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The Ben Gamla School:

While the new Arabic language school in Brooklyn has attracted national headlines and controversy, far less has been written about a new English-Hebrew language public charter school in South Florida. The school's principal is a rabbi, the food in the cafeteria is kosher, and there are allegations that the school is intended to be a Jewish day school in disguise, violating the First Amendment's ban on government endorsement of religion. If successful, with tuition at Jewish day schools generally exceeding $10,0000 in the U.S., this model could easily spread nationwide in non-Orthodox communities (the Orthodox would generally want much more explicit religious education). In places such as South Africa, Australia, and Quebec, where the government funds state schools that primarily serve Jewish students, a high percentage of Jewish students (I once read 80% in Australia) attend such schools. The American Jewish community is more assimiliated, and more committed to the ideal of "neutral" public schools, that the Jews of those countries, but nevertheless the Ben Gamla model would have great appeal to many here, especially, I'd guess, former Israelis and Russians.

UPDATE: The New York Times has a story today on the school. Interestingly, 37% of parents at the school name Hebrew as their first language, and 17% name Spanish. One problem the school seems to have is to find materials that teach Hebrew that have no religious references--such materials are usually either from Israel, where public schools teach religion, or from the U.S., where they are geared to either day schools or synagogue programs. But Hebrew has been offered as an elective in New York City public schools, and I assume elsewhere, so I doubt this problem is insurmountable. Also interesting is that the school was well oversubscribed.

Brian K (mail):

While the new Arabic language school in Brooklyn has attracted national headlines and controversy, far less has been written about a new English-Hebrew language public charter school in South Florida.


That's simply because anti-muslim bigots don't have a problem with religious public schools in general*, they only have a problem with predominately muslim schools.

*many would love to see christianity taught in the public schools.
8.23.2007 11:14pm
TruePath (mail) (www):
I surely hope this practice doesn't spread. I think the integration of religious minorities is one of the great strengths of this country and the mainstreaming of Judaism in our society is one of our best successes.

My personal sense is that a massive movement of jews to jewish schools is unlikely but if it happened it would have negative consequences both for american jews (potentially isolating them and thereby risking greater anti-semetic responses) and for religious toleration in general (jews are probably the only non-christian religion with substantial representation in american political life).
8.23.2007 11:19pm
plunge (mail):
10,0000 ?
8.24.2007 12:13am
Apep (mail):
I live in a major urban area in Texas. Where I live, many gentiles would send our children to a Jewish charter school, just like we send our children to the preschool at the synagogue if we can afford it. (I can't.) The Jewish preschool competes the Montessori program at the local science museum and the trendy Montessori programs de jure.
8.24.2007 12:24am
Sky (mail):
I DISAGREE WITH ALL THE MADNESS AND HATE TALK I READ ON HERE, MY FIVE CHILDREN ARE BLACK, I AM BLACK AND MY HUSBAND IS BLACK, MY ENTIRE FAMILY IS BLACK AND WE SUPPORT THE BEN GAMLA CHARTER 1,000%. WE NOW SEND OUR KIDS TO BEN GAMLA CHARTER BECAUSE KIDS CAN BE KIDS AND DRESS LIKE KIDS. I AM FROM JAMAICA AND MY HUSBAND IS FROM TRINIDAD, WHAT WE HAVE NOTICE WITH MOST AMERICAN KIDS THEY DO NOT ACT LIKE CHILDREN, THE LITTLE GIRLS GOING SCHOOL LOOK AS IF THEY ARE GOING A STREET / NIGHT CLUB, THEY DISRESPECT THEY PARENTS, NO LOVE FOR EACH.

