Thursday, May 09, 2013

Will Recognizing Yeshiva Study As A College Degree Solve Problems In Israel?

UPDATE (5/13/2013):

Man, oh man, did I blow it with this one.  Obviously, I was completely ignorant of the nature of college education in Israel and just assumed it was like the US model.  Thanks to my commentators for correcting me on this.  I'll make sure my next post isn't nearly as flawed.

Original Post:
The following news item appeared on YWN:

MK (Yahadut Hatorah) Rabbi Yisrael Eichler presented a query to Minister of Industry & Trade (Bayit Yehudi) Naftali Bennett. He explained that Israel’s civil service does not recognize yeshiva study, and as a result, chareidim are barred from apply for many jobs. He explains they are told that since they lack a bagrut (matriculation) diploma and an academic education, they are not qualified to apply for civil service positions. Eichler feels that limud Torah should be credited as an equivalent for in most cases, the chareidim are indeed qualified for the public sector positions but lack the paperwork under the current requirements.

Rabbi Eicher certainly has a point.  Torah study (especially in Israel) should be no worse than studying history, music or art.  The study in many yeshivos can certainly be intense and there is no question that in the more elite yeshivos, the level of study could certainly qualify one for an undergraduate degree.

Rabbi Eichler then goes on to state that because yeshivos cannot issue degrees, their "graduates" earn less in the marketplace and this is a form of discrimination.

However, there are two problems that I find with Rabbi Eichler's query:

1.  Undergraduate degrees are designed to produce well-rounded students.  For example, an accounting major does not *only* study accounting.  In most universities, an undergraduate student has to take a set of courses in various subjects (English [in the US], history, arts, basic sciences, etc.) regardless of their major.  There are no accredited schools that I know of that give an undergraduate degree in Biology (just to pick an example) while allowing the students to only take Biology (and other science) courses.  To meet this requirement, a yeshiva would have to teach other non-Torah subjects as well to produce a well-rounded student - something I don't see most (if any) Chareidi yeshivos in Israel doing.

2.  Let me preface this part by saying that I could be wrong here simply because I don't know about Israeli employment matters -- so if I'm wrong, please feel free to chime in and let me know.

If I understand correctly, the Israeli government does not mandate higher salaries for college graduates.  If a company needs someone to answer phones, they are going to pay an employee whatever they feel is appropriate -- regardless of whether or not that person has a college degree.  Simply having a college degree does not necessarily produce higher salaries.  What produces higher salaries, ultimately, is a demand for the skills of the worker and the relative scarcity of those skills.  Simply possessing a college degree in Talmudic studies will generally not lead to higher salaries for that person (unless, of course, the person is applying for a job where their Talmudic studies are relevant and germane to the job).  Recognizing four years study as a college degree will not magically open up doors for chareidim in the marketplace.*

The Wolf

* That being said, I do realize that there *are* benefits that may come with simply having an undergraduate degree with regard to some government jobs and the ability to apply to graduate schools.  But I don't see many chareidim applying to graduate schools outside of the yeshiva system and I doubt there are enough government jobs to employ large swaths of the chareidi society.


Michael Sedley said...

With regard to your second point, there are many government jobs in Israel that determine salary based exclusively on certification, not on responsibility or job performance.

Years ago i worked briefly for the (semi-public) Sochnut, when I took the job I had to fill in a form which detailed exactly how many years of education I had, and that determined my salary, even though my degree was not related to the job.
The salary was fixed, there was no room for negotiation.
If someone has certification that he achieved a certain level of Yeshiva study (e.g., Smicha or some other type of certification), that should qualify for at least as much as a bachelors degree.

Linking salary to job performance is one the benefits of the private sector. In my current job they don't care how many degrees I have or what yeshiva I went to, they only care about how well I can perform my job

Anonymous said...

concur with the first poster: almost anything that has some connection with the government will have a salary based on degrees and vetek (number of years worked).
So, as American discover, they can work as an art therapist as soon as they arrive, but they will only be paid minimum wage until the proper agency approves their master's degree (can take a few years). Until then, they get paid like a high school graduate.
Your first point is also wrong, but in a differenet way.
In Israeli colleges you are accepted to study a particular major. If you apply to Hebrew U. to study Hebrew Lit, you cannot just switch your major to engineering. You will have needed many pre-reqs from high school, and you will study only your major topic, nothing else. The well roundedness is supposed to come from high school. SO, no, college does not make you well rounded, but, in support of your bigger point, you should be quite well educated in your field by the time you leave, it is not like an American major, where you are not prepared to actually take a job in your field.

liza bennett

Anonymous said...

