Israel’s greatest untapped source of brainpower

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28 Responses

  1. LOberstein says:

    Isn’t the desire of chareidi men to enter the job market the issue, not their brain power. Secular Israelis could gain a lot from the chareidim ,but , as long as they don’t enter the army or enter the job market, how much influence can they have?

  2. Charles B. Hall, PhD says:

    “democratic theory does not mandate government funding of private education.”

    This is indeed true, and in the United States almost no private schools receive direct public funding. (A few states have limited voucher programs, and three states in New England directly fund the entire costs of some private high schools.)

    But in most countries there is at least some public funding of schools that are not under direct government control. For example, most schools in Ireland are under religious auspices (including one Jewish school) but most costs are paid by the government. Even France, which is as militant a secular state as exists outside the US, provides some funding to religious schools, So there is nothing in democratic theory that prohibits government support.

    “Barely half of Jewish high-school students even qualify for a matriculation certificate.”

    The situation is worse in most urban public school systems in the US.

    “IN TERMS OF developing reasoning ability, nothing compares to Talmud study. ”

    This is a very strong argument for having both men and women study Talmud, as is now done in most modern Orthodox high schools in the United States, as well as at Stern College for Women and at Drisha. How common is this in Eretz Yisrael?

    “compared the results on the psychometric exam of haredi men who had no high-school education but who took a preparatory course of one year or less to the national average.”

    The populations were probably not comparable; how representative of charedi men in general are those who take the exam required for university admission?

    A major problem is that without any secular education in mathematics or science, many possible careers get closed off at an early age. I’ve seen very bright students be unable to take any advanced math or science at the college level because they had been ill-advised in high school to avoid college prep courses in those areas. Would Dr. Aumann have been able to earn a PhD at MIT and eventually win a Nobel Prize had he attended yeshiva in Israel rather than New York?

    And how amenable is the Israeli university system to late bloomers? I completed my BA at 21, but didn’t start work on my PhD until 32. And my wife graduated from medical school at age 40. Such is possible in the United States, but would Bar Ilan accept a new 30 year old candidate for a BA degree who has spent years in kollel and then a year or two in a charedi vocational program? The number of prominent rabbis with advanced secular degrees is now quite large and for many it is clear that their secular education has contributed to their Torah insights.

  3. lacosta says:

    the secular israeli society has the right to demand that the haredi community share in the economic and defense burden–and not just by davening and learning. there can be a solution to the secular education and army issues, if the kanoim would be silenced. if it was muttar at one time in the US to be haredi and secularly professional , a similar model could work in israel. of course , if the haredi community is working, they will have less time to do the kiruv work they do– and that alone might be a reason to shoot down the idea. but secular israel is tired of carrying on its back haredi neighbors who keep batting them down…..

  4. dovid says:

    Charles B. Hall, PhD: “for many it is clear that their secular education has contributed to their Torah insights.”

    Really? Could you provide some examples?

  5. Naftali Zvi says:

    the secular israeli society has the right to demand that the haredi community share in the economic and defense burden–and not just by davening and learning. there can be a solution to the secular education and army issues, if the kanoim would be silenced. if it was muttar at one time in the US to be haredi and secularly professional , a similar model could work in israel. of course , if the haredi community is working, they will have less time to do the kiruv work they do– and that alone might be a reason to shoot down the idea. but secular israel is tired of carrying on its back haredi neighbors who keep batting them down…..

    the haredi israeli society has the right to demand that the secular community share in the learning and davening burden – and not just by working and fighting. there can be a solution to the defective secular education and anti-religion issues, if the radical left would be silenced. if it was muttar at one time in the US to be pray in public school , a similar model could work in israel. of course , if the secular community is learning, there will be less need for the haredim to do the kiruv work they do– and that alone might be a reason to promote the idea. but haredi israel is tired of carrying on its back secular neighbors who keep batting them down…..