IT IS A SHAME TO SEE THEM SOME TIMES" GIRLS 8-11 YRS OLD HAVING SEX BEFORE THEY EVEN GET TO MIDDLE SCHOOL. FINAL WE HAVE A SCHOOL THAT EVERY ONE WEAR UNIFORM, KIDS ARE TOUGHT TO RESPECT THEIR PARENTS AND LOVE THEIR SELF, AND MOST OF ALL THEY GET TO BE KIDS.
8.24.2007 12:47am
Sky (mail):
WHY HATE ON THE SCHOOL WHEN ALL THEY ARE TRYING TO DO IS THE CHANGE THE WHY WE RAISE OUR KIDS. LOOK AROUND KIDS KILLING KIDS, PARENTS KILLINGS KIDS AND KIDS KILLING THEIR PARENTS. I BLAME IT ALL ON OUR AMERICAN PARENTS WHO REFUSE TO SEE AMERICAN HAS GONE TO THE DOG..........FORECLOSURE IS ON ALL TIME HIGH, FLOOD, FIRE, MEN RAPING AND KILLING BOYS AND LITTLE GIRLS. ARE KIDDING ME ABOUT THIS SCHOOL, WAKE PEOPLE YOUR COUNTRY IS FALLING APART OVER GOD. PEOPLE KILLING EACH OTHER OVER GOD, WHILE GOD SIT IN HEAVEN AND SEND HURRICANE AND FIRE ON EARTH. LOL
8.24.2007 1:00am
unhyphenatedconservative (mail):
Brian K,

Or it could just be that not too many Jews are running around declaring war on America and perpetuating a political ideology which divides the world into a House of Judaism and House of War.
8.24.2007 1:35am
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
Both schools raise potential problems of separation of church and state, but in addition to anti-Muslim bigotry, which no doubt is a factor in opposition to the Arabic school in New York, there are several reasons why people might be more concerned about the Arabic school than the Hebrew school.

(a) Jews do not proselytize; Muslims are obligated to do so.

(b) Judaism in virtually all of its modern forms is consistent with separation of church and state. Islam, in its leading forms, is not.

(c) For a great many Muslims, Islam includes teachings that are deeply offensive to enlightened people. If a Hebrew school crosses the line into teaching religion, the worst that will happen is that children will be told that they should not eat pork or that the messiah is yet to come. There is no fear that a Hebrew school will teach that all Gentiles should be converted or killed or that suicide bombers are martyrs. As we know from accounts of education in Muslim schools and from the textbooks used in places like Saudi Arabia, Syria, and the West Bank, this is a valid fear.

I think that having an Arabic-language school in New York is a fine idea, both for its value as a form of language instruction and for the cross-cultural understanding that it may encourage, but I hope that it is very carefully monitored to ensure that it functions as a secular public school whose languages of instruction are English and Arabic and that focusses on Arabic culture, not a madrassa.

[Also, a small correction. The principal of the Jewish school was to be the rabbi who organized it, but that is no longer the case. The principal will not be rabbi.]
8.24.2007 1:36am
JL (mail):
It's not true that Australian State governments fund free state schools with primarily Jewish enrolments, but it is true that the Australian Federal government provides some funding to all schools that meet certain educational standards - so there is funding for schools of all Christian denominations, Jewish schools, Muslim schools, and schools reflecting various educational philosophies. But all these private schools also charge fees.
8.24.2007 1:40am
Sky (mail):
Thus, it is reasonable to conclude that these 6,000 letters represent 6,000 years, and speak of the nearly (or symbolically) 6,000 years from the creation to the second coming of Yeshua Messiah, wherein the curse of the first creation will be removed. As it is written:

"Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in toil shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return" (Genesis 3:18a-19).


The soon coming return of Yeshua Messiah to take His own out of this world----it being plagued like Egypt----is the true counterpart of the Israelite journey out of the bondage of Egypt and Pharaoh.

Even so come quickly Lord Yeshua!
8.24.2007 1:42am
Brian K (mail):
Jews do not proselytize; Muslims are obligated to do so.
the muslim taxi driver who took me to the airport last week didn't try to convert me or try to kill me. on the other hand, my roommate's jewish girlfriend did try to convert me. wow...i just disproved your claim in all of 2 seconds. ALL western religions have a certain segment that feels duty bound to proselytize.

