Degree Decree

letter-447577_1280

20 bTevet

R. Avraham Ibn Ezra complained in a poem (all translations below are mine, SLS):

“If I were a candle maker, the sun would never leave the sky.
If I were a shroud maker, not a single person would die.”

He concluded his poem in resignation:

Oy Vey, it’s a puzzle
I’m a poor shlimazel.

In a brilliant take-off on Ibn Ezra, Leah Maisel, a mother of 15 children, published a poem called “Lament of the Working Woman” (in the Hebrew Mishpacha haredi weekly Jan.4;14 bTevet). She tackles with humor the discontinuation of continuing higher education in the Beit Yaakov system. I translated two stanzas:

If I were a candle maker, the sun would never leave the sky.
If I were the wing of a plane, El Al would never fly.
If I were a wig maker, they’d say you’re in avoda zara knee deep,
And if I knit wool scarves, they’d say in India they worship sheep.

If I would sell cell phones to make a buck,
Babies would be born with antennas, that would be my luck.
And if a continuing education teacher I would be
Oy Vey, they’d close my advanced seminary.

Which just goes to show how original and intelligent Beit Yaakov seminary graduates can be!

I call the issue she alludes to the “decrees on the degrees” although “guidelines” would be a more accurate term. I will briefly outline the factors involved, and attempt to eschew apologetics. The popular press is having a fressing frenzy on this – an Haaretz headline reads
Rabbinical panel bars ultra-Orthodox women from continuing education programs. The Jewish Week decries the decrees thusly, “Haredi Women Crying Foul Over New Education Restrictions”

Until now many girls graduated Beit Yaakov high schools & seminaries at the “morah musmechet” level. After 2 more years they get a certificate of “morah behira.” In the past few years it became common for young women to continue studying for an equivalent to the Bachelor of Education (BA, B.Ed) degree which made them eligible for salary increases. Lately, the pressure for the B. Ed escalated and specific rabbis were asked to look into this.

Dynamics: It is common for laypeople and local leaders to bring to the attention of their rabbis phenomena that are problematic. Specific rabbis will look into the situation or appoint a committee to investigate. This happened when cell phone and internet use got out of hand. Ditto when questions arose about the source of Indian-made wigs. Specific rabbis will suggest a policy to deal with the problem. There are then economic and social adjustments made in the community. Sometimes the issues are relatively trivial (exaggerated collecting of gedolim cards, a la baseball cards, among boys); other times there are major issues (e.g. the current degree decree).

“The rabbis”: You cannot talk about “the rabbis” since the haredi world is variegated and has multiple centers of authority. The issue at hand specifically involves the most veteran women’s education system, topped by the Beit Yaakov women’s seminaries. There are dozens of post-secondary haredi institutions outside the system, that are only tangentially affected.

The problem has been under review for a decade and these guidelines did not come out of the tekhelet. A committee including rabbis Baruch Shmuel Hacohen Deutch, Natan Dichofsky, Meir Kesler, and Mordechai Stern shlita was formed a year and a half ago, and recently they recommended that the seminaries they advise should drop the BA programs (which necessitate a cadre of teachers with MA degrees). They called for closer examination of the content of the continuing ed courses, many of them superfluous. This committee interviewed dozens of administrators, principals, teachers, parents, students and tried to formulate guidelines to prevent competition for salary increases and inroads of problematic course content, while not harming existing salary scales.

Contributing factors that triggered an examination of the trend to higher education were the following: (a) an increase in family dysfunction which in some cases was related to disproportionate emphasis on upgrading teaching degrees into BA equivalents; (b)the proliferation of courses leading to these degrees and taught by professionals outside the haredi world who brought in material not compatible with the community’s values. I saw some of this happening from the inside, since the Haredi College with which I am affiliated (not at all connected to the Beit Yaakov system) relies on many non-haredi and non-religious lecturers because it offers BA degrees given by staff from Bar-Ilan, the Open University, etc

Other players: The Education Ministry was seen as enticing women to continuing education by offering salary increases to those women who were working towards or who attained BA equivalency. The Ministry intruded its values in overseeing aspects of the courses.

Quashing criticism: there ain’t no such thing in the haredi world. The outlets for discussing and criticizing the new guidelines are variegated and plentiful. The tradition of women airing complaints respectfully goes back to the daughters of Zelophad (Bamidbar 27). There are many independent haredi publications which are respectfully publishing differing views on this issue. The haredi world is far from monolithic and the different groupings (Gur, Belz, Sanz, Chabad, Sefardim, modern haredi, etc) have their own channels of authority and schools, and will react to the guidelines differently. Some non-religious media venues try to portray this as a men vs. women issue, which it is not. There are many women administrators who have advocated the stricter route, and a number of rabbis who were on the more lenient side.

Respect for authority: A number of women I spoke with objected to the discontinuing of programs. But they were adamant that as members of the community they respect decisions by rabbinical authority whether or not they understand or agree with the decisions. This is not blind obedience, but an informed posture that recognizes the fact that if everyone were to go off in a different, independent direction this would not bode well for the individuals or for the community. In addition, the scenario of the rabbis publicizing a decision and the community immediately falling in line, (some rabbis would say,”Would that it were so…”) is a figment of the imagination of the outside press.

How this will play out: There are those girls and women who will continue the Beit Yaakov track (which is ceasing to offer the BA equivalent programs), which has a certain idealistic and elite aura (in the positive sense of the word). Others who want a more practical and remunerative track will go to the non-Beit Yaakov institutions which offer continuing education, and BA degrees in teaching and non-teaching professions. The difference between the two types is similar to the difference between an elitist undergraduate Harvard College classic liberal education mode versus the professional training offered by an engineering school. The former addresses character formation, the latter equips one to earn a living. Both styles have a place in the world. Actually the elite model has always existed in some of the top seminaries (e.g. R. Wolf’s seminary in Bene Brak) and this model is now being proposed for a wider selection of post-secondary schools.

