Saturday, December 20, 2008

Chareidi college - R' O. Yosef's daughter

Haaretz reports:

There was no happier moment in Adina Bar-Shalom's life than when she stood to recite the Shehechiyanu prayer, said on special occasions, at the first commencement ceremony of Haredi College. It was two years ago that the ultra-Orthodox institution she founded in Jerusalem graduated its first class of female social workers. She looked at her father, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. The spiritual mentor of the Shas Party sat in the VIP section of the Jerusalem Convention Center auditorium, together with Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, Shas chairman Eli Yishai and other dignitaries. Rabbi Ovadia looked pleased. Bar-Shalom was overjoyed that Haredi women now had a path to higher education - in no small part thanks to her efforts - and that her father had been a constant pillar of support. [...]


  1. Is there a particular reason that the Sefradic Torah Community can accept and even encourage a college education while the Ashkenazic Torah Community in Israel can NOT?

  2. Sephardic Jews always encouraged secular education in the Moslem countries in which we lived.

    Because the culture of the outside Muslim world was not in conflict with Judaism (ie modesty, separation of sexes, monotheism etc), it was not difficult for Jews living in Arab countries to seek higher secular education and to interact fully in the outside world without compromising Jewishness.

    Jews in Arab countries were never restricted by edict from attending university as were Jews in Europe.

    Additionally, since intermarriage between a Jewish man and a Muslim woman was forbidden by law, there was no real danger that the Jewish man who attended the all male secular university would intermarry as a result. Muslims are not a proselytizing religion and generally will discourage Jews from converting, even willingly, because they traditionally consider the Jewish people to be a talisman to their own country's wealth.

    In the Sephardic community, the Ramabam is held up as the model of a nearly perfect man; a doctor, a scientist, a Rabbi and a multi disciplined scholar par excellence.

    Sephardic Rabbis traditionally pursued trades, wrote poetry, composed music that was enjoyed by the non Jewish masses in addition to the Jewish community, were experts in herbalist and other medical disciplines, studied astronomy, natural sciences etc. This, historically has been the model of Sephardic education.

    Usually secular studies in the Jewish schools were taught by Rabbis and both male and female students received what today would be a college level education in the sciences and arts in high school as well as studying several foreign languages.

  3. Germanic Jews also attended university and received their degrees to pursue professional occupations. (they were part of the European lot)

  4. German Jews, newly freed from their ghetto communities began to attend university in the late 18th century after the Emancipation.

    The enlightenment movement, called Haskala (root sehkhel, wisdom) had the goal of better integration of Jews into European society, as a result of increasing education in secular studies. Thus the goals of secular education and religious observance have traditionally been in conflict for European Jews.

    By contrast, Jews in Ottoman lands were never restricted in economic or educational opportunities as were our brethren in Europe.

    As long as European Jews lived in segregated communities, with all avenues of social intercourse with their Gentile neighbors closed to them, the Rabbi remained the most influential member of the Jewish community and the Rabbinate, the highest aim of Jewish boys, as the study of the Talmud was the means of obtaining that coveted position, or one of many other important communal distinctions.

    Haskalah followers advocated "coming out of ghetto," not just physically but also mentally and spiritually in order to assimilate amongst Gentile nations.

    One facet of Haskalah was a widespread cultural adaptation, as those Jews who participated in the enlightenment began in varying degrees to participate in the cultural practices of the surrounding Gentile population. Connected with this was the birth of the Reform movement.

    In contrast, secular education and cultural intercourse with non Jews had always been the norm among Levantine Jews.

    Because of this historical difference, the secular education of Levantine Jews did NOT result in a weakening of religious life but rather strengthened the Jewish community (ie Abarbanel, Rambam, Saadia Gaon, Rabbi Shalem Shabazi) in that its leaders were well respected members of the greater communities of the countries in which they lived.

    There is no such thing as a Sephardic Reform or Conservative movement. Sephardic Jews do not
    traditionally equate secular education with a throwing off of the yoke of Torah, rather to the contrary, the greater the level of education in mathematics and the sciences, the greater one's Awe of G-d should be. This was the reason the higher mathematics and advanced sciences were usually taught ONLY by Rabbis in the Levant. The acquisition of knowledge of the sciences and human nature was traditionally believed to INCREASE one's faith.
    (This belief is shared by Islam as well, see Abū Ḥāmid Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad al-Ghazālī (1058-1111) of whom the Rambam was a devoted student).

    Jews in Moslem lands were always free to own land, engage in commerce, serve in the government, study in university and generally dress in a manner indistinguishable from their non Jewish neighbors with whom they lived among and socialized with.

    European Jewry, simply did not enjoy the same level of freedom in Christiandom as did Jews who lived in Islamic lands.
    It is simply a historical fact that Jews of the Levant freely mixed in nearly all social strata while Jews in Europe remained ghettoized until the late 18th century. Because of this, coupled with the Evangelical nature of Christianity, emancipation and its resultant interaction with non Jewish culture often resulted in assimilation.


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