Six!

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What would Haaretz readers do without haredim? In this Friday’s paper (23bIyar,May 7) there were at least six articles on haredim, five negative and one very positive. (Friday’s Haaretz attempts to be equivalent in importance to the Sunday NYT.) The top story on the front page of the news section was by Aluf Benn, and had a large, color photo of opposition leader Tsipi Livni with a two-inch high headline in otiyot kiddush levana quoting her: “Likud and Kadima must join against Haredim.”

If you have time to read only one of the six, read the one that was the top story on the front page of the second section (opinions and features).

It was by the same journalist as the aforementioned article. Aluf Benn wrote a long, positive article on the hundreds of haredim serving and excelling in the Israeli army.

Here is one typical quote:

Maj. Gen. (res.) Eliezer Shkedy viewed this as a key mission. He instructed the Air Force rabbi …. to promote integration of Haredim. The rabbi wasn’t sure how people who had never studied mathematics or English would be able to handle the sophisticated technology of F-16 warplanes. Shkedy had an answer: “They may not know English, he said, but they do know how to study. Anyone who has spent years under the discipline of a Haredi yeshiva, studying 14 hours a day, will be able to master the material” … A few months ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Hatzerim air base and had his photo taken in the cockpit of an F-15. Back in his bureau, he said his eyes teared up when he saw soldiers with earlocks and prayer fringes in blue IAF uniforms.

But this positive piece was overwhelmed by four negatives articles that followed. They all supported TA mayor Ron Huldai’s tirade and his call for a civil revolt against haredi education. Avirama Golan wrote a glowing piece on Huldai quoting him, “I won’t remain silent anymore.” Yossi Verter devoted the first half of his weekly article on political parties to praise Huldai who is, according to the article’s headline, “Riding the Anti-Orthodox Cycle.” Yossi Sarid praised and lamented his own failed attempts to destroy haredi education when he was Education Minister in his op-ed, “This is the Battlefront” , and Prof. of Astrophysics Elia Leibowitz (my brother-in-law) wrote an oped with the sarcastic title, “What Haredi Education Does Give.” He mocked yeshiva learnng, which he contrasted with academic education.

Six articles! I guess there was nothing else to write about last week and all is perfect in non-haredi education.

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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17 Responses

  1. Doron Beckerman says:

    In a generation or two, we will no longer be counting weeks and days in sefiras ha’omer since those now studying in Yeshiva will not know how to do division.

    I don’t know. They learn Mishnayos Menachos at a relatively young age, so not only will they know the procedure for the sifting of the Korban Omer (Menachos 6:6,7), but they will learn division in the very next Mishnah, in respect to distributing the Challos Todah. :)

  2. Doron Beckerman says:

    R’ Dovid,

    The average kid who has gone through eight years of cheder, three years of yeshiva k’tana and a few years of beis midrash and kollel simply does not possess the learning skills to close the gap. Had he been taught these basic skills throughout his school career, he might stand a chance. In the meantime, the system continues to produce tens of thousands of young men who have no marketable skills and no means of attaining them

    While I believe this to be the case (that only the best and brightest are accepted) in regards to the air force Shahar option, I personally spoke to the head of registration in the Ono Charedi campus and I can state flatly that this is false. He assured me that for those for whom it is necessary there is a even a short prep course for their pre-Academic track, and during the year itself they are spoonfed (his words) the information so that it makes no difference whether he is more or less intelligently gifted. It is not a bagrut, but those who wish to can pursue the career options they offer – including law and business management – based on the pre-Academic track alone.

    You are also ignoring the programs such as at Givat Washington, where marketable skills are taught and a full academic degree unnecessary. Someone who wants to be a doctor should probably get a bagrut – but so what? The Charedim don’t have to homegrow every profession through their farm system, and if they are determined enough they can do that too.

    Your suggestion of explicit, public approval of by the Gedolim, and jettisoning Yeshiva Ketana, are going beyond what even R’ Moshe (his published responsa are very explicitly disapproving of premature concern for parnassah at the expense of Torah learning)and R’ Yaakov ever expressed. This kind of approach – that the Charedim must publicly concede that their system is a failure and remodel itself after Frankfurt – is very counter-productive because it will never happen, as is insisting that the Yeshivos Ketanos in Israel adopt the core-curriculum demand. You can argue how it isn’t Czarist Russia until you’re blue in the face, but you have to take the Hashkafic basics of the Israeli Charedim at axiomatic face value, and that includes the Yeshiva curriculum being sacrosanct and untouchable. The fact is that the number of Charedi teens at Yeshivos Bein Hazmanim during this past vacation was astounding, and the Yeshivot Tichoniyot cannot rival it. That is not to say that private tacit approval is unwarranted. The Hebrew Yated two weeks ago ran a full page article on interviewing skills in the workplace!

    Additionally, do you really want to place that kind of ultimatum to the Yeshivos Ketanos? Are you willing to have the State of Israel forgo her Zechus of supporting mass Torah study? Are you sure that this is not the precise Zechus that has granted her astounding military and economic success? Can you safely ignore the Gush Katif evacuation coming on the heels of unprecedented budget cuts meant to cripple the Yeshivos, in light of the Medrash Eichah – “If you see towns uprooted in Israel, you should know it is because Torah teachers are not being paid”?