The way I understand it, many many positions in Israel are only open to people with degrees (and army service). It has nothing to do with higher pay: it has to do with access to jobs.

Jacqueline said...

Actually, in regards to your first point, what about schools that have open curriculums, like Brown? I'm pretty sure you could get a biology degree without taking any non-science classes.

Jeffrey Walsby said...

Charedim are discriminated against whether or not they have the appropriate degrees. Israelis are far more quick to judge someone on appearances alone than they would be in the States (I remember this was also bad in the US). Remember most Israeli Jews are not Charedim and run things around here.I am a non-Charedi American Israeli and I am saying this.

Anonymous said...

Also, I fail to see how being well-rounded helps anyone be more qualified for data-entry or other such government jobs.

Jeffrey Walsby said...

Good Point! I would also like to say that "BEING WELL ROUNDED" has little or literally nothing to do with entry into such jobs. A mother tongue mastery of the Modern Hebrew language good all cronyism or Israel "protektsia" as it is euphemistically referred to here has a lot more to do with getting such jobs. Charedim have the Modern Hebrew down pat. They just won't get jobs that are not servicing their community.

BrooklynWolf said...

Thank you all for your comments. Obviously, I was completely ignorant about the education system in Israel.

Thanks! Hopefully my next post will be somewhat better informed. :)

The Wolf

Lost and Found said...

I don't get why it makes any sense to be well-rounded... ever. How many graduates remember anything they learned in their history class? And if they do, what will that do to further anything but a dinner discussion? Instead of wasting their time learning information that will have no bearing on their chosen vocations, have them take additional classes that can help them in their field in some way.

English, in the US, is the only subject that should be required regardless of the degree. There is not a single other subject that is absolutely necessary, or even makes sense for all students to take. A bio major has no use for history; an art major doesn't need math; a math major doesn't need bio. What's the point?

Now, what will a yeshiva student be able to accomplish with a degree in Talmud? Dunno. But being well-rounded is foolishly idealistic and a means for colleges to make a fortune while torturing students.

Jeffrey Walsby said...

I don't know about the "well-rounded"part. It is just a fact that Charedim and some of the religious bent are discriminated against from the moment the secular employer sees that part come in for the interview. That's the point and it needs to be exposed instead pretending it doesn't happen. This is a high stakes situation where people can literally starve and be forced out of their homes. This is the kind of society Israel is. Make no mistake about it.

I also do not deny that there may be instances where the situation is reversed and it is the charedi who discriminates against the secular. Once again though, it is not the Charedi who rule here. I am mostly secular living in Israel and am saying this. Israeli Society is incredibly mean with a very poor social safety net for "those who cannot compete."

mlevin said...

Lost and Found - college degree by definition implies that the said graduate received a well rounded education, meaning history and math and etc. That's the difference between college and technical/vocational schools. That is why historically only the wealthy were able to afford a college degree, the rest of the population were busy either making a living or learning a trade that will bring one a living in a future.

Now, yes, it is debatable if well rounded education is necessary for getting most jobs. Just like having a college degree does not guarantee that a potential employee is actually a well rounded individual.

At the same time I want to add that knowing history is essential in most fields. We do not live in a vacuum and we didn't just happen to live as we do now. Knowing history enables one to interact with colleagues, make proper personal and business decisions. Learning mathematics trains one's mind to think in logical manner. Knowing biology and other sciences enables one to understand the world and surroundings and helps one to make proper decisions the same way as knowledge of history does.

Just imagine had Jews in Europe were more educated in history and were more aware of the political situation then thousands of Jews would have been saved during the WWII. Just imagine had rabbeim in 1800s not forbade secular education, Jews in Eastern Europe would have been able to have comfortable lives instead of living in dire poverty and dying of starvation... Well rounded education is important and is necessary.

Lost and Found said...

