The spiritual leader of the haredi world, Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman, issued a defiant declaration Monday against the teaching of secular studies in the ultra-Orthodox education system.
In a pronouncement on the front page of haredi daily Yated Neeman
, Shteinman said haredi schools would not change their educational approach whatsoever, regardless of any government plans to reform the system.
“They come to us now to interfere and demand that we change study arrangements by adding more hours of secular studies and threaten us with altering the budgets,” Shteinman wrote.
“It is incumbent on all principles of haredi schools to unequivocally reject [these proposals], and not change by even a hair’s breadth the educational path which we have received until today,” the rabbi wrote.
According to a draft of the Economic Arrangements Law – a government bill presented alongside the budget – haredi schools will be hit with severe cuts in funding if they do not dedicate a requisite number of hours to core curriculum subjects such as Maths and English.
The large majority of ultra-Orthodox schools teach very little secular studies to male pupils, a fact that has been cited as a major obstacle to the integration of haredi men into the workforce.
These schools teach the study of religious Jewish texts to the exclusion of almost everything else.
Separately, The Jerusalem Post
understands that Education Minister Shai Piron has assembled an advisory committee of four ultra-Orthodox activists who have expressed support for reforming the haredi school system.
Piron is seeking input from the committee as to how introducing secular studies into the haredi school system can be achieved, given the intense level of opposition to the notion from its leadership.
Leading ultra-Orthodox rabbis such as Shteinman, see the haredi education system as perhaps the most critical element in the formation of haredi identity, which is why they are so vehemently opposed to outside influence.
The United Torah Judaism party has described Piron as “the most dangerous man in Israel for the haredim” because of his intention to introduce secular studies such as Math and English into ultra-Orthodox schools.