Sunday, May 23, 2010

Brooklyn and Bnei Brak

There was an article in the Jewish Chronicle that caught my eye. It involves a recurrent theme here – the Charedi educational system. Former Charedim are trying to inject some sanity into the Charedi educational system in Israel by insisting that core subjects in Limudei Chol – secular studies be taught. Much like the Charedi schools in America do. My views on this issue are clear. I am on their side.

Unfortunately the Charedi rabbinic establishment has consistently opposed any attempt at doing that. They cry government interference ala Czarist Russia. They accuse the secular government of trying to undermine Judaism by weaning them away from Torah observance in this 'not so innocent' way toward an end of complete secularization and non observance.

They proclaim their right of run their schools as they see fit. Well they should have that right in a democracy. But the government should have the right to insist that certain basic standards of education be met for the general welfare of their society – before they fund any of it.

It is really a simple democratic idea. Freedom does not mean that a government is required to fund a system they consider harmful to the country.

Charedim will counter that that its the opposite of harmful. They will say it is the Torah learned in their Yeshivos that is saving the country. And that Torah study is by far the biggest contributor to Israel’s welfare and to its safety. Without the spiritual benefit Torah learning provides - the entire country will crumble. Along those lines - they have asked that Charedim boycott a new American style Yeshiva high school in Ramat Bet Shemesh because it offers Limudei Chol.

Frankly I have no problem with the attitude that Torah study is important. It is very important to the welfare of the Jewish state. But it is not the only thing that is important. That’s where the Charedi rabbinic leadership and I part company. Man may not live on bread alone. But without any bread – living is a non starter.

This brings me to the following post. I have cross-posted it here from Marty Bluke’s blog. This is something I rarely do but I think he truly hits the nail on the head and his post is too important to miss. So here it is in its entirety.

Charedim and working in Israel by Marty Bluke

The Mishpacha newspaper had pages upon pages of articles about Charedim working. The gist of the articles was that Charedim want to work and that the chilonim/government don't want them.

I would like to give my take on this.

One of the more effective claims that the Chiloni politicians and media have made in the past few weeks is why in Brooklyn can Charedim be doctors, lawyers, accountants etc. but not in Bnei Brak. The Charedi representatives only answer has been discrimination.

There is no question that there is discrimination against Charedim but the fact is Charedim can't get jobs for other reasons. Here are some of the differences that I see between Brooklyn and Bnei Brak.

1. In Brooklyn, Charedim go to real Universities whether it is Touro, Brooklyn College, Queens, etc. These are regular accredited universities with decent reputations. In Israel, Charedim will not go to University. They go to to all kinds of special Charedi programs that offer some kind of degree, the equivalent in NY of going to a place like Devry's. Many employers in Israel want a degree from a recognized University which the Charedim don't have.

2. In Brooklyn Charedim are much more open to the world. Guys who learn in the Mir, Chaim Berlin, etc. follow sports and generally know what is going on. Chafetz Chaim Yeshiva in Queens (certainly considered a Charedi Yeshiva), when they built their new building included a beautiful gym, that would never be done in Israel.They see non-Jews in the neighborhood and interact them. They see women dressed not so tzniusly. Therefore when they go to work, they have something in common with their co-workers. They can talk about sports, politics, technology, or whatever. In Israel, Charedim are very very sheltered. If you live in Bnei Brak, Kiryat Sefer, Beitar, many neighborhoods in Yerushalayim, RBS, etc. you basically hardly ever see a non-Charedi person let alone a woman dressed non-tzniusly. Their also is no openness to sports or anything else in the general culture. Therefore, it is very hard for a Charedi person to fit in, they have absolutely nothing in common with the other people and have no idea how to interact with them.

3. Jews in America are stereotyped as smart and non-violent. This helps in the job market. Charedim in Israel are thought of as violent (rioting all the time) and ignorant.

4. In Israel, the Charedi parties are constantly pushing for religious coercion, whether it is not selling chometz on Pesach, no public buses on Shabbos, mehadrin buses etc. This causes the general public to worry that the Charedim are trying to take over and create a Taliban like state. In Brooklyn, there are no worries about religious coercion.

The bottom line is that the Charedim want to have their cake and eat it too. On one hand, they want to have the freedom to educate their children however they want, but then when it comes to getting a job, they want their education to be considered. It doesn't work that way. If you want to join the world you need to play by the rules and one of the rules is education.