« For The Jobless, A Place To Reconnect | Main | Hundreds Of Rabbis Call On Rupert Murdoch To Sanction Glenn Beck »

January 27, 2011

Is Rabbinic Ordination Equivalent To A Bachelors Degree?

Shtreiml After a rabbi was denied a position as a state-employed supervisor of the haredi school system because he lacks an academic degree, the Jerusalem Labor Court will be deciding over the next few months whether rabbinic ordination should be recognized as equivalent to a bachelor’s degree.

Court: Does rabbinic ordination equal academic degree
Rabbi Haim Havlin files petition after being denied possibility to compete for a slot as supervisor as he lacks an academic degree.
By JONAH MANDEL • Jerusalem Post    
After a preliminary hearing on Tuesday determined that the issue should be handled in the courts, the Jerusalem Labor Court will be deciding over the next few months whether rabbinic ordination should be recognized as equivalent to a bachelor’s degree, vis-à-vis the Civil Service Commission’s prerequisites for the position of a supervisor in the haredi educational system.

The legality of the standard tender published by the commission in October for general supervisors is being challenged as discriminatory by the Haredi Clinic for Human Rights at Kiryat Ono Academic College and Rabbi Haim Havlin of Jerusalem, who, despite being an ordained rabbi with many years of experience as an educator, was denied the possibility to compete for a slot as a supervisor as he lacks an academic degree.

The clinic – represented by Dr. Yaakov Ben-Shemesh and attorney Asaf Gabizon – joined forces with Havlin, and two weeks ago filed a petition against the Education Ministry and the Civil Service Commission to the Labor Court, which deals with disputes concerning state-issued tenders. The petition demanded that the tender for 15 such positions be put on hold, until the court rules on the subject. The petitioners also pointed out the fact that a Torah background was not a prerequisite for a supervisor position in the haredi educational system and was merely an advantage, while in other streams – such as the Muslim system – knowledge of the material was a must.

“The petitioners do not undermine the importance of the BA requirement,” the petition read. “But relating solely to an academic degree as testimony of the intellectual and practical abilities necessary [for this position] is not reasonable, and lacks cultural sensitivity... by ignoring the intellectual wealth of the world of Torah, and the result of that is unacceptable discrimination.

“Integrating haredim in the labor market has been on the public agenda for many months, and the media, politicians and economists have time and again proposed different ways to bring about the desired integration,” said the petition, written with the assistance of Akiva Meir, a kollel student who is also part of the clinic.

“The public service should also join the effort, and start with the elementary measures of removing unnecessary obstacles, like the prerequisites in the tender at hand.”

Jerusalem Labor Court Vice President Eyal Avrahami ruled in the preliminary hearing on Tuesday that the issue at hand, which for the first time reached a court, should be dealt with in due consideration. Since that might take some time, 14 of the available positions may be filled according to the prevailing criteria, while the 15th will be left open and considered by the court, most likely within two or three months. The petitioners were cautiously optimistic following Avrahami’s decision.

Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar has recently announced his intention to increase the number of supervisors in the haredi educational system, to ensure that the core curriculum is taught in the state-funded institutions.

This recent tender, which combines both the conditions of an academic degree and at least 10 years of experience as an educator, is generating legal concerns over whether the position is being intended for people who are not haredi, since the growth in the number of haredim achieving academic degrees in recent years is primarily among young people, who would not have the required experience.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Apologies to Star Trek: "It's learning Jim, but not as we know it."

If they're going to supervise the core curriculum they need at least a passing understanding of the material. Rabbinic ordination doesn't cover it any more than a PhD in History qualifies you to teach aircraft mechanics.

agreed. but being that they have a curriculum that mandates intense jewish studies the heads should also be rabbis. basically they should be educated rabbis. it should be staffed in the meantime with non-haredim who fit this criteria and the haredim should be told that as soon as they can produce a group of people who meet the criteria they will be able to take over the board. this will give them an incentive to comply

The following may not be totally correct. Please chime in if you have more knowledge of this

We have a system today in which there are really 3 levels of smicha and a 4th category that we allow to use the title Rabbi even though they don't really have a smicha and can't give smicha under our system.

All 4 from lowest level to highest:

1) Rav u'manhig
Really just permission to use the title Rabbi. Just a community leader/teacher. No permission to give wide psak and likely no right to give smicha to others.