Adjustments will be made all around. In the short term, women who were enrolled in continuing ed and degree programs will have to retrench. The rabbinic committee is aware of this and is taking measures to ameliorate economic harm to those caught in midstream.
Shelf-life.Meanwhile, the non-religious press will feast on this for a while until a new issue involving the haredim comes along.

Shira Schmidt

Shira Leibowitz Schmidt was raised in an assimilated Jewish home in New York, and became observant while studying at Stanford University in California. In June 1967 she told her engineering school professor she would miss the final exam because she was going to Israel to volunteer during the Six Day War. “That’s the most original excuse I have ever been offered,” he responded. She arrived during the war and stayed, receiving her BSc in absentia. She subsequently met and married the late Elhanan Leibowitz, and they raised their six children in Beersheba. Mrs. Leibowitz acquired a Masters in Urban & Regional Planning from the Technion, and an MSc in Civil Engineering from University of Waterloo. Today she lives with her husband, Dr. Baruch Schmidt, in Netanya. She is on the board of the Charedi College of Jerusalem. She co-authored, with Nobel prize-winning chemist Roald Hoffmann, Old Wine New Flasks. She has co-translated from Hebrew to English (with Jessica Setbon) From the Depths (the autobiography of Rabbi Israel Meir Lau); The Forgotten Memoirs (memoirs of Rabbis who survved the Shoah, edited by Esther Farbstein); and Rest of the Dove (Parashat Hashavua by Rabbi Haim Sabato). She s available to lecture in Israel and in the US.

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43 Responses

  1. Amanda Rush says:

    Hillel wrote, in comment 11:

    This issue of working mothers has always been a problem. It very often distorts the relationship between husband and wife, and deprives children of a full-time
    mother (the proverbial “latch-key” children).

    Many ShoLom-Bais problems and many children-at-risk problems can be traced to the absence of a full-time mother from the home.

    The Jewish woman is the bedrock of the the Jewish family. If her wolrdview is subverted by the secular (Hellenist) concepts usually taught in BA programs,
    especially when secular teachers are involved), the viability of Jewish home is at risk.

    Hillel, these are admirable sentiments, and true besides, but I think all of this was seriously compromised when Collel became the preferred alternative to husbands earning the bread instead of sending their wives out to do it.
    You can’t have your cake and eat it too.
    You can’t totally reverse roles when it comes to breadwinning, and then expect wives to severely limit their education and work options for fear of secular influence.
    If the rabbis are concerned about wives transmitting secular influences to their families, then mandate that all but the brightest students leave collel and (gasp) go to work and earn the living their ketubot obligate them to earn: “… and I will work for thee, honor, provide for, and support thee, in accordance with the practice of Jewish husbands, who work for their wives, honor,
    provide for and support them in truth.”

  2. Joel Rich says:

    Shira,
    With all due respect, why don’t they just ask R’ Elyashiv his opinion. If you believe in daas torah, and this is a key issue, why would you take a chance at getting it wrong when you can ask????
    KT

  3. Tzvi says:

    Shira,
    WADR, I do not believe a word that you just said (in the name of a friend who has a doctorate). If that is what the RAbbi meant, that is what he would have said. Who dares to limit the written decree in such a narrow fashion?

  4. Shira Schmidt says:

    25 b Teves
    I have been discussing these issues with people connected to the haredi higher education system and showed them the comments above, many of them astute and insightful. One Israeli haredi friend, who has a doctorate, and is a lecturer in a non-teaching profession leading to a BA, had the following explanation. Some people feel that Rav Elyashiv’s response is to minority extreme positions within the haredi world and has specifically to do with giving B.Ed’s to TEACHERS. Apparently, there are those who feel that it should not be an ideal to acquire a secular degree in order to advance within the haredi educational system and it sends the wrong message to the Haredi children that there is an inherent value in having a secular degree. Thus, the guidelines were specifically for educators. Some of the colleges offering non-teaching BA degree programs for haredim, have chosen to keep a very low profile in all of this, waiting until the dust settles. As a result, they are not advertising (which may affect registration) but they are confident that the haredi community will continue to support advanced education because of economic need.

  5. Shalhevet says:

    I have a BA and Masters in special education from an USA university, and teach here in Israel. When I compare my learnt knowledge to that of the teachers who learned in the better Israeli, Charedi seminary programs (not BA!), they compare favorably. Most of these programs do teach well, to the point, and turn out well trained professionals. There are some TOP professionals in the education field here whose basic education came from these charedi, Bet Yaakov seminary training programs. The degrees they went for afterwards did not add much to their ability as teachers. A BA, MA or even PhD does not equal good teaching! Believe me, I’ve seen some of the best and worst of both. While I am not giving my opinion on the new guidlines, understand that for many of these woman, the degrees are just that: a peice of paper leading to higher salaries; not better teaching abilty.

  6. Tzvi says:

    The bal Seriday Aish was opposed to moving the Berlin Rabbinical Seminary to EY. R Mayer Hildesheimer wanted to move it and visited EY in the winter of 1933 to lay the groundwork. He also obtained the permission of R Kook and the chief rAbbi of tel aviv, where the seminary was to be housed.

    This information comes from the book ‘between the yeshiva world and modern orthodoxy, by Marc Shapiro, pp129-134.

  7. Ahron says:

    >“1. Who has been paying women higher salaries for getting higher degrees—the charedi schools or the Israeli government? If it is the latter, then that alone would go a long way toward explaining the new guidelines. We don’t want the secular government meddling in our affairs.”

    Yes! We DEMAND that the Israeli government pay chareidi women less than non-chareidi women of equal qualifications! That’ll teach the government to meddle in “our” affairs! How dare they tempt our dainty belles with improved salaries! It’s a Zionist plot, I tell you!

    Please Ms. Katz–don’t fool yourself or others. You have manufactured here an entirely new, and fascinating, justification for the anti-degree decrees: The need to maintain the next generation of chareidi families in reliable impoverished equality. So, now let’s imagine that the government acceded to your demand and offered chareidi women consistently less pay than other qualified women. You would complain on these very pages that: ‘The Israeli government is desperately trying to keep chareidim impoverished and segregated from Israeli society. The secular leadership is terrified of an intellectually accomplished, economically productive and socially confident chareidi woman. And certainly of entire neighborhoods of them!’ But alas: it may not be only the secular leadership that shudders at that prospect.

