An Orthodox Jewish Nobel Laureate Advocates for Yeshiva Accountability in a Dual Education for Children.

Professor Yisrael Aumann is a Nobel Prize-winning Israeli mathematician. He is a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and has held visiting positions at Princeton, Yale, Berkeley, Louvain, Stanford, Stony Brook, and NYU.

We Must Work Together So That All Yeshiva Students Get a Dual Education

In last week’s Torah reading, Moshe Rabbeinu commands us to choose life — “Uvacharta Bachaim.” From this, the Talmud Yerushalmi in Kiddushin derives that a father must teach his son a trade and thus provide him with a livelihood. In this Talmudic passage, Rabbi Yehuda puts it bluntly: “If a father doesn’t teach his son a trade, it’s as if he taught him highway robbery.”

So it should come as no surprise that, as a frum Jew, I believe that our yeshivas should provide robust secular studies alongside an uncompromised Torah education.

hen my family fled from Germany to the United States in 1938, they enrolled me in a religious elementary school in Boro Park. When it was time to choose a high school, I decided on the Rabbi Jacob Joseph Yeshiva (RJJ) on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

After finishing university in the 1950s, I made aliyah to Jerusalem, and since then have pursued an academic career; but I’ll always remember my yeshiva experience as an exceptionally positive one that had a lasting impact on my life. For that reason, when the lawyers of Agudath Israel asked me for an affidavit describing my experience in yeshiva to urge the New York State Education Department not to intervene in the dual education provided by yeshivas like RJJ, I was glad to provide it.

As I wrote in my affidavit, “The immersive, time-consuming experience of deep Talmud study in an educational setting such as RJJ is absolutely necessary for the continuity of Orthodox Jewish life and practice. We were taught not merely a religion, but a way of life. And in that way of life, we were taught — and to this day I repeat daily — ‘Talmud Torah Kenneged Kulam’: the study of Torah is as important as all other religious observance put together.”

Shortly after news of the affidavit was reported in the Yeshiva World News website under the headline “INCREDIBLE: Nobel Prize Winner & Yeshiva Graduate To NYS Education Dept: ‘Talmud Torah Knegged Kulam!’” I got an email from a Chasidic yeshiva graduate that I found deeply upsetting. He informed me that he himself had received no secular instruction at all; and that most Chasidic yeshivas teach only a few hours a week of sub-par secular studies in elementary school and none at all in high school.

The picture that was painted for me — and later confirmed by other Chasidic graduates and parents of current students — is of young men who often graduate without even the basic skills to operate professionally. In many cases, this leads to poverty, and also to a sense of insuperable handicap.

Having left New York well over 60 years ago, all this was a revelation to me. Despite the distance, I find it impossible to ignore the genuine distress of the young men with whom I corresponded and the grave wrong being perpetrated on generations of children.

I stand behind every word in the affidavit; but knowing what I know now, I ask the public to read it with an emphasis that is perhaps a little different. Namely, that “I had wonderful experiences with BOTH secular and Jewish studies at RJJ. … The credit for my academic success belongs to Mr. Joey Gansler and to the mathematics he taught at RJJ. … If I were asked today to advise Jewish teens who have been admitted to both Stuyvesant and a yeshiva high school about which to attend, I would absolutely recommend that they attend a DUAL-curriculum yeshiva such as RJJ.”

We must continue vehemently to oppose government oversight and intrusion in yeshivas. The government has no right to dictate how we run our schools. But as my affidavit indicates, it does have a right to see to it that all children get a basic secular education that will enable them to be productive members of society. And that is also the Halacha.

To continue reading click here.

 

The Question is: Will Lakewood’s New Attorney Hire, at Well Over $600K per Year, Save the District Money Overall?

The Lakewood school board voted 6-0 Thursday to hire Inzelbuch, a special education attorney

LAKEWOOD – The school board is bringing back controversial attorney Michael Inzelbuch, who formerly worked for the district, and will pay him a one-year retainer of $600,000 plus an hourly rate – making Inzelbuch potentially the highest-paid school employee or contractor in the state.