Judaism in virtually all of its modern forms is consistent with separation of church and state. Islam, in its leading forms, is not.
now can you explain to me why significant numbers of isrealis see isreal as a jewish state that should govern according to their religious beliefs? can you also explain to me why the vast majority of muslims in the US are not attempting to convert the US into an islamic state. (while you're at it, explain why a vocal minority of christians are trying to convert the US into a christian state). again certain segments of ALL western religions don't respect the separation of church and state. specifically for muslims, explain the discrepancy in beliefs between older muslims and younger muslims (and rural and urban muslims) in Iran with respect to the separation of church and state (for a detailed description see the economist's special report on iran from 3 or 4 weeks ago or talk to my many relatives) *gasp* could it be that only a powerful minority of muslims believes strongly against the separation of church and state? of course...that would run counter to your extremely monolithic and one sided view of islam.

this is a valid fear
no its not. there have been more bombings of abortion clinics by christains than there have been suicide bombings by muslims in the US. (in this regard jews seem to be the least likely to kill people in the US...isreal is another story)

As we know from accounts of education in Muslim schools and from the textbooks used in places like Saudi Arabia, Syria, and the West Bank
gee, who would have thought that countries use the education system to advance their nationalistic interests. the US, japan, china, russia, saudi arabia, iran, iraq, the UK, isreal, etc all do this. while it is a valid criticism of the education systems in general it is unfair to single out a single country or belief system. and why are you looking at only the most extreme muslim countries? why not look at how islam is taught here in the united states? oh that's right, the overwhelming majority of muslims in the US do not teach "that all Gentiles should be converted or killed or that suicide bombers are martyrs"

If a Hebrew school crosses the line into teaching religion, the worst that will happen is that children will be told that they should not eat pork or that the messiah is yet to come.
not true at all for all subsets of the jewish religion.

For a great many Muslims, Islam includes teachings that are deeply offensive to enlightened people.
so does christianity and judaism. example of how christianity has been interpreting to not only allow but demand spousal abuse. does that mean we should stop teaching those altogether. of course not...it just means we must fight political rhetoric (and that's what it is...despite your claims that it is religious rhetoric...again read the economist article.) with political rhetoric.

I think that having an Arabic-language school in New York is a fine idea, both for its value as a form of language instruction and for the cross-cultural understanding that it may encourage, but I hope that it is very carefully monitored to ensure that it functions as a secular public school whose languages of instruction are English and Arabic and that focusses on Arabic culture, not a madrassa.
I think this holds true for ALL religious schools. doubly so for publicly funded religious schools.
8.24.2007 2:09am
David M. Nieporent (www):
the muslim taxi driver who took me to the airport last week didn't try to convert me or try to kill me. on the other hand, my roommate's jewish girlfriend did try to convert me. wow...i just disproved your claim in all of 2 seconds. ALL western religions have a certain segment that feels duty bound to proselytize.
That's simply not the case. Nobody can rule out the possibility that there is some very confused individual Jew somewhere who tried to convert someone, but Judaism explicitly rejects proselytizing. It would be like a self-proclaimed religious Catholic who denied that any guy named Jesus ever existed. There may be such a person, but he isn't in the slightest bit Catholic. There is no "subset" of Judaism that proselytizes -- unless you count Lubavitch, but they proselytize only to Jews.

now can you explain to me why significant numbers of isrealis see isreal as a jewish state that should govern according to their religious beliefs?The country is Israel, not Isreal, and the answer is, they don't. They see Israel as a Jewish state because Israel was explicitly founded to be/is a Jewish state -- but that means a state for Jews, not a state for Judaism. Israel was founded by secular Jews and is secular, not religious. (Indeed, many religious Jews reject the state of Israel for that reason.)
8.24.2007 5:43am
Ken Arromdee:
there have been more bombings of abortion clinics by christains than there have been suicide bombings by muslims in the US.

There have been more deaths from the flu than deaths from Ebola, too. That doesn't mean that having Ebola is less of a worry than having the flu.

There have been more bombings of abortion clinics by Christians because there *are* more Christians.
8.24.2007 10:32am
markm (mail):
If I understand Sky's posts correctly (and the first two hurt my eyes too much to read them all), she is a black Christian from the West Indies who is sending her kids to Hebrew school to get them away from ghetto culture. Very ironic, if you remember the original meaning of "ghetto", but I have to highly approve. If you want your kids to succeed. they must learn to act like middle-class Americans - and the Jews have a better record that way than even WASPs.
8.24.2007 10:32am
Yankev (mail):

a massive movement of jews to jewish schools is unlikely but if it happened it would have negative consequences both for american jews (potentially isolating them and thereby risking greater anti-semetic responses)

I was tempted to use irony here but I won't. Are you seriously unaware that Germany's jewish community was the most assimilated and integrated in all Europe? That they considered themselves, as the saying went, "more German than the Germans?" French and Dutch Jews were pretty integrated too. Yet in each of those countries, their non-Jewish neighbors during WWI were more likley to turn on them than not.

