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April 24, 2014 / 24 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘education’

20% of Hamas Budget for Terror Tunnels

Sunday, October 20th, 2013

An astounding 20% of Hamas’s annual budget goes into building terror tunnels, according to an IDF estimation, which is based on numbers published by Hamas in Gaza.

With an annual budget of $700 million, it’s estimated that $100 million goes directly towards building terror tunnels into Israel and the Sinai, said a report in Makor Rishon.

The IDF estimates there are many more terror tunnels leading into Israel, besides the four that were recently found.

It is unknown how much more of their budget then goes into acquiring and building missiles and explosives.

Hamas’s Finance Minister complained that Hamas has lost $460 million since June, as a result of Egypt blowing up 90% of Hamas’s tunnels in the Sinai.

Hamas says they need their terror tunnels to kidnap Israelis, to help free terrorists captured by Israel who were trying to kill Israelis.

Just imagine if they had instead put that money towards new schools, medical centers, or social programs to improve their country.

The Secret of Orthodoxy’s Success

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

There is a little known fact (outside of Lubavitch) about the founder of Chabad Chasidus, Rav Shneur Zalman of Liadi (the author of the Shulchan Aruch HaRav – also known as the Baal HaTanya). He supporeted the Czar of Russia in opposition to Napolean. R’ Shneur Zalman reasoned that the freedom that would result via Napolean’s emancipation from the Czar would cause Jews to go Off the Derech (OTD). He wasn’t entirely wrong.

Not that an anti-Semitic dictatorship like the Czarist Russia or the Soviet Union didn’t do the same thing or worse. Most Jews in the anti Semitic/anti religious Soviet Union were unable to remain observant. But it cannot be argued that too much freedom will result in the masses opting out of observant Judaism – or even Judaism altogether.  At least that is what the recent Pew study revealed. A shocking 70% of non Orthodox Jews marry out and only 20% of their children are raised with any semblance of Jewish identity.

Why is that? There are many reasons mostly having to do with a lack of any significant Jewish education. But that is only part of the story. An Interesting observation was made by Bethamie Horowitz in a Forward article that had a positive spin on that survey. Sort of positive – that is.

She noted that marrying out is not so much a function of going OTD as it is the result of an overwhelming sense of acceptance of Jews into American society of Jews and Judaism. That should be obvious to anyone who is paying attention. Here are some examples of that:

Yiddish words are increasingly seeping into the English language.

The Holocaust is perhaps the most revered subject in the public square today. Hollywood – which is probably the most influential component of American culture – will not let us forget it. Every year there is another Holocaust movie or documentary. Which is often nominated for an Academy Award.

The number of Jews winning the Nobel Prize was immense this year it seems. I believe that 22% of all Nobel Prize winners are Jews (Whereas only .2% of the world population are Jews.)

In fact there are so many indicators of our acceptance that it would take up too much space to include them all. I recall reading about a poll recently that said that Judaism is the most respected religion in America.

Not only are Jews no longer hiding their Judaism by changing their names; not wearing a Kipa in public (if they are male); and keeping  their religious practices completely private – if at all, they are now proudly proclaiming their Jewish identity.

It is now ‘cool’ to be Jewish in this country. But it is not cool to be observant. That is a burden that a proud assimilated and not religiously educated Jew can do without. Without a religious education the freedom to assimilate can and probably will lead you astray. Why be observant, an assimilated Jew might ask? Just be a proud Jew. The next generation will ask why even bother even being Jewish at all? ‘I don’t even like bagels’ they might say. ‘I prefer lobster!’  Intermarriage? What’s the big deal? It is completely accepted now.

The ultimate demonstration of that was one of the most famous intermarriages of the modern era. Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of a President married a Jew. Her wedding highlighted many aspects of a Jewish wedding, including a Chupah and a Kesubah. Her husband even wore a Kipa under the Chupah. And the media was all over this fawning over it like it was a royal marriage. As Ms. Horowitz points out:

A cartoon from the October 1, 2012, issue of The New Yorker depicted a couple and a wedding planner with the following caption: “No, we’re not Jewish. But we think it would be fun for our reception’s theme to be ‘A Jewish wedding.’”