Data Universe: Check the APP.com public worker database for salaries and more

Inzelbuch, 52, also will be reimbursed $29,000 to pay for a health insurance plan and can earn $350 an hour for litigation services for certain cases. The contract specifies that Inzelbuch is a contractor, not a district employee, making him ineligible for pension system credits.

More: Lakewood babies face herpes risk; NJ lacks circumcision safety rules

More: Lakewood Orthodox leaders to Trump: Rethink Charlottesville

According to the Asbury Park Press’ Data Universe, the highest-paid school employee in the state has been Diana Lobosco, who has a $297,625 salary as chief administrator/superintendent for the Passaic County Vocational District.

Inzelbuch’s pay also blows away the amounts made by Gov. Chris Christie ($175,000) and top federal government lawyers Attorney General Jeff Sessions ($207,000) and FBI Director Christopher Wray ($172,000).

The board voted 6-0 Thursday to hire Inzelbuch, a special education attorney who graduated from Lakewood High School and who served as board attorney from 2002 until 2012, gaining as many detractors as he did supporters.

In his previous tenure,  Inzelbuch was at the center of controversies over sharply increased spending on private religious schools, charges of racial bias, a cheating scandal and regularly poor testing results, but on Friday he said, “It’s a privilege for me to be back.”

“It is my hope to make public school kids and all children a No. 1 agenda item, as opposed to needless and unnecessary distractions the district has endured of late,” he said.

To continue reading, click here.

Our Economy is Unsustainable if Religious Groups Go Their Separate Ways – the Israel Example -Think NY, NJ, etc…

Start-Up Nation Central staff visiting teachers and students from a Bais Yaakov Seminary in Jerusalem in June.  Photo courtesy of Start-Up Nation Central

Start-Up Nation Central staff visiting teachers and students from a Bais Yaakov Seminary in Jerusalem in June. Photo courtesy of Start-Up Nation Central

Stakes High In Moving Charedi Women Into Tech

Tel Aviv — Zehava Feinberg is a 19-year-old from charedi girls’ seminary in Jerusalem who wanted to study computer science after high school in the hope of landing a job at an Israeli high-tech firm.

“I like problem solving and math,” she said. “I’m looking for a job that I won’t be bored at. I want it to be a good salary. I also want to raise a family.”

In theory, there should be plenty of opportunity for Feinberg. Israel’s high-tech sector is thirsty for young programming talent and intense demand for employees has driven up salaries so high that many companies have set up programming operations outside of Israel to ease labor costs. At the same time, charedi communities are eager for women to find high-paying jobs to provide a higher quality of life for a population group in which men are encouraged to engage in religious studies and the poverty rate was a staggering 43 percent in 2018.

Despite that potential match, the prospects for young charedi women like Feinberg to find employment as programmers in Israel’s technology industry have been discouraging. In the last two years, nearly three out of every four graduates of vocational computer science programs at the Bais Yaakov schools, a network of Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox girls seminaries with 8,000 students, did not find work with technology companies. The graduates who do get jobs in the field are usually employed in low-paid quality assurance jobs. At the same time, charedi women became convinced that the industry was biased against them, and often never even bothered to apply for entry level jobs.

But an educational pilot project is trying to improve the prospects for female graduates of charedi post-high school seminaries to find work in high tech. Dubbed “Adva” (small wave or ripple in Hebrew), the project aims to give high school graduates a post-secondary education on par with Israeli universities and colleges (institutions that are shunned by ultra-Orthodox as “foreign” and sacrilegious).

The two-year (three semesters) program also gives them programming boot-camp problem solving experience as well as interviewing and career skills necessary for the largely unfamiliar world of high tech.

Feinberg is part of the first Adva cohort — 86 students spread over three Jerusalem schools — and recently completed her first year of studies, which focused on catch-up math courses in statistics, calculus and linear algebra, as well beginning programming languages.

“Our math level was not such a high level,” said Feinberg. At the beginning of the year we had intensive math to bring it up just so we could learn.”

