Friday, January 28, 2022

The Necessity of a Core Curriculum - Realized

Belzer Chasidim at the 2013 wedding of their Rebbe's grandson (TOI)
There is good news to report today. There has been a sea change in the Chasidic world of Belz in Israel: From the Times of Israel:

The leader of the Belz Hasidic sect has approved the inclusion of core curriculum in its elementary schools, including math, science, Hebrew and English, according to Wednesday media reports.

The sect’s education committee met on Monday with Education Ministry director Dalit Stauber and other top education officials in an attempt to formulate a model by which Talmud Torahs, the community’s equivalent of grades 1-8, that teach core curriculum would be fully budgeted by the state in accordance with their success in these studies, the Kan public broadcaster reported.

Belz, led by Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rokeach, is the second-largest Hasidic sect in Israel, with the proposed reform initially involving some 7,000 children.

The Times goes on to explain why this turn about has happened. Which includes many of the things I have discussed here. Although I’m sure the government financing of their school system was part of the equation - that has never moved them to change their ways in the past. 

I guess the Belzer Rebbe reads my blog. Either that or the reality of the financial condition of his Chasidim has hit him. Either way this is a very positive development.  

My hope is that other Chasidic sects will follow suit. In the past a comment like that might have been followed by ‘fat chance’. But I would have said the same thing about Belz. Thankfully I have been proven wrong. At least about Belz. 

That being said, I am not optimistic about the Lithuanians type Charedi Yeshivos in Israel doing anything similar. This may sound strange considering the fact that in America the opposite is true.   Most of the the Lithuanian Yeshivos in America actually do have a secular studies curriculum in their most of their schools. While most of the Chasidic schools don’t.

The difference I think is in the Hashkafa of Chasidim versus that of the Lithuanian Charedim. The Chasidic world has always had a work ethic. They do not promote full time Torah study for everyone. They believe that after a few years in Kollel one must go out and support their family.  The problem has always been in their refusal to educate their people in order for them to do that better  -for fear of non Jewish influences. 

Working for a living was never an issue for Chasidim. It's just that they feared the negative influences they believed were inherent in a secular studies curriculum. Better to be poor than take a chance on that.  But the work ethic was always there. Belz in Israel has finally come to the realization that there is nothing wrong and everything right with getting an education that will enable them to better their lives materially

On the other hand the Yeshiva world in Israel has a ‘take no prisoner’ attitude about Torah study. A work ethic does not exist as anything other than a B’Dieved. Learning full time is what every man must strive for under all circumstances unless they have their backs against the wall and absolutely no choice. Then they may take a job while at the same time ‘knowing’ that they have become a second class citizen compared to those that still learn full time. And they will be on their own without any preparation for their new lives

With this attitude in place the Yeshiva world in Israel will never agree to a  secular studies curriculum. Because that would take time away precious from Torah study in exchange for material pursuit. An end that is at best of secondary value compared to the primacy of full time Torah study.  

Interestingly the attitude is the same in America and yet there is a lot more tolerance here for getting a job.  That is part of the reason why most Lithuanian type Yeshivos in America have relatively decent secular studies curricula.

Not so in Israel. They have this ‘Yehoreg V’Al  Ya’avor attitude. My guess is that the vast majority of Lithuanian rabbinic leaders in Israel will never allow that to happen.

But at least for the Chasidim of Belz, this could be the beginning of a whole new chapter that will usher in greater prosperity for their families.