Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Charedi Generation Gap

More Charedim in Israel than ever are in college
Updated. See below

I’ve always said that the revolt (or at least the change) would be at the grass roots level. 

According to an article in Commentary, this seems to be what is happening. The character of Charedi wolrd in Israel is changing from one where there is a mandate for men to learn Torah full time for as long as possible  (virtually cradle to grave - if they can manage it) without any distractions - to one that incudes Limudei Chol (secular studies). The old paradigm has produced a Charedi level of poverty that is among the highest in the Israel. One that will be growing exponentially over the next few generations if things don’t change.

This is why I was in favor of the government requiring a core secular curriculum in Charedi schools. Which would be roughly comparable to the secular curricula in American Charedi schools. My belief was (and still is) that a core curriculum would enhance the prospects of relieving their poverty level and make Chareidm more inclusive and contributory to the overall Israeli economy. I was hopeful that this would somehow be accepted even though the Charedi leadeship didn't like it. Or at least that there would be some sort of compromise.

Those hopes were dashed recently by the government dropping those requirements. The Charedi schools can breath easy now. They will not have the government breathing down their necks. But their joy may be very short lived as the poverty level will continue to increase to unsustainable levels. Unless Commentary is right about what is happening: 
Younger Haredim, while remaining passionately committed to Orthodox Judaism, are increasingly rejecting their rabbinic leadership’s hardline positions on numerous issues, including work, army service, academic study, and communal isolation. 
They go on to describe the revolt in some detail. Charedim are now participating on the work force at over a 50% level for the first time. More of them are enrolled in college programs than ever before there has been an 83 percent increase in enrollment from 2011-2015.

73% of Charedi women work – many of them outside of their own community allowing them to interact with non Charedim in the work place and see that they are not all anti Charedi.

Yisroel Porush, the 36 year old Charedi mayor of a Charedi city has made it his goal to get as many of his city’s residents into the work place as possible. He has gotten 2 neighboring local governments (one secular and one Arab) to agree to build  joint industrial parks. 

What is noteworthy about Mr. Porush is that his father and grandfather were Kenesset members that were opposed to his kind of thinking. The last thing they would have wanted is to get  ‘as many Charedim as possible into the workplace’. They were focused on keeping as many of them as possible in the Beis HaMedrash for as long as possible. As of now, Charedim seem to have won that battle.

But they may be losing the war. At least in terms of promoting the ideals promoting full time Torah study at all cost. And considering secular studies to be a waste of precious time that would otherwise be spent on it: 
(T)he Jerusalem Post quoted a new survey which found that 83 percent of Haredi parents would like their sons to attend high schools that teach secular subjects alongside religious ones, as Haredi girls’ schools already do…
The number of Haredi boys attending yeshiva high schools, which prepare students for the secular matriculation exams, has doubled since 2005. Though the number remains tiny (1,400 enrollees last year), the survey results indicate that this may be due less to lack of demand than to lack of supply: Today, just over a dozen such schools exist.  
This is great news. 

I have to admit that force has not worked. The more it was tried, the more it was fought. And it created a backlash that was counterproductive to this phenomenon. But this phenomenon is indeed happening. Charedim – at least they younger generation – are beginning to understand that they cannot continue to exist with a status quo that rejects secular studies. They are beginning to understand what is obvious to so many of the rest of us. That they need to be better prepared early on so that can gt the tools they need to succeed.

I don’t mind being wrong in my methods if my goals are achieved. I have been told many times by Charedim that agree with me about my goals but disagreed with my methods, that force will not work and only be counterproductive. That – left alone things will change  in the right direction… and already are. Force would only slow things up – if not stop them altogether. 

It seems that they were right. Things are changing.  That 83% of Charedi parents would like their sons to attend a school where secular studies are taught alongside religious ones – is (to quote a favorite word of Donald Trump) - HUGE! 

Who knows. Maybe the demand will spur a new supply of American style Yeshivos that will meet those demands. And then the Charedim of Israel can join those educated and working American Charedim that are increasingly becoming the mainstream moderates. Who along with Centrists are the future of Judaism.

H/T  Marty Bluke

Marty Bluke just reported the following in a comment. If true pours some water over the change I was so enthusiastic about:
Arutz Sheva is reporting based on government and other statistics that the Charedim are not succeeding in academic programs:
1. The dropout rate in pre-academic mechinot (programs that fill in the educational gaps that Charedim are missing) is at least 50% maybe more. 
2. 0% of Haredim test out in the top aptitude group in reading and only 9.7% in math (vs 17.5 in the general population).
These numbers would seem to put to rest the idea that Charedim don't need to learn a core curriculum in school because they can make it up later. These numbers show that for the average Charedi not learning the core curriculum puts them at a severe disadvantage and in many cases prevents them from succeeding in an academic setting