Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Pigs In Shtreimels

Earlier today there was a gigantic rally at the Jerusalem Arena against "pigs in shtreimels."

The event, under the auspices of the charedi Gedolei Torah, was for Beis Yaakov girls. The purpose was to dissuade them from attending any of the numerous academic higher education programs for charedim that have sprung up in recent years, such as Machon Tal, Adina Bar-Shalom's Charedi College of Jerusalem (soon closing due to lack of enrollment), Strauss Campus Afikei Lomda, Mivchar, and so on. (There is currently a furor raging over funding of 200,000 shekels for this event that was promised from the Jerusalem Municipality.)

Adina Bar Shalom (a pig in a shtreimel?) with her father
Rav Baruch Shapira introduced the program by relating a conversation that he had with Rav Steinman about the event. Rav Steinman said, "Charedi academic programs?! It's like a pig in a shtreimel!"

(Note that Rav Steinman spoke down the road from my home a few years ago, and stated that there is no relationship between secular education and income.)

Rav Chaim Kanievsky sent a message: that he blesses anyone who studies only in Beis Yaakov and not in an academic program, that they will have easy and abundant parnasah.

Rav Gershon Edelstein stressed that parnasah is entirely in the hands of Heaven and is determined on Rosh HaShanah by one's spiritual merits. Accordingly, he said, those girls who go to Beis Yaakov will receive parnasah, good shidduchim, and everything else that they need, whereas girls who leave that framework will not be successful at this. (One cannot help but wonder how he could say something that is so clearly factually incorrect; indeed, if it was true that Beis Yaakov graduates make a parnasah and those who go to college do not, then there would be no need for such a rally in the first place!)

Rav Yitzchak Zilberstein (author of the popular Veha'arev Na/ What If series) gave a Torah insight: Why did Rachel Imeinu sit on Lavan's idols rather than burn them? He explained that the point was to disparage them, to show that the "wisdom of other nations" has nothing to offer us. (See this post from Rabbi Josh Waxman about Rav Zilberstein's position that Jews and non-Jews have different numbers of teeth.) We must teach our daughters, he said, that a Jewish home that is clean of any hint of foreign wisdom, and teaches only Torah, will never be harmed.

Rabbi Moshe Hillel Hirsch of Slabodka Yeshivah delivered a much more honest presentation. He stated frankly that modern charedi society puts people in a difficult position - the women do not earn enough of a salary to support the family and the husband is in kollel. He noted that there is talk of funding coming from wealthy donors in America, but admitted that there is no good solution. However, he said, the reason why it is nevertheless forbidden to attend academic program is because of the deleterious effect that this has on one's spiritual life.

There is no question that Rabbi Hirsch is correct. Once a person steps out of the daled amos of the yeshivah or Beis Yaakov, they are exposed to all kinds of influences and ideas that run contrary to charedi and Torah values. I don't understand how there are people that deny this.

On the other hand, im ein kemach, ein Torah. We have to earn money, work, and build up society. If charedim are going to radically diverge from tradition by sending everyone to kollel, then the women have to shoulder the workload of both partners (while also giving birth and raising children). And it's just not possible for charedi society to accomplish that if everyone only attends Beis Yaakov. As Rabbi Hirsch acknowledged, what Rav Edelstein said is just not true.

Rabbi Hirsch said that the spiritual price is too great to pay, and charedim must consign themselves to ever-worsening economic ruin. Others will disagree with that judgment. There's always risks and dangers in life. It's dangerous to fight in a war, but we still need soldiers. And it's dangerous to go to college, but we still need to provide for our families and build up society.

These are difficult decisions for young women to make. They are certainly unlikely to choose academic programs when the people that they are told to revere as Gedolei Yisroel tell them that if they do so, they will not attain parnasah or good shidduchim. I am always amazed at how people who would very much want their children to obtain academic qualifications nevertheless send their children to institutions which teach them to revere the Charedi leadership as their Gedolim. And then they are surprised and dismayed when their children and grandchildren don't get an academic education and can't support themselves!

(See too this post: "Gedolei Yisroel Insist On Economic Ruin For Charedim, All Israel")

95 comments:

  1. Academic education could lead to providing first aid to wounded.

    RM

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    1. which, in turn, could lead to mixed dancing...

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    2. Gotta keep the sheeple in the herd......