    >“The education degrees are a total crock.”

    Unfortunately they are a “crock” that opens one of the only available doors to Israeli chareidi women to earn a living for their families. That may be why chareidi rabbonim have endorsed the “crock” for decades. (Or did “the government” forcibly occupy Bais Yaakov buildings all these years?) Perhaps we should dispense with the crock and thereby dispense with the living?

    >“Degrees in education in the US are a known boondoggle.” Indeed they are. But Israel is not the US. Israeli degrees are not American degrees. Bais Yaakov isn’t a University, and chareidi women aren’t American college kids. (Right?)

    As to the charges voiced of “careerism”: How else aside from a “career” do you want a working mother of, say, 9 children to provide the sole income for her family? Selling old clothes or Clods of Holy Earth from home on eBay? (Well I guess that also wouldn’t work: no internet.) Are you just asking for a guaranteed lifetime income from the government? (“Free” healthcare…) If so, just say so. If not, please outline your proposed alternatives.

    Ms. Schmidt says: “…and tried to formulate guidelines to prevent competition for salary increases and inroads of problematic course content, while not harming existing salary scales.”

    In other words, they attempted to impede the economic rules that govern wages for the rest of humanity–where higher qualification leads to (whoa!) higher income–and wanted to instead ensure that salaries can never rise. Some other locales where this strategy has been tried: China, Cuba, the USSR, North Korea, Israeli kibbutzim, et al. It’s usually called “socialism”. Its record of success is open for public viewing.

    >“…women who were enrolled in continuing ed and degree programs will have to retrench. The rabbinic committee is aware of this and is taking measures to ameliorate economic harm to those caught in midstream.”

    Maybe they should have thought about taking those measures before throwing the students out of school… According to the NY Jewish Week: “Further, the new decree specifies that women who have already completed the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree would be at a disadvantage if they apply for a job at any institution affiliated with Beit Ya’akov.” Is this accurate? Are the students who completed their degrees at Bais Yaakov now going to be retroactively punished? But then again…given the dominant charedi social mores, they already have.

    >“You cannot talk about “the rabbis” since the haredi world is variegated and has multiple centers of authority.

    Indeed, we should not assume that every chareidi rabbi bears the accountability for this decision.

  8. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Hillel: As for Ori’s comment about ideological immunity among grown-ups, there is no such thing. Propaganda always works, and ideas have consequences!

    Ori: Your actions seem to contradict your words. Even on an Orthodox site such as this one, you are going to be exposed to posh’im and our kfirah (= heresy, for those who don’t know Hebrew) thoughts. I don’t think I’ve ever had a comment rejected, and my ideas definitely flow from my non-Charedi lifestyle.

    Unless I miss my guess, you thought this issue out, possibly with the advice of friends and/or your Rabbi, and decided that it is worth it. The risk to yourself from exposure to secular ideas is small, well worth the rewards from the discussions here. Besides, kiruv always requires interaction with Jews who are far from Torah uMitzvot.

    True, you are not an impressionable young adult (I assume). However, in many ways this is a more kfirah-friendly environment than a Charedi school where professors have to tow the line or lose their livelihood. Besides, it would take less than a decade to train Charedi professors who will have the right attitudes AND be able to teach as the B.A. level.

  9. Joel Rich says:

    As I understand it, the Seridei Eish did not think that “the Sanhedrin” was telling him that he was allowed to, e.g., actively eat something which he personally held was Cheilev. There was no risk of violating a commandment by going along with Rav Chaim Ozer.

    The parallel you may be thinking of is R”H 25. by R’ Yehoshua and R’ Gamliel and he correct day for Yom kippur. However there are those commentaries that say that R’ Yehoshua had to listen only because of a special rule by the establishment of the new moon and in any other case he would have had to act on his certainty of the din.

    Again I don’t know enough of the specifics with the Sridei Eish to know how sure he was.

    KT

  10. Binyamin says:

    Its hard for me to sympathize with the teachers. Are they not the one’s who are telling all the girls to not worry about a decent income, in order to ensure that they are not exposed to anything innapropriate? And they also encourage the girls to find a similarly sheltered husband? (which may be a very important factor keeping the Chareidi system up).

    If they now have to suffer economically for the same reasons, why are they complaining?

    And if they will now be less enthusiatic when they teach the girls how to relatre to parnasa (and how its all from heaven, and we should not worry about such irrelevant annoyances like career restrictions), that would not be so bad.

  11. Doron Beckerman says:

    are you saying that the thrust of R’ Chaim Ozer’s commendation was that Rabbi Wenberg gave kovod to him (RCO) by acknowledging him as the godol hador?? This sounds suspect. What is the source?

    By acknowledging the consensus opinion of the Gedolim of Eastern Europe regarding public policy, (which was led, on this issue, most vocally by RCO) as one that people should follow, even if one’s personal opinion is not in agreement. This had nothing to do with personal Kavod.

    Joel,

    As I understand it, the Seridei Eish did not think that “the Sanhedrin” was telling him that he was allowed to, e.g., actively eat something which he personally held was Cheilev. There was no risk of violating a commandment by going along with Rav Chaim Ozer.

  12. Menachem Petrushka says:

    Dear Mrs. Schmidt

    On May 7,2006 Sarah Leibowitz Schmidt wrote in the online version of the Jerusalem post an article on why she, an Ashkenazi academic, was voting for Shas.

    I am assuming that you and the author of the May 7th article are the same individual.

    In the article you wrote, that what you like about Shas is:

    “A SECOND area of moderation and openness is the attitude to higher education. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the founder of Shas, has given full backing to his daughter’s Herculean efforts to establish a college. Adina Bar-Shalom started the Haredi College in Jerusalem five years ago to enable haredi Beit Yaakov graduates to obtain fully recognized academic degrees in several professions”

    It seems that your defense of the decision of the Ashkenazi Lithuanian Rabbinical Panel’s is out of concern about the misrepresentation of Charedi life but that you disagree with the substance of that decision

  13. DRZ says:

    I must be missing something, since, I don’t know much about Israeli society and its school system.

