The Zionist Conspiracy
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Monday, January 23, 2006
Bad Jewish Education
In an article in the current issue of Jewish Action, Rabbi Yosef Adler and Yossi Prager criticize the expectation imposed on bar mitzvah boys to lain the full parashah, writing:
"The cultural norm obliging all Bar Mitzvah boys to read a full parashah is pedagogically unwise and can have devastating long-term emotional consequences."
Citing various sources, Rabbi Adler and Mr. Prager note that Judaism recognizes that "because children differ in personality and interest, they should be encouraged to undertake different activities" and that "children's individual inclinations and talents will draw them in greater measure to different areas of Torah study."
Similarly, the article persuasively argues, children who become bar mitzvah should be given different options in undertaking "a significant mitzvah project," with Torah reading one among many such options. The article concludes that "if this proposal sounds radical, it is only because we have not yet applied everything we know about good education to the bar mitzvah ritual."
Most unfortunately, despite the obvious facts that "because children differ in personality and interest, they should be encouraged to undertake different activities" and that "children's individual inclinations and talents will draw them in greater measure to different areas of Torah study," many yeshivas focus overwhelmingly on the study of gemara.
As I wrote in a post last year: "Talmud is not easy to learn, and many students lack either the intelligence, the interest or the attention span to succeed in its study. Yet if someone is lousy in gemara, they are a failure in Jewish study, because that is all that is studied. Some of the same students might be fascinated or at least interested by other areas of religious study, but are not exposed to those areas until adulthood."
While the problem is most acute in the charedi yeshivas where from fifth grade on there is decreasing study of Tenach and little if any study of Jewish thought, it also exists in the modern and centrist schools. Despite what "we know about good education," bad Jewish education that made little sense in the European shtetls and makes no sense in the modern world persists.