Thursday, May 11, 2017

Confirming What We Already Know

Charedim in the classroom (Jerusalem Post)
One might think that Jerusalem Post reporter, Jeremy Sharon might have upset the Charedi world by his recent article. I know I would be if he were talking about my community. But what he reports about Charedim is not anything they aren’t proud of. At least certain parts of it. Jeremy reports on the results on a study of Charedi textbooks undertaken by IMPACT-se, an education watchdog organization. 93 textbooks that are used in grades 1 through 12 were examined.

Here is what they found: 
They teach a world view that is isolationist, contemptuous of secular society and instills hatred of Reform Jews. 
Well, that is not exactly accurate. At least I hope it isn’t. Their young are not taught to hate Reform Jews. At least I hope they aren’t. What I believe to be the case is that they are taught to hate Reform ideology not the people that have been indoctrinated to believe it. They believe Reform Judaism to be a  massive corruption of Judaism itself. 

But the first part of that sentence is quite accurate and as I said they are proud of that fact.  In my view, that attitude does not serve them well.  They – on the other hand - believe that the contempt they teach their young is their actual a salvation – protecting them all from the ills of secular society.

Although there is truth to the fact that there are ills in society that can be damaging, it is hardly the case that this is universally so. There is much in general society that is positive. In many cases teaching valuable life lessons. But they are adamant: 
Secularism is also deeply deplored, with secular society described as “empty” and “hollow” in the schoolbooks, with one describing nonreligious society as “stripped bare of ideals and sunk in the depths of materialism.” 
This is patently untrue. But even if it were true - in our day, one cannot really be isolated from it. In the short term they might be able to be. But once they are out of the cocoon, they can easily gain access to everything they have been isolated from – with the click of a mouse or the tap of an app.

It could be argued that one reason some of them go OTD is the fact that they are not exposed to it and taught how to properly deal with it by their educators.

Interestingly the study also showed the following: 
(T)he report notes that tolerance and respect toward “the individual other” is expressed in haredi school textbooks, and that respect for the rule of law and a generally pragmatic attitude to the state is encouraged. 
While this is a major plus, the impact of teaching them to have contempt for secular society and to hate a false ideology has to affect the way they interact with “the individual other”.  You can’t look down at them and at the same time respect them. That kind of respect is no respect at all. One can only imagine what they might say about these people behind their backs. I don’t see how one can ethically reconcile contempt with respect.

The idea of promoting ‘a unique and separate cultural identity’ is a laudable goal.That would be fine if they did not ‘negate other cultures’ in the process. This is unhealthy and counterproductive in my view.

I know that they disagree with me. And I can’t really argue with the successes they have. They have many children and produce the most committed type of Jew. The kind of Jew that will transmit their Jewish heritage to their children more successfully than perhaps any other segment. Who will in turn transmit it to their own children in the same way.

But why must they do it in an all or nothing fashion? Why negate the other? Why not teach their young the greatness of their own heritage without negating the other? Why not see the rest of society for what it really is? Both good and bad. Why treat it all as bad?  Just sayin…