    But if you take away the option of the degree programs, where will the schools get new teachers?

  14. joel rich says:

    Hillel – To the best of my knowledge I have not been appointed to the Sanhedrin, but I suspect you know that. So perhaps you might clarify what you had in mind with your question. If you’d like to learn through the sugya in Horiyot and see how the commentaries wrestle with the issue (as well as the Yerushalmi Horiyot, sifre et al) and its application to post Sanhedrin courts, we can do that as well.

    Steve-As I said I wasn’t commenting on the specifics but I suspect that the Sreidi Eish would have qualifierd in Sanhedrin days as at least at talmid raui lhoraah – (see horiyot 2.)

    KT

  15. Toby Katz says:

    1. Who has been paying women higher salaries for getting higher degrees — the charedi schools or the Israeli government? If it is the latter, then that alone would go a long way toward explaining the new guidelines. We don’t want the secular government meddling in our affairs.

    2. Degrees in education in the US are a known boondoggle. Of all the subjects a person can major in, education is the emptiest in terms of actual content. People who apply to schools of education (as opposed to those who major in English, math, history and so on) have on average the lowest SAT scores of all college applicants. Having taken 12 credits of education courses in my undergraduate days, and having read widely on the subject, and having met many teachers with masters’ degrees in Education, I can tell you that in terms of what those schools actually teach they are a total waste of time and money. The reason the graduates of those schools earn more money in the public school system is that that’s what the teachers’ unions have negotiated. Money is not to be tied to teacher achievement or success in the classroom, but to time spent doing something any donkey can do. Behind it is a radical egalitarianism that has wreaked havoc with educational standards in US public schools. Unfortunately we know that secular Israelis are totally enamored of every popular American liberal fad and fancy and slavishly ape that side of American life. (Hence the push for women in combat, gay marriage, easy abortions and so on.) In reality, by far the best preparation a really good teacher needs in order to teach her subject well is more intensive grounding IN HER SUBJECT. The education degrees are a total crock.

  16. GB says:

    Please note what Ha’aretz said: “The absence of ultra-Orthodox lecturers with academic degrees in diagnostics and consulting required bringing in lecturers from “outside” the community. Yated Neeman’s women’s supplement, Bayit Neeman, blasted the trend of bringing in lecturers from the “Sephardi faction” and even “completely secular” ones, warning of the women students’ defilement.”

    Are you horrified by the implied racism in their report about bringing in outside lecturers from the “Sephardi faction?”

    In fact, the original quote (in Hebrew) used the word “Mizrachi,” NOT Sephardi, which might likely be defined as the “modern Orthodox/kipa sruga” factor, which is in fact a completely different hashkafa than the chareidi outlook.

    This is just one more way that Ha’aretz continues to incite and inflame its secular readership against religious Jews.

  17. Jewish Observer says:

    “Despite Rav Weinberg’s feelings to the contrary, he acquiesced to the authority of Rav Chaim Ozer, who commended him for the courage to suppress his own convictions in favor of preservation of the authority of the acknowledged Torah leader of the generation.”

    – are you saying that the thrust of R’ Chaim Ozer’s commendation was that Rabbi Wenberg gave kovod to him (RCO) by acknowledinging him as the godol hador?? This sounds suspect. What is the source?

  18. Rivka W. says:

    IMO, assuming that the ban is in effect in its full force in the Charedi community in EY, I would not be surprised to see Touro College fill the gap with college degree granting programs that are the prerequisites for graduate level work in speech, physical and occupational therapy , special ed and/or social work. When Touro opened in Brooklyn years ago, many RY vehemently opposed it on the grounds that it was a college. However, the proof of the pudding is that young women from such communities as Lakewood, Monsey and Flatbush are flocking to Touro’s Brooklyn campus and programs.
    As I commented on another post, such a program (albeit English-speaking only) is already in the works. Knowing Dr. Lander, once that is up and running, a program for Hebrew speakers will not be far behind.

    Oh, and Boruch Hashem, it is not just the Flatbush campus that is thriving. The ones in Queens, Manhattan, Yerushalayim, Los Angeles, and Miami — all tailored to the convenience and sensibilities of the frum student — are doing so as well. (I say “Boruch Hashem” not only because I objectively think it’s wonderful, but because one of those campuses pays my salary. ;) )

  19. DMZ says:

    This is such an exemplary case of how the Israeli welfare state feeds the Charedi welfare culture. If the stipends from the state were halved, or even removed entirely, this particular ruling would NEVER have happened.

    It’s also yet another reason for all of us in the US to object, and object vehemently, to being labelled charedim.

  20. Steve Brizel says:

    Joel Rich-WADr, R Chaim Ozer ZTL called the Hildesheimer Seminary a “Beit Charoshes LRabbanim.”

  21. hp says:

    “And histroy shows that people tend to find ways to get modern things they want. All this does is to ensure that seeking to attain such things will be hidden so no one can really influence it”

    It is often quite the opposite. The rejection of television has countless adherents in the Charedi world- this eschewal did not come about at the inception of the TV age, but only after immorality became rampant on its programs. Families were inspired by Torah leaders to throw out the TV’s, and their children, for the most part, wouldn’t dream of having one.

    There are myriad other examples of frum Jewry rejecting the modern, in situations wherein the “modern” is not in consonance with the spiritual. “Modern” per se can have many benefits; frum Jews do not share the viewpoint of the Amish. At the same time, each major “development” should be assessed for its suitability to a life dedicated to service of Hashem. Our Torah leaders, in whom we look to for Torah wisdom, often guide us in such matters, although many facets of modern life are left to the individual to evaluate.