    I would also add that the American system has a very severe flaw. While there are perhaps less low revenue families, there are very many negative net income families, and the support of the gvirim paying full tuition to cover for all those who are maxed on their credit card, home mortgage, and car payments is staggering. I know this first hand, and I’m sure you do too. An increasingly affluent and consumeristic Charedi society would create the keeping-up-with-the-Goldbergs mentality that Baruch Hashem is so much less pervasive in Israeli society. Is it so much better to be waist deep in mountains of debt under heaps of bills working 14 hours a day than learning in Kollel and contributing to the Torah GNP while living on very little?

  3. Chaim Wolfson says:

    “I would also point out that the statement was made after speaking to the heads of the michlalot as well as those involved with the airforce and navy programs.”

    OK, I’ll rephrase my question: How do THEY know where these kids rank in terms of potential ability relative to those who stay in Yeshiva? The heads of these programs can evaluate the students who join their programs; they can’t evaluate the ones who don’t. And how can YOU know that the, “The average kid who has gone through eight years of cheder, three years of yeshiva k’tana and a few years of beis midrash and kollel simply does not possess the learning skills to close the gap” if they they’ve never given it a shot? I am not chas v’shalom arguing that they DO have the skills; I haven’t the slightest idea whether they do or not (though the Israeli boys I knew when I was learning in Eretz Tisrael struck me as quite intelligent), and in any case I wouldn’t want to risk being labeled “triumphalist.” I am just curious how you know that they don’t.

    “Finally, I have no desire to raise the Emmanuel issue again,”
    I don’t blame you. But I was not revisiting the issue; I was revisiting some of your comments about it, particularly this one: “No, I do not live in Emmanuel, and your correspondent is obviously better informed about the particulars of this case. Nevertheless, I still maintain that there is a tangible element of anti-Sefaradi sentiment in what is transpiring in the city, with religious standards being used as a means of covering them up.”

  4. Arnie Lustiger says:

    In a generation or two, we will no longer be counting weeks and days in sefiras ha’omer since those now studying in Yeshiva will not know how to do division.

  5. dovid landesman says:

    In reply to Reb Chaim’s comment:
    I did not say that those yeshiva boys were the most successful learners; on the contrary, if they were successful learners one would assume that they would not leave yeshiva! I said that they are top tier in terms of their potential ability.I would also point out that the statement was made after speaking to the heads of the michlalot as well as those involved with the airforce and navy programs. Moreover, nowhere did I suggest that only the average kids remian behind in yeshiva. Although I am unfamiliar with the correspondent and therefore cannot question his sincerity, I do wonder why he chose to ignore the thrust of my comment before categorizing it as downright ridiculous.
    Finally, I have no desire to raise the Emmanuel issue again; however, for those interested, Yediot published transcripts this week of the testimony of the girls [not their parents and not the askanim] to the court and they were quite revealing.

  6. Chaim Wolfson says:

    “The trouble is that the bulk of those who are enlisting in the army [or in the michlalot and Machon Lev] are in the top percentiles of yeshiva kids intellectually (comment by dovid landesman – May 12th, 2010 at 5:48 pm).

    Rabbi Landesman,
    Leaving aside the obvious question of how precisely you know this, (presumably you “know” it the same way you “knew” — AFTER ackowledging that you were unfamiliar with the facts — that the motivation behind the rules in the Bais Yaakov Chassidi in Emanuel was not standards but bigotry), I am absolutely amazed at this statement. Do you mean to imply that it is the most intellectually gifted Yeshiva students — and presumably the most succesful learners — who are leaving Yeshiva to join these programs, and only the “average” kids who stay behind to “kvetch a bankel”? That sounds far-fetched to me; in fact, it sounds downright ridiculous.

    [YA – He’s not entirely unfamiliar with the facts. He has a son in Nachal Yehuda]

  7. dr. bill says:

    Yehoshua Friedman
    May 12th, 2010 at 2:59 am
    Dr. Bill — It is not only haredim and Arabs who are receiving sub-standard education, it is secular and national-religious kids as well.

    Indeed, education, like any number of other things can always stand improvement. And Israeli society suffers like many a western democracy from inadequate attention to its educational infrastructure and the achievement of its students, something that Ha’aretz has often reported. However, to compare that to the situation in many/most chareidi and arab schools is akin to comparing a bad cold to a heart attack. Please do not minimize the issue by attempted deflections; it is hardly productive.