  6. Moshe says:

    Charles:

    The acceptance to Israeli Universities for the majority of subjects is based solely on the psychometric and bagrut scores. Specific programs (such as medicine) also require personal interviews. I have a friend who started the MD program (6 years) at the age of 30, and know plenty of others who start late as well. Keep in mind that most Israelis go to 3 years of army, one year touring the Far East, so most non-religious do not start a BA/BS program before the age of 22. Hesder students don’t start before the age of 23.

    From what I have found, the Chareidim are their own worst enemy. The programs to allow them to go to work are there, but the vast majority of the Rabbonim advise their students NOT to partake in them or to go to work. It is not the non-religious who need to change their attitude – it is the internal Charedi politics.

  7. dovid says:

    Rabbi Rosenblum:

    The Yeshiva of Kelm provided its talmidim with a secular education parallel to their religious studies, enabling them to earn a livelihood rather than having to take up rabbinic positions. Are their any compelling reasons we shouldn’t follow their example? I often give rides to yeshiva bachurim in Monsey. Many of them can’t tell in English where they need to go. They literally cannot tell me to go straight, turn right, turn left, etc. They are second or third generation Americans. It’s well known that secular studies are treated with unconcealed letzunus by the bachurim. I see it in my own son. The only exceptions that I am aware are the Teltz Yeshiva in Riverdale and the Yeshiva of Philadelphia.

  8. Harry Maryles says:

    I disagree with Jonathan’s argument.

    Although I agree with the points he makes, both in the development of reasoning abilty in Yeshivos and the relative unimportance of the remembering details of a particular course, that is only part of the story.

    There are some subjects that are almost indespensible in make a decent wage that the Charedi school system does not teach… for example the English language.

    WADR, that the government chooses not to insist on some sort of minimal requirement of secular learning does not do the Charedi world any favors.

    It is ironic that a University of Chicago and Yale Law School graduate speaks so unfavorably about secular eduaction for high school age Charedim. Did he gain nothing useful from those schools? Would he have gotten the same things in an Israeli Yeshiva? Should he answer that he was talking about high schools not universities – I would ask, if Jonathan had gone to Israeli Yeshivos would he have learned the skills needed to do well in those schools?

  9. Daniel B. Schwartz says:

    With all due respect to those chareidim who scored so high on the psychmetrics, those high scores are a sad commentary on Israeli education. An exam meant to comprehensively test four years of high school and determine who are the best and the brightest to go university, should not be able to be beaten by people who don’t go to high school and merely take a prep course. The test should be sufficiently difficult and comprehensive that such manipulation cannot occur. That it isn’t, is sad; sad for Israel.

  10. Ori says:

    Daniel B. Schwartz: With all due respect to those chareidim who scored so high on the psychmetrics, those high scores are a sad commentary on Israeli education. An exam meant to comprehensively test four years of high school and determine who are the best and the brightest to go university, should not be able to be beaten by people who don’t go to high school and merely take a prep course.

    Ori: Sorry, but no. The bagrut (= matriculation) tests the three / four years of high school. The psychometrics is the equivalent of the US SAT. It tests other things.

  11. Charles B. Hall says:

    Dovid wrote (#4),

    One excellent example is Rabbi Dr. Aharon Lichtenstein’s frequent use of examples from English literature to make Torah points.

    Another example are the many books by Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski.

    A third example are the many instances in which by Rabbi Dr. Moshe Tendler has applied his scientific knowledge to difficult ethical issues.

  12. L Oberstein says:

    I have the vantage point of children in various segments of Israeli society. Those of us who live in the US don’t understand the mindset of Israelis,including chareidim. I am informed by my daughter, who is a nurse in a clinic that caters to some of the more “right wing” chareidim in Beit Shemesh that I just don’t understand how little money means to these people. “They may not have money for bread but will buy a $300 esrog” are her words. They live with overwhelming debt and just don’t care about money the way we do in this country. Nothing will change them, she says, not laws and not job opportunties. They don’t want to change. You can’t force them ,as all it will do is make them more stubborn. They are fighting a war that has gone on for a century against modernity.
    How many college educated Americans have freely chosen to raise their children in that world, that is what amazes me.
    My grandson got into a “good” cheder in Yerushalayim because they found out that his mother went to BJJ. Its easier to get into Harvard.
    One of my granddaughters is starting mamlachti dati school in Modiin this year and that world is so different from nearby Kiryat Sefer, it could be on a different planet. She will be taking extra Judaic studies enrichment after school hours. This shows that the Zionist religious Jews are concerned about giving their children the Yiddishkeit, but they aren’t willing to send their children to chadorim where secular studies are minimal at best.

