Thursday, June 18, 2015

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Slonimer Rebbe (YWN)
Ynet reports that Chasidim in Israel earn more money than their non Chasidic Yeshiva world counterparts. This - according to figures released by the Seker Kahalacha research institute. They conducted a poll (commissioned by the religious radio station, Kol Chai) about the income level of the Charedi world. 

The results were sad but not surprising. Nor are the reasons for these near poverty level incomes surprising. 54% of Charedi men do not work.  The result is that 63% of the Charedi world makes less than $2081 per month.  They are supposed to feed and clothe their large families on that income.  That the Chasidic world makes more means that if you factor them out, the percentage of Charedim earning $2081 or less is even higher.

The reason that Chasidim make more is because they do not have the ‘Learn Torah full time or bust’ attitude of the Yeshiva world. Their men do learn in Kollel after they get married, but they are not expected to try and be there for the rest of their lives. They are generally taught to support their families after a relatively short period of time in Kollel. The only problem they have is a lack of education and training in professions and jobs that could earn them a better wage.

This may explain why the recent announcement about the Chasidic leadership supporting a masters equivalency program while the Yeshiva world leadership opposed it. It was a positive step which I have heartily endorsed – with the hope that non Chasidic Yeshivishe families take advantage of it too, despite the opposition from their leaders. The typically large families in the Charedi world can hardly be expected to survive on $2000 per month income. Even if they get additional subsidies in various forms.

63% of the Charedi poplulation living in poverty is unacceptable! But at least the Chasidim are trying to do something about it. Or are they?

A report in Yeshiva World News tells us exactly what that support entails. At least according to the Slonimer Rebbe, one of the members of the Chasidic ‘Moetzas Gedolei Yisrael of Agudas Yisrael’. Here are his conditions for such an institution and his conditions for attending it. 
· It was explained the position of the rebbe’s father, the Netivos Shalom ZT”L ZY”A was to distance oneself from higher education.
· The Torah council has permitted under very limited conditions, to study for a master’s equivalent and only if the lecturers are chareidi and have not studied in university with the exception of baalei teshuvah.
· The rebbe feels such a program is not l’chatchila but only b’dieved and only after one has consulted with a rav.
· The Torah council permits the program but it does not recommend it. 
He qualified his staement by saying that his words were intended for his Chasidim only. Maybe so. But I can’t help but believe that the fellow members of that Moetzes have similar – if not indentical feelings.

What a way to shoot yourself in the foot. You finally approve of an institution that will educate your people so as to financially improve their lives and then tell them how terrible it is to attend it! And what kind of masters equivalent can you have anyway if your teachers were forbidden to have attended college in the first place? (…unless they were Baalei Teshuva, and Nebech attended college before they saw the light and realized how false those teachings were!)  

And even with all that, their rabbinic leaders do not recommend it. They only permit it under limited circumstances - considering it as a B’Dieved. Meaning that if you are a Chasid, you must first ask a Shaila. And then maybe you’ll get permission.  God forbid one attends that school on their own.

I don’t get it. They finally want to do something to help their people and then they do their darnedest to undermine it. What will it take for them to lighten up and realize they are living in the 21st century? That all the old fears about universities turning religious Jews astray are not warranted. There are schools like HTC, Yeshiva University, Touro, Machon Lev, Adina Bar Shalom’s Haredi College, the Charedi program at Kiryat Ono… where the vast majority of students (if not all of them) are religious Jews. And where the needs of religious Jews are fully accommodated. 

Certainly that fear should not exist in a school they ‘approved’ of.  When are they going to realize that clinging to a decision of a sage from an earlier era whose wisdom is based on reasons that no longer apply should be dropped, not honored?