The questions hurled at us from the Israel arena are powerful and cogent: How long can the chareidi public shirk their responsibility to serve in the army? Is their blood more precious than the non-chareidi’s blood? And why can’t they add a little math and English to their curriculum? How much can it impact their Torah study? Don’t many yeshivos in America offer a richer secular curriculum without affecting the caliber of ben Torah products?
These questions need to be addressed head-on; not only for the sake of a response to “them” but for ourselves. We would be dishonest and insensitive if we did not ponder these questions with the gravity they deserve.
The other problem Rav Lopiansky addresses is the core curriculum issue. He says that it isn’t so much secular studies themselves that Charedim object to. It is the idea that a secular government will be dictating what to teach. Even if the current government would be respectful of Charedi sensitivities about what can and can’t be taught, there may arise another government with a different anti Torah agenda.
I understand this fear. But I do not believe that this alone is the problem. The problem is that Charedi rabbinic leaders have no interest in educating their male students in anything other than pure Torah (mostly Gemarah). If they had any interest in secular studies they would have offered them by now.
So even the I admire and respect what Rav Lopiansky has tried to do here – and the way in which he tried to do it, I do not think he succeeded in answering the very real “powerful and cogent” challenges he concedes are being asked by the secular and Dati/MO side.
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About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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