Posts Tagged ‘education’
I recently had the unfortunate experience of listening to Ner Israel Rabbinical College dean Rav Aharon Feldman’s condemnation of Rabbi Dov Lipman. Rabbi Lipman received his rabbinic ordination from Ner Israel in Baltimore, the Yeshiva which R’ Feldman now heads.
I was terribly pained by what I heard since I consider Rabbi Lipman a courageous man – a hero who as a self described Haredi – nevertheless stood up for a little girl from a Dati Leumi/Religious Zionist family in Israel that was spat upon and called a whore by extremist Meah Shearim type residents of Beit Shemesh.
This did not go unnoticed by the media – and more importantly by an upstart politician by the name of Yair Lapid. He asked Rabbi Lipman to join his newly formed party, Yesh Atid. Rabbi Lipman accepted. He is now a member of the Israeli Knesset.
What is Rabbi Lipman’s sin? It is his position on limudei hol (secular studies) for Haredim. He said in an interview that if it were up to him, he would close down any Haredi school that does not offer a basic core curriculum of secular studies.* [It turns out he only said the government should not fund such schools, not necessarily close them down, see below -.ed]
If one listens to Rav Feldman’s recorded words (available below) one can hear the pain in his voice. I can understand why someone so married to the system of Haredi education in Israel might feel pain about this. Many Haredim do not believe in providing secular education of any kind in their schools for their male students beyond 8th grade. Even in elementary schools the only secular education students get is basic arithmetic and Hebrew grammar.
What I do not understand is the harshness of his condemnation. Disagreement? Yes. But condemnation??!
It isn’t only that he was condemned. The words used by R’ Feldman are among the most hurtful a religious Jew educated in a yeshiva could hear. He called Rabbi Lipman a “shana u’porush”! This epithet is usually reserved for people who have learned Torah, understand it, but nevertheless reject its teachings. He also called him a “rasha,” a word usually reserved for people who try to destroy Judaism. As in Haman HaRasha in the Book of Esther.
Coming from a man who heads a Yeshiva that facilitates their students to go to college while attending their school – it is a bit surprising to hear this. But not entirely.
A few years ago, I think it was at a Torah U’Mesorah convention, Rav Feldman was challenged to defend his Yeshiva’s policy of having a secular studies program and having all kinds of relationships with local universities so that Ner Israel students can attend them and get legitimate degrees efficiently.
Rav Feldman defended his yeshiva. But in the process he lamented the fact that Yeshivos in the United States do not have a track that allows exceptional students to skip all secular studies. He pointed to his own grandson in Israel who in high school mastered all of the tosophos (one of the commentaries) in meseches kesuvos (a tractate of talmud) learning them by heart at age 16. He ended by claiming it is therefore unlikely for America to produce someone like his grandson in high school.
Rav Feldman had made Aliyah many years ago and his years in Israel surely influenced him. He has obviously adopted the Israeli Haredi paradigm of high school education as the optimum one. This – even though he presides over a Yeshiva with a reputation of excellence in secular studies, and the fact that he was himself an exceptional student of limudei hol growing up in Baltimore. (I wonder if he now regrets the time ‘wasted’ on limudei hol? I doubt it).
To his credit, Telshe Rosh HaYeshiva, Rav A.C. Levine, responded to him and stood up for secular studies in high school. Telshe, he said, has always had a policy of including secular studies all the way back to its founding in Europe. He then challenged anyone to say that his bachurim (boys) in Telshe were any less talmidei hachamim (Torah scholars) because they studied limudei hol in high school.
I doubt that R’ Feldman would call R’ Levine a “shana u’porush” or “rasha” even though his yeshiva, Telshe, is exactly the paradigm Rabbi Lipman has called for in Israel. This is something I have called for too. (I guess that makes me a rasha too.)
That said, I would not close down yeshivos if they did not offer any secular studies. But I would not necessarily fund them with taxpayer money either. The point is that not only is Rabbi Lipman not a shana u’porush and rasha, he is a man who is consistent in his views that the Haredi educational paradigm must change for the good of the country and the good of the Haredi world in Israel.
