Israeli public school graduates ignorant of Judaism

Dr. Tzvi Zameret, who in 90s authored report on Jewish studies in state education system, claims serious deterioration.

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Mordechai Sones,

Dr. Tzvi Zameret
Dr. Tzvi Zameret
צילום: Flash 90

Dr. Tzvi Zameret, former chairman of the pedagogic secretariat in the Education Ministry and author of the Shenhar Committee report in the early 1990s which dealt with Jewish studies in state schools and who served as a committee member, warns about the deterioration of Jewish studies in state schools.

"Today, young people do not know what Kaddish is, what is the Amidah prayer, and a whole host of other basic things. I'm not a Jew who observes Shabbat, but as a graduate of the Hebrew school, part of my literary studies was the Amidah," Tzameret told Arutz Sheva.

According to Zameret, the Shenhar Commission report, commissioned by former Education Minister Zevulun Hammer, was changed by Minister of Education Amnon Rubinstein and his conclusions were distorted from one extreme to the other: "I was part of the Shenhar Committee of 25 people, among them Israel Prize laureates and others. At the end of the committee's deliberations, I was asked to write the final report submitted in 1994 to Education Minister Amnon Rubinstein.

"In the report, we called for an increase in Jewish studies and emphasized that it was not about secular or religious people, but rather about presenting Judaism to everyone in his own way. We talked about Jewish subjects that do not include 'religiofication' like history, Hebrew language, Land of Israel studies, geography of the Land of Israel, the Bible and Talmud ... We talked about the need to ensure that every child be able to negotiate a page of Gemara."

Dr. Zameret said that at the time the report was presented, Education Minister Amnon Rubinstein changed his recommendations. "The report ultimately connected Judaism to citizenship and the Shenhar Committee became the Shenhar-Kremnitzer Committee and all Jewish studies were reversed."

Dr. Tzameret notes that since the 1990s, dozens of hours of Judaism and tradition have been cut in state schools. "Once, they studied more Judaism, there were four hours of Jewish history and today there are only two hours. There were four hours of Bible and today only two hours. There were four hours of Hebrew literature and today there are only two hours.

"We demanded to add and since then the result has been reversed. All the budgets and extra hours went to graduate studies, added hours to mathematics, computers, and English, and created a new subject called 'Israeli Culture'. In other words, they stole hours of Jewish studies in favor of new subjects that didn't exist at the time and also cut off from existing subjects."

According to him, the talk today about 'religiofication' is the opposite of reality: "I'm sorry that no one knows the facts, in other words, no one knows how to deal with the fact that reality is the opposite," he said. "Once, every high school graduate knew more about the Bible and more Jewish literature. Today he has no knowledge. At that time they knew a minimum of the Oral Law - it was obligatory to study in high school; today it does not exist."

Dr. Zameret calls for an investigation of what has happened to the Israeli education system over the decades. "I suggest comparing public education graduates until the 1990s with the knowledge that today's graduates have."

He adds, "For years I ran high schools and I know things from the field and not just from academia. At the time of Minister Bennett, there was another cut in Jewish history study hours. I was responsible for these subjects and I was in weekly contact with the people there."



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