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  2. R. Shapira, R. Eidelstein, R. Kanievsky, R. Zilberstein - so basically a lot of rabbis, who have reputations for being outstanding people and responsible leaders, condemning an approach they see as a chillul Hashem, and being objectionable and dangerous. Where did I just read something like this before.....?

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    1. I suppose that's why R. Slifkin has posted this...the only real difference is that the other chap monetizes his views through social media and to a gentile audience as well.

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    2. The question is, are they saying something false and misleading in order to motivate people to not follow the path that they believe is objectionable and dangerous? If Rabbi Hirsch is correct, then the answer is yes. The problem is not that they are "condemning an approach they see as a chillul Hashem, and being objectionable and dangerous." That is what the signatories of the letter regarding Rabbi Mizrachi did, and that is what Rabbi Hirsch did. The problem is that some of the claims made by other rabbanim are highly dubious.

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    3. Actually, this one is better, because although they are largely wrong, they are straightforward in their condemnation.

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    4. Df... r. Slifkin is condemning something dangerous the other chap was being dangerous. See there is a qualitative difference

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    5. The point is, one can offer distinctions all the livelong day - they are entirely useless. To a disinterested observer, RNS and the Mizrachi case are identical: An individual with followers, yet attacked by other rabbis. RNS believes in himself (as he should) and dismisses the criticism of other rabbis, despite the fact that his critics are held in high regard by many. RYM does EXACTLY the same thing. As RNS delights in doing, they are the mirror image of one another. Why RNS seems to think RYM will be anymore moved by the critics than he was by his own, is beyond me.

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  3. As always a well written piece, shame that there is no voice to be heard that can command respect and set these false ideas straight.

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    1. We are now in a post-reality world. :(

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    2. You can't help yourself, can you?

      You also know full well that such separatism and post-modern know-nothingism is directly attributable to the nonsense your side has been pushing for decades. And if you don't, that's a shame. But then you probably think the latest National Geographic is fine and dandy.

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    3. Charlie,

      We have been living in a post-reality world for decades now. And the people at fault are the "honest," "dispassionate" experts who have been caught lying time and again, or, at the very least, have not being fully honest about where the facts end and their opinions begin. If no one trusts the experts anymore, it's largely the experts' fault.

      Already in the 1970s, by the way, Ayn Rand said the most important thing you could do for a youngster (from an intellectual perspective) is not send him/her to college.

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  4. For better or for worse, I don't think the Rabbonim meant what they said literally. It's just too blatantly wrong, both hashkafically and factually. I think they were approaching the issue from a more general and motivational angle and they generally agree with Rabbi Moshe Hillel Hirsch. (Otherwise, Rabbi Moshe Hillel Hirsch's statements would have been controversial!)

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    1. Nicely done. They don't really mean to continue to treat women as third class citizens and baby machines. And they don't mean to imply that they have raised their people so badly that one look at the outside world outside their "daled amot" will turn them in to heathens. And that's why the problem will continue from generation to generation, because people like you try to explain it away.

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    2. Um, not what I said . . .

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  5. I don't get it. Why is studying something in an institution geared towards haredim spiritually threatening, whereas there's no problem when haredi women work outside the house, often in completely secular environments.

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    1. I don't know. Maybe because they actually have no idea what those institutions teach, and the true motivation behind their comments is aversion to independence of any kind?

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  6. People need to know what they're getting into. Otherwise it's akin to a mekach ta'ut, a sale made under false pretenses.

    To make a guarantee to people about their livelihood, and effectively coerce them into accepting it, is an incredible onus of responsibility. A person of integrity who makes such a guarantee should be so awed at the responsibility and concerned over the potential suffering of those who placed their trust in them, that if need be they will back up that guarantee out of their own pocket.

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    1. these girls are being set up for disappointment- if they don't get what the rabbi promised, they're liable to leave Judaism. Everyone should be able to pursue the talent Hashem gives them, within reasonable boundaries of course.

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    2. Are you similarly concerned about men leaving Judaism because they don't get what the rabbi promised? Is there evidence of that happening? If not, then don't worry about the women. If yes, then its just more of the same and nothing to get excited about.

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  7. "There is no question that Rabbi Hirsch is correct. Once a person steps out of the daled amos of the yeshivah or Beis Yaakov, they are exposed to all kinds of influences and ideas that run contrary to charedi and Torah values."

