Recently, Shas leader Aryeh Deri signed an agreement with the Ministry of Education. The agreement gave full funding for Shas schools in exchange for an agreement to include important secular subjects in the Mayan Chinuch schools. This agreement will serve to make the Shas school system similar to the American yeshiva system where secular subjects are taught for half a day. Rabbi Yair Hoffman interviewed MK Dov Lipman in regard to some of the details of the agreement.
YH: Recently, Aryeh Deri explained that Shas schools that include the entire ministry curriculum will receive 100% funding, while schools that only include a portion will receive 75% of the funding. Are these figures and facts accurate? Who will actually oversee the Torah and general studies curriculum?
DL: Yes, they are. They (the schools) have oversight over the Torah curriculum but for the first time in history the education ministry will oversee the general studies curriculum and the entire financial apparatus of the schools.
YH: Was there any impetus for this from the Chareidi community initially – regarding the secular studies?
DL: Right after being sworn into office I met with Adina bar Shalom, Rav Ovadiahs daughter who founded the Chareidi college in Yerushalayim. She said to make sure that the children learn math and English because without this they have no hope of entering the workforce. Also, many individual chareidi parents and rabbis had asked me to please find a way to get general studies into their schools. One rabbi actually told me: “yesh atid will save us from ourselves.”
YH: Overall, what is the general feeling about the agreement in the Yesh Atid party?
DL: This is a historic development and for the first time all children in Shas schools will receive a solid general education – of course with sensitivity to all being taught in the spirit of Torah.
YH: Are there any other benefits of this agreement?
DL: I also believe that this will address the major problem of “yeled nosheir” in the chareidi world – children who fall away from their families. Giving them general studies and something aside from only Torah learning will enable them to love the Torah and Judaism they are being taught while knowing that they can pursue their career interests and not be destined to poverty.
YH: Can you clarify what does “in charge of the finances” entail? Can they dictate the cap of limudei kodesh teachers? Doesn’t being in charge of the pruse strings essentially mean that they have taken over control of the Torah’s curiculum?
DL: It means that the schools cannot decide how to use the money because this leads to corruption and abuse. Yes, of course, it could lead to issues on the Torah side if we were anti-religious in anyway but they know this is not the case and know that we won’t hurt the Torah side on any level. All the public anti-Yesh Atid and anti-Yair Lapid proclamations are nothing other than posturing and politics. They know the truth and that is why they agreed to this.
YH: How will it work in terms of the exact amount of oversight? I can imagine that there will be arguments in implementation. Will the government oversight be a religious person?
DL: Yes. Education Minister Rabbi Shai Piron has chareidim on his staff who will be involved.
YH: Only Chareidim? Couldn’t the government all of a sudden decide to put non Chareidim in charge of the secular studies? Also, is there a divorce strategy here? Can Shas pull out if it doesn’t turn out the way they thought?
DL: Of course the government can change it but like I said – we are not bad people and no one would do that. There is a divorce strategy on both sides – if they don’t teach the curriculum then we stop giving full funding and if they don’t like the oversight they can stop teaching these subjects and lose full funding.
YH: Thanks for your time, and I hope you were not offended by my take on your participation in the Limmud conference. http://5tjt.com/swarthmore-hillel-and-the-limmud-conference/
DL: “I don’t get offended by people who disagree with me. I wake up every day and try to be mekadeish sheim shamayim as best I can and understand that there will be differences of opinion. The key is to keep those differences of opinion civil and respectful and to always make sure that they are based on the truth.