The curriculum has been developed with input and oversight from university computer science professors and executives from technology multinationals. The program is a joint initiative of Start-Up Nation Central, a non-governmental organization promoting Israel’s tech sector, the companies themselves and the Bais Yaakov network of schools. (Start-Up Nation Central did not provide exact figures on the cost of the pilot, saying only that the first year’s costs were “expensive” and that government agencies are expected to pick up some costs for the second year.) It also has the blessing of ultra-Orthodox rabbinic authorities.

The disconnect between Israel’s reclusive ultra-Orthodox community and larger society animates the country’s daily political debate and is shaping up as a major wedge issue in the Sept. 17 elections. Issues of military draft exemptions for ultra-Orthodox 18-year-olds and charedi-enforced restrictions on marriage, dietary laws and Sabbath observance have created a bitter divide.

But that chasm also threatens the country’s economy: with low levels of employment, the impoverished charedi (and Israeli Arab) populations will eventually become a drag on public finances. Economists have warned that Israel needs to take urgent steps to better integrate the ultra-Orthodox and Israeli Arabs into the larger economy.

We can’t sustain our economy if Arabs and charedim go their separate ways and don’t participate,” said Eugene Kandell, the chief executive of Start-Up Nation Central and a former economic adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The majority of relations between non-religious and charedi populations is driven on fear and non-familiarity. Each one thinks the other wants to change them and delegitimize their way of life.”

The Adva initiative began with Yisrael Tik, the head of external relations at Bais Yaakov and a former director of education for the ultra-Orthodox settlement of Beitar Ilit, who wanted to improve the job acceptance rate for seminary students studying computers. Tik discussed the challenge with colleagues on Israel’s Council for Higher Education (on which he also serves), who put him in contact with Start-Up Nation Central.

The first thing the stakeholders realized was that the vocational curriculum developed by Israel’s labor ministry for the seminaries was not up to par.

The computer programs at seminaries don’t provide what the industry requires,” Tik said. “They were built for people who don’t attend university.”

As recently as a decade ago, nearly two-thirds of charedi women became educators within their own community. That figure has dropped to just over one-third, as more of the women find work as nurses and caregivers. For years teaching was the most prized women’s profession within the charedi community, but now, women with engineering education are also sought after as potential matches. Poverty rates among the ultra-Orthodox are dropping, but the community still lags far behind the rest of Israel.

“People are more practical now,” said Gilad Malach, who heads the ultra-Orthodox program at the Israel Democracy Institute. “There is a need and wish for a lot of women to go into areas of high tech. Even within the community, there is an understanding that if a woman is working and earning a lot of money,” it frees a man “to [pursue] religious studies.”

Adva isn’t the first educational program to embrace the challenge of integrating ultra-Orthodox women into the tech workforce. Special courses at three Jerusalem academic colleges are tailored to ultra-Orthodox students, though only 130 charedi women are receiving degrees a year — far from the number necessary to help the industry or boost the standard of living of charedi families.

And more than a decade ago, programming companies like Matrix software opened offices in the ultra-Orthodox settlement of Modiin Ilit to employ charedi women in a gender segregated work environment that offered flexible hours so employees could balance home life and employment. But those positions were outsourced programming projects with relatively low pay.

Instructors in the Bais Yakov program are all charedi women with doctorates in their respective fields. To overcome suspicions about the tech work environments, community rabbinic authorities visited the offices of technology companies taking part in the program.

But there is still ample resistance to women pursuing degrees in high tech. In May, at a conference for the parents of women studying at the post-high-school seminaries, Modiin Ilit Chief Rabbi Meir Kessler complained about husbands who encourage women to earn better salaries. He warned that “immodest” workplaces promote “evil” inclinations, mixing with secular co-workers and leave wives too tired to handle their roles as homemakers.

After the publication of a report on the program in an ultra-Orthodox newspaper, a public leaflet warned the public that “the defense establishment” was behind a secret campaign to turn the charedi seminaries into academic colleges with help from “collaborators” from within the seminaries.

To continue reading click here.

Another Perspective…. A Different Voice -Are we Targeting Hasidim?

