OP-JED OPINIONS ON JEWISH EDUCATION
Responses to "MeEver LeYam"
Rethinking the Relationship Between
Israeli Yeshivot and Diaspora Schools
||25 Nov 2001
As the father of two teenaged daughters, I found Rabbi
Blau's comments insightful. At one girls high school which my older
daughter formerly attended, the parents at a pre 11th grade parent
gathering were advised by the principal that there were "tvzei
dinim", lehavdil, in their approach to tracking which divided the
students between the Ivies and Stern/Queens.
Some parents asked if the limudei kodesh component could
be slightly reduced. The hanhalah briefly mentioned a de minimus machshava
class. I was left uneasy by the need to apologize for an excellent Limudei
Kodesh curriculum with top flight teachers because both the administration and many parents were
overly consumed with the Ivies. When my daughter requested that we
transfer her at her request to a more Beit Yaakov type High school, we
reluctantly agreed because we realized that that she was the student whose midot and yirat shamayim were at stake.
We recently attended two open houses at two very similar girls high
schools. Both have similar curricula and goals. After some lectures from
administrators and the presentations by some excellent teachers, I was
Despite all of the rhetoric of the schools' educational
aims and hashkafa in learning and Zionism, I felt that neither school set
forth affirmatively that their goal was that the student upon graduation
would want to open a sefer, understand yesodei haemunah or feel what
Chasidus and Musar describe as Yirat Shamayim. Where is the healthy balance that is necessary between a proud
Zionist hashkafa and the development of the midot necessary to guide the
next generation? Maybe, I am wrong, but I believe that we have to develop
Ahavat Torah and Yirat Shamayim at least as much as the march to the Ivies
via the Yellow Brick Road of the APs.
||08 Jul 2001
Shalom Rabbi Blau,
I think that your entire thesis hits it on the nose.
Here's a personal anecdote that I think further proves your point. I
attended MTA and was in Rabbi Yitzchak Cohen's shiur as a freshman, Rabbi Dulitz as a sophomore, and Rabbi Hecht as a Junior. For
elementary school, I had attended Yeshiva of Flatbush. I was not a weak
student. However, learning Gemara was not my idea for fun on Sunday mornings. At first, I had no clue what Rabbi Cohen was
talking about when he started talking about the Rif, Ran, and Rash. However,
as the years went along, I became more comfortable looking in the back of the
Gemara. Rabbi Dulitz even managed to drill us enough that I wasn't scared at reading a new Gemara. I didn't quite excel, but I
However, Rabbi Cohen and Rabbi Doolitz had turned me on
enough that I even considered going to Morasha Kollel in the Summer.
In the end, I chose Hockey over Torah and went to Camp Hillel. Why?
Probably because of Sunday afternoons watching ball games and bus
rides talking about the Rangers, and seeing all of the cool Purple hockey jackets. Rabbi Hecht repeatedly communicated to us that he had
given up a promising career as a lawyer in order to teach Torah, and the rumors
verified what he said. However, I didn't attend Y.U.
early admissions because of career norms in my immediate surroundings. (Y.U. wasn't
considered a "serious-enough" college.) So,
basically, I had been turned on to Torah, taught basic Gemara reading skills, and
seen an excellent role-model for prioritizing Torah over career and still went to Co-Ed camps
and was on the path of an Americanized career-oriented Modern Orthodox Jew.
However, like other teenagers of this type, I followed the flock to
Israel for the year. No Rangers, few distractions, and freedom of
thought away from home. I flipped pretty early on, and my personal
metamorphosis was in full gear by Choref Zman.
In my opinion, the most important factor that is underestimated by so
many educators who choose to go into Chinuch or Rabbanus is the
colossal difference of Avira between Eretz Yisrael and the U.S.A. (I
assume the same goes for other places too.) Most of my personal role
models have gone into Chinuch in the U.S. Furthermore, my understanding is that the general trend amongst most Y.U. Semicha guys
is that they are planning careers in the U.S. focusing on kiruv rechokim or
kiruv kerovim whether via Rabbanus or formal Jewish Education. Additionally, it seems that Ner Yisroel, Chaim Berlin and
other American non-Chassidish Yeshivas are churning out U.S. focused Rabbanim by the
hundreds every year. Even more so, millions of dollars are being invested to set up Yeshiva programs in Eretz Yisrael
(Ohr Somayach, Aish, Ohr Torah, and others) for up and coming Rabbanim to leave Eretz Yisrael
and go into Jewish Education or Rabbanus in America or the rest of the world.
However, Eretz Yisrael is considered to be overflowing with wonderful programs and Yeshivas where a Rabbi looking to break in has no
realistic options unless he is an up and coming Gaon or can teach Tanach -
around 5% of the Semicha guys. It seems to me that Eretz Yisrael is sorely lacking more informal Jewish education programs for
teenage tourists and Yeshiva guys and girls. Additionally, with the influx of Olim
over the years from Anglo countries, elementary and high schools that specialize and cater to the English speaking
teenagers are also sorely needed.
It seems to me that potential Jewish educators should be encouraged to fill in the gaps in Jewish Education in Eretz Yisrael where they have
the "home court advantage," rather then focus on improving the educational
institutions in America where the winds outside and inside of the schools and shuls are so strong that much that is inculcated
within their walls cannot withstand the strong forces of careerism that pervade their surroundings.
||David I. Bernstein
||Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies
||27 Jun 2001
I think this is an excellent article, and while Pardes does not cater
necessarily to yeshiva h.s. graduates, I will circulate it among our
The opinions expressed here are those of the
author, and do not necessarily represent the
thought of ATID. They are presented here out
of a conviction that compelling ideas, frankly
stated, are an important element in engaging the
community of Jewish educators in critical thought
about our holy work.