    I know nothing of the degree issue in EY except for what I read here, but I wish to counter the assertion that since “Charedim want modern life”, which I’m sure they do (no one wants to go back to washing boards for laundering), they will automatically dig their heels in, in however subtle a way, on this issue. We don’t yet know the outcome, (nor do I think we have clarity on the decision itself (with all due respect to the poster and commentors), but as a general concept, frum Jews have proven they CAN reject modernity when they are inspired to do so.

    We are still a nation apart.

  22. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “…It also carries the same subtle accusation that Moshe and Ahron made the Halachos for their benefit rather then because hashem said so.(In this case feel the ratzon hashem is so)”

    That’s why it’s helpful to see the Hebrew, as Gershon Dubin said. I suspect the author in Hamishpocha was not so much complaining, but just giving vent to people’s feelings and trying to help them sort things out.

    Rav Moshe Z’l said one shouldn’t say “es iz shver tzu zain a yid”, but if one feels that way, pretending that one doesn’t without prior acknowledging the previous reality would be counterproductive(I assume the author, a Beis Yaakov graduate, was taught that in her seminary psychology class :) )

  23. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “The haredi world is far from monolithic”

    I agree that this is true on the individual level. It becomes a major problem when outsiders see people of any society as a group, as opposed to a collection of individuals. Rabbi Rosenblum wrote about the Dale Carnigie course taken by Israeli chasidim(11/21/06). I take pleasure whenever I see stereotypes shattered.

    “Quashing criticism: there ain’t no such thing in the haredi world.”

    In my understanding, disagreement is certainly not encouraged, and in subtle ways, it is in fact discouraged. I think that you have to provide more examples to show that criticism is viewed favorably, as it is easy to show that conformity is stressed in thought, dress and action, which tends to make criticism of policies difficult.

    Rabbi Dovid Elizrie(comment #99 of the Dennis Prager/Lubavitch thread) writes of a major Charedi publisher submitting to criticism, because he “got flack from [a particular group] for including the bio of the Previous Rebbe.” This is not the ideal way a Torah society should operate. When the Jewish Observer disclaims articles carefully written and reviewed because of criticism received, paradoxically this decreases some people’s faith in the charedi system.

    You might say that the above publisher was merely responding to the book market, but the net result is the same: diversity is sometimes publicly suppressed in favor of conformity, although in reality, variety is privately acknowledged as a fact of life. Indeed at two Agudah conventions, speakers mentioned that we might be too quick to be “mevatel” other’s ideas within the Torah world, and even when reacting to those outside the Yeshiva world, people need to do so with pain, rather than with anger. I think we still need to do more work to show that we welcome criticism.

    I trust that many charedim, perhaps even leaders, would privately agree that more checks and blances would be healthy for the charedi world, and that there needs to be a slow change in that direction. Two anonymous Lakewood intellectuals were quoted in Haaretz’s “Only in America” essay as saying just that.

  24. Gershon Dubin says:

    Just to lighten this a tad, can you post the full (Hebrew) poem?

  25. SM says:

    The other problem this ruling poses is the increased level of conflict between the Charedim and other Jews. Whether the non-charedi press are biased or not (and I’m sure they are) this is, in fact, yet another way in which charedim will become differentiated from other Jews. And it is insidious because it affects the way in which charedim will be able to interact for their whole lives.

    I suspect this may be the point. If you can create a closed system by depriving people of the qualifications they require to leave their own community for any purpose whatever then perhaps you would.

    But ultimately all of us suffer. Charedim want modern life – otherwise there would be no need to ban the internet or TV or mobile phones. Thye want comfort and gadgets. And histroy shows that people tend to find ways to get modern things they want. All this does is to ensure that seeking to attain such things will be hidden so no one can really influence it – and that the non-frum world will laugh. And the non-frum world needs not to laugh because there is so much that Torah can offer it. But you don’t convey that message like this.

    This is sticking the finger in the dyke. Those who obey will suffer financially, their trust will be destroyed and they will come to distrust those who gave the orders. Everyone else will circumvent (and this undermine) those who gave the orders. And those unaffected will laugh their heads off and be butressed in their view that frumkeit has nothing to offer.

    It’s really a tragedy.

  26. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    IMHO there are several issues at work here. One is the issue of making a living. Another is the issue of the hareidi family. A third is the work of outside elements trying to make life difficult for all elements of the religious community. Let me explain the last first. Over the last several years the Israeli regime has steadily promulgated horrible decree after decree. First came the plan to abolish the Religious Affairs Ministry. This was explained as a plan to clean up disorder and corruption in government bureaucracy. People were assured that religous institutions would be continue to be funded by other ministries such as the Prime Minister’s Office, the Education Ministry and local authorities. Of course the total amount of money involved was drastically cut for both hareidi and dati-leumi institutions. Conclusion: There are certainly people at work who want to cut Torah education of all sorts. They will have some success but nowhere near as much as they think. Many avreichim who took their kollel positions for granted are now working and making much more efficient use of their decreased learning time. A second decree was child allowances. Suddenly working as well as learning Jews with large families found themselves with a shortfall of thousands of shekels per month. Many men left kollel and went into hi-tech training programs. Some but not all got jobs. The poverty factor in the hareidi and dati-leumi communities has gotten worse. The people with ten kids and a menial job are totally up a creek without a paddle. Conclusion: There are people at work who are trying to cut the religious birth rate. They won’t succeed. Next decree: Arutz-7 provided an alternate news service to the state propaganda mill. The radio station was shut down, the newspaper and web sites remain. The bus and taxi drivers who were playing A7 in the public sphere are no longer doing so. The alternative was sorely missed at the time of the Disengagement (Expulsion). It is possible that this was planned. The Expulsion: Thousands of religious Jews were thrown out of their homes and left unemployed. Parents, children and youth are suffering physically and psychologically. Communal infrastructure has been attacked. Yair Lapid later said that the purpose of it had nothing to do with peace or security. In fact it caused the opposite. The purpose was to get you and me, as usual. Then we come to the Education Ministry policy. It is disguised as concern for academic standards. It is also a threat to national religious yeshivot because the teachers’ colleges attached to them are also including elements of kfira. The split several years ago between Merkaz Harav and Har Hamor was also about that issue. Some schools and yeshivot are now teaching critical methods of Gemara study and Tanach at “eye-level”, meaning that the personages of the Tanach are treated like regular guys, not according to emunat hachamim. I live in the knitted-kippa world, learn in a kollel of a hesder yeshiva, live in a yishuv and consider myself a former Zionist. There are a lot of us around. We have not joined the hats because we were very disappointed by the behavior of the hareidi rabbanim and community during the Expulsion. We must all pull together, otherwise divide and conquer will continue.

