“In the mainstream haredi education system, boys get spoon-fed and spoiled. They don’t need to think for themselves, everything will come from state or from donors and they never need to think about their financial future. What we’re saying is if you don’t rely on yourselves no one will. These boys need to take responsibility for themselves but they also need the tools to do so."
Above: file photo
Hybrid Haredi Yeshiva That Combines Secular And Religious Studies Grows
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
The Ein Hemed Campus/Darkei Torah Yeshiva in Jerusalem, one of the only haredi schools that teach males both religious and secular studies, has been meeting with marked success – despite fierce criticism from haredi community leaders, the Jerusalem Post reported.
The hybrid yeshiva, which teaches students from 17- to 22-years-old, began with 25 students in its fist academic year. It had 80 students this year and expects as many as 120 to register for the upcoming school year, which begins in late summer.
Students come from a variety of backgrounds. Some are children of immigrants, some are hasidic families, some come from the Litvish non-hasidic yeshiva community, and some are children of ba’al teshuvas (people who became Orthodox or haredi as adults).
All students study various religious subjects from 8:30 am to 1 pm. After a break for lunch and the afternoon prayer, students study secular subjects from 4:30 pm to 7:30 pm, including English, Math, History and Civics.
Unlike regular haredi yeshivas, students must take tests to measure their progress in religious studies. They also are tested in secular studies and receive legitimate high school diplomas – if they pass the national exam.
Along with all that, students also study computer science and Web design in order to make them more employable.
Every weeknight, students are required to attend a study session from 8:15 pm to 10 pm. The students can choose what subject to study each night, be it religious or secular.
Students also reportedly work in teams for businesses, creating their websites and producing written content for them. The school charges the businesses just under $800 for the service, and all the money received reportedly goes to the students who did the work.
The goal is to give students the self confidence to be productive and leave them with the assurance that they can go out into the world and accomplish goals on a practical level.
Beginning in the 2016 academic year, Ein Hemed plans to offer a degree-granting course in Management and Computer Science through the Open University.
The school’s founder, Rabbi Yisrael Rozovski, told the Post his goal is to bring a “Diaspora haredi perspective” to Israel’s haredi community, meaning to show Israeli haredim that they can still be haredi and live a haredi lifestyle while working in the wider world and earning a living.
“In the mainstream haredi education system, boys get spoon-fed and spoiled. They don’t need to think for themselves, everything will come from state or from donors and they never need to think about their financial future. What we’re saying is if you don’t rely on yourselves no one will. These boys need to take responsibility for themselves but they also need the tools to do so,” Rozovski said.
“In the haredi world,” Rozovski continued, “a boy goes into yeshiva but is not set any goals or challenges, he just keep studying and studying at an age when a man should be developing himself and developing his creativity and his leadership ability. They get married, have a kid and start needing to go to communal charities because they’re having problems supporting their family, but they realize it’s too late to start studying for academic qualifications.”
A 19-year-old student identified only as Gamliel lashed out at regular haredi yeshivas.
“At one stage I decided I don’t want to sit and learn all my life, I want to do something, to develop personal skills and eventually have a career. At the moment I’m studying what secular kids learn in grade 10 and 11th grade. This sector [haredim] decided that knowledge is a problem and it prefers that people be ignorant and that they continue to be sheep led by the shepherd. But people need to have their own opinions and knowledge,” Gamliel told the Post.
“There are lots of reasons [haredi leaders] don’t want people to have knowledge,” Gamliel continued. “When people get access to the Internet and are exposed to information, they can think things that their teachers or role models don’t want them to, he can answer questions about money and power, or decide not to vote for United Torah Judaism. It’s about sheltering people, so they can’t integrate and to keep them away from the Western world.” Gamliel says.
An 18-year-old student, Aharon, said his new school helps he see that he has a good future.
“I was in a regular yeshiva and I didn’t do very much. There’s nothing really happening in the yeshivas. Here you see a future for yourself, and that you can have a good future. I don’t see that in the other yeshivas, but here too we learn Torah which makes me happy that I can do both. I’m still haredi, I still pray three times a day,” Aharon said.
Rozovski says he isn’t a revolutionary, though. All he wants to do is protect the Torah, and this type of new hybrid yeshiva is the only way he believes that can ultimately be done.