The winds of change blowing through the Karmiel charedi boys schools

A couple of days ago when I picked up ds5 from kindergarten, another mother asked me what track I’m putting him in next year.  Not understanding the question, I said something intelligent like, “Huh?”

She said she heard that Amichai boys’ school will be having two tracks for incoming first graders; the Talmud Torah track and a regular track.  The Talmud Torah track will be taught by a male teacher and the kids need to come into first grade knowing how to read; supposedly the level of Judaics will be higher. The regular track is what is in place now – a female teacher and the kids learn to read in first grade.

This was very interesting to me, since ds6 is currently in the first grade at Amichai and has a whopping total of twelve boys in his class and this is a typical class size in the early grades there.  So how do the numbers support two classes?

The answer is connected to the new policy of the local cheder – notices have been sent home with all the kids currently attending the cheder kindergarten telling parents it’s time to register, but letting them know that there is a new policy in place and registration is not to be considered as acceptance.  The school admission committee will determine who will be able to attend.  This is something new to Karmiel. There has been a good bit of speculation about this among the local Anglos ever since our family’s situation at the beginning of the year – at that time we were told that policy changes were in the works but it was anyone’s guess as to where the cheder acceptance committee was going to draw the line.  I was mentally estimating where this line would be but as soon as I heard about the plans for two tracks, I immediately revamped my guess – there’s no way they can have two tracks unless Amichai has a much higher enrollment.  And where can the dramatically higher enrollment come from?  There will have to be a significant number of kids that will be turned away from the cheder.

I wouldn’t share my thoughts on this publicly if I hadn’t gotten more solid information to back up my assumption.  A friend told me she spoke to her son’s kindergarten today who told her that the principal of the gan system is making calls to the teachers and asking for descriptions of the child and the family he comes from.  She was told by the teacher that her son has been ‘x’ed.  I asked what that meant, and she told me that her child got an ‘x’ next to his name, meaning that he won’t be accepted to the cheder and is being tracked to Amichai instead.  The teacher told her that a number of other children were also tracked for Amichai.

This still left me wondering about exactly what the criteria for acceptance were.  Then tonight I got an email from someone else who spoke to the administration at Amichai and was told that the cheder will now only accept kollel families.  I’m still wondering about the specifics of who is considered a kollel family – what is the husband learned for a number of years and then went to work, or what if the husband is in kollel but is sephardi….

Personally, I’m not very affected by this.  If my son is in Amichai’s first grade class, then he’ll benefit from staying with some of his familiar friends and having a stronger religious peer group.  We made the decision to send to Amichai when no one else was doing it and have been very, very glad we made this choice.  I don’t feel my kindergardener is being tracked because I made the choice to send to Amichai in advance of all of this and everyone knew that was our plan.  When faced with the choice of the two tracks that will be offered at Amichai, I don’t know what I would choose since I like the regular track.  I understand that they’re offering the Talmud Torah track so they can tell the families turned away from the cheder that the education will be similar in standards to they would have had at the cheder but the idea irks me since the education of the regular track has been just fine.

It makes me a little sad that this is happening.  Some will say it’s inevitable, that once the numbers are there then the exclusivity begins, but we had a unique community here in which people who weren’t typical charedi families were accepted into the cheder and that led to a wider sense of social inclusion among the women.  Now there will be a clear demarcation between the families who send to the different schools and along with that I’m concerned that there’s going to be more circling the wagons and an attitude of condescension towards those outside the wagons.

On the other hand, there are advantages.  This will create a stronger moderate charedi school in Karmiel as well as a stronger cheder for the kollel families.  I can see both of these being a draw for different kind of families who will be interested in moving here.  I’m disturbed by the social engineering that is taking place and would have rathered see changes happen more organically, but it will probably be beneficial in the larger scheme of things.


