who continues to drive values and derech eretz, then you can't ask for anything more.

 
At 2/20/2006 10:14 PM, Blogger SephardiLady said...

Why is it that some parents have such a hard time setting limits, especially when they have such a seemingly easy time keeping chumrot?

 
At 2/21/2006 10:10 AM, Blogger ליפא שנילצער said...

i am sure you all heard this one before

a father taking his son to a wedding when in middle of dancing his son starts screeming, hay look daddy "number 26 is dancing"

 
At 2/21/2006 12:16 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

Sephardilady-You have hit on one of my "pending" pieces which is REALLY complicated, and I haven't even thought out completely-let alone start to write. But i believe most women with the chumros who are sincere are not the ones who have trouble putting limits on their children. It's the parents of those collecting baseball cards and X-Box 360 games who have the hard time. You know what I mean?

 
At 2/24/2006 6:13 AM, Anonymous stuck in high school said...

i've heard all the negatives on this issue, i just wanted to share my experience with gedolim cards. i give each of my boys (first and third grade) a pack of cards each week as positive reinforcement for learning everyday with me. when we open the packs we discuss the gedolim, their seforim and a if i know any stories of them, i share them with my boys. i have had a VERY positive experience with these cards. we recently went to a chasana and when my boys saw one of the gedolim, it was extra meaningful because they knew about him from our discussions.

 
At 2/25/2006 5:41 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

stuck in high school--you are one in a million. If everyone was like you, the world would be different.

Despite your level-headed way of deling with this, you do not change the guy's greedy intentions, which are: TO MAKE MONEY. There are still those out there to fill the album. If he had the same intentions as you, he would have produced equal numbers of each card.

 
At 2/25/2006 6:37 PM, Blogger SephardiLady said...

"greedy intentions"

I don't think it is at all fair to label the producer of the cards as greedy. He is trying to make a living to and is using a business model that is well-known. No one expects to get a rare baseball card everytime that they buy a Topp's pack, nor do they expect to win the lotto everytime they buy a lotto ticket. So, why do they expect this man to conduct his business in a less profitable way? I imagine he has expenses too and I can't see that he is doing anything immoral since he is not promising that one will be able to collect all the cards.

The only issue that these cards pose for the kids is pulling them into a game of chance. Hopefully he consulted a Rav regarding this. But, just like all other games of chance, the parents need to be weary and the schools should have never introduced the game into their schools initially because it is well known that boys take to collectible cards.

 
At 2/27/2006 10:19 AM, Anonymous stuck in high school said...

i'm not sure why the intentions of the originator are relevant. publisher publish books to make money, we chose which books to read to our kids, regardless of how lishaim shamayim they were written or published. many things in life could be used in a positive or not such a positive way. we choose how to use them. just because someone sells rebbi cards to make a profit, or some kids misuse the rebbi cards doesnt make it a bad thing.

 
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