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July 24, 2016 / 18 Tammuz, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘education’

The Big Twelve and Jewish Education

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

{Originally posted to the author’s website, Emes Ve-Emunah}

The intractable problem of the high cost of Jewish education has once again been discussed in a major Charedi publication. This time it focused on the woefully underpaid Mechanchim. Mishpacha Magazine featured a cover story on Rabbi David Ozeri, the leader of Brooklyn’s Sephardi community. He has made it a top priority to improve the lot of these dedicated teachers.  To say that most Mechanchim currently struggle on the salaries they are paid is an understatement.

I have discussed this issue many times. The problem is that parents can barely afford to pay what they are already being asked to pay. I don’t know too many parents of a typical family size of 4 or 5 children that pay full tuition for all of their children. And I also don’t know too many Orthodox parochial schools that don’t run on deficits. Which leaves their Mechanchim out on a limb.

How can we raise their salaries to a point where they will no longer have to buy groceries on credit – not having enough money to pay for them when they are purchased? They are constantly in a state of debt to the religious grocery store owners who extend this kind of credit out of the goodness of their hearts. They too deserve to be paid what they are owed.  Not to mention the fact that often Mechanchim have to borrow money to pay for life cycle events like weddings for their children. Weddings that are generally very modest.

There are no easy answers. Traditional fund raising by these institutions have their limits. In far too many cases those efforts are maxed out and there is still a short fall at the end of the year. In the more right wings schools where family size is often substantially larger, the scholarship allowances are greater making the shortfall greater. That makes their ability to raise salaries to a livable level a near impossibility. Their parent body is already ‘taxed’ to the limit – paying as much as they possibly can in most cases.

And yet as  is quite clear now more than ever, if we want to perpetuate Orthodox Judaism well into the future, a good Jewish education is indispensable!

Everything I just said is not new. The problem seems to be unsolvable in traditional ways. We can’t expect parents to pay higher tuition from money which they do not have.  Fund raising is maxed out. And even if we could find and eliminate waste in the school budgets, I doubt that would significantly impact their bottom line.

I have in the past made some suggestions about how to remedy the situation. The most important of which has as of yet not been implemented. The fact is that the Orthodox Jewish world has enough money to fund Jewish education.  The money is there.

One of the eye opening comments made in the Mishpacha article was a statistic quoted by one of Rabbi Ozeri’s wealthy donors. He made the astonishing claim that there are 12 billionaires in the Torah world. If this is true, then my proposal that they take ‘the pledge’ would solve the problem.

By coincidence 60 Minutes re-broadcast a story yesterday about ‘The Giving Pledge’(see below). Billionaires Bill and Melinda Gates, and Warren Buffet have started a very exclusive club where they and fellow billionaires pledge to give away at least half of their wealth to the charities of their choice. If there is one ‘charity’ that is vital to the future of Judaism, it is Jewish education. Imagine if these 12 billionaires took the pledge and chose Jewish education as their philanthropic recipients. Imagine funding a super endowment fund with 6 billion dollars designed specifically to supplement the budgets of all parochial elementary and high schools. That would generate who knows how many millions of dollars per year that would go directly to Jewish education.

One might ask whether it’s fair to ask anyone to give away half their wealth to a single charity. I think it’s fair if we are talking billionaires. I don’t see a problem living off the remaining 500 million. I could live on half that. What about other legitimate charities? I think there might be room for additional contributions from the remaining 500 million.

The Jewish people have inherited the trait of Chesed form our patriarch Abraham. But it appears that the non Jewish world has a head start on us. If it is true that there are 12 billionaires in Orthodoxy there is not a doubt in my mind  that they should do this. I don’t see how a Torah oriented billionaire could refuse to do it. They know the value and importance of Jewish education. And they must also know about the economics of it. Of what value is that money if it just sits in their bank accounts?

And this hasn’t even touched the multi-millionaires that could donate millions of their own wealth to such a fund without breaking a sweat.

So here is my message to any Orthodox billionaires and multi-millionaires that may be reading this post:  You have the ability. There is no reason not to do this. It will advance the cause of Jewish education to unprecedented levels; raise the pay-scale for these devoted Mechanchim; help attract top teachers in the future; and take the enormous pressure off  parents struggling to pay their tuition bills. Come on guys. Just do it!