Nor has integration much helped the Jews of the UK or France, who are undergoing physical, verbal, political and social attacks unprecedented since in those countries since the second world war.
8.24.2007 10:34am
Yankev (mail):
Brian K, you seem a bit confused.


on the other hand, my roommate's jewish girlfriend did try to convert me.

The fact that she has a non-Jewish boyfriend should tell you that she is neither especially committed to nor especially knowledgable about the Jewish religion.


wow...i just disproved your claim in all of 2 seconds.

By citing one ignorant uncommitted exception?

ALL western religions have a certain segment that feels duty bound to proselytize.

That does not change the fact that the Jewish religion discourages proselityzing non-Jews.


now can you explain to me why significant numbers of isrealis see isreal as a jewish state that should govern according to their religious beliefs?

Can you explain where your fantasies come from? The vast majority of Israelis are secular atheists (being unfamiliar with a country called Isreal or a people
called Isrealis, I assume that you mean Israel and Israelis), many of whom resent any accommodation to or institutionalization of the Jewish religion and bitterly resent the Rabbinate. Try reading Larry Derfner's Middle Israel column sometime in the Jeruslam Post jpost.com to see the frequent vitriol that he spews at the Jewish religion and its adherents. Read the speeches of Yossi Beilin, Shulamit Aloni or a host of other Israeli politicians from the secularist parties. They have no love for the Jewish religion or its followers.

Most Israelis are Jewish by ethnicity, not by religious belief, and the left in Israel is trying to strip that vestige of Jewish identity away as well.


(in this regard jews seem to be the least likely to kill people in the US...isreal is another story)

Unless an Arab is engaging in murder or attempted murder or being used as a human shiled by someone then engaging in mass murder, he is much less likely to be killed by a Jew in Israel than he is to be killed by another Arab. As Natan Sharansky has been pointed out, when an innocent civilian dies in an Israeli military action, Israel considers it a failure and looks for ways to reduce civilian casualties. When an Israeli civilian dies in an action by the Palestinians, the Palestinians consider it a success, and the more civilians who are killed, the greater a success they consider it.


As we know from accounts of education in Muslim schools and from the textbooks used in places like Saudi Arabia, Syria, and the West Bank
gee, who would have thought that countries use the education system to advance their nationalistic interests.

So the Palestinian Authority is simply advancing its nationalistic interests when thier UN funded schools and text books teach that Jews are the most evil people on the face of the planet, have been rightfully expelled from every country that has hosted them, caused all the world's wars and are behind the international drug trade and control the world's crime, pornography, prostitution and economic systems?
8.24.2007 10:53am
TRE:
I invoke American exceptionalism
8.24.2007 12:26pm
Brian K (mail):
The fact that she has a non-Jewish boyfriend should tell you that she is neither especially committed to nor especially knowledgable about the Jewish religion.
When did I say she had a non-Jewish boyfriend? I did not and her boyfriend (my roommate) was jewish. the only reason why i didn't mention more of the boyfriend is because he didn't proselytize.

By citing one ignorant uncommitted exception?
the original claim was that "jews do not proselytize". i provided an example of one that does. therefore his claim is false. do you not understand the principles of logic?

Nobody can rule out the possibility that there is some very confused individual Jew somewhere who tried to convert someone, but Judaism explicitly rejects proselytizing.
there are different interpretations of the torah. just like there are different interpretations of the bible and koran. some of the ones i've heard don't disallow proselytizing.

Can you explain where your fantasies come from? The vast majority of Israelis are secular atheists
when did i say otherwise? i said "significant numbers" not most or all. according to wikipedia 17% of jews are extremely religious...that is a significant number. and as you can see from american politics...a relatively small number of fundamentalists are capable of dominating political rhetoric.