16 thoughts on “The winds of change blowing through the Karmiel charedi boys schools

  1. Very interesting development. I’m curious where do Chabad families send their kids? Do they send to Amichai? Sounds like you are ahead of the curve, as usual:)) Hatzlacha

  2. I just can’t wrap my mind around all the exclusivity. It seems so unJewish – like they are trying to imitate upper class boarding schools where your blueblood determines where you are accepted. I find the whole idea absolutely revolting.

    1. I can see why you see it like that, but I try to look at it like this – rather than see some kids as being rejected or not good enough for a given school, the school recognizes that it has a philosophical and educational viewpoint that is the best match for certain families who want what they have. The problem they’ve been having is they’ve taken everyone until now, and it’s led to issues since some of the parents aren’t on board with the school position. You can say they should widen their way of teaching but this is how it is; when there’s enough of a critical mass, every group starts its own school (and by this I mean all communities, not just the charedi community).

  3. I think it sounds like your community would benefit from a lot of Ahavas Yisroel programming. We have several groups here in Baltimore, like about thirty or forty so far. I think the “circling of the wagons” as you say, is another reason why Moshiach is not here. Sinas Chinom is the reason we don’t have a unified Jerusalem and a Temple today. I believe your temperate presence in Karmiel may have a mitigating affect on the community and you will help bring about an avirah of inclusion of everyone!

    1. Karen, you have a lot more faith in my ability to be a mitigating influence than I do! This may have been more possible when I got here but now things are shifting socially and there’s an increasing fear about the American influence on the community.

      1. Again. My point is made here. American Jews are Jews, too. The Ahavas Yisroel needs to include ALL Jews, not just the same kind of Jews as the main group. I still think you are a great influence in spreading the word of Ahavas Yisroel, even by reminding others of the directive. I daven for you and your family daily!

  4. i woud like to know about Gan, my little daughter is only one year and three months and we arrive to karmiel making aliyah, wonder if she can go to the gan or a daycare and how much it cost, do you have any idea about that?

    1. Gan is for children who will be 3 by the end of Kislev, unless you’re interested in a private gan. Daycare costs will depend on whether you’re in private daycare or a government recognized daycare, and if the latter, whether Mom works full time and how much income the family has.

  5. It sounds like a painful process but these changes will likely make the schooling options better for the “Anglo Chareidi” types. As my family considers Aliyah, one of our biggest worries has been to find a school where the students do not have negative secular influences in their homes but at the same time we do not want a “Torah only” environment either. It sounds like Amichai is moving in that direction. I agree with your assessment that this change makes Karmiel even more of a draw than it was already!

  6. I admire your positive attitude and ability to see the bright side in this situation. We are going through an upheaval in our small European community, in which people who have moved here from very insular chareidi communities are trying to close down our very inclusive boys’ preschool (which has children ranging from extremely chassidish to very MO) and replace it with a chassidish cheder like they had at home. They have forced the current preschool to start tracking children according to their havara (chassidish or ashkenazish) and are doing their best to change the entire educational system into something resembling the Israeli chareidi one.

    So far I have only been able to see the negative here. Maybe I can learn from you to find something positive in this.

  7. Bezrat Hashem My family will be making aliyah to Karmiel in the next few months. We went to visit both schools this past December,- the Cheder and Amichai. They are both good schools which teach towards different directions. I don’t feel the exclusion of families is a problem of Ahavas Yisroel. Every school has a certain direction it pulls the children. I found Amichai’s hashkafah as a whole mimics that of an American chareidi school system and find it a wonderful and easier choice for Americans who are making aaliyah to want to send their children there without feeling pressured into a very tight nit group that is much different than one they are used to in America. This change also displays the great change and hope which Karmiel holds in its future. The leaders are seeing a new wave of American immigrants coming to Karmiel and making changes based on what they see. This doesn’t necessarily mean the cheder wont accept an American averich family. Every school system has a teaching system and philosophic hashkafah that is good for certain families. In truth, not one school or place is perfect. We just have to find the school/place which fits us most and in which we don’t mind dealing with what comes with that decision.

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