The rambling thoughts of a Modern Orthodox Chassid (whatever that means). Contact me at emansouth @

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Rabbi Horowitz and Gil

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz ("RYH") has been writing a series of articles for Mishpacha magazine that are, by Chareidi standards, controversial if not radical. (Full disclosre: RYH is my fisrt cousin). Recently, an annonymous letter was published in Mishpacha taking RYH to task for doubting "daas Torah" and promoting such radical changes to the education system. The letter is reproduced here.

Gil, while confirming that he is generally a supporter of RYH, suggests that, perhaps some of the criticism contained in that letter should be taken to heart.

To wit:

Let me repeat this key sentence [from the annonymous letter], ignoring the poor grammar (at least the letter writer practices what he preaches): "The responsibility of changing the schools based on a doubtful theory is very scary."

One of R. Horowitz's key themes is that our current system of education is driving kids out of the community, off the derekh. We need to change how we raise our youth, R. Horowitz argues, because otherwise disaster is impending.

Is he right? I don't know. Where's the data backing up his theories? Where are the studies proving his point? As I pointed out in this post, a lot of the discussions on this topic use a few anecdotes and statements from "experts" (usually including R. Horowitz) to prove their points. While my gut tells me that he is right, are we really ready to make such a radical change without conducting rigorous analysis? Social experimentation is risky, especially when dealing with a community that is a link in a chain of tradition that spans thousands of years.

Will such studies silence the right-wing critics? Unquestionably not. But perhaps we owe it to ourselves to take this criticism seriously and proceed with due caution.
IMHO, you can do all the studies you want and the entrenched Chareidi establishment will attack them or ignore them. Is there any question that the system is broken? Do you need studies to confirm that "all Talmud all day long" won't work for all (or even most) kids? Is there any doubt that the system has been geared to elite kids and that many can't cut the mustard? How does one conduct such a study anyway?

And, is the system really prodcuing "gedolim"? Where are they? Where are the articulate leaders? Or is the homogenous educational system simply cranking out "Chumra machines" who are afraid to stray from the narrow accepted path?

Only a "radical" (again, by Chareidi standards) grassroots approach has any chance of making inroads. Mishpacha Magazine is to be commended for offering RYH its important platform to spread his common sense beliefs.

(And, by the way, I recommend that you read the comments section of RYH's post for some interesting responses).



  • At 9:58 AM, Anonymous Bob Miller said…

    Proposed social changes of this kind can be field tested on a limited scale to get the bugs out before general implementation is attempted. This avoids the element of risk that some people fear.
    The Torah leaders and their communities should be willing to fund and staff such educational initiatives for the potential benefit of all.


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