    No doubt this is true. Though one starts to wonder; if there is a system of thought and philosophy that immediately starts to crumble outside of its carefully crafted environment, doesn't that say more about the system itself than the outside world?

    Or to put it more bluntly: all the more reason why they should get a college education.

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  8. How many of these justifications to not give a cheque can I use the next time a shnorrer comes to my door?

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    1. Good idea! Post a transcript of Rav Hirsch's speech on the front door to ward them off.

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  9. There is a Darwinian aspect to this. Any of the girls with brains and ambition will see this for what it is: a bunch of hooey. Then they'll leave in search of a decent life, leaving the rest behind.

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  10. Serious question, not looking for snarky answers: What exactly do they find so dangerous about studying in a purely chareidi academic institution? Or are they only against non-chareidi institutions?

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    1. They're against secular education of any kind / anything that upsets the status quo. And they'll grasp at any straws for 'reasons' that justify business-as-usual.

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    2. Charedi leadership abhor independence. It's a thirst for power and control cloaked in the guise of religion.

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    3. I think the keyword here is "academic", which would allow women to realize that there is more to them, and to their life experience, than they have been allowed.

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    4. I heard it put like this by a rabbi I know: Every time Jews use their intellect for anything other than a Blatt Gemara, it has ended in tears. He cited the examples of Gan Eden and the Eigel. He said this with absolutely no irony intended. Of course proponents of this view can never answer the question of who guards the guardians. When I put this question to a mashgiach, I was met with a look of incredulity and horror as if I had lampooned Voldermort in the Slytherin common room...

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    5. I think if you look at it from the women's perspectives it starts to make sense why education makes the rebbes nervous. These girls need to be perfectly modest at all times, but also beautiful. Bastions of virtue. Do the lion's share, and then some, of the cooking, cleaning, and child care, yet heap praise on their husbands for the 15 minutes he spends with his kids on Shabbat. She's the one that has to balance the budget, pay the bills, open up a tik for benefits, beg her parents for money when they can't make ends meet, take the kids to gan, maintain perfect peace in her home, and then go work a 40 hour week as a shul secretary for minimum wage and do some house cleaning on the side, all while 5 months pregnant. These girls are being asked to be Jewish mothers and fathers to their children, sometimes also to their husbands and elderly relatives. The burden on the Charadi woman has never been so high and frankly it is unsustainable. She has the whole family on her back, but she is only allowed to hold on to them with one hand. Let's be real, without support from family, charities, or state benefits it would have collapsed long ago. This is not nearly as big an issue in Europe, Canada, or the US where life-long full-time Torah study is only available for an elite few and is funded by the community. Yet, this idea that just educating women will solve the problem is itself a fallacy. Yes, education will bring in more income, but a family of eight can't live off of the kind of income a kosher BA will provide. It is part of a solution, not a whole one. What education does give these women is options. If you have marketable skills that can get you a job and support you outside of the community maybe you can wait to marry the right person and not just the first mother-in-law that says yes. Maybe you decide 4 kids is enough and you don't want to have anymore. Maybe an abusive husband can't threaten his wife with divorce or agunah so easily if she knows he couldn't live without her paycheck. For the rabbinute this partial solution is too risky to the status quo. As long as the knesset is right wing they will probably be able to make deals politically to keep the community above water, but its a house of cards and as soon as one piece moves it will all go down. I'm afraid a lot of well meaning people will be hurt in the process.

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    6. > Every time Jews use their intellect for anything other than a Blatt Gemara, it has ended in tears.

      You might remind him of Jews like Jonas Salk.

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    7. In addition to Salk there have been innumerable Jewish contributions to medicine, science, art, architecture, and pretty much every other area of life. That 'blatt gemara' statement is striking at first, but falls apart the minute you actually think about it. I wonder if the rabbi who said it believes that the military leaders of ancient Israel learned all they knew about war from the Chumash.

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    8. Anonymous 1:52

      The left wing governments are just as bad (regarding giving in to share, agudah, etc.)

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  11. Why is it Rabbi Hirsch rather than Rav, like the others? Do you reserve Rabbi as a special honorific for the most honest?

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  12. Yeah... Stay poor and dumb and be dependent on the rabbis your whole life

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  13. I wonder if "progressive" Jews ever thought of a correlation between secular studies and going off the derech? Except for the last two centuries when Jews were began leaving Torah en masse, what percentage of Jews was engaged in secular studies during 3300+ years of our existence? Does it not tell anything that in America the vast majority of Jews are involved in secular studies, more than 50% are intermarried and only ~10% are shomer Shabbos? And what's better, a fat paycheck and Gehinnom later on, or poverty and Olam Haba?

