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"Let's Destroy The Charedim - And The Rest Of Israel!"
"Let's destroy the charedim!" That must be the plan that is being acted upon by numerous people lately.
As is widely known, the charedi community in Israel is in a state of collapse. It suffers terribly from poverty, and the resultant problems that it brings in its wake. The reason for this is simple: A very high percentage of charedim do not work, and even many those who do work lack the necessary education to get a job that pays a reasonable wage. This is a result of a society that disobeys and disregards Chazal's directive that a person is obligated to educate his children to be able to support themselves.
The previous government, uniquely in the history of Israel, took strong steps to address this problem, such as making financial aid to schools contingent on their adopting the minimal core studies of secular education. This had significant results - the Shas school system adopted math, science and English as a result. For the first time, it looked like there was hope to save charedi society from collapse.
Yet there were those who sought to sabotage this rescue effort. After the last elections, UTJ politicians entered the coalition, promising to support Netanyahu if he rescinded the requirement for basic secular studies. And thus it was.
But that wasn't all. It's not enough to ensure poverty for all the Israelis in the charedi "education" framework. You have to try to also ensure poverty for people moving to Israel, such as the recent olim from France!
To this end, a group of charedi gedolim and askanim just flew to Toronto (on a private jet, of course). Their goal: to raise funds from philanthropists "in order to make sure that the newcomers stay within the Charedi school system." Because God forbid that they should go to a Torani school in which they will get a secular education alongside a Torah education.
At this point I must take the rare step of taking issue with someone that I greatly revere, Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein. Pointing to the recent report that Lakewood graduates attain the highest CPA scores in the state, Rabbi Adlerstein suggests that the regular secular education track may not be essential. He notes that in Israel, "Motivated haredim with no secular background at all successfully earn the equivalent of bagrut in 12-18 months in special programs, and then take their places in regular academic study at Israeli universities." However, that is somewhat misleading.
First of all, the Lakewood students who take CPA exams are probably not average Lakewood guys. Second, even average Lakewood guys have a secular education and exposure that is vastly superior to chassidim in the US and to virtually all charedim in Israel. Third, the facts are that fully 50% of charedim who apply for "catch-up" programs in Israel (themselves certainly not representative of chareidim in general) drop out because they just can't catch up that late in life.
It would perhaps be more relevant to point to an opposite example. Charedi leaders argue that it is essential to block their students from secular studies and IDF service in order that they should turn into Bnei Torah. But of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of Agudas Israel of America, quite a few have college degrees. And of the recent new appointees to the High Rabbinic Court in Israel, a whopping 50% have served in the IDF. Evidently, a secular education and IDF service does not prevent people from becoming great Torah scholars.
As Jonathan Rosenblum has forcefully argued, it is essential for charedim to get academic education and professional employment - not only for their sakes, but for the sake of all Israel. I hope that the Toronto philanthropists realize this, and are not suckered into aiding those who are effectively out to destroy the charedim - and the rest of Israel.