Harry Maryles

#TechnionChallenge Winners Announcement with Jewish Day School Student Reactions

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

In 2016, RAVSAK and the Technion challenged Jewish Day School students around the world to create a Rube Goldberg machine that tells the story of Passover.

Here is the video announcement of the four winning schools and the students’ reactions.

In the closely contested High School category, first place went to the team from Abraham Joshua Heschel High School, in New York City. The judges cited their use of successful energy transfer elements and high creativity level as main reasons for their selection. Second place went to The Weber School in Atlanta, whose entry showed a true understanding for the mechanics involved to create a visually stunning display.

There was a tie for first place in the Middle School category. The entry from the 7th grade team from Bialik College, in Melbourne, Australia, was well-thought out, with many different types of energy transfers – some of which were very unusual for Rube Goldberg machines. The submission of the 6th grade team from Scheck Hillel Community School (North Miami Beach, Florida) was lauded for its creativity, and for energy transfer aspects that were executed properly and efficiently.

Video of the Day

The Essentials In Education

Monday, April 25th, 2016

Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb nail. – Henry D. Thoreau

 

Henry Thoreau, the nineteenth century American author, philosopher, and naturalist, was responding to the “speed of modern day” when he argued for simplicity. That speed has certainly gotten faster in the last one hundred and fifty years, and Thoreau’s argument for simplicity is still a good one! In fact, bestselling author Mike Schmoker makes the case in his book Focus: Elevating the Essentials to Radically Improve Student Learning. Schmoker says it is quite simple to get exactly what we want and what students need. We just need to go back to the essentials:

“If we choose to take just a few well-known, straightforward actions in every subject area, we can make swift, dramatic improvements in schools. Some believe we could virtually eliminate the achievement gap within a few years…”

But the price for such swift improvement is steep: Most schools would have to stop doing almost everything they now do in the name of school improvement. Instead, they would have to focus only on implementing “what is essential.” Hardest of all, they would have to “ignore the rest”… the fads, programs, and innovations that now prevent us from ensuring that every student in every school receives a quality education.

Schmoker goes on to explain what is essential for schools. He identifies three simple things:

Reasonably coherent curriculum (what we teach)

Sound lessons (how we teach)

More purposeful reading and writing in every discipline, or authentic literacy (integral to both what and how we teach).

While these three categories of educational reform are arguably simple, it is also important that everyone understands exactly what they mean in order to begin the improvement process together:

            What we Teach. There are many curricula focused on different skills and content. Schmoker explains that what we teach needs to be tied to authentic literacy. In other words, we need to have students reading, writing, and talking about the essential information in each subject. He says that too many students leave school without the skills they will need for the twenty-first century. They need to be able to “read, write, cipher… think and solve problems… draw upon a rich vocabulary based on a deep understanding of language and the human condition.” This means that students should engage in the material in sufficient intellectual depth, and should not be excessively tied to the “standards.” In fact, Schmoker claims that the standards detract from real learning. Working with curricula that truly allow students to read, write, and talk about the essential content will prepare students for college, careers, and productive citizenship.

            How we Teach. In 2007, a study reported that teachers are the most important school factor in how much children learn. Effectively teaching is not a mysterious process. In fact, it consists of just a few teaching practices that are not at all new. They are:

Clear objectives (or goals). These goals are established by the teacher and stated to the students

Teaching, modeling, and demonstrating. Students can get a sense of how to do the skills through the teachers’ words and actions.

Guided practice. Students have an opportunity to try their own hand at the activity.

Checks for understanding. Before moving onto the next skills, teachers ensure that all students understand the lesson at hand.

            Authentic Literacy. When Schmoker talks about “authentic literacy,” he is not talking about “reading skills.” Instead, he is describing purposeful (and usually argumentative) reading, writing, and talking about a subject. That means that in math, students will read, write, and talk about square roots. The same for science and history. Often, English is the only subject that deals with “reading comprehension;” however, Schmoker points out that this is the single most important skill in the twenty-first century. And, unfortunately, it is under-taught and under-valued. Reading, writing, and talking about the subject can help with content and with thinking skills.