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    1. The two are not mutually exclusive: it's a מצווה to support a family. If done for holy and good purposes there is nothing wrong with making a 'fat paycheck'. That's what תורה עם דרך ארץ is all about

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    2. Have you also noticed that far more people smoke nowadays than 200 years ago and life expectancy has increased dramatically? Does that not tell you anything?

      You have fallen into the most basic pitfall of statistics. Correlation does not imply causation.

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    3. Well 200 years ago there were no real studies of any kind. You learned a trade from your father or uncle or the like. And made a living as a Tailor, farmer, dairy man etc.

      Of course it was for most people it was an existence with little margin for error. Which is to say if there was a bad crop you and your family might starve to death.

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    4. Maimonides studied medicine. That is how he made his living. That did not prevent him from studying and writing about the Torah.

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    5. You mean... "Maimonides studied medicine and if he hadn't then he might not have written all that crazy goofball nonsense about using your intellect. Think what a great rabbi he would have been had he just stayed in the yeshiva."

      Surely just a typo on your part.

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    6. Correlation is not causation. Defections from tradition preceded post-secondary education. This is not to say that exposure to certain facts revealed in modern times can't undermine faith, but your choice is a false one. In fact, R Slifkin has devoted a lot of effort to showing people why that need not follow.

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    7. @David R Slifkin has devoted a lot of effort to showing people why that need not follow.

      Well, many others have devoted a lot of effort to showing people why R Slifkin need not be followed.

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    8. @Lazar: I'm not sure what you point is other than the parallel language.

      More important, the problem is that the alternative is that the Torah is false. Some of the things that you can learn in University that challenge people religious belief are facts. That is not to say that R Slifkins solutions must be correct. Hiding yourselves from these facts doesn't save anything, especially because the vast majority of people eventually come around to basic facts (yes, you can come up with all sorts of examples related to politics where people act irrationally, but the basic facts of cosmology, geology, and biology are simply not suppressible.)

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    9. Rambam practiced medicine:

      What about the theodicity of his "financial backer" (Ephraim zevulun) relationship when he died very tragically?

      Or was it ratzon haShem the will of god that he practice medicine?

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    10. @David Some of the things that you can learn in University that challenge people religious belief are facts

      This is a different topic. My question was what percentage of Jews were involved in secular studies during 3300+ years? Although there were always periods of extreme poverty during this time span, until now it never been a cause of not staying the course.

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    11. "@David Some of the things that you can learn in University that challenge people religious belief are facts

      This is a different topic."

      You asserted "Well, many others have devoted a lot of effort to showing people why R Slifkin need not be followed." The problem is not R Slifkin, but the facts that these people can't admit to. No one has every claimed that "R Slifkin need be followed".

      "My question was what percentage of Jews were involved in secular studies during 3300+ years? Although there were always periods of extreme poverty during this time span, until now it never been a cause of not staying the course."

      This is bad logic and bad history. The bad logic is that correlation does not imply causation as Yavoy pointed out.

      The bad history is the claim that Jews were not involved in "secular studies" for 3300 years (besides the fact that secular studies are ill defined). At the least our greatest Medievals were all involved in so-called "secular studies". The modern university was not invented 3300 years ago and was not widely accessible to Jews until recently. This claimed conflict between tradition and working for a living did not arise until relatively recently. The notion that we have the same problems with the same solutions for 3300 years and that the problem is that we just lost our nerve is itself part of the problem.

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    12. The bad logic is that correlation does not imply causation as Yavoy pointed out.

      A consistent correlation pattern does imply causation. One may just look at Yeshiva University, supposedly kosher place. Most frum kids who enter it even after a year in Israel in a series Yeshiva, leaves YU non-religious or at best barely observant.

      At the least our greatest Medievals were all involved in so-called "secular studies"

      I kept asking about percentage of Jews involved in secular studies and I am kept being told about Rambam or a small number of chachamim. Learning a trade from his father is not the same as being subjected to secular ideology in a college.

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    13. The bad logic is that correlation does not imply causation as Yavoy pointed out.

      A consistent correlation pattern does imply causation.