One caveat, such an individual may have been given a very narrow right by their teacher to give psak in a very narrow area to a very limited degree. Beyond that, they must forward questions to a recognized posek.

The following 3 groups can give smicha at their level and below:

Yoreh Yoreh can give psak except in more specialized areas like Dinei Nidah and can't be a judge.

3) Yadin Yadin can be a judge and rule in dinei Nidah.

4) There is a level of smicha that deals with making rulings in regard to Temple work. Obviously, not as practical an area (for now) and as far as I know is not widely given. Usually, people giving/receiving such smicha today are people who have strong emunah in regard to the immediate coming of the Moshiach.
This is called Yechachin Yechachin

Having done both, I would definitely say that a basic smicha (Isa' 1 above) was far more work than the baccalaureate. The amount of retention of material that was expected for the exam was much higher. What's more, there's practical use for the material learned while a baccalaureate might make you more interesting at a party but not much else.
The question is: does the job simply require a degree, or a relevant degree? If it's the fortmer, then smicha should be equivalent.

*Apologies to Star Trek: "It's learning Jim, but not as we know it."*

You know, that makes sense in a way. It is "learning" post high school with at least as many hours devoted to achieve a "certification" (smicha). You may dismiss as it as being a useless profession (mostly teaching), but to some a degree in French or literature is just as useless.

A candidate for a supervisory position in education should possess at least training and preferably formal credentials in educational methodology.

You people do understand that a degree in French or literature requires one to have a depth of knowledge beyond French or literature? You do at least understand the concept of a liberal edeucation, right?

@ YU, u don't get smikha without a bachelor degree be it in the humanities or the sciences.
i don't know what they do @ jts or huc, though i suspect their rabbis to be literate too .
on the other hand young man with smikha is no guarrantee of literacy not in rabbinics nor general knowledge. they graduate in zeal!

I think Chumash provides list of a very specific requirements for a community leader (Exodus 18:21)

"Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating unjust gain; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.

I think its a pretty good description of what a "rabbi" must be.


Israel, like most European and Latin American countries, does not have a "liberal arts" curriculum. A bachelor's degree takes three years and focuses only on the requisite knowledge in the field of the degree. So get off your high horse and let people express legitimate insights into the issue at hand.

At JTS, HUCJIR, or Recon you don't get IN without the BA. Their students earn an M.A. prior to ordination.

Excellent idea!

The scare crow in The Wizard Of Oz was conferred "the equivalent" of a bachelors degree for far less so I'm all for it!

MOSHAICH (uber alles)

Garnel, you're being dishonest here. Maybe ordination requires more work than some baccalaureate degrees although much less than a degree in chemistry or mechanical engineering.

But it isn't the number of hours. It's mastery of basic skills and knowledge. That chemist I mentioned puts in more hard work and thought than a rabbinical student. It doesn't make him a rabbi or the equivalent or a rabbi.

The whole point here is to get Haredi kids out of their ghetto capable of surviving in the real world. The Talitbani would rather die than see Jews capable, free and educated. That's why they're doing everything they can to stop real education. Talking about all the hours required to learn how to vomit up dogma on command is nothing but a distraction.

I confronted this issue while serving as a consultant to a prominent yeshiva during its national accreditation/self-study proceedings nearly two decades ago.

Most accredited American yeshivas at the tertiary level separate the granting of ordination (semicha) from academic degrees. This is for a variety of reasons, ranging from financial aid regulatory compliance to customary yeshiva practice. In the United States, yeshivot accredited by the Association for Advanced Rabbinic and Talmudic Schools tend to offer a degree at bachelors level, sometime styled bachelors, or sometimes "First Talmudic Degree," depending on how squeamish they are about seeming "too goyishe."

From a financial aid standpoint, an institution must meet a certain graduation rate or it becomes institutionally ineligible to receive federal financial aid. If the Ordination Certificate is the terminal credential, that means that all students must be enrolled for it, and something on the order of a majority of those must attain the credential.

In Orthodox practice, tertiary yeshiva study is a finishing "liberal" Jewish education, not a practical or professional course. What's more, ordination in some traditions was reserved for the honours graduates rather than ordinary, competent students. There is also a tradition among some yeshivos that graduates who need ordination to enter on rabbinic work obtain their certificates privately, from sages of renown.

