David Kelsey has a series of interviews with "Seth," a recent student at Jerusalem-based Ohr Somayach, the premier haredi yeshiva for English-speaking ba'al teshuvas. Here's an excerpt:
…“Is scientific method accepted? What is O.S.’s position on evolution? What is the position on Rabbi Slifkin?”
Scientific method is certainly not accepted and neither is evolution. A rabbi tried to disprove evolution by saying that the heat of the flood when Noach was saved has altered the earth’s make-up to the point that carbon dating was impossible. One rabbi presented an idea from Talmud that a baby’s sex is determined after a certain number of days. This has been proven absolutely false by doctors. I tired to show him an article from a medical journal showing otherwise. He refused to read it. Another rabbi suggested that spending money on medical research is a waste because a cure for cancer will not come from scientific breakthrough but through prayer. He insisted that if we took that money and gave it to kollel families, we would get a cure for cancer much sooner.
“What is the position of Ohr Somayach on college studies for high school graduates? Does Ohr Somayach discourage or advocate postponement of college education to its students who have not yet attended or finished college?”
Absolutely. As I said, convincing people to drop out of law school was seen as a victory. Many students came for a year before they intended to go to college and have simply never left. I would guess that of the high school students who attend OS, less than half will go on to college and of the college students who take a year off to attend, less than half will ever go back.
“Is the western world taught as incomplete in terms of what it offers a traditional Jew, or is it presented as depraved in its entirety and engagement presented as something to be avoided? Does Rabbi Weinbach (the Rosh Yeshiva of Ohr Somayach) consider the secular world in its entirety an “environment of sin?”
Absolutely. I had one rabbi tell me that “nothing good” has ever come or ever will come out of secular society. I suggested that things like the automobile, airplane, the space program, the cure for polio, the progress made in treating illness were all pretty good things. He replied that it wasn’t worth it. That these things cost too much and that it may be fine for the goyim, but it’s not our place.…
Is Ohr Somayach a cult? Read this and decide:
…“Are students encouraged to disengage from the world to the point of not even reading newspapers?”
Completely. I would estimate that less than 5 percent of students read a newspaper on even a weekly basis. I read three papers a day before arriving and this was amongst the hardest part of the transition. I was told that there was nothing in the newspaper I needed to read and that I wasn’t missing anything. Having an interest in anything other than yeshiva is discouraged. Because there is no internet on campus and it is not allowed in the apartments and because the charedi neighborhood does not sell secular newspapers, keeping in touch with the world is incredible difficult. They say this is their goal. They think yeshiva should be about “leaving the world behind and concentrating only on studying.…
Much more over on DK's blog …