Some Random Pensees on Chareidi Education in Israel

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This week’s English HaModia reported that the gedolei Yisrael have refused to permit Meitzav testing of student progress in certain core subjects in chareidi schools. The article attributed this opposition to fears that such testing would become a wedge for curricular intervention in chareidi schools. There is a certain irony in that such testing — and even curricular requirements — is routinely accepted in chareidi elementary and high schools in America, even though government funding makes up a small percentage of the budget of such schools, and totally rejected in Israel, where the government pays the lion’s share of chareidi school budgets.

An argument could be made that such testing in core subjects might be a means of avoiding greater intervention in the structure of the chareidi school day. The greatest fear is that the government might impose minimum hours of instruction in certain subjects as a precondition for government funding, as numerous reports on educational reform have recommended. An alternative would be to allow any school that could demonstrate that its students are within a certain range of the national median for schools in these core subjects to remain free of any requirement of minimum hours of instruction.

I wonder if it were not for the fear of government intervention into chareidi education whether we would be witnessing certain changes in that education developing in response to certain social needs. A greater openness to English-language instruction, given that the lack of English is today a serious impediment to earning a decent living someday, would be one example. Beefed-up math and reading instruction would be other examples.

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Teddy Douglas
8 years 8 months ago

Are you suggesting that charedi schools add secular education to avoid government intervention? But how absurd – that is precisely the type of intervention the schools want nothing more than to avoid!

The refusal to accept tests is not because they fear “a wedge for curricular intervention”. The refusal is simply because they do not teach, nor have any intention of teaching, these secular subjects. They see it as bitul torah and a violation of the inherent holiness and purity of the charedi education system as it has always existed.

Baruch Horowitz
8 years 8 months ago

Regarding my comments # 5 above, I wish to make clear that the majority of the Israeli charedi community did not participate in the pre-gay parade trash-burnings in Yerushalayim, and certainly many in the Israeli charedi community abhor such conduct. The question is how to make clear to the public(and to ourselves) that this doesn’t represent the charedi community. I added a comment on Rabbi Rosenbloom’s thread tiled ” Burning Down our Neighborhood– Reconsidered”, where this issue is being discussed.

Regarding my other points in comment # 5, in previous years, there were differences in attitudes between the Eretz Yisrael community and some of the American Torah world on the subjects of conformity in dress, secular education, and the recently controversial books on Gedolim, and those about Torah and science. Currently, there appears to be little gap on the last issue(although the topic is still complex and multi-faceted); however, there still are differences on the previous ones, even if they originate in the different natures of the the different communities.

As discussed in the Jewish Observer, a person who wants to make Aliyah and partake in the special benefits of the Israeli Torah community, should “leave his hashkafos at home”. This would be an application of “ahavah mekalkeles es hashurah”, giving up one’s accepted norms out of dedication to a cherished ideal.

I personally dislike labels, including the term “charedi”. One can be a “chraeid l’dvar Hashem”, a G-d fearing Jew, even if one doesn’t completely identify with what, for practical purposes, is termed the “charedi world”. People can correct me if I’m wrong(my memory is not that great!), but twenty or thirty years ago, I don’t think that the term “chareidi” was used in the Jewish Observer to describe the American Torah world, although the American Agudah certainly identified with, and was subservient to the Daas Torah of the Eretz Yisrael Gedolim. Rabbi Chanaiah Weissman in his recent Jewish Press article recommends not using labels at all, because they don’t capture the essence of a person. However, many people disagree with R. Weissman and think that labels are useful on a practical level. I think, though, that R’ Weissman’s instincts and heart are in the right place.

Harry Maryles
8 years 8 months ago

I note with great satisfaction that one of Agudah’s most erudite spokesmen, Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblum, has evoked a view of reality in the Israeli Charedi educational system that I have been talking about for years. He has evoked the same kinds of questions I have over the years. I have grandchildren in the Israeli Charedi school system and I worry for them. My son keeps telling me not to worry. But I do.

Perhaps if more people like Rabbi Rosenblum would make their concerns known that might effect some change in a system that is counter-productive to the future of a productive Torah society. We need a change in outlook, one which values learning Torah above all, yeas by all means. But one which also places value on other forms of productivity and gives their children the means to achieve success in other fields as well as that of Torah. The Torah world needs Gedolim. No doubt about that.

But it needs doctors, lawyers, accountants, journalists and myriad other services as well in order to survive. It also needs income earners and not a society filled almost exclusively with Yeshivaleit and Kollel Yungerleit who are not income earners but income users. Full time learning should be reserved for the elite: The best and brightest brains in Judaism. But not for the great masses of young men as it has today. What will it take to change the system?! Nothing seems to work and anything tried is automatically rejected!

Shimon
8 years 8 months ago

Rabbi Rosenblum. I would expect more from you. You know darn well why we can not let the government intervene in our education. They deny our basic beliefs, and putting ANY part of our education in their hands is giving weapons to the enemy. Sure they help us out, but do you HONESTLY think that the chiloni heirarchy in Israel has the Chareidims best interests in mind? Honest. I am not talking about individual chilonim. I am sure that there are those out there that really care for the chareidim. But among the heirarchy, i strng suspect that they are not looking out for our best interests. At best, they are interested in their own interests, and at worst, they would love to sabatoge our education system as much as possible.

Now more than ever, Chareidim are going into the work force and making money. Now more than ever, there is less need for school reform, as one can learn whatever skills he needs on the job, or in a crash course for one semester before he starts working. Computers, sales, etc. There are plenty of jobs that do not require long term training.

And just a side note, please show us some statistics about this “great” Israeli secular education that we are supposed to emulate. Where do they rank among the rest of the civilized world? Where do they stand in math and computers? Where do they rank in reading? Where do they rank in school violence? What do the teachers say about “chutzpah” or lack thereof. Why should we be taking footsteps TOWARDS them? Perhaps we should be running as fast as we can away from this type of education, from these higher ups who are at a loss when it comes to their own school system?

Jak Black
8 years 8 months ago

I’ll also add in passing that while you are correct about the irony of relative government intervention, there is certainly some justification for that wariness. One gets the impression that, regardless of ideological stance, the majority of educational policy setters in the States really do have a fundamental concern for the eduction of the youth. Many of the parallel politicos in Israel are outright hostile to the concerns and principles of the rubric of Torah education (in which I include secular subjects).