So is R’ Shneur Zalman right? Should we be praying for a government that will oppress us? Is oppression the only thing that will keep us Jewish? Apparently that is what the Baal HaTanya believed. The Judaism of his generation was apparently very shallow. A Jew would not remain a Jew if given the chance – and the anti Semitic Czar would never give a Jew that chance.

He preferred persecuting us. And Jews remained Jewish and for the most part observant. Why observant? The communities were tight knit and going OTD meant being ostracized. Which of course meant that an OTD Jew would have no place to go since he was still a Jew and not accepted by Russian gentiles. He was worthy only of persecution.

What a sad commentary on Judaism if the best way to keep Jews observant is by keeping them oppressed. This is what R’ Shneur Zalmen wanted and it is why (I am told) he supported the Czar.

But I have to disagree with him and the entire premise of blaming freedom for the masses going OTD. It isn’t the fault freedom. It’s the fault of lack of a proper religious Jewish education. The vast majority o those of us who were properly educated are today observant… in an era of complete freedom and total acceptance by general society.

As Noah Feldman’s article in Bloomberg  pointed out, one need only look at Lakewood to see just how well religiously educated Jews are doing. Their growth has been exponential over the last couple of generations. That Noah Feldman  – a once Orthodox but now assimilated Jew who married out pointed this out – does not detract from the reality of what he said. (Ironically he was given a religious Jewish education. But he is the exception that proves the rule. Unfortunately there are a lot of exceptions. The reason for that is beyond the scope of this post.)

So there you have it. The real fault of why the vast majority of Jews in this country are not observant lies mostly with the lack of any significant religious education for the masses of Jews who immigrated here in the early 20th century. Jewish education was practically non-existent then. Coupled with the melting pot climate of assimilation and the requirement to work on Shabbos in order to keep your job…  the children of these immigrants ran away from observance in droves. They wanted to be Americans. Not Jews. Those 90 percent of Jews who are today are not observant are their offspring. Through no fault of their own – being completely bereft of any Jewish education – they do not know the definition of Judaism and see no value in it. As can be seen from the Pew study.

The good news is that many of these Jews do not have the biases of their parents or grandparents. Their parents and grandparents hated the burdens of being observant and ran away from observance. Their children don’t know enough about it to hate it. Of course this is not true in all cases. Many of these young people do not want to give up the freedom that non observance affords them. But a surprising number of them do.  That’s where organizations like NCSY comes in.

So, all is not lost. The lesson we should take from all of this is that we should appreciate and even cherish the freedom this great country of ours affords us. And  that oppression is not the way to keep Jews in the fold.  Being Jewish because circumstances force you to be is not a prescription for Jewish continuity. Education is. And that is the secret of Orthodox success in this – the free’est country in the world.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah .

School Starts in Israel

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

Millions of adults in Israel are unusually happy today as 2,129,562 children return to school for the start of the school year.

1,700,535 children will be going to grade school, and another 429,177 will be going to nurseries and kindergartens.

A whopping 148,774 children will be starting first grade.

The breakdown of students in each of the major, recognized school system streams is as follows:

Public School:   678,161

Religous Public School:  217,137

Private School:  248,364

Talmud Torah:  50,470

Non-Jewish Schools:  437,503

There are 4,561 schools with  62,962 classrooms, and approximately 15,000 kindergartens/nursery schools in Israel.

For many Haredim (Ultra-Orthodox), the school year started 3 weeks ago, on Rosh Chodesh Elul. It’s estimated that Haredi students make up approximately 30% of the students in Israel.

More statistics can be found on the Ministry of Education’s website.

As one parent told this reporter this morning, “We’re meeting in the park at 10 to throw a party”.

I’ll be there.

A Step in the Right Direction

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

It’s like being a little bit pregnant. There is no such thing. Either you’re pregnant or you’re not.  Just because you are not showing yet, doesn’t mean you are not going to go full term and have a baby.

According to an article in the Jewish Press – it seems the Charedi wall of opposition to implementing a core curriculum of Limudei Chol (secular studies) into their schools has been breached by its Chasidic faction. Chidushei HaRim, a Yeshiva operated by Ger, has agreed to implement a full curriculum of Limudei Chol into its high school. Thus qualifying it for full government funding on par with government schools. The same thing is true about another school, Nadvorna, located in a city that one can say without fear of contradiction is the epicenter of the Charedi world, Bnei Brak.