  27. berel says:

    I take major issue with the poem cited in this post.Having hanoah from avodah zorah,chilul hashem(flying El Al)etc. are real issues no matter what your view on the specific shaalo is.The poem reminds me of the medrash about Korach inciting the masses against Moshe Rabbanu by using a parable of an almonah being finacialy devasted due to the Torahs laws as given over by Moshe and Ahron.It also carries the same subtle accusation that Moshe and Ahron made the Halachos for their benefit rather then because hashem said so.(In this case feel the ratzon hashem is so)

  28. Steve Brizel says:

    IMO, assuming that the ban is in effect in its full force in the Charedi community in EY, I would not be surprised to see Touro College fill the gap with college degree granting programs that are the prerequisites for graduate level work in speech, physical and occupational therapy , special ed and/or social work. When Touro openned in Brooklyn years ago, many RY vehemently opposed it on the grounds that it was a college. However, the proof of the pudding is that young women from such communities as Lakewood, Monsey and Flatbush are flocking to Touro’s Brooklyn campus and programs.

  29. HILLEL says:

    To Joel Rich:

    Are you a member of the Sanhedrin?

  30. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “If the true reason (as I suspect it is) is that the Chareidi community disavows itself of specific courses or modes of thought (i.e. Freudian psychology – or even psychology in general), then we have a problem that cannot be overcome.’

    It definitely can be overcome. The majority of psychology which teachers need is practical, and there are little hashkafa conflicts there. Even some Freudian psychology can be taught and adopted be charedi instructors in line with the Michtav Meliyahu’s Kuntras Habichirah. The charedi world needs to train instructors who can teach these courses–that is part of the problem with the Beis Yaakov issue.

    There was an article in the New York Times a few years ago about the effort to train charedi social workers. I’m sure they covered Freud in the courses. Anyone know what happened with that program?

    “but rest assured, a revolution in the Chareidi world is coming”

    Change in all societies usually happens by evolution rather than revolution. Change can happen if the issue is a charedi policy which is practical, rather than involving a core charedi principle. For example, the issue of committees and activists who secretly interact with rabbonim may be a practical issue, and fairness may be brought to the process of banning books.

    “People are fed up with the way things are being run, the abject poverty, the lack of personal satisfaction and constant beating down of alternate viewpoints”

    First, one needs to divide the American and Israeli charedi worlds and related situations. The major differences are army service, secular studies in high school, and less polarization when comparing the modern orthodox and the right wings of Orthodoxy.

    As far as satisfaction, one also needs to talk to people who are indeed satisfied. Those who don’t have any conflicts aren’t helpful here, and nether are triumphalant or apologetic editorials in the charedi press.

    An American oleh in a charedi weekly spoke of an adjustment problem, namely the pressure to wear white shirts instead of blue shirts and a specific type of Yarmulka. Of course it’s unfair to judge a person based on his or her clothing, and one might even say that this is infuriating. But the magazine in question deserves credit for airing the issue, and letting a person talk about their struggle as opposed to editorializing about it.

    The fact that people aren’t satisfied besides the poverty issue, is also because the chardi world grew and includes a diverse group of people. Charedi leaders realize that you can’t force the Lakewood/Bnei Brak mode on the entire population. What would be helpful, is if those who want to see gradual changes would be directed to channel their efforts in a positive manner.

  31. Bob Miller says:

    Both the ends and means of women’s education and training have to be re-evaluated in light of evolving government-imposed constraints on institutions and financial constraints on families. The system has to supply the women with means sufficient to reach the ends. If old means become unavailable or unsuccessful, new ones must be created.

  32. joel rich says:

    Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzensky asked Rav Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg not to pursue his idea of opening a Rabbinical Seminary, similar to what he had in Germany, in Eretz Yisrael. Despite Rav Weinberg’s feelings to the contrary, he acquiesced to the authority of Rav Chaim Ozer, who commended him for the courage to suppress his own convictions in favor of preservation of the authority of the acknowledged Torah leader of the generation.

    That was not at all blind obedience. It was the considered opinion of the Seridei Eish that the benefit of following the wishes of Rav Chaim Ozer outweighed the benefit of opening such a seminary in Eretz Yisrael, with the attendant weakening of Torah authority as a result.

    Without commenting on the case at hand, might I point out that the 1st mishna in horiyot is quite clear that a member of the Sanhedrin who is sure that Sanhedrin has erred and yet acts in accordance with its decision is guilty of an error of NOT understanding the mitzvah of listening to the chachamim and is thus not subsumed under the communal sacrifice of those who also followed the Sanhedrin’s erroneous ruling.

    KT

  33. HILLEL says:

    A well-thought-out article, as usual, and, yes, the words of the Sefer HaChinUch on the posuk “VeNaSi BeAmCha Lo SaOr (do not attack your Torah leaders)” is applicable here.

    This issue of working mothers has always been a problem. It very often distorts the relationship between husband and wife, and deprives children of a full-time mother (the proverbial “latch-key” children).

    Many ShoLom-Bais problems and many children-at-risk problems can be traced to the absence of a full-time mother from the home.

    The Jewish woman is the bedrock of the the Jewish family. If her wolrdview is subverted by the secular (Hellenist) concepts usually taught in BA programs, especially when secular teachers are involved), the viability of Jewish home is at risk.

    As for Ori’s comment about ideological immunity among grown-ups, there is no such thing. Propaganda always works, and ideas have consequences!

