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March 26, 2015 / 6 Nisan, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘education’

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.

Alvin Schiff, Jewish Education Pioneer, Dies

Monday, July 8th, 2013

Alvin Schiff, a pioneer in Jewish education and a prolific author, died of unknown causes, Yeshiva University announced Monday. He was in his mid-80s.

He established and directed the Graduate School of Jewish Education at YU in 1959, before it was later renamed the Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration.

Schiff authored more than a dozen books, as well as several hundred articles and research papers on the status of Jewish education.

He was a founder of such Jewish education projects as March of the Living, along with the New York parade for Israel now known as Celebrate Israel.

Herbert Dobrinsky, vice president of Yeshiva University affairs and a former student of Schiff, told JTA, ”I can’t say he was the greatest educator in the world, but he came close to it.”

Schiff received his bachelor’s degree from Yeshiva College and his doctorate from YU’s Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology, as well as an honorary degree from YU in 1977.

Yair Lapid Sets Aside Money for Ariel University

Sunday, May 26th, 2013

Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid will grant nearly $14 million in aid to Ariel University.

The money, which was pledged by the previous finance minister, Yuval Steinitz, will be transferred in two stages, Haaretz reported Sunday.

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein earlier this year blocked the transfer of the money, which had been approved during the election campaign.

About 40 percent of the money will be transferred in August following passage of the new budget, according to the newspaper, and the rest after the start of 2014.

Ariel University Center was recognized by Israel’s Cabinet as an accredited university in September 2012 when it became Israel’s eighth university.

In July, the Ariel center was recognized as a full university by the Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria, which was established in 1997 after the Council for Higher Education refused to discuss academic issues concerning Judea and Samaria.

The Judea and Samaria council’s 11-2 vote came despite a recommendation against approval by the planning and budget committee of the Council for Higher Education, as well as opposition from the country’s other seven universities and public figures who objected to upgrading a college in Judea and Samaria.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/yair-lapid-sets-aside-money-for-ariel-university/2013/05/26/

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