Tuesday, June 09, 2015

A Charedi Masters Degree Program in Israel

Chasidic Torah Sages (YWN)
Hopeless. That’s how I feel sometimes about the prospect of any change in the way Charedim in Israel educate their people. That’s because whenever there is the slightest attempt to install an improvement in their education, it is slam dunked.  And fought tooth and nail. As it was when the Israeli government decided to give financial aid only to those Yeshivos that had a core secular curriculum.

We now have another instance of opposition to improvement in their education. What makes this a bit different is that this attempt was via Charedi leaders themselves. Not all Charedi leaders. Chasidic ones. Ger Chasidim to be exact. They have given their blessing to an MA program (…or its equivalent – whatever that means) at a Haifa Beis Yaakov and a similar school in Bnei Brak. YWN reports the following: 
On Monday morning 21 Sivan (8th of June), the Teachers Certification Center affiliated with the Gur Chassidus seminar in Bnei Brak published a notice in the daily Hamodia, explaining it has approved a MA program equivalent in the Bnei Brak school, offering an array of courses towards a second degree. 
We are not talking advance degrees in philosophy or Greek Mythology here. We are talking about anything near the kind of advance university programs offered by fine universities all over the world. We are no doubt talking an advanced degree in teaching – based on the type of school this in which this is being offered!

Don’t get me wrong. I am very happy about this. I have long ago given up trying to convince the Charedi world about the value of studying Mada for its own sake in addition to studying Torah for its own sake – the Hashkafa of Torah U’Mada. I have replaced that with simply promoting advanced studies in order to enable them to get better paying jobs. Which would improve their live materially.

It seems that Ger and the Chasidic faction of the Charedi parties - which has its own council of Torah sages -  actually agrees with that. Not to the extent that I think it should.  This masters program is very limited. It appears to be in only one field, teaching. And it appears to be only for women. But still – it is a step. One that will hopefully improve their lives by allowing women to get better paying jobs at least in that field… and it will very likely make them better teachers.

It would be great if that were the end of the story. But it isn’t. The Israeli Yated has condemned the program. That’s right. “Condemned!” The Yated is the newspaper that represents the rabbinic leadership in Bnei Brak. Not wanting to be left out of the fray, Jerusalem’s Charedi faction condemns it too: 
Maran HaGaon HaRav Aaron Yehuda Leib Shteinman Shlita does not approve such a program the litvish community will not back it… HaPeles (the Rival Charedi paper supported by R’ Shmuel Auerbach) attacked the second degree programs and the Torah council’s decision. 
I am not a fan of R' Shmuel Auerbach. So I will not comment on him. But I have said many times that R’Shteinman is a man I greatly respect.  He is a man that has the courage of his convictions. He stands by his beliefs and remains unmoved by his opponents. Even if his position is unpopular.

For example his unpopular insistence that Sephardim be treated no differently than Ashkenazim by the Charedi school system… not buying into the excuses of some of the principals of their schools.

And the fact that he has supported limited secular education for Parnassa (livelihood) purposes in some cases.

And that he supported following the law – telling Charedi students to register for the draft, despite his strong opposition to the draft itself. Even though I don’t always agree with him, I admire the centenarian sage and the courage he has to stand by his convictions.

Obviously he has done that here. I have no clue why he opposes this masters program. But I am 100% convinced he is doing it because he believes in it. I still respect him. I just don’t get him. I could therefore not disagree with him more on this issue. I agree with the Chasidim.

Which is ironic. Because I generally have far more issues with Chasidim than I do with the Yeshiva world. Including but not limited to their Hashkafos, their insularity, and their near godlike awe for their Rebbe. But when they’re right – they’re right. Which they are here. I am therefore rooting for success in this program. Hopefully it will be so successful that the Yeshiva world will take advantage of it too - despite the condemnation by their leaders.