Sunday, November 12, 2006

Israeli Education

I was speaking with a friend of mine last week who purportedly wants to make aliyah. His big problem, and apparantly the big problem of a lot of would be olim is that the education in Israel leaves a lot to be desired, and there is no place where they can fit into society as everyone here is an extremist.
You can either be a chareidi, in which case your kids will learn in kolel for their entire lives or a dati leumi, which means that they wear an asimon kippa, go to the army and probably go off the derech.

Comparing this to the American yeshiva education system, which is ideal (???), it is impossible to move to Israel.

OK. Now lets think about this for a minute. Do you know anyone in America who is happy with the yeshiva education system? In my yeshiva high school class, 25% went off the derech after learning one year post high school learning. There is nobody I know that is happy with the Bais Yaakov system. You deal with it because the other options in America are much, mcuh worse.

In Israel, unbeknowest to everyone, there is a middle of the road. You have 2 options, one is to be a liberal chareidi and the other is to be a torani dati leumi. Dati Leumi yeshivas have kolel programs now. The boys can stay and learn as long as they want and it is even encouraged. The hesder yeshiva boys go to the army as a unit, after 2 years of learning in yeshiva. They have each other to lean on if any questions of religion come up. Can that be any worse then going to college after 2 years in yeshiva? What is middle of the road in the US if not college after a couple years of learning.

The way the boys in yeshiva here dress reflects the way society here dresses. I'm the best dresser in my office, full of secular Jews, wearing a button down shirt every day, I didn't change my dressing habits from working in the US, where I wasn't even on the list of best dressers.

The real difference is that Americans see the kippa sruga and associate them all with modern orthodoxy. While that was definitely true 20 years ago, the dati leumi yeshiva world has made tremendous strides in the past 20 years. My Israeli friends who grew up in the dati leumi culture are just as frum as my friends back home from the yeshivish world. Learning is a priority as is tzedaka and doing mitzvos.

My children learn in a sefardi school. What that means is that they learn the same Torah and the same secular subjects and a couple of the customs are different. Sefardim wash each hand 3 times before they wash and ashkenazim wash only twice. That is something we teach our children at home, as well as the order of davening and what words to say in benching. When there is a real difference, they let the kids know. On Pesach Sheni, they announce that the ashkenaziot should wash their hands before eating matza, because sefardim say mezonot, except on Pesach. They even told my daughter that she was an ashkenazit the first year we were here, because I never thought to bring it up and she didn't know.

I look at the people my age and the teenagers who graduate as results of the education system. While I may not be happy with everything that goes on in third grade, the girls who graduate the ulpana are fine on an educational and hashkafic level. Something must get passed through at some point.

In short, I will not say that there are not problems with the Israeli system. There are a lot of problems with it. However, to base staying in America solely on the high quality of religious education is disturbing to say the least.


yael said...

I agree with you, but the American Haredim don't. They see themselves as Israeli Haredim, so they don't see the torani dati leumi world as an option for them. The dress alone makes them think that the dati leumi world is not good enough for them, and the way that the haredi world looks at the dati world does not help at all!

We keep discussing issues like this on our podcast.

rockofgalilee said...

I think its more a matter of ignorance then disagreement. It is very hard to see through the thick blinders that American yeshivos have tied on to our faces saying that anyone with a kippa sruga can't be that religious.
In America they may be right and in a good portion of Israeli dati leumi they may be right as well. But it's not the kippa it's the kehilla.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I totally agree with you on this point. We find it very strange the comments from Americans when we look at what our children (they are young) and the children of our friends have learned in schools.

And Americans are so ignorant in comparison to minhagin here. Our 7 year old (also a 'token' ashkenazi in an almost completely sephardi mamlachti-dati-torani school) is well versed in the nuances of the different customs.

Plus we don't have to pay $10k per kid per year for the education!