Rabbi Lipman is l’shma (he has no ulterior motives). There is no doubt about that in my mind. This is a man of character who is now being vilified for his beliefs. Beliefs based on the very same Torah R’ Feldman believes in. Rabbi Lipman does not want to destroy the Torah community. He wants to save it! Does he deserve to be called a Rasha for that – even if Rav Feldman believes he is wrong? It continues to be difficult for me to understand the level of animosity toward those who suggest even the slightest implementation of secular studies into the Haredi school curriculum.
As if to add insult to injury, the American Agudah has called for a day of prayer – protesting any change in the curriculum of the Haredi schools in Israel; and protesting the proposed budget cuts to the Haredi world. The American Agudah is comprised of many Roshei Yeshiva that have the very same curricula that they protest being added to Haredi schools in Israel!
I can understand that they sympathize with Israeli rabbinic leadership on this issue – even if they do not abide by that standard for themselves. But to pray that their own educational system not be implemented is praying against something they believe in! Would not Rav A.C. Levin not make the same argument for students in Israel that he made for his own students?
One might answer that Israel has its own standards and that asking them to reduce the time they spend on limudei kodesh (holy studies) is ultimately wrong in a world where ‘Torah Only’ is touted as the best way for a Jew to live. As legitimate as limudei chol is, it should never replace Torah study already in place. But if that is true, then Telshe should have as its goal to eventually wean their students entirely off any secular subjects. I do not think that is going to happen.
Rav Feldman says that Rabbi Lipman’s claim that he learned his hashkafos (outlook) in Ner Yisroel from the Rosh HaYeshiva, Rav Yaakov Weinberg – is false. That R’ Weinberg would have never approved of someone threatening to close down a Haredi school in Israel. I’m sure that’s true. But I also doubt that R’ Feldman’s hashkafos are the same as R’ Weinberg’s.
That Rabbi Lipman advocated not funding certain schools* is just an extension of beliefs learned in a Yeshiva that values secular education. He did not depart from the Torah’s ways and he is not a rasha for trying to implement educational policies based on his hashkafos. I only wish Rav Feldman would recognize that.
Click here for download of audio (From Matzav – approximately 4 minutes)
The trial of Yosef Kolko is about to begin. Rabbi Kolko has been accused of child molestation. According to Rabbi Daniel Eidensohn, “Kolko has already confessed to the social worker who will be required to testify.” The social worker was hired at the behest of the Lakewood rabbis investigating the charges. This fellow allegedly committed sex crimes multiple times on a young boy in his charge while in a religious summer camp.
Rabbi Kolko has plead not guilty. Not sure how he can do that now if a social worker will indeed testify in court that he admitted the abuse actually took place. Rabbi Kolko faces up to 60 years in prison if found guilty.
Lakewood’s rabbinic leadership has responded to this by coming out full force in defense of Rabbi Kolko – insisting on his innocence and claiming to have proof that he did not do this. They have made all kinds of threats to his accuser using the Shulchan Aruch’s language about mesirah (informing) as a hammer. Language that says that informing on a fellow Jew to secular authorities means losing your chelek in olam habah – your place in the world to come! (Although many Poskim say that Mesirah does not apply in a country like ours that has a fair system of justice.)
They have enlisted the aid of two rabbinic figures of great stature – one in Israel and one here – to weigh in on this matter. Based on what these leaders were told, they have come out with very harsh condemnations of the victim’s father… claiming that he violated Halachah by not dealing with this “in-house.” They said he should have gone to a beis din (religious court). They are the ones who are equipped to handle these things Halachicly.
It’s nice that these rabbinic leaders have so much compassion for the accused. But what about the victim? And how have they expressed their compassion to his father- the accuser?
The victim’s his father is not your average ba’al habos. I don’t know his identity. But I am told by people who do, that if his identity were made known to me, I would recognize the name since he is originally from Chicago.
According to my sources the father is a major talmid hacham (Torah scholar)who until this happened was a respected figure in the Lakewood community. No one can say that he has no ne’emanus (faith) and dismiss the case out of hand. He has also secured the support of another posek (jurist of Jewish law) outside of the Lakewood community that has much respect in the Haredi world. It is also not clear to me whether he did not attempt to go to a beis din first. There are conflicting stories about that depending on which source you believe.