      Nope, sorry, that is incorrect. Besides the fact that you haven't demonstrated "consistency", whatever that means.

      One may just look at Yeshiva University, supposedly kosher place. Most frum kids who enter it even after a year in Israel in a series Yeshiva, leaves YU non-religious or at best barely observant.

      80% of statistics are made up on the spot.

      At the least our greatest Medievals were all involved in so-called "secular studies"

      I kept asking about percentage of Jews involved in secular studies and I am kept being told about Rambam or a small number of chachamim.

      It's not just Rambam. He is just the most famous. The point being that it is hard to image "secular studies" being treif. But rather than demanding, why not do some research and find out?

      I don't have percentages, I only have anecdote. But in America, pretty much everyone gets a secular education (of varying quality) up to the high school level except for a few Chasidic communities that completely isolate themselves (e.g. Kiryas Yoel). Lots of Yeshiva guys go to college at the same time or afterward. Even Lakewood is sending people off to professional school now.

      Learning a trade from his father is not the same as being subjected to secular ideology in a college.

      Unfortunately, this defeats your argument. One of your points was "Although there were always periods of extreme poverty during this time span, until now it never been a cause of not staying the course." They were not staying the course to stay away from things that were not yet available!

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  14. I love reading stuff like this... I grew up in the household they describe, my mother was a teacher and supported the family, saying money was tight is an understatement. When we where kids my mother would tell us to just stay in yeshiva, but as my older siblings married and could not support themselves and she had to watch them suffer so much... She practically forced the younger siblings to go higher education. What happened to the promises of the gedolim???

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  15. So a Jewish home that studies Torah will never be harmed. Tell that to the victims of theHolocaust. What fools these bargain basement "gedolim" are.

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    1. "Bargain basement?" Gedolim were saying similar things in the late '30s.

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  16. So a Jewish home that studies Torah will never be harmed? Just forget 2,000 years of Jewish history. Such wise "gedolim".

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  17. Two things are happening simultaneously: the margins are getting broader and broader on the one hand and the core is getting more and more extreme which leads to extreme polarization as well as more openness. They're fighting a battle that is almost already lost and that is why they're fighting so hard. Also, it's clear that some of the gedolim have dementia, not trying to be provocative, anyone who has had some contact with them would say so as well.

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    1. Was there some time in the past, when these same gedolim were younger, when they demonstrated greater clarity of thought and sophistication than they do now, when it came to social and educational issues?

      Although some of these gedolim have showed sophistication, knowledge of the subject at hand, and clarity when it came to lomdus, I am not aware of their ever having demonstrated the same in matters of public policy.

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  18. Compare the message given at this event to the view of the Alter Rebbe in the Tanya that if they are needed for parnassa, secular studies are permitted.

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    1. and compare both of those statements to the reality that secular studies have enabled amazing improvments in arts, science, medicine, technology etc.. that those rabbis and their communities massively benefit from.

      no patience at all for idiots who can't recognize the value of secular studies. they should quit being rabbis and go be radio-talk hosts in the bible belt.

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    2. The opponents of secular education can refute your first paragraph easily: let the goyim go make the advances in science, medicine, and technology (and who cares about art?). We'll sit in the yeshiva and reap the benefits without the labor because the world is made for frum Jews, and the rest of humanity exist solely to serve us.

      (I had to add the word "frum" to accommodate the disproportionate percentage of advances in science, medicine, and technology [and art] wrought by Jews. I don't think Jonas Salk or Albert Einstein ever shocheled over a gemara.)

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  19. Don't worry. Plenty of chareidi girls are going to college which is the precise reason they made the rally.

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    1. Agree. I don't have any data, but it stands to reason that the leaders of these communities are out of touch with their base. All human beings will eventually take advantage of the economic opportunities that are available. This can't last.

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    2. The data, as pointed out by RNS, that the major school in this field is closing for lack of students.

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  21. If the men would go out and work like they are supposed to, like they have been doing for thousands of years, then there would be no need for women to go to an academic institution to learn a way to make a livelihood for her husband who should be working instead of learning all day. Then haredi women could stay at home and raise their children like they have been doing for thousands of years.

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    1. Oh, because any of these supposed dangers of secular education would only affect women, not men? The men are intelligent enough to see right through them, are they?

      The one good thing that has come out from the current charedi way of life is that the women get a chance to gain an education and make something of themselves in the world. It's just a pity that even if they do want to stay home and look after the children they can't.