Bnei Brak is the home of several Charedi rabbinic leaders, including Rav Aharon Leib Steinman. He is quoted in this article as being in the forefront of opposition to implementing any secular studies at all. He is dedicated to the current and decades long paradigm of pure Torah study to the exclusion of all else.  He believes it should remain intact without the ‘contamination’ of secular subjects.

I understand the mentality. But as I have said repeatedly here (far too many times to count) a policy of universal rejection of secular subjects in all of its schools is harmful to the material welfare of its people. Which in turn can easily make it harmful to its spiritual welfare.  While the claim is constantly made by their rabbinic leadership, their politicians, and their media – that a core secular curriculum would destroy the Torah world – the fact that the virtually all American Charedi schools have one gives lie to that rhetoric.

As I have also said so many times, it should be obvious to anyone with eyes that will see and ears that will hear that the Israeli government is not Czarist Russia. They do not want to destroy Judaism, Not even Charedi Judaism. They are doing the opposite. They are trying to save it. They are helping it survive into the future by creating a mechanism via education to better itself materially and thus spiritually. The Mishnaic dictum of Ein Kemech Ein Torah is alive and well in Charedi circles as the oppressive poverty one often finds there is the cause of tremendous Shalom Bayis and OTD issues. You’re not going to get much spirituality under conditions like these.

Although it is often posited by the right that the harsh poverty conditions under which the Israeli Charedim live is voluntary in service of God in its purest form, Limud HaTorah, (I’m sure that’s true in many cases) there are plenty  of families that are being crushed by it!

But now it seems that at least the Chasidim who attend these two high schools will have a shot at living close to normal middle class Chasidic lives via the preparation they will get in those schools.

Have these schools now capitulated to the devil? Would Rav Steinman feel the battle for authentic Judaism has been lost? I hope not. I hope that this venerable sage will adapt to the new reality and realize that it is not Shmad – but a simple adjustment in their lives for the better. Hopefully he will adapt and then advocate a Limudei Chol curriculum in consonance with Charedi values. Similar to the Charedi high schools in America.

The moderate Charedi world that I often talk about as the future of mainstream American Orthodoxy – is a beneficiary of such a high school curriculum. It has enabled many of them to have the educational tools needed to eventually attend professional schools and training programs. And then get decent jobs as lawyers and accountants; doctors and dentists; or becomes skilled technicians in any given field. And yet they all remain true to their Charedi principles – many of them having learned in Kollel for many years before turning to their professions, trades, and careers.

On the one hand I am a bit surprised that it is the Chasdim who have capitulated first here. They are the most insulated segment of Orthodox Jewry. Higher education is anathema to them in most cases (There are occasional  exceptions.) So that their entry into the workforce is done at a mostly uneducated and unskilled level.

On the other hand, unlike their Lithuanian influenced Yeshivishe counterparts Chasidim are not urged en masse to learn in  Yeshivos and Kollelim for as long as possible. Although they too have Kollelim – the time spent there is limited. Most young Chasidim are encouraged to eventually go to work and support their families. Although Chasdim are some of the poorest Jews in all of Orthodoxy, that’s mostly because their leaders eschew higher education. In Israel it would take a tremendous act of rebellion, and willingness to overcome their grossly deficient education in Limudei Chol to succeed at the training required for better jobs.

But now – in at least for the graduates of these two schools – that will no longer be the case. Even though I’m sure that higher education will still be discouraged or even banned – it may eventually be honored more in the breach than in adherence.  That will produce a two-fold benefit. It will enable better incomes. And it will also break the isolation they live in which in my opinion is one of the biggest problems they have. Isolation breeds the uncivilized behavior that some of them are guilty of when they protest things they don’t like. I suppose there will still be a small core of uncivilized extremists. But the sympathy and quiet support they get from the rest of their populace will surely fade by the greater exposure to the outside world.

So now that the wall of opposition has been broken. So too has the ice been broken. I’m sure there will be plenty of public outrage and opposition to these two schools by Charedi rabbinic leaders, politicians and media. But hopefully these schools will not be deterred.

