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Jun 23, 2013

Hebrew University goodwill rejected by opponents to Haredi program of academics

When attempting to make changes to society, at times it can be difficult to rectify the discrepancy between making the changes while staying true to the ideals one believes in and between making the changes in a way that will actually get them implemented even if it means giving up on some of those ideals. At other times it can easily be a symptom of short-sightedness. At other times it can even be indicative of ulterior motives.

I believe there is a time for cold-turkey and implementing a change all the way to the end. I do not believe that applies when trying to change an entire community and society. I believe goodwill and compounding small changes will go much further than trying to make massive that will face much greater opposition in their implementation.

I have seen all sorts examples of the above in the attempts to get the Haredi community more into the army. Sometimes there is goodwill and society is willing to make compromises towards the ultimate goal. Such happened when the army created Haredi units, such as Nahal Haredi and Shachar - the army, part of a society that believes in equality of women, for example, was willing to create an all male unit in order to get haredim into the army. And the haredim responded in kind, with unprecedented numbers increasingly entering the army from year to year.

Other times, further integration was met with less goodwill. People insisted on not harming the status of women in other bases where such units were considered for establishment, and then similar progress was curtailed.

Another example is a current situation involving academics. In addition to getting more Haredim into the army, society has been demanding that solutions be found to get more haredim into the workforce, and to get more haredim educated with general education.

To that end, the Hebrew University devised a program that would be tailored to the needs of the haredi community. They recently announced the intent to create an academic program specifically for haredim that would be gender-separate.

That is called goodwill, and given time, such a program could attract many haredi students looking for a general education and the eventual career.

Unfortunately, others are less interested in goodwill and prefer to not give up on their ideals even a bit, even at the risk of being less successful at making those changes to society.

Hundreds of people, including faculty members and students, have signed a petition opposing the Hebrew  University's idea. They say that being the host, or sponsor, of a gender-segregated educational program would harm the integrity of the university. They say that the university is founded on openness and mutual respect - everybody is invited to attend, whether he or she is haredi or not, if they meet the acceptance criteria. Requiring gender-segregation is the invalidating of other people - the University does not need to adapt to the Haredim, but the Haredim need to adapt to the University. If the University is not appropriate for them, they need not come to learn there, according to the opponents to the idea under consideration.

This is an example of pig-headedness and maybe even bad-will. Pig-headedness, and definitely not bad-will, will not advance the changes to society that are necessary and under scrutiny. Goodwill will. They might want to stick to their ideals and not "harm women" in the process of making change, but this will only guarantee that nothing will change. The plan under consideration is not to turn the entire university gender-separate, in order to attract haredim, but to have one program under it's auspices that will be gender-separate. Why can't the university operate a program that meets the cultural needs of the community it is trying to cater to? All in all, their approach and opposition is a bad idea - it is stubborn pig-headedness that at best will leave everything the same and not do a thing for finding a solution to the problem at hand.


(source: Mynet)


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17 comments:

  1. Gender segregation may also lower the academic standards of the university. Women and men benefit in the classroom from gender-divderse perspectives and different skill sets. Even at top women's colleges, such as Barnard, many if not most classes are coed. Forget about "integrity"; it's a reasonable supposition that the university's academics will suffer in a gender-segregated program.

    Now, from what I see of American ultraorthodox Jews, those who do attend college couldn't care less about academic standards. They just view a degree as a means to an end. I imagine that attitude would be even stronger among Israeli chareidim. They wouldn't be concerned by low academic standards. But the university should be concerned, for reputational and other reasons.

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    1. Charedim would NOT benefit from gender-diverse perspectives, because of their feeling uncomfortable in such an environment. Their academic achievements will certainly be better than if they don't attend any academic institution. Not to mention the hypocrisy of the seculars complaining that the Charedim aren't trying to be able to work and make a living, and then not being willing to make it easier for them.

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    2. Right, so a top university is not the best choice for chareidim. I don't see Columbia or Penn making concessions to market to chareidim. If they had an equivalent of Touro or a community college, that might be a better fit.

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  2. There are many such programs in the U.S. They enable orthodox people who would not attend a co-ed class to obtain a master's degree in a variety of fields. American colleges and universities also recognize undergraduate credits from Talmudical Academies, and Seminaries, something Israeli schools do not. Secular Israelis like to complain about chareidim not attendng college, but then oppose ways to make it possible for them to do so. You can't have it both ways.

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    Replies
    1. But these single sex master's programs are not offered by top, world renowned universities. Nor do top universities accept seminary credits. And the speech program at Touro rushes graduates out the door with low academic standards to get them working and making money as quickly as possible. However, public schools know this and will not hire these therapists who received inadequate training.

      If the idea is to get chareidim in the workplace regardless of standards, why bother with university? Just give them any jobs they ask for.

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    2. Do you really think that only graduates of Ivy League schools can get jobs and make a good living?

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    3. Kind of my point. Why should chareidim go to Hebrew U (a high quality academic institution)? Let them go to a place whose academic standards won't be impinged by creating a special chareidi program.

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    4. if Hebrew U has decided to take such a program under its auspices, I would imagine they have done the due diligence and have decided either it wont harm the overall education of the university as this is a separate program or the gain is greater than the loss. or I should maybe say is doing the due diligence now.
      The University is looking into the idea. It is students and teachers who are opposing it.

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    5. If they are opposing it for reasons of bigotry, that is wrong. If they are concerned about academic standards (and the quality of their own reputations and degrees), it is their right to oppose it.

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  3. I think that Hebrew U. needs to make up it's mind. When Hebrew U. opened, it asked for a blessing from Rav Kook. Rav Kook agreed on the condition that it would not teach so-called "biblical criticism."

    I don't recall how long, but it wasn't that long before the university through that out the window, and started teaching it anyway.

    So much for integrity.

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    Replies
    1. It seems they have already made up their mind.
      Recall also that a short while ago they granted a degree to a convicted Palestinian terrorist - I guess that is not in contradiction with their "principles."

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  4. Forgive my ignorance but I'd like to address the root problem. Where does it say that it's forbidden to sit in the same classroom as the opposite sex?

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    Replies
    1. It's not forbidden, but the charedim are accustomed to gender separation in almost every non-family situation, so most of them would not be comfortable in a mixed setting.

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    2. I think that it would be hard to find it forbidden. Classroom is a great place to warm up to the opposite sex, flirt, and generally start talking about other subjects. Who is going to deny putting single people, and even married people in a closed mixed environment, does not involve sexual tension?

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  5. This is the second time in so many weeks that Hebrew U. has made the news for accommodating minorities: http://yamakedma.blogspot.co.il/2013/06/the-difference-between-terrorists-and.html

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