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Academic World of Ultra-Orthodox Students in Israel

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s eldest daughter, Adina Bar-Shalom, talks about her life project in an interview to Tali Heruti-Sover: A new kind of academia combining the highest level of teaching and still adapted to the needs of Ultra-Orthodox students. 
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men sign documents at the offices of Israel's Administration for National Civil Service in Jerusalem January 6, 2013. For the first time since the August 1 expiration of the so-called Tal Law that exempted ultra-Orthodox seminary students from military conscription, dozens of scholars signed up on Sunday for alternative civilian service which, upon completion, will entitle them to avoid the draft. Some 1,300 seminary students are slated to join the program by August 2013, or until Isra
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The recent confrontation [in the week of Dec. 23] between ultra-Orthodox politician Aryeh Deri Shas and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid on Nissim Mishal’s TV interview program deeply distressed Adina Bar-Shalom, the eldest daughter of the spiritual leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, and the founder of the Jerusalem ultra-Orthodox college — The Haredi College of Jerusalem. “It was a dialogue of the deaf,” she notes, adding after a brief pause: “Every time I am interviewed, I say that, although I have the privilege of being the daughter of one of the most revered rabbis of our time, I am not a political person. However, here I am talking politics. Well, it went like that (and she goes on to present a free rendition of the TV confrontation — T.H.-S.): Yair Lapid says: 'You don’t have any core studies in your school system,’ and Aryeh Deri counters: ‘The curriculum of the Shas schools includes close to one hundred percent of the core subjects.’ Evidently unconvinced, Yair Lapid argues: 'You are perpetuating ignorance,' but Deri explains that, 'Things have changed, although no one bothers to take notice of it.'”

At this point, Bar-Shalom finds it difficult to hide her frustration: “It is as if the ultra-Orthodox sector has not undergone a real transformation in the past 15 years; as if the thousands of ultra-Orthodox students and graduates have not realized that without academic education they simply cannot get ahead in life. It is as though the majority of rabbis don’t understand that to break away from the cycle of poverty, the ultra-Orthodox sector has to join the labor force and that to that end, it has to move with the times — and moving ahead means acquiring higher education and achieving an academic degree. I can understand the resentment provoked by the ultra-Orthodox sector and where it comes from,” Bar-Shalom hurries to clarify, “and I am well aware that we still have a long way to go; however, things have changed in the ultra-Orthodox community and you should recognize it. You may pass criticism, but, please, beware not to destroy what has already been gained.”

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