If they succeed at overcoming that pressure, it won’t be long before other schools follow suit. They will surely see the full funding those thriving schools get from the government – while their schools starve and start closing doors. That will have an impact. Decisions will have to be made between closing down and introducing a core curriculum. When that finally happens and Charedim start bettering their lives, they can turn to Yair Lapid and his two Charedi members of his party, Rabbis Shai Piron and Dov Lipman and say thank you! Because Hakaras HaTov will surely be in order.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah .

Yesh Atid, Revise Your Platform

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

In a recent account of his first Knesset term, Dov Lipman writes that “Yesh Atid Education Minister Rabbi Shai Piron is hard at work making major changes to improve the education system.” I wonder what values he brings to that project since Piron and other Yesh Atid cabinet members gave key votes to free 104 terrorists .

Looking at Yesh Atid’s statement of beliefs , one finds several sections that need to be revised and clarified given its role as a liberator of murderous Jew haters. Below are some examples with proposed revisions in italics:

“We believe that every person in Israel must have their fundamental rights met…”

Not applicable to terror victims and their families’ fundamental right to justice.

“We believe it is the duty of the state to care for the health of its citizens.”

Not applicable to health damage inflicted upon bereaved families by freeing their relatives’ murderers—depression, loss of sleep , etc.

“We believe in a unified society and the principle which says ‘all Jews are responsible for one another.’ ”

Not applicable to terror victims and their families.

“We believe that it is the state’s responsibility to ensure the safety of its citizens.”

Not applicable to incentivizing terrorism by freeing murderers.

“We believe that it is the duty of the state to care for all its seniors to enable them to live with dignity and enjoy their retirement years without worry or distress. These words are particularly focused on Holocaust survivors who live among us.”

Not applicable to the dignity of murdered Holocaust survivors and their families.

 

Vatican: Papal Visit to Show IDF ‘Imprisoning’ Christian Population

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

Fr. Peter Vasko, President of the Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land (FFHL), heralded Pope Francis’ announcement that he may visit the Holy Land next year as an opportunity for the “whole world to see the plight of Christians in the area.

Vasko said the pontiff’s presence would also “shine a light on the dwindling Christian population in the Holy Land, and hopefully help ease living conditions in the area.” Christians, once a majority in the area, have diminished to less than two percent of the population as restrictions on travel, education and work have increased.

In Palestinian controlled areas, including Bethlehem, what remains of the Arab Christians population are virtual prisoners in their own homes. At the same time, Israeli controlled areas are the only places in the entire Middle East where the Christian population has been rising.

Pope Francis said the visit – his first as head of the Church – would mark the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s trip to Jerusalem in 1964. The announcement came on the heels of Israeli President Shimon Peres’ recent visit to the Vatican. During that visit, Peres urged the pope to come to Israel, adding, “The sooner you visit the better, as a new opportunity is being created for peace, and your arrival could contribute significantly to increasing the trust and belief in peace.”

Peres added, “I turn to you and ask that within your sermons in front of millions of believers in the world you include the hope for peace in the Middle East and the whole world.”

Vasko said the Vatican has long supported FFHL programs, which provide education, housing and work opportunities for thousands of Palestinian Christians. Both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI visited Israel during their tenures.

Pope Francis accepted Peres’ invitation, but no date has been set for the trip.

Census Debunks Arab Demographic Threat

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

Jewish and Arab birth rates indicate that the percentage of school children in the Israeli educational system who are Jewish will grow by 2019 while the percentage of Arabs will decline.

The Central Bureau of Statistics reported Tuesday that the Jewish percentage will rise by one percentage point, from 73 to 74 percent, and the Arab percentage will decline by a point, from 27 to 26 percent.

Previous warnings of a growing Arab population were based on birth rates that no longer are valid. The latest statistics show that there will be 12 percent more children in the Hebrew education system by 2019 but only 10 percent more in the Arab system.

One reason for the decrease in the Arab birth rate might be due to Arab families enjoying a higher quality of life and becoming part of the “middle class” that usually is accompanied by smaller families. The change also indicates that Arabs in Israel do not share the ideology of the Bedouin and fundamentalist Muslim communities that promote larger families as part of the “resistance” movement to eliminate a Jewish majority in Israel.

However, birth rates among Haredi and modern orthodox Jews remain high, one of the reasons that the supposed Arab demographic threat in Judea and Samaria also is exaggerated.