I think you're reaching here a bit... Ok, a lot.

"Knowing history enables one to interact with colleagues, make proper personal and business decisions." Interact with colleagues. Can you expound on that? Because I can't find a correlation between history and interacting with colleagues- unless of course you're talking about dinner discussions. Proper personal and business decisions. Do you, or anyone you know, actually utilize history as a means to making personal or business decisions? "Hm, I remember in the 1700's, this guy had a marital issue and he did x, y and z. So, I'll try that too." Forgive my cynicism, but I don't think 1) That would work or 2) Anyone actually does that.

Learning math. Unless you're math-minded, and most people willfully acknowledge that they are not, learning it does nothing but annoy them and lower their GPA. Those who are math-minded, have the ability to think in a logical manner anyway, so all it does, if it even does that, is hone it for 3 months. That's not a very long time to ingrain an entire new way of thinking.

And biology. Coooomeeee on, seriously? Does anyone... ever do that?

You can argue 20/20 hindsight about any topic under the sun. Had the manufacturers learned more science we wouldn't have global warming as a crisis. Had rabbeim in 1800s not forbade secular education, there would be a lot more Jews not religious today. As it was the maskilim decimated Orthodoxy.

I do agree with you that knowing history, in a general sense, can be, in theory, a life-saver. Practically, educating the masses on these topics won't do the job. Call me a cynic, but history repeats itself regardless of how educated the people are.

I'm sorry, arguing that being more educated about obscure (biology for one is obscure to many) topics, helps improve quality of life and decision-making, so far, hasn't convinced me.

BH, I am educated on many topics. I enjoy learning all of the topics we've discussed as well as dozens of others. I learn it because I want to learn it, not because it'll make any quantifiable difference in how I live my life.

By the way, thank you for replying in such an in-depth manner to my comment. I appreciate it and your opinions, even though I do disagree based on the points you've mentioned so far. :)

mlevin said...

Lost and found - you take a lot of what you know for granted. You use this knowledge, too without realizing it.

Math - as I said before is a subject that trains one to think logically. Those people who are not "math-minded" simply failed to train their mind to think in a logical manner. People who never trained their minds to think logically are not capable of making right decisions. Obama is a perfect example. He admitted that Algebra is beyond him. He also has a poor track record for the way he leads the country. Most of his conclusions are wrong because he doesn't know how to reach one logically.

Now - yes, knowledge of history is probably won't be able to help a conveyor belt worker, but its a big help for others. A doctor knowing a historical background of his patient may understand him better and put him at ease. A store owner/salesman would be more effective and amiable if he knew history. Just imagine pitching a Lincoln portrait to a White Southerner or putting a noose in a store display in a black neighborhood. You automatically know not to do those things because of your basic knowledge of American history.

The same could be said about science. My friend who lived in Bangladesh told me how her maids (poor, uneducated) healed themselves. They would go into her mother-in-law's medicine cabinet and take one pill at random. The mother-in-law is an old woman and had blood pressure, cholesterol, heart and other medications which should not be taken without prescription. These women were never educated in anything, including biology, and lack basic understanding of how drugs work, To them it's magical. Taking pills randomly could cripple and even kill someone.

I can go into more detail, but this format doesn't really permit me to do so.

mlevin said...

"Had rabbeim in 1800s not forbade secular education, there would be a lot more Jews not religious today. As it was the maskilim decimated Orthodoxy."

Actually, I am studying this period right now and see a few inaccuracies in you statement.

One, maskilim did not decimate orthodoxy because orthodoxy did not exist then. The concept of orthodoxy arose when rabbeim, afraid of anything new forbade all change in the shtetle life and called those who wanted to improve their lot or were just curious about anything other than what is written in the Talmud as unbelievers. These rabbeim made Jews choose between status quo - branding it Orthodoxy, and everything else. They forbade learning other languages like Russian and German, they forbade all education besides Talmud. They excommunicated those who thirsted for knowledge or who desired to learn a new trade/language and improve his lot. Many had no choice buy abandon Judaism. So, it wasn't the maskilim, but suffocating rabbeim who were responsible for mass OTD movement. (Rabbeim and of course the Kahal leaders with their evil kidnappings and selling of young boys into the Tzar's army but that's a different topic.)

Lost and Found said...

You're suggesting that Obama is a poor president (not the topic of discussion, but it's easy to contest that) because he can't think straight because he doesn't know Algebra? Reaaaallly??? There are a million variables that could be attributed to that. I don't think the history books will say: "Obama was a bad president because he didn't know math."

You can't tell me that knowing American history is in the same realm as a doctor knowing his patient's history! Coommme oonn... And yes! Precisely! A BASIC knowledge of American History. No one needs a college history class to know about racism, slavery, etc.

Again, that's basic. No one's going to learn that in college. 7-year olds know not to go into the medicine cabinet. You can't compare the case of a completely uneducated woman to a discussion of what the advantages are to taking basic college classes. If an 18-year old freshman is learning for the first time not to take random medications in Bio 101, then there are big problems.

This is semantics. Orthodoxy is the term given to Halacha-abiding Jews. The rabbeim were in between a rock and a hard place. You can debate whether they were wrong or right, but again, this isn't the forum. "Many had no choice." I'm not sure I understand that. You're saying that Jews "had no choice" with the choices being: stay "Halacha-abiding" and becoming irreligious to improve their lot in life by getting educated. That second option sounds like what the maskilim weer saying. "Get more educated!" and in parentheses (and become irreligious).

The reason, I'd imagine (and I have no doubt you'll correct me if I'm wrong :)) that the rabbeim "suffocated" them, was precisely because they were concerned about the movement of "get educated (and become irreligious)". Even with the rabbeim's concern, the movement succeeded. It was a lose-lose situation the rabbeim found themselves in. Give in and lose them, and be harsh and lose them. Only God knows which way would have lost more.

mlevin said...

" I don't think the history books will say: "Obama was a bad president because he didn't know math." I agree with you simply because many people in our society do not understand how vital the training in logical thinking is. In the olden days, our ancestors continuously gave small children puzzles, riddles and math problems to solves in order to develop a logical mind. Today's mind set is that "think positive" and learn arts and one will grow up just fine. Yet, these children grew up to be adults who are struggling with as simple logical tasks such as balancing a check book. These people also do not understand why if a company is forced to pay more taxes would mean it would have less money available for salaries.

"You can't tell me that knowing American history is in the same realm as a doctor knowing his patient's history" I apologize for not being clearer. Expressing myself on consistent basis is one of my most annoying weaknesses. I did not mean patient's medical history, I meant patient's life history or ancestral back ground. While it is not vital to making a diagnose, it is important to establish a trust and understanding between a doctor and a patient. Little things like that go a long way on a road of recovery.

" No one needs a college history class to know about racism, slavery, etc" I agree, but someone above stated that well rounded education was unnecessary for one's job performance. I also heard many times how in Israel many haredim do not get even basic education in high school. Thus, they do not know the basic history and they are just a step ahead of Bangali women who do not know that they can't just take random pills from a medicine cabinet.

"If an 18-year old freshman is learning for the first time not to take random medications in Bio 101, then there are big problems. " But Bio 101 would enable a better communication between the patient and a doctor.

"Many had no choice" in the shtetle/pale life there were four classes of Jews. The rabbinical/learned class. The kahal/rich class. The working class. Poor class. Those in the working class were living from week to week barely making enough to sustain themselves and their families which were large. The poor were those who didn't even have enough to sustain themselves and had to rely on Tzidokah for almost every breath they took. The work options were very limited. The schools for their children were community sponsored cheders, and their children were a butt of all jokes of others kids who were able to attend more reputable establishment. When Tzar opened schools to teach Jews, any Jews (only males, of course) Russian, German, History and Math, in addition to Hebrew, Tanach and in some cases even Talmud, in addition to three meals per day, decent clothing and a roof over their head,the rabbeim and Kahal members opposed the schools, spread gossip that it would lead to conversion, banned the schools, and then ostracized those who chose to get educated there. Only those who were already OTD or on a verge of dying of starvation (that's what I meant by no choice) ended up going to these schools. On the days they would return to visit their friends and relatives they were met with contempt. Many, disillusioned with Judaism ended up converting. All ended up using their education to better their lives and ended up partially and often secretly supporting their relatives still under the yoke of Rabbeim.