It is particularly galling to me is how this has been handled. Everything I have read about it tells me that Lakewood’s rabbinic establishment has no concern for the victim at all. And that they do not believe him or his father. They are concerned only for the welfare of the accused. The war waged against the victim’s father is relentless and harsh. Here is just one example written in a letter written by a prominent Rav which has been made public:
After conducting a thorough investigation I am absolutely certain that R’ Y.K.[Yosef Kolko],may his light shine, is perfectly innocent of any wrongdoing of any nature whatsoever. And not only is he innocent but it is also as clear to me that all these allegations are fabrications made by [REDACTED].
Further, all the reports made to the secular authorities were only for the express purpose of casting blame for their[the victim's family] own shameful and cursed existence on others. And the truth is that the allegations they make against others are crimes they themselves are in fact guilty of and they seek to cleanse their reputation by blaming an innocent man for their own deeds.
There have been equally harsh words published by anonymous “askanim” (dealers) in Lakewood along these lines. Not to mention the letter from a respected rabbinic leader in Israel saying that what the accuser was doing is forbidden by Torah law and that he should bring the matter first to a religious court.
יַעַר גֶּשֶׁם A rainforest is a place of astounding beauty and biodiversity. Rainforests are also responsible for 28% of the world’s oxygen, according to Wikipedia.
An example in context:
“לִפְעָמִים קוֹרְאִים לְיַעֲרוֹת הַגֶּשֵׁם “הָרֵאוֹת שֶׁל הָעוֹלָם
The rainforests are sometimes called “the lungs of the earth.”
Visit Ktzat Ivrit.
A report from The Tower replicates a tweet, including a photo, from the Twitter account of the English-speaking wing of the Hamas terrorist organization. Published Thursday, it shows children, presumably photographed somewhere inside darkest Hamas-controlled Gaza, role-playing a funeral. The proud message: children in the society we are creating here love death; they even incorporate funerals of children into their play.
Powerful forces at work inside Palestinian Arab society, largely ignored by observers in the West, have created a culture that grotesquely encourages children to embrace death as a way of advancing the political intrigues of their parents’ and grandparents’ generation. In throwing this in the faces of observers, they appear to be offering an argument that demonstrates their determination and commitment. We wrote about this topic last week.
It’s certainly a mistake to think that it’s only the Islamist ultra-extremists of Hamas that are busy promoting self-destruction among the children of Palestinian Arab society. There is abundant evidence on-line testifying to how the ‘moderate’ Palestinian Authority regime of Mahmoud Abbas has done the same for years. (See for instance, out post here). It’s further proof of how Abbas and his circle of despots are fully engaged in creating the conditions by which a young generation will grow to become, in their words, fertilizer and dirt. That, incredibly, is the vision they and Hamas have marketed with distinction to their people. Child abuse more shocking and large-scale than this is hard to imagine.
The unabashed adoption of death-cult values is one of the factors behind the appalling statistics buried inside this past week’s monumental Pew Research Center global survey of Muslims. Based on 38,000 face-to-face interviews in 80-plus languages with Muslims across Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa, it provides some startling insights.
Globally, most Moslims reject suicide bombing and other attacks against civilians. But the country-by-country numbers reveal sizable minority views. Around 10% of U.S. Muslims now believe suicide bombing or violence against civilians in the name of Islam are “often justified”; a further 7% say it is “sometimes justified to defend Islam” [source]. Fifteen percent of Jordanians and of Turks see such attacks against civilians as a legitimate means of “defending Islam against its enemies.” This violent minority accounts for 26% of people in Bangladesh and 29% in Egypt.
Top of the list as the most enthusiastic proponents of killing those whom they see as enemies of their religion: Palestinian Arabs, 40% of whom are pro-suicide bombing. Fleshing the picture out a little, eighty nine percent of Palestinian Muslims favor the idea that women must always “obey” their husband, and want the imposition of Sharia law in their society.