So the Palestinian Authority is simply advancing its nationalistic interests when thier UN funded schools and text books teach that Jews are the most evil people on the face of the planet, have been rightfully expelled from every country that has hosted them, caused all the world's wars and are behind the international drug trade and control the world's crime, pornography, prostitution and economic systems?
just israel's texts advance its own interest in its portrayal of arabs (as less than human), its version of history, and the concepts and ideas it puts forth. and if you had bothered to fully read my post you'll see i said it is a "valid criticism" or, in other words, that i think it is wrong for countries to do this.
8.24.2007 12:56pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Before this degenerates too much further into "X religion is better than Y religion" (and the related "what does Y religion REALLY believe?") of course one of the points of the Establishment Clause is to keep government out of the business of making that call.
8.24.2007 1:11pm
dodik3 (mail):
Brian K, I assume that you're not arguing as a Troll, so I will respond to a small bit of your argument. You said "...just israel's texts advance its own interest in its portrayal of arabs (as less than human)," Well, can you please provide
any objective example of such a portrayal? I doubt you could. Please take your wild an inaccurate rhetoric to another forum where it may be appreciated, to whit DailyKos.
8.24.2007 1:20pm
Brian K (mail):
easy

it can further be inferred that israeli textbooks were not accurately presenting arab viewpoints because of the controversy surrounding the introduction of a textbook that more accurately does. link this only occurred in july of 2007.
8.24.2007 1:57pm
Ken Arromdee:
easy

Apparently not as easy as it looks. The part of the article that doesn't cost $4.95 doesn't even name a single textbook with problems or describe a particular passage in a textbook. Rather, it tries to imply that by juxtaposition--in one section talk about people who don't like Arabs, in another section talk about textbooks, and rely on the fact that the reader reads these sections one after another to make him think there's some connection, even though none has been shown.
8.24.2007 2:27pm
Yankev (mail):
Brian K, I stand corrected as to the boyfriend and my assumption that your room mate was not Jewish. But may I safely assume that your apartment's kitchen is not kosher, that the boyfriend does not observe Shabbos, and is generally assimilated? Any Jewish girl who would go out with such a guy is not likely to be knowledgable about or committed to the Jewish religion.

I do agree that the statement "Jews do not proselityze" is less than accurate. But your one example -- assuming that she really was seriously suggesting that you become Jewish -- certainly does not disprove that the Jewish religion discourages proselityzing. No school or movement within Judaism that accepts the Torah as Divinely authored encourages proselityzing non-Jews to become Jewish. An amorphous reference to "different interpretations of the torah. just like there are different interpretations of the bible and koran" does not do the trick. Now and then a few maverick voices within the Reform movement suggest the movement endorse proselityzing to offset the Reform movement's low negative population growth, but so far even Reform has not endorsed this idea. In any case I assure they are not basing their appeal on the Torah, which -- as a basic tenet of their movement -- they do not recognize as Divinely authored. And even these mavericks admit that their suggestion is a departure from historic belief and practice.

As to Israeli text books, "not accurately presenting Arab view points" is not the same as depicting Arabs as subhuman. The moreso when the Arab view points about the so-called naqba are a massive distortion of documented historic fact. And despite the endorsement of the BBC the new text book is most certainly not accurate.

Then again, if you're getting your information about Israel or about Jews from the BBC, I can understand why you would have a jaundiced and inaccurate view of both.
8.24.2007 2:41pm
Joel:
Brian K: Nailed it in one. Well done, sir!
8.24.2007 2:44pm
Brian K (mail):
or this one

or this book the link i cited earlier relies on this book.

you still haven't explained why introduction of a new textbook that more fairly portrays arab would start a controversy.
8.24.2007 2:45pm
Brian K (mail):
But may I safely assume that your apartment's kitchen is not kosher, that the boyfriend does not observe Shabbos, and is generally assimilated?
I lived in dorms that served kosher meals, which he ate. i do not know what holidays he observed. i also do now know what you mean by assimilated. like who he hung out with? how he acted? his parents? or something else entirely? but he was a history major focusing on israel.

i'll finish my response later as i have to go now
8.24.2007 2:50pm
Cheburashka (mail):
There's no realy need to debate this. Let's just celebrate it as another victory for the Jews. Yay us!
8.24.2007 4:19pm
Paul B:
Given the knee jerk hostility of the mainstream American Jewish organizations toward anything resembling public support of schools with religious agendas, shouldn't groups like ADL or AJC be leading the opposition to this school?
8.24.2007 7:06pm
Lynn B, (www):
Paul B. - the ADL, at least, has "expressed concerns."

