Haredi political leader: English, math studies useless for Israel's economy

Yitzchak Goldknopf and the opposition led by Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to end withholding of haredi school funds in return for core studies.

 United Torah Judaism (UTJ) chairman rabbi Yitzchak Goldknopf is seen at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, July 28, 2022 (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
United Torah Judaism (UTJ) chairman rabbi Yitzchak Goldknopf is seen at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, July 28, 2022
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Israel has not benefited from teaching core subjects such as math and English to Israeli youth in secular schools, United Torah Judaism (UTJ) chairman Yitzchak Goldknopf argued on Channel 12's Meet The Press program aired on Saturday evening.

In his interview, the new UTJ head claimed math and English studies had no effect on Israel's economy in an attempt to justify the lack of these subjects in haredi (ultra-Orthodox) schools across Israel.

"Haredi schools are denied their budgets by the government because they don't teach English and math..why? they tell me 'because in 20 years,'" he said, referring to the struggles young haredis face when trying to integrate into Israel's business and tech sectors.

The political battle over ultra-Orthodox schools

In June, Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton announced the launch of a new program to encourage core studies in ultra-Orthodox educational institutions.

The program, which was set in motion before the announcement of an election, will be implemented as early as the start of the next school year and will not be mandatory.

However, the opposition led by Likud head MK Benjamin Netanyahu opposed the Education Ministry's program, with the former prime minister pledging to raise the budget of haredi institutions that do not teach core studies.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Shas leader Arye Deri, United Torah Judaism heads Moshe Gafni and Yaakov Litzman (credit: Courtesy)Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Shas leader Arye Deri, United Torah Judaism heads Moshe Gafni and Yaakov Litzman (credit: Courtesy)

Netanyahu made the promise as part of an agreement between UTJ's two factions, Degel HaTorah and Agudat Yisrael, who were on the verge of a split prior to Netanyahu's pledge.

Goldknopf's gaffs and condemnations from the Left

Despite not yet serving as an MK, Goldknopf has caused several stirs due to controversial comments made since becoming UTJ chief. In a Channel 13 interview earlier in October, Goldknopf claimed that "it is more difficult to study Torah than it is to stand on the frontlines."

Goldnkopf's statements received harsh criticism from coalition leaders, with Liberman accusing the UTJ head of "disrespecting IDF soldiers while eyeing up the Finance Ministry to fund those who don't work and don't benefit society."

"Only a strong Yisrael Beytenu will keep Goldnkopf and his friends in the opposition while integrating the haredi population into Israeli society," the finance minister wrote on Twitter.

Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli (Labor) also condemned Goldnkopf's claims, writing on Twitter that he has done more to "destroy Haredi society than he is doing to destroy secular society."

"A society without core curriculum studies is a society with no future, no hope, no dreams," the Labor chairwoman continued. "Haredim deserve state-haredi schools that give them the freedom to choose. That's our truth, and we're fighting for it."