It’s hard to argue that the strategy of the P.A. and the Hamas is not working.
Many civilized people looking on with rising horror from the outside, are asking themselves how much longer the world can tolerate the participation of child-abuse-friendly political figures in respectable multilateral discussions.
Visit This Ongoing War.
As Jews, we assume a myriad of financial obligations in order to ensure that we live in accordance with the tenets of our faith. We give generously to our shuls and make charitable donations to various organizations that service the Jewish community. But one of the biggest investments we make is in our children’s future, as we enroll them in one of the many quality yeshivas our community boasts.
It is no secret that the cost of yeshiva tuition is of great concern to numerous parents in our community. Often the subject of conversation at Shabbos tables, it is always on the minds of every family with children in yeshiva.
There have been extensive discussions and debates over the years about finding ways to alleviate the financial burden borne by tuition-paying parents. Much of the conversation has focused on the role of government in the business of educating our children. It is an age-old question: Should the government play a part in assisting parents of private and religious school students? More important, is the government permitted to do so?
It is not every day that a courthouse in Middle America takes center stage in the school choice movement. But on March 26, the justices of the Indiana Supreme Court unanimously upheld the state’s progressive voucher program.
The court’s decision rebuffed a 2011 challenge to Indiana’s voucher program brought by the Indiana State Teachers Association. In the court’s decision, Chief Justice Brent Dickson wrote that the voucher program did not violate the constitution because the state monies “do not directly benefit religious schools but rather directly benefit lower-income families with school children.”
This was a monumental decision, in that it provided the state of Indiana with the legal justification necessary to continue its voucher program – one of the most ambitious in the United States. Unlike voucher programs in other states that focus primarily on lower-income families, the Indiana program allows parents with an annual household income of up to $64,000 for a family of four to participate.
By providing lower- and middle-income families with the necessary funds to cover tuition costs, the Indiana voucher program enables them to enroll their children in private schools, as opposed to having to send them to public schools.
Since Indiana established its voucher program in 2011, approximately 9,000 families, most of which chose to educate their children in private schools, have benefited from the program.
The decision to uphold Indiana’s voucher program is somewhat consistent with the progress that recently has been made on the school choice issue across the nation. There are a number of states – including Pennsylvania, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Arizona – that either presently have or are considering the implementation of tax-credit or voucher programs that benefit parents of private school students,
Closer to home, Governor Christie has been supportive of creating a voucher program in New Jersey by allocating state funds in order to enable lower-income families to send their children to private school, if they so choose. In addition, there is a bill pending before the New Jersey State Legislature that would expand the current law in order to permit special needs students to be assigned by their respective school districts to a private religious school, such as a yeshiva.
In New York, Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature recently passed a budget that includes a $14 million increase in funding for non-public schools. That includes a more than 30 percent increase in funding for the Comprehensive Attendance Policy and a boost in state funding for the Mandated Services Reimbursement.
With momentum in the school choice arena perhaps shifting a bit in favor of private school parents, now is the time for our community to become further engaged in the process.
Let us not forget for a moment that powerful teachers’ unions, which typically oppose the utilization of any state funds that would benefit non-public schools in any way, wield a tremendous amount of power in Albany and Trenton and enjoy longstanding relationships with many New York and New Jersey state legislators. Relief for private school parents is not just going to fall into our laps. In order to bring about the aid we as private school parents need and deserve, we must stand up and make our voices heard.
My daughter Aliza had a school trip these past two days. It’s an Israeli thing – something I have always loved. They…we…take our children to the land; to see the amazing places, sites, views. This year, they took them on an overnight trip to Haifa. She came back dirty, exhausted, starving. She showed me the pictures she took – the coast of Haifa and the mountains, the flowers…
The first thing she wanted – after food – was to show me the pictures. She was so excited. She and her friends posed for each other – and, “I can totally see you in me,” she said.
It’s strange to hear a child say that – that she can see me in the pictures of her. Listening, not just to what she said, but the order in which she said them, convinced me yet again that the mind of a 13 year old is a most amazing thing.
