Jan 26, 2011

Soon To Be Recognized: BA In Torah Studies

There is talk about the possibility of the Ministry of Education recognizing a degree in Torah studies for avreichim as a full academic degree. This would allow qualified applicants to apply for both job opportunities that are relevant to Torah studies and for furthering one's education without having to start from scratch.

This began when an avreich applied for a job as a supervisor of charedi education in the Ministry of Education. He did not qualify for the job because it requires an academic degree, and his many years of study in yeshiva and kollel were not enough to qualify.

He took his petition to court, to have his study recognized, and the court asked the MoE the opinion. Gideon Saar, the Minister of Education, responded that he supports recognizing Torah studies as equivalent to a degree.

It is about time. There is no reason torah study should not be recognized as a form of a humanities degree, just like studying in university fields like other languages and cultures is a recognized degree and can be used to apply for basic jobs that require a basic degree, or for furthering study.

Obviously, if it will be allowed, it will need to be monitored, and regulations set in place - how many years of study, which yeshivas will be accredited to grant such degrees, a system of testing if necessary (perhaps require the bagruyot matriculation exams, along with some sort of testing of capabilities in Judaic Studies), and the like. Otherwise the system will be quickly abused, and its value will be instantly questioned and discredited.

This is done in the United States. Many yeshivas are accredited to be able to grant degrees in Judaic Studies, which then allows the student to go to college and study for a Masters rather than starting from scratch. It is true not all universities accept such degrees, and the ones that do also have requirements, but for the most part the system is pretty regular without glitches.

There is no reason why that cannot work here. And doing so will allow many qualified applicants to join the workforce. Many avreichim apply for government positions as clerks, but get rejected because they don't hold the minimum requirement of a degree. truth is that nobody needs a degree to file papers at the Misrad HaPnim, or to be a clerk taking complaints or accepting payments. Yet the requirement is basic and perhaps ensures a certain minimum level of education and abilities, and is understandable. Granting the Torah Studies degree wold be a good step in getting many of these people into decent jobs, and many others into educational programs.


  1. Sitting and studying one particular subject does not necessarily a degree make.

    I am not sure how degrees work here, but I know in North America, most degrees have breadth requirements to ensure a somewhat well rounded education that includes basic skills. I know at the university I went to a Judaic Studies degree was an option (in fact, I graduated with one) but you were also required a humanities course, a social science, a natural science, and a course with an "How to write and essay and research" component.

    Would something like that be likely to be included or is it an all gemarah all the time sort of system that would not really prepare a student for, say a masters in business.

  2. in the yeshivas in the US it is common that many of them give a BA in Judaic Studies. some of them give other courses to fill other requirements, and some dont. When you then apply for college with your degree, some will accept it as is, and others might make you take prep courses, depending on what your transcripts say

  3. in fact in the us the btl system is not regulated, and if the authorities ever realized this they would revoke this degree. furthermore, law schools are clamping down on yeshiva degrees, making it harder to get into law school with a yeshiva degree.

  4. No, Rafi. No American university that's worth anything gives a degree in a subject and doesn't require any courses in subject matter outside the major field of study.

    if the authorities ever realized this they would revoke this degree

    Should religious people continue to take advantage of the fact that the authorities don't know this? Another classic example of smart Jews pulling the wool over the eyes of the (gullible or evil) authorities.

    Taking advantage of an unregulated BTL doesn't sound ethical to me. I don't care if these guys are the smartest in their law school classes (by the way, they aren't, they just think they are).

  5. As you write Rafi "Obviously, if it will be allowed, it will need to be monitored, and regulations set in place" etc.

    This guarantees the unworkability of it. The rabbis will never accept outside interference. They would not like Torah to be considered as academic studies.Obviously what this avrech had in mind as well as those who would look for recognition of Torah studies is that anybody who learned X years in Yeshiva should be considered as if he has fulfilled the requirements of a BA without actually having one even on the paper.

  6. Unfortunately the Israeli/European university system isn't like the US, otherwise I'd say hey most "real" BA's aren't that rigorous so why would the yeshiva equivalent need to be?

  7. 1. IF this is to happen, then the yeshivot should have to meet some standards. No other academic institution is recognized for granting degrees without meeting defined standards. Most of the hareidi yeshivot have no standards in place that could be monitored and by which student's progress could be measured.

    2. There already are yeshivot in Israel that give legitimate degrees. Oh, wait - they're all Zionist and went through rigorous accreditation processes, such as the college at Har Etzion and its extensions/branches.

    3. Many of the BAs given in the American yeshivas are bogus. Many of them are not accredited, nor state authorized; and those BAs (in those cases) are typically useful in limited applications. Some of those places just make it up, just as they give themselves ridiculous names in English which include words like 'university'.

    4. When I starting teaching school in Israel in the 80s, a young rav with a heter horaah was recognized and paid as having a degree. Oh, wait - the heter horaah was from the Rabbanut Rashit, who has rigorous standards (requires a lot more than many other 'smichas'), and the teaching cert had to be a state recognized cert from an accredited teacher's seminary like Shaalvim and other yeshivot had back then (oh, those Zionist yeshivot again...)

    So, much of this comes down to - the opportunity is already there. There are MANY yeshiva guys with degrees and a heter horaah. But one has to be willing to work with the existing system and most importantly, meet defined, measurable, rigorous standards. That is something that the haredi public hasn't been willing to do; but there is no real reason to change the system.

  8. I think the ones who commented that it won't be accepted in the haredi world are correct, which is too bad.

    The value employers place on having a degree is more than just the education itself. After all, what does having a degree in ancient French poetry have to do with being able to do a particular job? The answer is that earning a degree demonstrates one's commitment to setting goal and seeing it through. It demonstrates a person's ability to think, analyze, manage his / her time and a modicum of organizational skills. It shows a level of maturity since a degree graduate did not seek the easiest way out. These are valuable qualities in a person overall, and also reflects on their ability to learn and be trained for a job. If I were hiring, I would have a better first impression about a degree graduate, even in ancient French poetry, than someone with just a high school diploma, even if his / her degree was not related to my industry.

    But I want to explain something to Rachel who thinks Gemara is only one subject. Gemara in and of itself is not a subject. It's the textbook, if you will. Each mesechet is a course on a different subject. Topics include agriculture, sacrifices, spiritual purity and impurity, real estate law, employment law, landlord and tenant relations, family law, rules of evidence, oaths and witnesses, torts and contracts, criminal justice, as well as other topics such as kashrut, Shabbat and the holidays.

    Completing any one of these is an achievement certainly no less than completing a university course.

    Someone who has completed and demonstrates adequate knowledge (pass an exam) in these "courses" has also demonstrated commitment to achieving a goal, the ability to think and analyze, and many of the other qualities employers value.

    With all due respect to Chrétien de Troyes, Étienne Jodelle and Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux, which graduate would you hire?


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