  8. dovid landesman says:

    Do you not find it interesting that neither Yated nor HaModia mentioned this piece even though a great deal of their local coverage is lifted [borrowed?] from the wire services? In the eyes of the chareidi mainstream here in EY, the project taking place in the airforce [as well as a similar one beginning now in the navy] is a b’dieved sheb’dieved met by a stony wall of silence and continued burying of one’s head in the sand. None of the major chareidi leaders has been heard to voice open support for either this program or for the numerous michlalot chareidiot that are springing up across the country. As a paranthetical aside, it should be noted that the majority of soldiers in what was called nachal chareidi [now known as netzach yehudah]which many point to as a new turn of direction within the chareidi world do not actually come from chareidi homes.
    I have heard people point to the air force program as well as to the michlalot [and the programs at Machon Lev] as proof of the superiority of the chareidi educational programs since the attendees are able to take a one year mechina course and close the gap that they have in the sciences and math. The trouble is that the bulk of those who are enlisting in the army [or in the michlalot and Machon Lev] are in the top percentiles of yeshiva kids intellectually. The average kid who has gone through eight years of cheder, three years of yeshiva k’tana and a few years of beis midrash and kollel simply does not possess the learning skills to close the gap. Had he been taught these basic skills throughout his school career, he might stand a chance. In the meantime, the system continues to produce tens of thousands of young men who have no marketable skills and no means of attaining them
    This is the social problem that Chuldai was addressing and while his means of expression is unacceptable, the essence of what he said needs to be addressed rather than dismissed as another example of damn the chareidim.

  9. David says:

    Yehoshua: I’m no fan of Haaretz. But I have news for you – it’s not going out of business anytime soon, no matter how many cherem’s and boycotts we try. we have to stop being babies and crying how “it’s his fault.” We know it’s there fault, but that’s not the point. We have to worry more about outselves and how we present ourselves than what the Haaretz people write about us.

  10. cvmay says:

    Yehoshua Friedman, you are so right except all our TORAH NEWSPAPERS quote and report Israeli news straight from the Drerd, known as Haaretz. Frum Jews are digesting it line and sinker as they would any other news that is reported within the Torah media. What a lack of knowledge the consumer has…..

  11. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    I feel at this point that Haaretz (henceforth referred to as “Drerd”) is a treasonous newspaper which threatens the lives and souls of Israelis and Jews in various ways. It should be shunned, boycotted and put in cherem. It should not be quoted or clicked on so as not to give attention or ratings. Drerd should be isolated, read only by the fringe secular ultra-left until it goes out of business.

  12. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    Dr. Bill — It is not only haredim and Arabs who are receiving sub-standard education, it is secular and national-religious kids as well. There are pockets of excellence here and there, but they are spotty and not supported by an establishment which pays lip-service to education while pretending to teach kids in classes of 35-40 with underpaid teachers. If Israel were to allocate resources in the same proportion that we did when we were a poor country with rationing scraping for every agora, we would have a lot of money. But it still wouldn’t be enough. The idealism is lacking and the culture doesn’t respect teachers and teaching enough. Kids are wild animals in school and most people would not teach even if you offered them hi-tech salaries to do so.

  13. Mr. Cohen says:

    The more Orthodox Jews improve their Derech Eretz and honesty in business and Dina DeMalchuta Dina, the more difficult it will become for people to write articles that attack them.

  14. David says:

    I really wish I didn’t have to say this, but for a while I subscribed to Hamodia and Yated, and my reaction was exactly the same – only in the reverse – quite often.

    I am a fan of Cross Currents, but I see no reason for this kind of post. It’s no chiddush to anyone that Haaretz has a skewed view of the Torah world and seeks to portray it in light of the picture they have. Our job is to perfect ourselves and our communities and hope that over the course of time we can improve our image. This kind of post sends the message of “It’s their fault, not ours,” which does not do too much to heal the wounds and bring different parts of the Jewish world closer together.

  15. dr. bill says:

    Assume you were a secular Israeli or even a religious one that believes that we ought not depend on miracles or God’s benevolence. Would you not be alarmed with the fact that a majority of children entering first grade (comprised of chareidim and arabs – within the green line) are receiving sub-standard education? I believe that this and the long term prospects for peace with the Islamic world are the top two strategic issues facing Israel. Serious albeit yet insufficient efforts by various chareidi leaders to improve secular education have received greater endorsement from the Israeli press than from some chareidi circles. Politicians who deflect the reality by talking about the Bible and Bialik are doing what politicians do – obfuscate! Thank God the issue is coming to the fore.

  16. L. Oberstein says:

    Our human nature is to defend our own against the outsiders’ criticism, even if it is the same criticism we ourselves offer in internal discussions .Both sides have what to change. Secular Israelis are far too lacking in Jewishness in their lives.They have raised generations that do not have any basic knowledge of feeling for our religious heritage.They went far too far and threw out the baby with the bathwater. The other extreme doesn’t need my analysis, it is well known on this site. Since when did Judaism mean what the chareidim have turned it into? In what way is current Israeli chaeidism identical to normative frum Yiddishkeit of our grandparents? Both sides are guilty of identity theft, in my humble and ignorant opinion. One question? How can we get both sides to come to their senses and move towards the sensible middle ground?

  17. Joel Katz says:

    Shira,

    I look forward to reading your future posts addressing the issues mentioned in the articles above.
    I would be happy to link to them to provide readers a range of opinions on these issues.

    Joel