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Yitzchak Blau
"MeEver LeYam" Rethinking the Relationship Between Israeli Yeshivot and Diaspora Schools click here.

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OP-JED OPINIONS ON JEWISH EDUCATION

Responses to "MeEver LeYam" Rethinking the Relationship Between Israeli Yeshivot and Diaspora Schools

Name: Steven Brizel
Date: 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 still uneasy.

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.


 
Name: Avi Nadel
Date: 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 did fine.   

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.


 
Name: David I. Bernstein
Institution: Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies
Date: 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 faculty.

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.

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