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  22. BTW: THe Gedolim™ are correct... based on the information the have been fed.

    Places of higher learning that teach Apikorsus, anti-Torah values and promote anti-tznius behaviour are detrimental to your spiritual health.

    Famous letter from Reb Elchonon הי"ד giving clear guidelines how to choose a university and your curriculum.

    What has this to do with with girls going to female-only non-Beis-Yaakov institutes of higher learning under the auspices of brave Rabbis?

    Simple! They are destroying the Parnoso of the good Jews who run the Beis-Yaakov post high school programs. How dare they do that in order to get a B.Sc. when they could as easily have gotten a B.Sc equivalent, support us and suffer the minor inconvenience of getting a lower slalry than those who got themselves a real B.Sc.

    So we feed the Gedolim™ some half-truths and some half-lies, we make a rally that helps support all those who helped organise it, and we hopefully got a few more young ladies to remain in our system. A real win-win situation.

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  23. R' Zilbersteins remarks remind me of my posts about whether Shlomo Hamelech could have invented cars http://jewishworker.blogspot.com/2006/01/could-shlomo-hamelech-have-invented.html http://jewishworker.blogspot.com/2007/07/could-shlomo-hamelech-have-invented.html.

    Of course R' Zilberstein uses the fruits of non-Jewish knowledge every day of his life, whether it's electricity, telephones, cars, modern medicine, etc. and therefore, to make a statement that the wisdom of other nations is not needed by us is quite hypocritical.

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  24. This comment to the article describing the conference on Kikar Hashabbat sums up the situation perfectly:

    I was also there.

    It was great, and was very to the point. All of the Rabbis said teh same thing plus/minus but the idea is not realistic.

    In school I am being taught to create a house of Torah, to be the wife of a kollel man who will only sit and learn while I will support him. How will that work if the only options in school are classes in education or to become a pre school teacher (Ganenet) when every knows there are no jobs in these fields? As uplifting as these conferences are, I cannot support my husband with them.

    I think that if they really want to find a solution, they should bring additional tracks in the Beis Yaakovs or they should find colleges that are ok. However, to simply say no without providing an alternative solution will not hold water. Girls will last maybe a year or two no more.

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  25. Our most ancient and revered ancestors are laughing at the haredim. Our amot and avot WORKED to support, nourish, and sustain their families. They learned not from sitting on their behinds, but from their experiences, and found spiritual connection by serving their fellow human beings, behaving like mature adults, and taking responsibility for their actions.

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    1. Indeed some of our sages had a wide range of work - sometimes menial.

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  26. There is no question that Rabbi Hirsch is correct. Once a person steps out of the daled amos of the yeshivah or Beis Yaakov, they are exposed to all kinds of influences and ideas that run contrary to charedi and Torah values. I don't understand how there are people that deny this.

    But Rabbi Slifkin, they are not protesting the secular universities! They are protesting haredi oriented, philosophically aligned institutes whose sole purpose is to provide the technical skills to get better jobs. This has nothing whatsoever to do with ideas that run contrary to haredi (let alone Torah) values! By attending these schools, one is not stepping out of the "daled amos" at all. Where, in God's name, is the danger?!

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  27. *sigh* History repeats itself. Well-meaning Jews begin to believe that the wisdom of Greece (or Europe or America) can compete with the supra-rational essence of Torah. May the light of the oil of the Menorah which rises above all waters shine brightly and reveal the essence of the souls of all Jews, even outside, even when it is dark, and those who listen to its flames will continue to be a light to humanity.

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    1. The ideal of forsaking productive labour for a life of study and contemplation is, for what it's worth, a quintessentially Greek idea, although the Greeks weren't demented enough to prescribe it as a model for the average person.

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    2. ... and even once everyone's starved to death..

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    3. > the supra-rational essence of Torah

      There's a bit of inspirational-sounding meaninglessness.

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    4. The ideal of forsaking productive labour for a life of study and contemplation is, for what it's worth, a quintessentially Greek idea, although the Greeks weren't demented enough to prescribe it as a model for the average person.

      Don't you think that it is the other way around? Once you have enough money, then you can consider other things. The Greeks did it, but so has every other rich society.

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    5. Apparently you are confused, so let's go over the basics.