Note to our readers:

We are often accused of taking a one-sided approach to the issues involving the Hasidic (Chasidic) community, of ignoring that there are two sides to every story and of crossing the line from factual information to hate speech. For that we apologize. It is during those times when you will see breaks in publication.  There is a fine line between opinions and facts and the message they send (perception is everything) and it is not always walked as cleanly as it should be or frankly as intended.

Here at LM we admire with significant emphasis, those like the Rabbi from New Jersey who commented on prior pages of this blog. His comments are important in the debate of how a community can live together, religious and non-religious, Jew and non-Jew together in harmony.

It takes courage to speak out.

We admire Rabbi Mordechai Lightstone (mentioned in the article below) for his tutorials and opinions or Chabad.org, some of which have graced our pages, whether we agree with them or not. We most admire people like the nurse, Blima Marcus mentioned below, who has gone on a virtual crusade to “debunk vaccination myths”. We don’t express our admiration enough.

We take issue, however, with the belief, expressed below and in the continuation of the Algemeiner article, that it is acceptable for an entire community to be groomed to study ancient texts. While their knowledge, ability to understand and parse out the details of the Jewish texts, and carry that kowledge to the next generation is, indeed, important; it cannot be to the exclusion of all else. Many of these people do not speak the language of the land, and we feel there is no legitimate excuse for that. If that same Jewish scholar is going home, having 9 children and then expecting non-religious, secular or non-Jewish members of society to foot the bills for those 9 children, he is imposing his religion on others. There is a fundamental unfairness to the rest of us, which perpetuates resentment and hate. Those who get angry and resentful should be understood in the context from which that is generated as well.

There must be a balance struck between study for the sake of study and contributing to the economic and financial continuance of that society. In the United States, we refer to the greater US. When living in London we refer to the greater UK and when living in Canada, we refer to the greater Canada. It is all well and good to be a scholar, but when you take money from society to study, you breed resentment. This blogger, for one, would love to return to study, a government and philosophy student who spent years editing translations of the scrolls of Elephantine Island for a professor at Hebrew University of Jerusalem. But it is unrealistic to do so if a family must be fed, taxes must be paid and children must attend school. We are not living in a vacuum.

Within the writing of some of the most scholarly rabbis, there was a clear understanding, if not an outright demand of the Jewish people, that we be self-sufficient. However we chose to establish our society, the religion demands that we not rely on others for support. When religion starts to encroach upon the lives and livelihoods of others, it is an imposition and unacceptable. To deem those not religious as not even Jewish or as lesser humans, which can be found in multiple teachings throughout the religious (and perhaps fundamentalist Jewish world – yes… every religion has its kooks), then the balance gets tipped and damage is done.

We, with admiration, agree wholeheartedly that there must be a way forward that provides for mutual respect, mutual tolerance, global sensitivity and a measure of love for those notable people on all sides of the debate and political divide. We thank Algemeiner for the published opinion and those highlighted within the article. 

We ask that you please read the Algemeiner article below and that you consult its original sources.  It tells a different story then most that grace our pages, but one that should be read without a passive indifference or active criticism.

With respect, LM 

Stop Picking on the Hasidim

The Orthodox Jewish community of New York is under attack. In just a few days, a 63-year-old Hasidic grandfather was beaten with a brick, another was made to strip off his yarmulke at gunpoint, a gang attacked a truck, and more. Then a shocking campaign video was posted by Republicans in Rockland County, depicting Hasidic Jews as a threat to their fellow Americans.

Those behind the video refused to apologize, and as The New York Post revealed, they had deviously plotted their modern-age blood libel months in advance.

These unmistakably antisemitic attacks are not sui generis in nature. On the contrary, the NYPD found a 101 percent increase in antisemitic hate crimes compared to the same period last year. With their distinctive black and white uniforms and visible religious head coverings, the Orthodox make an easy target for physical violence and societal prejudice.

As Rabbi Mordechai Lightstone, social media editor at Chabad.org, puts it, Hasidim “are described as all things except for the one thing we are the most: human beings trying to make it in this town like everyone else.”

