What Are They Actually Teaching In Yeshivas?

Do children get a subpar education in Yeshivas?

by Bill Formby

Folks, I am going to show you and the whole world a bit of my ignorance. How many of you know what a “Yeshiva” is? I fully admit I did not. I never heard the word and did not know they existed on this or any other planet. But they do, and apparently, they are not doing what they are supposed to do very well.

A Yeshiva is an institution, a school, that focuses on the teaching of the books of Judaism such as the Torah. In some places, like New York City, for example, they are private religious schools that replace public school requirements for Jewish children. But, religious schools are really not that unusual in this country, right? I mean we have Catholic schools and Christian schools so what is the problem. Well, it seems that the primary thing taught at the Yeshivas is Orthodox Judaism, not academics. According to an article in the New York Times by Eliza Shapiro, there are children in their last year of some of these school who do not even know that there was a civil war or that dinosaurs once roamed the earth.

According to the article, this is a problem that has been under investigation by the mayor’s office since 2015 but apparently has been in a holding pattern. The problem, it seems, is the very large voting bloc of orthodox Jews in the city that threatens any politician that intend to change their system. However, with some 57,000 students being deprived of a secular education the state has started bringing pressure on the city to move further. The state recently changed the rules on how private schools operate and demanded that the city inspect all private schools to assure compliance.

An interesting point about this problem is that it primarily applies to boys and it often leaves them with an education that has not prepared them for any type of job after they graduate. Most of the boys say they spend almost all of their school day studying Jewish texts and not secular materials.

Sounding much like the evangelicals and Southern Baptists an attorney for Educational and Religious liberty in Schools claims, “The intrusive set of requirements imposed by the state demolishes the wall between church and state that politicians have hidden behind for decades.”

My being from Alabama makes me wonder just what in the hell is going on in this country today. Here in the ultraconservative South, we expect this kind of nonsense, but what the hell, in New York City? Of course, that is the same place that sent us the orange-headed numb nuts that calls himself president now. Maybe it is time we reconsidered this division of the United States.

We may need to separate this land into three or four parts. Those with brains and know how to use them the right way (Us). Those with brains but no idea how to use them (Republican Congress). Those small brains that like to pretend they know what they are doing (Trump). And, lastly, those that traded their brains in for religion (Anyone else that believes that there is an afterlife).

Then, and only then, we build a wall.

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Posted by on December 6, 2018. Filed under COMMENTARY/OPINION. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
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5 Responses to What Are They Actually Teaching In Yeshivas?

  1. Glenn Geist Reply

    December 6, 2018 at 3:37 pm

    It’s complicated. There are, as with Christianity and Islam, many denominations. In Judaism today, there are reform, Conservative and Orthodox followers all with their own religious school systems with differing degrees of “secular” education – and then there are the Hasidim that many confuse with orthodoxy.

    There are conservative and orthodox yeshivot for different ages of students and I’m fairly certain that the “three Rs” and things like history are taught too. Of course there are schools for training clergy in the Reform movement and at the college level – and then there are the Hasidim, a sect founded in Poland in the 1700s. As the name suggests they are one (or two) steps beyond piety and they have their own literature, their own culture and their own schools where mysticism is stressed and ancient, male dominated extremism is taught. I’m tempted to talk about a sort of Taliban (Hasid and Talib are similar words in Hebrew and Arabic for piety or holiness)

    It doesn’t seem to me that at levels above the high school level much is taught at a Hasidic school that would suit or prepare one for a life outside of being a Rabbi or a teacher at a Yeshiva, although apparently that’s complicated too and more “modern” things are on the curriculum. but these places are almost as strange to me as they are to Christians and I’m hesitant to generalize.

    Judaism is not the only religion or family of religions that spends so much time and money raising children in an artificial universe. The radical forms of Mormonism seem to an outside like me to be as restrictive and remote from the real world – but as much as I pity children brought up in deliberate isolation, our American brand of religious freedom does make it difficult to mandate educational standards.

  2. Neil Bamforth Reply

    December 7, 2018 at 3:31 am

    Over here in Blighty we have faith schools. Christian faith schools tend, in the main, to allow other faiths to attend too.

    Sikh and Islamic schools tend to be just for Sikhs and Muslims.

    I have no idea what is taught in those.

    Is there a place for faith schools? Probably not but what does an old atheist like me know?

  3. Glenn Geist Reply

    December 7, 2018 at 9:05 am

    In my part of the country, such schools became popular when the schools were integrated. It’s a way to keep your kids from having to sit in the same room with “those” people while making it sound like an act of piety.

    We now have state mandated testing, which many people object to, but maybe it’s a way to force the religious schools to teach something resembling real things – like math and literature and history.

    I know people who have sent their offspring to Catholic schools because the local schools were so inferior. Most of those schools do have a good curriculum.

    I’ve never been to a Yeshiva or a Madrassa or one of the local Christian “academies” either. I’d probably burst into flames, so I don’t know either.

  4. Bill Formby Reply

    December 7, 2018 at 12:15 pm

    It is an interesting dilemma. Glenn is right about integration being a catalyst for faith schools here in the South and probably in a lot of other “Red States”. But most all of them make sure they meet state curriculum standards. I guess I was surprised that these people who are a part of the Jewish faith would be, at least in an odd way, aligned with the far right wing Christians in wanting to teach their faith instead of real world subjects. Of course, this New York which is like a different country almost that the rest of America.

  5. Glenn Geist Reply

    December 7, 2018 at 1:41 pm

    Someone once said that if you have two Jews you have three points of view. Most of the Jews I know are at least agnostic. I’m an Atheist but still consider myself Jewish. Not only atheist in fact, as an amateur in the field of ancient Mesopotamian mythology (I call it forensic theology) I have come to be certain of the non-Jewish origins of what the pious see as history. Babylon may be more of the source than Jerusalem. But I digress.

    Are the Hasidim actually Jews? Depends on whom you ask, but they are the fastest growing group and the most hermetic and opposed to birth control. It’s those folks who disturb me, not as religious fanatics, but in the way they indoctrinate children to a point I consider abusive. There are reports of other kinds of abuses I find very disturbing.

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