  34. sarah elias says:

    Two comments:

    “This committee…tried to formulate guidelines to prevent competition for salary increases.”

    May I respectfully ask what this is supposed to mean? What’s “competition for salary increases” and why should it be prevented? Is there something wrong in a teacher wanting to earn more than her current salary?

    Two:
    “”For example, one such concern mentioned is “an increase in family dysfunction which in some cases was related to disproportionate emphasis on upgrading teaching degrees into BA equivalents”. But isn’t it about the education one gets, and not the degree? The degree is just the measure by which one shows they have acheived the knowledge. These women will know more and they will be able to teach more.” (Harry Maryles)

    Sorry, it’s absolutely about the degree and the salary increase that goes with it. Most, if not all, of these women have little to no interest in the education they receive, nor do they think they enhance their knowledge in any important way, and I tend to wonder if the courses required by the Education Ministry really do qualify them to be better teachers than the courses already offered by the Bait Yaakov seminaries.

  35. Moshe says:

    Unfortunately, the entire article smacks of apologetics, and many half truths.

    I’ll try to respond part by part:

    1) Dynamics: People obviously bring issues to their Rabbis, who try to help them work it out. The latest string of bans was not caused by people bringing issues to their Rabbis, rather, it was caused by a number of people who feel that anything having to do with the outside world is treif and should be banned. I cannot fathom that people who have their own issues (“an increase in family dysfunction which in some cases was related to disproportionate emphasis on upgrading teaching degrees into BA equivalents”) can cause such a massive and widespread ban. More on that later.

    2) The Rabbis: Here in Israel there is most definitely a view of “The Rabbis”, as “The Gedolim”. Any Rabbi who disagrees with the Gedolim is automatically made a second class Rabbi – no one can disagree with ‘the Gedolim’. As an example, I was once discussing a comment of Rabbi Berel Wein which seemed to be contrary to a statment of Rav Elyashiv – the response I got was “So who will you listen to, Rav Elyashiv, or Rabbi Wein” – with the obvious implication from the tone and emphasis that one would have to be very stupid to go with a “2nd class Rabbi” like Rabbi Wein as opposed to Rav Elyashiv.

    Whatever happened to “shivim panim laTorah” – that different people see things different ways, yet there is room for all of them within Jewish tradition? Not in Israel. Here you have a committee of the Rabbis who decide for the entire Chareidi community – for all of the people involved.

    Contributing Factors: From the factors that you mention, it seems that the community should work on the problems of the community as opposed to blaming the outside world. People wanting the degree very badly, even at the expense of their families?? Maybe the person should get some therapy, and the issues of what are important should be discussed. I fail to see how you can blame a program for an individuals faults.

    The second reason you propose is one that can definitely arise – as such, greater care should be taken with hiring of instructors, and greater emphasis should be put on training the instructors as to the special atmosphere of Chareidi institutions.

    If the true reason (as I suspect it is) is that the Chareidi community disavows itself of specific courses or modes of thought (i.e. Freudian psychology – or even psychology in general), then we have a problem that cannot be overcome.

    Comparing Beis Yaakov schools to “an elitist undergraduate Harvard College classic liberal education” and other schools that actually prepare you for the world to “the professional training offered by an engineering school” is quite a joke. The Beis Yaakov system pretends to offer its graduates a way to earn a living – otherwise, how will they be able to support their families when their husbands lean in Kolel? It does not serve the purpose of an American Seminary – where girls go in order to increase their Jewish knowledge.

    The entire situation is very sad. People are boxed into the corner by “Rabbinic Committees” and suffer greatly because of it.

    Unfortunately, I don’t have time to complete my critique, as I have other things to do, but rest assured, a revolution in the Chareidi world is coming. People are fed up with the way things are being run, the abject poverty, the lack of personal satisfaction and constant beating down of alternate viewpoints. The more bans are made, the more resentment grows and brings the upheaval closer. I don’t know when it will arrive, but eventually, it will come.

  36. Doron Beckerman says:

    Harry Maryles said,

    I could not disagree with the substance of your post more. And this quote confirms what I believe to be the case, in spite of the way you characterize it. This IS blind obedience. The women objected. Yet they do not question. You can’t object to a new policy and then say that you recognize “that if everyone were to go off in a different, independent direction this would not bode well”. Because if they recognize that, how can they really object?

    Harry seems to be missing a fundamental point. One can simultaneously express reservations to a policy, yet, as a practical, well-considered matter, follow it, for the greater good of preserving the authority of the Torah Sages.

    I am certain that there are many laws on the books in the United States that many people vehemently disagree with, and, yet, for the preservation of the rule of law, abide by those laws passed by the legal system in place. The alternative is anarchy.

    Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzensky asked Rav Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg not to pursue his idea of opening a Rabbinical Seminary, similar to what he had in Germany, in Eretz Yisrael. Despite Rav Weinberg’s feelings to the contrary, he acquiesced to the authority of Rav Chaim Ozer, who commended him for the courage to suppress his own convictions in favor of preservation of the authority of the acknowledged Torah leader of the generation.

    That was not at all blind obedience. It was the considered opinion of the Seridei Eish that the benefit of following the wishes of Rav Chaim Ozer outweighed the benefit of opening such a seminary in Eretz Yisrael, with the attendant weakening of Torah authority as a result.

  37. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “This is not blind obedience, but an informed posture that recognizes the fact that if everyone were to go off in a different, independent direction this would not bode well for the individuals or for the community.”

    This is in line with the Sefer Hachinuch that were each person to follow his own halachic opinion when Sanhedrin rules, it would disrupt the religion, cause disunity, and destroy Klal Yisrael.

    I do believe that anyone who lives in the charedi community and accepts its benefits, also accepts the trade-off of accepting a more intense concept of Rabbinic authority.

    I would note two points regarding vaadim, askonim, and public proclamations which are part of the charedi communal structure:

    (1) The cause of much anguish and confusion in recent years, is when proclamations affecting the entire Orthodox community, are handled as parochial Charedi concerns rather than Orthodox and Jewish ones.