She started with what was special to her – but, as you’ll see – pretty much the opposite of how a parent would rank the events of the trip. To her, it was about what she saw, what she did. To me, it became more of a national identity, more of an example of the politics that can affect our lives in the strangest of ways.
One day last week, I had a normal business day – telephone calls with clients, two potential new projects, firming up plans to speak at a conference in England in June (wow…okay, that’s not normal for me), two meetings, and then shopping.
Somewhere late in the day, I heard about the drone from Lebanon being shot down. It was all background noise.
Aliza came home well into the night, anxious to talk, to tell me about the last two days of her life. Her trip unfolded before me in a combination of complaint and wonder. She enjoyed the beach; hated where they slept. She liked the flowers; hated the food. She slept in a tent and she was FREEZING. And the food, back to the food.
“It was disgusting. There were ants in the bread,” she told me.
To which, her 17 year old brother responded, “That’s good, we had cockroaches.” (…which I sincerely hope is not true).
She began by telling me that the girls were given the choice of two hikes – either the “easy” one or the “hard” one. Those that took the hard one were rewarded with ices. Those that took the easy one, got to enjoy time on the beach. Aliza chose the beach (if you have time, see A Candle and a Wave).
And as she was talking, it hit – hours ago. Mid-afternoon, she was on the beach. Near Haifa…where the Israeli air force shot down a drone that they believe was launched from Lebanon, probably intending to spy on Israel or, perhaps, worse.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s helicopter was flying north when the drone was identified. The first thing the air force did as it scrambled jets to intercept the drone was to order the prime minister’s helicopter out of the skies above Israel.
And while they were doing this – my daughter was not far. It clicked as she was talking about the beach – and when it was happening, in those moments when the Israel jets were flying and my daughter was there below…I had no clue, no warning, nothing.
Her mind had moved on to the next part of her trip…mine tripped behind. “Did you hear planes?” I asked her.
“Yes,” she replied.
“Did you hear a boom?” I asked her.
“No,” she answered.
She went back to the story of the beach, how clean and beautiful it was, how nice the water felt. She was amazed by the number of shells she found on the shore and complained that they were told that the shells were part of nature and protected.
They could take rocks and pieces of broken glass that had been smoothed over time by the sand, but they could not take any shells.
She sat on thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of shells as her friends took a picture and she told me about the magnificent view from the upper hills of Haifa.
And she told me about how she walked across a bridge and how it was so scary – another picture there as well.
And then, she told me about how an Arab driver had thrown rocks at the girls and how one was hit – or her friend said she was hit. And how the girl was crying on the phone when she spoke to her parents.
“Where was your guard?” I asked her – trying to get the story without showing her that I was getting more and more upset.
“He wasn’t a guard,” she answered, “he was a madrich (counselor)” – which is fine – he was armed. On with the story, my heart begged her.
“He was in the back.”
“What good does it do if he was only in the back?” I asked her. Dumb, I thought to myself – WHY am I asking a 13-year-old where the guard should be?
“There were two of them but only the one in the back had a gun, but they stopped the driver and they were talking to him.”
“Why didn’t they call the police?” I asked her. I have to tell you, getting the story from a 13 year old can be very frustrating.
From what I gather – the guards detained the Arab who had thrown the rocks but while they waited for the police, the driver left. The guards didn’t pull their guns and threaten – but then again, they were surrounded by about 60 young girls who kept coming over to their crying friend to ask if she was okay. So, all in all, their not pulling out their guns was probably a good thing. There’s no way of knowing what the Arab had done and it probably ended for the best. Though scared, Aliza’s classmate was not hurt – and yes, what about the next time? I don’t have an answer for that one.
The police did come and speak to the girls – no idea how the story ended other than that everyone is fine; Aliza is home safe, tired, dirty (taking a shower now) and looking forward to a LONG night of sleep.
It’s a funny thing to send your child on a school trip – what can happen right? You worry about them being cold or hungry. You worry about them not sleeping enough or perhaps falling during the hiking. Scrambled air force jets shooting down a drone; an Arab attacking them with rocks…that doesn’t cross your mind.
Visit A Soldier’s Mother.