      The mainstream Greek philosophical tradition, in both its Platonic and Peripatetic branches, is characterized by the belief that the highest activity of man qua man is philosophical reflection that, therefore, the philosophical life is qualitatively superior to even the perfectly virtuous life, that, therefore, the philosopher is qualitatively superior to even the perfectly virtuous man and that, therefore, the best polity is one governed in the interests of philosophers.

      Now, it is obvious that a community of subsistence farmers cannot sustain any philosophers at all, whilst a prosperous city can support many. Even so, it is equally obvious that even the most prosperous city - still more so in the pre-industrial era - cannot support any more than a minority of adult males living the philosophical life.

      Quite apart from this, however, all writers in these traditions agree that, even in theory and under conditions of unlimited resources, the overwhelming majority of people are inherently incapable of becoming philosophers in the first place. The complicating factor is that some people are naturally capable but are rendered incapable by inadequate or misdirected education. One of the tasks of the perfect polity is to make sure that all people capable of becoming philosophers do so, which is obviously not the same as training all people to be philosophers.

      The various ways that the Greek ideal of the philosopher has been transmuted into Judaism is an interesting story in itself, but not once I'm going to go into here. We can skip to the end, though, and note that the modern Haredi world reasons thus:

      Premise: The life of the Torah scholar studying lishmah is the highest form of human existence.

      Conclusion: We must work as hard as possible to make sure that all adult males live a life of studying Torah lishmah.

      You will observe that there is a missing premise. The missing premise is the liberal-democratic concept of man (though admittedly in a retrograde form, since it excludes both goyim and women). The result of adding craziness to craziness is - surprise! - craziness.

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    6. The various ways that the Greek ideal of the philosopher has been transmuted into Judaism is an interesting story in itself, but not once I'm going to go into here.

      But that is the part of what you write that is most suspect. Here is the alternative: there would be an Academy today even if all Greek knowledge has been lost; it just wouldn't be called the Academy. All societies have more time for leisure when they are rich and spend their leisure time in whatever they think is the most pleasurable, whether that is watching a football game or studying physics. This is compounded in modern times by the fact that much intellectual contemplation which was once leisure now has great practical import and "pays for itself". This has a great multiplier effect on who many people can be involved in intellectual work.

      In this alternative, the reason for study over work for Chareidim is simple: because they want it and because they can.

      Delete
  28. "Pig in a shtriemel" and other fatuous statements made at that arena allegedly cost J'lem 200,000 NIS in sponsorship. Those Hareidi leaders are whistling in the wind. Economics, if not the breath of women's liberation, will induce increasing numbers of Hareidi women to seek more profitable employment in the Hi-Tech industry which is in need of skilled labor. I note the simultaneous report of 50 Hareidi women who had recently graduated Hareidi computer training institutes were given a tour of various Hi-Tech companies, and spoke to high-level women managers about the workplace. There are reportedly some 200 such graduates, and the numbers are increasing strongly. We'll see who prevails, the Hareidi old guard or the fresh winds. The former should take heed not to disillusion their followers lest they come to reject them and what they represent.

    Y. Aharon

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  29. If both the learners and the non-learners in a family are unprepared, by design, to support the family, who then does this? If it's other sectors of the population, those sectors should get way more respect from their beneficiaries.

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  30. The statement that a secular education doesn't guarantee a good living is the usual response. I look at my shteibel, and I see guys who are bright and disciplined doing car service and driving people to New York, because they have nothing else. Others are stuck as cashiers, working long hours to make up for lousy pay. Damon Runyon borrowed from Koheles when he said" The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that's the way to bet."
    They have dozens of credit cards, mountains of debt, and they are falling behind. How is this a system that works?
    Peretz Mann

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  31. If these girls don't earn enough money, it was mentioned that 'wealthy Americans' may support them. And these Rabbis don't realize that they earned this wealth by obtaining secular educations?

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  32. THIS is the perspective we are fighting: http://matzav.com/reb-yossel-tabak-all-the-tzedakah-and-chesed-doesnt-come-to-one-yungermans-tosafos/

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  33. Rav Yitzchak Zilberstein is quoted as saying, "... We must teach our daughters, he said, that a Jewish home that is clean of any hint of foreign wisdom, and teaches only Torah, will never be harmed."

    Several years ago the son of a friend was studying in a Litai Chareidi Yeshiva. My friend discovered a program in the U.K. (family is British) whereby his son could join a 5 year program at the end of which he would receive a degree in medicine. The boy is bright and would have been able to join the program by taking and passing an exam.