The estimated number of school children also indicates that the Haredi birth rate has declined but still is far higher than in other Jewish sectors in Israel. The annual growth rate in the Haredi primary educations schools is expected to drop from 4.7 percent, for the period from 2001 until 2012, to 3.6 percent by 2019. The rate in the secondary school system is forecast to drop by nearly 50 percent, from 4 percent to 2.3 percent.

The growth rate in state secular and religious schools will increase, but only to 1.43 percent in the primary school system, according to the Bureau of Statistics.

Children in Haredi schools will comprise 31 percent of the total primary school population by 2019, 50 percent more than the 21 percent recorded in the past 11-year period.

When the Education Minister Misplaced Hebron

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

Most people don’t realize how close we were to losing Kever Rachel (Rachel’s Tomb) in Bethlehem during Oslo.

Not understanding the historical and religious significance of this holy site, and according to some, not knowing about it at all, Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin had originally included the Tomb site in Area A, the section of the Land of Israel that was to be handed over to the Arabs.

Only heartfelt pleas by MKs Chanan Porat (Mafdal) and Menachem Porush (UTJ) succeeded, at the last minute, to rescue our matriarch’s resting place from falling into Arab hands, and likely, the same despicable desecration and destruction that befell Joseph’s tomb in Shechem (Nablus) after the Arabs had received control of that site.

In 1997, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave away 80 percent of the city of Hebron to the Arabs as part of the Wye River Agreement. Today, 97 percent of Hebron is off-limit to Jews. Even now the occasional call can still be heard to expel the Jews from the remaining 3 percent of Hebron, so it would all be handed over to the Arabs.

In 2005, 10,000 Jews were expelled from Gush Katif and northern Shomron.

A common refrain heard from soldiers, police and even the moving people who were evacuating Gush Katif residents was how “normal” the towns of Gush Katif appeared, because they had expected them to be desolate caravans and outposts in the desert.The average Israeli had no idea just how beautiful and robust those places were, and how much they were like every other town in Israel.

In today’s news, the EU is trying to force Israel to divide our land nearly in half using economic threats, and, much like in the case of Gush Katif, only relatively few Israelis know what a magnificent urban sprawl of Jewish life has risen there.

In March 2011, Education Minister Gidon Sa’ar (Likud) introduced a pilot project requiring that, along with a requisite visit to Jerusalem, every student, at least once between the first and twelfth grades, would visit Hebron, the city purchased at full price from the gentiles by Abraham, where our patriarchs and matriarchs are buried.

There was the typical outcry from the radical left, but Sa’ar went ahead with the pilot, and religious and not religious students began to visit Hebron, many for the first time in their lives.

The trips were not used for “indoctrination”, nor for “whitewashing” history. Students were encouraged to have open discussions on the history and politics surrounding the city. Two thousand students have participated in the program to date.

The Hebron pilot was successful and set to expand, and its significance cannot be overstated.

We’ve already seen that it’s easy to throw away or ignore the loss of Kever Rachel, Hebron, and Gush Katif, when you’ve never been there. Too many of our students have a difficulty explaining why they live in Israel and why they aren’t “occupiers”.

But when a student learns in school about his ancestors and his shared history, and then visits the site he has just learned about and discovers that it’s just a short bus ride away from his home, it’s no longer just a textbook fact to be forgotten after the test, it’s a reality that can’t be discarded or ignored.

What Gidon Sa’ar accomplished, and was set to accomplish was astounding.

But what Gidon Sa’ar began to build, the new Education Minister who replaced him, Shai Piron (Yesh Atid), managed to destroy effortlessly.

Upon entering office, Minister Shai Piron introduced a new program, where Hebron is just one of a group of possible sites schools may visit. Other sites, that Piron equated in importance to Hebron, are development towns in the Negev, the Jordan Valley, and “other sites of importance”.

In short, Piron took a unique educational moment, and filed it under “irrelevant.”

I call on Minister Piron to reinstate the program for mandatory visits to Hebron for every school. The importance of this trip, connecting Jewish students to their history, to the birthplace of Jewish civilization, to understanding why they are in Israel, is as important for their education as it is for this country’s future.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/education-minister-stops-a-program-connecting-youths-to-their-past-and-future/2013/07/16/

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