Rifka Schonfeld

Beis Ya’kov Girls Get Passover Gift: Multiplication Table Printed on Cleaning Rags

Thursday, April 14th, 2016

The 3rd grade students at the Beis Ya’akov school for girls in Netanya, Israel, which is part of the Independent (Haredi) school system, on Wednesday received an unusual gift from their teacher on the last day before the Passover break: cleaning rags printed with the school’s name, the multiplication table (1 through 100) and the following ditty (translated from the Hebrew, where it also rhymes):

To the bright schoolgirl,
Who scrubs and brightens with the rag in her hand,
Learn and memorize the multiplication table,
And honor your parents multiple times.

The parents of said schoolgirls told Yedioth Aharonoth the gift is offensive to the girls as well as to their families. They said the message that emanates from it is that “a woman is not too bright and her role is to clean the house.” One of the mothers who’s kids attend the girls’ school, said that if it turns out the rag was actually handed out by the school principal and not as a prank by one of the teachers, she would consider looking for a different school for her girls after Passover. Another mother called the incident “serious” and said “it is inconceivable that a teacher in Israel would express herself in such a way that represses the student’s self-esteem.”

The Netanya municipality issued a statement saying that since the school is part of the Independent system, it is not part of the general public school system programs. However, the city spokesperson added, “the content is entirely contrary to the values being taught by the municipal education administration, which fosters openness, achievement and innovation.”

The spokesperson announced there would be an inquiry with the Beis Ya’akov school management.

The school principal was not available to comment. However, several Haredi sources told the ultra-Orthodox Kikar Hashabbat website that the entire thing is a tempest in a teapot, and there’s no problem with schoolgirls memorizing the multiplication table while scrubbing the house for Passover. In fact, those mothers, instead of being offended, should be proud of their industrious daughters.

JNi.Media

Ariel University Wins BDS Case, Receives Compensation Payment From Spain

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016

Ariel University has received a payment of nearly $100,000 (NIS 430,000) from the government of Spain.

The payment is a compensation award by the Spanish government, paid to end a discrimination lawsuit forced on both parties by the BDS movement.

Six years ago, the Spanish government caved in to pressure from the Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) movement and refused to allow students from the university – based in Samaria – to participate in an international contest.

The competition to design “green” buildings that were environmentally friendly was to be open to students from universities around the world. The students from Ariel University designed “Abraham’s Tent” – a design that attracted great interest, and brought them into the finals.

The anti-Israel BDS boycott movement got to work making sure the students would not be allowed to take part in the competition, however, because they study in Samaria.

Upon their arrival in Spain for the finals, however, the students were stopped. They were informed by the Spanish Construction Ministry which funded the competition that they had been barred from the contest.

Ariel University petitioned the decision in Spain via a local attorney, and sued the Spanish government for compensation. The university also demanded the students be allowed to return to the competition.

As mentioned above, that was six years ago.

After a legal struggle, the Spanish government was forced to admit it had discriminated against the students and the university. It offered to settle the case for NIS 430,000; the payment was transferred recently to the university.

“The decision to compensate the university and to declare the barring of the students from the competition as ‘null and void’ is the required, ethical and legal response to this attempt to boycott Israel,” Ariel University President Yigal Cohen-Orgad told the Hebrew-language newspaper Yediot Acharonot.

“It proves that it’s possible to succeed in foiling these efforts,” he added.

Hana Levi Julian

Tel Aviv Visits Efrat

Sunday, December 27th, 2015

Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai visited the town of Efrat in Gush Etzion to observe how the town protects its educational centers and students.

Ron Huldai in Efrat classrom

Photo of the Day

Dozens of Former Hareidim Sue Israel for not Teaching Basic Skills

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015

A lawsuit by 53 young men who studied at strictly Hareidi yeshivas are suing Israel for the school system’s not having taught them basic skills that are needed to work, according to an ABC News reported filed by The Associated Press.

An organization called “Out for a Change” is behind the lawsuit that argues that the lack of skills in math, English and computers have left the plaintiffs without the basics that other Israeli students received, enabling them to progress into the job force.

The suit charges the “political pressure” has forced the government’s hand to acquiesce to Hareidi yeshivas that shun secular subjects, which Hareidi school systems teach only on a limited basis and only through seventh grade.

The former Hareidim also are asking the government to establish a fund to help men and women who leave the Hareidi world learn secular subjects from which they were barred as youth.

AP added that Hareidi activist Shmuel Poppenheim said that the lawsuit might change some attitudes in the Hareidi community.

Jewish Press Staff

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/dozens-of-former-hareidim-sue-israel-for-not-teaching-basic-skills/2015/12/22/

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