    (2) Perhaps there needs to be more transparency, communication and representation in issuing proclamations, as done by the committee which “interviewed dozens of administrators, principals, teachers, parents, student”. I would not consider it outlandish for a charedi talmid chocham to ask the opinion of a non-charedi one on an issue affecting the entire Orthodox world, and the reverse is true as well. Ein lecha adam s’hein lo shaah.

    “The outlets for discussing and criticizing the new guidelines are variegated and plentiful”

    Sometimes the outlets are, sadly, negative ones. Dr. Marvin Shick wrote in a Jewish Press article in April, 2005:

    “What I, and I believe others, sense is disquieting and I have decided to write in the hope that our Torah authorities will pay heed. Whenever there is a new ban, there is a cascade of jokes and ridicule among religious Jews, as if humor might serve as a surrogate for how many feel but are wary to put into words. L’tzanis — idle talk and jokes — is, of course, base behavior, yet it is there in our community and we ought not avert our eyes from this reality.”

  38. Baruch Horowitz says:

    A few comments, not always in disagreement, but in the interest of providing balance to understanding the very complex dynamics of the charedi world:

    “I will briefly outline the factors involved, and attempt to eschew apologetics”

    I greatly appreciate your efforts to eschew apologetics; I believe in the fair treatment of the charedi way of life in the press and on the internet, but I detest engaging in apologetics. The charedi press would be taken (more)seriously in the general Orthodox world if it would do likewise.

    “The popular press is having a fressing frenzy on this…”

    The problem with the secular press is not so much their criticism itself , but rather the unfair, imbalanced, and even unprofessional manner of presenting such critiques.

    “You cannot talk about “the rabbis” since the haredi world is variegated and has multiple centers of authority”

    I believe that this is only partially true, and that the trend is to centralize authority within the charedi world. Perhaps this has to do with the fact that the global community has become smaller due to technology. Also, people do speak of “the Gedolim say XYZ”, when in reality, there is like you say, multiple centers of authority.

    Regarding both halacha and daas Torah, the charedi world, not completely unlike the Modern Orthodox and RZ ones, has a hierarchy and a concept of a “Posek Acharon”. In America, that role was fulfilled by Rav Moshe Feinstein Zt’l; subseqently, it was taken over on many issues by Israeli Poskim.

  39. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Shira Schmidt: the proliferation of courses leading to these degrees and taught by professionals outside the haredi world who brought in material not compatible with the community’s values.

    Ori: We are not talking about impressionable children here. We are talking about women who are mature enough to be wives and mothers. Aren’t they also mature enough to be able to form their own judgements when exposed to material incompatible with Chareidi values?

  40. Tzipporah says:

    For the girl who chooses the non-Bait Yaakov track to obtain a degree, what of her shidduch? Does this not further compartmentalize our already label-ridden shidduch system? She may be choosing that route that “equips her to earn a living”, but what shtark bochur would really want the girl who is skirting the degree decree? While “both styles have a place in the world”, I’m not sure that the non-Beit Yaakov track has a place in the Israeli Hareidi world.

    Secondly, what about the obvious economic effects on the kollel lifestyle? Is the hashkafa here to have bitachon – that kollel can only function with wives being taught in 100% purity – and if that is accomplished, then the money will come in somehow?

  41. Harry Maryles says:

    A number of women I spoke with objected to the discontinuing of programs. But they were adamant that as members of the community they respect decisions by rabbinical authority whether or not they understand or agree with the decisions. This is not blind obedience, but an informed posture that recognizes the fact that if everyone were to go off in a different, independent direction this would not bode well for the individuals or for the community

    I could not disagree with the substance of your post more. And this quote confirms what I believe to be the case, in spite of the way you characterize it. This IS blind obedience. The women objected. Yet they do not question. You can’t object to a new policy and then say that you recognize “that if everyone were to go off in a different, independent direction this would not bode well”. Because if they recognize that, how can they really object?

    The truth is that they do object. And in my view they are correct in doing so. It stifles the ability of a woman in the Charedi world to increase her knowledge in a formal way. It reduces her ability to increase her earning potential in a society that is woefully short on the ability to even pay for their basic everyday needs.

    There is no shame in objecting to a policy that one does not really understand, nor is there any disrespect to the rabbis in questioning the new policy. You say the rabbis have studied the situation in response to concerns. But each one of them has a solution that would not require shutting down the entire enterprise.

    For example, one such concern mentioned is “an increase in family dysfunction which in some cases was related to disproportionate emphasis on upgrading teaching degrees into BA equivalents”. But isn’t it about the education one gets, and not the degree? The degree is just the measure by which one shows they have acheived the knowledge. These women will know more and they will be able to teach more.

    The “dysfunction” problem to the degree that it exists at all, is a best a short term one and can probably be dealt with by simply staggering the one or two year additional course requirements over a 3 or 4 year period. This would free up more time for these women to have a normal family life and not end up in dysfunctional situations. Besides, dysfunctional families probably have less to do with a heavier course load over the additional year or two in school and a lot more to do with personal problems and internal family dynamics.

    The other problems you mentioned also have possible solutions. I would suggest some but this comment is already way too long. The bottom line: It is obvious that for these Charedi women who so quickly drop all their educational and economic and accede to the new Gezierah do so against their own sense of betterment and self fulfillment. That’s why they objected. And ultimately, for those women who would choose to advance their education, it hampers their ability to contribute even more to their communities than they already do. And it is all so unnecessary.

  42. Tal Benschar says:

    What I do not understand about all the Sturm und Drang over this incident is that, if I am not mistaken, the objection was not to higher education per se, but rather to a program which starts out as 2 years of Beis Yaakov, and then in the third year has courses not reviewed by Rabbonim. IOW, a Bais Yaakov program where part of the curriculum is not rabbinically approved. Presumably, an approved curriculum would be permitted.

    Or am I missing part of the puzzle?

  43. asher says:

    Good to know that the dysfunction is coming from women getting educated and not from husbands who are unable to earn a living wage.

    ao