The fact is that the Orthodox are growing extremely fast. With 70 percent of Jewish-Americans assimilating out of religious existence, these “black hat” communities (I refuse to call them “ultra-Orthodox”) will reportedly soon constitute 25 percent of Jewry in the entire nation.

An example of the way these people have recently been picked on is the public reaction to the measles crisis that recently swept New York. With a health ban that was placed only on yeshiva schools, many began to blame the Orthodox for not vaccinating their children. Never mind the fact that most of the schools with unvaccinated students weren’t even Jewish, or arguably that the common denominator between those who refuse vaccinations isn’t religion but being white, rich, and well-educated.

Regardless, by painting the vaccination crisis in New York as an Orthodox Jewish issue, the national conversation is skewed away from the reality that nine percent of Americans (30 million people!) are reportedly anti-vaxxers. Furthermore, it is an Orthodox nurse, Blima Marcus, who is leading the way in teaching healthcare clinicians how to effectively debunk vaccination myths for the American public.

The problem is that this bias leads directly to the short-sighted and dangerous “us vs. them” mentality that pits public opinion against minority groups. In her New York Times article “Is it Safe to be a Jew in New York?” Ginia Bellafante points out that the societal intransigence to take action against the blaze of anti-Orthodox bigotry stems from stories like these that carelessly stoke the “existing impressions of backwardness.”

I believe the flames of insidious bigotry must be quenched with the soothing waters of public education.

Mayor Bill de Blasio recently appointed Deborah Lauter, previously of the Anti-Defamation League, to run the new Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes. They should follow the advice of Elan Carr, US Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism, who recently remarked that fighting antisemitism must include “philosemitic education” about positive Jewish contributions to society.

Rabbi Moshe Dovid Niederman, arguably the most politically active Hasidic Jew in New York City, laments the ignorance surrounding the contributions his community offers the general public. “I think most New Yorkers would be surprised to discover that our non-profit, United Jewish Organizations (UJO) of Williamsburg, provides social services to anyone, regardless of religion, race, or creed.”

Although most of Niederman’s clientele are Hasidim, he advocates for fellow New Yorkers of all backgrounds who are referred to UJO. “We help anyone who walks in the door,” Niederman says, “it could be food stamps, housing assistance or whatever else they need.”

This public service ethos is derived from Jewish spiritual theology, which places a moral mandate on its followers to engage in “Chessed,” colloquially translated as “acts of loving kindness.” As Professor Jack Werthheimer writes in his article “What You Don’t Know About the Ultra-Orthodox,” the Orthodox have made “Chessed” into an “art form” by creating hundreds of aid programs, known as “Gemachs” — a Hebrew acronym for “Gemilut Chasadim,” literally, “the giving of loving-kindness.”

In the marketplace of ideas, cultural contributions from these most visible Jews should be cherished and protected as a national resource. In these communities, young men are expected to dedicate their post-high school years to studying at Kollelim, yeshivas of higher learning, where they pour over the ancient texts from morning until night. The purpose of this higher education model isn’t to obtain a degree but to engage in study for its own sake.

To continue reading in Algemeiner click here.

The Tragedy Surrounding How Children are Educated and the Rifts Within a Community Worldwide [Video]

Apparently depicted in this video: An English Rabbi being harassed by Protesters because he has taken a liberal view on education, as the government in England (similar to New York) moves to enforce guidelines on teachings in private schools.

 

The following is a beautifully articulated article by Rabbi Pini Dunner regarding education. It is a follow-up of other articles he has written. Respectfully, we have only posted part of his comments, without permission, and ask that you consult his original text for his full commentary by clicking here.  We believe, though could be wrong, that the controversy to which he is referring is the scene depicted in the video above. 

STAND AND DELIVER

Earlier this week, I briefly visited New York for a wedding, and once again I came face-to-face with the controversy that continues to rage over proposed education regulations formulated by the New York State Education Department (NYSED).

Feelings are running high, and the campaign to thwart the said proposals is in full swing. Many within the orthodox community are convinced that this scheme is the thin end of a very insidious wedge, and they include those whose schools provide a very good general studies education.