    The Yeshiva administration was adamantly opposed to this plan but agreed to my friend's suggestion that they pose the question to a Rabbi of their choice. The Yeshiva chose Rav Zilberstein. When presented with the question as to whether the boy should enroll in the program to become an physician or remain in Yeshiva, Rav Zilberstein responded, "He should enroll in the program. We need frum doctors!" He offered one caveat. He said the boy should first get married before going to England.

    The boy got married, went to England and is now a practicing physician.

    How to reconcile this story with Rav Zilberstein's remarks at the conference? I believe that Rabbonim say one thing when they are talking to the masses in public and say different things when talking to individuals. I've seen this with other Rabbonim as well. The upshot is, that we probably should not get bent out of shape by a harangue said at a public conference. For that matter, their words at these venues should probably not be taken as proof of anything. In other words, their words at these venues are not meant for people to act upon them. They are not "l'maaseh".

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    Replies
    1. What then does the public event mean to accomplish?

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    2. Moreover, should we put more faith in friend of a friend stories or public statements?

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    3. Obviously you can believe whatever you want although I think it's a bit presumptuous to assume that the story is a lie. I have no reason to doubt my friend. Furthermore, I know of other similar cases. For example, Rav Shach made public statements to the effect that it was assur to live in the "shetachim". Yet, he advised a friend of mine to move to Emmanuel. You don't have to believe that story either. I won't be offended.

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    4. And R' Shteinman is the posek for the school that my children attended, where secular subjects are taught (per the Chareidi version of the Misrad HaChinuch curriculum) and English from first grade. He told them that they can have female teachers up to 5th grade. I've often wondered about this, because I know this to be a fact, and I hear what his public pronouncements are, and it does not match.

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    5. @Moshe David Tokayer: Don't take it personally. It's possible that something like that happened, but friend of a friend stories are not very reliable. It's not presumptuous to want evidence before believing in something; we are tuned to believe stories that confirm our own prejudices and a "rational" person works against that presumption.

      I have no doubt that in many cases the public position may not match the private position for a variety of reasons. In this case, it makes little difference as the public position will cause much harm.

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    6. It's one thing to have different advice for different individuals. It's quite another to have a public opinion that is at odds with ones private opinion. Either secular education is OK for some, or it's not.

      All your story tells me is that R' Shteinman has no integrity.

      Delete
  34. b"H Das Schwein im Streimel or der Shor im Streimel is a verfressener Yid, who can't perceive Ruchnius. A Torani Yid who learns engineering or medicine or accounting or whatever at a university will discover HASHEM there too. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe used to say, there is Torah in everything. Since our Tafkid is davkah to bring Torah down to this earth and make it felt, then a clear-sighted Yid will use even his secular learning to enlighten the world with more Torah. That's not a Tafkid for a Schwein or a Shor im Streimel, that is a Tafkid for a bintele Yid who recognizes Torah like a precious wildflower under every leaf, in every book and lifts it full of beaming love to show klal Yisrael how HASHEM's universe is a living Torahchest, and OPEN TORAH UNIVERSITY....

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  35. Rav Steinman's analogy was actually quite appropriate.

    A streimel has no intrinsic religious or halachik significance. It is a knock=off of the head-gear worn by gentile noblemen in Eastern Europe centuries ago, with its origin dating back to the Tartars.

    Its primary purpose -- like other forms of Hasidic garb -- is to encourage conformity and thereby keep members of the flock from leaving.

    In the same way, secular education is banned -- not because there's anything wrong with it ... but in order to keep Bais Yaakov girls ignorant and thereby induce them to remain in their subservient roles within the flock. How sad.

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  36. The problem with all these statements by the "Gedolim" is that when they are proven to be blatantly untrue, as for example, Rav Steinman's statement that there is no relationship between secular education and income, it starts a chain reaction. If the "Gedolim" are spouting such obvious nonsense about something that is so observably true, then what other nonsense are they spouting? Alternatively, once I start to distrust one of their statements, why stop there? Maybe they are also spouting nonsense about the splitting of the red sea, or Hashem giving the Torah to Israel, or even the very idea of Hashem. There is no clear line to say the "Gedolim" are wrong about this but not wrong about that. If they make obviously untrue statements about one thing, that leads one to question the entire edifice.

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