At one time, it could be said that a person competent enough to be examined in the traditional areas of Yoreh Deah and Poskim possessed a sufficiently deep and broad knowledge of Talmud and commentaries, certainly beyond the BA level. Today, with the proliferation of "semicha programs" that drip feed a few sections of Shulchan 'Arukh to enrollees in a one-year course, one cannot be assured that the ordination in and of itself represents the depth and breadth of scholarship that it once did. [AARTS, to its credit, does not accredit these semicha programs]

(In the Lubavitcher milieu, the existence of "shaylah sheets" for semicha exams for many years running also calls into question the qualification of many ordinands.)

Of course, given the sorry state of secular college graduates in the United States, I think there is no doubt that achievement to the level of semicha "Yoreh Yoreh" equals and largely exceeds the rigor and complexity of a typical "soft" BA course. That does not mean that such an ordinand will be able to compose, in English, a coherent paragraph, or has any exposure to the general studies portion of secular knowledge that one expects of a university graduate or even a secondary school leaver.

One really must look beyond the actual semicha certificate to the depth and breadth of the "Bet Midrash" yeshiva education that proceeded it. AARTs requires several hundred pages of Talmud or more -- in the original Aramaic and Hebrew -- for an entering Bet Midrash student, I seem to recall. If this is the starting point, it is beyond question that an ordination that results four or six years later exeeds many times the rigor and depth of anything encountered on pretty much any BA syllabus in any field.

The Israeli rabbanut semicha is well regarded and is known to take years of adult, post-yeshiva study to achieve. Certainly its ordinands meet or exceed the BA level educationally. They may be challenged, again, on basic knowledge issues, but as Israelis functioning entirely in Hebrew, they are often far more skilled users of the Hebrew language than their secular counterparts, it could be argued.

Posted by: A E ANDERSON | Christchurch, New Zealand | January 27, 2011 at 04:57 PM

Morristown's BA is a joke. So is Aish's. So are most others I've seen.

And none of these yeshivas, BT or not, requires the what you claim is required to be accepted for accreditation.

*You do at least understand the concept of a liberal edeucation, right?*

I guess I don't, just what (marketable) skills does one walk away with a BA in French? A smattering of intro level of required courses that hangs around in short term memory for a few weeks is unimpressive.

Attaining smicha does hone debating skills, sharpening skills in logic. There are many issues of law at play as well.

If only they could exclude from their studies the fine art and requirement to steal from your fellow man. As well as how to entrap young boys for sexual pleasures it would be a most noble endeavor.

If the semichah is from an institution that has a curriculum, ongoing assessment, written examinations and a system of academic records -- there MAY be a case. Otherwise - absolutely not (and many "semichas" I have encountered are in the latter category). But most yeshivah guys -- rabbanim as well as students -- are by now so removed from anything approaching secular knowledge (tfu tfu tfu) that in my experience they have NO IDEA what a BA / University education means. Plus -- the devaluation of academic standards over the last few decades means that all sorts of bizarre institutions now award "degrees" (and I am not even talking about the 'degree mills' that sell them online, which many haredim think are just fine!0.

>Morristown's BA is a joke. So is Aish's. So are most others I've seen

Please show me precisely where (such as a link) where Morristown (ie. RCA) says they grant a BA (Bachelor of Arts). How about Aish? What other's grant Bachelor of Arts? Are you implying that a Bachelor of Talmud, or some other Bachelors is the same as a Bachelor of Arts? heheh... BT... pretty funny, wouldn't you say?

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment



FailedMessiah.com is a reader supported website.

Thank you for your generous support!




Please Scroll Down Toward The Bottom Of This Page For More Search Options, For A List Of Recent Posts, And For Comments Rules


Recent Posts


FailedMessiah.com is a reader supported website. Please click the Donate button now to contribute.

Thank you for your generous support!


Comment Rules

  • 1. No anonymous comments.

    2. Use only one name or alias and stick with that.

    3. Do not use anyone else's name or alias.

    4. Do not sockpuppet.

    5. Try to argue using facts and logic.

    6. Do not lie.

    7. No name-calling, please.

    8. Do not post entire articles or long article excerpts.

    ***Violation of these rules may lead to the violator's comments being edited or his future comments being banned.***

Older Posts Complete Archives

Search FailedMessiah


FailedMessiah.com is a reader supported website.

Thank you for your generous support!



FailedMessiah.com in the Media

RSS Feed

Blog Widget by LinkWithin