Quite a number of the people I spoke to believe that allowing the authorities to determine how and what is taught at Jewish private schools poses a grave danger to the future of orthodox Jewry in America.

But how did we get here? How is it possible that a bunch of bureaucrats in Albany has managed to rattle the orthodox community to this extent?

Why is it, if so many schools are compliant with equivalency requirements, that NYSED wants to institute these draconian measures to regulate and oversee them?

Incidentally, whatever happens in New York will surely foreshadow similar legislation in other states. There is a broad concern among education officials that Jewish private schools are not in compliance with basic educational requirements, and that children who attend these schools are being shortchanged by their institutions, to the extent that they will “graduate” without the basic skills required to provide for themselves and – once they marry and have kids – their families.

In the Satmar Hasidic community this whole episode is being painted in very stark terms. Last month, the various factions within Satmar (please note: it is no small feat to unite this very divided community) issued a powerful declaration regarding the dangers posed by the proposed regulations.

In a vigorous call to arms, the leadership requested that the “honored parents” of students in their various institutions join a letter-writing campaign to the authorities to ensure the failure of the “evil education decree” which threatens the status-quo, and which – they claim – might result in the devastation and destruction of Torah-true Jewish education in New York.

And this week twelve Hasidic institutions published a notice to announce that they would never include “common core” education books in their general studies curriculum under any circumstances, as they are full of “heresy”, and their only intent is to prepare those who use them for a college education.

Meanwhile, thousands of parents within the Satmar community and other associated Hasidic communities, including many who have sent letters to NYSED so that they openly comply with the mandated letter-writing campaign, are secretly hopeful that the state will impose the regulations on their children’s schools so that the next generation will be forced to learn English and math, and be properly equipped for life in twenty-first century America.

I have received hundreds of emails and calls since my last article on this subject, the vast majority from Hasidic parents congratulating me for my stance, and imploring me not to abandon them and their children to a life of ignorance and penury.

One parent wrote to me that his children only speak Yiddish, as their school does not allow them to speak English at home, otherwise they are in danger of being expelled. This means, said my correspondent, that his children do not know the English names of the days of the week, nor do they know their English dates of birth, nor can they explain to the doctor what their symptoms are when they require medical attention.

These children, it is worth noting, are all third-generation Americans. How is it that if they were Jews from the former Soviet Union, or living in low-income industrial towns in Israel, that we would do everything we could to help them gain a foothold in life, but just because they live in Williamsburg, or Monsey, or New Square, we do nothing to help them, and simply write them off? How does it make any sense that hundreds of thousands of Jewish children are being doomed to a life of poverty right under our very noses?

To continue reading click here.

Breaking the Glass Ceiling for Haredi Students and Building an Economy

 

Israel Launches a Tech Integration Program for Haredi Students

Amounting to 11% of Israel’s population, the number of Haredi Jews employed in high-paying jobs is relatively low

Israel’s Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services is setting up a new program to help ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) Jewish students find jobs in international tech companies. With a budget of NIS 10 million (approximately $2.8 million), the program will offer scholarships of NIS 12,000 (approximately $3,400) a year, help students scout for potential employers, and provide guidance on acquiring essential workforce skills.

According to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, Haredim made up 11% of the country’s population as of 2018, but their number among employees in high-paying jobs is relatively low. According to the ministry, in 2017, Haredi women held 4% (3,800) of high paying tech jobs, while Haredi men held just 1% (800). Ultra-Orthodox Jews are rarely seen in more sought after positions, Shira Berliner, head of the Haredi employment section in the ministry, said in a recent interview with Calcalist.

The program will support 50 Haredi students a year and its success and future budget will be examined after its second cohort. One of the main objectives of the program is to integrate Haredi students into high paying part-time jobs during their second year of study to help them gain relevant experience, and the program is already in talks with HP, network and cloud security company Check Point Software Technologies Ltd., and chipmaker Mellanox Technologies Ltd., according to Nathan Kendler, a vice president at Yedidut Toronto.

To read the article in its entirety click here.

 

ADDITIONAL READING: