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How Are We Solving the Yeshivah Issue?

There are several problems facing our greater community at large. To address some of the problems, we have set up many organizations involved in providing support to people who are facing medical, parnassah, and emotional issues.

One organization, YAFFED, has been clamoring for help on educational issues. They are specifically focusing on yeshivah students, who like its spokesman Naftuli Moster, they believe  don’t get sufficient secular education to be able to function in secular society. Though with difficulty and determination, Moster did manage to pursue higher education on his own, and ultimately earned a degree in social work.

It’s no secret that yeshivos teach less English/secular studies than public schools, or that chassidishe yeshivos teach even less than litvishe ones. As one who went through that system, I can weigh in that the emphasis was placed on Judaic studies, probably as a means to preserve a certain way of life. Though many people have gone on to higher education, the less they were taught as youths, the bigger challenges they faced.

For many people and especially older generations, college is considered a threat since it is seen as a catalyst to straying from one’s Jewish heritage, and that scares people. However, those who believe a child gets all he needs from Judaic studies may be over-simplifying the education necessary to achieve success and become a productive member of society. Many people have expressed the wish that they’d been taught more; many say they feel a disservice was done to them. But who can change this?

It is the parents who choose what schools to send their children to, and the State can and should only intervene to a limited extent. Some believe that learning Torah and only the basics in English and math is what is needed to survive, but Chazal also tell us this is not a realistic goal for most. They further warn that whoever doesn’t teach his child a trade has in essence taught him how to be a thief.

This is an issue we should be addressing. What can we as a community do to answer the call of many like-minded people who haven’t come forward, to provide our children with better educational opportunities?

We cannot wash the issue away simply by ignoring it. Unfortunately, YAFFED’s public protests and requests for government intervention can cast a pall on our people and exposes our internal disagreements to a world that doesn’t share our values. People take sides and the issue doesn’t get solved; all we have done is bring our disagreements to the general population.

I think that what we really should be doing is working together, with PEARLS (an organization formed by 26 yeshivos to address this issue), Rabbonim, and concerned parents as we have at other times and for other causes, to end the pain and provide realistic hope for the future. By just attacking our school system, it causes the yeshivos to become defensive,   and it forces parents, educators and askanim to choose sides in order to defend the status quo. By working together, we can provide for both the spiritual and physical needs of all our children. Let’s continue to be talmidim of Aharon HaKohain who loved and pursued peace.

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