  13. Wise Man's Son says:

    Of course all our great leaders from Maran to HaRav Shtienman to HaRav Kanievsky still tell us that there should be zero compromise on secular learning for Yeshiva students. That’s the battle that’s still being won.

  14. Chaim Wolfson says:

    “One of my granddaughters is starting mamlachti dati school in Modiin this year and that world is so different from nearby Kiryat Sefer, it could be on a different planet. She will be taking extra Judaic studies enrichment after school hours. This shows that the Zionist religious Jews are concerned about giving their children the Yiddishkeit, but they aren’t willing to send their children to chadorim where secular studies are minimal at best” (Comment by L Oberstein — August 14, 2008 @ 1:23 pm).

    Rabbi Loberstein, what worries me is that your granddaughter will have to supplement her regular “limudei kodesh” studies with extra-curricular “Judaic studies enrichment”, even though she will be attending a “mamlachti dati” school that was established for the specific purpose of catering to students from religious families. Is a religious school that evidently does not provide sufficient “limudei kodesh” within its core curriculum a satisfactory alternative to a school that does not provide enough “limudei chol”, and what does it say about the parent body’s “concern about giving their children the Yiddishkeit” if they send their children to such a school?

  15. sima ir kodesh says:

    To Chaim Wolfson:
    You are erring on this point of amount of time spent on Limudei Kodesh in Dati/Torani schools veruses the Bais Yakov system. I will be writing in general terms, since every community has its own bylaws pertaining to children’s education. The majority of primary grade Bais Yakov schools dismissal time is 1:00, during this time span limudei kodesh studies and general studies of English/Math/Jewish History/ Prelimenary Science are taught. The Dati/Torani schools dismissal time is closer to 3:00 where again the combination of limudei kodesh/general studies are taught. Some of these schools offer studies in computer/ art/music/World History/Civics etc. Joining an enrichment class for Judaic Studies after school is a chug that may concentrate on additional Navi or Chumash studies, tiyulim to mekomos of tanach, deeper understanding of mitzvohs hatyulus beretz, Jewish art, etc.

    what does it say about the parent body’s “concern about giving their children the Yiddishkeit” if they send their children to such a school? It says that they are preparing for their child to be a LIGHT TO THE NATIONS by having the ability to intergate and communicate with a larger segment of klal yisroel.

  16. Ori says:

    Chaim Wolfson: Is a religious school that evidently does not provide sufficient “limudei kodesh” within its core curriculum a satisfactory alternative to a school that does not provide enough “limudei chol”, and what does it say about the parent body’s “concern about giving their children the Yiddishkeit” if they send their children to such a school?>

    Ori: It depends on how many of the students attend the extra enrichment classes. It’s quite likely that the Israeli government only pays for a certain number of hours of Jewish studies a week, and that most parents pay for extra enrichment classes for their kids.

  17. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “Nothing will change them, she says, not laws and not job opportunties. They don’t want to change. You can’t force them ,as all it will do is make them more stubborn. They are fighting a war that has gone on for a century against modernity.”

    Concerning “adopting to modernity”, it’s interesting to note the example of Touro College in Flatbush. When the campus was first being built, there was heated, public, opposition from some to building it because of concern(which I understand) that it would negatively affect yeshivos in the area. Now, there are smiling faces of dentists, lawyers, and accountants in Mishpacha Magazine; even the American Yated has published an advertisement for Machon L’parnasah in Boro Park (which is technically not a “college”). What gives?

    Perhaps parts of Torah leadership realize that just as there is concern that types of institutionalized training for parnassah could destroy yeshivos(as R. Dessler discusses about the “Frankfurt Approach”), a lack of parnassah can also , c’v, destroy the fabric of the charedi community (even during the assimilation in Europe, social issues were perhaps more damaging than intellectual ones).

    With all the differences in Israel(eg, striving for higher levels of Torah accomplishment), human factors necessitating TIDE might become more applicable for some, and perhaps there will be more acceptance of TIDE, albeit in a very different form. However, any such change(“adopting to modernity”) can only be successful if done in conjuction with Torah leadership, just as over here.

  18. LOberstein says:

    Sima answered Chaim’s querry. The regular school day ends at 1:00 and this necessitates extra hours where parents can pay for it.I want to turn to the other grandchild I mentioned. Why is it so hard to get into a chareidi cheder? My son and daughter in law had to go through a 3rd degree to determine that they fit the profile, that they were the right kind of Jews, that their home was free of treif devises, that their pedigree was clear and clean. (Luckily, they don’t read Cross-Currents so they didn’t find out about me). Isn’t there something weird about the way Chareidim in Israel are so exclusive. Jonathan says that Israel would benefit from their brainpower, I agree , but they have be willing to live in Israel, not wall themselves off and reject the rest of us. I see our American yeshivos full of chozrim b’teshuva and I see the warmth with which our local Bais Yaakov accepted a girl whose mothe is intermarried and whose step father purposely treifed up her utensils and turned on the light in the refrigerator,etc. Her teachers brought her kosher food from their homes and Rabbi and Mrs Heinemann invited her to their home for Shabbos. This year she will be in a Seminary(for Americans) in Yerushalayim. In Israel she wouldn’t have gotten in the door.

  19. Daniel B. Schwartz says:

    Ori: Sorry, but no. The bagrut (= matriculation) tests the three / four years of high school. The psychometrics is the equivalent of the US SAT. It tests other things.

    Comment by Ori — August 13, 2008 @ 9:53 pm
    R E P L Y
    A distinction without a difference. One should not be able to “ace” any university admission test with a simple prep course.

  20. Jewish Observer says:

    “Is a religious school that evidently does not provide sufficient “limudei kodesh” within its core curriculum a satisfactory alternative to a school that does not provide enough “limudei chol” ”

    – why is it a problem if they can supplement?
    – is a mesivta no good if your son needs extra tutoring?

  21. Chaim Wolfson says:

    “Joining an enrichment class for Judaic Studies after school is a chug that may concentrate on additional Navi or Chumash studies, tiyulim to mekomos of tanach, deeper understanding of mitzvohs hatyulus beretz, Jewish art, etc.” (Comment by sima ir kodesh — August 17, 2008 @ 12:53 pm).

    Additional Navi and Chumash studies at the age of five? Wow! I have severely underestimated the quality of the student body in “mamlachti dati” schools! I look forward to great things from them. Why, in your estimation, don’t other educational streams (e.g., Bais Yaakov) offer such enrichment programs? Are they less interested in additional Navi and Chumash studies and a deeper understanding of “mitzvos hateluyos ba’aretz”?

    “It says that they are preparing for their child to be a LIGHT TO THE NATIONS by having the ability to intergate and communicate with a larger segment of klal yisroel.”

    I see your point. A quality secular education will open up job opportunities to the students later in life that might otherwise have been closed to them, and allow them to interact with our non-frum brethren in a way that would not be possible otherwise. But what makes us a “light unto the nations” is our JEWISH values, and that begins with a quality JEWISH education.

    If, as Ori suggests, extra Jewish enrichment studies are necessary simply because the government won’t pay for all the “limudei kodesh” classes the parents want, that’s a bit of a different story. I am used to the American model, in which the make-up of the curriculum more or less is determined by the school administration and the parent body and reflects their desires. From that perspective, the concept of “Jewish enrichment programs” seems uncomfortably similar to the afternoon Talmud Torahs of bygone years here in America.

  22. Ori says:

    Daniel B. Schwartz, this is not a distinction without a difference. The bagrut tests for knowledge. The psychometric exam, with the exception of the English part, is supposed to test primarily for mental skills and abilities.

    They didn’t sit idle from 8th grade to the 12th and then take a simple prep course. They learned and developed their brains, resulting in the ability to succeed in the psychometric exam. That is Jonathan Rosenblum’s point.

  23. Shlomo says:

    Rabbi Rosenblum: Now that charedi men are working and cannot claim that “toratam umanutam”, wouldn’t it be appropriate for the army to draft them?

  24. bag says:

    “EDUCATION MINISTER Tamir cited such studies in her defense of continuing government support for the yeshiva ketana system. To cut off all government financial support to the yeshivot, as Gordon suggests, would be treated by haredi society as a declaration of war. And it would greatly strengthen those elements in haredi society always seeking to draw the wagons tighter and minimize contact with the broader society.”

    I dont understand why in america, the haredim dont consider the US govt antireligious for not funding yeshivas, or for making secular education compulsory, but the Israeli government would be considered antireligious if they didnt’ fund yeshivas w/o secular education. Do Israelis consider the american govt antireligious for not funding yeshivas or for compelling secular education? Can you explain this?

  25. Ori says:

    Shlomo, IIRC by the time Charedi men leave the Yeshiva they are already married and have a few kids. The IDF would rather not conscript them because they couldn’t get away with paying them $60 a month, the way they do the 18 year olds.

  26. Yechezkel Hirshman says:

    “Rabbi Rosenblum: Now that charedi men are working and cannot claim that “toratam umanutam”, wouldn’t it be appropriate for the army to draft them?”

    We are not discussing 18-20 year old bochurim. We are talking about men “in their mid-20s to 40.” These guys (I was one but am now past 40) leave the yeshiva because they have a wife and, let’s say, 4 to 8 kids and are ready to fend for themselves. IOW ,they have left the yeshiva to work for parnassah. If the army is going to take them and hold them back from working for parnassah and prevent them from fending for themselves, they will go right back to yeshiva.

    Besides, the army needs young hearty soldiers, they do not need family men and they do not need learned people in their upper 20s and 30s who are not psychologically prepared to take orders from some 23 year old mefakeach who cannot name the shisha sidrei mishna. It doesn’t matter who outranks who. A talmid chacham will never look up to an am haaretz.

    Chezkel

  27. Moshe Schorr says:

    bag:I dont understand why in america, the haredim dont consider the US govt antireligious for not funding yeshivas, or for making secular education compulsory, but the Israeli government would be considered antireligious if they didnt’ fund yeshivas w/o secular education. Do Israelis consider the american govt antireligious for not funding yeshivas or for compelling secular education? Can you explain this?

    I’ll try.

    America is interested in producing “Americans”. There is no Torah component involved. Israel is (supposed) to be interested in producing “Jews”. There _is_ a Torah component involved. We don’t have the same wall between “church and state” as exists in America.

    HTH.

  28. Bartley Kulp says:

    For starters, Hareidi men have a huge lack behind their secular counterparts because they have insufficient writing skills. This prohibits them from many managerial positions because they are incapable of filling a report. Also this business of talmud scholars having an easier time learning programing skills is true. However the report does not distinguish between excellent and mediocre talmidim. Not everybody developes a fertile academic mind from gemora.

    Another thing about high tech is that you have to posses a certain understanding of English. This is something that is not taught to Hareidi males. Even those boys who have Anglo speaking parents do not necessarily read English.

    A lot of Yeshiva boys also do not develope proper study habits during their high school years because in many batei midrashim they are not formally tested and graded on the material that they learn. They are also completely divorced from the sciences. Do I have to explain the implications of this?

    There are those individuals who will succeeded no matter what they tackle in life. These individuals will be held in public esteem for everybody else to observe. “See how this and that one who had no formal education how he played catch up. This is thanks to his sharp mind that he developed in yeshiva.” Most people however do not function this way.

    These are not strictly Israeli Hareidi problems. A lot of research has been done in the US on these issues concerning the Hareidi communities there.

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