Once again, I am impressed by the level headed approach taken by a moderate Charedi, Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, to problems facing the Torah world in Israel. An approach that has been anathema it seems to the more hard core Charedi forces there that include some Charedi rabbinic leaders and most certainly Charedi politicians. Which of course has the typical Charedi in Israel taking an equally hard line approach even when some of them are secretly sympathetic to the concerns that are often stated here.
In this particular instance we are talking about the sad state of Limudei Chol (secular studies) in that community (and as Rabbi Adlerstein rightly points out – increasingly in America too). He states the obvious – at least to me. Something that has been stated here many times. That there is a woeful lack of developing any study skills that are oriented to secular studies – not used in Limudei Kodesh (religious studies in mostly Gemarah and its ancillary works).
Rabbi Adlerstein does not make this up. He gets it from an expert that is not only sympathetic to Charedim but has helped them achieve their livelihood goals through his school, Machon Lev (Jerusalem College of Technology or JCT). After Education Minister, Rav Shai Piron, has completed interviewing a few successful Charedi students, JCT president, Dr. Chaim Sukenik, made the following observation. From Cross Currents:
JCT’s President Dr Chaim Sukenik (the former Dean of Exact Sciences at Bar-Ilan, and an old friend who is decidedly not hostile to charedim) acknowledged that the success rate of his mechina program (which is already self-selecting for more motivated students) is only about 50%. The culprit is The Gap: all the knowledge and skills that are needed to succeed that are not in place for people who have been learning full-time till age 25 or 30 without acquiring any secular studies at all.
Not all people can bridge that gap. Those who tell themselves that they will quickly be able to compensate for what they are missing when they are finally forced by circumstances out of the beis medrash are not fully engaging reality. (Ironically, perhaps, many people in the US charedi community are making the same mistake, believing that they can easily make up for lost time. Many find out too late that they cannot.)
How has the ill-advised behavior of the politicians and the overheated rhetoric of Yair Lapid impacted programs to help charedim? Dr. Sukenik wrote to me: “Overall, the Chareidi men will tell you that the political pressure has made life a little bit more complicated, but, at the end of the day, the process that we have seen over the past ten years, is continuing. Our women’s program in Ramat Gan adjacent to Bnei Brak hit a bump in the road with this year’s registration due to severe rabbinic pressure that the girls not get an academic degree but in the end the numbers stayed stable.”
This is truly eye-opening… or at least it should be. My only quibble with Rabbi Adlerstein is that he seems to place equal blame on Charedi politicians and on ‘the overheated rhetoric of Yair Lapid’. Some of Lapid’s comments may have been inflammatory (…probably in response to some of the inflammatory rhetoric hurled against him by the right. Can anyone really blame Lapid for his rhetoric when he is constantly being called to a Rasha?)
The real culprit has been the ‘ill-advised behavior of the Charedi politicians’. (I don’t know why Rabbi Adlerstein was reluctant to add that the word Charedi in that sentence as I just did. Because they are the ones he surely meant.)