Yankev - excellent responses for the most part but why claim that if a Jewish girl dates a man who doesn't keep kosher or Shabbat she can't be knowledgeable about or committed to Judaism? That's just silly.
8.24.2007 8:55pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
you still haven't explained why introduction of a new textbook that more fairly portrays arab would start a controversy.
Reading is fundamental. Nowhere does it talk about portraying arabs; these links talk about arab views. These are very different. And it would "start a controversy" because the purpose of a textbook is accuracy, not "fairness." It's the same "controversy" caused when creationists want biology textbooks to "fairly" present both "sides" of the debate between evolution and creationism. Scientists object, because a more "fair" presentation is a less "accurate" one.

And your handwaving about "different interpretations of the torah" is nonsense. There is no "interpretation" of the torah by Jews that endorses proselytizing.
8.24.2007 10:12pm
Alex in Fla (mail):
The attacks on the "Rabbi" as principal are EXTREMELY unfair. To those outside the Orthodox Community, Rabbi connotes a pastoral leader like the Reform/Conservative Rabbis they meet, and is a clergyman in the vein of Catholic Priests and Protestant Ministers.

In Orthodox Judaism, Rabbi means one who has Semicha, which roughly translates into Ordination. However, Semicha can technically be granted by anyone with Semicha, so we have a lot of quasi-Rabbis running around. A Rabbi isn't a pastoral leader, he's an expert on Jewish Law, or at least a portion on it, and is qualified to sit on a Beit Din (House of Law, basically a Jewish Court) and issue rulings... i.e. if I ask a friend who is a Rabbi something about Jewish law, and he rules on the matter, I'm bound by it as a Halachic (Jewish Law) ruling.

Why does this matter? The Rabbi in question has NEVER served in a Pastoral capacity, he's an educator. Rabbi comes from the Hebrew Rabi, which roughly translates into My Teacher. Most make Jewish educators in the Orthodox world are Rabbis.

However, by not explaining this, the opponents are attempted to get people to picture a Priest setting up a Latin Charter school and saying it isn't Catholic. However, many men who complete their Yeshiva (Hebrew for High School) studies, go on to do 1-3 years of advanced Jewish studies before continuing to college and grad school, depending on the program, they may be granted Semicha.

I have a friend, did YU's Rabbinic program AS HIS UNDERGRAD, got Semicha, did a few years in Jewish education, and is now a third year law student. While he is entitled to be called a Rabbi in Jewish circles, and is, as a lawyer, he'll be no different than any other J.D.

This Rabbi is an educator, but instead of studying education, studied Jewish law, and started his career as a Jewish educator. He then moved into school administration at two private schools, and now has a job at a Charter (Public) school. The title Rabbi is irrelevant.

At my secular private high school, the principal was the former debate coach. His educational background was in liberal arts. However, his job was principal.

If the Rabbi had a Ph.D. in History, he would be called Dr., yet nobody would complain that a History Ph.D. was running a Public school and would be biased towards History, and that it was absurd that he had no degree in education.

BTW: My Rabbi just sent us all a letter urging us NOT to consider the Ben Gamla school, because it is NOT a day school. He said that it might be good for the Jews if some Jews that otherwise wouldn't get any Jewish education went there to at least learn Hebrew, but it isn't an acceptable Jewish environment. He met with the Rabbi running the school, who told my Rabbi that he wouldn't send his kids there, and wouldn't encourage any religious Jew to switch from a Jewish school to their school. It won't be religious, and while the cafeteria will be Kosher, the lunch room won't. If a child wants to bring a ham sandwich in to eat, he can sit right next to your child and there will be no problems.

It's not a Jewish Day School in disguise. It's a Hebrew language school MOSTLY catering to Israelis that want their kids to learn Hebrew but HATE the Judaic component of the Jewish schools in town, as well as some of the non-religious Jews in the area who would like their kids to learn Hebrew. They aren't targeting Orthodox kids, and it won't be an Orthodox school.
8.25.2007 11:16pm